Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Friday, November 26, 2010

State's First Environmental Report

Arjimand addresses environmental challenges in J&K

(Mr. Arjimand Hussain Talib, 34, was born in Srinagar. He is a columnist/writer and a development professional who matriculated from Tyndale Biscoe Memorial School in 1991. He subsequently graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Engineering from Bangalore University and has a diploma in journalism as well. He is an alumni of the International Academy for Leadership, Gummerbach, Germany and has worked with UNESCO, Oxfam and ActionAid International in some seven countries in Asia and Africa. Arjimand writes regular weekly columns for the Greater Kashmir and The Kashmir Times since 2000 on diverse issues of political economy, development, environment and social change and has over 450 published articles to his credit.)

What J&K’s State of Environment Report Can and Cannot Avoid

Though late by eight years, it is fantastic news that Jammu & Kashmir will shortly have its first State of Environment (SoE) Report. We always needed such a report quite badly. The simple reason being that we are in a pathetic condition environmentally today. And, worse, that we are deteriorating quite fast.

Now that we are going to have such a report, our first aim must be a major policy overhaul, and not a mere research-based report. A policy overhaul must be followed up with verifiable action on implementation and enforcement.

For centuries, our state, especially the Kashmir and Ladakh regions, have attracted travelers from across the globe for relishing their special environment. We have ourselves always relished the quality of our life because of the special air, water and other elements of Kashmir’s physical environment. But what has heralded some sort of Armageddon is the rate of degradation of our environment. The dangers to our health and livelihoods are grave. Having travelled and studied environmental issues in more than 20 countries, including in sub-Saharan Africa, I am yet to come across as high the rate of degradation as in Kashmir. We have a serious wake up call.
There are three unique set of environmental issues confronting our three regions of Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh.

The most serious environmental challenge is confronted by Kashmir region. It is the smallest of the three regions, but hosts the largest and the densest human population of the state. It is also the highest recipient of the migrant population, tourists and others. Naturally, the stress on its natural environment is the highest.

Another important aspect is that of governance quality, militarization and conflict. Kashmir region has the poorest governance. The intensity of conflict here is also the gravest. It, perhaps, also has the largest military concentration.

Although Ladakh too has problems, its advantage is that it has a tiny population spread over a vast geographical area. The stress on its physical environment is relatively less. Its second advantage is its quality of governance. It has a good culture of community-driven environmental protection and ecological conservation.

Some of Jammu’s problems are similar to Kashmir. Since it is the most industrialized region in the state, some of its problems are even graver.

What is very crucial for this report is the manner it is structured. If it is structured on the pattern of the government of India’s annual State of Environment Report it would do a good job only partly. For doing an excellent job it will have to structure the report based on this state’s unique conditions. And that will not be achieved by basing the report solely on government statistics and toeing only a state-centric line.

The Government of India’s State of Environment Report, 2009, is a case in point. It has focused on issues like climate change, food security, water security, energy security and urbanization. It is OK to focus on these issues in our report as well, but we must not copy-paste its structure and approach. This report seeks to assess initiatives to monitor further degradation of environment and also suggests policy options. That is something which our SoE must aim too.

It makes complete sense to have the Department of Environment, Ecology and Remote Sensing to do the leadership job on this report. In the preparation of the Government of India’s State of Environment Report 2009– Development Alternatives - a non government agency, acted an equal partner. That has brought in intense value to that report. Our report must also have some ideas from outside the government system. That will make it more credible.

The global Environmental Performance Index (EPI), which categorizes all countries based on their environmental performance, will be a good model also to keep in view for our report. EPI looks at things in two broad categories - environmental health and ecosystem vitality. Both are very critical to our state, and go beyond statistical indicators.

When it comes to environmental health, our SoE should not only look at the extent of pollution to our water bodies, it must look at the issues of access to sanitation and safe drinking water too. If we try to develop indices for our water quality, water stress, water scarcity, etc. we will be able to evaluate our deterioration or improvement on an annual basis. That will be important for course correction.

Similarly, when it comes to outdoor air pollution, an evaluation of the sources and impact of urban particulates is a must. Our report should highlight the policy corrections needed in the development of our roads, etc. We need to keep our local ozone also in view.

On other issues of eco system vitality we need to go beyond statistics as well. We not only need to understand the extent of sulfur dioxide emissions, we need to know their sources as well.

When it comes to agriculture, there are too many imperatives which we haven’t given too much of attention. For instance, we need to analyse the impact of growing stock, irrigation stress, pesticide use and excess-fertilizer use. We also need to talk about pesticide and chemical fertilizer regulation. Forest cover change and critical habitat protection need our focus too.

On climate change we cannot afford to remain indifferent and see it as a global problem. This report must seek to look into the issue of greenhouse gas emissions per capita, carbon dioxide emissions per electricity unit generation and industrial greenhouse gas emission intensity in all of our regions.

SoE for J&K has a big burden of expectations. The problem is that the way we all live and demolish our environment makes one feel as if there is no tomorrow for us. This report must seek to rekindle hopes for a tomorrow. A better tomorrow.

Drowning in Excess

Ashraf says that 75% of the money sent by the federal government is pocketed by state politicians and officials.

(Mr. Mohammad Ashraf, 67, was born and raised in Srinagar. He attended the S.P. High School and the S.P College before joining the Regional Engineering College at Naseem Bagh in Civil Engineering. However, he changed his career to adventure sports like mountaineering and skiing, completing his training at the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, Darjeeling and Gulmarg. He also completed a diploma in French language from the Alliance Française in New Delhi. He joined the J&K Tourism Department in 1973, rose to become its Director-General in 1996, and retired in 2003 after 30 years of service. He has been associated with the Adventure Sports at the national level and was recently re-elected as the Vice-President of the Indian Mountaineering Foundation, the apex body of adventure sports in India, for two years. To commend his efforts in introducing rescue measures in Kashmir Mountains, he was awarded “Merite-Alpin” by Swiss in a special function in Les Diablerets in 1993. He continues to be a member of the Governing Council of IMF and is also the President of Jammu & Kashmir Mountaineering & Hiking Club.)

Kashmir's "Money Streams"

Apart from normal rivers and streams, Kashmir has some special streams flowing from Delhi and other places carrying money in which the pro-India as well as anti-India leaders swim with glee!

The most beautiful asset of the "Paradise on Earth" is numerous water bodies and rivers. Even though the water bodies are at their terminal stage, the River Jhelum also known locally as Vyeth, is still breathing but with difficulty. It has been the lifeline of Kashmir till very recently. Kalhana terms it as the River of Kings who ruled Kashmir for centuries. The River holds in its bosom the history of Kashmir from the ancient times. Unfortunately, these days it has been totally forgotten and the river has become the most polluted one.

The reason for forgetting Jhelum and the water bodies like the Dal Lake is the flowing of some new special type of streams which we may call the "Money Streams" from Delhi, Islamabad, and many other places. The biggest stream is the one which has been flowing from Delhi to Srinagar for last 63 years. In early nineties the India Today magazine had estimated the size of the money spent by Delhi in Kashmir to be of the order of Rs 75,000 crores. Now, the size must have reached at least a couple of hundred thousand crores. If so much money had been honestly and genuinely spent in Kashmir, it would have been by now a country better than Switzerland. Even though the sizeable chunk of the funds goes into security establishments and a number of projects handled directly by the central government, yet massive amounts are channelled through the state government for various development projects connected with infrastructure etc. There are also funds utilised by various agencies in keeping the peoples' aspirations under check which are not counted anywhere nor is the size of these funds known. However, 75% of the funds meant for development do not find the way to the deserving and genuine people. These are pocketed by corrupt politicians and bureaucrats.

Recently, Arundhati Roy spoke about the situation prevailing in Kashmir. She compared the present Indian government to British colonizers. According to her after the departure of the British, the Indian elite which had been created by these colonisers, itself became colonisers' elite. They are now doing in Kashmir what the British did in India. The insatiable greed for material gains especially the thirst for money witnessed among Kashmiris has a specific background. For over four centuries Kashmiri Muslims had been living in virtual depravity. The present movement started in 1931 for the emancipation of the people aimed at getting both the political and economic freedom. Unfortunately, due to multiple reasons they got neither the political nor the economic freedom. The abnormally long spell of slavery had completely extinguished the self-respect, dignity, and self-reliance in the people. They had developed many weak points in their character as their sole motive had been survival in the most adverse conditions.

In 1947, there was a kick start towards political and economic freedom but the whole thing got derailed in 1953. The Indian government utilised the services of Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad to exploit all the weaknesses of the Kashmiri character and the process continues unabated till date. Like all colonisers the Delhi rulers created a politico-administrative set-up which is an edifice of dishonesty, corruption, and immorality. Universally, the colonisers can keep a colony only as long as they have strong local set up even though representing a miniscule minority of corrupt and dishonest people, to keep the majority down. The majority feels helpless and trapped and is unable to dislodge the dishonest and corrupt who enjoy patronage and full support of the outsiders.

Kashmir has now become totally dependent on Delhi in every respect. Even the salary of a huge administrative and police establishment numbering over three hundred fifty thousand cannot be met from the state resources. For a job which can be handled by a single person, ten have been employed. Apart from this there are daily wagers, casual workers, and a host of other skilled workers engaged on a monthly dole. Every scheme started here has some sort of a scam attached it. Long term interests of the state and its people are nobody's concern. Every one is bothered about his own share of the free flowing money. Sometimes one ponders that if the pro-India leaders had been Indian by conviction and had honestly utilised the funds made available to them, the State would have been in a totally different shape. No doubt there are some honest pro-India politicians especially among the younger lot but they feel helpless before the mafia dons of the old guard! Instead of unproductive investment if productive sectors had been honestly looked after and promoted, there would be no dearth of jobs. The environment would have flourished and Kashmir would have by now become economically independent. However, the rulers in Delhi would never allow such a thing because of the apprehension of economically independent Kashmiris demanding political independence also!

The other money stream has been flowing from Islamabad to the opposite side. There is also money coming in from the Gulf area and many other foreign countries to help suffering Kashmiris whom it never reaches! Again the bulk of the money gets lost in the way. It is not used for the purpose for which it is meant. It is alleged that the money is used to negate Delhi's moves in Kashmir. Ostensibly the money is intended to help Kashmir's popular movement and help the victims of Indian oppression. However, that purpose is hardly fulfilled. On the contrary apart from pocketing the money, some people enter into a strange competition. One side wants to create development projects to keep people busy with economic matters. The other side negates these to keep the main political problem in the forefront. In such a situation, there is no chance of any real economic progress as all efforts towards that end get derailed. But the most amazing thing is that the funds from both sides are utilised for creating real estate, a totally unproductive investment.

During last couple of decades over a hundred thousand houses, shop-lines, shopping complexes and other similar units have been constructed all over the valley. These freely flowing money streams have also adversely affected the social set up. A large number of people with easy money have become what the French call the "Nouveau Riches"! They are social upstarts who do not know how to spend the large amounts of money usurped by them. This has given rise to many social evils. The common honest people cannot keep up with them and feel totally let down. These money streams have created sizeable vested interests in the continuing situation of conflict. These vested interests do not allow the peace to return as such an eventuality threatens them. Thus the first thing to ensure the return of peace is to block these money streams flowing into Kashmir from umpteen sources. How can this be done? That is a million dollar question!

Did the "Hartal Calendar" Fiasco Benefit the PDP?

Arif conducts a post-mortem of political fallout from Hurriyat's questionable style of politics

(Mr. Arif Bashir, 26, was born in Check-e-Ferozpora, Tangmarg. He completed his schooling in his native village, and obtained his Arts degree, with emphasis in English Literature, Urdu Literature, Political Science and English, from the Amar Singh College, Srinagar. He subsequently completed his Master of Arts degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from the University of Kashmir. He is a Reporter for the Kashmir Images, a leading English daily of Kashmir Valley, and is presently an Associate Editor of the Daily Khidmat (English version), that slso is published from the Valley. He has written, scripted and directed two Documentary Films - 85 Degrees, and Faces of Hope - and one fictional Film - Dastak. His ambition is to become an outstanding Film Maker.)


On Nov 7 (Sunday) Srinagar’s famous Lal Chowk was witness to a different kind of protest – it was a protest against the protests that have engulfed the Valley for the past four months. It peaked with one of the protesters hoisting a white flag atop the Chowk’s landmark, the Ghanta Ghar or the Clock Tower, calling for peace.

The protesters may have been a motley crowd of about 100 which despite being attacked by stone-pelters made its point loud and clear – It was time the separatists stopped making normal life hostage to their petty politics.

Surely the tiger that the separatist has been riding is showing signs of turning upon them.

The anger, frustration and helplessness among the people is clearly visible on the streets of Kashmir where people now readily defy the Hurriyat’s calendar of protests and go about their daily business. Syed Ali Shah Geelani the Hurriyat fountainhead who has been trying to take credit for the fourth-month long protests that have claimed more than a 100 lives today stands discredited.

Political analysts also believe that the Hurriyat’s protest calendars have become an object of ridicule among the people of the valley. The protests do not seem to excite the people anymore and is losing its appeal among a people hit hard by the daily hardships.

The analysts also foresee a difficult time for the separatists pointing out that the people will hold them accountable for lacking any vision.

The result, many say, was not worth the lives lost as political actors continued to display inflexible stands on the Kashmir issue and that a resolution seems a distant dream. “The hostility between India and Pakistan, the Union government’s stand to search for a solution within the ambit of Indian Constitution, the separatist’s ill defined and unclear strategies and poor vision keeps the issue lingering not just for any resolution but for also for any clear understanding,” regrets A senior Journalist, senior Journalist and chief editor of Kashmir Images, a local daily.

The unrest that began with the killing of a student in May 2010 went on to record 110 more killings by the police and paramilitary troops along with heavy economic losses and a chaotic situation.

Police-protestor clashes dominated the news as Kashmir remained cut off.

“Soon after the protests began, various political parties tried to ride the wave in order to regain some relevance among the people by jumping into the fray,” A senior Journalist points out adding that “realizing that it was no less than riding a tiger, some political actors also decided to distance themselves from the unrest while those desperate to claim credit for the unrest, tried to mould their strategies according to the prognosis of the protests. It was clearly a case of the tail wagging the dog.

Moreover the response to all this from the Union government, analysts say was more of diplomacy rather than an attempt to resolve the core issue. “The outright rejection of the initiates taken by the Central government, in the form of an all-party delegation which was sent in September followed by the team of interlocutors, by the separatists squashed any hopes of progress,” says Iqbal Ahmad.

“Now, after more than four months, when the situation seems to have changed and people seem disinterested in continuing with the protests, the tiger seems to be feeding upon its rider,” A senior Journalist concludes.

Political analysts in Kashmir foresee a crucial stage for Kashmir polity and suggest that, at the end of the day, many a reputations might be buried in the bargain. They also point out that the unrest was bound to raise questions for which no answers were available with the leaders who claimed that the tiger was under control and being guided by them.

The protests that had begun in the downtown area of Srinagar city, a volatile area known for stone pelting since long, soon spread to different parts of the valley much like the Amarnath land row agitation in 2008 and the Shopian rape-cum-murder agitation in 2009. It was however reported that Masarat Alam, a third-rung leader of the Hurriyat-G (Geelani’s Hurriyat) was instigating the violence across a few districts.

In an apparent attempt to diffuse the tension, Syed Geelani who was under detention at that time (May 2010), was released to counter Masarat Alam and help the state government in bringing back peace.

Sources in Geelani’s Hurriyat confirmed, on conditions of anonymity, that sensing a revolt in his ranks, Geelani in fact intensified the protests much to the chagrin of the state government.

Alam went into hiding only to be arrested in October. On the sidelines of such political upheavals people continued to be killed by the CRPF and state police and the casualty kept mounting.

Taking a dig at the situation, Manzoor Anjum, chief editor of Uqaab, believes the unrest suited the main Opposition party in the state Assembly as well as the separatists.

“Both began fishing in troubled waters while the intensity of public anger scared away the mainstream party leaving the Hurriyat-G, led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani to the situation.

While the unrest was a pure resentment against the human rights violations at the hands of troops, the separatist spread the wrong impression that they were controlling it. The Hurriyat-G gave the impression that the whole episode was being fathered by it, a claim severely contested by the ground realities,” Anjum adds.

He also believes that while most separatist groups maintained its distance from the unrest, the Hurriyat-G pounced upon it and began issuing protest calendars. This way, Anjum points out, the Hurriyat-G gave the impression that the protests were being choreographed by them. But what they had not bargained for was how they would keep control of the agitation which seemed increasingly to be getting bigger on its own steam.

The situation further deteriorated after the separatists refused to acknowledge the all party delegation and the interlocutors.

“Now they have no justification to call it a day as nothing has been achieved yet people have sacrificed their lives. Today Geelani is in a fix and at the risk of losing his credibility,” Anjum says.

Tahir Mohidin, chief editor, Chattan a weekly Urdu newspaper published from the valley believes not much has changed in the context of Kashmir which, he says is the greatest worry for those who have so far claimed to lead the unrest. “While the hostility among India and Pakistan refuses to go away, the initiatives taken by the Centre too have been marginalized by the separatists refusing to talk. Thus the stark reality is that 111 people have been killed while the issue still remains where it was 20 years ago. The Hurriyat-G is facing a crisis of credibility.” Tahir goes on to say, “And now that things have diffused without any concrete measure being adopted either by India or any other stake holder in the issue, the leaders will be subject to serious questions regarding their strategies and policies.” a former professor of peace and conflict studies and editor of local daily, believes that while the unrest made it clear that Kashmir is still boiling it also exposed the bankruptcy of the separatists as well.

He says prolonged strikes, saying no to schools and ignoring the intricacies of economy in a conflict zone are suicidal for any successful agitation. “The leaders, particularly Geelani, ignored the hard realities of life and thus made himself a laughing stock not only among the international community but among the people as well. Now, no strike call is being respected, no call for marches is being paid heed to. It is a clear challenge to the credibility of those leaders who dictated such programmes,” he feels.

Prof Gul Mohammad Wani, senior professor of political science at Kashmir University, cautions India against its attitude, “There are strong chances that leaders who emerged as strong influences during the past four months are at a higher risk of losing credibility since India does not show any serious intention towards resolving the issue.” While the Union and the state governments and the separatists are yet to enter into a meaningful dialogue process, the unrest only blinded the separatists from assessing the ground realities.

This, he believes, could cause serious damage to the credibility of leaders in the valley.

Making Leaders Out of Cheaters

Tajamul speaks about the great injustice perpetuated by general public

(Mr. Tajamul Hussain, 53, was born in Srinagar. He went to the Government Higher Secondary School in Nawakadal, Srinagar, and the S.P. College, Srinagar. He attended the College of Engineering, Andhra University, Waltair, the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade (IIFT), New Delhi, and the Forest Research Institute. He is a freelance writer.)

Let’s Challenge Our Leaders

Historically, excessive admiration has led us Kashmiris to worship leaders as demigods for the cult of personalities, petty jobs and a few rupees. So to say, for ‘haaka boudh’, we would betray our faith to those into rule us and lead us who for decades failed to deliver, repeatedly sold and resold us.

The very faces that repeatedly disappointed/betrayed our nation, cause, trust would tomorrow be our saviours suggesting thereof that we are a 'confused-mass-of-protoplasm'. The recent killings (spin doctors dub them the result of our agitational terrorism, as a part of military neologism) ran more than a hundred mark; the loss of property and business valued at several thousands of crores. A section of people is overly optimistic about the hype created of ‘Azaadi’. The pessimists question why sacrifices of jaan, maal, izzat (life, property, honour) have been allowed to go awry, ditto in the past. They blame the failure to the ‘ineffective leadership’ for the bankruptcy-of-innovative-ideas to fight the Machiavellian political manoeuvres of the opponent. Some accuse ‘toxic’ leadership for (always) swerving from policy and principle. The dog-like followers (despite quite familiar with the wrongdoings of their leaders) that quite often slip up take a wrong turn and go off the rails, give an impression as if nobody knows as to against whom we are, Delhi or ourselves.

Leaders may attempt to depict themselves as the only ones who can “save” their followers. In the process they would stifle the constructive criticism and teach supporters, sometimes by threats and authoritarianism, to comply with, rather than to question their judgment and actions. With the riotous use of couching-the-word-abilities and holding hands in glove with the opponents, these so called torchbearers would attempt to mislead (rather deceive) the hapless stock of the followers through deliberate untruths and misdiagnoses of issues and problems, subverting structures and processes of the system intended to generate truth, justice, and excellence. They won’t hesitate in engaging in criminal acts. Building totalitarian or narrowly dynastic regimes, undermining the legal processes for selecting and supporting new leaders, failing to nurture other leaders, including their own successors or otherwise improperly clinging to power, identifying scapegoats and inciting others to castigate them, failing to recognize or ignoring and/or promoting incompetence, cronyism, and corruption; and behaving incompetently by misdiagnosing problems and failing to implement solutions to recognized problems are their character traits (innate/acquired) to name the few.

The kind of leaders, notoriously famous for abusing the leader-follower relationship leave the followers in worse-off conditions than when their leaders were not there. By virtue of the dysfunctional personal characteristics and destructive behaviours, they would often inflict reasonably serious and enduring harm on their followers. Initially they would charm, but ultimately end up in manipulating, mistreating, and undermining their followers, engaging in a wide range of destructive behaviours that may include corruption, deception, cheating, criminalizing, scandalizing, indulging into unethical activities and/or deliberately feeding their followers the illusions that enhance the power of these unscrupulous leaders and impair the capacity of the followers to act independently.

As a rule of thumb, our lemming’s obedience would always provide an opportunity for our leaders to exploit us for personal gain and aggrandizement to unapologetically destroy Kashmiri nation (and the character of its inhabitants) they were offered to lead. Many of us followers do recognize our fault of rearing these unscrupulous creatures and then keep on sheepishly tolerating them and their behaviour. Why do we accept, often prefer, and sometimes even create ineffective leaders by pushing sincere leaders over the line requires an analysis? Strong yearnings for leaders would keep on percolating up unconsciously in us to send us in search of leaders who can comfort our fears. Anthropologically speaking, at the most primitive end, the followers experience physiological needs for food, shelter, and other basic necessities of life. The hierarchy progresses through the needs for safety, love, esteem, cognition, aesthetics, and self-actualization to finally culminate in transcendence. Driven by more pragmatic needs, our desire to share in additional attractive benefits….like political access and organisational perks that those leaders can provide….have incidentally been the ones we would most easily recognize and commonly cite as the factors that hinder our escape from leaders.

Our existential anxiety and craving for a life of meaning would render us exquisitely susceptible to leaders who insist that they can keep us safe, instil our lives with significance, and ensure our eternal. Leaders who promise us an orderly, predictable, and controlled world can seem very attractive when everything around us appears to be disintegrating. Our leaders would always offer us grand illusions that articulate grandiose, unrealistic, and privileged utopias and we have always participated in their grand illusion as “the Chosen” to appear as our omniscient, omnipotent saviours. As followers we are quite often mistaken of the utopian dreams of toxic leaders to get ensnared in their noble visions of ennoblement. In the political realm, of course, toxic leaders frequently employ the resources of government, including the military, to enforce their rule over more sceptical and less compliant followers. Hamstrung by our multiple needs, we would create rationalizations that convince us we cannot oppose the leaders, eventually hardened into internalized control myths, dictating why the followers should not attempt to challenge the destructive leaders. These and still other psychological needs have made us seek and respond to leaders who assure us they can fulfil those longings. Our fear, that we are personally powerless to challenge leaders, normally contributes to our reluctance to confront them. While followers would busily engage in controlling their own impulses to resist, leaders pursue their unimpeded destructive courses.

Good News About Fruits and Migratory Birds

Two "feel good" stories: Kashmir has a bumper fruit production, and migratory birds flocking to Kashmir

In Valley, fruit yield at all-time high

Fruit production in Jammu and Kashmir has touched 20 lakh metric tonnes this season — an all time high — thanks to bumper apple crop.

Since the beginning of the year, the horticulture officials were optimistic about a good fruit harvest with some even predicting the yield to go beyond 30 lakh metric tonnes. However, continuous rainfall and hails destroyed some of the apple crop in the Valley’s north.

The bumper fruit production has come as a good news at a time when the Valley has witnessed a series of violent incidents that has had a direct impact on the growers.

President, Fruit Growers’ Association, Ghulam Rasool Bhat said that despite shutdowns and road-blockades, the apple growers managed to dispatch fruit-laden trucks to different parts of the country. “In July and August, most of the growers could not send their fruit to other states as the national highway and other highways were disrupted for many days due to the protests. But things have improved now, and hundreds of apple laden trucks are being sent to different cities every day.”

He, however, said the bumper production has slightly affected the rates in the markets and increased the production cost.

Bhat, who owns a big fruit orchard in north Kashmir, said: “At 10 to 12 lakh tonnes earlier, Kashmir growers were leaders in apple production. With a rise in production, we are now eyeing the international market.”

Migratory Birds Flocking to Kashmir

Srinagar: With the onset of winters in Jammu and Kashmir, more than two hundred thousand migratory birds from Central Asia and China have migrated to the region, flocking various wetland reserves.

The state wildlife authorities claim to have received more avian visitors this year than they expected at the three famous wetland reserves established at Haygam, Hokersar and Shalibag in the picturesque valley.

The early arrival of birds from traditional habitats like Central Asia, China and Eastern Europe signals that the temperatures in those areas also have taken a dip, forcing the birds to move earlier than expected.

Officials at the Hokersar reserve asserted that comfortable climatic conditions, better protection and the easy availability of food in the region were the prime reasons behind the massive migration of birds.

"These birds migrate to Kashmir to escape the extremely low temperatures in the Central Asian countries this time of the year.

The conditions are extremely harsh and cold. In some places, the temperatures dip to minus 40 and minus 35 also. This is a natural phenomenon, if humans are exposed to such temperatures, they will also migrate to warmers havens," said Ghulam Mohammad Lone, Wildlife Warden, Hokersar Wetland Reserve.

The winged visitors from Siberia, China, Central Asia and Northern Europe add colours and vibrancy with their chirping at the regional wetlands and fresh water lakes.

These birds begin their flight to Kashmir in early September and stay till spring heralds in the next year.

Locals maintain that the birds have been keeping their winter sojourn to Kashmir since times immemorial.

"These are beautiful and colourful birds. I feel very happy when I see them here. All the visitors who come to see these birds also find them very beautiful. These birds come from across the world," said Farooq Ahmad, an employee at the Hokersar Wetland Reserve.

The Hokersar wetland, which used to be spread over a sprawling 13.5 square kilometres land, has been gradually reduced through the years due to encroachments.

Besides, Hokersar, Hygam and Shalibag the other prominent destination for these migratory birds is at Mirgund.

Hundreds of thousands of exotic birds such as Mallards, Greyleg Geese, Gadwalls, Teals, Shovellers, Pochards and Coots make their temporary nests here.

A Tunnel Vision to Nowhere

Ajaz questions the quality of Kashmiri leadership who measure success by the amount of blood spilled on streets, rather than by accomplishments and societal gains. Fayyaz, as discussant, extends the argument that Kashmiri leadership is increasingly irrelevant as people lose enthusiasm for hartal politics

(Mr. Ajaz ul Haque, 40, was born in Srinagar. He completed his school and college education in South Kashmir. He is presently on the faculty as Producer in the University of Kashmir Educational Multimedia Research Centre (EMRC), and a columnist for the Greater Kashmir. In leisure time he enjoys reading.

Mr. Ahmed Ali Fayyaz, 48, was born in Bodina, Budgam, and received his primary and secondary education in Budgam and later at Amar Singh College, Srinagar. He completed his Master's degree in Kashmiri language and literature from the University of Kashmir in 1987. After working with Rashtriya Sahara and Kashmir Times in 1993-94, and later for 13 years as Srinagar Bureau Chief of Daily Excelsior, he is woking as Resident Editor/ Srinagar Bureau Chief of Jammu-based English daily Early Times since April 2009. He is also a filmmaker whose forte in audio-visual media is Kashmir's composite culture, heritage, ecology and social issues. Since February 2008, he has been regularly anchoring Take One Television's bi-weekly hard talk show "Face To Face With Ahmed Ali Fayyaz" which is watched by more than three million viewers in Srinagar, Jammu and other urban areas of Jammu & Kashmir.)

We Lose Life to Make Lungs Stronger

As calm seems to return, the question that one encounters is this. `What have we achieved after five months of shutdown'? Answers vary. Some incorrigible pessimists, (me included), put it as a pure loss. A hundred odd losing their lives, hundreds more their limb, thousands their job, thousands more their property. This way it frankly appears to be a simple case of subtracting people from people, property from property. In an equation like this, saints may foresee a profit in the ages to come, ordinary mortals see it as an accident that can logically result in loss only. It can have nothing to offer but a sense of deprivation and a craving to get back what we have lost. There is a counter-response to the question and that comes from some unswerving optimists who see hope even in the desert of hopelessness. They have a plausible point to base their argument on. They believe that it didn't all go waste. It `highlighted' the Kashmir issue at international level. It, they believe, shook India to the marrow. It mobilized a public opinion in favour of Kashmir. Since they didn't suffer on any count, they are left to count the `blessings' of a collective perversion that defines us as a nation.

No issues to join with them. Yes, may be these lives bear us fruit in the future and hope they do. Just a simple and straight question. Hypothetically speaking, if just one more death is required to see India out, who amongst us will choose to offer himself. Presume that only one more injury and we are free, whose body is to be selected for this `bliss'. If losing just one more job banishes India, who will be singularly sacrificing his job to make that happen? Will those, who seem to be gleeful about `highlighting' Kashmir, have a bit to offer from their side? We will always love to borrow a fall-guy whose sacrifice can buy us the freedom we desire for ourselves. This chronic habit of seeing a martyr in a neighbour's house has not gone and will not go.

Now the debate. Yes Kashmir has been in focus all these months for the simple reason that it made news. Even a calamity-hit region hogs the headline and invites media attention, but who will bring home a disaster to attract spotlight. No dispute, that Indian military occupation in Kashmir is responsible for all the violence and mayhem. No second thoughts, that state crushed a popular resistance by force. No denying, that police mowed down the voices of dissent on the roadside as brutally as it has done in the past. But why do we use this huge monster of state oppression as a fig-leaf to cover our own nakedness. Our blood is not that cheap to be offered for a mere news coverage even if it's global. Nothing is worth the life of an ordinary human being. What we feel so triumphant about must be the moment of a devastating grief for all of us.

Truth has stung us always. Our failure or success painfully depends on the amount of blood spilt in the streets. What worries us, paradoxically, is not a life lost, but a life saved. Pity the nation whose people stay relevant as long as its streets are drenched in blood. The day stains are washed off, their relevance comes under question.

A parable to sum up. A character in a fiction churns out a unique poisonous substance which, if consumed, makes lungs stronger. His dangerous innocence sees it as a wonder drug since it rejuvenates an organ, no matter it ends the whole being. He offers it to his friend, gives him a hope and a caution along. `Take it, your lungs will grow stronger, but don't mind it will kill you first'.

If an act `highlights' Kashmir, but in the process, decimates us as a people, can we afford to lose our life to make our lungs stronger.

Kashmir columnists begin to question Geelani's 'obduracy' versus the last Intifada death gets farther, scribes brace up to raise questions

Srinagar: As both, September 6th (when J&K Police and CRPF left five dead and nearly a dozen injured in an attack on the newly appointed IGP S M Sahai's cavalcade at Palhalan) and September 13th (when 18 persons fell to bullets while demonstrating against a disputed incident of the desecration of holy Quran in USA) are fading out into the history, a small number of scribes and columnists have begun to raise questions with regard to five-month-long shutdown and stone pelting.

For five hot months of the year, hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani has bagged the credit of a mass mobilisation that, many believed, brought New Delhi literally on the ground over Kashmir. The octogenarian showed no mood of sharing the credit of Intifada-2010 with anybody in the Valley's separatist camp---not even with die-hard Massarat Alam and Asiya Andrabi.

He enjoyed similar command and confidence even in Intifada-2008 when he publicly humiliated fellow icons of the "freedom struggle", Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik. Without paying any attention to the eagerly waiting 'Azadi comrades at the 50,000-strong Tourist Reception Centre rally, Geelani yelled as many as 10 times: "ham Pakistani hain, Pakistan hamara hai" (We are for Pakistan, Pakistan is for us). He signed off the event and left the dais without even shaking hands with the young Mirwaiz, whose father held Pakistan's banner high in the worst of times when Geelani served in the Indian legislature, and Malik, whose JKLF pioneered the armed struggle in 1987-88.

Shedding of tears by the "moderate" duo resulted in a small healing touch. Word of caution and advice of sharing some space with the colleagues poured on to Hyderpora from unknown quarters. Within an hour Geelani called media to his home to rectify "an error". Adding insult to injury, Hurriyat's Big Brother played down his 7-minute-long episode of "only me" as "a slip of the tongue" (Sibgat-e-Lisaani). This year around, he got a bigger suppliant in Chief Minister Omar Abdullah who sent his high profile envoy to win the detained separatist icon's blessings at the Cheshma Shahi jail hut.

Even after his release, Geelani neither listened to Mirwaiz Umar's advice of moderation not shared the "stage of unity" with him at Eidgah on the day of Eid-ul-Fitr, on September 11th. Much like Sheikh Abdullah, Geelani has not shown the trait of sharing credit. Now that the Ragda--- colloquial phrase for the crass form of resistance--- is over and nobody has died on Kashmir's streets for Azadi in the last two-and-a-half months, Geelani is singularly at the receiving end of public criticism. He has been firmly arguing that 111 civilian deaths in the five-month-long stone pelting and shutdown have "highlighted the Kashmir dispute" for the world.

One of the widely read columnists, who also teaches at University of Kashmir and has never hesitated to wear his pro-freedom credentials, writes in an op-ed piece in a leading Srinagar daily on Sunday: "Yes Kashmir has been in focus all these months for the simple reason that it made news. Even a calamity-hit region hogs the headline and invites media attention, but who will bring home a disaster to attract spotlight. No dispute, that Indian military occupation in Kashmir is responsible for all the violence and mayhem. No second thoughts, that state crushed a popular resistance by force. No denying, that police mowed down the voices of dissent on the roadside as brutally as it has done in the past. But why do we use this huge monster of state oppression as a fig-leaf to cover our own nakedness. Our blood is not that cheap to be offered for a mere news coverage even if it's global. Nothing is worth the life of an ordinary human being. What we feel so triumphant about must be the moment of a devastating grief for all of us".

"Truth has stung us always. Our failure or success painfully depends on the amount of blood spilt in the streets. What worries us, paradoxically, is not a life lost, but a life saved. Pity the nation whose people stay relevant as long as its streets are drenched in blood. The day stains are washed off, their relevance comes under question", he adds.

One hundred bereaved families, out of 111, have so far taken home ex-gratia relief of Rs 5 Lakh each in just weeks of the local newspapers highlighting them as the ones who were ready to sacrifice other of their sons for Kashmir's Azadi. Much like in 2008, there are now traffic jams of the days of "civil curfew" called by Geelani. The other day only, he alleged that commercial transporters had been "purchased by the government". All government offices and educational institutions remain open and most of the shopkeepers now defy the call for shutdown, of course, without making it a public statement of India's victory or Hurriyat's defeat. This has brought confidence back to the scribes who were known for their cynicism and pessimism towards the separatist leadership, though not essentially entire separatist movement.

Shooting salvo after salvo on Geelani--- left, right and center--- editors of two local newspapers---one in Urdu, another in English--- have not only blasted Geelani in their own dailies, but have also made a well-circulated vernacular weekly their platform of attacking the separatist hawk and his methodology of carrying forward "Kashmir's freedom movement". Last week, Geelani called a full-length press conference to admonish his detractors, inviting them for a public debate over Intifada-2010 but only to the place of his choice.

"These writers have never penned a word against the atrocities done by Indian forces. We are fully aware of their history, geography and friend circle", Geelani said about the critics while invoking the cliché insinuation of their being "India's paid agents".

Unlike the author of the op-ed piece, Geelani has an advantage over the weekly 'Chattaan' columnists. Both, alongwith the editor, have been part of two-decade-long ideological crusade against Jamaat-e-Islami, Hizbul Mujahideen and Pakistan.

Kashmir Tops in Primary Health Care

Statistics may not lie, but they can be abused. In this they made the State look good

Remarkable Improvement in JK Governance: Survey

New Delhi: A survey conducted by the India Today has indicated that the Jammu and Kashmir State has shown remarkable improvement in the governance during last two years. As against rank 16 in 2008, Jammu and Kashmir jumped to rank 10 in 2010 while it stood at rank 11 in 2009.

The survey results came weeks after six month long unrest, that disrupted normal life in Kashmir valley, began to subside.

The Jammu and Kashmir State has been adjudged the best State in the Country for successful implementation of schemes in Primary Health Care sector and Mahatama Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).

The State has also been ranked third in Micro Economy, fourth in Primary Education and Investment Environment while it stands at rank sixth in Consumer Markets sector.

The awards for the achievements were received by the Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah from the Vice President, Mr. Hamid Ansari at the State of States Conclave at Delhi today.

The survey for ranking various states in governance and implementation of development schemes in different sectors was conducted by the India Today Group of Publications.

Giving top ranking to the Jammu and Kashmir State in Primary Health Care sector and MGNREGA implementation, the report issued at the Conclave says that in 2010 the State has targeted an expenditure of Rs. 600 crore under MGNREGA almost three times the last year’s. The Government has been able to generate more than 7.9 lakh mandays for about 2.5 lakh households and spent nearly Rs. 140 crore.

The parameters of ranking good health in the State has been captured by the infant morality rate, the percentage of births assisted by the trained personnel, the number of registered doctors, access to water, good hygiene, removal of biases against women and girl child and per capita expenditure on health and family welfare.

The survey report also indicated improvement in the infrastructure development in Jammu and Kashmir while it also recognized improvement in the State in the field of agriculture. In composite ranking J&K has also shown improvement and its position from rank 11 in 2008 has jumped to rank 8 in 2010.

Giving details of the methodology adopted by the survey, the report says that the objective route has been used, relying solely on data from central sources to adjudge the State’s and formulate rankings list so that non-comparability of data across States was not an issue.

The survey picked eight heads with various sub-heads of prosperity and budget, present age of urban population, per capita capital expenditure, inflation, per capita debt, per capita GSDP, per capita revenue of SEB, law and order, health, mortality rate, education, literacy rate, consumer markets, per capita deposits, percentage of cultivated area, food grain

National Saffron Mission (NSM)

Sajad reports on the ailing saffron industry

(Mr. Sajad Kralyari, 28, was born in Kralyar, Srinagar. He had his early schooling at the General Public Mission (GPM) School, and his higher secondary education from the Government High School. He completed his B.Sc. from the Gandhi Memorial College, Rainawari, Srinagar, and Master's degree in journalism from the Media Educational Research Centre (MERC), University of Kashmir in 2008. He subsequently did a brief stint in New Delhi before returning as a correspondent for the Rising Kashmir, working on business and economy related stories.)

Agriculture Department Awaits NSM Take Off

National Saffron Mission (NSM) may be aiming to revive the ailing saffron sector, but growers allege that it is the “nexus” between administration and the land brokers which thrstens the very survival of the colourful spice.

There has been illegal construction on at least 1500 kanals of saffron land over the past 20 years. This has impacted the saffron productivity, the growers alleged while interacting with the media persons at Pampore.

The interactive meet with the growers and the agriculture department was organized by Press Information Bearu Srinagar Tuesday.

The official production figures show that saffron area has gone down from about 5707 hectares to just 3785 hectares and the productivity has gown down 3.13 kg/ha to 2.50 kg/ha in the last few years.

“Though, the construction on saffron land is prohibited under land revenue act section 133 (a) (c) but this act is being violated by the government administration itself as they are in league with the land brokers,” said another grower, Bashir Ahmad Malik.

“We have taken up this matter with the higher authorities and filed a writ petition with the high court but to no avail,” said Malik who is also an advocate.

The top officials from the agriculture department also second the villagers’ allegation that illegal construction has shrunk the saffron cultivable land.

“There is a deep nexus between the land brokers and the government administration who are allowing the construction to come up at saffron land. The saffron cultivable land has considerably reduced due to these illegal constructions,” said one of the officials from the agriculture department.

“We are helpless and can do nothing to stop these illegal constructions. We have to give guidelines to the farmers for improving their production and productivity,” said the official.

Notably, the Central government has approved a plan of Rs 371.18 crore under National Saffron Mission Programme for four years which includes Rs 286.06 crore as government of India’s share and Rs 85.12 crore as farmers share for the revival of saffron production in Jammu and Kashmir.

Under the 4-year saffron mission, the government of India would bore 128 tube wells. Also 3715 sprinkler sets with distribution system shall be made available to the farmers with 50% subsidy over an estimated cost of Rs 5000 per set, whereas 82 sets shall be installed at government farms with 100% project share.

The detailed project report for saffron mission show that each tube well would cater to the needs for irrigating 30 hectares of saffron area.

However, efforts shall be made to create permanent water source for saffron areas adjacent to river Jehlum near Patal and Lathipora by strengthening present Lathipora lift irrigation scheme.
“The research shows that the lack of irrigation facilities, poor techniques adopted by the growers and lack of post harvest management has reduced in low productivity and poor quality. The saffron mission will go a long way in helping farmers enhance quality and productivity of Saffron,” said Seed Pathologist Farooq Ahamd Mandoo who was also present in the interactive meet with the media persons.

The saffron mission also seeks to develop appropriate systems for organized marketing, quality-based pricing of saffron and for formulating direct transactions between growers, traders, exporters and industrial agencies.

The Only Major City With No Traffic Lights

Dr. Fiaz Fazili unravels the core Kashmiri attribute that makes Srinagarites a unique breed

We The Srinagarites

Every time I visit my homeland, one thing for sure occupies my mind for most part of the trip: Traffic mess. Reasons are simple. Every plan of mine to go out, like every other Srinagarite, is dependant on the traffic regulation. But the word regulation I never find existing.

Has our City done away with traffic signboards? Don’t we need a direction as people elsewhere do? Can we move directionless? Don’t we need some signal system to convey when to stop, start or accelerate?

In short don’t we need to be disciplined?

Well everything needs to be disciplined. But that needs a system. Getting back to the topic, I have a question what one should ask in the absence of system. No signal lights, no traffic management. What is this? Freedom, a complete Azadi? And are the streets without traffic signs and signals executable?

Then there’s another issue. For this is want to take you out of Srinagar. Hire a taxi in London, New York or even New Delhi, the routine is the same: You cruise along, and the dollars and rupees rack up on the meter based on time and distance.

But in Srinagar, it’s altogether a different story. People hiring cabs here never find a meter working because fares are arbitrary and as decided by the cab driver. This has been a routine for decades and authorities have obviously failed to act.

Human society cannot exist without discipline, that is, willing obedience to laws, rules and regulations. Even birds and beasts have sense of discipline.

Obedience, therefore, is the backbone of discipline. The members of a team or body must obey the rules which they themselves frame, willingly and readily. The western countries are much disciplined. After the World War 2, countries like Japan, England, France and Germany were badly shaken.

Indiscriminate bombardment razed cities to the ground. But by discipline and collective efforts these countries have raised stronger than ever.

Any football coach will tell you that when you’re down at half-time and getting whipped all over the field to focus on the basics of blocking and tackling. A golf coach will tell you to keep your head down and your left arm straight. A business coach will tell you to cut

your expenses and grow your customer base. Getting back to the basics is the surest way to resolve any crisis.

So discipline is required at its best. Discipline on all fronts. Let’s stop taking driving down the Srinagar streets a race of ego, where nobody is ready to give side to anybody. Nobody is ready to wait for others to move.

Let’s start adhering to discipline on our front. Let’s start self efforts to streamline traffic. But then let those at the helm of affairs not miss to change what has been a same and stale old story of traffic management void of traffic signals, sign boards and of-course operational meters for cabs.

Traffic regulation needs to everybody’s priority. Because for now what hinders Srinagar’s prosperity the most, apart from other hiccups, is the terror of traffic jams. It makes precious time go waste in the gridlocks. The roads are chocked, emergencies can’t reach hospital intime.

Reviving Dal Lake

The Lakes and Waterways Developmental Authority (LAWDA) is incapable of saving the lake

Reviving Dal Lake

On November 20, in a high-level meeting with Lakes and Waterways Developmental Authority (LAWDA), Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand gave a 15-day deadline for assessment of 395 structures along Dole Demb area that will open three square kilometers area and increase Dal lake expanse from 18 to 21 kilometers. These are just baby steps; government has to take conservation mission on a war footing.

Results need to be evident; approaches have to appear pragmatic, quantifiable and long lasting. According to estimates, around 50,000 tons of silt and other pollutants get added into the Lake annually, reducing its depth and encouraging the growth of weeds. The government has often said problem is compounded by the encroachment, pollution and deforestation, which has affected the Lake’s eco-system. What is more damaging is a lack of proper blue print from government? State needs to have a multi-layered conservation approach, which is not only implemented, but also finished under a given time frame. There has been a heightened concern within Kashmir’s civil society about a possible threat that the Dal Lake will soon be a history. This fear manifests itself in the form of the mess, which has engulfed the Lake today. Government has to be proactive not just in planning, but in action as well. Steps like creation of artificial wetlands are a welcome one. This will not only minimize the waste substances and nutrients slipping into lake, but will create a sustainable ecosystem, which will itself preserve the Lake in the longer run.

However,cynicism steps in when it comes to execution, long-term backup plan is must for this sustainable solution. Wetlands will need protection and maintenance. LAWDA has to extend these upcoming artificial water bodies as a future course of action in safeguarding Dal Lake. Between all this eco-friendly build-ups by LAWDA, cleaning of blockage channels has to speed up. A serious, effective, and quick mechanism in removing reeds, radhs, landmasses and encroachment has to proceed swiftly. Along all this hard labour, a sustained awareness campaign is a must for local populace informing them ways of conserving the precious Dal. To implement such bold decisions LAWDA needs to shed the chronic sloth and implement the government’s vision in letter and spirit. The government on its part has to ensure all this is implemented on the waters, which remain turbulent and now dirty as well.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Dal's Condition is Reflective of Kashmir's Apathy Towards Everything Non-Political

Ayaz searches for a Kashmiri counterpart to Cheyon

(Mr. Mohammad Shafi Ayaz, 46, was born in Anantnag, and continues to live in the same town. He studied in various state schools, colleges and universities. He has completed his MBA, and is a Certified Associate of the Indian Institute of Bankers(CAIIB), and is working on a doctorate thesis on “Non Performing Assets in Indian Banks." He is a banker and presently associated with the Jammu & Kashmir Bank as Senior Executive. Mr. Ayaz has three publications - two in Urdu, one comprising of fictions/short stories titled as “Dard-i-Pinhan” (Hidden Pain), and the third comprising of poetry titled as “Talash-i-Sahar”(In Search of Dawn). He has also published another short book in “Interest Free Banking.” He writes on various topics in the Daily Kashmir Images, Weekly Shuhab and Weekly Sabzar. Earlier he contributed articles to two leading Urdu dailies of the Valley - ‘Aftab’ and ‘Srinagar Times’.)


Dal Lake, commonly known as “Jewel in the crown of Kashmir” is the second largest lake in the state. It has a prominent place in our tourism and recreation sphere and is also an important source for commercial operations for fishing and water plant harvesting. Dal has been a place of attraction and interest to all rulers of Kashmir including Mughals, British and Dogras. All of them have taken effective steps to preserve it and promote its beauty by way of taking up measures for keeping it clean.

Whenever you talk about the beauty of Kashmir anywhere in the world, there is a certain mention of Dal Lake and its House Boats and floating colorful & decorated Shikaras. Visit to Kashmir is considered to be incomplete unless Dal is seen in a Shikara and a night is spent in a House Boat in the Dal.

This very Dal Lake which is our pride and has world fame is unfortunately ailing because of our condemnable attitude. The size of the lake has shrunk from its original area of 22 square kilometers to the present area of 18 square kilometers and there is concerning rate of sediment deposition due to catchment area degradation. So many floating gardens, commonly known as “Rad” in Kashmiri language, have also been now changed into dwellings. The encroachment to the Dal Lake has, at various times, been viewed seriously by certain local as well as foreign NGO’s by displaying a serious concern over the deteriorating condition of the lake. Even some foreign tourists who have seen the Dal before 50 years were shocked to see the present position of this renowned lake.

Why not? Dal has virtually lost a tremendous portion. The water quality has also deteriorated due to intense pollution caused by untreated sewage and solid waste that is fed into the lake from its peripheral areas and from the settlements and House Boats. Encroachment of water channels and consequent clogging has diminished the circulation and inflows into lake, so with the building up of phosphates and nitrogen, this has led to extensive weed growth leaving serious consequences on the biodiversity of the lake.

Almost fifteen drains and several other resources have released a total of 156.62 tones of phosphorus and 241.18 tones of inorganic nitrogen into the lake from discharge. Seepage and diffused runoff also adds to this pollution and have added further 4.5 tons of total phosphate and 18.14 tones of nitrogen.

Taking a serious note of these major causes for deterioration of Dal, environmental experts as well as certain agencies of public interest raised these issues from time to time and approached Government for taking effective measures to preserve the lake.

Even intervention of judiciary was also sought by these agencies. Although state Government, with the handsome funding from Central Government, envisaged a plan “Conservation and Management of Dal Lake” for this purpose.

Various PIL’s filed, till date, have resulted in a number of directives from the courts to the funding and implementing agencies. A huge amount has been disbursed by the Central Government for this purpose even only in year 2005 funds to the extent Rs.298.76 crores were sanctioned for the conservation of the lake. The measures which were to be taken under this conservation programme for rehabilitating the lake to bring it to its original shape were construction of siltation tanks, mechanical deweeding, regrouping of houseboats, deepening of outflow channel and removal of bunds, barricades and some floating gardens. A moratorium was to be imposed on new construction near to lake including the building of new houseboats. Resettlement plans for migrating the population from the lakefront and reforestation of catchment area to reduce erosion movement were also be taken up. For this purpose the implementing agency is LAWDA (Lakes & Waterways Development Agency). How far LAWDA has been effective in performing its job, it is known to everybody. The deterioration is on and Dal is losing its charm. LAWDA is making high claims that almost 40% of the recommended measures for preservation of the lake have been implemented. But the ground reality does not support this claim. Unfortunately all concerned agencies have not taken the assignment so serious. Dal has become a money minting machine for them. With no hard accountability LAWDA is working at snails speed. Our politicians are responsible for this bad situation. Just for their cheap political interest they exhibit their considerations. The unlawful occupants in the lake and its vicinity are used as vote bank and as such allowed to remain there. Likewise people residing nearby the lake are leaving n stone unturned to pollute the lake by allowing their drainage into it. Whom to blame now?

You may have not heard about Mr. Chiyong Sheng Cheyon, a Chinese gentleman who remains an unknown figure for us. Sixty one year old Sheng has done alone, without a single penny, what our LAWDA, Environmental Teams, N.G.Os and whole Government could not do with millions of rupees. There is a water lake in North China and Cheng resides in its vicinity. He used to visit the lake when he was just about seven years of age. At the age of fourteen, Sheng lost his parents to a natural death and was depressed by the decision of fate. He used to sit on the bank of this lake and observe its fauna and flora. This worked as a sort of solace for him and he fell in love with the lake. From those very days he visited the lake daily and once he spotted anything that could deteriorate the condition of the lake, be it a minute thing, he would make sure that the lake is cleaned of it. Encroachment from anyone or pollution from any source would face his stiff resistance as Cheng would be ready to raise voice against it and approached the local administration for any help as and when required.

Thus people didn’t dear to change the original shape and purity of this lake. Although Sheng is now old but his enthusiastic approach towards the preservation of this lake has kept him young. A peasant by profession with a small family and that too without any good financial resource, Sheng is managing the preservation of this lake. No Government is providing him any funds, no agency is assisting him and even his family is not helping him in this noble cause. What makes him to do it? No money, no assistance, no rewards, no awards, nothing but his will to do.

A conscious mind with strong will is required to preserve the Dal, otherwise the present situation is desperate. Let politicians come out of their political interests to save the Dal. Let LAWDA be made accountable to complete its programme within a specified time. Let environmental N.G.Os educate the people reside nearby the lake and ensure no sewage is allowed to flow in Dal. Be everyone realistic, there is no limit to what you can do by yourself and by influencing other people. Let every one of us especially LAWDA take a lesson from Chiyong Shen Cheyon.

Kashmir and Chinar

Sharma details the "State Tree" and describes its cultural significance to valley residents

(Mr. Om Prakash Sharma "Vidyarthi", 50, was born in Udhampur. After completing his M.Sc. in Botany from the University of Jammu, he joined the Indian Forest Service (IFS). He won the prestigious Sahitya Akademi award in 2002. He has collected, catalogued and named plants and animals in all dialects and languages of Jammu and Kashmir and North India. Mr. Sharma, based in Jammu, has written 36 books on different aspects of forest ecology like garden flowers, medicinal plants, birds, biodiversity and environment. He got the National Forest Conservation Award in 2010. In previous years, he has received numerous awards and honours.)

Kashmir Without Chinar

Chinar, a majestic tree of Kashmir is known for its antiquity, magnificence, cool shade and a royal touch. The tree grows upto a height of 30 metres and girth of 10 to 15 metres at ground level. It bears dense crown of interlaced branches and palmately lobed leaves held horizontally to make shade extra cool during summer. The flowers are borne on pendulous stalks in paired globular heads.

The word Chinar has its origin from Persian language, it is native to Persia, Greece and Italy. Pliny mentions its introduction into Itlay around 390 B.C. Old Romans and Greeks had cultural links with this tree since long and was a favorite shade tree. In English, it is known as Oriental Plane and its botanical name is Platanus orientalis.

In Kashmiri language, it is known as Boiun or Booni and it is believed that word has originated from the term Bhawani which means goddess. In olden days, it was tradition to plant it near temples of goddess Bhawani and got its name Boiun as it is protective like mother Bhawani. Old Chinar groves are seen at various places like Tulamula (Kheer Bhawani), Zeethiyar (Zestha Mata), Vichar Nag, (Soura), Shardaji (Keran), Nagbal (Anantnag), Martand Temple (Mattan). At the confluence of Sindh and Jhelum at Shadipur, also known as Prayag, and old Bouin tree is growing since ancient times.

Large scale plantation of oriental plane was patronized by benevolent king namely Zain-ul-ab-din who was unlike his father and built large number of temples earlier destroyed by Sultan Sikander (1393-1416 A.D). After the arrival of Mughals, Akbar and Shahjahan also showed keen interest in using Chinars as attractive shade bearing landscape tree. Mughals got these trees planted in famous Mughal Gardens of Kashmir like Naseem bagh, Nishat bagh, Shalimar garden, Harwan and at places like Bijbehara, Budgam, Kokernag and Anantnag. Largest tree seen in Darashikoh bagh at Bijbehara has been measured 19 mts at ground level. The largest Chinar has also been reported from Chittergam, Chadoora which measures 31.85 mts at ground level and 14.78 m at breast height. All this reflects the deep aesthetic sense of Mughal Emperors. Foreign travelers who visited Kashmir before Mughal empire also mention presence of Chinar Trees in the valley. Kalhana, the great historian of Kashmir however does not mention Bouin but mentions a large tree called Vata as a sacred tree resembling Chinar. Sir Walter Lawrence in his book “Valley of Kashmir” published in 1895 mentions this as royal tree of Kashmir. He has put on record a boled Chinar in Lolab valley having a circumference of 63 feet 5 inches at about 5 ft from ground level. Attracted by the beauty of Chinars, Late Dr. M. S. Randhawa (ICS) Chief Administrator Chandigarh/Vice Chancellor Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana took saplings of Chinar from Kashmir and got them planted at Chandigarh and Ludhiana.

At present Jammu and Kashmir has declared Chinar as state tree and provided full legal protection under law but Chinar trees are dwindling fast due to drying because of ongoing developmental activities and increasing vehicular pollution e.g. drying of Chinars is visible in the newly created park on the left bank of River Jehlum between Zero Bridge and Abdullah Bridge. Chinars are also drying on either-side of Tourist Reception Centre lane and giving an ugly look to the visitors. Department of Floriculture has taken initiative of its large scale multiplication in the nurseries and raising awareness among masses by celebrating chinar day in the month of March. Accordingly to a census carried out by Chinar Development Authority, 19897 Chinars were present in 2005 from the earlier number of 42,000 in 1970.

Chinar tree has special cultural & religious significance among Kashmiris both Hindus and Muslims. It is a popular symbol of Kashmir heritage seen in various designs of arts & crafts, articles of house and shikara decoration, embroidery of shawls, papermachhe, wood carving and namda gabba making. Several articles of handicrafts decorated with motifs of chinar leaves are source of curiosity for the tourists and pilgrims who visit Jammu and Kashmir. Autumn season presents enchanting orange red glow to the falling foliage and great splendour of matchless beauty for the attraction of visitors. Our late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had special love for autumn Chinars and used to adore flaming beauty of Chinars. Late Chief Minister Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah named his book after colour of autumn chinars as “Aatish-e-Chinar”. Several Kashmiri proverbs also have their origin in the elegance of these majestic trees of unique cultural and religious significance. Leaves of Chinars when fall dry find their way to heating pots called “kangris” for keeping the chill away. Its bark is medicinal and is used as tea substitute by the locals. The Chinar wood is heavy, hard, tough and is used in wood carving and furniture marking.

Kashmir's beauty has been nurtured by mighty Chinars planted by Kashmiri Pandits, Priests, Kings and others over the centuries, beauty praised and sung through poems and lyrics, decorated in handicrafts and shawls by the nature loving weavers and made more colourful by each passing autumn. Save Chinars, save beauty for the posterity and ecological security. The existence of Kashmiri culture without Chinars is unthinkable.

Centaur Hotel Srinagar

Rashid paints a grim picture of the transfer of the Government of India owned Centaur Hotel to a privately owned company. In reality it is a hopeful sign and will set the tone for future private sector investments in the valley

(Mr. Rashid Paul, 40, was born at Ompora, near Budgam. He has a master's degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from the University of Kashmir. He has worked as a senior correspondent on numerous valley based dailies. He follows business and economy, conflict, environment and power beats. He is also a documentary film maker.)

Kashmir Set to Lose Priced Centaur Lakeview Hotel

Srinagar: Granted against a rental of Rs 3220 per acre and a license fee of Re one only, the priceless 17 acre Centaur Lakeview Hotel (CLH) of Kashmir has been handed over by Hotel Corporation of India (HCI) to a Mumbai-based company.

Built in 1982 as a joint venture scheme between the J&K government and the HCI, the CLH, a prestigious asset of Kashmir, has been slyly given on contract management basis to BD&P Hotels, a Mumbai-based private party for 30 years.

The deal was executed at Mumbai on September 15 and ‘Kashmir Images’ has been able to obtain a copy of the agreement.

The arrangement will bring annual revenue of Rs two crores to HCI, a subsidiary of the Indian Airlines, one of the major loss-making Government of India enterprises.

The deal is contrary to the provisions of the March 10, 1982 joint venture agreement and is perceived as part of wider plan to divest Kashmir of its prime assets.

According to the 28-year-old agreement, a copy of which is with this newspaper, the CLH, the Sher-i-Kashmir Conference Center and Common facilities of the project were constructed at Kabootar Khana Cheshmaishahi, with a view to develop tourism, encourage inflow of capital into J&K, and provide more job opportunities to its permanent residents. It was decided that the complex structure shall be jointly constructed by the state and the HCI.

The parties jointly invested in the project with J&K contributing a capital of Rs eight crores and the HCI nearly 21 crores. The state also leased the prized land measuring 13 acres to the HCI at a paltry rental of Rs 3220 and a license fee of Rs one only for a period of 99 years.

J&K government was too generous in providing an additional land of 31 kanals and nine malras under khasra number 3511 in the naturally refined environs of Cheshmaishahi to the HCl for accommodation of its staffers.

Clause 9 of the agreement explicitly vests the ownership rights of the structure with the parties on an equal basis. The use whereof shall be determined by the parties by mutual understanding, says the clause.

None of the officials from the rank of the Director to the Tourism Minister were available for comment as they are reportedly busy at London in connection with the Kashmir Mart festival.

Vehemently opposing handing over of the CLH, president, Hotel and Restaurant Association of Kashmir, Siraj Ahmed said, “It is an attempt to divest Kashmir of its land and assets. The state government has either a tacit hand in the deal or is in deep sleep. The deal should be scrapped forthwith and local players roped in.”

Rupees 12 crores have been received as advance payment by Hotel Corporation of India (HCI) from BD&P Hotels for leasing to it the prized asset of Kashmir, the Centaur Lakeview Hotel (CLH).

The deal struck while Kashmir was reeling under continued strikes and curfews in past five months, will benefit HCI by Rs 60 crores and Kashmir by a yearly rental of Rs 400 per kanal for its 221 kanals of land under the hotel (Rs 88,400 as year to be precise).

According the documents available with ‘Kashmir Images’, the BD&P Hotels which will be running the CLH under the garb of “contract management” for 30 years has made an advance payment of Rs 12 crores to the HCL.

A payment of Rs 10 crores has been advanced under cheque number 218697 in favor of HCI Ltd. towards interest-free security deposit. HCI also received a sum of Rs two crores by way of cheque number 218699 towards minimum yearly rent payable in advance.
The HCI shall receive a sum of Rs 60 crores from the BD&P Hotels for the next 30 years and the J&K has to be satisfied at with a rental fixed at approximately Rs 400 per kanal for the land under the use of the CLH.

It is mentionable that CLH and SKICC were constructed jointly by HCI and J&K government in 1982 to boost tourism and ease inflow of wealth into the state. Some 221 kanals of precious land were leased for 99 years to HCI, a subsidiary of Indian Airlines.

Non-serious attitude of the successive state governments seems to be the factor that allowed the loss of this precious land and hotel to a non-state entity.

In 2004 when Indian Airlines was on a selling spree of its assets, it asked the state government to take over the CLH. A price tag of Rs 80 crores was fixed. However, the then state government on December 27, 2005 expressed its disinterest in taking over the CLH.

Later in October 2007, the HCI asked the state government to provide a no-objection certificate to dispose off the property as per its desire.

The minds of the people at the helm in the state kept on vacillating and in 2009 the then SKICC Director wrote a letter (SKICC/PS/10/104-07) to the state Chief Minister about the significance of acquiring the CLH and attaching it as per international practice with the SKICC.

It is reported that the government evinced its interest in taking over the Hotel. However, one fails to understand what prevented the state from allowing the HCI to enter a deal with a non-state firm.

Commenting on the issue, president, Federation Chamber of Industries Kashmir, said that subletting CLH under the guise of “contract management” is averse to the basic industrial policy of the state.

“Many an industrial houses have invested in the state and they have been provided lands in the industrial estates here. Once they sublet their units, the lease automatically becomes void,” he said.

He also said the state government is planning eviction of local shopkeepers occupying subleased structures. “One wonders why it is not acting on sub-leasing a valued asset like Centaur?”

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Ecological Desecration of Gulmarg

Prof. Dar wants an investigation why unplanned commercial exploitation of Gulmarg's pristine forests is allowed. His commentary is followed by a related story about Gulmarg region becoming a dumping wasteland

(Dr. Ghulam Hassan Dar, 60, was born in Srinagar. He did his schooling from M. L. Higher Secondary School in Shalimar, and received his bachelor's degree from the Sri Pratap College, Srinagar. Dr. Dar completed his M.Sc., M. Phil. and Ph.D. degress from the University of Kashmir. His academic and research interests are: Taxonomy, Floristics, Biodiversity, Ethnobotany, Ecology & Environment, etc. He retired as Professor and the Head of Department of Botany, University of Kashmir after a professional career spanning over three decades. Dr. Dar has published 6 books and more than 100 research papers in peer reviewed journals, and supervised more than 20 research scholars. He is a recepient of some prestigious fellowships, honors and awards, and a member of many Academic and Scientific Societies. He is a consultant for many development projects, and in his leisure time enjoys reading and writing.)

Gulmarg Vandalized

Gulmarg has been in news for the past few days, unfortunately not for anything good, but for the universally cursed ‘ecological vandalism’. Our recent visit to this world-famous meadow also revealed a vivid degradation of its forests at the hands of none other than our own people.

About a fortnight ago, we were on a botanical foray to Gulmarg and its adjacent areas. While examining the gymnosperm (conifer) trees in Gulmarg forests for making herbarium specimens, it was sadly noticed that these trees in general have been considerably deteriorated and dwindled, looking in a very bad shape as compared to our previous observations in these forests about a decade or two ago. Many a trees have been so badly deformed that it is not possible to identify them but from a close distance. “Posthul”/ Himalayan yew (Taxus wallichiana) trees, in particular, have been ruthlessly debarked, lopped and defoliated, as a result of which they are quite depleted, stunted and diseased. This may perhaps be due to the usefulness of this species in yielding ‘taxol’, an anti-cancer drug. Incidentally, this species is now critically endangered and included in Appendix II of CITES (Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). The ground cover in these forests shows little of the usual herbaceous flora but more of animal and human excreta, so that walking through them is no more lovable and soothing.

While getting into the forest just near Gandola, an uphill road has been constructed on which trucks were seen carrying construction materials. Following this road a little upwards, an enormous complex of concrete buildings has come up in the heart of forest. The structures in this complex are 2-3-storeyed and have been evidently erected after clearing of a large conifer stand. It greatly pained us to notice that many huge conifer trees (comprising fir - Abies pindrow and A. spectabilis, blue pine - Pinus wallichiana, spruce - Picea smithiana, and deodar - Cedrus deodara) around the complex have been irreparably damaged: debarked, lopped, burnt, and de-topped. On enquiring from some (local) people there, we were told that it is a HOTEL which is being constructed by some very rich private business establishment for the last several years, and that it would be the most modern and high-tech hotel in Gulmarg. After much disappointment, we took certain pictures, which depict the sad ultimate fate our forests may meet. I wonder how there can be some private land right amid a dense forest. This needs to be probed into!

Grubby Gulmarg Does Not Attract Anymore

Faheem Aslam

Gulmarg: Normally one does not expect a tourist destination, which is thronged by hundreds of domestic and foreign visitors throughout the year, to be dirty. But in Gulmarg, sanitation seems to be a disregarded concern.

A ride along the 16-kms-long Tangmarg-Gulmarg road indicates the level of negligence that the world famous resort is facing at the hands of the Gulmarg ‘Development’ Authority and its Municipality.

Heaps of garbage and polythene are seen all along the road, worrying visitors. “It (sanitation) is not the priority of the Municipality. The visitors, mostly foreigners, often express dismay about the cleanliness of the place, but there is nobody to address the issue,” said Javaid, who runs a restaurant in Tangmarg.

He said the Municipality officials neither assess the sanitation issues nor address the same for betterment of the place. “With regard to sanitation, the place certainly needs a substantial facelift. Something has to be done to ensure that garbage is not left scattered and use of polythene is completely banned in Gulmarg,” Javaid said.

Interestingly, it is the garbage and polythene that greet you as you enter the Gulmarg Bowl. At several places, the garbage hasn’t been lifted for days together, with foul smell emanating from it. At other places, polythene irks you. “Everywhere you will find hoardings mentioning that polythene is banned in Gulmarg. But I can say with surety that there is no ban on its usage here. It is all hoax,” said owner of a prominent hotel here, insisting not to be named. “If you go around, you can observe hoteliers, restaurant owners and people using polythene like anything.”

Another trouble, according to locals, is the absence of a proper sanitation system in Gulmarg. “There are a number of hoteliers who ensure dumping of garbage at the approved places. But there are those who dump the wastes wherever they like,” said Shafiq, a restaurant owner here. “Even in the Gulmarg vehicle stand area, there is no system for drainage and sewerage. This is telling upon the glory of the place. So the hoteliers and restaurant owners have to be asked to ensure proper disposal of wastes.”

There is yet another area of concern: the ponnywalas. “There are scores of horses roaming around Gulmarg every day. Earlier the ponnywalas would use bags for collecting of the waste from horses. But this time no such mechanism is there. This is one of the reasons why tourists have to move around Gulmarg with their nose covered,” Shafiq said. “It would have been better if the GDA or Muncipality provided the ponnywalas with the bags so that the Gulmarg Bowl doesn’t look like a dumping ground.”

There is also a need of putting in place the dust and garbage collection bins. “The GDA must conduct a check of the entire Gulmarg area and see what needs to be done to improve the sanitation of the area. This has to be a prime concern for the officials because it doesn’t go well with a tourist destination to appear shabby. Before going anywhere, people certainly inquire about the cleanliness of that place. This is mostly true with foreign tourists who never compromise on health and hygiene,” Javaid said.

Surprisingly, the minor fire in Gulmarg Bowl is adding to its mess. There seems to be nobody to look into the issue of people burning down wooden pieces amid dense trees. “The camp fire has to be allowed only in the areas where it is permissible. But here everyone burns down wooden pieces or leftover of rotten trees in the evening. This leads to apprehensions of forest fire,” Javaid added.

State Employees Break Laws With Impunity

Fayyaz exposes the underbelly of Kashmir's misgovernance by highlighting administration approach towards law breakers among its employees, who most likely secured their jobs through sycophancy or corruption. Two related news articles

(Mr. Ahmed Ali Fayyaz, 48, was born in Bodina, Budgam, and received his primary and secondary education in Budgam and later at Amar Singh College, Srinagar. He completed his Master's degree in Kashmiri language and literature from the University of Kashmir in 1987. After working with Rashtriya Sahara and Kashmir Times in 1993-94, and later for 13 years as Srinagar Bureau Chief of Daily Excelsior, he is woking as Resident Editor/ Srinagar Bureau Chief of Jammu-based English daily Early Times since April 2009. He is also a filmmaker whose forte in audio-visual media is Kashmir's composite culture, heritage, ecology and social issues. Since February 2008, he has been regularly anchoring Take One Television's bi-weekly hard talk show "Face To Face With Ahmed Ali Fayyaz" which is watched by more than three million viewers in Srinagar, Jammu and other urban areas of Jammu & Kashmir.)

SSPs Want CM to Dismiss "Stone Pelter Government Employees"

Srinagar: Field officers in Jammu & Kashmir Police have urged Chief Minister Omar Abdullah to initiate process for termination of the services of Government employees who have been detained for their alleged involvement in the Valley's separatist movement, particularly recent spell of street turbulence. Under pressure from Police, Government is understood to release none of the detainees around the festival of Eid-ul-Azha.

Highly placed government sources today revealed to Early Times that, around the forthcoming Eid, authorities were not going to release any of the people detained recently for their alleged involvement in stone pelting, mass mobilization for street demonstrations and clashes with Police/CRPF. Unspecified number of civilians---officials claim less than 400 and independent estimates put at around 1500---have been picked up and detained by Police in Valley in the last three months. Contrary to the tradition and common perception, "some more miscreants" are being arrested in the next three days, according to official sources.

Police and civil administration, according to these sources, have decided not to take any chances on the day of Eid on Nov 17th and the Friday following on Nov 19th. On both these days, congregational prayers are being organized at Eidgahs and mosques all over the Valley. The Government, according to these sources, has decided to permit all prayer assemblies but clergymen-cum-politicians like Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Syed Ali Shah Geelani, as also other prominent separatist activists, like Shabir Shah and Nayeem Khan, would remain under house arrest. Geelani today announced that he would be performing his Eid prayers on Nov 17th at Hazratbal.

Authorities are taking the "precautionary measures" in view of the turbulence on occasion of Eid-ul-Fitr on September 11th, when Mirwaiz led a rally of over 50,000 participants of the Eid prayers from Eidgah Grounds to Lalchowk and his followers not only caused massive damage to the lately recreated Clock Tower while hoisting Islamic and Pakistani flags but also set a major office complex on fire. Two days later, as many as 18 civilians died in clashes with Police and paramilitary forces, albeit over an incident of the desecration of Quran in USA. "Government will maintain order at any cost as nobody in the Valley has died in political clashes since September 6th when five people got killed in Police firing at Palhalan. As many as 111 civilians have died in similar incidents since June 11th but none in the last two months", said a senior government functionary.

That the Government this time means business is evident from the fact that it has neither relented to release women like Asiya Andrabi nor allowed bail to succeed in PSA detention of men like advocate Mian Qayoom. Four particular separatist leaders---Geelani, Yasin Malik, Shabir Shah and Nayeem Khan---are understood to have been released after intervention of the Centre's three interlocutors on Kashmir, Parliament Members of different political parties and some other track-2 activists.

Government is understood to have taken a tough stand in the matter of detention of trouble-makers after a number of SPs cautioned the Chief Minister through a teleconference on Nov 8th that his "velvet glow" policy had every potential of leading to an Eid-ul-Fitr-type mayhem around Nov 17th. District Police chiefs of Kupwara, Bandipore and Ganderbal specifically complained that respective District Magistrates had turned down all the dossiers of PSA detentions. DC of CM's own constituency of Ganderbal has reportedly returned all the 10 dossiers and has been telling publicly that she had been "directed by honourable CM" not to detain anybody under PSA in her district.

Senior Superintendents of Police (SSPs) and SPs have complained to Chief Minister that a large number of government employees had been found involved in stone pelting and other "anti-national political activities" but none of them had been ever dismissed from service in the last 17 years. Srinagar Police have registered FIR against a number of doctors at Government Medical College Srinagar over their "anti-India and pro-Pakistan rally" in July but none of the accused has been arrested, reportedly under orders of the Minister incharge Medical Education. It has been pointed out that among 946 persons, arrested in Srinagar alone, as many as 14 were regular employees of the state government and Police were still in search of 16 more who were absconding. Those arrested on account of their alleged participation in separatist demonstrations and stone pelting include two officials posted in Civil Secretariat.

Srinagar District Police claims to be in possession of "documentary evidence", including video recording and photographs, to establish that the detained and wanted government employees had actively participated in stone pelting and separatist demonstrations this summer. Sources revealed that when SSP Srinagar, Ashiq Hussain Bukhari, stressed in the teleconference that "some more miscreants" would have to be picked up before Eid, Chief Minister gave him a positive nod and told him to make necessary planning in consultation with IGP Kashmir. According to these sources, three of the SPs made it clear to Chief Minister that the authorities' battle for peace was not with Hurriyat and militants but actually with their supporters in other institutions, particularly the government employees.

State Aministration Alone Faithful to Geelani’s Civil Curfew

Srinagar: Continually reeling under separatists-sponsored shutdown and Government-enforced curfew since the middle of June, Kashmir valley today rejected hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s call for “civil curfew”. However, more than 5,000 shops belonging to different departments of the state government remained closed in Civil Lines and few other areas in this capital city.

After two days of normal business on Tuesday and Wednesday, Chairman of the separatist conglomerate Hurriyat Conference (G), Geelani had called upon the Kashmiris to observe “civil curfew” today. The umpteenth call for shutdown, however, evoked insignificant response as shops were seen closed in just Civil Lines and few other localities in Srinagar. Reports said that a number of shops were also shut in the South Kashmir towns of Anantnag, Bijbehara, Kulgam and Pulwama. There was no trade activity in old town of Baramulla.

In Srinagar Civil Lines and some other localities, different departments of the state government have more than 5,000 shops. These stand allotted to local traders and remain religiously closed on every day of the separatist-sponsored shutdown. Government has, of late, initiated measures to break impact of the separatists’ shutdown with threats of cancellation of allotment to the traders. A committee, comprising senior officials and headed by Divisional Commissioner Asgar Hassan Samoon, has begun to make the defaulters accountable on account of their illegal act of selling possession of their allotted premises to unauthorized persons against huge amounts of Pagdi.

However, faced with a huge credibility deficit and disloyal bureaucracy---as admitted by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah in an interview to KNS in Jammu today---Government has few takers to its claims. History of the last 22 months of the NC-led coalition government serves as a grim testimony to a sizable gap between the authorities’ saying and doing. For the first time, Omar Abdullah government’s position became awkward last when officers through paid advertisement in local newspapers threatened to dismantle unauthorized structures in Srinagar but within days surrendered before the defaulters.

Fed up with an unending season of five months of shutdown and curfew, people at large have themselves geared up to defy diktats from the separatists. Since last fortnight, traders and transports in Kashmir valley have shown an increasingly cool response to the separatist politicians’ calls for shutdown. Reports from different areas in the Valley suggested lukewarm response to Geelani’s three-day “civil curfew” on November 6th, 7th and 8th. Like on these three days, private and government transport operated normally in Srinagar as well as all other districts in the Valley. Heavy commercial buses were off the road but tippers, trucks, load-carriers and even medium-mode 407-Tata minibuses and small-mode Tata Sumos and three-wheelers operated through the Valley. However, the bandh had substantial impact in few South Kashmir towns.

All government-controlled and private educational institutions operated normally and attendance remained unaffected in most of the government offices. Today’s reports from North Kashmir said that, for the first time this year, even the most disturbed Baramulla town had most of the shops open and transport operational. However, shops remained closed in old town where few stone pelting youth engaged Police in minor clashes. Today’s normality in Baramulla town is widely attributed to the recent arrest of the most wanted stone pelter Javed Ahmed Kaloo alias ‘Meena Kumari’. Quite a number of residents insisted that lukewarm response to the call for “civil curfew” was because of the festivity of Idd-ul-Azha, now just five days away.

In entire Valley, curfew remained officially in force in two-odd villages of Delina and Palhalan, both on Srinagar-Baramulla highway. There were no curfew restrictions even in downtown Srinagar where traders in the morning opened their shops but groups of youth forced them to shut businesses. Consequently, there was partial bandh in half of the capital city.

Peoples’ changing mood is in sharp contrast to the turbulent days of June, July, August and September when Geelani and his hardliner lieutenant, Massarat Alam Bhat, made entire Kashmir valley freeze for weeks together. In the wake of this turbulence, that ran parallel to death of over 100 demonstrators and arsonists in Police and paramilitary action, senior government officials and politicians of all mainstream parties remained confined to their heavily-guarded houses and offices and failed to travel on the streets. For over three months, all major roads and highways remained in total control of the civilian demonstrators and pro-Azadi crowds.

Finally thaw came in September when authorities introduced non-lethal arms and soft means of riot control on one hand but on the other hand got most of the prominent stone pelters and their supports in other institutions arrested. Geelani himself---and now Shabir Shah---was released but almost all others, notably High Court Bar Association chief Advocate Mian Qayoom, advocate Ghulam Nabi Shaheen, Dukhtaraan-e-Millat chief, Asiya Andrabi and Massarat Alam Bhat, were arrested in lodged in different jails. Of the 1200-odd detainees, as many as 950 have been arrested in Srinagar alone. Forty-six of them have been deatined under PSA.

Meanwhile, in a statement today, Geelani complained that Government had let loose a reign of terror “particularly against Tehreek-e-Hurriyat and its key constituent Muslim League”. He alleged that a large number of people were being chased, harassed, arrested and detained on account of their participation in “peaceful demonstrations”. He warned the authorities that this form of “suppression” could boomerang and snowball into yet another spell of anarchy. According to him, peaceful political activists were being chased and treated like hardcore and top wanted militants.