Introduction to KashmirForum.org 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.
www.kashmirforum.org

Friday, November 26, 2010

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 Fran├žaise 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!

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