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.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

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.

No comments: