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.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Preserving Autonomous Character of the J&K Cultural Academy

Bukhari sahib provides his take on the internal turmoil in the JKAACL. Is the glass half-full or half-empty?

(Syed Rafiuddin Bukhari, 72, was born in Kreri in Baramulla District. He is the Editor-in-Chief of the Kashmir Media Group that publishes the English daily, Rising Kashmir, and soon-to-be launched Urdu daily, Bulund Kashmir. He had his early education in Sopore, Beerwah and then in Srinagar where from he got his post-graduate degree in English from the University of Jammu and Kashmir, and took up job as a teacher in higher education department. He taught English in various colleges in Kashmir took voluntary retirement in 1995 as Professor. Even though not a professional journalist by training, he has been extremely successful in the field, launching SANGARMAL, the first ever multi-coloured Kashmiri newspaper from Srinagar which is now in its fourth year. Later in 2008, he created the Kashmir Media Group. His interests are reading and writing and building value based institutions.)

Omar-Jora ‘War’ is Ruining Cultural Academy

Affairs of Jammu and Kashmir Academy of Art, Culture and Languages (JKAACL) have come to a knot for past few months. The reason: power tussle between Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and Minister for Tourism and Culture Nawang Rigzin Jora. The stand-off between the two important functionaries of the government has put almost everything to halt as far as cultural and literary activities are concerned.

Nevertheless, the officials of the Academy are making its presence felt purely on “udhaar”. Even as the real intent of the Minister is not known but the buzz in the corridors of power is that he wants the “full control” of the Academy, which is otherwise an autonomous body governed by its own constitution. The Minister, sources say wants to run this institution like a Consumer Affairs department.

The “tussle” has adversely affected the cultural scenario as the money promised to Academy under the annual plan is yet to be released. The cultural and literary organisations, financially supported by the Academy have been waiting for the grant even as the financial year is about to end in next three months. Subsidies on books and assistance to writers and organisations given to them on the basis of indigenous circumstances have also been stopped. Efforts from the cultural activists to impress upon chief minister and his Minister have yielded positive result. Noted writer and Member of Legislative Council Mohammad Yusuf Taing recently wrote to chief minister drawing his attention towards this sad state of affairs and urged him to get the Academy out of the quagmire.

Academy’s sordid tale is the result of “black mail” politics that has overshadowed the governance in this state after the coalition governments came into power in 2002. To extract maximum benefits from the government, the “weaker” coalition partner has become stronger and has been exploiting the bigger partner for the support to run the government. Otherwise there seems to be no reason why Academy should become a bone of contention when its constitution is clear about its functioning.

After the Department of Culture was created a few years ago, the notion is that JKAACL also comes under its “full jurisdiction”. The Minister is reported to be eying for the post of “Vice President” of the Academy to enjoy the “powers” which he perhaps believes are solely exercised by the chief minister by virtue of being its President.

But going by the facts on which the autonomous character of this Academy exists, whatever is perceived in the Ministry of Tourism and Culture has no chances to match with what the Constitution of the State has given to it. Established in 1958 by then Prime Minister Bakhshi Ghulam Mohammad, the Academy has the distinction of being one among only two institutions whose autonomous character has been guaranteed by the State Constitution. University of Kashmir being the other one.

By virtue of the Constitution of Academy, its autonomy is well defined and cannot be interfered with. In accordance with SRO 340 dated August 14, 1963, the Academy’s own constitution came into being with amendments in May 1973. It is clearly mentioned that 39-member general council will be the all-powerful body of the Academy, which will have powers to take all decisions including the financial ones. General Body takes decisions on the advice of Central Committee which has members drawn from government as well as the non-governmental organisations. The President of the Academy has all the powers to implement the decisions through the Secretary or any other office bearer. Defining the powers of Secretary the Constitution says “All orders, instruments, contracts and assurance for and on behalf of the Academy shall be executed and signed by the Secretary or such other officers as may be specially empowered in that behalf by the President; and such execution and signature shall be deemed to be the proper authentication or execution of such order, instruments, contract or assurance, as the case may be”.

Here the Constitution explicitly makes it clear that except the General Council, the President and Secretary there is no authority, which can infringe upon the autonomy of the Academy. However, the way the Cultural Ministry is stopping the Academy from it’s functioning by choking the finances tantamount to violation of the constitution that makes a politician a minister. The minister can neither be the vice president nor can he exercise the financial powers. The Article 7 of Academy’s constitution states “The Vice - President shall be elected by the General Council of the Academy preferably from among its non-official members”. This has been done to ward off the political influence, which the chief minister would be wielding as its President. In past the noted Dogri writer Nilambhar Dev Sharma had been elected by the General Council, which has the powers to do so.

During past two years the Academy has been doing a remarkable work in promoting and preserving the composite culture of the state. It has come out with scores of special numbers of Sheeraza, in various languages thus adding to the rich repository of our cultural heritage. But by becoming the victim of politics its road to progress will be cut short and onus will lie on those who want use its existence for satisfying their ego.

Since Art and Culture is much away from the politics and has its own significance and role in the society to play, such institutions should not become the tools for exhibiting the political supremacy. This is time to ensure maximum autonomy for such institutions. This self-generated power tussle should end to allow Academy to function as per the constitution. In his capacity as President of the Academy, the chief minister should act as per constitution and relieve it of the “financial subjugation”.

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