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, January 28, 2011

Humanisn Through Sufism

Imtiyaz values sufism for refurbishing body and soul

(Mr. Imtiyaz Ahmad Aafreen, 26, was born in Kanir Chadura, Badgam. He completed his schooling from the Government Higher Secondary School in Zoohama, and graduted from the Amar Singh College, Srinaar. He has received the following degrees: M.A.(English), M.Phil and B.Ed from the Universiy of Kashmir. He teaches English at the Government Higher Secondary School Surasyar.H as received several inter-college awardfs in various debate seminars and essay competiions. His interests are literature, Sufism and oter spiritua philosophies, and ejoys writing poetr and exploring nature. He wites under the pen name, Mir Imtiyaz Aafreen.)

Bonding Spirit With the Matter

Nor East, nor West my home, nor Samarkand,
Nor Isfahan nor Delhi; in ecstasy,
God-filled, I roam, speaking what truth I
See -
Not a fool priest, nor yet of this age’s fry.
Blood warm, gaze keen, right-following,
In fetters free, prosperous in penury

Allama Iqbal

Sufism or ‘Tasawuf’ is the esoteric school of Islam and it is generally understood to be the inner, mystical dimension of Islam and it has often been called, “The Creed of Love”. All Sufis, irrespective of the external appearance of their schools of thought, have made this theme of love a matter of essential concern. The analogy of human love as a reflection of real truth, so often expressed in Sufi poetry, has left outstanding influences upon the diverse cultures through the ages.

A perfect Sufi is the practical manifestation of the hadith in which the prophet of Islam (SAW) says, “The whole creation is Allah’s family and He loves that person most who is most good to His family.” When Rumi says, “Wherever you are, whatever your condition is, always try to be a lover”, he is not speaking of love as an end in itself but as a means through which one can attain the mystical companionship of the Eternal Beloved. In the words of Khwaja Moin-Ud-Din Chishti (RA), “One can not be called a Sufi unless he possess three qualities i.e., the generosity like the oceans, the compassion of the sun and the humility of the earth.” The heart of a Sufi is not only filled with the selfless love of God but his love encompasses the whole creation of the Divine Beloved. The Sufis involve themselves in extensive meditations and dedicate their lives for the restoration of peace and harmony in the society not because of any rigid sense of duty, but out of love. A famous Sufi scholar says, “Love conquers all, conquer the heart of everyone around you as the Sufi law of life requires, kindness to the young, generosity to the poor, good counsel to friends, forbearance with enemies, indifference to fools and respect to the learned.”

Sufis respect the sentiments of all the religious communities as they do not adhere to the dogmatic conceptions. According to them, God is not involved in any controversy because divinity is a matter of personal experience and the love of the Creator must lead to the love of the creation. Through the analogy of ‘The Elephant in the Dark’ Rumi suggests that the Absolute Reality is veiled and all the logical speculations about it lead to chaos and confusion, a Sufi tries to lift these veils through the process of self-purification and never indulges in dogmatic discussions.

The Sufi ideology of love effaces the myriad discriminations made on the bases of cast, creed and color and looks forward for the establishment of peace and harmony in the human society, that is why the great Sufi teachers like Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jilani (RA), Mir Syed Ali Hamadani (RA), Sheikh-ul-Aalam (RA) were not only great spiritual heads but social activists and reformers of their times as well. According to Sufis, the worship of God transcends the fear of hell-fire and the desire of the joys of paradise, in the words of Rabia Basria (RA), “True devotion is for the love of God, not to desire heaven nor to fear hell.” A Sufi strives to pull down the wall, brick by brick, between his existence and the Divine Reality. In Sufism, love is the effacement of the lover’s attributes because a lover has to adopt the attributes of the Eternal Beloved. Hence a Sufi toils hard to color himself with the diverse colors of the Eternal Beloved which are manifested in nature. The lover has to go through the mystical state of self-annihilation (fana) in which the lover effaces his desires and ambitions and surrenders his will before the Divine Beloved.

True love is a process of self-effacement. It does not demand anything but bears the travails of the perilous path of self-realization. True love is selfless and it does not look for the results. A lover has nothing to do with death and life, success and failure, acceptance and rejection, pleasure and pain, he only desires to adorn his soul with the memories of the Beloved. Thus, Sufism demands an extra-ordinary love of the Creator and this love broadens the mental horizons of a Sufi to such an extent that he considers all the creation as the manifestation of the Divine Truth, this is often called ‘wahdat-ul-wajud’ i.e., Unity of Being.

The present age can rightly be described as the age of the predominance of Western philosophical thought and learning. The Western ideas about the nature of man and the universe are strongly upheld all around the world. Over the past hundred and fifty or two hundred years, European philosophers developed a number of schools of thought about the nature of man and human life, but one central attitude that persisted all through these variegated philosophical theories, and went on gaining momentum was the disregard for ideational and transcendental concepts. Concrete fact and physical phenomena became the core and object of human inquiry and philosophical quest. God, soul, and the Hereafter gradually disappeared from the spectrum of thought, yielding place respectively to discussions about the nature of the physical universe, matter, and human terrestrial existence. This led to a strong spree of loss of faith and spiritual bankruptcy (lamented by T S Eliot in his masterpiece The Wasteland). This purely Materialistic ideology brought about the spiritual breakdown of the modern man and Skepticism prevailed throughout the Western world.

Due to these problems the West has shown a keen desire to benefit from the ‘wisdom of the East’. Allama Iqbal while quoting Heine in the Preface to Payam-i-Mashriq rightly says, “…the West, disgusted with its weak and cold spirituality, seeks warmth from the East’s breast” and T S Eliot also presents the same idea by concluding The Wasteland with the references to the Eastern scriptures and suggests that only ‘the wisdom of the East’ can bring spring to the Western spiritually barren wasteland.

The recent popularity of Sufism in the Western intellectual elite suggests that Sufism is going to play a great role in uniting the broken threads of humanity. Sufism has already taken the position of acting as a foil against the anti-spiritual philosophies like Darwinism, Utilitarianism, Materialism and Logical Positivism and it is not only helping the non-Muslims of the West to regain their faith but also in clarifying their misconceptions about Islam. Sufi mysticism has long exercised a fascination upon the Western world, and especially its Orientalist scholars. Figures like Rumi, Al Ghazali and Ibn Arabi have become household names in the United States, where Sufism is perceived as quietist and less political. The Islamic Institute in Mannheim, Germany, which works towards the integration of Europe and Muslims, see Sufism as particularly suited for inter-religious dialogue and intercultural harmonization in democratic and pluralist societies; it has described Sufism as a symbol of tolerance and humanism – un-dogmatic, flexible and non-violent. The International Association of Sufism (IAS), a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization of the United Nations that brings together scholars, educators, translators, and artists interested in the discipline of Sufism, is playing an important role in the promotion of peace and harmony in the Western society. When Islam is misinterpreted as a religion of terrorists, Islamic Sufism is offering a new spiritual and peaceful facet of Islam to the West.

Sufism has attracted the Western literary figures such as Goethe, Raynold Nicholson, A J Arberry, Dr Martin Lings, Doris Lessing (Nobel Laureate 2007) and Robert Graves etc they have effectively introduced the wisdom of the Sufis to the West. Nicholson translated some seminal books on Sufism like Kashf-al-Mahjub and The Mathnavi of Maulana Rumi, Robert Graves wrote the Introduction to The Sufis, a masterpiece by Idries Shah, and Doris Lessing made Sufi ideologies the subject matter of her literary works. The famous British Orientalist Dr Martin Lings made a comparative study of Islam and other religions. He studied Islamic Sufism in detail and was fascinated by it. Finally he went on to accept Islam and in the words of Zakarya Hashim, “He reached Allah by the ladder of Sufism”.


Iqbal brings us in touch with joys of Kashmir

(Mr. Iqbal Ahmad, 48, was born in Parigam Chek, Kulgam. He is a graduate with Diploma in Numismatics, Archaeology and Heritage. He is an archaeologist, writer, and a cultural historian. He is employed by the Jammu and Kashmir State Government. Mr. Iqbal Ahmad has published 12 reference books on Kashmir archaeology and heritage.)

Exploring the Snow Covered Sites of Kounsarnag.

The triangular mountain peaks of Pir Panchal range to the south of the valley above the Kounsernag are usually named as ‘Kounserin Kothera’ -rooms of Kounsar, by the people living in the adjacent and surrounding areas. These glorious peaks remain under snow throughout the year. The glaciers also serve as the source to the rising waters of four major hill springs namely, Sarkanch, Brahim, Sir-Chher-Sar and Dunth-Sar. These are the main tributaries for the famous southern stream called Vishow.

The larger spring called Kounsar Nag is the most famous hill spring of the southern Kashmir. Situated over a rocky bed, the spring measures about three miles in circumference. Its waters are blue while ice blocks float in it throughout the year. This is also a historic spring in the sense that famous King of Kashmir, Zain-ul-Abidin (Bud Shah) is believed to be a regular visitor to at the sight. The great king would make sure that each season he spends time at this amazing place.

Besides the lustrous beauty and impeccable glaciers, Kousar Nag is also famous for various curious legends and mysterious stories associated with it. Once Sheikh Hamza Makhdoom, the patron saint of Kashmir is learnt to have sent one of his disciple to this spring who was, the legend says, attacked by the water beat. The saint, who was engaged in some work back at his place, hurled a stick towards a wall exposing blood stains on it. The other disciples were taken aback and inquired about it. The saint is believed to have informed them that the disciple who was sent to the spring was attacked by a water beat while the saint had rescued him by killing the beast.

A historic legend accounted by Hassan in his monumental book, Tareekh-i-Hassan also recorded a similar event. He writes that he visited this spring alongwith a saint and some friends. One of them jumped into the waters and his feet were swallowed by a dangerous animal. While providing the description of this beast, Hassan says “the animal was two cubits in length and its width at the lower side was one cubit and towards the head eight gavels. Its skin was hard”.

Apart from this, these hill springs, situated in the south of this valley, are worth seeing. One can also enjoy the glorious beauty of Zaig Marg, Haka Wass, Gogal Marg Chitinand Astan Marg and Kongwatton slopes. All these meadows are also worth seeing. The green waters of these hill springs dances through these vast meadows and compile a splendid look worth seeing. The small streams later on join at Sangan, few kilometers below the beautiful meadow of Kongwatton.

The blue water of all these springs which constitute the stream of Vishu, flow through the Sangam pass at a point between Kunsar Nag and Kunghwatten in the shape of a narrow channel and later falls below like a sheet of water from a height of 300 to 400 cubits. The great height from which it falls when club with the winds flowing provide a wonderful spectacle of divine power. This great place is called Aharbal water fall. Perhaps this is the only grand water fall found in whole of the valley.

This wonderful waterfall has occupied a prominent place in the travel history of this part of the world. It has been one of the most attractive tourist spots of the valley and stands visited by olden Kings, Rajas and Maharajas. The place had been of the great interest to Mughals, Hassan says, ‘all the Mughal nobles were proud of this water fall’.

Zafar Khan Ashan has expressed the glorying beauty of this water fall in his Persian lyric as follows:

“ze Janat Chand gooi Aay Sokhanwar
Nadaarad Aab- Sharee Mughal Akbar”

In the olden times, these hill springs, meadows and water fall of Ahrabal has been of significant tourist value. During Maharaja Period too, many European travelers are recoded to have visiting these sites and enjoyed advantage of the adventure tourism here. The trekking and scatting like events of Kounsar Nag are also well recoded in the archival records of the land.

But later a period came when state holders adopted an indifferent approach towards these southern tourist sites. They totally neglected these glorious sites while as emphasis was laid on Phalgam, Gulmarg and Sonmarg tourist sites. Phalgam and Gulmarg shined on the state tourist map while as the olden sites of Kounsar Nag got replaced from the tourist records. But thanks to nature, despite public neglect the pristine glory of these sites was maintained to the fullest. These remain the spots least polluted by human greed and selfishness. It is, but, nature which has been doing this incredible job while as the government’s continue to neglect these sights.
But the negligence has, till now, come as a blessing in disguise as these sites remained safe and secure from the human vandalism. As such their natural beauty is well intact. Let the tourism department come forward and re-explore these sites but in a mature and nature friendly way.

Facing the Whole Truth

Nayeema narrates her personal experiences in exposing dubious political leaders surrounded by unethical followers claiming to be part of the civil society

(Ms. Nayeema Ahmad Mahjoor, 53, was born in Srinagar, Kashmir. She completed her B.Sc, B.Ed, LL.B (Hons) and Diploma in Jounalism, and Masters in Education and Urdu from the University of Kashmir. Ms. Mahjoor has also completed a Masters degree in government and politics of South Asian Governments from the University of London. She is presently the Desk Editor, BBC World service (Urdu) based in London (UK). Among various awards, she has been a recepient of the Best Journalist of the year 2005 by ECO India, Best women Journalist by American Biographer and Best Journalist for highlighting environmental issues by Peshawar Environmental organisation.)

No More Petty Politics

In a society passing through constant turbulence, a phase comes when the politics of blame pits different sections of the society against each other, the intentions of the leadership become suspicious and people get caught up in more chaos and confusion.

Kashmir is passing through this phase at the moment. The leaders are blaming each other, intellectuals are cursing leaders and vice versa, people are accusing authorities and authorities in return are blaming unknown ‘others’. The recent accusations and counter accusations may turn into a never ending process and it will expose many skeletons in the closed cabinets of Kashmiri leadership. But it is very difficult for an ordinary man to identify the saint and the sinner among the whole gamut of leadership. The blame game has the potential to ruin one and all. At least in Kashmir, people are so fed up that nobody seems confident to vouch for the saintliness of the leadership.

The most astonishing fact is the same leadership glorified the gun, embraced the armed movement and made everybody hostage to it. Ordinary people had no access to gunmen but it was the leadership that came to the forefront to make them heroes and people followed them loyally. Instead of stopping them from taking the gun, the leadership encouraged and even used them for personal security. The gunmen were no strangers. They were eighty thousand dear sons of our mothers, ten thousand missing brothers to sisters and fathers to many more thousand orphans.

Many leaders were at the mercy of their masters who are still pulling their strings by remote control. The masters keep changing and as a result of this change in loyalty, the people have lost faith in them. Contrary to this, the blame game politics has made leadership thrive on people’s miseries. We may be the only unfortunate nation in the world that has inherited a legacy of betrayal, deceit and overbearing leadership.

Since independence of India and Pakistan, Kashmir has become used to many terrible experiments with leadership. As has rightly been said, ‘a Nation has no future whose leadership is dishonest, corrupt and self-centred'. Kashmir has lost faith in a single leadership. Intentionally or unintentionally, when a new leadership was emerging on the landscape of Kashmir especially after the late 1980s' elections the people started to trust them and were comfortable to have many instead of one so that each could be a check and balance on the others. What made it messy and chaotic was when armed struggle erupted in the early '90s. The mushroom growth of organisations stormed the streets of Kashmir and people had lost count of leaders emerging overnight. Many leaders who had earlier enjoyed mainstream politics jumped into the fray and became godfathers of powerful organisations. At one time, Kashmir seemed to be divided among them like it was among the warlords in Afghanistan. The situation has not changed much since. According to one source in Pakistan, during the armed struggle the ‘Azad Kashmir’ government had more than sixty million annual budgets for this adventure. It was during the '90s when Kashmir was bleeding every moment that the flow of money gave birth to new modern dwellings in posh colonies of the troubled valley.

I was doing a documentary series on human rights violations in Kashmir during the early 1990s when I met a self-proclaimed leader and asked him about the amount I was told he had received for the rehabilitation of the families of some slain militants. He promised to show me the list of recipients but it never happened.

The irony is that both countries' investments in Kashmir have gone down the drain and the people have not given up their demand of freedom even if their leadership has always let them down. Former military dictator Gen Pervez Musharraf realized Pakistan’s dilemma and put a halt to militancy and locked his coffers. It was he who preferred to welcome Omar Abdullah in Pakistan instead of the separatist leadership.

This is just the tip of the iceberg of the whole militancy saga because there are layers upon layers before one reaches the bottom. Only historians have to find enough courage to peel the layers off and document the authentic account of the turbulent times. It is not only important to find out the truth of all killings of leaders but also to find out the role played by every leader, prominent or otherwise.

The time comes in conflict-affected territories when everything should be brought in the open forum and leaders are to be subjected to the accountability process, although it usually happens after the goal of the movement has been won. It is different for Kashmir which has lost everything from life to trade, education to employment and shelter to movement. And leaders hardly talk of that now. Even they keep on changing their enemy, is it India, or Pakistan or they themselves? What they are involved in is only mud-slinging because they cannot bear to tolerate each other’s prominence or relevance.

Instead of fighting for a common goal or guiding people towards a certain direction, the leaders have started to settle scores among themselves. Everybody dreads the consequences. According to political analysts the current leadership is worse than the past: at least people knew the political leanings and loyalties of mainstream politicians.

People who are going through the hell should demand truth from the leadership about their political parleys here and there and what deliberations have been held and with whom. Truth might be hard to take in but it is much worse to mislead the people by raising their false hopes and involving them in mud-slinging politics. The reality of the Kashmir issue is that it is very complex partly because it has no honest leadership. It is hard to get anywhere when the leadership is interested only in achieving their personal political gains. And, people have right to reject them once for all if they are bent upon to create chaos to satisfy their ego.

Who Will Pay for the Silence?

Arif names names as killers of well known Kashmiri personalities turn out to be mostly local boys heading various tanzeems, and not the Indian state

(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. 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.)


A sudden bout of truth-telling by the ‘respected’ separatist leader Prof Bhat has set the cat among the pigeons.

Various political circles (mainstream as well as separatists) in the Kashmir valley are seemingly “experimenting with truth” these days after a debate was triggered by a senior separatist leader and former chairman of Hurriyat Conference, Prof Abdul Gani Bhat. Bhat created a flutter on Jan 3, when he said that Mirwaiz Mohammad Farooq (Hurriyat chairman Umar Farooq’s father) and Abdul Gani Lone (veteran Hurriyat leader and father of Sajad Gani Lone and Bilal Gani Lone) were killed “by our own people” and not by Indian security forces.

Following this, mainstream parties including the ruling National Conference applauded Bhat for his “courageous revelations” while most of the separatist groups including the Hurriyat faction led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani, remained mum.

In the meantime Syed Salahuddin, the Hizbul supremo, in an interview with a Kashmir based news agency last Thursday (13 Jan), said, “Those who killed innocents should be brought to public court. They are accountable before the Almighty Allah as well as people of Kashmir. But this isn’t the appropriate time to touch these issues as it may harm the movement.” The debate, however, seems to be picking up and, according to political analysts, indicates a dramatic shift in Kashmir’s polity.

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said Hurriyat leaders had begun to accept the reality. “Earlier leaders accused the government of killing Mirwaiz Mohammad Farooq and Abdul Gani Lone. But now they have admitted that the killings were a result of their ideological differences,” Omar said in Srinagar after inaugurating a Community Hall at Zaina Kadal, Srinagar.

Mirwaiz Mohammad Farooq was killed at his residence on May 21, 1990 while Abdul Gani Lone was shot dead during a commemorative rally for the senior Mirwaiz on the same day in 2002.

The state government had maintained that the then commander of Hizbul Mujahideen Mohammad Abdullah Bangroo was responsible for killing Mirwaiz while a commander of Al-Umar Mujahideen militant outfit had shot Abdul Gani Lone.

While Prof Bhat’s statement continues to create ripples in Kashmir’s political circles, political analysts suggest there could be a series of “introspections” in the near future. They say that the revelations made by Bhat were the beginning of a “healthy and much needed process of questioning and accountability.” “Though late, the Hurriyat leadership has finally realized that it is not only the state but the non-state actors also who should be blamed for killings and rights violations. It is a part of a positive strategy to look inwards too and fix responsibilities,” Iqbal Ahmad, a columnist and political analyst pointed out.

Iqbal further said that “the ugliest part in any conflict situation is when ideological differences of, and among the struggling lot remain voiceless and unspoken.” These differences, he said, sort of compete among each other and those who prevail, elbow out others, sometimes through physical violence, including killings.

Kashmir has seen numerous such killings as scores of prominent political and militant leaders belonging to various camps and ideologies were killed during the hey days of militancy here.

Soft target killings continued in latter years too although not with such ferocity.
Some of the prominent leaders killed include Mirwaiz Mohammad Farooq, Abdul Gani Lone, Qazi Nisar, Abdul Ahad Wani (professor of law at Kashmir University who was believed to be very close to the JKLF), Dr Abdul Ahad Gooru (a doctor also close to the JKLF), Abdul Ahad Lone, Majeed Dar (former commander of Hizbul Mujahideen who was killed on March 23, 2003 soon after he initiated talks with New Delhi).

Dar was labeled "an informer of Indian agencies" by Al-Umar Mujahideen who took the responsibility for his killing. Mohammad Yusuf Parray famously known as
Kuka Parray, a militant turned founder of the counter insurgent group (Ikhwan), a former MLA, in Kashmir valley was also killed in an ambush by militants along with two of his close associates at his hometown Hajjan in northwestern Bandipora district.

Tahir Mohiuddin, chief editor of the weekly Chattan said, “Though people always knew who killed whom in Kashmir, the statement is instrumental in breaking the silence over such killings. Now people can openly question political strategies and seek answers to demystify various secrets kept in cold storage so far.” He also believed that the statement would have garnered more impact and relevance had it been made earlier when militancy was at its peak. “Had the statement been made earlier during the time when militancy was at its peak and numerous such killings took place, it might have saved a few lives,” Tahir Mohiuddin regretted.

Besides the fateful end to numerous leaders, the infamous group clashes in Kashmir also saw militants belonging to different ideological groups clashing and killing each other. These clashes left numerous militants dead during the armed confrontations that occurred in almost every corner of the Valley, with Hizbul Mujahideen militants, involved in most such confrontations in a bid to replicate LTTE’s strategy of establishing its dominance in Kashmir’s armed militancy.

Another political analyst and chief editor of Daily Uqab published from Srinagar, echoed Mohiuddin’s feeling when he said: “It can set the stage for introspection and accountability in Kashmir. People always knew the reality but needed someone to brak the ice, and I feel Prof Bhat did so.” Anjum, however, cautioned against the fallout of such a statement saying it could well start a civil war in the Kashmir valley. “There are also risks involved as the infamous group clashes left numerous militants and civilians killed at the hands of armed militants belonging to rival camps. Both the killers and the killed belonged to families living within the valley and in most cases people know the killers and their families too,” Anjum said.

Political Co-Existence

Ashraf champions for a change in the Indian subcontinent that would make it look like a global village where neighbors live in peace. Article followed by a review of Dr. Beg's latest book

(Dr. Mirza Ashraf Beg, 70, was born in Sarnal, Anantnag. He did his primary schooling at the Primary Hanfia School in Anantnag and completed his F. Sc. from the Government Degree College in Anantnag. He completed his medical degree (MBBS) from the Government Medical College Srinagar, University of Kashmir, in 1967, and a Postgraduate Diploma in Clinical Pathology from the Government Medical College Jammu, University of Jammu, in 1981. He served as the Medical Director of the Civil Hospital, Pahalgam, until 1983 and subsequently held senior administrative positions in the health service system of Saudi Arabia, including participation in a joint program with the Johns Hopkins University and the University of South Florida for a United Nations project related to environmental and ecological impact of the 1991 Gulf War. He is an Executive Member of the Jammu and Kashmir Red Cross (nominated by the Governor of Jammu and Kashmir), Member of General Medical Council, Jammu and Kashmir, Medical Council of India, Saudi Medical Council, and General Medical Council, London. He is proficient in Kashmiri, Urdu, Hindi, English, Arabic.)

Distance Must Not Matter

Distance between milestones is fixed and does not alter with the passage of time. Despite that though the apparent distance between Kashmir and New Delhi is 867 kilometers. while Kashmir and Islamabad are separated by 563 kilometers. These distances have frequently changed with the turbulent political tides in the subcontinent. After the partition of India a part of J&K landed in the lap of the new born state called Pakistan and the rest rested on top of India making the two neighboring countries restless till date. Having a look retrospectively on the events that followed the tragic partition, both India and Pakistan have bled a lot and continue to bleed because both ignored the wounds inflicted on J&K. It has also been observed that the distances between these milestones are directly proportional to the domestic events in India and Pakistan. The tragic events of Malaygaon and barbarian acts of the demolition of Babri Masjid or the plight of underprivileged minorities in India and violent disturbances in Pakistan are the events not to be forgotten.

There is no doubt that the nonstop turbulence in J&K was born out of the UN resolutions of 1947 — whatever we say. Thus sixty years of uncertainty can be divided in different phases—sometimes it was invisible while at times the graph was at its highest such as the recent stone pelting or the gun culture of the last twenty years. This ambiguity gave birth to different shades of political leadership with different godfathers. The leadership that was born out of the freedom struggle against the autocratic rule was destabilized on frivolous charges and charge sheeted through Kashmir conspiracy case. With the result the distance between the political leadership of New Delhi and Kashmir increased manifolds. In this melee Kashmir drifted in to a state of uncertainty. The peaceful struggle for the implementation of UN resolutions culminated in to armed resistance in 1989 resulting in to widespread death and destruction. The turmoil also led to the painful exodus of KPs from the valley a tragedy credited to a conspiracy between security forces and some Jagmohan in the state. (Editor's comment: "Jagmohan conspiracy" has no legs and primarily serves to obfuscate majority community's silence and/or acquiescence in the exodus of the minority.)

Hoping against the hope, the distance between New Delhi and Srinagar by and large was standstill till 1953 because people of the state thought that sooner or later they will be given a chance to decide their future and the events of August 1953 proved that the promises made were just a mirage. The gulf thus created could not be bridged till date. In the mean time the distance between ‘Azad Kashmir’ and Islamabad did not alter despite the fact its developments did not match this side of the state. Moreover for paucity of space and lack of first hand information it will not be feasible for this writer to delve deep on the status of that part of the state.

The armed rebellion of 1989 devastated all the bridges between New Delhi and Kashmir. Fake encounters, forced disappearances, unidentified graves and unnecessary demonstration of force resulting in to innumerable widows, half widows and orphans added fuel to the fire and increased the already existing distances manifolds.

Lots of efforts through interlocutors, good governance or back channel diplomacy are on way to reduce the distance between New Delhi and Kashmir or to overcome the trust deficit between the two. We need to understand that there is no shortcut for building a firm human relationship. It has never been one way traffic. With the type of injuries inflicted during the last twenty years on the people of the state it will be childish to think that Rooti Kapda Makan or Bijli Sadak Pani will serve as a healing touch to wounds. If we mean business the only way to shorten the distances is to build the bridges between India and Pakistan and open as many road links between Azad Kashmir and J&K as possible on way to a long term plan to make the cease fire line irrelevant. Encourage people to people communications and make to and fro business a visible success. It is immature to say that transaction of Hawala money has increased through Muzafarabad Srinagar road. We need to realize that it has taken people of the state sixty years of hard research to rediscover this life line. Money these days is not transported through trucks or Lorries. Bank cards and electronic transactions have solved that problem long ago. Moreover there is a lot of tittle-tattle that people have installed currency printing machines in connivance with the law enforcing agencies! So it is detrimental to let administrative or security agencies to spoil the sensitive atmosphere by their loose talk or unwarranted statements.

Our politicians too need to understand that it is not fair to confuse the gullible through vague statements such as K-currency, double currency or interpreting the accession as merger or amalgamation. There is no doubt that J&K is the only state where its interests are safeguarded through Article 370 of the constitution. The elected members only need to gather the guts to safeguard this provision of the constitution besides they need to search if this Article has been deprived of its colors and its fragrance. If so, as a first step for a permanent solution through a people’s verdict we need to find ways and means to rectify the damages done. The state also needs to demonstrate properly its official flag that is safeguarded by the constitution. At the same time with the concept of globalization the borders become irrelevant-- we need to learn to live in a global village-- of course without elbowing out our neighbors. That is how milestones disappear and nations come closer.

Kashmir in Search of Peace - Book review

Book : Kashmir in search of peace.
Author: Dr. Mirza Ashraf Beg
Pages = 422.
Prize: Rs 400/-
Year of publication: 2010
Publisher: Mirza Publications Sarnal Islamabad (Anantnag) Kashmir

Dr. Mirza Ashraf Beg - a voice in desert (incidentally, he has a 20-years long experience in a desert turned paradise). Shall it go unattended? But who will stop him calling a spade a spade? He wrote continuously he talked consistently and now he gives a written word to stamp in the process which he calls “peace”. A collection of more than hundred articles spread over 422 pages in a book form is really a literary treasure. But for the author it is a thematic combine on peace search in Kashmir. Prof. Agha Ashraf Ali blesses the collection by saying:

“In these truly illuminating pages; Dr. Beg urges us to join him and pray for what we are craving for in the entire world today:

Peace and goodwill. That is the very theme and crowning glory of this book”.
To me the collection is a context – specific informative narration. It has a potential to enrich us with some silent bits of history without journeying through its corridors.

The silence of these bits has been intermittently voiced by the Kashmiri leadership or masses. In quest of the peace for the ill-fated Kashmir, Mirza Ashraf surveys the first rank political leadership of India with a pledge to resolve the Kashmir imbroglio quoting PT Jawaharlal Nehu; he notes;

“We have decided to accept this accession and to send tropes by air, but we made a condition that the accession would have to be considered by the people of Kashmir later when peace and order were established. We were anxious not to finalize anything in a moment of crisis and without the fullest opportunity to the people of Kashmir to have their say. It was for them ultimately to decide.”

But all said and done the paradise could not be freed from distress. The “historical handshakes” turned into the “missiles of peace”. And the practice continued but the hope didn’t die. Dr. Ashraf is yet not disappointed with the Indo-Pak leadership and expects some thing dramatic, exciting and surprising and finally solving the quandary.

Let me point out that the solutions and settlements of chronic problems like the one we are talking about need open mindedness, freedom from bias humility and sincere desire and then a firm will with catholic and democratic approach. Unless the two countries together with the victimized Kashmiries have a commitment to the principles of justice and co-existence in the backdrop of the concept of globalization the problem can not be solved. Having realized that all the methods of force and coercion have proved abortive peaceful negotiations seems to be the only way forward ………….”

The changed world scenario arousal of positive public response and the stake holder’s will to negotiate may provide an immediate road map to the final resolution of the problem:

“Political analysts should agree with the opening of additional access points between India and Pakistan our borders have definitely softened. Let us accept the facts that with the flattening of the world the priorities have shifted from egotism and Jingoism to the economic sector. That is why India has responded to the suggestion of a phase wise withdrawal of the armed forces………..”

Throughout his book Mirza Ashraf has been extra ordinary careful to not side with extremism in any form. A balanced approach a win-win strategy and a peace-oriented programme is what he craves for. An extensive free lancing is also seen as punctuating between the thematic write-ups and temporal urgencies. So topic like, “urbanization in J & K”, ‘After Iraq what?’, A lovely landscape’ ‘sex trafficking in J & K’, ‘dying fruit industry’, fighting inflation and many others are to be taken as the participant observations with the core problem at the central stage.

Dr. Ashraf himself observes;

“Some of the articles may have a flavor other than the title of the book, but delving a little deeper, the reader will find a relevance of such topics in the general title frame work of the book”.

After traveling through whole expanse, one may ask why Dr. Ashraf alienated himself from the mainstream politics when he had both opportunity and potential to get involved in active politics. The answer is perhaps, the same as my response to an offer from Mirza Muhammad Afzal Beg. In late sixties Dr. Muhammad Ashraf Beg came to my hilltop residence at Sarnal Islamabad (Anantnag) inviting me to fight Parliamentary Election from district Islamabad (Anantnag) as an NC-Candidate where as Late Shamim Ahmed Shamim had to fight it from Srinagar district. I had declined this kind and generous offer on the plea that I want to take a role in education because it too needs a committed leadership. Dr. Beg did more or less the same thing by taking a formidable role in public health sector. However, there is a great difference Dr. Ashraf having a spiritually ordained mind, a catalyst’s, eye, a positivist’s wit and above all scientists vision leaving me far behind.

To close, I recommended this book for a wider reading and enjoyment, and wish that the ‘search of peace’ ends with peace, prosperity and happiness.


A Modern Kashmiri Tragedy

Fayaz highlights a "silent social phenomena" that haunts every Kashmiri family with growing children

(Mr. Fayaz Ahmad Bhat, 30, was born in Awantipora, Pulwama District. He did his schooling from the Mantaqui Memorial High School, Awantipora, and his Bachelors of Art degree from the Government Degree College in Tral. Mr. Bhat completed his Master's degree in Political Science from the University of Kashmir. He is presently working in the Islamic University of Science and Technology (IUST), Awantipora, as a non-teaching staff member. Mr. Bhat regularly writes for local English dailies like the Greater Kashmir and the Rising Kashmir.)


She was just an average girl in studies. After completing her graduation in BA at the age of 24 she went to work in a private school.

Her desire, like the rest of the population, was to get a government job. After applying for many posts she is not making it into the final selection list. Her parents pursue her to apply consistently. They want to see their daughter make a good living. Her father is in a constant contact with the person who has a reputation of having access to top bureaucrats in the town. Her mother is being advised by her relatives to visit Aasthans for early morning prayers. “You never know which time is the time of Sa'at-e-Hassan” (the auspicious moment when Allah listens to and approves our pleas), as is repeatedly told by her friends and relatives.

Three years of following job application notices and filling up number of applications, she lost verve to do anymore of it again. After applying, applying and applying all she loses is her age and mind to do something else. Now she is a carrier girl - not a career girl - carrying the baggage of her unmarried life.

She has accepted now defeat and teaches in a private school on a meagre sum of Rs 2000 per month. She is now 27 and yet to get a government job. As her age accelerates the marriage proposals decrease. Earlier people used to come to their doors with marriage proposals. Her parents were and are primarily worried about her getting government job, marriage post job. The friendly social society of ours, however, force her parents to think of their daughter’s marriage.

Now they introspect and remember the manzimyor, who two years ago came with proposal of Junior Engineer. They call manzimyour and query about the same person. “He got married and is now a father of one child,” he informs them. “That time you were riding on high horse,” he admonishes them. “As the age of girl slips past 25 prospective grooms start to twitch on age factor now matter how beautiful the girl is.”

The words of manzimyor start to pinch the parents. They realise that even middle rung government employees are not going to marry off their girl as this is the world of open competition. Engineers and doctors have now stopped to be on their list. Teachers and senior clerks are on the radar. Earlier they were ridiculed for their cunning, slow pace and dull boring life. Now, a sort of environment is being created for highlighting their salaries, shrewdness and in case of senior clerks, their access to the higher echelons of bureaucracy.

In analyzing these proposals, they have lost one year. In this new environment, a friend suggested her to do Masters Degree that will brighten her chances for a government job as well as a good life partner. She has now stopped applying for jobs and in her hand there is now another application – as a student for higher studies. Although she is trying very hard to complete Masters Degree, she finally completes it in three years. Now she is 31.

She is now feeling confident and is congratulated by her friends and relatives for completing Masters Degree. They praise her in public but in private they are concerned about her growing age. Proposals are again coming to her family but now they are ones whose one-third hair is grey. Her family is rejecting these offers primarily because of age.

Parents of every child can share the age of neighbour’s children. But when it comes to their own children they try hard to conceal it. For them their children are always young. But society counts the age by simply comparing it with her classmates. Sometimes exaggerating the figure and sometimes underestimating. And in her case, everyone knows she is above 30.

Now her parents have engaged two three manzimyors to look for a perfect bridegroom. They are coming with new proposals but they do not materialize because of age —either from boys’ side or girls’. Ouch - either from men side or woman's side.

It is now 24th January — her birthday. She is now 32…. Earlier, she used to remember her birthday because it was this day she came into this world with all hope for good life and good life partner. Now, she doesn’t want to remember it for other reasons. Why she does not want to remember it for these ‘other’ reasons. Who is to blame? She? Parents? Society? New trends? I don’t know. But I know she is 32 and waiting.

Samad Sheikh's Lament

An old timer confronts winter with a feeling of loss

Kashmir's Grandpas Miss Winter's Icicles, Storytellers

Srinagar: 'Snow is all right, but, my dear, where are the icicles?' asked a bewildered Samad Sheikh, 75, who lives in a hamlet here in north Kashmir. Winter has been harsh this season, but the old man has an uncanny feeling that all might not be well with the valley's environment.

'When it was snowing one night, I was frightened to hear thunder, something that had not happened in my life so far,' said Sheikh whose village has recently seen the temperatures dip to as low as minus 6.6 degrees Celsius.

'The second thing that startled me is the fact that a warm sun shone over the valley immediately after the heavy snowfall melting almost 90 percent of the snow on the ground.

'This would never happen in our childhood. A snowfall during the 'Chila Kalan' (the 40-day-long harshest period of winter between Dec 21 and Jan 31) would ensure that the landscape remained covered with a thick blanket of snow till the end of March. That does not happen now,' he said.

What he also misses are the icicles which symbolised the Kashmir winters of his childhood.

'I have seen icicles as long as six feet hanging from the roofs of homes in our village. The icicles were symbolic of the winter months,' he recalled.

'Children would be warned not to walk close to the roofs to avoid accidents. If someone ever got struck by a falling icicle, the accident would be near fatal as they had long sharp edges which could cut through flesh like knife through butter,' he recalled.

Another thing he sorely misses is the institution of the storyteller, once an integral part of valley life.

'The storyteller would regularly come to our home in the evening. All the village children would assemble in a room as the storyteller started his narrative of princes and fairies and the wooden horse that would fly carrying the prince charming to the far off land where he fought the demon to retrieve his lady love.

'Hot 'kehwa' with saffron to keep the story teller and the listeners awake during the long winter nights was a ritual I still remember vividly,' Sheikh said, ruing the end of the charming tradition.

'Now we have television sets which flash stories and news from the skies into our homes, but, believe me, the intimacy and the thrill of the story teller cannot be matched even by some of the brightest colours we see on the television screens,' he said.

Nostalgia apart, many local scientists believe that global phenomena have had an adverse effect on summer and winter patterns here.

Muhammad Ismail, a well-known local geologist, agrees with Sheikh's observations, but has a scientific explanation for it.

'More than anything else, it is the pacific decadal oscillations that affect the weather patterns. These oscillations are cyclic, spread over 25 to 35 years. The temperature variations are also related to solar flexes.

'From mid-1940s to mid-1970s, despite the rise in economic activities the world over, we experienced colder periods as temperatures globally continued to decrease. From mid-1970s to 2005 the temperatures rose again.

'Because of the pacific decadal oscillations, we are again going towards a temperature downslide globally,' Ismail said.

He also attributed the present harsh winters to the 'La Nina factor' which results in decreased temperatures - thereby harsher winters - in contrast to the 'El Nino factor', which causes warmer winters.

'These two factors also contribute to changing weather patterns, but their cycle ranges from 6 to 18 months only,' said the scientist.

Scientific explanations notwithstanding, despite a heavy snowfall and sub-zero temperatures, elders like Sheikh feel the magic and thrill of winters is a story of the past in the valley.

'The winters are no longer what they used to be in our childhood,' Sheikh told his grandchildren, who gave him a blank look, perhaps doubting their grandpa's sanity.


Kashmir University Moves into Digital Age

Best wishes to Prof. Riyaz Rufai, head librarian of the University of Kashmir, as the project director

Digitisation of Books to Start Soon in Kashmir

Srinagar: In a bid to upgrade Jammu and Kashmir libraries, University of Kashmir will soon start digitising eight million pages of various books. "In the first phase, eight million pages from books in various libraries of Jammu and Kashmir will be digitised," an official of the University said. He said old and rare books which are in private possession will also be digitised.

"The valuable rare books available in private collection shall also be digitised under this project and put on internet," he said. The digitisation project will be financed by the Union government's Department of Information Technology. "Digitisation of books will enable users to browse and read them even at their homes and one copy of the book can be simultaneously browsed by multiple users," the official said.

University librarian Riyaz Rufai, who is the Chief Coordinator of the project, said the digitised books will form a part of the National Digital Library and will be accessible throughout the world on the website.

"This prestigious project shall be completed within two years," he said.
(Rising Kashmir)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Educating out of Kashmir

Suhail sees a dead end for educated youth in so far as Kashmir's job market is concerned

(Mr. Suhail Ahmad, 27, was born in Srinagar. He did his Bachelor's degree from Sri Pratap College, Srinagar, and completed both his Master's and M. Phil degrees in Mass
Communication and Journalism from the University of Kashmir, Srinagar. He is currently working with local English daily ‘Rising Kashmir’ as Sub Editor (News). Previously he worked with the Daily Etalaat (English) as sub-editor and with the ‘Mirror of Kashmir’ as an associate editor. Mr. Ahmad has worked with a Delhi based rights group, The Other Media, heading its civil society initiative desk at Srinagar from 2007 to 2009. He has also worked with an NGO - Institute of Peace Research and Action (IPRA) on its project Cultural Renewal of Kashmiri Student Youth as Programme Officer and Editor from 2006 to 2007. I edited severalissues of IPRA’s magazine ‘Guftaar.’)

Kashmir’s Job Wars

“We have to reverse the brain drain that has denuded Jammu and Kashmir of many of the teachers, doctors, engineers and intellectuals. We have to create the conditions for them to return and to be the instruments of change and development.” This was Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh speaking at a public meeting in South Kashmir’s Anantnag district on October 28, 2009.

The issue of brain drain is not unique to J&K, but the political and economic instability in the state has meant that more and more well-educated youth are moving outside for jobs; the problem being more pronounced in Kashmir valley. Forget about convincing the professionals to return to the valley, the government has utterly failed to stem further exodus.

Youth are regarded as the greatest asset of a nation. Kashmir, unfortunately, is losing this asset to frustration. Even the prime minister seemed to feel this frustration when he said in the same address, “I understand their frustration. But things are changing. I urge them to think constructively about how to build their futures.”

Now two years down the line, Dr Singh cannot blame youth of valley for not thinking constructively about their future. After all how can they think of their future in Kashmir which is itself mired in political as well as economic instability?

Unable to come to terms with the unpredictable political situation and the lack of employment avenues, Kashmiri youth look outside for jobs. In fact the more qualified a boy is, the more likely he is to be disappointed for the lack of proper career opportunities in the valley. It often leads to a chain reaction where a boy working outside is soon joined by his unemployed brother, friends and a cousin or two. For most of them, there is no looking back unless they have some domestic problems seeking their return home or if they happen to land a government or bank job.

Over the years, a number of courses have been introduced at college and university level in the valley like Biochemistry, Biotechnology, Management Studies, Pharmaceutical Sciences, Environmental Sciences, Journalism and many more. However, the employment scope of these courses in the state remains as limited as it was at the time of their inception. As a result, the army of unemployed educated youth gets larger and larger. After completing their graduation and post graduation in these job-specific courses, they are faced with the dilemma of either moving outside the state or to apply for any nature of government job. So we have prospective biochemists working as probationary officers in J&K Bank, talented environment science pass outs serving in Food & Supplies Department and MA Journalism students teaching in some private schools. The brain drain phenomenon should not be seen in isolation. There is a sheer wastage of brain power at display in Kashmir itself in the form of highly talented youth rendered useless in misfit government or private jobs.

In a place where private sector is highly underdeveloped, the heavy reliance on government jobs is understandable. Every government job comes with a big price tag. Politicians know this and they cash in on people’s weakness. In fact many political parties including the ruling National Conference used the promise of government jobs as bait to seek votes. Even as NC-led coalition has completed two years in power, the unemployment crisis is as grave as it was before Omar Abdullah assumed the mantle of providing jobs to Kashmiri youth. In effect the people’s dependence on government jobs serves the purpose of politicians so much so that they reinforce this dependence.

Last year in May, the chief minister called for reversal of brain drain in health sector and the need for return of non-resident J&K medicos from foreign countries to help improve medical facilities in the state. One wonders as to what has the government done to convince them to leave their much better paid jobs to work in J&K against lesser wages and poor facilities. More importantly what has it done to ensure that no more youth are forced to leave their homeland in search of jobs? The government sure has no clue.

The Other Side is Equally Worse

Zafar dissects the corrupt governance on the western side of the LOC

(Mr. Zafar Iqbal, 33, was born in village Tarar, Rawalakot, in the Poonch district of Azad Jammu and Kashmir. He did his early schooling in a private school, matriculating through examinations conducted by the Mirpur Educational Board, and completed his higher secondary education from the Government Degree College in Rawalakot. He received his B.A. in Political Science from the University of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (Rawalakot campus), and his M.A. in Mass Communication from the Punjab University in Pakistan. He received international scholarships to attend the International Summer School at the University of Oslo in 2005 receiving a Graduate Diploma in Media Studies, and the Nottingham Trent University, U.K., in 2006-2008 receiving M.A. in Media & Globalization. Mr. Iqbal has been a journalist working in the print and TV media since 1999 and is very active in human rights, earthquake relief and rehabilitation especially involving women and children, and inter-faith harmony. He is the Founder and Executive Director of the Press for Peace (PFP) and the Founder-President of the Environmental Journalists Forum, both based in Muzaffarabad. Mr. Iqbal has been invited to numerous national and international seminars and workshops related to human development.)

Corruption rises in Pakistani Kashmir

The misconduct of political elite and top government functionaries suggests that Pakistan Administered Jammu & Kashmir (PAJK), commonly known as Azad (free) Kashmir, is literally free from the burden of all rules, regulations and laws.

Surprisingly, in a rampant political and administrative corrupt regime a member of ruling political party has been disqualified over deception and misconduct. On October 29 the AJK Minister Chaudhry Rukhsar was ejected from the parliament when the Supreme Court of the semi-autonomous region, proved him guilty of submitting forged educational documents to prove his eligibility as a candidate in the election process. The MLA of the ruling Muslim Conference from southern Mirpur district had sent bogus certificates of O and A levels of British educational standards.

In AJK, a few mighty hands never feel shame of capturing any occasion to seize political and administrative powers by any means. They do not have an iota of respect to their legal, ethical or social obligations. The reason being their political survival maintained by close family ties with high-ups in civil and military bureaucracy. In the presence of ad-hoc judicial arrangements and a guarded media the accountability mechanism is hilarious. Lack of an institutional control on corruption and a political will to prosecute the violators, has turned the region into a haven for opportunists.

The people who sit on the helm of affairs in AJK and are believed to be the guardian of law, merit and collective well-being of the masses are also involved in this disgusting race for robbing national funds. According to recent media reports, the person who is on top ladder of government hierarchy has allegedly been trying to grab a large part of valuable government land. He legitimizes his demand asserting that the property has not been utilized by a government department which oversees the Mangla dam project. It is the irony of the situation that those who are custodians of people’s rights they validate their wrong doings by giving cosmetic justifications.

Similarly, several top functionaries in the government including the prime minister have been criticized for wasting taxpayers’ money on frequent abroad visits in pretext of highlighting Kashmir cause. Estimates say that over $100,000 were spent on his abroad visits in recent months in a situation when domestic economy is crumbling. AJK government has borrowed enormous funds from the Government of Pakistan to pay the salaries of public servants. The AJK government is putting salt onto the wounds of hike-ridden masses by making new political appointments when the already oversized cabinet has badly failed to deliver in terms of development, employment opportunities, public health, education and reconstruction after the massive earthquake in 2005.

AJK population is around 3 million; less than the population of Pakistan’s Rawalpindi District, whereas the number of ministers and advisors in the government is much more than its required numbers. The premier’s son who does not possess any official portfolio has also been the centre of public criticism for enjoying foreign visits on government funding. Reports have appeared in media that government workers, having insufficient salaries and humbled by the unctrollable price hike, want to sell their children. Patients are dying in hospitals due to non-availability of life saving drugs and vaccines. About 200,000 school children are studying in torn tents in chilly weather because government failed to rebuild their schools. Recently, the federal government has diverted more than £300 million foreign aid sanctioned for 2005 quake victims to a politically motivated income support program. This is not the first time that some foreign funding bodies have shown reluctance to materilise their aid plans through official government channels. The incumbent AJK government has failed to lobby in Islamabad against this decision.

The head of a foreign funded project in Azad Kashmir has been terminated by Prime Minister Sardar Atique who refused to make payment of more than Rs.8 million to a ruling party worker claimed against some forged bills. Astonishingly, the deposed official Mr Awan was in China in a regional review meeting and was busy in lobbying for further assistance for development sector. Insiders say that staff members at district level in this project are also prey of permanent threats of removal from job by some ministers and party workers who demand release of fabricated payments.

The ultimate and apparent outcome of such illegal and fraudulent practices in the government would diminish the prospects of future funding in the country. And Pakistani flood survivors have already paid the price of mishandling of foreign aid by the corrupt regime which badly affected confidence of donor countries individual philanthropists.

The Plight of the Disabled

Syed reports on the latest initiative by Javed Tak, followed by pronouncements of the minister

(Mr. Syed Basharat, 30, was born in Kreeri, Baramulla, and did his schooling in Kreeri, and later in Uri and Sopore. He graduated from the Degree College in Baramulla and completed his Master's degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from the Kashmir University in 2005. He has been a reporter for Kashmir Images, a Srinagar based daily, London based website Gaashonline.Com, and a Srinagar based journal, Globe. Currently, he is working as a special correspondent with Jammu based daily newspaper, The Kashmir Times.

Mr. Javed Ahmad Tak, 36, was born in Bijbehara in the Anantnag district. He received his schooling from Government schools in Bijbehara, and his B.Sc. degree from the Government Degree College in Anantnag. Unfortunately, at the age of 21 he became a victim of a terrorist bullet which hit his spine and disabled him for the rest of his life. However, he overcome mental and physical odds to complete his Master's degree in Social Work from the University of Kashmir, and also completed certificate courses in Human Rights and Computers from the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU). Although wheel-chair bound, Mr. Tak is recognized as a leader who has relentlessly and with extreme passion taken up the cause of disabled people in J&K, seeking full citizen rights guaranteed under the J&K Disability Act but never implemented in the past. He is a founder-member of numerous NGO's dealing with issues and sensitizing public about challenges faces by physically handicapped people in Kashmir. He has received numerous awards and citations for his selfless work and has attended numerous workshops on disability rights around the country.)

Disabled Gear up for Census 2011

Srinagar: In order to ensure the accuracy in the crucial statistics of second phase of Census on the number of disabled in Kashmir, the community of physically challenged people have geared up to sensitise the master trainers for Census 2011.

The lead role has been taken by Humanity Welfare Helpline Organisation (HWHO) a Non Governmental Organisation (NGO) working for the welfare of the disabled community in the Valley.

According to Census 2001, there are three lakh disabled people in Jammu and Kashmir. But Javed Tak, a disability activist and the chairman HWHO believes that there are at least seven lakh disabled people in the state.

“The low number is because the question in the 2011 Census merely listed the type of conditions, which world over have excluded many disabled people,” Tak said, adding that the Census enumerators in 2001 were not sensitive. “In fact, the questionnaire in Census 2001 did not include question related to the disabled people. It was only after the hectic efforts of many NGOs and the activists at national disability network the question regarding disabled community was enlisted that too at serial number 15.”

Tak recalled that the much hyped question regarding disabled community in Census 2001 included only 5 disabilities which include speech, hearing, orthopedic, mental retardation and blindness. “Now this question has been enlisted at serial number nine in Census 2011 and many important disabilities have been included like seeing, hearing, speech, movement, mental retardation, mental illness, any other multiple disabilities,” Tak said

The chairman HWHO observed that now disabilities not mentioned in the list will be covered in option ‘any other’. Asked about the training programme of the Census master trainers, Tak said that the HWHO gave the trainers the glimpse about identification, differentiation between visible and invisible disability like deaf and mute are tough to identify. “We sensitised the master trainers about how to interact with the disabled people. We told them about hemophilia, thalasemia, epilepsy, mental illness and other disabilities that can be counted in any other code,” Tak said.

According to Tak the true picture of Census will be a reference for advocacy to start schools, psychiatry hospitals, community based rehabilitation centers and the same can help chalk out programmes at district level for disabled people, proper planning and budget allocations for this ignored community.

“We also sensitise the trainers not to use ‘abusive’ language while interacting and asking the families during Census operation about the persons with visual problems or any other kind of disability. We trained master trainers on December 5 and now we will train /sensitise enumerators at grass roots level who will go and count the people house to house from January 15,” Tak who was invited as a resource person by the Directorate of Census operations Jammu and Kashmir to sensitise the master trainers.

It may be recalled that the second phase of the Census is scheduled to begin from February 9 and will end on February 28. The last census conducted in 2001 witnessed low participation of physically challenged persons in the state.

Earlier on January 4, a he rally was taken out to ensure the maximum participation of the disabled people in the Census programme. Hundreds of persons with disabilities, Anganwari workers and Census department employees had joined the rally.

Fresh survey for being ascertaining population of physically challenged: Sakina

Jammu: All right-thinking people of the society should come forward and contribute in shaping the future of physically challenged population of our State by extending material and moral support to this neglected section of the society.

This was stated by the Minister for Social Welfare, Sakina Itoo while addressing a function organized by Special Olympics Bharat-J&K under aegis of Sahyog India, here today.

Among others, Chief advisor, Sahyog India, Khawaja Farooq Renzushah, Chairman Sahyog India, Dr. Ashwani Jojra, S.Narindar Singh, Dr. D.R.Kapoor, Sushant Gupta, Shukantala Joshi were also present and addressed the function.

The Minister said that 1.23 lakh physically challenged persons have been registered so far, who are being paid monthly pension of Rs. 400 through Social Welfare Department. She said though the exact number is not available with the Government, but functionaries of the social welfare department have been pressed into service to conduct survey in their respective areas to ascertain the exact number of physically challenged population. She said Government has received 16000 fresh applications of physically challenged persons and assured that all of them would be brought under the pension scheme as per the norms.

Sakina said only donating money is not enough, but the real charity is to extend physical support to these persons. She said Government is making utmost efforts to bring all deserving persons under the coverage of welfare schemes, run by social welfare department and appealed participants to expand the ambit of their activities in other parts of the State. She said the long spell of turmoil in the State has left a large number of people handicapped and impressed upon the management of the organization to hold similar programmes in border districts of Rajouri and Poonch which have witnessed tough times of militancy.

Stressing for holding more such programmes, Sakina said that it would go a long way in exploring the hidden talent of the students of this catogory. She said the children, who participated in the game events testify that they could excel once guided properly.

The Minister said that the Governor and the Chief Minister are taking personal interests in improving the condition of physically challenged population of the State. She said the matter for plying special bus service, establishing separate counters in hospitals and banks, for this section of society has been taken up with the concerned departments.

She said, as a part of social responsibility, media can play a vital role in identifying and highlighting the problems of this population.

On the occasion, Sakina Itoo and two other persons took over the responsibility of bearing the education expenses of three physically challenged children.

Speaking on the occasion Farooq Renzushah said that the need of the hour is to take extra care of physically challenged population of the State. “We should take it as a mission and work for exploiting the hidden talent of this section of the society” Renzu said, adding that special arrangements in the hospitals and schools need to be made for them.

Other functionaries of the organization, which include, Area Director, Mahesh Kinth, Wg. Comdr. Mr.M.M.Joshi, Mr.D.D.Khajuria, Thakur Kashmiri Singh, Mr.S.C.Gupta, Mr.S.C.Sharma (Retd DIG), Farida Mughal, Maini, M.M.Sharma, Mr.Lalit Kumar, Mr.Javaid Ahmad, Mr.Manjeet Singh were also present on the occasion.

Dr. Ashwani Jojra , State President, Special Olympics Bharat-J&K presented welcome address and highlighted the activities of the organization, working under the patronage of National President, Air Marshal (Retd) Danzin Keeler and National President Ali Kazmi of the organization. He said the special games for such persons would be also held on state level in near future.

Wildlife Protection

Mir laments the shrinking habitat of the wild

(Dr. Mir M. Mansoor, 55, was born in Shopian. He completed his schooling from the M.L. Higher Secondary School in Shopian. He attended the Government Degree College in Anantnag, receiving his B.Sc. degree in Natural Sciences, and subsequently received a degree in Bachelor of Veterinary Science and Animal Husbandry (BVSc & AH) from the Ranchi Veterinary College, Rajindrea Prasad University, Bihar. He has received mid-career post-graduate training in Advanced Wildlife Management (AWM) at the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, and a post-graduate diploma in Conservation Breeding & Management of Endangered Species (CBME)from the University of Kent at Centerbury, U.K. Dr. Mansoor is the Chief Wildlife Biologist (Veterinary) in the J&K State Wildlife Protection Department. He has received the "Bharat Jyoti" Award and the "Glory of India" Gold Medal and has 30 publications to his credit. In his leisure time, he enjoys nature photography, travel and browsing on internet.)

Wildlife Needs Habitat off the Beaten Track

We are currently losing, worldwide, about 100 species per day. The reason for this is simply we as humans think that we own, and have the right to dominate, every square inch of the Earth. Species are becoming extinct or are moving fast towards endangerment to become extinct because of an out and out destruction of habitat (e.g. paving it or turning it into agriculture farms, golf courses, housing developments, fruit orchards or tourist attraction areas), thereby making the wilderness areas untenable (useless) as wildlife habitats.

In four million years of human progression on earth, there has never been an area inaccessible to humans i.e. an area which we deliberately choose not to enter so that the other species that live there can flourish unmolested by humans. There are places like Wildlife Protected Areas falling under different categories i.e. National Parks, Sanctuaries or Reserves, which despite having strict laws, rules or guidelines for their management as wildlife habitats, face lot of biotic / anthropogenic interference. Besides, the intentional human recreation has always remained a priority there. To my knowledge, there has never been any place, irrespective of its area size, from which the human community has voluntarily excluded itself.

In the recent years, there has been a lot of talk about looking for life forms on other planets. But, the hundred million dollar question is why should we do this? Is it our quest to find these planets to invade the even more fragile habitats that may be found there and destroy their life forms, the way we have already treated the wildlife on this planet? I hope we never find it!

While the thought of finding such life is intriguing, I haven’t heard anyone suggest that how are we going to communicate with intelligent life on other planets, when we can’t even communicate with the intelligent life on this planet?

Traditionally, observing, feeding, and photographing wildlife were considered to be 'non-consumptive' activities because removal of animals from their natural habitats is not involved. However, today, there is a growing recognition that wildlife viewing recreation can have serious negative impacts on wildlife, because, these activities are extensive in nature and have the ability to disrupt wildlife in many ways, particularly by displacing animals from an area. Recreational disturbance has traditionally been viewed as most detrimental to wildlife during the breeding season. People have an impact on wildlife habitat and all that depends on it, no matter what the activity is. Perhaps the major way that people have influenced wildlife populations is through encroachment into wildlife areas. Recreationists are, ironically, destroying the very thing they love i.e. the blooming buzzing confusion of nature.

In other words, if we are to preserve the other species with which we share the Earth, we need to set aside large, interconnected areas of habitat that are entirely off limits to humans. My idea of what constitutes viable habitat is not important but what matters is how the wildlife who live there think.

When a road is built through a wildlife habitat, many species will not cross it, even though they are physically capable of doing so. For example, a musk deer that prefers dense vegetation as its habitat may be afraid to cross such an open area where the animal may be vulnerable to attack by poachers or its predators. The result is a loss of habitat, a portion of preferred mates, foods, and other resources of the species have become effectively unavailable to it. This can reduce population size of the species, cause its inbreeding, impoverish its gene pool, and impair its ability to adapt to changing circumstances (such as global warming). It can lead to local (and eventually, final) extinction. Small, isolated populations can easily be wiped out by a fire, flood or any other natural catastrophe.

For that matter, we have to learn lessons from our observations in some of our top ranking Protected Areas. For example our observations suggest that the increasing anthropogenic pressures in Dachigam National Park are tending to change its basic ecology gradually. The forest fires are now a regular phenomenon there. New opportunistic species like wolves, which so far had no history of their presence in the area, have started to invade the park area and the traditional species like hangul, musk deer etc, which used to be a common feature of the park, are now, slowly but surely, becoming a history.

As such, this is the time we need to realize that unlike wild animal species we are so flexible that we can survive practically anywhere on Earth, and perhaps other places as well, but, wild animals generally prefer human-free habitat. While as on the other hand they are psychologically so similar to us, we have very little excuse to treat them differently, if we deserve to be unmolested in our homes, so do they.

Protecting Artisans While Protecting Kashmir's Heritage

Sajjad offers ideas to protect the heritage industry of Kashmir by protecting native artistic talent from economic exploitation

(Mr. Sajjad Bazaz, 45, was born in Srinagar. He attended the Khalsa high school and the Sri Pratap College in Srinagar. He received his bachelor's degree in Media and his master's degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from the University of Kashmir. Mr. Bazaz has over two decades of experience in journalism (both print & electronic), and he is author of the book "Bankwatch" which is about a financial scenario with particular reference to the J&K state. He is currently incharge of corporate communications department in a leaduing financial instution in J&K. Mr. Bazaz likes to spend leisure time watching movies and enjoying company of his friends.)

We Need Festivals Like ‘Golden Hands’ Every Year

GOLDEN HANDS. These words are usually referred to skilled persons in their field of profession. In our state, ‘golden hands’ symbolize our craftsmen and artisans who by virtue of their unmatched skill have given a worldwide name and fame to our handicrafts. But the most tragic part of these golden hands has been the pathetic condition of these craftsmen, as their skill has failed to nourish them.

Our handicrafts industry is one of the oldest and biggest industries of the State providing direct or indirect employment to almost six lacs. If figures are to be believed, the turnover of Kashmiri handicrafts is more than Rs.2,000 crores annually. Unmatched skillful craftsmanship of Kashmiri artists and artisans has made Kashmiri handicrafts as prized possession over the years and has captured the hearts of people across the globe.

Even as various sectors of economy were adversely affected during the turbulent period in the State, amazingly the production of handicrafts continued unhindered. Their sales, however, were hit due to decline in tourist traffic, putting the small craftsmen and artisans to hardships. Over a period of time, these artisans carved out various means and ways to protect their own golden hands and the craft. But the 2008–global-recession severely hit this industry and the people associated with it have almost started facing starvation, as demand for their products has fallen considerably.

Since the economic slowdown has severely hit US, Europe and Middle East – the destinations where Kashmiri handicrafts are mostly exported – the exporters here have been unable to obtain fresh orders for their products. Even account receivables on account of past sales have trickled down to minimal levels. This slowdown has forced the exporters to stop procuring fresh stock from traders and manufacturers. Precisely, this has affected the working of entire chain from exporters down to basic craftsmen.

Inability of manufacturers to finance fresh production cycles through craftsmen associated with them has rendered most of the craftsmen jobless. Even in cases where manufacturers undertake new production, the wages given to the craftsmen are significantly lower to that earned even by the unskilled labourers. Consequently most of the craftsmen have shifted to other activities.

Over the past two decades, we came across a good number of disturbing stories in newspapers revealing that substantial number of skilled craftsmen and artisans has shifted to other jobs and remaining are ready to follow their path. ‘500 papier-mâché artisans go jobless’. ‘No export order since 2008’. These were some of other headlines, which suggested that all is not well in our handicrafts sector. Even the impact of global meltdown which trickled down in 2008 on the sector is still being felt by the people associated with this industry.

Even as tourism is considered as backbone of the state’s economy and key zone of employment in the state, the handicrafts sector is the spinal cord of this backbone. Over a period of time, our artisan community has not grown to a size (standard of living) which could have motivated them to entirely bank on their skill to carve out their livelihood.

In whatever the circumstances, the sufferings of our artisan community are directly attributed to the lack of their financial resources. We all know that it is the availability of adequate and timely financial resources which is one of the most important factors for the success of any economic activity. So it’s the flow of money from formal system to ours craftsmen and artisans which has not been smooth and it is here the exploitation of the artisan community at the hands of middlemen takes place.

In other words, the plight of the artisans is not a few years old but has been there for centuries as they lacked direct access to the financial resources. In the name of this financial support, the influential used to hijack the craft of the artisans for peanuts. In olden days, exporters and middlemen used to fleece the artisans by giving them small loans and in exchange taking their crafts at a very marginal price. They used to sell these pieces of arts in outside world at lucrative prices. Thus there was yearning gap between the people who used to produce it and those who used to sell it. The plight of the artisans was pathetic and they would hardly make two ends meet.

Today this situation has not changed much and the artisans continue to be exploited in the name of financial support and their dilemma continues. There is need to rejuvenate this sector and efforts should be to preserve, protect and propagate the craftsmen besides protecting and upgrading this specialty of the State. Multiple measures are to be taken to the overall development of the sector and the men associated with it.

To reduce the chance of exploiting poor artisans by middle man we need to devise an efficient method where the artisans are able to directly market their products at least across India. The artisans need to be encouraged to sell their products in outside markets by empowering them with required facilities so that the benefits percolate directly to poor artisans. Our focus should be on small and poor artisans who have suffered a lot during the past two decades.

What we need is not only to preserve our crafts, but also need to propagate this as a business and professionalize its production in terms of management, sales and branding. When we talk of branding vis-à-vis our handicrafts industry, it’s yet to be visible. We have not seen proper productisation. To make the smooth transition of all our handicrafts from common commodities to highly differentiated products is difficult one that needs intervention in terms of finance, technology and marketing. We also need to priortise technological intervention, be it in design and branding or physical infrastructure, in the sector. This can generate not only interest among artisans but can also improve efficiency.

Branding aspect is totally lacking in our handicrafts industry. The products produced are not presented in a packed form. For example, our manufacturers or dealers in handicrafts present a shawl costing more than 3 or 5 lacs to their customers simply wrapped in a paper or in an ordinary polythene bag. The point is that our men associated with the industry are casual in their approach and have hardly given any attention to this aspect which otherwise could have helped in establishing a brand image for the products.

Meanwhile, we can also explore the possibility of having a ‘Golden Hands’ festival annually in which our craftsmen can display their products and skill. The “Golden Hands” festival should aim to help keep traditional handicrafts alive. The festival will continue to remind us about our traditional handicrafts and shows them to those who don’t know about them, giving both groups the opportunity to support the artisans community. While the craftsmen display their work, they can also practice their arts at the same time, allow visitors to see how the goods are produced as well as the final products.

We have to strengthen the commercialization of our handicrafts regionally, nationally and internationally and leverage on technology to achieve this objective. Our goal should be to support artisans and craftsmen and help them to survive into the future.

Developing a New Aquatic Park

Yusuf is excited about a new aquatic park in the making, while Yawar presents a counter-point (at the end)

(Mr. Mohammad Yusuf, 57, was born in the Dalgate area of Srinagar. He attended Government Schools in Drugjan, Sonawar, and Batwara, all in Srinagar, and completed his college studies at the Sri Partap College, Srinagar. Following his graduation, he briefly attended the University of Kashmir, and in 1980, joined the Physical Education Department of the University of Kashmir. Mr. Yusuf teaches aquatics and adventure sports (swimming, mountaineering, snow and water skiing, rafting, parasailing, skating, kayaking, canoeing, etc.) and has won many local sports trophies. He has led many exploration expeditions in Kashmir, and is the Treasurer of the Winter Sports Association of Jammu and Kashmir, General Secretary of J&K Aero Sports Association and the J&K Ski & Mountaineering Association, Secretary of Srinagar Winter Sports Association, and Vice President of the J&K Yoga Association. In his leisure time, Mr. Yusuf engages in social work, gardening and writing.)

University Aquatic Park in the Offing

Srinagar is known as “City of Lakes” worldwide. It has a number of water bodies which include Nigeen Lake, Dal Lake and sick Anchar Lake with river Jhelum majestically running its entire length. But ‘unfortunately’ we could not make full use of these water treasures, accept growing vegetables in the lakes and achieving electricity benefits from Jhelum. Besides, we could in-fact, derive many other benefits from them. From social point of view it could give abundant “recreation and amusement” to our children, youth and elderly denizens .

Recreation is undoubtedly an important need in the human development. It refreshes one’s body, mind and soul after the drudgery of a normal life. It is amusement, that gives pleasure or relaxation to a fatigued mind and makes us use leisure intelligently and profitably. Recreational activities of different kind help develop coordination, confidence, courage and competence like personality traits. Recreational activities, could be conducted on land, water, air and snow etc. Though we have water in abundance in Kashmir but not a single integrated water borne recreational place is created anywhere here. We a have number of terrestrial amusement parks at many places in Kashmir but none in the water. The idea conceived by Kashmir University of developing one such park is highly appreciable.

University campus:
University of Kashmir is situated amidst of two world famous perennial lakes, Dal and Nigeen, located at 34:08:01 N, 74:50:09 E (mean) on the altitude 5236 ft. On its eastern side there is a close magnificent view of Zabarvan range with towering Mount Mahadev in the backdrop. In the distant horizon of its western side one can have glimpse of Pirpanjal range including Mount Apharwat and on the northern side Ganderbal hills are visible. While, on its southern side one can also catch the sight of famous Shankracharya temple and historic Mughal fort atop Koh-i-Maran hillock. Hazratbal Shrine is in its close vicinity. The tall minars of which are overlooking the main University campus. Amazingly there are 696 closely planted huge majestic Chinars on its Naseem Bagh Campus. All these elegant features make it one of the most beautiful Universities of the country.

Three University campuses i.e. Main campus, Naseem Bagh and Mirza Bagh, are sprawling over 106 hectares of land, out of which 53 hectares are developed for Park and Gardens, while 8 hectares are under development and the remaining 45 hectors are under consideration.

Mirza Bagh Campus:
At Mirza Bagh campus the University has developed “University Model Town” where number of flats and quarters are constructed for its teaching and non teaching staff. Being situated on the foreshore of north-eastern edge of Nigeen Lake it has high potential of becoming aquatic hub for tourists.

The University has nearly 14 hectares of waste land adjacent to Nigeen banks. This portion of land has perhaps remained unnoticed and unfocused by earlier University authorities. But appreciatively, the present administrators of the University particularly the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Reyaz Punjabi and Registrar, Prof. S. Fayaz are very keen to develop this waste land into eco-friendly lakeside park and convert its coastal area into an Aquatic Park. The proposed Aquatic Park would be first of its kind in the valley and will certainly be a unique gift to the entire society.

But for converting this waste land into Aquatic Park the University is facing hurdles from some house boat owners who are mooring their boats on foreshore area of University land, which has not only blocked the view of the lake but does not permit University Sports Department to promote water sports in Nigeen. The shanty structures, raised illegally here, give an ugly look to the entire area.. The Lakes and Waterways Development Authority, Tourism Department and Srinagar Municipal Corporation have a big role in rehabilitating them and providing them suitable location for mooring their boots. It may not be possible for the University to compensate them because of its limited resources.

Aquatic Park:
Aquatic Park is an amusement park where there is facility for different water based activities. Keeping in view the location of its Mirza Bagh campus, the University is all set to develop first-ever Aquatic Park here. They are planning to remove the shanty structures, raised close to the lake and clear the view of the lake in first instance. A Committee has been constituted to suggest measures for developing the landscape and introducing different aquatic activities. The Committee is in close touch with LAWDA, Tourism Department and other stakeholders. The park has tremendous scope to introduce different recreational and competitive aquatic sports such as kayaking, canoeing, canoe polo, rowing, dragon boating, Jet skiing, aqua-parasailing, hydro zorbing, water trampoline, surfing and water skiing etc here. For children small rubberized swimming pool, tubing, swan boating, paddle boating. banana boating, and inflatable rafts etc. could be installed in the park to attract families to seek wonderful pleasure and great fun. Not only the aquatic activities the University must install a health gym, artificial rock wall, low height bungee jumping, land trampoline and some environmentally suited food courts here as well, which will be additional attraction for intended tourists. This will give Nigeen a new look and will appear like an aquatic play ground. The nicely illuminated park would certainly attract scores of locals and tourists here. The University should keep the park open for general public and for its maintenance they may charge entry fee to the visitors as is done by J&K Bank at Pahalgam Amusement Park and Iqbal Park in Srinagar etc. This could generate lot of revenue for the University as an institution.

Contribution of University:
Pertinently Kashmir University has played a pioneering role in highlighting the potential of water sports in Nigeen Lake. The University conducted two major All India Inter-University Kayaking and Canoeing Championships for men and women here in 2007 and 2009 and has won laurels from time to time. For this purpose the University has procured 24 sophisticated modern fiberglass Kayaks and Canoes worth lacs of rupees. It is considered one of the major facility centers for such sports in the country. The University must now grab the opportunity of introducing the fascinating and scintillating rowing here.

Local Support:
The local inhabitants, particularly the house boat owners and other tourism players, must come forward and help University in developing this ambitious park. The water based activities would help Nigeen not only to keep it clean from pollution but will attract scores of tourists here. The disturbed water would aerate the stagnant waters and thus give it new life. Pertinently the University Lake Club has always been party to Nigeen Lake Conservation Organization in creating awareness among masses about pollution and environmental degradation of Nigeen.

Notably Water Skiing was introduced in Kashmir during British Raj. It is not much popular in other parts of India and should be thus recognized as a heritage sport. The INTACH must also play its role to protect this unique and historic sport. On the lines of Colorado Water Ski Park the Tourism Department must encourage one such park in Nigeen lake in partnership with Kashmir University.

The Tourism Department has undoubtedly played a significant role in developing many parks and gardens all around the Nigeen lake. Credit also goes to them for rebuilding the Rustum Garhi complex and developing Peer Zoo and Zabarvan parks efficiently. They also have decorated some important Squares (Chowks) at different places in the city. Installing street lights all along the Jhelum banks lent an aesthetic look to the river. Restoration of Pokhribal has added charm to the calm and scenic Nigeen lake. It is now time for them to help the University in developing the proposed Aquatic Park. They must adopt this park as they did in the case of renovating the Food Street near KMD bus station and Lal Chowk park etc. Other organizations like LAWDA, Nigeen Lake Conservation Organization, Nigeen House Boat Owners Association, J&K Banks, tourism players and other business houses must also help University in fulfilling its cherished dream of developing the proposed Aquatic Park. The LAWDA must deploy its men and machinery for removing the coarse grass, brackens, weeds and moss from the lake near University land.

The Aquatic Sports - A Counterpoint

Respected Mr. Mohammed Yusuf Sahib,

Your aquatic sport ideas are laudable indeed, but does it prevail to your intelligent mind that Nageen Lake has a very little space for the gigantic sport activities/plans mentioned by you. A Lake which has been famous for its peace and serenity will lose its charm by the activities like Jet Skiing, aqua-parasailing, hydro zorbing in the first place and in the second instance installing a health gym, artificial rock wall, low height bungee jumping, land trampoline and environmentally suited food courts, which will also be contempt of the High Court Orders.

The open secret of our state is that common Kashmiri’s have always been fooled by rosy pictures and most of the time shown by the governance. The fact of the day is that the same rose gardens were shown to Kashmiri's when Royal Spring Golf Course was made and Nageen Club was rebuilt. Reality of the day is that in both the places a common man (Non government employ/ Non member) is not allowed to enter. In case of Nageen Club, the entry ticket itself is quite out of reach for a common man. A sky rocketing price is kept for the membership which is quite beyond the reach of common aspiring Kashmiri and at the same time it is quite easily accessible and affordable by a government employee. AQUATIC PARK? An ordinary citizen has to know the fact that there isn't enough space for a general public park, needless to mention install a health gym, artificial rock wall, low height bungee jumping, land trampoline and some environmentally suited food courts. An attempt was made by the Esteemed University to go against the High Court Orders in a secretive manner by erecting some structure next to world famous peaceful camping site of Mirza Bagh and right on the face of Nageen Lake. However, Intervention by some youth hailing from all parts of Srinagar thwarted the attempt by a timely intervention. Again the media played a vital role in stopping that violation.

University Boat Club and Nigeen Lake Conservation Organisation might be known to each other, however, if a survey is done, 99% of people living in and around Nageen Lake are unfamiliar with something called “University Boat Club”. The neighbours of Nageen Lake ranging from Hazratbal, Naseemabad, Umar Colony, Lal Bazaar and right up to Bagwanpora have always been Protective & Proactive when it comes to Nageen lake and that’s the reason why Nageen Lake still shines to its best. The quality of water is better and small localities around Nageen Lake have always cherished its beauty. Tourists apart, a lot of Kashmiri's are in love with the serene waters and tranquillity of Nageen Lake.

Lastly, I think it will be a major "Point of Conflict" where High Court Orders are enacted when poor people want to make shelters and government institutions get immunity irrespective of Gigantic noisy aquatic plans which will result in busting the calm nerves of Nageen Lake. Over and above if they get a hush hush green signal from authorities.



P.S: For LAWDA - A lot of structures were demolished in the recent years and recent months.. Nageen Lake has witnessed quite massive illegal/ unauthorized structures coming up within last 5 years and in recent months. Needless to mention,, Nageen violations were belonging to, in relation with, or influenced by the State Employees and the demolished ones were belonging to poor ordinary people who just needed a shelter to hide.