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.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Playing Politics With the Cultural Academey's Autonomy

Kashmir Times report reinforce other sources that indicate that the Minister in charge of the JKAACL is at war with JKAACL

Deptt of Culture 'fiddles' with JKAACL

Jammu: The growing ambition of State Department of Tourism and Culture to 'intrude' in the decision making process of autonomous Jammu and Kashmir Academy of Art, Culture and Languages (JKAACL), contrary to the spirit of its constitution, and the consequent clash of interests has badly affected the latter's functioning.

Insiders reveal that for the past 10 months or so, the Academy has been faced with its worst ever financial crunch, halting its entire spectrum of cultural activities scheduled for the calendar year 2010-2011. Reason being Rs 3 Cr which form one-third amount of its (Academy's) annual budget, slated for cultural, literary activities, has not been released by the Department of Tourism and Culture, upon which Academy is totally dependent for its funding.

This needs to mention here that till 2005, the Ministry for Higher Education used to fund Academy. Yet in 2005 separate department of Culture was constituted under the same ministry to take care of Academy. It was only in the year 2008 that JKAACL came under the control of Ministry of Tourism and Culture when it came into existence as a separate department.

The most irksome aspect is that the Department has withheld the grants for unspecified reasons although the Department of Finance cleared and released the amount long back, the insiders allege. Irony is this situation exists, when the Governor of the state is its patron and the Chief Minister is its president, as per its constitution.

Consequently, the last ten months of its calendar year 2010-11 did not witness any major cultural or literary activity, seminar or exhibition at the national or international level. It did not release any publication in the nine major languages of the state viz., Kashmiri, Dogri, Gojri, Pahari, Ladakhi, Balti, Urdu, Hindi and Punjabi.

According to them, not only this during this period the Academy did not have any inter-state or international cultural exchange programme. The pension of 400 writers has been stopped. The funding of around 200 Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) for different projects, too, has not been released because of blocked amount with the Department. Scholarships are not being issued to the students of Institute of Music and Fine Arts (IMFA) and those pursuing Diploma in Calligraphy. Study tours of students could not be conducted. Around 10 ex-secretaries of Academy are without pension. To be precise, the major functioning of entire Academy, for which it has been constituted, is stand-still.

"Even the amount to be released under salary and pension component (part of Rs 9 Cr budget) is not released on time as a result the pension of 150 retired employees and the salaries of serving employees too get delayed for months," they add.

Spelling out the genesis of the problem confronting Academy, the insiders allege that essentially the helmsmen in the Department want to run it on the pattern of Tourism Department or Directorate where the bureaucrats and the above all the minister have full say in its decision making process as well its functioning.

"In fact in January 2009, an order, too, was got issued through General Administration Department (GAD) that all the files of Academy should be routed through the Minister concerned. This was a direct attempt to intrude into the functioning of Academy which is an autonomous body by virtue of its constitution, on the pattern of central bodies viz., Lalit Kala Akademi, Sahitya Akademi and Sangeet Natak Akademi which are funded by Union Ministry of Culture yet are autonomous in nature with no control of ministry. Hence the Academy took up the matter with its President i.e., Chief Minister and thus this order was not allowed to be implemented. Now the files directly go to the Chief Minister as per past practice," they informed.

Notably Jammu and Kashmir Academy of Art, Culture and Languages (JKAACL) was established in 1958 in accordance with the "provisions of section 146 of the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution, to foster and coordinateÿactivities in the spheres of letters and languages, visual and plastic arts, music, dance and drama and of culture generally, in the State of Jammu and Kashmir, and to promote through them all the cultural unity of the state and of the state with the other states of the country."

However a retired senior JKAACL employee claims that the bone of contention behind this clash of interests is the post of vice president of the Academy presently lying vacant.

"The post as per the constitution of Academy should be held by some literary person or an artist of eminence. But the Department of Culture wants this post to be filled up in such a manner which could fulfill its objective to have a definite say in the functioning of Academy," he maintains leaving a lot of scope for interpretations.

Pertinent to mention here that as per the Academy's constitution, the Vice President is elected by the General Council of the Academy, preferably from among its non-official members.

The General Council orÿ theÿ Centralÿ Committeeÿ exercisesÿ all necessary administrative and financial powers for the effective functioning of the Academy.

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