Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Murky World of NGO's

Fayyaz takes the lid off the murky world of NGO's in Kashmir by exposing the inner workings of one such organization, which in turn goes on the defensive without addressing issues raised in the investigative report. Fayyaz' report followed by two related news stories

(Mr. Ahmed Ali Fayyaz, 48, was born in Bodina, Budgam, and received his primary and secondary education in Budgam and later at Amar Singh College, Srinagar. He completed his Master's degree in Kashmiri language and literature from the University of Kashmir in 1987. After working with Rashtriya Sahara and Kashmir Times in 1993-94, and later for 13 years as Srinagar Bureau Chief of Daily Excelsior, he is woking as Resident Editor/ Srinagar Bureau Chief of Jammu-based English daily Early Times since April 2009. He is also a filmmaker whose forte in audio-visual media is Kashmir's composite culture, heritage, ecology and social issues. Since February 2008, he has been regularly anchoring Take One Television's bi-weekly hard talk show "Face To Face With Ahmed Ali Fayyaz" which is watched by more than three million viewers in Srinagar, Jammu and other urban areas of Jammu & Kashmir.)

UN’s 25000 Euros Brings Relief to ‘Activists’, Despair to Victims

Srinagar: One of the journalists working for premier international news agency Reuters in Srinagar has been feeding families of five disappeared persons out of his monthly salary. Yet another, who himself survived a fatal attack on his life in a bomb blast at his office in 1995, has been providing sustenance to another group of the victims of enforced disappearances and bloodshed.

Hundreds of opulent businessmen have been silently doing similar noble work to provide succour to civilian sufferers of the 21-year-long armed conflict whose actual numbers are claimed to be 8,000 to 10,000 but impartially believed to be around 5,000. In approximately 70:30 ratio, these ill-fated civilians have disappeared in custody of security forces and separatist militants respectively.

Most of these civilians, owing allegiance to conflicting political ideologies, have vanished in the first 10 years of turmoil. With remarkable downswing, armed forces as well as guerrilla groups have continued to eliminate soft targets but those who disappeared in the last 11 years are in hundreds, not in thousands. Police have not received even a dozen of such complainants in last three years.

However, the numbers of people claiming to be fighting for protection of human rights and recovery of the disappeared persons have risen phenomenally over the years. Interests heightened enormously after the ‘human rights activists” learned through media last year that the United Nation’s Working Group on Involuntary Enforced Disappearances (WGIED) was providing a substantial financial assistance to families of such disappeared persons in Kashmir. Both factions of the lately split Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) began a flurry of activity to attract attention of the UN group.

Over a dozen of demonstrations were organised in Sher-e-Kashmir Park in Civil Lines here as young children and elderly women, describing themselves as families of the disappeared civilians, issued passionate appeals to the world to support them and help in recovery of their loved ones.

It was during the maiden visit of the UN’s Special Rapporteur, Margaret Sekaggya, that the much exploited families of the real victims learned on Monday that WGIED had provided the first ever financial support to them in the form of Euros 25000. Soon it surfaced that the account of one faction of their organisation was being operated by “unknown persons” in New Delhi, rather than any board of directors in Srinagar.

Even as WGIED had specifically made it a condition that the money equivalent to over Rs 17 Lakh would be operated “in democratic and transparent manner”, it became known that entire operation was restricted to two New Delhi-based female activists, including a Kashmiri filmmaker, and President of a faction of APDP, Parveena Ahangar. Parveena, whose son Javed Ahangar once disappeared allegedly in custody of Border Security Force nearly 20 years ago in Batmaloo area, had launched her own group after she broke away from the original organisation over charges of “nepotism and fraudulent handling” against her former colleagues.

Enjoying support of several groups based from New Delhi to Europe to USA, this uneducated middle-aged woman has been at the forefront of most of the demonstrations organised by her group in Srinagar. Last year, she was among the activists who held a demonstration outside the Parliament in New Delhi and also met President of India Pratibha Patil.

At Skaggya’s news conference here on Wednesday, one of the young APDP female activists walked out to register her strong protest against the way she had been clandestinely removed from office-bearers of the body and her “memorandum” to be submitted to the UN Rapporteur had been replaced by the one drafted by a Delhi-based human rights activist. She confronted Parveena how she had signed a document without being able to read a word out of it. She later revealed to mediapersons that in violation of the UN group guidelines and conditions, recipient APDP had got the money deposited in Parveena’s personal account.

The angry APDP activist alleged that Parveena’s son Yasir was single-handedly operating the bank account and its password was with a Delhi-based activist. She further revealed that like her old rivals, Parveena too had appointed daughter Saima and niece, Suby, at the APDP office at Hyderpora. “This whole money is being brazenly swindled. Not a pie is reaching the real victims. This is, in fact, business on the dead bodies”, Ms Arjimand Khan complained. She said that she would soon write to media and everybody at the UN how “vested interests” were looting the world in the name of victims of the Kashmir conflict.

While Parveena was not reachable for comment, APDP’s Legal Advisor, Advocate Hafizullah Mir, confirmed to Early Times that there was no board of directors. He said that due to recent disturbance in Valley, APDP could not fulfill its task of constituting the Board of Advisors. He also claimed that the money received from the UN group was “not for families of the disappeared persons”. “It has been decided that the money would be paid to the lawyers fighting suits of the victims in different judicial courts”, Mir said.

APDP to Spend $ 10000-UN aid on Rehab, Survey

Abid Bashir (Rising Kashmir)

Srinagar: Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons has received 10,000 US dollars from United Nations for the rehabilitation of families of disappeared persons. This was disclosed by APDP chairperson, Perveena Ahanger here Thursday to dispel the rumours about the amount, adding that she was receiving threat phone calls in this regard from last one month.
“Today, I decided to break my silence as I have been receiving constant threats from some unknown people. Some blame me for receiving Rs 80 lakh aid and some even use abusive language,” she told Rising Kashmir during APDP’s monthly sit-in at Pratap Park, Srinagar.

Ahanger said following rumours that she had received lot of money; she was left with no option other than to reveal the “truth”.

“The reality is that I have received 10,000 US dollars (Rs 4, 56,000 Indian currency as per the current value of a US dollar). The money has come from the United Nations Human Rights Voluntary Fund for the Victims of Torture,” she said.

The monetary aid is first of its kind from UN for any rights group functioning in Kashmir. The APDP chairperson said the aid was transferred from UN to Kashmir in June last year. “It took us five months to receive the same. I received the entire amount in November last. I have already prepared a trust deed for it,” she said.

“The money is not my personal property. It is for the rehabilitation of the families of all 10,000 families, whose dear ones have disappeared since 1990.”

She said the money has to be spent in case any of the family members of missing persons face problems in terms of food, medication and education. “Besides, the money will be spent on the survey to find out the exact number of disappeared people in Kashmir.”

Ahanger said APDP has already started the survey of people who went missing. “At present, the survey is going on in Srinagar and Kupwara districts. We will move to Bandipore in the next phase,” she said, adding, “Compilation of the exact data would take time.”

“Since there is no exact data or any official number about the number of missing youth, the process started by us will take time. We will be going to districts like Doda, Rajouri and Poonch as well,” she said.

About the recent visit of UN special rapporteur on human rights, Margaret Sekaggya to Kashmir, Ahanger said she handed over a report to her about the problems being faced by APDP.

“She (Margaret) promised us every help but so far there is no progress on that front,” she said.

It may be recalled that as per the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, an independent rights group, at least 8,000 to 10,000 people have gone missing in the state since 1990.

I am Being Threatened, Alleges APDP Chairman

Mukhtar Ahmed (Kashmir Images)

Srinagar: Alleging that she was being threatened by some people who she says are bent upon defaming her organization, the chairperson of the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) Parveena Ahangar Thursday said by resorting to such mischievous acts, “they are trying to create obstacles in the pursuance APDP’s cause”. Declining to reveal the identity of those who are threatening her, Ahangar said she is receiving threatening calls from some 5-6 people. “I am investigating it of my own and once I am sure of their identity, I will then expose all of them through media.”

Talking to media-persons on the sidelines of APDP’s monthly sit-in protest of at Pratap Park here, Ahangar said that she had received $10,000 in June 2010 from United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture. “But some persons, for their pitiful gains, have spread canards in some sections of media that APDP has received Rs 80 lakhs from the UN funds.”

“It is a baseless allegation leveled against the APDP as some persons are envious of our organization and they don’t want us to pursue our cause in a hassle-free manner. We have been granted only $10,000 which has been released to the needy from November last year,” Ahanger said.

She said APDP uses its funds in a judicious manner for the education and medical assistance to the deserved members of the APDP across the state.
Referring to her recent meeting with the UN Special Rapportuer, Margaret Sekaggya,

Parveena Ahanger said she had one-on-one with the Rapportuer on a wide range of issues from ensuring investigation and punishment to those responsible for enforced disappearances to other human rights violations in the state and abrogation of Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA) and other “black laws”.

Meanwhile, as part of its monthly sit-in program, dozens of protesting members carrying placards - “Stop crime against humanity”, “Stop disappearances” and demanding “independent, credible commission on enforced disappearances”, “implementation of court orders”, “prosecution of guilty” and “replacing impunity with accountability”, held a silent sit-in at Pratap Park.

Demanding the whereabouts of all disappeared persons, the APDP president criticized the state government for not cooperating with the organization. She said that there are some national and international civil society groups and non-profits who are lending a helping hand to APDP enabling it to pursue its cause.

“We have been restricted to gather in small parks to raise our voices and the government’s response has been that it is also preventing the national and international organizations, which are desirous of helping us in our cause, from helping us,” Ahanger alleged.

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