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, July 31, 2011

The Missing Ingedient in Kashmir

In exploring elements of a true leadership, Abdul finds that not only are such characteristics missing in Kashmir, but Kashmiris actually posses attributes in reverse

(Dr. Abdul Ahad, 63, was born in Srinagar. He did his schooling from the Tyndale Biscoe Mission Srinagar, Fateh Kadal, and the Multipurpose Higher Secondary School, Bagh-i-Dilawar Khan, Fateh Kadal. Dr. Ahad received his bachelor's degree from the Sri Pratap College, Srinagar, and his post graduate degree, and Ph.D. from the University of Kashmir. He started his career as a lecturer in history at the Amar Singh College, Srinagar, and went on to become Director, Archives, Archaeology, Museums, Research & Public Libraries, and retired as Commissioner Secretary to the J&K Government. He is an author of two books. The first book, "Kashmir to Frankfurt: A Study of Arts & Crafts," was judged as the best book on Kashmir in the year it was published (1986-87). He has also written "Kashmir Rediscovered," and has written articles on good governance. Dr. Ahad received the prestigious "Khilat-e-Mahjoo" award in 2010. He enjoys writing about the complex socio-cultural issues of Kashmir.)

What Makes A Charismatic Leader?

“Instrumental Leadership” (published recently in the Greater Kashmir), is a well-written article which has kicked off an important debate on issues of charismatic leadership. The debate is more relevant and vital in the context of Kashmir situation. Whether or not Kashmiri leaders fulfill the criteria historically recognized as prerequisite for becoming cream of the crop--a visionary, creative and energizing leader-- seems to be the main endeavor of the debate to discern. It revolves round the premise that a charismatic leader is one who personifies all those merits that have been identified by David A Nadler and Michael L Tushan in their book: “Beyond the Charismatic Leader”. A product of painstaking research that speaks high of scholarly exertions of these political scientists, the book is in no way the first of its kind on the subject. As a matter of fact it is a laudable and meaningful attempt to recapitulate systematically what the great scholars have already contemplated and marked out, long, long ago, as main components of unadulterated, stimulating and genuine leadership.

The interest in understanding the issue of leadership—which they have rather rekindled now-- was awakened by the intellectuals of yore centuries before the emergence of Nation States; actually at a time when the human Civilization hadn’t yet made many strides and was still in its embryonic form on its way forward struggling hard to reach the acme of excellence. The foremost among them were Aristotle and Plato who delved deep into the subject and subsequently gave the world the model of a flawless leader who possessed tremendous potential to lead people through thick and thin and represented a wonderful combination of self-discipline, hard-work and honesty and foresight. The model was, subsequently, elaborated and perfected by their successors; more distinctively by Ibn-Khaldun and Arnold Toynbee. The conclusions which these scholars of stature have drawn after studying various Civilizations, especially the five major civilizations of the world, are now making rounds in Western and Asiatic Societies, of course in an adapted form, through the publications of contemporary social scientists.

The picture of an ideal leader in his charismatic form is equally obtainable in Nilamatpurana; the earliest available source of historical information on Kashmir; a unique treatise that clearly sketches the picture of an ‘envisioning, energizing and ennobling’ iconic leader who was none other than NILA NAGA, the founder of Jhelum Valley Civilization that flourished on the banks of Veth or Vitasta. He was the first and foremost Kashmiri Patriarch of great consequences who with his unusual blend of intelligence, determination and character drove out of Valley’s womb the most dreaded people; the pretenders and imposters; the enemies of natives; and, thereby, laid the foundation of a safe and peaceful heaven on earth for human settlement. His moral substance and qualities of head and heart were so powerful, convincing, meticulous and ennobling that they inspired a galaxy of historical personalities like Avantiverman, Laltaditya, Budshah etc; to follow his footsteps and touch the peaks of glory, popularity and esteem. Thus by drinking deep of the intellectual ambience, furnished by this classic work on Kashmir, these leaders envisioned a prosperous, strong and peaceful Kashmir which they realized finally to lure a huge number of Central Asian Sufis and Scholars who settled here and enriched its ethos profoundly.

Alongside Nilmatapurana, Kalhana’s Rajatarangni , Vakhs of Lal Ded, Nund Rishi’s expositions and Shah-i-Hamdan’s Zakhirat-ul-Malook deserve to be equally credited for having widened the contours of the discourse on the qualities of leadership. The authors of these monumental works were the most innovative social engineers who had a strong urge to transform Kashmir by changing the outlook of its leadership. Their main thrust was on enlightenment which they believed is possible through the pursuit of knowledge; the attainment of moral ascendancy and; the rejection of arrogance: the qualities which the present “leadership” lacks so conspicuously and despises so amply and abhorrently. The watchword of their philosophy is an amalgam of: Vision, Virtue and Wisdom which is evidently absent among the contemporary “leaders”.
Lal Ded and Shiekh Noor-ud-din were prefect embodiment of these virtues that enabled them to become the genuine mass leaders; the legitimate people’s priests; the real harbingers of a great social change. The personal Charisma of these leaders continues to inspire every Kashmiri even after the passage of so many centuries. The quantum of esteem they are held in can only be gauged at Cherar-i-Sharief where an ocean of people is seen present to pay their homage. There is hardly anything that hasn’t received their attention: their repertoire encompasses everything from economics, politics, science, medicine, philosophy to environment; they have ably dealt with whatever came their way for rectification, renovation, restoration and innovation.

The insightful personality of these highly thought of leaders of bygone day’s immensely strengthened people’s faith in a bright tomorrow which they had envisioned for Medieval Kashmir. But after them no leader worth the name has so far appeared in the firmament of Kashmir to lead the people to their cherished goal.

Kashmir has yet to throw a leader who can deliver the way charismatic leaders have done to achieve their objectives. Not to talk of leaders like Gandhi—who is worth emulating and justifies the appellation of charismatic leader for his contributions and intrinsic merit that resonate even today to impact Indians to adopt Gandhi giri as a tool to fight injustice—even the likes of BAL Thakrey are unlikely to locate in its milieu. There is none to equal him in his traits: determination, dedication, allegiance to his motherland and anxiety for his people. Our environment is awfully weak to encourage the rise of such leadership. It is increasingly disposed towards cheering up a huge platoon of “leaders” who are easily comparable to proverbial Saed Makars. Their deceptive stratagems, dare devil stunts and dishonest dealings, which initially boost and botch us up with illusionary elixir of life ultimately make us disconsolate for our whole life. They are always on hunting spree to befool the common masses through their pretentions which quickly burst like bubbles or balloons within no time. Their motive is nothing but wealth, weapon and women.

Kashmir “leaders” are thriving on the agonies bequeathed to the masses of Kashmir by the partition for which both Nehru and Jinnah were responsible. Kashmiris are paying too heavily for their obstinacy, stubbornness and fierce political rivalries that struck a fatal blow to historic Indus Valley Civilization; fragmenting it to degenerate into an unprecedented bloodbath of innocent killings that finally gave birth to India, Pakistan, two Kashmir’s and Bangladesh-- how many more pieces are likely to emerge on the map of the world God alone knows. Their unwise policies have trapped them in the quandary of Dispute that has practically besieged the entire South Asia with an intense existential angst. To escape the repercussions of this colossal historical wrong is not possible till it is amicably and justly rectified. Only Deedawars with enormous foresight and moral substance can lead the masses to throw off the shackles of servitude that is fortified, day in and day out, by none other than their own kiths and kin; the Local Sentries who uphold the tradition of guarding the colonial Cage religiously for their personal aggrandizement.

Such Deedawars do not come out of vacuum; they appear on the scene when the masses cease to listen to fakers; when they give up saying one thing and doing another; when they learn to shift the white from the black; when they shun their well-known receptiveness to fluctuations.

The people of Kashmir have to remake themselves to change their lumpish image that impels objective historians to portray them as big historical frauds; Soum Badzat Kashmiri.

Their inconsistencies, unsteady and ever-wavering attitude, disinclination to mend their ways, despite the multitude of tragedies they have gone through, are chief causes of their historical misfortunes, aberrations and humiliations. They need a dose of sweet nectar to defy their routine behavior.

A Win-Win Strategy by Kashmiri Women

Aditi writes about how social innovation in Kashmiris begins (and possibly ends) with Kashmiri women

(Ms. Aditi Bhaduri's bio sketch is available from the webmaster.)

Providing More Than Their Means

It was just another mundane day for Munira Manzoor until a knock on the door changed her life. That moment marked her journey of transformation — from being a school drop-out to a respected paramedic in her village of Zuhama, in Kashmir’s Budgam district.

The year was 1997. The Valley was in the throes of an armed insurgency and the healthcare system, especially in the remote areas, was in a shambles. “Most of the doctors, who were from the minority Hindu community, had fled Kashmir, and both the government and private healthcare facilities were in poor condition. Even the treatment of small injuries was not possible, as paramedics were too scared to step out. This severely affected women, particularly pregnant women. The nearest maternity home was in Lal Ded Hospital, Srinagar, and for people in remote areas, it took a long time to reach the hospital as we had to stop regularly at army check posts,” recalls Munira, who is around 35 years old.

This crisis in healthcare deeply disturbed Dr Ali Mohamed Mir, a retired IAS officer. He wanted to do something to ease this problem. So he collaborated with the J&K Voluntary Health and Development Association (J&K VHDA) and decided to reach out to the worst-affected villages. Ten villages in Budgam, seven in Pulwama and five in Khansaab, a block near the border, were adopted. In the beginning, the J&K VHDA organised out-patient departments (OPD) for administering first-aid and other treatments. But it was observed that women were very reluctant to get themselves treated by male doctors and paramedics. That’s when they decided that if the healthcare needs of the Valley women were to be met they needed to build a team of local women paramedics.

So Mir himself went from door-to-door in the villages, asking women and girls to volunteer. That’s how Munira suddenly found herself undergoing training in basic healthcare, natal-care, and later even in post-trauma counselling. While the J&K VHDA conducted the OPDs, they simultaneously trained the women. As a Class IX drop-out, Munira had never thought that she would one day be able to make such a valuable contribution to her community, but when Mir presented her with the opportunity she instantly agreed. “I learnt about anti-natal and post-natal care. I underwent training – gradually – and began by going from home to home and finding out and registering pregnant women,” she recalls. She was also taught how to talk to women about basic healthcare, nutrition and even tri-semester care.

Come Out in Force

But all this was not easy. In the shadow of militancy, Munira undertook this work at great personal risk. As did Haseena Begum and, later, Sakeena Shafi, Safeena, and many others. According to these women, although they felt insecure, they were able to undergo the training and, later, help the local women because care-giving was considered non-political work. Adds Mir’s daughter, Ezabar Ali, who conducts the training sessions, “To make our work transparent, we conducted all our meetings in the open so that the entire village would know what the volunteers were doing.”

Yet, despite the open attitude adopted not only by Ali and her team but the volunteers as well, they faced a lot of opposition when the time came to step into the homes of friends and neighbours. Recalls Sakeena of Gundi Maqsood village, “Initially, people laughed at me. They would poke fun by saying ‘Look, the doctor has come.’” She had just passed Class X when she saw her first J&K VHDA medical camp and decided to undergo paramedic training.

At first it was quite a frustrating experience and she felt hurt when people mocked her. But that did not deter her from her mission. Attitudes gradually began to change as people understood the benefits of such an intervention.

Sakeena has since become irreplaceable for the pregnant women in her village, seeing that she has become quite an expert advisor when it comes to anti-natal and post-natal care. She also talks to them about family planning and occasionally helps train other volunteers as well. Dais, or traditional birth attendants, is one such category of people who have received training in basic hygiene – like using hot water and clean sheets while delivering babies. The use of medical kits has also been explained to them.

Safeena, from Zuhama village, who has been working as a volunteer for the last five years, is thrilled by the fact that she can help people. Inspired by Munira to undergo training she has been particularly effective in reaching out to women on the brink of nervous breakdowns.

More Than Just a Helping Hand

Trauma counselling and mental healthcare have emerged as big issues in Kashmir. Scores of mothers whose sons have disappeared or been killed by militants or security agencies, have suffered great trauma. Wives have had husbands remaining untraceable for years. Everyday they find themselves trying to cope with the pressures of loneliness and uncertainty. Today, although the level of violence has come down, unemployment and other social problems have given rise to domestic violence in a big way and this in turn is a significant factor in undermining the mental well-being of women and girls.

Now, in volunteer-counsellors like Safeena, patients find a sympathetic ear. Seventy-year-old Magli, who lost a young son to militants, has someone with whom she can converse. Although initially Magli resisted the idea of talking to a stranger, she slowly opened up.

But while people have benefited from these enterprising volunteers, the women too have greatly gained from the experience. Besides the increased confidence and respect they now command within their own homes and communities, Munira says that she and her colleagues have become more aware of women’s health needs as well as their rights. “We had no idea about immunisation and we learnt of its importance during the training. Young girls reaching puberty here had little inkling about personal hygiene but now they do,” she elaborates.

Understanding domestic violence also proved to be an eye-opener. The rise of domestic violence has been specifically connected to the series of hartals and bandhs Kashmir has been witnessing since 2008. Since most of these bandhs are called by separatists who are accountable to no one, people are afraid to violate them. “Hartals lead to loss of wages and many of our men are daily wage earners,” reveals Munira, adding, “Such situations increase the frustration in the men folk and they give vent to it by attacking their wives, and sometimes even their children,” analyses Munira.

Today there are over 50 active women health volunteers in Budgam, Pulwama, Baramullah and Srinagar. Explains Safeena, “Earlier, most families sent only their sons to school. But after seeing our work they have also begun to pay attention to their daughters. They can see that girls too can play a role in the development of families and the community.”

Recalling a Proud Heritage

Saleem takes pride in the work completed by the Kashmir section of the INTACH which has been reviewed by Mehmood

(Mr. Mohammad Saleem Beg, 60, was born and raised in Srinagar. He was educated at the S.P. College and the Gandhi Memorial College, receiving his Bachelor's degree from the latter. He was awarded a EEC fellowship in 1998 which allowed him to attend study courses at Universities of Luven, Belgium, and Trinity College, Dublin. Mr. Beg entered the State government service in 1975 and retired in 2006 as the Director General of Tourism. In the 31 years of public service (which included two deputation assignments in New Delhi), Mr. Beg promoted local arts and crafts, and raised public awareness of Kashmir's rich heritage and architecture. He was a leading figure in getting Srinagar listed as one of the 100 most threatened heritage cities by the World Monument Fund in 2008. Mr. Beg has traveled extensively and has attended numerous conferences, including the 1997 UN Special Session on Environment in New York, and the 1997 Kyoto Convention on Climate Change in Japan. His articles and essays have been published in various publications. Since retirement, he has remained active as the Convener of the J&K Chapter of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage - INTACH.

(Mr. Mehmood-ur-Rashid, 38, was born in Srinagar. He graduated from the Amar Singh College, Srinagar. He has been active in journalism for over ten years, and currently works at the Greater Kashmir (GK), having worked in the past at the Rising Kashmir as the Features Editor. The columnist is presently the GK Magazine Editor.)

The Wealth of Srinagar: Bringing Alive the Story of a City

It is not just a book, it's an architecture of sorts. An architecture where labor undergirds love, and discipline holds the weight of purpose. It's like the tiered roof of a typical Kashmiri Ziyarat where each layer falls on the other 'like the stanzas of a poem.' May be it's like an album artistically arranged to make the sense of time and space; different stages of development distinctly placed, yet each calmly fading into other to create a unitary pattern called life. The movement from monumental to colonial to post colonial, then to modern and post-modern gives the feeling of an upward walk in a terraced Mughal garden. Reaching atop, the garden opens up to the beholder with all its elemental richness and an overwhelming expanse. Like in a Mughal garden, the elements in this book are so invitingly placed that gazing away from one is as difficult as is resisting the temptation to see the other.

As an entrance to the museum of beauty the jacket of this book is devastatingly attractive. One feels like transported to the bank of river Jhelum right opposite the Khanqah-e-Mu'alla. The water is exceedingly charming, the Khanqah appears like homely spiritual, the houses in the vicinity of Khanqah are so huddled as if standing in awe of the person with whom the place is identified. Then if you peep over the shoulder of the Khanqah, fort looks like a son hiding behind the loving, yet domineering, person of a father; feeling defended, though diminished. Probably it symbolizes the relation between power and spirituality in Islam. And the snow covered,sun draped, blue canopied mountain - it's a fusion of beauty and majesty. As if God has arranged a special event of light and color to commemorate some chosen moment.

And now the title of the book that spreads like a caption to this picture. Here an anecdote would do. The great Persian poet Saib came to Kashmir. Talking to his contemporary in Kashmir – our own Ghani- Saib made a wish. If only a verse of Ghani could be mine I would trade off my entire collection - Deevan. The verse was this:

Daam Har Rang Zameen Bood Giriftar Shudaim

Apocryphal or not, but the point is this. Like the net and the ground mixing into each other to appear one - deceptively, the tile of the book and the photograph emerge like a single picture - perceptively. And this single picture carries the force of the entire book that waits you inside the cover.

The wealth of the city – SRINAGAR – is all for you; have it , but keep it. Keep it, to have it. The book tells us how rich we have been, pointedly dropping the message that how ungrateful, at the same time, we are.

INTACH- J&K Chapter has accomplished a huge task by producing the 2 volume document, titled Shehar-i-Kashmir under its project of Mapping the Cultural Resources of Srinagar City. The bare detail of the 2 volume work is that it traces the making of this city by documenting the architecture dotting the City.

The book begins with a tone of mourning. In the Introduction, M Saleem Beg, Convener, INTACH J&K Chapter raises a lament:

“our journey into the modern times reflects a lack of sensitivity towards our rich heritage.” And “the City is losing its character at a very fast pace.”

Dividing the City into four zones the mapping has been done painstakingly. The photographs of houses, monuments, workplaces, community spaces, lofty spires, imposing exteriors, and captivating interiors are placed so brilliantly that it does a running commentary on the making of this city. The details accompanying these photographs are understandable to even a layman, allowing a common reader the pleasure of reading some of the finest architectural details, besides relishing the aesthetics of layout. That the book deserves a place on everyone's shelf goes only without saying.

Doing the job in a place like Kashmir with such a focus and discipline can deservedly lay the basis for 'an integrated urban development plan' where heritage informs projects ensuring 'people-centered and ecologically appropriate form of development.'

A sense of exhaustion is displayed after accomplishing this fantastic project by hooking this onto the 'legislative and administrative measures.' No disagreements on this - absolutely none. The legislative and administrative measures are compulsively needed to guard the wealth of this City; to really turn it into a 'global reference'. But the point, more real and moving, is about 'awakening and consolidation of public opinion.' Looking at how the City is controlled and how its exterior is mutilated – as if by design- the awakening has to produce a public movement. That movement can actually push for those structural changes needed to expect administrative and legislative initiative. This book can go a long way in creating the movement to make Srinagar the city of its own people.

If this book can inspire some other individuals and institutions to take up projects that animate the story of our City, it can strengthen the foundations of our being. It is not always that governments can do the documentation. Individuals and groups can produce encyclopedias.

One last point not be missed. The article by Romi Khosla entails a debate. It's provocative, though the provocation is very subtle. The author might not be actually up to what the text finally does. Saying that 'Kashmir is located within the cultural context of the Indian sub-continent', refuses to read like a general statement when it's accompanied by an argumentative detail disapproving any 'effort to invent authenticity and purity.' There might not be anything like 'pure unadulterated Kashmiri Architecture', but there must be something unmistakably Kashmiri in all the diverse forms of architecture spread in the cities and towns of Kashmir. Subsuming that distinction into a vagueness called Indian sub-continent creates a problematic in Kashmir. Historical and geographical overlaps in Kashmir must be approached in ways that disallow two ugly things to make a presence. One, the beautiful themes like Difference, Accommodation, Diversity, and Democracy must not appear suspect. Two, themes like Pure, Authentic, Fundamental, and Identity - which belong to the realm of Passion, Emotion, Crisis, and Inquiry - must not morph into fascism and violence.

Thank God, Shehr-i-Kashmir does none.

This Third Option is Really Pro-Kashmiri

Arjimand forgets the "third strand" which is the ready access of some Kashmiri separatists into the Pakistani military-political establishment. Let these Kashmiri "leaders" prove their worth

(Mr. Arjimand Hussain Talib, 34, was born in Srinagar. He is a columnist/writer and a development professional who matriculated from Tyndale Biscoe Memorial School in 1991. He subsequently graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Engineering from Bangalore University and has a diploma in journalism as well. He is an alumni of the International Academy for Leadership, Gummerbach, Germany and has worked with UNESCO, Oxfam and ActionAid International in some seven countries in Asia and Africa. Arjimand writes regular weekly columns for the Greater Kashmir and The Kashmir Times since 2000 on diverse issues of political economy, development, environment and social change and has over 450 published articles to his credit.)

The Ways J&K Can Maneuver Indus Waters Treaty

Last week it was argued here that the Indus Waters Treaty per se does not impede power generation in J&K. Yes it does one thing in theory - prohibit construction of large dams and water storages. But the fact is that we already have water storages of certain capacity on the Chenab, the Jhelum and now on the Kishenganga.

There is another critical point that we must be conscious about: large dams in J&K would not serve its economic, social and environmental interests. They have not done so anywhere else in the world. So it is better we think beyond large dams.

When it comes to irrigation and drinking water, our analysis must distinguish between facts and rhetoric. J&K’s drinking water needs are increasing. That is just because our population is rising. If at all there is shortfall of drinking water in the state, it has nothing to do with IWT. The treaty does not place limits on drinking water use. The shortfall is because of low public investment and governance issues in the water sector. If there is good investment for tapping J&K’s drinking water sources and the government systems managing these are adequately reformed, J&K has abundant drinking water.

On irrigation, again we need to be clear about certain facts. In J&K’s – particularly Kashmir’s – plain areas, demand for irrigation water is decreasing. That is simply because people are shifting from water-intensive paddy to high-returns cash crops. The shift is mainly as a consequence of economic affluence in our rural areas and market demand. No measure of social or governmental actions is going to stop that.

We do surely need irrigation in our highlands – like the Karewas. Most of our highlands, like the Karewas, are fed by the tributaries of the Indus, the Jhelum and the Chenab. IWT offers great scope for development of irrigation facilities on these tributaries. All it needs is investment in check-dams, small reservoirs and rain water harvesting that will help irrigate our highlands. IWT has nothing to do with that.

Looking at the future, J&K’s agenda needs to have two strands. One strand has to focus on political negotiations with New Delhi on how to optimize the use of our water resources for the state’s well being. Srinagar has to pursue it with urgency and sincerity because if it does the contrary it is likely to face economic doom. New Delhi needs to act honest because if it does otherwise it will be facing far greater trouble in the state, which will go beyond its confidence level in managing the political strife here.

The other strand has to deal with the Pakistan factor. Since we are now practically asking for treating J&K as a key stakeholder, Pakistan’s involvement in a sustainable and cooperative water-sharing system is inevitable.

For doing that India and Pakistan will have to embrace integrated river basin development approach now. That would mean two things.

One, that would require involving Pakistan to invest in the Indus Basin conservation falling in J&K to compensate the state. The World Bank’s Integrated Watershed Development Project (IWDP) in Kashmir could be a possible model.

Two, the two countries would require to take joint measures for the conservation and development of the Indus Basin, including its demilitarization.

If J&K gets ownership of its power projects and right to develop others it could even consider creating an Indus Basin Power Grid, which could sell power to both India and Pakistan. That will be a win-win-win to all.

Kashmiris’ fundamental argument in this debate has to be this: Pakistan benefits from the western rivers downstream. India benefits from the eastern rivers exclusively. J&K state must harness the residual economic benefits from the western rivers of the Indus, the Jhelum and the Chenab. If those benefits go to India too, it will be great injustice. That is the crux of the whole argument.

Water in India is a state subject. And in simple constitutional terms J&K state has good scope to deal with it politically with New Delhi. What water minister Taj Mohi-ud-din has done lately serves as a perfect example.

The Cause and Effect

The good times come with a price. First some extravagant statistics followed by Salman's commentary

(Mr. Salman Nizami, 25, was born in Banihal tehsil of District Ramban. He completed his graduate degree in mass communication and journalism, and joined journalism in 2004. He began his professional life at The OUTLOOK magazine as a columnist, and then started writing for Greater Kashmir, Kashmir Times, Times of India, The Hindu, Asian Age, Statesman, Rising Kashmir , JK Reporter. Mr. Nizami later joined SAHARA television in New Delhi as Desk Editor, and rose to the position of Group Editor of The Rastriya Sahara. He is currently working as a Editor-in-Chief of The Revolution newspaper published from Jammu and Kashmir, Sahara television as Desk Editor and Resident Editor of MID-DAY covering Upper North India including J&K. He is also active with UNICEF India and the Hungary World (NGO) as Media advisor. In that role, he has travelled widely investigating on new developments in the media industry, taking a special interest in child problems including labour, marriage, poverty, education, etc. He is one of the first journalists to research and write extensively about the child growth in Jammu and Kashmir.)

Kashmiris Love Mutton, Gulp 51,000 Tonnes Annually!

Srinagar: About 85 percent of Kashmiris eat non-vegetarian - but exactly how much? Official statistics say Jammu and Kashmir annually consumes a whopping 51,000 tonnes of mutton worth Rs 12.06 billion (over Rs 1,200 crore), of which 21,000 tonnes is imported from outside.

“The 21,000 tonnes is in addition to 30,000 tonnes of mutton produced locally and costing Rs.7.02 billion (Rs.702 crore) which also goes into the local consumption each year,” a senior official of the animal husbandry department here told IANS.

Despite having some of the best meadows and pastures in the world, all the mutton imported into Kashmir comes from Rajasthan, which has some of the most arid deserts in the country.

In addition to mutton, poultry and poultry products are also imported into the state from neighbouring Punjab and Haryana.

“Chicks, broilers, layers and eggs amounting to Rs.1.2 billion are imported each year for local consumption,” said another official of the state animal husbandry department posted with the poultry production wing.

“This is in addition to the local poultry production worth Rs.1.8 billion that also goes into local consumption.”

The officials say 84 percent of the state’s 10 million population is predominantly non-vegetarian.
Some say the high consumption of meat could explain the wide prevalence of certain ailments.

“My god, these are Herculean figures and they explain the reason for high blood pressure, obesity, high cholesterol levels, heart ailments, gout, kidney stones, liver ailments and a host of other diseases the locals are vulnerable to because of their dietary habits,” said Kaisar Ahmad, a general practitioner here.

The sheer amount of mutton and poultry that goes into the preparation of the traditional Kashmiri cuisine called ‘wazwan’ is mind boggling.

“An average middle class marriage requires about five quintals of mutton and one quintal of poultry. Those who haven’t seen the extended wazwan feasts where courses over courses of dishes are served in an unending pageant are really flabbergasted by the extravaganza when they experience it the first time,” said Sujeet Kumar, a police officer belonging to Haryana told IANS.

“It is common in the Valley for people to ask if anyone in the family had taken ill, if they find a local carrying vegetables or fruit home!” said Bashir Ahmad War, a retired veterinarian here.

Fortunately, with growing healthcare awareness, especially among youth, the dietary habits of locals are gradually changing for the better.

“It was very unusual to see a Kashmiri jogging or attending a health club earlier. In the past, locals would do something like this only under medical advice,” said War. (IANS)

The Marriage Market


On the afternoon before his wedding day this fall, Faisal was sitting in an empty teahouse worrying a glass of tea between his fingers, his brow furrowed in concern. He confessed to feeling a certain anxiety at seeing his bachelor’s independence slipping away. But something else was troubling him, as well: the cost of his wedding. In Kashmir, bride grooms are expected to pay not only for their weddings, but also all the related expenses, including several huge pre-wedding parties and money for the bride’s family, a kind of reverse dowry. Faisal, a Junior Assistant in the department of Social Welfare, who supports his six-member family on a salary of Rs 6,000 per month, said his bill was going to top Rs 5,12,000. And by Kashmiri standards, that would be considered normal, or even a bargain. “Sometimes it’s difficult to think about it,” said Faisal, 28, who requested that his full name not be published because his employer forbids him to speak to the news media. “It’s a lot of responsibility.”

Extravagant weddings, a mainstay of modern Kashmiri life and an important measure of social status, were banned during militancy, which also outlawed beauty parlours and the instrumental music that is traditional at wedding parties. But since the reduce in militancy, Kashmir wedding industry has rebounded and is now bigger than ever. The growth is reflected in the proliferation of wedding halls, hotels, homes of mirrored glass and blinking neon lights that glow incongruously among the valley’s dusty streets. This system has been a mixed blessing. While bridegrooms and their families are free to have the huge weddings that tradition demands, they are once again left with bills that plunge them into crushing debt. Moderate guest lists can top 700 people; the biggest exceed 2,000. The bridegroom is also responsible for jewelry, dry fruits, flowers, two – three gowns for the bride, two -three suits for himself, gifts for the relatives, a visit to the beauty salon for the bride and her closest female relatives, as well as a sound system for the wedding, a photographer and a videography team with a pair of cameramen.

All that, plus the dowry, known as the bride price, can run a middle-class Kashmiri man on average Rs 1-2 lakhs, dozens of Kashmiris said in interviews . Even the poor do not scrimp. A laborer, for instance, making about Rs 150 a day, may well spend more than 3-4 lakhs for his wedding, Kashmiris say. Kashmiri bridegrooms say tradition and societal pressure leave them with no alternative but expensive weddings in spite of their poverty. Marriage is arguably the most important rite of passage for a young Kashmiri man, and the luxuriousness of the ceremony reaffirms his family’s status. “It’s a way to solidify your position in the Society,” explained Dr. Showkat Hussain, a professor of law at Kashmir University.

The growth of the wedding industry has been enabled in part by the fact that more money than ever is in circulation in Kashmir. Lavish weddings have even made a comeback in some parts of the valley, where security concerns are greatest, though in areas where the militants are still active, the weddings have been moved back into private homes and have been toned down. For Faisal, like most Kashmiris, a small wedding at home was not an option. Kashmiri custom dictates that all relatives, even distant cousins, be invited, and his house would not have been big enough. Further more, Faisal said, his fiancée and her family had expectations. As with all Kashmiri weddings, the style and size of Faisal’s wedding was established in consultation between the families. But also following custom, the consultation was mostly a one-way declaration, with the bride’s family setting the terms.

Fortunately, Faisal said, his fiancée’s family has known his family for many years and had a sense of its finances, so her family did not push for everything to be top-of-the-line. Still, like most Kashmiri bridegrooms, Faisal had to empty his savings, borrow money and rely on the largess of an uncle. They had all saved in anticipation of the event, much like a modern family might prepare years in advance for college tuitions. “It’s a joint effort,” Faisal said. After the wedding, he was going to be left with Rs 50,000 in debt, which he expected to pay off within five months. But it is not so easy for many other young Kashmiri men. Said Sharif, a 27-year-old taxi driver who makes about 5,000 per month, had to borrow Rs 1 lakh from relatives to help cover bill for his wedding last fall, as well as for four related parties. He does not expect to pay off his debt for at least two years.

Ask any Kashmiri man, and he will say that competition among brides is driving wedding expenditures up. Women who were interviewed did not disagree. “The unfair thing that is going on in Kashmir is the competition,” said Irfana , 20, a mass communication student at Kashmir University . “In 70 percent of the cases, the woman’s family puts pressure on the boy to pay a lot of money.” A result, she said, can often be paralyzing debt and an early, unwelcome visit by the debt collectors to the newlyweds’ new home. Faisal’s wedding unfolded at his home , in two vast and expensive (shamiyanas) tents , one for the men and the other for the women. Islamic custom dictates that the sexes be separated. About 600 people attended, in suits and evening dresses, and the local singers performing in front of the guests, along with some dancing boys. Dinner included with full Kashmiri wazwan — much more than even the enormous crowd could possibly eat served among 600 people sitting in a plate where four can eat jointly. Faisal was mostly absent from the men’s side and women’s side too, attending guests and receiving gifts etc. Dressed in a white suit, he was smiling and seemed happy. “In our valley, the wedding is a big problem until you’re done with it.”

Faisal’s father, a lifetime civil servant who makes Rs 5000 a month, also seemed relieved. Minutes earlier he had reached into an inside pocket of his jacket and handed over a stack of well worn bills worth about 30,000 to the wazwan cook. Neither man smiled. Few words were exchanged. It was pure business. After the transaction, Hamid’s father was joyful, and a little dazed. He was grinning, and his tie was slightly askew. Asked how it felt to hand over the equivalent of 10 times his monthly salary, he replied: “It was good! I’m extremely happy!” The payment, he explained, allowed the marriage to happen. “Only a memory is left,” he said. “A memory of happiness.

So Much For Transparency and Accountability

Fayyaz reports that Kashmir's CIC is frustrated by the indifference shown by the State Government towards implementing the Right to Information (RT) Act. So what is new?

(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 working 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.)

Govt Ignored my Repeated Requests for Over 4 Months: CIC

Srinagar: Chief Information Commissioner (CIC), Ghulam Rasool Sufi, today lamented that Government of Jammu and Kashmir was not showing seriousness in implementation of the Right to Information (RTI) Act. He expressed displeasure over the government's inaction in making the State Information Commission (SIC) fully operational and, after months of silence, disclosed that the Government had ignored his repeated requests of appointing two commissioners for the SIC.

Breaking his silence with regard to excessive delay in appointment of the two Information Commissioners, CIC told Early Times that his repeated requests to the Government had failed to yield anything in the last over four months. Appointment of two Information Commissioners, as provided in the law, would make the SIC complete and fully functional for implementation of the RTI Act. Sufi expressed his shock and anguish over the fact that the SIC was incomplete and the RTI was not fully in operation even after seven years of its birth in the state.

According to him, it was a matter of pride for Jammu and Kashmir that this strife-ravaged state had pioneered in making the legislation on RTI in 2004 and subsequently making it equivalent of the Central law with an amendment in 2009. Even as RTI had been made stronger and more comprehensive in recent past, it was not fully in force in absence of a complete SIC, he said. Sufi revealed that after his appointment on February 9th this year and particularly in the last four months, he had been meeting the ruling as well as opposition parties and pursuing the matter of the appointment of two Information Commissioners but there had been no action from the concerned authorities.

CIC said that he would like to see the SIC fully operational with one Information Commissioner holding the office in Jammu and another in Srinagar. He said that since February this year, he had been single-handedly conducting the SIC's business while shuttling between Srinagar, Jammu and Leh. He made yet another passionate appeal---this time through media---to the Government to accomplish the constitution of the SIC with the appointment of two Information Commissioners so as to fulfill the mandate of the Legislature "without further loss of time".

Even as J&K had taken lead in the country in making RTI in 2004 and the law had been made stronger with two amendments in 2009 and 2011, successive governments failed to constitute the SIC for several years. For nearly two years, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah maintained that he was waiting for then Chairman of the Central Information Commission, Wajahat Habibullah, to take over as the maiden Chairman of SIC in Jammu and Kashmir. That, however, proved to be wrong as Wajahat did not accept the offer even after completing his 5-year-long tenure at the Central Information Commission. Then functioning as Chief Income Tax Commissioner for north India, a 1977 batch officer of Indian Revenue Service and a permanent resident of Srinagar,Sufi was finally appointed as the first CIC in J&K on February 9th, 2011.

Governor is by law competent to appoint CIC and two Information Commissioners on the recommendations of a selection committee comprising Chief Minister, one Cabinet Minister to be nominated by him and Leader of the Opposition/ Leader of the single largest opposition party in Legislative Assembly.

"The Information Commissioners shall be persons of eminence in public life with wide knowledge and experience in law, science and technology, social service, management, journalism, mass media or administration and governance", says the law.

2011- Year of Adventure Tourism

Yusuf advocates for a celebration both in letter and spirit

(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 taught aquatics and adventure sports (swimming, mountaineering, snow and water skiing, rafting, parasailing, skating, kayaking, canoeing, etc.), before retiring in 2011. His students have has won many local sports trophies. He has led many exploration expeditions in Kashmir, and has been 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. He presently works as a consultant at the Adventure Call Tours and Travels. In his leisure time, Mr. Yusuf engages in social work, gardening and blogging.)

Celebrating Adventure Tourism Year

Declaration of 2011 as the ‘Year of Adventure Tourism’ by the Tourism Ministry of Jammu and Kashmir state was a step in right direction towards revival and development of adventure and recreation tourism in the state but half of the year has already passed and non of the celebration events have been organised.
It was expected that the Ministry will arrange seminars, sympsiums, meets, adventure training camps, adventure expos and festivals, distribute informative brochures, fix hoardings at focal points within and outside the state, organise trekking programmes for local youth and conduct international rafting championship at Sonamarg etc. during this festive year.

Astonishingly this very important sector of our tourism industry received big setback in Jammu and Kashmir particularly in Kashmir and Kishtwar Himalayas during last two decades because all the mountain sports activities came stand still and remained restricted here during this period. The inflow of adventurers considerably fell which badly dent upon our economy.

Adventure Tourism was in fact operative in J&K since time immemorial. The scores of foreign and national mountaineering and trekking expeditions were regularly attempting our virgin and challenging peaks much before independence. Not many know that Lord John Hunt first climbed Mount. Kolahoi in Kashmir and later he led the first successful Everest expedition in 1952. Kolahoi was his favorite peak and was recommending Europeans to Kashmir Himalayas for seeking high adventures here. Our state has undoubtedly played a pivotal role in the development of snow and water skiing in India during British Raj. Similarly, the J&K Ski and Mountaineering Association has done a commendable pioneering work in introducing Paragliding and Ski-mountaineering in early eighties. Col N. Kumar, a famous climber, led first-ever white water rafting expedition on the treacherous waters of river Indus in Ladakh in mid-seventies. Surprisingly our neighboring Himalayan states could find opportunity to hijack all these out door pursuits due to our negligence. They gladly adopted adventure tourism and is now flourishing it there. The reason for decline of adventure tourism in Kashmir is perhaps due to the prolonged turmoil, the wrong policies adopted by our tourism ministry and the callous attitude of Union Tourism Ministry.

The concept of tourism has altogether changed in the modern times. People earlier used to wander from one place to another with the intention either to undertake pilgrimage or explore different cultures and places but today Adventure Tourism has become increasingly popular amongst the youth all over the world. The youth today has the desire to explore new and virgin areas, know more about unknown places, and reach to the highest and lowest points of the blue planet. They dare to face all odds and challenges of life boldly. They venture out in deep sea, fly high in the air, run down the treacherous running rivers, climb difficult and virgin peaks, ski down impossible snow terrains, undertake bungee jumps into deep gorges and undertake many other extreme adventures. They are now gladly accepting all challenges of the nature, because a trip to mountains has a soothing effect on soul. There may be number of reasons as to why people today take to Mountain Sports but I think the most appropriate is that they are “fully alive on the high altitudes or in the depths of the sea”.

The mountain Sports were previously simply considered adventure outdoor pursuits but the influence of competition has made adventure more popular. This is another reason as why youth take up to adventure. The mountaineers are attempting more and more high peaks through more difficult and challenging routes in shortest possible time and set records. Similarly someone is trying to run down the high graded treacherous rivers and someone is trying to fly in the air for longer periods. Competitions are also held in many adventure sports at state, national and international levels. Adventure Tourism has in fact today gained world-wide recognition as an activity.

At this juncture our Tourism Ministry and other tourism players have a vital role to play. They have to be more responsive and more dedicative. Merely dedicating the year 2011 as the "Year of Adventure Tourism" is not enough. It will not help state unless the long term policies for development of adventure are formulated and the stakeholders are taken into confidence by the Government. There is need of encouraging the private sector and giving them incentives instead of charging them huge royalty by Tourism Development Authorities for operating adventure activities in their domian. There is also need of setting up the J&K Adventure Tour Operators Association which would act as mediator between the Government and adventure tour operators. There is also need of monitoring the working of all the Government tourism agencies like Tourism Departments, JKTDC and Tourism Development Authorities and other tourism players. Those who fail to deliver should be put to task. There is also need of creating and patronizing new adventure related products which we could offer to the intended tourists.

There is need of reviewing the functioning of the Tourism Development Authorities. The working of some Development Authorities is observed not satisfactory for some time. Since adventure is a risk taking segment of tourism so most of these authorities are discouraging them. Some Development Authorities have turned into commercial institutions. Instead of encouraging adventure tourism in their areas they put the adventure related tourism activities to tender and charge huge royalty to adventure tour operators, which is not healthy step. We have high scope of promoting adventure related activities at several places like Sonamarg, Gurez, and Drass etc but these ramained out of focus of the Government.

Sonamarg was considered the play field of adventure sports. It has the potential of holding all kinds of adventures like rafting, kayaking, climbing, trekking, ski-touring, camping, grass skiing, orienteering, scree running, paragliding and riding etc. It has the potential of becoming the world class Adventure Park. There is possibility of holding Adventure Expos here but the resort always remained out of focus of the authorities, though the present Chief Minister shows deep concern for development of adventure. Felling of gree jungle and construction of concrete jungle is at its peak at Sonamarg. A person who has some adventure background should be deputed here as Chief Executive Officer.

Some years back the Kashmir University and Tourism Department were organizing rock-climbing courses for the youth at Kud in Patnitop area. The granite rocks were ideal for teaching climbing to the novices there. But alas! the Patnitop Development Authority could not protect these rocks. The greedy people broke them into pieces for construction purposes. While training youth to adventure or providing pleasure rides to tourists one must ensure professional competence, adequate safety and proper infrastructure. There is need of encouraging these healthy outdoor pursuits among our youth through Schools, Colleges, Universities, voluntary Clubs, Associations and NGOs. Not only imparting training in adventure but the participants must be aware about preservation of flora and fauna and of the state. The organizing agencies must have the acquaintance with First-aid, rescue work, high altitude sickness, navigation, survival in the mountains Only those tour operators should be permitted to operate adventure who possess ample knowledge and have proper equipment. The borrowed equipment should not be allowed which could sometimes prove very fatal.

Merely dedicating the year 2011 to adventure tourism can no way help state promote adventure and recreation tourism unless necessary steps are not taken in the right direction. There is need to develop trained manpower who could work as guides and instructors, develop modern infrastructure, explore new and virgin areas, clean mass on rocks at hill resorts, aware people about the incentives, provided by the Government from time to time, develop base camps and construct shelter huts in Lidder and sindh valleys etc.

What Paradise?

Ecologically, Kashmir has been going downhill ever since green areas protected since the Mughal era were taken over to build government buildings in 1950's. Morally and spiritually, it entered "Kalyug" since early 1990's

Paradise in Trouble

M Afzal (Kashmir Images)

Kashmir is known worldwide for its scenic beauty. Indeed, it is a masterpiece of Nature's Beauty on Earth. Famous Mughul Ruler Jahangir has rightly described it as "Paradise on Earth" as in a famous Persian verse he says, "If there is heaven on Erath. It is this, it is this, and it is this”. Besides, it is also famous across the world as an abode of saints and sages and it has remained a hub of knowledge as well.

The people of this picturesque vale too are popular for their generosity, sagacity and hospitality.Haplessly, this paradise has been profusely bleeding for last more than two decades. The streets of this ‘beautiful prison’ (as it has rightly been described) are blood¬stained while as the world famous lakes which used to attract tourists from every nook and corner of the world have turned blood-red. Birds are elegizing; stars are in melancholy; the sun and moon are eclipsed; the lush green forests are in a state of grief; the shattered and ravaged buildings are narrating a woeful tale; the flowers of the world famous Mughul gardens are withered; the deserted markets present appear like doomsday; the animals roaming around are wearing a grim and gloomy look.

It is a matter of fact that in an era, Kashmir was known as an asylum of peace and tranquility and people suffering from various ailments used to tour the valley to recover. Now it is quite otherwise. The graph of various heart-related ailments like hypertension/psychological disorders is growing at an alarming pace. As a result various social evils particularly drug addiction has taken birth which, with every passing day, are eating into the vitals of our social fabric.

The number of orphans and widows is increasing manifold. Here half-widows, the women who don't know whether their husbands are alive or dead, long for any news of their loved partners. Since the eruption of militancy around 8000 thousand people have disappeared and at least 25000 children have be orphaned while as thousands of parents of disappeared persons age and ache for the return of their children. The hopes of many have dashed down. Bemoaning and bemusing people ranging from students to intellectuals are in a dilemma when uncertainty and instability looms large; waywardness and high handedness rules the roost; a reign of terror is unleashed. Every possession is in jeopardy even the chastity of the women folk is at stake.Whosoever grabbed the power in this hapless piece of land left no stone unturned in oppressing and suppressing the subjects. The gullible people of valley always bore the brunt. The life has always been terrible and monstrous and people of the valley have always been camouflaged. The dirty and inane politics is being played muzzling the voice of the sincere and scrupulous.

Here the honest and -visionary have always been subjected to fomentation with Sagacious and insightful people always underestimated.The situation here is still tumultuous and turbulent. Peace is looking to be a distant dream while regaining the lost glory is quite bleak. The lull in violence seems to be euphoric but a minor incident can spark massive violence. It is the most volatile and unpredictable piece of land. The situation can take violent turn at any time. The valley has got struck in a vortex of insecurity. The paradise is in deep trouble.

Saving Hokersar

One of Kashmir's jewels, Hokersar Wetland located West of Srinagar, is under seige from land mafias and local villagers encroaching on its land. That is before one begins to worry about deteriorating environment

Wetland Conservation in Kashmir

Srinagar: In the wake of increasing pollution, environmentalists in Srinagar conducted a workshop on the protection of wetlands and migratory birds from environmental hazards and encroachments.

In order to protect the 'Hokersar' wetland and other wetlands of Kashmir, the Indian Institute of Forest Management, Bhopal in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment and Forests organised the workshop to spread awareness about the conservation of environment.

"It is always better if National Institutes take up our cause and spread the message at national as well as international level. This is how our problems would be appropriately projected. The management urges us to present our issues on a proper forum and also at the right time. The Ministry of Environment and Forests has taken up a very important task to spread awareness among the public," said R.D. Tiwari, organiser and Principal Chief Conservator of forests, Jammu and Kashmir. It is a workshop for understanding the people. The outcome of this workshop would be a proper input for that pilot project, which we have taken up for this state and which has a one year duration," he added.

Experts from various institutions briefed the audience and held discussions about the preservation of wetlands.

The 'Hokersar' wetland is renowned all over the country, as it has around a million migratory birds on display.

The migratory species include grey heron, pond heron, pin tail, blue rot pigeon and alpine swift, but this wetland is gradually losing its charm, due to silt, which comes from Dudhganga catchment area.

However, frequent encroachments by locals have been a cause of great concern. Thus, in order to preserve these wetlands, it is essential that the public is aware about its significance for the balance of the ecological system.

"Kashmir has a lot of wetlands. People know about quite a few wetlands, but are unaware about the others. Wetlands are systems of a greater extent. So, many people don't know about its importance and its value. They don't even know its purpose. So, workshops are necessary to spread awareness among the people, so that they conserve these wetlands. It is very important to sustain our ecological system," said Saba Saleem, wetland expert, lakes and waterways development authority, Jammu and Kashmir. (ANI)

Wildlife Safari in Kashmir

Dachigam National Park adds a new feature

Wildlife Safaris in Dachigam new Attraction for Tourists

Sana Altaf (Kashmir Times)

Srinagar: The commencement of wildlife safaris in Kashmir’s
Dachigam National Park has become a new attraction for the locals and
the visitors here.

Launched in 2009, the eco-friendly battery driven cars, serving as safari vehicles, provide a real time experience of the nature and its beauty. The visitors are taken in by the scenic wilderness in the silent eco-friendly cars amid the green virgin forests where one gets to see all kinds of wild animals.

“We have launched these battery driven cars in the Dachigam so that people can see the wildlife of Kashmir,” said Rashid Naqash, wildlife warden, Dachigam.

The people wishing to take glimpse of the animals are taken in the car which drives through the park. The wildlife department charges Rs 500 a car to carry a maximum of four people through the Dachigam wildlife sanctuary.

"We take the visitor close to nature where they see different wild animals. It is completely safe,” said Naqash. The drive through the park takes over an hour. Tourists observe the animals from their cars.

The Dachigam wildlife sanctuary sprawls over an area of 140 square kilometers. It is home to endangered red deer, black and brown bears, musk deer, leopards and large bird species such as black partridge and pheasants.

“It is really wonderful to visit this wildlife sanctuary. This gives a new face of Kashmir,” said Manisha, a visitor from West Bengal, who had come to Dachigam.

“We spotted black bear and deer during our trip into the sanctuary. It was for the first time I saw them so closely,” said Vineet, Manisha’s son.

“During the drive through the sanctuary, one does not realize that we live in cities. You feel cut off from the world,” says another visitor.

For locals, the pleasure of the going into the sanctuary is no less.

“We are happy that government has started these cars like safaris. Kashmir has unique wildlife and it has to be made attractive to people,” said Firdous Ahmad.

“Dachigam has always been my favorite place. And these safaris have added to its attraction now,” adds Maqbool, a student.

In the past two decades of conflict, no facilities of safaris were available in any National Park of the state. The presence of security forces and militants in the forest kept people largely from going to such places. Initiatives were taken only after there was a dip in the militancy related activities in the forest areas.

Friday, July 22, 2011

State Information Department's Finest Hour

Renzu makes a commitment that is bound to bring cheer to all Kashmiri scholars

(Khawaja Farooq Renzu Shah, 54, was born in Srinagar. He matriculated from the Government Higher Secondary School in Nawa Kadal, and attended Sri Pratap College, Srinagar. He completed his L.L.B. degree from the University of Kashmir, securing the first position and a gold medal. He subsequently entered the Kashmir Administrative Service (KAS), and has served as District Commissioner, Budgam, and presently is the Director of Information in the state service. He spends his leisure time writing novels and working on spiritual communication, and writing and propogating friendship, peace, progress and unity among the people of all religions and identities.)

Info Deptt has Begun Digitization of Kashmir’s Classical, Historical Books: Renzu

Srinagar: The Information and Public Relations Department Director, Kh Farooq Renzushah Friday said the department had started the project for digitization of classical and historical books of Kashmir to make them available online.

Addressing a gathering at a 2-day workshop, organized by National Book Trust (NBT) India and Urdu Academy of J&K, he said digitization of books on Kashmir would promote their readership.

“To bring the literature of local authors world over, we are making Kashmiri and Urdu literature available online for the global readers”, Shah said.

He said the digitization of books would help to have instant access to knowledge. “The modern era calls for digitization of books to cater to the needs of tech savvy youngsters.”

Calling Kashmir a center of knowledge and learning, he said the translation of books was essential for the spread of knowledge. “Every group and institution needs to coordinate with each other to build the rich literature.”

The Director said the NBT need to collaborate with the department to publish the books in Urdu and Kashmiri.

National Center for Children’s Literature, NBT Editor, Manas Ranjan Mahapatra said there had been a rich tradition of writing in Kashmir. “However, there is poor government support to the authors to publish their work,” he said.

According to him the essence of the workshop was to promote reading habit among valley children and give space to their writings.

“Our goal is to provide students with a stimulating and supportive environment to discover new ideas in them through the act of writing so that they can write interesting stories”, he said.

Mahapatra said the stories in Urdu and Kashmiri developed in the workshop would be translated on the spot into Hindi and English. “Stories will appear in a magazine published by our center to give them the readership across India and abroad.”

On the occasion National Book Trust, Assistant editor Dwijendra Kumar, said the Trust had already translated four Kashmiri books into Hindi. “We are now looking for the distribution”.

Addressing the gathering noted broadcaster B N Betaab said: “We must take into consideration the local environment and context while writing for children so that they can relate to it.”

Urdu Academy President, Noor Shah, Principal S P College, Srinagar, Prof. Zahoor Ahmed, and Urdu Academy Secretary, Javed Matjee also spoke on the occasion. The NBTI has also organised a book exhibition in the college.

Among others staff and students of S P College and other educational institutions were also present.

Later, in the evening a panel discussion was also held on ‘Contemporary Status of Children’s Literature in Jammu and Kashmir’. (Manzoor ul Hassan)

Empowering Women Through Education

Lucky are those girls who study under an enlightened teacher like Roshan Ara

(Ms. Roshan Ara, 45, was born in Warihama, in Budgam district. She attended the Government High School Aripanthan, and the Government Higher Secondary School Beeru. She graduated from the Government Womens College (GWC) Srinagar, University of Kashmir, and the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), New Delhi. Ms. Roshan Ara has degrees in B.Com, M.Com, M.A. Economics, B.Ed, M.Phil, Diploma in Women's Empowerment and Development, and Ph.D. work underway titled 'Managing Work and Family Roles: A Study of White Collar Working Women in Kashmir.' Until her teaching position is made permanent, Ms. Ara moves from assignment to assignment. She was previously a Lecturer in Commerce, Department of School Education, Government of Jammu and Kashmir, Srinagar. Presently she is Senior Lecturer in Commerce, Government Girls Higher Secondary School, Amirakadal, Srinagar.During leisure time she enjoys reading newspapers & journals, staying engaged on Women's Issues, and writing articles for newspapers & journals.)

What Does the Real Education Mean?

Education occupies a pivotal position in the development of every society. Education widens the horizons of our mindset, opens up new vistas for mankind and empowers the powerless. Studies world over have revealed that education is the most important instrument for the empowerment of women. It is only through education and training that they prepare to play their roles in the nation’s social, economic and political spheres as equal members of society. One of the key factors in determining the success of development is the status and position of women in the society. The neglect of women in the development process of any country constitutes a human resource waste. As the primary enrolment for girls’ increases, so does the gross domestic product per-capita of the country increase. Countries that fail to raise the level of education of women, have to pay for a slow rate of growth and reduced income level. Education can enable women to discover, explore, and expand upon their hidden potential.

Many research studies conducted, so far, reveal that education leads to women’s emancipation and helps them to break the glass ceilings and enter the world hitherto monopolised by men. Emphasising the importance of women’s education Gandhi ji says: “if you educate a man, you are educating an individual only and if you are educating a woman, you are educating a family”. The best investment of a nation is the one in the education of its women folk which forms half of world population. Education of women has a multiplier effect. Better educated mothers bring up better educated children and thus the benefits of education are passed on from one generation to another. It leads to more equitable distribution of resources, social benefits, stronger and happier families, better services and a good healthcare of children. As per a study a one year increase in mother’s education leads to 9% decrease in mortality rate of children under 5 years of age. Woman education helps a country reduce its poverty, improve productivity, reduce pressure of population and provide a better future to the citizens of the country. Education is the only means by which she can establish her own independent existence, her own individuality and equal partnership with men. An educated woman develops confidence to participate actively in the political, social, and cultural life of the community. This in turn equips women with better mobility, expression, understanding, and ability to make decisions and accept responsibility. Furthermore, educated women have demonstrated a better ability to keep control over their husband’s expenditures, maintain their own economic independence, improve household management, and contribute to the family income pool.

In the modern world, the role of the women goes much beyond the home and the bringing up of children. She is now adopting a career of her own and sharing equally with the man the responsibility for the development of society in all its aspects. This equal partnership will have to continue in the fight against hunger, poverty, ignorance and ill health. Education will enable women acquire skills and self confidence. By education a woman can be a better parent, competent worker and an informed citizen. It will equip women with good decision making powers. The children of educated mothers are more likely to go to schools. No country or society can work to its potential without adequately investing in developing the capabilities of its women folk. The need for involvement of women in all aspects of development process is felt everywhere as the social gains from education of women are substantial. Since women are supposed to play a great role in the development of a nation in the context of family and the society at large, their education will act as a life line for their development and prosperity.

At the global level, the women form one third of world’s illiterates. One hundred million children approximately including sixty million girls are without access to primary education. In developing countries particularly, women have lesser access to education, employment opportunities, income and power and are most deprived section of society. The maternal mortality rate in developing countries is about 18 times high as compared to that reported in industrialised countries. The human development index is extremely gender insensitive. For the past two decades, particularly since the Jomtien Conference on Education for All (1990), the subject of women-related educational access has gained increased attention. Indeed, the subject of educational access has been gaining increased attention, ranging from the classical-liberal economic approach of the World Bank, to the human rights approach of agencies as the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF). In the context of India’s planned development, female education has assumed special significance since independence. All its 5 year plans have laid much emphasis on increasing the opportunities of education for girls under which special measures have been taken for improving and enhancing the education of girls. However in spite of the various commendable provisions available in the constitution and various initiatives undertaken by the Government even after 50 years of independence, the female education in India presents a dismal picture. The gap between men and women in terms of education keeps on widening.

In Jammu and Kashmir also, despite the progress made during the last 50 years, female literacy remains very low, particularly in the Kashmir valley as the education of women was given least priority and as a consequence illiteracy, ignorance and backwardness were rampant among women. After 1947, all successive governments in J&K attempted to improve the conditions of women by providing them free education which had a qualitative impact on the role and status of women. The Kashmiri women in general developed an interest and motivation to come out of their homes for education, employment and entertainment. Education, modernization and urbanization have helped Kashmiri women to find themselves at par with men in the highest offices of the government. Kashmiri women in urban as well as rural areas work in and outside their homes and are socially and economically productive. Their subservience to men has diminished and their economic contribution has notably increased.

As per a survey conducted by the Government in 2008, the literacy rate in the State was 65.67% and for female it stood only at 57.11% compared to 73.30% for males. The gender gap in the literacy is 6.19% in favour of males. As per 2011 Census, Jammu and Kashmir State has recorded a literacy rate of 68.74 %. The literacy rate among female has been reported to be 58% while as it is 78% among male. Districts of Jammu, Samba and Leh have recorded the highest literacy rates of over 90%, while as Bandipora, Ganderbal, Budgam, Ramban, Kulgam and Reasi districts have reported the lowest literacy rates of less than 60%. On the whole, there has been an improvement in education of women in cities and towns while as in rural and far flung areas the situation is still unsatisfactory. Our State figures among the poor female literacy level states like Bihar, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Manipur and Utter Pradesh. From the technical and vocational educational point of view our women folk lag far behind. Our enrolment of women in higher education is lowest. We have a limited number of women research scholars in the field of science and technology. There is dearth of female doctors, female judges and female administrators.

The stereo type mindset of people is also responsible for the educational backwardness of women in the rural areas. The parents take the education of daughters as a futile exercise and wastage of money and resources. Their attitude towards the education of daughters is totally different because they think that after marriage of the daughter they are not getting anything. They prefer the education of sons as they consider them as their future assets. With the result most of the women folk in rural and far flung areas is illiterate and ignorant. They are not aware about their rights and duties. There has been an increase in the enrolment of girls at primary and secondary levels but not at higher education level. Hardly 2 or 3% of girls reach the level of higher education.

The Government, community, NGOs and other social and religious organisations have to come forward for highlighting the essence of female education. Feminists will have to continue their struggle to make women aware of the benefits of education. The schools and colleges need to be safe places where parents will prefer to send their daughters happily. The flagship Mid Day Meal Scheme and Sarva Shikhsha Abihayan need to be implemented properly. Separate allocation of budget for women’s education is a crucial requirement. New schemes for girl education in backward and remote areas should be a matter of concern for the policy makers.

For attaining a sustainable economic growth both formal as well as non-formal education for women is indispensable. Open and Distance Learning (ODL) system of education has emerged as a tool with immense potential for creating widespread access of knowledge for women. It allows women to overcome the barriers of time, space and socio-economic conditions and to bring a variety of learning resources to meet their educational needs. ODL system has the potential to educate and train them while preserving the Islamic identity and socio-cultural traditions. Women from all walks of life have continued to seize the opportunities of ODL programmes to improve on their education, get better job and improve on their standards of living. Full time house wives and working women can pursue the much craved training, skill development and education in the open and flexible learning environment.

It becomes imperative for the policy makers, planners and the educationists to initiate such measures which will help in enhancing the enrollment of girls in schools and higher education institutions. The drop-out rates of female students needs to be studied properly. The existing gaps in education of boys and girls need to be identified. The creation of a suitable infrastructure like separate girls schools, female teachers, nearby schools, washrooms, transport facilities and a secure environment is the need of the hour. Some special provisions and schemes for girl students like scholarships, free books, uniform etc will go a long way in overcoming the barriers in female education. The Bihar Government provides bicycles to the school going girls which facilitates their reaching the school in time and saves them from the menace of overcrowded buses or covering long distances by foot. This initiative has helped the state in motivating girl students to attend their schools and has increased their enrollment. Initiatives like this can attract our girl students from rural areas towards schools.

Special measures need to be taken to eliminate discrimination, universalize education, eradicate illiteracy, reduce gender gap, create a gender sensitive educational system, increase enrollment and retention rates of girls and improve the quality of education to facilitate lifelong learning as well as development of vocation and technical skills by women, with a special focus on women belonging to weaker sections of society. A gender sensitive curriculum has to be developed at all levels of educational system in order to address sex stereotyping as one of the causes of gender discrimination. As education is a fundamental right of every individual irrespective of caste, colour, creed and sex, denial of this right to any individual is the violation of the basic human rights. Therefore, it becomes imperative for the government to make education mandatory for all the sections of the society especially for female folk who have yet not availed this opportunity fully.

Justice Kirmani's Revelation

Fayyaz lifts the lid off a very unsavory subject. Here is a sample: 'Govt agencies pay cellphone bills of 8,000 women in Kashmir'

(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 working 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.)

25,000 women are in prostitution in Srinagar alone: Justice Kirmani

Srinagar: In the statistics, which can be strongly disputed in absence of an empirical survey, a retired judge of Jammu & Kashmir High Court has claimed that as many as 25,000 women were currently in prostitution in Srinagar alone where the residents, according to him, had been consuming 25,000 bottles of liquor every day. He has claimed that the people in Valley were spending Rs 3 Crore every day on liquor and narcotics.

Addressing a literary gathering on occasion of the death anniversary of Kashmiri poet, Ali Mohammad Shahbaz, at Town Hall in Handwara, Justice (retired) Bashir Ahmed Kirmani claimed that Kashmir valley, particularly the capital city of Srinagar, had become a hub of social evil during two-decade long armed conflict and separatist movement. Kirmani, who took suo moto cognizance of certain news reports, turned them into a PIL, heard and monitored CBI investigation into the infamous Srinagar Sex Scandal in 2006-08, claimed that more than 25,000 women had landed into the vice of prostitution in the capital city alone.

According to Kirmani, selling of liquor like hot cakes on Boulevard and Sonwar Road had led to daily traffic jams as residents in the capital city were consuming 25,000 bottles of liquor every day. He said that people were making "wasteful expenditure" of Rs 8 Cr which could be saved and utilized on socio-economic support to the destitute and other genuine activities. That, according to him, included expenditure of Rs 2 Cr on liquor, Rs 1 Cr on drugs and narcotic substances, Rs 1 Cr on mutton and chicken and Rs 1.5 Cr on fuel of vehicles and Rs 1 Cr on cellphone usage. He claimed that different government agencies were footing the cellphone bills of as many as 8,000 Kashmiri women every month.

Kirmani said that promiscuity in public schools had assumed menacing proportions, particularly in the capital city. Men and women in the state and non-state establishment were mainly responsible for this menacing growth of the social evil as they were themselves neck-deep in it. He beseeched intelligentsia to discharge its greater responsibility and eliminate the phenomenal social evil. Consequences, he said, would be horrible in case a strong will and effective mechanism were not put in place to checkmate the social evil.

Much on the line of radical separatist leaders like Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Asiya Andrabi, Kirmani gave his figures without referring to any credible, or even disputed, survey. After being averse to reference to negative impacts of the gun culture in the Valley for nearly two decades, Geelani and Andrabi have been quoting similar imaginative figures since 2008, while holding Police, "occupying forces" and the "Indian intelligence agencies" responsible for "promoting promiscuity" in Kashmir. Interestingly, a retired judge of J&K High Court has also begun to project the same street statistics.

While expressing serious concern over the prostitution, flesh trade and promiscuity, Justice Kirmani that the social evil was growing in the Valley at an alarming pace. He said that the traditional value systems had crumbled and the civil society had been rendered defunct due to the gun culture. The clergy, according to him, had a major role in preventing and eliminating the social evil but it had become irrelevant and inefficacious due to lack of camaraderie. The clergymen, he pointed out, had been fighting each other over trivial issues and pursuing individual interests.

According to him, intelligentsia and the civil society, alongwith clergy, had to assert themselves forcefully against the social evil and checkmate it effectively.

Condemnable By Any Book

Tanvir narrates a horrifying story of domestic violence

(Mr. Tanvir Sadiq, 33, was born in Srinagar and attended the Burn Hall School. He completed his Bachelor's degree in Information technology and management from Orissa University. He is the youngest Municipal Corporator of the Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) and was elected from Zadibal Constituency. He has contributed regularly to local newspapers like the Kashmir Times, Kashmir Images, Greater Kashmir, and Kashmir Monitor. He was associated with many programs on Disaster Management of J & K and did a couple of programs on highlighting urban poverty. He is active in State politics and his interests are writing and social work.)

A Curse Called Domestic Violence

It was almost midnight that I received a call from a party activist Shahid who wanted to meet me. I was surprised and while looking at the watch I told him to come in the morning and before I could hang up he told me that he was outside my house. I asked the guard to let him in sensing something was majorly not right. As soon as I walked inside the meeting room I saw around a dozen men and women totally distressed with tears in their eyes. One of the male members started the horrifying tale of yet another victim of domestic violence.

The story was so extremely shocking that it sends shivers down my spine even today. It was with a sense of dismay that I heard the story about Muzaffar Ahmed the husband and Syed Dua the wife (names changed). The narration by the family of Syed Dua took around one hour as they unfolded the series of events one after another. I could see those grim faces as one of the members from the group was narrating this tale. It really was painful and sad. I consoled them a bit and made them comfortable before listening to them again.

It started a day earlier before Syed Dua was brutally murdered by her husband. Muzzafar had come to collect his wife who had been at her maternal home for a few weeks. The whole family was surprised to see him wanting to take her back. After continuous pestering the family agreed to send the girl with the husband as he insisted that he wanted to take her to attend a marriage function of a relative.

After leaving the house Muzzafar took his wife to his own house instead to the wedding with an excuse that he had some work. The whole house was empty and Muzzafar choose the timing very cleverly. According to Syed Dua’s family, Muzaffar took her inside the room and started beating her ruthlessly; I am told that a young girl who was playing on the road went inside the house after hearing the cries of Dua for help. Muzzafar took the young girl inside and put her in one of the corners before again beating his wife. The gruesome murder that followed is beyond my comprehension. To be precise, Muzzafar took a knife slit her both wrists first, as she screamed in agony he stabbed her twice. According to that young girl the victim was still alive and begging for mercy. Muzzafar did not relent and hit the final blow into her chest. I’m told that the knife pierced through her heart had come out from the other side. What is more shocking is when Muzaffar tried to take out the murder weapon out of her chest it was so deeply penetrated that the wooden handle just popped out instead of the knife . I was stunned to listen to all this and believe you me I stood up from my chair and couldn’t just react.

The murderer was finally arrested after a couple of weeks from outside the state and I was told that he didn’t have any remorse. Like me, many of the readers may wonder why did he kill her and maybe we would never know the real truth but whatever may be the reason, as they say, when a human dies so dies the humanity. This is one such incident of domestic violence among thousands of them happening without any reasons even while I write.

I feel, if any man hits his wife even once, the marriage is over. The misrepresentation of the Quran to validate spousal abuse is itself a crime. The famous ayah using the term daraba means to travel, to get out, to strike, to set up, to give examples, to take away/ignore, to condemn, to seal, to cover, to explain, to turn away as the last of three measures to take against one’s wife, most likely for some heinous crime resulting in a divorce. In the Qur'an, it has a diverse connotation depending on the context. For example, it means to ‘strike out’ on a journey, and in the phrase ‘daraba Allah mathalan, it means ‘Allah gives or sets as an example.’ I believe the translation "set an example" could certainly apply to this verse. It’s the husband who sets the examples to his wife on how she should behave. I don't think the right translation for daraba is 'hit', since the Qur'an does not encourage domestic violence. On the contrary, there are quite a few verses that command a respectful and kind treatment towards women.

Unfortunately, domestic violence is very much alive and thriving in our society. Usually by the time the physical abuse starts in a relationship, the emotional and psychological abuse has already destroyed all the dignity of the victim. Even today, there are still groups of people who have the mindset that women are not equal to men and are just sexual objects.

This week’s headlines was way too encouraging when I heard that the Omar lead Government has notified that Provisions of J&K Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act shall come into force immediately. Before even the act is enforced we have to change our mindset and agree upon that Domestic violence does exist and is a major problem in our society. It knows no racial, religious, gender, or educational boundaries. I believe as responsible citizens we do have the power and the ability to build a society in which we honour women. I know it’s easier said than done, but we can try it. We can start by educating the new generations. We need Intellectuals and prominent citizens who are willing to contribute. We need trained policemen who know that "domestic violence" victims have to be dealt with carefully. We need agencies that will address homelessness and poverty. We need legislators who understand that such a thing needs funding and stringent laws.

And finally, when you next look towards your daughter, sister mother or wife think about someone out there who is or has been a victim of domestic violence and needs help, It’s a challenge for all of us to break the silence, turn disbelief into anger, change defencelessness into encouragement and convert resignation into educated action. If nothing else, after reading this piece kiss the forehead of your mother, sister, daughter or wife, and thank them for all they have done or have been doing all along against all odds. Do this to reiterate that they are Allah’s Rehmat to the mankind.

(The names have been changed to protect the victim’s identity)

Only in Kashmir - Dog Rights Versus Human Rights

Sajad and two other commentators address a really serious problem confronting the valley

(Mr. Sajad Ahmad Padder, 27, was born in Veeri, Tehsil Bijbehara, District Anantnag. He did his early schooling at the Government High School in Nanil, Anantnag, and his senior schooling at the Government Higher Secondary School in Bijbehara, Anantnag. Mr. Padder completed his B.A. degree from Government Degree College in Ananatnag, and received his M.A. in Political Science from the University of Kashmir, Srinagar. He also completed a Bachelor's degree in Education from the Government College of Education, Srinagar. Currently, Mr. Padder is a research scholar in the Department of Political Science, University of Kashmir, Srinagar. He has done his M. Phil on the topic “India-Pakistan Composite Dialogue Process, Issues & Actions”. Presently he is pursuing his PhD on “India-Pakistan Trade Relations”. He has participated in several local & national seminars. In 2009 he participated in the 8th Intra-Kashmir Dialogue held in Srinagar on Oct. 9-11, 2009. He enjoys writing commentaries.)

Gone to Dogs

One of the serious problems which the valley of Kashmir is facing is the exponential growth of dog population and the sense of insecurity caused by them. Stray dogs pose a threat to human’s particularly in morning and in the evening. People feel scared to go outside their homes to visit their fields because of these dogs. Parents do not allow their children to play outside their homes and even many elders feel frightened to go for morning and evening prayers. The incidents of ‘dog biting’ are on the rise and many people have died due to Rabies. Most of the victims have been children below the age of 10 years. The government shows inability to take any action and the helpless society merely looks on as people continue to suffer. Whenever anybody poses a question to government and concerned departments on dog menace, they refer to some court cases and campaign carried by some animal rights activists. Despite too many cases of dog bites, government is yet to come up with any plan to end this menace in the valley. Even there is shortage of anti rabies drugs in district and sub -district hospitals.

Usually the municipal administrations used to deal with this menace by relocating dogs from urban to rural areas. This is not a viable option. I have seen many incidents of dog biting in the villages where proper treatment is unavailable in the local hospitals. This results in the reverse shift of patients to urban centres in exchange of dogs. On this occasion few questions strike my mind every time when the village people claim of this derogatory practice: Are villagers less human? Why do they have more value as voters and less as citizens of a state/nation? Stray dogs bite people irrespective of their identity, chase them when they go to prayers early in the morning, and scare away children. Stray dogs can be seen in large groups around garbage dumps in the residential areas. These dogs have made the life hell, particularly for women, children and old age persons.

At present there are more than 2 lac stray dogs on prowl in Srinagar city alone. Surveys reveal that if there is no action initiated against the dog menace, by 2015, population of stray dogs will rise up to 2 million due to their high rate of breeding. On my first day as a PG student in the Department of Political Science in Kashmir University (2006), I was welcomed by a pack of dogs in the lawns of said department. I was fortunate to escape their bite. The second encounter with them was in the dining hall of S.A. Boys hostel when dogs have made a safe entry from the backdoor in 2009. Since then I am worried by the dangerous proportion of dogs in the University Campus. I showed my concern to all people from friends to foreigners and from students to scholars but nobody seemed interested in the debate. Then I chose to remain silent.

In May 2011, we were playing cricket in the lawns of Gani Kashmiri Research Scholars (GKRS) Inn. Suddenly a loud, fearful and dreadful cry from the auditorium side caught our attention. We were surprised to see pursue of a student in the mouth of a dog who was pulling it apart with impunity. Then we chased the dog for almost half a mile and were successful in bringing back the purse. In the last week of June 2011, again we were horrified by another incident. As we were playing cricket in the said lawns, a frightened loud cry from the same auditorium side, but on this occasion the case was quite a sensitive one. I could see a mother and her child both weeping mercilessly. The mother had taken a slight walk towards the convocation hall when her small kid was attacked by gruesome dogs. Thank God! by the timely intervention of by-passers, the child could be saved. Otherwise, the mother’s world could have ended then and there. The point is that the Kashmir University too has become a safe nursery for dogs. Of course, animals too have certain rights. But the question is that in case of a confrontation between animal rights or human rights, whose rights should get preference?

Barking Dogs Never Bite? In Srinagar They do

Srinagar: Residents in this Jammu and Kashmir capital literally watch their step when stepping out -- for fear of stray dogs that bite people, attack livestock and create havoc. The government appears clueless on how to tackle the menace.

"During the last 12 days, over 60 people have been here in the hospital with dog bites," a doctor at the city's SMHS Hospital said.

The stray dog population in this City of 1.4 million human beings has been rising at an alarming rate, reaching over 100,000 in the last four years if animal rights activists are to be believed.

A public interest litigation (PIL) was also moved in the Jammu and Kashmir High Court nearly six months ago seeking directions for the state authorities to handle the growing population of stray dogs in the City.

"The government pleaded before the honourable court that the dog population of the City would soon be sterilised. Upon this, the presiding judge told government counsel 'would the dogs not bite after being sterilized'?" said a lawyer who has been keenly following the case.

Khurshid Mir, an agricultural graduate who works for a pest control organization, had offered to rid the city of the menace provided the government extended him the required financial and infrastructural support.

"I have heard nothing from them since I last met the divisional commissioner. Perhaps they did not take my offer seriously," Mir told IANS.

A senior official at the provincial headquarters said the government did not have a mechanism to negotiate with such a person.

"Offers would have to be invited and how can the government negotiate with somebody who makes a claim that has never been tested?" the official said when asked about the proposal by the pest controller.

Bashir Ahmad, 54, a businessman, said: "The City's biggest handicap while handling the growing dog population is legal restrictions imposed on poisoning stray dogs.

"In the past, the municipal authorities would administer poison to stray dogs over periodic intervals to keep their population under check. That option having been ruled out, sterilization, relocation, etc, would not check the menace," Ahmad said.

Residents of Srinagar City are complaining of the serious threats the stray dogs pose to them.

"We have to guard our children from being bitten on the streets which are heavily infested with stray dogs. Even going to the mosque at dawn and dusk for prayers involves a definite risk of being bitten by dogs," said Showkat. (IANS)

It is a Dog-Problem Here…

The ever increasing menace of stray dogs has assumed alarming proportion in the valley and appears to have become inevitable and sine-quo-non. The authorities at the helm of affairs have turned mute spectators with regard to the said nuisance which has already consumed precious lives and subjected common people to inexplicable hardships and injuries. Govt. is watching all this dreadful incidents with their open eyes but has kept itself advertently blind-folded showing no concern for finding panacea of this menace whatsoever.Earlier government used to kill the canines to save the noble souls but after the formulation of animal rights wings / NGOs for safeguarding so called rights of animals, the authorities ignored the very basic rights of the human beings and gave preference to the rights of animals under the camouflage of the court order without having recourse to other available measures.

Ironically, the Hon’ble Apex Court on 23rd of January, 2009 in the case (SLP) titled “Animal Welfare Board of India V/s People for Elimination of Stray Trouble & Ors.” stayed the operation of impugned order and judgment dated 19.01.2008 passed by the Mumbai High Court whereby the latter had allowed killing of nuisance dogs by the Municipal Commissioner under Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act.Astonishingly, the matter has been lingered in the Hon’ble Apex Court for pretty long time with the adoption of dilly delaying tactics resorted by the parties concerned.

Notwithstanding the health hazards posed by the said menace, nobody seems to be bothered to look for remedy of the nuisance. The most heart rending episode which recently took place in the Shar-Khas at Zaina Kadal, Srinagar when a teen-ager boy was wildly chased by the canines which culminated into the drowning of the teenager in the River Jhelum. This incident sent shivers down the spine of the people of the valley especially local residents.Much water has already flown down the Jhelum and the menace has almost assumed epidemic situation which has vanished the level of tolerance among the common masses. There is no other way left with the people but to act themselves to eradicate this nuisance from this society for the Govt. has failed on all fronts to address this issue.

Primarily, it is the duty of the Govt. / NGOs to combat such dangerous situations but owing to their failure on all fronts, people are bound to rise to the occasion and take all necessary measures to get themselves rid of the menace.It is a known fact that populations of species are kept in check through natural predator-prey relationships. Stray dogs have no predators to keep their population in check. It has been observed that when such relationships break down, other natural processes come into play. This includes appearance of hitherto unknown viruses and micro-organisms that can be passed on to humans. Medicine / sterilization often has no ready answers to such micro-organisms and it may take months and years to develop effective lines of treatment. Under such circumstances, the results may be catastrophic. The AIDS virus is one such virus that has been passed to humans from animals.

I would especially like to hear from those in the legal profession from the Govt. as well as NGO’s as to what they have done thus far to reclaim the citizens' right to safety and security.Duty is cast upon the Govt. / NGOs to rise above their partisan interests and pay heed towards this grievous problem and find out amicable and feasible solution to the issue, otherwise people will be forced to come on the streets and agitate against the said menace. (A. M. Zargar)