Introduction to Blog

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

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

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

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

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

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A DNA Malignancy Called Corruption

Bashir speaks for many who wonder if it is a malady which has been left untreated for so long that it is incurable now

(Mr. Bashir A. Bashir, 62, was born in Srinagar. He passed his higher secondary schooling from Baghidilawar Khan, and  graduated from the Gandhi Memorial College Srinagar. Mr. Bashir completed his Law Graduation from the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) in Urdu. and received his M.A in Political Science from the University of Kashmir. He joined the Bar in 1973 and was appointed as Additional Advocate General of the J&K in 1984 till 1986. He is a practicing advocate of J&K High Court and has been recently designated as the Senior Advocate by the Hon'ble High Court of J&K.)

We The Corrupt

Corruption has rendered us rootless and lawlessness has spoilt our society. In a democratic setup people are governed by the rule of law. Article 14 of the Constitution guarantees equality before law and equal protection of laws irrespective of any distinction of creed, cast, color, gender, religion etc but these are only golden words written in the pious book of constitution. The reality is different.

We have an Anti-corruption Organization called Vigilance Commission which aims at eradicating corruption. Has the said Department come to the expectations of the people. The answer will be a simple no, then what for is the department. Even some people will suggest winding up the department. Some percentage of the corruption might come down. The tragedy is that most corrupt are the most vocal in public gatherings against corruption knowing it fully well that it is all ritual without any seriousness or any accountable consequences. Rates of mutton are increasing every now and then and the government fixed rates are never adhered to. 

Take the instance of Food Adulteration. People are being supplied adulterated food and all kinds of eatables including fruits even. But does any body bother about the quality and safety of the items we take for ourselves and our children. Do we know what do we feed them with? Have we been able to convict even a small trader in this field not to talk of any big fish who enjoy all the patronage of the powers-that-be. Where then is the law of the land. Corruption is at such a peak that one of my clients told me he had to pay Rs.17,000/- for getting a dispatch number and date written on a government letter. Posts are apparently filled by recruitment process but behind the curtain the rule book is `pay and get it'. We have drug Controller to check the spurious drugs and the costs of the drugs but we know the drugs are spurious and sold in this state with impunity. Is any body bothered even in the least. I purchased few months before a product. The MRP written on each bottle is Rs.6030/- but one bottle was sold for Rs.2350/- and the other for Rs.2500/ and the third one for Rs.2700/. This all happened within a span of five days and all three cash memos are with me. For any innocent person MRP written of Rs.6030/could be easily charged when the actual price is much less than half of it.

That is the extent of corruption we all seeped into. The question is who will pull us back. Nothing less than a miracle. The lawlessness is at its worst and stringent measures are required to meet it. If we let it continue like this, we will be heading for a worse tomorrow.

Kashmir's Proud Linguistic History

Tahir loves his culture and wants to talk about it

(Mr. Tahir Majeed Mir Lolabi, 21, was born in the famous Lolab valley of Kupwara district.He did his schooling from Islamia Model High School Diver Lolab & Govt.Higher Secondary School, Tekipora, Lolab.He has completed his bachelor's degree from the University of Kashmir through the Government Degree College, Handwara, with Geography, Political Science & History as main subjects. Presently he is pursuing further studies. He has contributed many articles to the Daily Rising Kashmir on varied socio-cultural & political issues.)

Of Kashmiri Prose and Poetry

Kashmiri has an interesting linguistic history. Like the other North Indian languages, it branched off from the Indo-Aryan Sanskrit, but had another ancestor before that-the Shina languages of the Indo-Iranian family. But when mighty Sanskrit came, Shina was thickly overlaid. From 14th century, medieval Persian too started creeping into Kashmiri. With such foreign influences, the Kashmiri language boasts of peculiarities like certain vowel and consonant sounds which no other Indian language has. Kishtawari is the most popular dialect of Kashmiri.

The literary history of Kashmiri, beginning from 12th century AD, is equally interesting. Poetry is the key word, with writers experiment with different forms in all ages. Anyway, contrary to what happened in other literatures (or rather what has been recorded of them), the first great Kashmiri writer was a woman. She was everybody's favourite-Lal Dad. Her senility and mysticism in the verses "vaakh" appealed to the Hindus, Muslims, scholars and peasants alike. Other works of this formative phase (till about 1555 AD), though not as brilliant as Lal Dad's, are "Shrukhs" of Sheikh Noor-ud-din, Mahanay Prakash of Shiti Kantha, Banasura Katha of Bhatavatar and Sukhadukhacharitam of Ganaka Prashasta.

Love-poetry flourished in the next few centuries. Along with the mystical and esoteric verses perfected by Habib Ullah Navshehri (1555-1617) and Rupa Bhawani(1625-1720), a new kind of love poetry developed. Habba Khatoon (1551-1606) and Aarnimal (late 18th century) were the ruling ladies of this genre of mellifluous verses. 'Although a garden jasmine I, in the very prime of bloom, yet waste I as the snow in June. Come in and enjoy the jasmine bloom; It blooms for you.' (Habba Khatoon)

Persian literature became quite an influence on Kashmiri in the late 18th century. And Kashmiri litterateurs like Mahmud Gami and Waliullah Motoo (19th century) took to translations from Persian and writing 'masnavis' (couplets expressing one emotion) and 'ghazals' (romantic poetry set to music) in a big way. The legendary love tales of Laila and Majnu, Shirin and Farhad, Sohrab and Rustum, and many more were brought in which, a hundred years later, also became excellent fodder for hit films. ‘Lila’-poetry was another innovation, where the poet sang like a lover-devotee of the Creator's exuberance.

Paramanand (1791-1885) excelled in this, while others like Prakash Ram, Maqbul Shah, Lachman Raina, Rasul Mir and Shams Faqir dealt with other forms of poetry. The Kashmiris are a singing people; songs and ghazals have always been a part of their literary culture. The cult of the 'maikhana’ (liquor house) and 'sharaab' (wine) in ghazals, popular in Urdu poetry too, was created in the 1890s and 1900s. The first few decades of the 20th century saw a prolific writing of mystical and secular poetry, ghazals, masnavis and geets (songs).

Do Incumbents Deserve to be Re-elected?

Junaid says, with good reasons, no! 

(Mr. Junaid Azim Mattu, 26, was born in Srinagar. He partly completed his schooling at the Burn Hall School, Srinagar, and partly at the Bishop Cotton School, Shimla. He attended college in America and graduated with a degree in Business and Finance from the Eli Broad School of Business at Michigan State University. He is a consulting financial analyst and telecom-IT entrepreneur based in Srinagar. A seeded national varsity debater throughout his school and college career (his grandfather - Khwaja Ghulam Ahmed Ashai - was one of the founding fathers of the Muslim/National Conference), Mr. Mattu also played under-19 cricket at national level for J&K. He is a founder of the World Kashmiri Students Association (WKSA), a global youth association for Kashmiris based in Srinagar, Kashmir, working on social, economic and political issues through constructive and informed activism. WKSA, as of today has 1,700+ registered members in Kashmir. He is also a nominated alumnus of the Global Young Leaders Conference. He is also the Srinagar District President of J&K Peoples’ Conference, led by Mr. Sajad Lone. In his leisure time, Junaid likes to engage in reading, gardening, watching movies and listening to music.)

‘Srinagar Nobody’s Family Fiefdom’

Srinagar: Taking a dig at the ruling National Conference and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, the Peoples Conference (PC) on Monday said this historic City is nobody’s “family fiefdom” adding the Srinagarites who have been long “persecuted, neglected and exploited by both NC and PDP governments, are now looking for a cleaner, effective and genuine political alternative.”

The PC Srinagar Head, Junaid Azim Mattu said: “The response that PC’s Caravan of Change has evoked in Srinagar should be an eye-opener for both traditional, nepotistic, corrupt and exploitative mainstream parties whose leaders have made it from rags to riches by looting and skinning the common man.” He said: “All eight constituencies in Srinagar are represented by alien representatives who are solely the beneficiaries of election boycotts.”

Stating that the people of Srinagar are living a life of deprivation and economic hopelessness due to alleged misrule and malfeasance, Mattu said: “It’s time for the Srinagarites to throw the traditional political garbage out and empower themselves with the vital responsibility of defeating those representatives who have made personal empires on a platform of broken promises, corruption and our own voluntary disempowerment.” 

Present elected representatives of Srinagar from the ruling dispensation, he said, have embezzled public wealth and deliberately kept Srinagar economically backward to coerce people to fall in line. “It was time to remind the government that Srinagar has a rich history and legacy of being a center of enlightenment and evolution and as the capital City of this state deserves all the public amenities and infrastructure that other modern metropolitan cities of the country are basing their economic and technological advancements and progress on,” he said. Stating that it was a “matter of shame that Srinagar’s government schools, hospitals and government offices were defunct or malfunctioning due to administrative apathy and lack of political will”, Junaid Mattu criticized successive regimes for “governing arbitrarily on a firefighting basis without having comprehensive policies and plans for reform”.

“While the rest of the country is benefitting from reforms in the fields of education, health and public infrastructure – our government is bereft of shame and embarrassment even when the Planning Commission has hit out at the government for failing to come up with any policies for development and addition to our capacity to usher this State into a corrective era of economic growth.” The Peoples Conference, Mattu said, has comprehensive, sector-specific plans for Srinagar’s development and planned expansion. “(PC) doesn’t believe in rhetoric and gamesmanship and is consulting with renowned town planning and economic experts to evolve solutions for our urban development mess,” he said.

Mattu said it was a “matter of shame for successive governments that have ruled this state like a family fiefdom they have supposedly inherited that tourists are actually cancelling their plans to visit this state because of lack of accommodation.” “This reality is criminal as successive governments, through SDA, SMC and LAWDA have suffocated Srinagar under the fig leaf of impractical, socialist laws and archaic regulations and have made construction of hotels in this City a crime punishable by harassment, extortion and coercion,” he added. Mattu said Srinagar cannot prosper if its private sector is not encouraged and positively reassured by liberal laws that aim at giving Srinagar modern roads, hospitals, schools, hotels, factories, industries and retail spaces.

“If governments in Gujarat and Bihar can aid and facilitate the private sector in their states, why can’t a government in Kashmir do the same instead of starting a new era of License Raj?” he argued.

Wood Works of Kashmir

Iqbal recalls the magical talent of Kashmiri artisans specializing in wood Works

(Mr. Iqbal Ahmad, 51, was born in Parigam Chek, Kulgam. He is a graduate with Diploma in Numastics, Archaeology and Heritage. He is an archaeologist, writer, and a cultural historian. Mr. Iqbal Ahmad has published 12 reference books on Kashmir archaeology and heritage.)

Those Golden Hands!

The wood works of Kashmir were, undoubtedly, the most interesting and praiseworthy works that earned the valley a distinction among other parts of the world. Such was the craftsmanship of the carpenters, who in reality were great artists, that great kings and rulers here patronized the form and also tried to showcase it to the outside world.

The tradition of wood works for several centuries was the result of those golden hands which knew the craft and felt the soul of wood. It would take them several hours to draw a single engraving or a design, even a line, and they would patiently do that. They knew that the work had very less margin for error and trained themselves to meet the nuances of the form.

Latticework, locally known as Panjra Kari, was once very popular in Kashmiri architecture. The craftsmen dealing with wooden works used to fill the doors, windows, ventilators with Jali screens formed of lattice work. It was the most complicated art and perhaps no less than carving or inlaying. The Jali screens were formed of smaller wooden pieces finished very brilliantly and were then arranged in geometric forms so as to display their edges. They are held in position by the pressure they exert upon each other by certain main lines being doweled together and by the frame of the panel within which they are fitted. These wooden pieces made of either Deodar or walnut wood. The logs were chipped to the desired length and breadth and then woven in several orders. The geometric Sun and Moon patterns were commonly followed.

Many designs of Panjra Kari were popular in Kashmir, the most favorite being those of the Rising Sun and cobwebs. The best kind of Pinjra work was known by their Kashmiri names Posh Kandur, Chaharkhana, Shashpahlu, Dwazdah Sar, Sheikh Sar, Jujjari, Shirin and Tota Shesh Tez. The Panjras were formed in these designs in square and rectangular shapes. These Panjras were then put in various uses in Kashmiri houses, windows, doors railings, ventilators, ornamental partitions and screens. Most of the houses built in 19th & 20th century were wonderfully decorated by Panjra-Kari.

Unfortunately the craft has disappeared from contemporary Kashmir craft scene while as the marvels depicting this art form are being dismantled instead of preservation and promotion. In the old city of Srinagar including Habba Kadal, Saraf Kadal and Zaina Kadal areas numerous houses were decorated by lattice works with doors, windows, ventilators (Roshan Dans) filled with these Jali screens. This art, like other wood works, has a long history in Kashmir as some scholars have traced its his¬tory from eleventh century, the period of Harsha. While quoting Kalhana, these scholars have made mention of a twelve storey wooden palace of Harsha's period decorated by wooden works.

Most of the scholars believe that Shahmiri Sultans first introduced it in their architecture while few other suggest that Panjrakari was in¬troduced and promoted by great Mughals. Though it least matters who introduced this art form, but the historical records signifiy that the craft was cultivated here for centuries together. It was initially used in Muslim Shrines- almost all-ancient Muslim shrines carry wonderful designs of intricate latticework. From here it was adopted in common structures and during a particular period, it was followed strictly in Kashmiri architecture and became an inseparable part of Kashmir architecture. As much as, some foreign travelers reaching here from across the globe chose Kashmir Lattice works as their research subject and thus bestowing immortality to this art form, atleast in archival records.

Bernier, who visited Kashmir in the reign of Aurangzeb makes a mention of the latticed windows, shutters and doors and the Palaces of kings and nobles along with a view of the beautiful ladies of their harem. That is why, the Pinjra also figured fre¬quently in the romantic folklore of Kashmiri. To quote a Kashmiri verse, Zaele panjray teale nazar trave Bali Asimi Tamblav (Bestow upon me, one glance from behind the Pinjra. Oh beauty pray, do not tantalize me). Several other verses also symbolize the popularity of Jali screens. The doors were not thrown open al-ways but remained ajar, creating the pattern of creeping sun, invoking a scene of romance within the four walls. Though the re¬vival of this artistic and romantic Pinjra in cemented works has been initiated, the sheen and glory of the craft in wood is however something that may never be possible.

The craft has now almost disappeared and even the existing works are vanishing from the old houses. The ruined and neglected houses of the old city of Srinagar exhibit a pathetic view of these glorious screens. As the things stand, the revival of the art in this modern age looks very difficult. However, few spinners of the art visible on the Muslim shrines and on traditional houses of old city could be saved if required steps are taken. The shrines and olden houses and building carrying these artifacts need to be preserved and conserved on modern and scientific lines.

How Low Can One Sink?

Javed says that crooks are making it harder of physically challenged people to receive their due

(Mr. Javed Ahmad Tak, 38, was born in Bijbehara in the Anantnag district. He received his schooling from Government schools in Bijbehara, and his B.Sc. degree from the Government Degree College in Anantnag. Unfortunately, at the age of 21 he became a victim of a terrorist bullet which hit his spine and disabled him for the rest of his life. However, he overcome mental and physical odds to complete his Master's degree in Social Work from the University of Kashmir, and also completed certificate courses in Human Rights and Computers from the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU). Although wheel-chair bound, Mr. Tak is recognized as a leader who has relentlessly and with extreme passion taken up the cause of disabled people in J&K, seeking full citizen rights guaranteed under the J&K Disability Act but never implemented in the past. He is a founder-member of numerous NGO's dealing with issues and sensitizing public about challenges faces by physically handicapped people in Kashmir. He has received numerous awards and citations for his selfless work and has attended numerous workshops on disability rights around the country.)

Fake Disability Certificates Mar Rights of Disabled

Sana Altaf (Kashmir Times)

Srinagar: Disabled persons are entitled to three percent reservation in fields of employment and education, but their right is being hampered by the issuance of fake disability certificates.

 Disabled persons alleged that the certificates are used to grab government jobs (both under SSRB and PSC), and even admission in the university. Some applicants of the government jobs use approach to get disability certificate from the medical board. This directly affects the jobs prospects of disabled persons who are left in lurch. 

“Fake disability certificates are used to get high profile jobs and admissions at different levels. The reservation quota meant for us benefits others,” said Javaid Ahmad Tak, Chairman Humanity Welfare Organization, Helpline NGO. He says people use high approach to get the disability certificate which is issued by the medical board and signed by specialist. But many a times, the signature of a general physician is used instead of a specialist. “The most common disability shown in fake certificates is that of hearing and speech impairment,” Tak adds. 

Hilal Ahmad who works as an engineer says the loophole in the issuance of disability certificate mars the rights of disabled persons. A BDS student who has one leg amputated could not get a job because his competitor, who had a broken thumb, had managed to get disability certificate showing him as severely disabled, says Hilal. “Someone who struggled with his disability gets nothings,” says Hilal who suffers from visual imparity. Abdul Rashid, secretary Handicapped Association, says repeated complains about the fake certificates fetched no results. 

“There are so many cases of fake certificates and government is doing nothing to address the issue. We people are suffering and no one is bothered,” Rashid said. Mohammad Shaheel, coordinator of Special Cell meant for disabled persons at the University of Kashmir, said 16 cases of fake disability certificates were reported in two years in SSRB. Special Cell was established at the University of Kashmir for the welfare of disabled persons in 2009. 

“Since the inception of Cell, we have come across many cases but we ensured they are verified and declined from the list,” said Shaheel. He however regrets no such check is facilitated at other levels. Chief Medical Officer, Srinagar, Dr Farooq Ahmad said the concerned board follows strict guidelines to grant disability certificate. “We have a centre set of guidelines to follow for giving fake disability certificates. We verify the details.”

Crawling City

Traffic is a nightmare in Srinagar

Choked City

In a classic case of bad civic maintenance causing distress to thousands of commuters, travelling on Srinagar roads has become longer and grueling. The daily traffic mess has been worsening with each passing day. The main city chowks remain jammed all through the day making travelling difficult evening for pedestrians. The distance which normally could be covered in minutes takes hours to travel over.

The huge traffic jams at Panta Chwok, Hydrepora, Ram Bagh, Exhibition Chowk, Batamaloo, Qamarwari, Budshah Chowk and Dalgate has reached unparalleled proportions. Panta Chowk is a classic case. It chokes the city from south and east ends completely. The traffic congestion at Qamarwari clogs the city from the west end. The left-over (north end) gets blocked with huge jams at Soura and city interiors like Khanyar and Rainawari. Huge traffic snarls are reported from other parts of the city as well. There is a traffic bottleneck everyday and everywhere in the city that causes slow down in movement of the vehicles. The slowing down of the movement ultimately ends at adding to the mess on the roads.

It should not be deemed with surprise if a commuter complains of wasting hours on city roads before reaching his or her place of work. There are instances when a commuter had to wait for two to three to get cleared of the traffic jam at Panta Chowk. The scene at other places in the city is no different. On occasions, it takes about an hour for a commuter to reach Lal Chowk from Hyderpora or Rawalpora. The mess right from Ram Bagh to exhibition chowk is so grueling and time consuming that many a commuters, who have their work places in and around Lal Chowk, have made it a habit to leave their homes in early morning hours. The mess on prestigious Boulevard Road, which is the face of Kashmir tourism, is even more agonizing. The evening time, when there is large presence of tourists in the area, is more messy.

The installation of traffic signals has not helped to the level one had expected in regulation of traffic at Exhibition ground. The commuters could not be absolved completely for the mess. The moment the light turns red, cars zip past in a flash. The zebra-crossing is blocked by cars, forcing pedestrians to make their way through the vehicles. Shameless drivers on the wrong side, nosing through illegal cuts, taking U-turns before roundabouts, driving with mobiles - all are direct causes of the mess on the roads. What makes things murkier is the indifference of the police supposed to manage the traffic. One can see policemen busy with gossip or talking to individual pedestrians and drivers on the fringes little caring about traffic madness around.

Undoubtedly, much needs to be done for regulation of traffic in the city to make life easy for the people. The development of road infrastructure is the primary need but it cannot be done overnight. It would take time. But the government little appears to be conscious of this primary requirement. It has no idea of how the mess on the roads could e cleared. The widening of road at Panta Chowk has been felt over for a considerable time but it exists nowhere on the government’s list of priorities. Any responsible and caring government would make the road widening at Panta Chowk and construction of by-pass as its primary task. But the way our government functions its priorities are more personal and political.

There had been a talk for construction of a flyover from exhibition ground to Ram Bagh for several years now. Some movement in this direction seemed some time back when some shops were removed near exhibition chow. But nothing beyond that has happened. The present mess on the city roads is a strong reminder to the government to build road infrastructure on priority bases. Till then people should not be left to suffer. There is a strong need for regulation of traffic to minimize the peoples’ problems. The strength of traffic police should be increased in proportion with the increase in rush on roads. The policemen have to become more responsible. There are large scale complaints that policemen allow illegal parking of vehicle against payoffs. They have equally to be harsher with the people who break traffic laws and believe that rules are not for them.

Dismal Health Care

No medical care facility in Kashmir is up to even "West Africa Standards" in spite of huge budget outlays provided by the Central government to the State for medical care. Take the case of the Bone and Joint (B&J) Hospital

Lack of Funds, Poor Sanitation Hits Patient Care at B&J Hospital 

Asem Mohiuddin (Rising Kashmir)

Srinagar: Even as the state government claims of spending crores of rupees to improve healthcare, authorities at Bone and Joint Hospital Barzulla are struggling to improve patient care for lack of funds and proper infrastructure.

The hospital also suffers due to poor sanitation since the drainage system has not been upgraded for the last 27 years. “The drainage system is as old as the hospital; nothing has been upgraded since then. So many structures have come up in the hospital premises besides the huge rush of patients,” sources said.

Against the requirement of six ambulances, the hospital has four “outdated” ambulances and no vehicle for the consultants. “In emergency cases we have to ferry our consultants in ambulances or in dead body carriers. We require at least six ambulances at this time with life support system to cater to the demand,” hospital officials said. “The ambulances available at the hospital often breakdown and consume more fuel,” they added.

The hospital is also lacking proper Sewerage Treatment Plant (STP) which is important to ensure proper sanitation. Inadequate availability of funds with the hospital authorities and delay in release by the government is hampering smooth functioning of the hospital.

The shortage of funds has forced hospital authorities to write a letter to the Principal of Government Medial College, Srinagar seeking immediate release of Rs five lakh to clear the long pending liabilities of laundry contractor. The letter no BJS/PA/806-07 dated 1 June 2012 reads, “The monthly laundry bill is around Rs 70,000 and the hospital has the liability of Rs five lakh till ending May 2012 while as so far only one lakh has been released and the contractor has threatened to stop the supply of washed linen.” The letter further reads that in case the funds are not released soon, Medical Superintendent, B&J hospital should be allowed to pay contractor either from HDF funds or from revolving funds which later would be recouped.

According to sources, the government has also not provided any funds for purchasing furniture and furnishing for past many years. They said the hospital suffers from shortage of furniture while the staff has to contend with old worn out chairs to discharge their duties. “The furniture available in the hospital is outdated as it has been purchased more than eight years ago. Since then we have not received any funds to purchase the furniture.” While the hospital is receiving patients from far flung areas, non-availability of hospital inn (Sarai) is posing inconvenience to the attendants. “We have no modern Sarai here due to which the attendants with the patients either sleep in the corridors of the hospital or are forced to pay huge amount to book a hotel room,” sources said.

Meanwhile, Medical Superintendent of the hospital, A R Badoo said government is considering to install CT Scan and MRI equipments in the hospital. He said the hospital has added 35 beds in the last one year and have referred the proposal to the government for authorization. “Thirty-five beds have been increased from the existing strength and now we have sent the proposal to the government for its authorization. The CT Scan and MRI are also in the pipeline. In fact, the government is seriously considering setting up these equipments in the hospital,” he said. He said the hospital will also get Sarai assured by the Member of Planning Commission Hameeda Syed who visited the hospital last October. Badoo said the hospital operates upon patients suffering from neck fracture in 72 hours while in premier hospitals like AIMS, PGI Chandigarh such operations are conducted in five days time. He said patients whose fractures are not fixed in shortest time are either semi-emergency patients or are elderly patients with multiple ailments and need clearance from other doctors. He, however, ruled out having ICU at the hospital arguing that whenever patents require they are shifted to SKIMS. “Having an ICU in the hospital is a very costly affair and in Bone and Joint hospital we don’t require it that much. Whenever patients need it we refer them to SKIMS,” he said.

Badoo also declined the requirement of having fair price shop in the hospital. “It is not required; we have enough medical shops outside the hospital. The presence of fair price shop in hospital will unnecessarily create congestion and overcrowding,” he said.

Where Were those 1400 Parents Until May 2012?

Nothing provides a clearer glimpse of the Kashmiri mind than the way infant deaths in Kashmir hospitals were routinely covered up by both hospital authorities and by parents and relatives

Infant dies at G B Pant hospital, Family Stages Protest

Srinagar: One more infant died at the G B Pant hospital here, leading to protests by grieved family members who blocked the Srinagar-Jammu national highway for an hour. Dozens of people took to the road outside the Valley's only children's hospital at high-security Sonawar area, blocking the highway in protest against the death and shouting slogans against the hospital administration, officials said.

Traffic was briefly suspended for some time, but was restored after the protesting mob dispersed after intervention by police, officials said.

Over 1,400 children deaths have been reported in the hospital since January last year. In May, authorities had removed Medical Superintendent of the hospital Javed Choudhary over the deaths, besides ordering a probe into the matter.

Domestic Violence

Domestic violence generally affects only women who are at the wrong end of the bargain

SWC Gets 20 Cases Daily: Shameema

Aliya Bashir (Kashmir Monitor)

Srinagar: With knowledge just a click away for the valley women to learn their rights, divorce and marital feuds are soaring as figures paint a very grim picture of post marital life of Kashmiri couples. Ironically, the women instead of getting justice end up with divorces. Importantly, every divorce ends up with split not just between husband a wife, but between two families and a never ending trouble for the child, if the couple has one.

As per the latest figures available with the government, the matrimonial cases pending disposal in various courts is 2448. Similarly, 4862 maintenance cases are pending disposal before various courts in the State, officials reveal. At the same time, the figures available with State Women’s Commission (SWC), suggest that the domestic and post martial feuds cut across with both the lower income groups as well high profile people ending up with divorces.

“We have 1820 cases registered with the commission since last few years, 1333 were from the valley and 487 from Jammu. In the past two decades, the commission has managed to settle over 600 cases,” says Shameema Firdous, SWC chairperson.

Shameema says that on average the commission receives at least 20 cases a day. “No divorce is done in the commission. We try our best to persuade the couple to reconcile but due to the degrading social fabric, misunderstanding and money matters, it gets quite difficult to keep the social intact,” she says.Women cite different reasons for ending their marriages, from getting more exposure and knowing their rights to increasing domestic violence and extra-marital affairs.

“There is a growing trend in which not only the uneducated but educated women are filing petitions for dissolution of marriage which was something unheard before. At present, we have more than 7310 cases of domestic discord and maintenance disputes pending in courts in the whole state,” as per the statistics available at Lower Court, Srinagar.Experts in the field say that due to the increased awareness among women about their rights, it is easier for women to file for divorce than men. But socially, women still face a stigma for divorcing their husbands.

“There is an increase in 4 per cent compared to last five years and out of 100, 30 per cent are pleaded divorces by husbands,” says A K Hanjura, a renowned lawyer. “In most of the cases women are responsible for the trigger and husbands resort to the divorcees.” Due to the lack of any special court for speedy trials, lakhs of cases are already pending in various courts across the state.“Without emphasizing on what could be the consequences of the divorce, counsellors and lawyers don’t try to work more on reconciliation and then if things doesn’t work then to take it as last resort,” Hanjura adds. Women’s rights advocates say that a rise in awareness among women has helped more and more women to come out of the cocoon and raise their voice against their sufferings.

“The increasing trend of working women has led to more public awareness about rights and not to accept the domination to fight for one’s right and to not accept the oppression,” says Shireen Jabeen, a women rights activist. “Women are not getting only ready to file divorce but also to combat with the traditionally attached social stigma.” The huge influx of divorce cases are reported due the post-marital disputes, dowry, physical torture, harassment, torture of the in-laws and most importantly, misunderstanding over petty issues.“We suffer but still society wants us to be silent sufferers.

Those who opt for divorces are looked down. Only a women is to be blamed for failed marriages and her inability to handle the situation,” says Tahira Ismail, whose case is pending in lower court since long.Albeit, the legal filing process may be now easier for women but the psychologists say the impact of divorces is taking a heavy toll on the mental health of the couples as well as children.

“Whenever there is a feud between parents, a child becomes the causality,” says Asiya Nayeem, a senior counsellor with Kashmir Lifeline, a mental health helpline. “We receive many calls in which children suffer due to the rift between parents. Children have the right to be together with both of their parents and they are denied of this privilege due a divorce.”

The Marriage Racket

Zeeshan sees inequalities that only good luck can overcome

The Marriage Market

Zeeshan Banday (JNU)

“Marriages are settled in heaven and celebrated here on earth,” reads every invitation card in Kashmir irrespective of the lingual form it has viz. English, Urdu or for that matter Kashmiri. I have always been touched by the lines on our invitation cards.

The spirit of the act brings to life the virtues that may lie in the exercise and puts to rest the ills that could be within. The right spirit transforms the right actions. Marriage is one such right action which cries hoarse for the right spirit. Over the years the whole process of making matches in valley has deranged the institution of marriage. Kashmir presents an intrinsically Islamic society and the citizenry has never shied away in showcasing their Islamic ideals. On deeper analysis of the act of choosing matches in Kashmir one could easily conclude that Kashmiri society is everything but Islamic, atleast with regard to marriage. I am not taking delight in critiquing a society of which I am an inherent part but trying to narrate the ordeal that many of my friends, who are academically accomplished, have been through. One of my closest friends who, after doing his PhD went to USA for post-doctoral fellowship. He draws a handsome salary but that he has set to achieve excellence which often involves traveling to the horizon he forgot to secure a government job back home. He wants to get married. Only thing that proves an impediment is a government job that he lacks. A similar but diabolical, is the story of another friend who does research in a leading institute in Germany. He is a born Kashmiri and wants a Kashmiri bride. I don’t see a reason for not wanting this. He went home to see the bride, his parents had chosen. He liked her. Everything was settled on the board but the girl’s parents asked in writing that he must come back and do a job in Kashmir. Not that he was not willing to come back home and work alongside his own folk, he just could not compromise on his principles. Do I need to remind how most of the jobs in Kashmir can be had? I am not reiterating that all recruitments in Kashmir involve compromise of principles but I find little which do not. If landing yourself a government job is the sole criteria for you to get married, which infact in Kashmir it is, then you do a great disservice to the sanctity of marriage. Marriage is the union of two souls, meeting of two complementary beings, unison of different yet so alike physical entities and living together of two persons who derive solace and comfort from each other.

Parents are an important party to marriage and they have every moral right to choose and select a match for their children. However, they ought to take their children in full confidence before deciding on a match. Children are no commodities and marriage is no commerce. As per reports most of the arranged marriages go bitter primarily because parents miserably fail to take their children into confidence and impose their will on children. Imposition is always tantamount to evoking rebellion. Most of the marriageable children think that when parents don’t budge, why shouldwe yield. I don’t subscribe to rebellion on the part of children but I sincerely believe that if both children and parents uphold their Islamic morals and follow Islamic practice in letter and spirit, most of the matches if not all are worth making.

I am well aware of the limited job options as well as the precarious economic conditions prevailing back home. But we should not find escape in acquiring a government job which guarantees you a peaceful life of worklessness. I pity such a life-it may appear to be peaceful, it is not and even if it is, it is definitely not meaningful. I pray to Almighty that better sense prevails on our parents as well as our children and they set to achieve excellence and knowledge rather than being preoccupied with the idea of a government job for marriage. It is high time! (Greater Kashmir)

Affluence Takes its Toll

One of the victims of growing affluence is fading interest in Kashmiri culture

‘Kashmiri Culture has Plummeted Almost to its Lowest Ebb’: Veteran Artists

 Mukhtar Ahmed (Kashmir Images)

Srinagar: The foray of Bollywood and Hollywood songs in the Valley has left a deep impression on the popularity of traditional folk songs to a great extent, veteran Kashmiri singers say. They said that gone are the days, when folk songs would sway the listeners to the tee.

One of the famous veteran singers, Abdul Gaffar Kanihami observed that things were different before the dose of entertainment progammes, besides the chart busters from Indian film industry and western music made Kashmiris, particularly the youth to shake a leg.

“The popularity of Lol-gevun (love songs) was unmatched during its heydays as youth would convey their feelings through it. But, since the foot tapping numbers from outside began to hold their verve and vim in Kashmir, listeners have developed a great taste for as from cell phones to the tape recorders, Bollywood and Hollywood songs are playing blaringly loud here. As a result of this, the folk songs received a huge set back as the listeners, particularly youngsters were swooned away by the charm of these songs,” Kanihami told ‘Kashmir Images.’

Shifting his focus to other traditional songs, Kanihami said that ‘Rouf songs’ were very popular on festivals like ‘EID’ and other social functions. “These songs were order of the day of every cultural function in Kashmir those days. Young boys and girls would assemble at a selected place or on the marriage and festival ceremonies and would enchant the audiences out of their wits. Commenting on the cultural shows presented by “Bhand’s”, Kanihami said that when it was announced that “Bhand Pather” shows are being presented somewhere, people would rush to that place in crowds to witness them cracking rib-tickling and belly-bursting jokes, besides drum beating and playing of ‘Sarnai’.

“Despite being alive, folk songs and other traditional entertainment programs have hardly any takers today. Even though Kashmiris, particularly, youngsters have off late developed interest for Sufiana songs, but need of the hour is to popularize them in order to bring our folk songs back on their pedestal,” he suggested.

Mohammad Abdullah Tariballi, another veteran singer recollected the memories of rustic songs (Nendi Ba’eth) that village folks used to sing during weeding season. “I still remember that during weeding of paddy fields, men either individually or in groups used to sing in chorus. The effect of the songs was so embalming that hardly anyone noticed the passing of time,” Tariballi recounted, adding that ‘Sount Gevun’ (spring songs) was also a sensation as the coming of spring season was welcomed with it. He lamented that Kashmiri culture has plummeted almost to its lowest ebb as gone are the days when boys, girls, men and women would assemble in hordes and take part in cultural functions. These were so austere that even a poor man would afford the instruments. “Our lackadaisical approach and arrival of non-Kashmiri songs took away the sheen of folk songs here. Nowadays, it is rare that you see someone commenting to know anything about Kashmiri folk songs,” he rued.

Mohammad Yousuf Chaari, while commenting on the soul-soothing effect of Kashmiri folk songs said that Wanwun (wedding songs) were sung to make the marriage ceremony jostling and an irresistible occasion. He said that these wedding songs had a unique distinction as women would wait with baited breath and count the days left for their relatives or neighbors’ marriage ceremony. “Now we see Bollywood videos and songs bedecking the arrival and departure of the groom,” said Chaari, adding “These marriage songs were a huge hit with both Kashmiri Pundits and Muslims.”

If Only Capabilities Would Match Dreams

Imagine a Public Sector Undertaking, considered among the most corrupt by the Transparency International (TI), promises to deliver 3,000 MW of power in the next five years. A small hitch overlooked, it only generated 3 MW of new power in last 5 years

3 MWs in Past 5 Yrs: PDC Wants to Produce 3000 in Next 5 Yrs

Nazir Ganaie (Kashmir Observer)

Srinagar: The Jammu and Kashmir State Power Development Corporation (PDC), which for past five years has generated only 3 MW of power, Monday announced that it would generate 3000 MW in next five years.

The announcement was made by the Managing Director JKSPDC Basharat Ahmad Dhar. Dhar conceded that since its establishment the JKSPDC has not performed well. He cited many reasons for the dismal performance of the JKSPDC including lack of finances. “But now things have changed. More than 40 hydropower projects having 8298 MW capacity are coming up in J&K in next 10 years, both in the state and central sector,” Dhar said.

“Projects 3231.85 MW capacities are targeted during 12th five year plan out of which 1230.85 MWs projects are in state sector and 659 MWs projects are in the central sector. The Corporation is actively involved in implementation of 600 MW Kiru, 500 MW Kawar and 1000 MW Pokal Dul in joint venture with NHPC and PTC.” He said the interests of the State are being watched and safeguarded by the Corporation in this regard. He said the generation sector is a panacea for the economic stability of the State and the JKSPDC management is completely focused on capacity addition through construction of new projects,” Dhar said at a press conference here.

Dhar along with Principal Secretary, Power, Jammu and Kashmir government Sudhanshu Pandey and President India TECH Foundation (ITF) was briefing the media about 2-day International Hydropower Convention commencing from tomorrow here. “We have a target of 3000 MW power generation during 12th five year plan.” Dhar said. Pandey too made significant announcement during the briefing. He said state does not need counter guarantee from government of India for foreign investment in the power sector. “It (counter guarantee) is no longer required. It was a must in the past, but now scenario has changed,” Pandey said.

It is for the first time the Power Ministry of the State Government has come up with such a declaration. Earlier the State Government had to shelve 340 MW Kishanganga Project and 1200 MW Sawlakote power projects as the Centre Government refused to provide counter guarantees. “We have received nine bids for New Ganderbal project,” said Pandey. “Hydropower is really a very important sector to support the country for various ways. This is really going to benefit the state as well as all the stakeholders working together for harnessing the major areas of hydropower sectors in the this state,” Pandey said. He hoped that this endeavor would provide sufficient information about the latest trends in hydro power development as well as the hydro power potential in the State and would also enthuse the developers to take up harnessing the J&K’s hydro power potential of over 20,000 MWs. He said a national level hydro-training institute was coming up at Ganderbal in joint venture with the NHPC. He also said the purpose of holding the convention here was to highlight J&K’s strategy and initiatives taken to harness State’s hydro power resources. He said renowned power experts, developers, business companies from all over the world are attending the convention to deliberate on harnessing energy in the Himalayan region with special focus on J&K. Earlier Dhar said for setting up of 450-MWs Baglihar-II Jammu and Kashmir Bank and Power Trading Corporation have provided Rs 2000 crore financing. “This is for the first time that the financial institutions have not asked for mortgaging of our assets,” Dhar said.

President India Tech foundation Inder Mohan said as per Central Electricity Regulatory estimates, J&K has 25000 MW potential. “Only 10 percent of it is being harnessed. The process needs to be speeded up,” Mohan said. “We had a detailed meeting with the chief Minister Omar Abdullah in this regard last year when and he too was of the view as far as the hydropower is concerned. Besides that more and more hydro-electricity needed to be generated for the benefit of the state, the people living there and for the country’s benefit,” he added. Mohan reveled the Jammu and Kashmir state has the potential of producing 20,0000 MGW hydropower but quoting official records that only 10 per cent of it have been made utilized. “There is a great need to harness the maximum hydropower as soon as possible that is the only reason we have organized this kind of convention to address the various matters related to harness hydropower from this state,” Mohan said. He said that his organization (ITF) has been organizing such type of conventions for emphasizing on the need of the harnessing more and more hydro power rich areas in the county.

“Electricity is vital for the any prosperous economy and the need of the hour is to exploit these rich areas for the larger benefit,” Mohan said. “J&K has the potential of producing nearly 25,000 MGW- of which less than 10 per cent is being harnessed. Therefore it has provided us a major opportunity to tap this potential,” Mohan added.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Illegal Land Grab

Javeria wonders if authorities are part of the problem

(Ms. Javeria Khurshid, 25, was born in Jammu and is a resident of Srinagar. She did her schooling at the Simin Rose Garden Montessori, Sanat Nagar, Srinagar, the Gazan International School in Saudi Arabia, and the Mallinson Girls School, Srinagar. She completed her Bachelor's degree from the Government College for Women, Maulana Azad Road, Srinagar, in Sociology, English Literature and Education. She finished her post graduation from the Department of English (in English Literature) from the University of Kashmir in 2011. Presently she is pursuing further studies and preparing for the National Eligibility Test (NET). She has contributed articles to the Greater Kashmir and the Kashmir Times. She is a voracious reader and hobbies include writing, graffiti, drawing, poetry and blog writing.)

Encroachments Everywhere

Kashmir has become a hub of encroachments and so far no steps have been taken to tackle this problem. Some major functional buildings have been illegally encroached. The main tertiary health care of our State, SKIMS, too is facing this problem. The main road outside this hospital is encroached unlawfully by buses, fruit vendors, and nuts-selling vendors adding to the traffic mess. The buses and matadors have made half of the road their ‘legal’ parking place and the other half of the road is taken by the vendors. The other side of the road is busy with construction work going on for the past many months. It’s almost impossible for anyone to walk within ‘allotted’ space, let alone drive!

The SKIMS Trust hospital, which is situated one kilometer away, is a Herculean distance to cover. The ambulances that need to ply between the two health care systems get stuck in the traffic mess caused by the buses, matadors, fruit-vendors, hawkers, peddlers etc. The distance between the two hospitals is some 5-10 minutes, but it takes almost 1 hour and sometimes more to cover the distance between the two. Emergency patients battle for life owing to the frequent jams. The ambulances, which ought to be given first priority to transit, are left stranded amid the disarray caused by the plying buses and matadors that stop anywhere they like. Vendors and hawkers create frenzy, and they have turned the road into a busy shopping location.

The irony is that all this is happening under the nose of the police station situated nearby. The policemen act as mute spectators of the dismal situation outside. There are no traffic policemen to control, curb and direct the traffic mess outside this emergency hospital. Everyone passing by this place is aware of the grave situation. This speaks of the sorry state of affairs in the valley. Corruption has spread its tentacles everywhere. The men in ‘khaki’ have forgotten their pledge and their duty towards people. The police officers, however, are not the only ones at fault. Having failed to implement effective governance on ground, the entire system and government in J&K is falling apart.

Patron of Arts and Heritage

Farooq Renzu champions for preservation of Kashmir's heritage

(Khawaja Farooq Renzu Shah, 56, 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 as the Director of Information in the state service. He is presently the Vice Chairman of the Srinagar Development Authority (SDA). 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.)

Rare Kashmiri Heritage Treasure Being Displayed at Sangarmal Festival

Srinagar: A rare treasure of Kashmiri heritage and art is being unveiled at the inaugural ceremony of the Sangarmal festival beginning here Sunday.“A special stall has been set up at the festival which will put on display the rare heritage items collected and preserved by Miss Atiqa Bano, a renowned heritage collector”, said Farooq Renzu Vice Chairman of the Srinagar Development Authority which is organizing the festival. 

Giving details of items, the vice Chairman said many important heritage items of Kashmir shall be displayed. “The items include the oldest Takht and special royal utensils of sultanate period. 6 hundred year old earthen pots, 200 years old rare wooden jars, around 300 hundred years old rare furnishing items made of rare grass, rare manuscripts and a copy of 100 years old handwritten Quran Sharief with some inscription in gold”, said Renzu.“There are special rare lamps, wooden as well as earthen lamps of 14th and 15th century which will also be put for public display”, he added.In addition the special handicrafts shops shall also be displayed on the occasion on Sunday 10 June along with age old items which are a symbol of the rare art and craft of Kashmir. (KNS)

An Irretrievable Loss Both in Historical and Ecological Terms

Dr. Kundangar says that measurements recorded in our historical accounts give an idea of the loss regarding a disappearing water reservoir named Dal

(Dr. Mohammad Rashid-ud-din Kundangar, 65, was born in Srinagar. He completed his Masters degree in Botany, and Doctoral/Postdoctoral degree in Hydrobiology through the University of Kashmir. He served as a lecturer in Botany and Head of the Hydrobiology Research laboratory or about 25 years. Prof. Kundangar has about hundred research publications to his credit and has been actively involved in environmental studies with special reference to aquatic resources of the J&K State. He is the approved research guide of University of Kashmir, Barkatullah University, Bhopal, University of Roorkee and has supervised a number of M Phil candidates and PhD scholars. He has been the Chief Investigator of various state and centrally sponsored minor and major research projects. He was a founder Director Research & Development, J&K Lakes and Waterways Development Authority, and preceding retirement from the government service served as Principal of the Degree College. Dr Kundangar is the author of a number of books and is the Dean of Academics and the Head of the Department of Lake Sciences and Water Management in the SSM College of Engineering, the only privately run engineering institute in the valley. Dr Kundangar has been the consultant ecologist for various J&K government departments and a member of the Wetland Committee set up by Government of India. He has attended number of National and International conferences and toured various Asian and European countries.)

Squeezing Dal Lake - Historical Perspective

According to Drew (1875) the Dal Lake measured five miles from north to south and two miles from east to west. Hussan (1833) described that the Dal Lake measured approximately three miles long from Gagribal to Telbal and nearly two miles wide from Khawjayarbal to Nishat Bagh and it may again approximately be ten miles in circumference. Lawrence (1895) estimated the length of the lake to be four miles and its width two and a half miles. The author reported that the lake was becoming shallower. Stein (1899) confirmed the dimensions reported earlier by Lawrence and gave maximum depth of the lake as thirty feet. In 1931 Mukerjee reported the deepest part of Dal lake about twenty feet. As per the Enex Consortium New Zealand (1978) the total area of the lake was twenty one square kilometers, out of which open water area was 12.1 Sq. Km. Vass and Zutshi (1979) reported that the total open water area of the lake 11.75 Sq. Km and estimated total volume of the four basins of the lake as 9.83x106 m. Nigeen was found to be the deepest part with maximum depth of 6 metres. Kango and Fotedar (1982) reported that the area of Dal lake shrunk from 23.4 Sq.Km to 13.82 Sq Km during 118 years. Zutshi and Kundangar (1983) on the basis of maps and surveys of the lake by Montogmerie (1856-60) and comparing the same with the latest dimensions reported that the open water area of the Dal lake as 10.56 Sq.Km. According to latest surveys carried out by the J &K Revenue Department the Total area of the Dal and Nigeen lake are estimated to be 50432 Kanals of which 3922 Kanals are open waters and 10206 Kanals land mass.

The famous king of Kashmir Zainul-Abidin popularly known as Budshah, who ruled Kashmir during 1420-1470 AD used the lake for recreational purposes and beautified its surroundings. The importance of the lake as a tourist and recreational spot therefore is more than five centuries old. Hasssan Khuihami, the celebrated historian of Kashmir reported the laying of floating gardens, islands for cultivation of vegetables in the lake, however, the lake waters were said to be wholesome and calm with restricted zones for Nadroo cultivation. According to the notable historian the SONALANK island (presently 3-chinari) in the Bod Dal basin in front of Hazratbal was constructed by Sultan Zainul-Abidin with three storey building as a Royal Palace, which according to author fell down by an earthquake. During Mughal period a sight seeing tower was also built on the island. Sultan Hassan Shah (1475-1478 AD) built an another island called RUPALANK (presently Char-chinari) but its building was destroyed during Sikh period. During 1771-1774 AD, the governor of Kashmir Ameer Khan renovated the Sonalank and drew the lake water to the Chinar tree and into the garden of the building through Persian wheel. Hassan also states that the waters of the Dal lake would flow into the river Jhelum near Habba-Kadal, It was again King Zainul-Abidin who closed the outflow at Habba Kadal and instead dug out the Mar canal (Nalla Mar) inside the city allowing thereby the flow of the lake water through the canal towards Achan. Prior to it an intervention is also observed in 1413AD by Sultan Sikander who constructed a strong bund upon the Dal Lake from Nayidyar, Rainawari to Nishat bagh along with six bridges viz; Choudhry Kadal, Doodpathri Kadal, Tulkhan Kadal, Gani Kadal, Oont Kadal and Nishat Kadal (out of these the last two are vanished, only remains of oont Kadal could be seen even today). Saif Khan, the governor of Kashmir who ruled the valley twice i.e., 1647AD to 1667AD and 1668 AD to 1771 AD during the reign of Aurangzeb Alamgir built another bund from Khawjayarbal to Ashaibagh on Suderkhun ( now known as Nigeen lake).Consequently the Dal lake was divided into three parts viz. Bod Dal (in front of Hazratbal), Lokut Dal (expanse from Shankryacahria to Nishatbagh) and Suderkhun (situated in front of Kohimaran hillock).This was the beginning of the changes in the flow pattern of the lake water which continues till date. The large tracts of stagnant waters along the inshore areas were also created.

During the current century Dal lake incursions were at its peak and the same resulted in far reaching changes to its banks and also in the catchment. Two additional islands were built which further obstructed the water movements. A road namely Boulevard was laid along the south-west part to improve communication which separated a large part of the lake creating marshy area along the fringes of Zabarwan Mountains. This marshy land was gradually reclaimed and developed into huge commercial complexes. On the government side blunders started in late sixties and early seventies by closure of Nalla Mar rendering Brari-numbal to a cesspool and followed by late eighties when two huge complexes, one of Centaur lake view hotel and another that of Sher-e-Kashmir International Convention Centre were constructed at the lake fringe. The small bund serving an approach road to Kabooter Khana was dismantled. It was in this era not only mushrooming of hotels and commercial complexes were encouraged all along the boulevard road but a mad rush of people was observed to settle down in the immediate catchment of Dal lake and Nigeen lake. New settlements thus came into existence throwing all the norms and plans to wind. It was during this period another road from Nishat Bagh to Nassem Bagh as an extension to existing Boulevard known as Northern foreshore road was constructed. This 5 Km long road is significant as it was constructed with an expenditure of more than Rs. six crores i.e., each kilometer of the road has consumed about more than Rs. one crore. Another road called Western foreshore road from Dalgate to Hazratbal was constructed to ease the traffic congestion and at the expanse of Dal lake but abandoned midway in 1993 as it had attracted huge urbanization along the road alignment. Further a road from Babadem to Barbarshah was also constructed at the cost of Brarinambal lagoon of Dal Lake From 1973 to 1994 it was estimated that the population in and around Dal lake had 100% increase. The recent studies revealed that more than fifty thousand people are living within the lake which includes 42096 souls within hamlets and more than 8000 souls in house boats and doonga boats. The human incursions within the lake too are unabated. Thousands of Kanals of open water areas are converted into floating gardens, Radhs and into land masses every year. .

Although the J&K Lakes and Water Authority have succeeded in retrieving lake areas by dredging out the peripheral land masses, fishermen hemlets near Habak and NFR and artificial parks from Nishat Bagh to Naseem Bagh through suction cutter dredgers besides removal of lily pads and floating gardens. The political affiliations and undue political interference is one of the root causes of the failures of Dal Conservation and biggest hitch to realignment of houseboats and removal of illegal occupations within the lake The realignment of houseboats with stipulated criteria suggested by the Enex team, was a long pending issue seem to be resolved in near future through the intervention of the High Court.

The mention of the recent proposal to widen the Boulevard road by way of Cantilever at the cost of squeezing Dal lake has been shelved for some time, which would have added another incursion to the history the Dal lake. This proposal originated byway of extension of Dalgate road through cantilever at the cost of squeezing the outlet channel of Chunti Khul.

Tail piece: The fragrance from three hundred gardens laid on the periphery of the Dal Lake during the Mughal period would be felt by every visitor of Dal lake for years together and nowadays one could have the foul smell emitting Sewage Treatment Plants around the Dal Lake.

Inter-Community Relations

Harmony among valley based communities can become a reality only when everyone understands that pluralism and diversity are the most important assets of the Kashmiri identity - even more important than democracy and secularism in Kashmir. Bhushan says if we cannot sing together, we should at least wipe each others tears

(Mr. Bhushan Lal Saraf, 67, was born in Batapora, Shopian. He finished his schooling from the Government Higher Secondary School in Shopian, and completed his professional degrees in B.Sc. (Hons.), Diploma L.L.B., and KCS (Judicial) from the University of Jammu and Kashmir, and from the University of Lucknow. Mr. Saraf retired as a Principal District & Sessions Judge. He is presently an Honorary Member of the J&K State Consumer Commission. He has authored a book, "New Lexicon for the Kashmiris," published by UPS in New Delhi. In his leisure time, Judge Saraf, provides complimentary legal counselling, campaigns for legal awareness, and enjoys reading and writing.)

Time to go Beyond Rituals

Their centers of spiritual faith are attracting Kashmiri Pandits to the Valley in larger numbers. What started in a trickle a few years back has, pleasantly, turned into a downpour. There are reasons for it. Obvious one being improvement in the security scenario. But then the welcome extended and the job of facilitation done by the majority community can’t be ignored. Over the period of time the response of the majority community has grown from a passive welcome to open effusion of warmth. This year, we are told authoritatively, Khirbawani Shrines at Tullamula and Manzgam in Noorabad area and various other religious places, spread over nook and corner of the Valley, drew thousands of Pandits to pay obeisance. We have reason to believe that the warm reception extended by the members of majority community to visiting Pandits is not a fluke. Our young boys and girls serving in near and far of places in the Valley have been enjoying such a warmth for long time now. Probably, this is one of the reasons – undoubtedly a significant one - which has allowed them to stay out, despite the attempts of so many, within the community and outside, to dissuade them to take up employment in the Valley. This fact should be sufficient for a common Pandit to dispel notion, being unsuccessfully hammered down to him by the disgruntled forces, that he is welcome to Kashmir only as a visiting tourist and not as an original inhabitant.

The annual pilgrimage to the religious places , no doubt, provides an opportunity to return to the roots, have interaction with the members of majority community and renew the bond of affinity. However, frequency of such visits needs to be increased. Nonetheless, one can’t discount the hurdles that are on the path of smooth and durable return. We are told to return to the original habitat from where the displacement happened. Well most of the Pandits would like it. But the logistics and the change in the topography of the place deter them . Most of these places have changed beyond recognition ; some of their houses and house sites have suffered the vagaries of nature and some of them have been encroached up on. Though, it is heartening to note that Kashmir civil society members are on the job to have encroachments removed . To hasten the job this group has elicited a moral and material support from the separatist, as well. But in this case government has to do a lot. Apart from being a facilitator it has to provide the displace person with enough financial support for honorable and secured living there. Most of the Pandits are loath to live in exclusion of their friends in the Valley. So,a suitable place or places, in the mixed environs, must be identified. State government has a job at the hands.

For his peaceful and permanent stay in the Valley it is important for Pandits to see resolution of the Kashmir issue.No doubt they have a well stated position on the matter. Since so much has gone wrong in Kashmir for so long some thing can be retrieved within that known position. Pandits haven’t been happy either in wilderness of displacement. Kashmir has lost phenomenally in terms of human blood and human values. If we Kashmiris cannot sing in joy together, al least, we should cry in pain together and try to wipe out tears of one another. Moreover, it will do a lot of good to a Pandit if he sees a clear distinction in Indian state and the Indian nation.While as he is free to identify himself with the latter in all respects, it is not his bounden duty to act as an apologist of the former when it does something terribly wrong and unexplainable.

Disappearing Forests

Naveed points to a serious issue that is not only depriving Kashmir of its assets but also its future ecological balance

(Mr. Naveed Qazi, 23, did his schooling from Burn Hall School and Tyndale Biscoe, and eventually graduated in Commerce from the University of Kashmir. Naveed is a blogger and activist from Kashmir, and head of intellectual activism group, Insights: Kashmir. His blogs have been published on local and international journals like Open Democracy UK, The Nation, Pakistan and Muslim Institute, London. Naveed lives in Srinagar, and writes on current affairs, politics and society.)

Kashmir’s Prospering Timber Mafia Opportunism sometimes can be a dangerous thing. Kashmir is witnessing timber smuggling phenomenon on a grand scale. Heinous crime of murder was committed last year at Sukhnag forest range in Arizal that were intended to revolutionize this malicious practice. Guardian, the English newspaper, did a report on this in 2010. They interviewed many intellectuals, villagers in Kharg and Pir Panjal mountains, and came to a conclusion that smuggling industry has flourished by making parallels with the licensed wood available.

The reasons seem to be corruption from bureaucrats and wealthy merchants, which isn’t news to anyone. Corruption has been a regular practice in the administrative chambers, irrespective of the fact that every mainstream political party promises to end it. Therefore, if any government or members of the state legislature are seriously interested about sustainability of our flora and fauna, they should identify these perpetrators who are allowing this practice to happen, through local sources.

Illegal tree felling in Kashmir has induced landslides, which is natural occurrence after deforestation. Smugglers have even used political unrest to conceal this black market trade. There seems to be a clear problem of less forest guard manpower, and no proper infrastructure. A previous report on this matter had suggested that Kokernag residents are ascertaining that there is a political endorsement, police and forest department influence on these activities. If smugglers have any sort of backing, they will use it to their fullest leverages. Therefore, it is the role of state, environmental activists, and most importantly, the help of common people to deal with this malicious activity.

There also have been recent claims through reports that illegal timber smuggling is running unabated at Zchamni Patri, Hurpur forest enclosure. The locals have accused that felled logs are passing through check points without any hassles. It seems that a full-fledged land mafia is going on. This clearly indicates that some initiatives run by authorities to convert local timber smugglers, who have expressed to forbid the practice, into tourist guides is not being productively implemented because the timber smuggling activity is still going on.

There also have been initiatives put forward by the state government to arm Forest Protection Force (FPF) with sophisticated weapons. This move won’t be effective unless and until there is a proper training given to them. Co-ordination with the J&K Police, effective forest patrolling, gathering of local intelligence and increase in the installment of jungle observatory posts also seems vital. More local people should be recruited for the protection of our forests. Liberalizing the import of timber is another effective way of balancing the demand of wood inside Kashmir. Government should also encourage a massive campaign in growing tree saplings in areas that were previously forests, so that we can renovate them once again for the future. The role of environmental consultants in educating local villagers can also help through providing specialized knowledge regarding the aftermaths of environmental degradation.

Timber smuggling is ethically improper, and why should anyone allow it to prosper at the cost of environment? Imagine the world renowned and picturesque Kashmir, its lush green meadows, forests lands, our ‘green gold’ converting into barren like spaces. Some parts of Kashmiri forests are already under this process, by becoming extinct from the verdure of green foliages and wildlife.

We must remember the old famous adage of our great Sufi Saint, Sheikh Noor ud Din Wali (RA) "Ann poshi teli yeli wann poshi" (Food will last as long as forests last). Doesn’t this hold true today, even under scientific or social considerations? Why should this phrase be only limited to rhetorical discussions, when there is no real implementation of this rewarding guidance? Let’s think of the consequences and act before it’s too late.

Income Over Ethics

This is the case of financially well-off people to whom only wage earning brides will do

Kashmir's 'Insecure' Brides

Sidrah Fatma (Rising Kashmir)

Srinagar: Such is the importance of government jobs in Kashmir that when would be in laws of Uzma (name changed) realized she is on the brink of losing her job they stopped Adil (name changed), their son, to marry her. The refusal came a year after the parents of the duo arranged a grand engagement function for them. 

Uzma is one of the many female volunteers protesting against the government’s decision to wind up the Central Government’s National Youth Corps (NYC) scheme launched in 2010 in J&K. While females are silent protesters, males keep chanting anti-government slogans throughout the day here at Press Enclave.

As many as 8200 volunteers are getting affected by government’s decision of winding up the scheme.

Rifat Rashid (24), a volunteer was employed as a data entry operator under the NYC scheme for two years, during the 2010 unrest in Valley. “For two years, I have worked as a data operator in the education department. I used to work till 5 in the evening like the permanent employees but for a paltry sum of Rs 2500,” she said, adding 8200 boys and girls were allotted jobs in different government departments in various districts of Kashmir during 2010 unrest. As the contract period of two years is about to end, panic has struck the volunteers who are at the brink of losing their jobs.

Demanding extension in their contract the volunteers have taken to hunger strike since May 28. However, they are disappointed by the response of government towards their protest. “We are sad that Chief Minister did not bothered himself to see us. Once he promised to work for our employment but now he has forgotten it,” said Urfi Mir, another women protester.

“Marriage proposals quickly followed many of us after the news spread in our respective areas that we have been employed under a Central Government scheme but many families backed out once they discovered that our jobs are uncertain. The reason they cited was that they wanted employed brides and grooms for their children,” Urfi further said.

Taslima Naik made her way from Pulwama to join her fellow protesters. “I was assigned a teaching job at a government school in Pulwama. I used to teach Urdu, Mathematics and other subjects to students of seven classes, while the permanent teachers would take just four classes. I did my job very seriously, but nobody acknowledged that,” she said.

The protesting volunteers demand extension in their job contract and placemen in the government departments they were working in.

“In Kashmir, you have to fight for your right, it doesn’t come easily. We will fight till our last breath. The government may be thinking that we will leave in few days. But if needed, we will send the boys home and girls will protest here all night,” asserted Rifat.

Kashmir in Washington

The glory of a 19th-century Kashmir Moon Shawl 

The Fascinating Journey of a Kashmiri Shawl

Nafeesa Syeed

Washington: Three decades ago, a woman from the northeastern United States bought a bag of textiles at a yard sale of used goods that cost around $10.

Inside, there was a colorful shawl that she intended to cut up and turn into pillows. But she stowed the bundle within a box in her basement, consigning it to oblivion.

That is, until last year, when she was searching for items to include in a flea market for second-hand wares in her town northwest of Boston, Massachusetts. Upon rediscovering the long-lost shawl, the detailed stitching made her wonder of its worth.

A few months ago, that same shawl was sold at a Boston auction house for almost $60,000, which appraisers say set a world record for the sale of a “Kashmir moon shawl” at auction. A 19th-century creation, the shawl is a remnant of the transcontinental Kashmiri shawl industry’s heyday and a reflection of the fascination these textiles can still fetch.

Although the shawls are no longer the staple fashion accessory they once were a couple hundred years ago, Kashmiris continue to export contemporary shawls far beyond the subcontinent, and some are innovating ways to keep their trade afloat.

Left untouched for nearly 30 years, the six-foot-by-six-foot Kashmir shawl came to Gary Richards, director of the Oriental rugs and carpets department at Skinner Inc., in impeccable condition. A woman, whose identity the auction house said it could not release, brought the shawl to him last fall unaware of its heritage. The circular medallion design at the center was a giveaway that it was a moon shawl, and save for a few rewoven spots near that ring, Mr. Richards says the hand-stitched silk embroidery covering the entire square surface was intact. The colors—mustard yellow, gold, ivory, red and various hues of blue and green—filling the intricate floral designs also remained vibrant.

“I thought it was really fantastic,” he says. “The border was so fabulous no modern one (would) have one like that.”

A fragile piece, almost paper-thin, the shawl’s border tipped off appraisers to the shawl’s age. Mr. Richards says among the elements experts consider when dating a product are patterns in motifs and weaving and how they might have evolved over time. In this case, he says a design that includes dark lines running along the border clued them in to the early 1800s.

“This shawl had tremendous luck in its time to have come through 200 years in this kind of condition—it’s just phenomenal,” Mr. Richards says. “We’ve never had any Kashmir shawl that’s ever come close to this one.” The age, quality and color drew heavy interest from international bidders, with the shawl ultimately selling in February for $59,250 (with the buyer’s premium added to the final $50,000-bid). Based on their research, the auction house says that amount broke the previous record for a moon shawl sale at auction. 

Though experts confirmed this particular shawl was made in Kashmir, exactly how it ended up on American shores is unknown. But Kashmiri shawls have a long tradition of traveling outside the Himalayan region. Shawl-making goes back at least five centuries in Kashmir, and was a commercial undertaking from the get-go, with those in power sponsoring and overseeing the industry, historians say.

The shawls were sought-after gifts across Asia before making their way westward, eventually to North America. By the mid-1800s, with India under imperial rule, shawls grew into a sweeping fashion trend among European women. As Kashmiri-made shawls became pricier, the British and French mass produced affordable knockoffs with places like Paisley – a short train ride outside Glasgow in Scotland – becoming centers of shawl fabrication. (Galleries at a museum in Paisley dedicated to shawl history have showcased how the town became the namesake of the paisley tear-drop shape often featured in shawl designs, and how shawl factories once dotted the area.)

This triggered an interplay between the world’s shawl-producing centers. The “moon” emblem adorning the shawl auctioned in Boston was, in fact, a 19th-century Western design that might have been of French origin, according to Chitralekha Zutshi, a professor of South Asian history and Kashmir expert at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. Shawl-makers in Kashmir as well as in Europe widely adopted the moon pattern in their products, she says.

In the 19th century, Ms. Zutshi, who has chronicled the shawl industry’s development, says Kashmiri shawls were prized because they were handcrafted from a particular raw material—namely wool—and everything from their designs to their softness was esteemed. The move to replicate the shawls in Europe resulted in attempts to understand how the shawls were made and from where they came, including British experts studying the production process in Kashmir and even a writer penning a novel with a Kashmiri shawl as his narrator.

Ms. Zutshi says she’s not surprised an old shawl would be snapped up for tens of thousands of dollars, but unlike in the past, the origins of the shawls might be lost on those who remain captivated by the textiles. 

“Today, I think there is very little understanding of where they come from…nor is there a desire to find out,” Ms. Zutshi says. “Shawls have firmly been reduced to rarities from the past—antiques, in effect—that fetch huge prices at auctions because they represent Eastern royalty and luxury.” 

Though the European shawl-manufacturers have long shuttered their operations and some Kashmiri families once involved in the market have migrated to other fields, the tourist shopping districts in the valley of Kashmir are still stacked with locally made shawls. Production may not be on par with the scale of the glory days, but it’s a sign for some that shawls have endured through centuries, which includes surviving the recent two decades of unrest. Moreover, they persist, in some respects, as a globally desired commodity.

Inside Union Station, Washington’s busy train hub located just a few blocks from the U.S. Capitol building, two mannequins displayed at a boutique’s storefront windows are draped in black and cream shawls bedecked with characteristic Kashmiri crewel work.

At the shop, named Kashmir, owner Javid Mahajan explains how he began importing shawls to the U.S. as a wholesaler more than a decade ago, supplying museum gift shops and other outlets, before opening this store and another in Baltimore, Maryland. His shawls range from about $120 to $1,400, depending on the amount of adornment. He says he keeps up with fashion preferences and caters to designs and colors in line with American aesthetics, such as most of his shawls having a black base, which buyers tend to prefer. 

“They’ve heard about Kashmiri shawls, it’s ringing in the back of their ears, but they don’t know enough,” the grey-mustached Mr. Mahajan says of his customers, “so you explain to them why it’s so important.” To him, that means highlighting Kashmir’s shawl legacy, and emphasizing that his products are all hand-made in Kashmir and not machine-made copies from China.

The shop owner has also introduced another concept to his shawl enterprise: fair trade. A computer monitor prominently positioned in the showroom plays a slideshow on repeat, flashing images of men and women in “pherons”—the cloak-like tops Kashmiris wear—embroidering fabric. Mr. Mahajan says he and his brothers work directly with their producers, who are mostly on the outskirts of his native Srinagar, to ensure that they receive living wages as set by the government, no child labor is involved, and there are good working conditions. He says it translates into better quality and is a selling point for those customers who are increasingly conscious of the circumstances of the foreign goods they purchase, perhaps a step in the direction of rekindling interest in the shawls’ origins.

For Mr. Mahajan, the idea of fair trade also fosters preservation of the craft. He figures most Kashmiris are proud of their long history with the shawl and how it’s lasted, from say, the time of the moon shawl until now. But he finds that many handicraft workers in the city are opting for other labor with better pay. Providing fair wages, he says, means artisans will stay on the job. “You don’t want the hand-art to die. These artists create such beautiful stuff,” he says. “If we don’t just push it, it will die one day soon.”
(Wall Street Journal)