Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Protecting Kashmiri identity

(The all-out assault launched by the Hindutva forces in completely wiping out the Kashmiri identity necessitates an equally united front from the entire State to defend and safeguard it)
Protecting Kashmiri identity
The first question is what is “Kashmiri” identity? Kashmiris constitute a nation which is thousands of years old. In fact, a written record of Kashmiri nation penned down by an illustrious son of Kashmir, Kalhana goes back more than 5,000 years! Even before the recorded history, Kashmiris existed as a people and grew up on this planet with the birth of mankind all over the world. The dwelling pits and the megaliths at Burzahome and many other Neolithic (new stone age) sites in different parts of the valley are a distinct and irrefutable pointer towards the origin of Kashmiris. No doubt many other people came into the valley from time to time, yet there is no denying the fact that Kashmiris were born and grew up to be a distinct nation in the valley of Kashmir itself!
Over the years, Kashmiris developed their own unique culture and language. Thus the Kashmiri nation with a distinct culture, language and history has been there for thousands of years. The existence of Kashmir as a separate country in the Himalaya and the unique Kashmiri nation with distinct features finds mention in most of the Greek, Chinese and Arab chronicles. Kashmiris did have a change of religion from time to time. They were earlier Saivite Hindus, then they became Buddhists, then again Saivite Hindus and finally adopted Islam as their religion. Now, the majority of them follow the religion of Islam. However, all the changes were voluntary without any compulsion. In spite of the fact that the majority of the population adopted Islam as their religion, there has never been any conflict with those who continued to profess the Saivite religion. In fact, one of the reasons for such a mass conversion has been the similarity in the basic philosophy between Islam and Saivite Hinduism. The Saivites also follow Monism with belief in one super power creating, sustaining and destroying the Universe. They also believe in ultimate destruction of Universe which they call Pralaya. They are totally different from the Vedanta Hinduism followers of North India who have initiated the Hindutva wave and are bent upon destroying the unique identity of not only Kashmir but entire India!
After the Dogra conquest of Ladakh and purchase of the valley from the British, Kashmir evolved into the State of Jammu & Kashmir. The State has now been in existence for almost two hundred years as a composite unit of three cultures. At present whenever people speak about Kashmir, they in fact mean the entire state of Jammu & Kashmir. Kashmir these days does not denote the valley only but the entire state including parts with China and Pakistan. Till 1947 the three units carried along without any problems. The partition and the war in Kashmir split the state into various parts. On the Indian side even after partition these three parts, Kashmir Valley, Jammu and Ladakh carried on without any conflict among the inhabitants. In fact, very strong business relations grew between Jammu and Kashmir valley and these units became economically interdependent. However, certain Hindutva elements sowed the seeds of dissension by clamouring for total merger of the State into Indian Union. This was resisted by the then Central Government which incorporated Article 370 and 35-A in the Indian Constitution to safeguard and preserve the identity of the State of Jammu & Kashmir. The Maharaja while acceding to the Indian Union had specifically asked for accession in only three subjects. He was very keen for preserving the identity of the people of all the three regions. In fact, he had enacted the state-subject law in 1927 not only for the people of the valley but for the inhabitants of all the three regions. He had apprehensions that rich from other parts of the pre-partition India would buy out his subjects who were comparatively poor!
The present assault on these two articles of the Constitution is not only directed against Kashmiris but against all the three regions. There is, therefore, urgent need for the inhabitants of all the three regions to present a united front to defend these articles. Any fiddling with these articles is not only going to affect the identity of Kashmiris from the valley but of all the three regions of the state. In fact, it was this very unity and tolerance among the Kashmiris which had made Mahatma Gandhi to see a ray of hope in Kashmir when the entire sub-continent was burning due to riots. Nehru himself was more than keen to keep Kashmir with India as a guarantee for the secularism preached by him! Thus the attack on the identity of Kashmir is, in true sense, an attack on the very idea of India.
Thus, all Kashmiris irrespective of their affiliations, regions or political outlooks should give a united front and resist the assault on the ages old identity of Kashmir. This is essential not only to safeguard the unity of the three regions of the state and the individual identity of these but also to save India itself from turning into a totalitarian country of one religion only which can ultimately result in its disintegration. All the democratic, secular, and progressive forces in India will definitely support such a stand.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The flyover to nowhere!

(The bits and pieces of the incomplete flyover of Srinagar in fact reflect the true state of Kashmir’s development in almost all sectors!)
The flyover to nowhere!

The most appropriate word to describe the state of developmental activities in Kashmir in any field is “adhocism”! Everything is done on the whims and fancies of the rulers always given to flattery from one and all! The worst fault is of our engineers who instead of giving the correct technical advice and standing by it regardless of the consequences try to please the political masters by catering to their whims and fancies. There are at the moment two fly overs under construction. The longest one has been there under construction for last four years or so. These fly overs which ostensibly are being constructed to ease the traffic congestion are in reality for easing the movement of VIP’s at congestion points and allowing them a quick travel to Airport and Secretariat. The Jahangir Chowk flyover was constructed only for easing the travel of VIP’s to the Secretariat. In fact, it created more congestion for the normal traffic going under it! There is an interesting side light of the project. It was conceived and presented to Dr. Farooq Abdullah when he was the Chief Minister. The authors of the project had a very ingenious plan for destroying the beauty of Srinagar. The engineers had suggested an overhead road right from Badshah Bridge to Rustom Gadi Bridge all over the Maulana Azad Road. Fortunately, the then Chief Town Planner convinced the Chief Minister that it will destroy the most important green avenue of Srinagar City. Luckily he was convinced and scrapped the project!
There are umpteen projects which were started either on the whims and fancies of the rulers or to accommodate some vested interests but were then abandoned half way after the sudden departure of the particular set of the rulers! The skewed bridge is a living example! If one is really interested in easing the traffic congestion, the first thing is to ensure enforcement of traffic rules on the existing roads. Srinagar is a city of crazy drivers who observe no traffic rules. Licenses for driving are issued without any driving tests. Sometimes these can be delivered at your home for a price!
Instead of the fly over, one could have built two parallel wide roads for one way traffic with only one way side entries. A parallel bridge to existing one at Ram Bagh could have ensured smooth traffic both ways. In fact, some citizens including some local engineers approached every one for reviewing the construction of this monstrous and obnoxious long flyover which does not at all gel with the surroundings. They even approached the Asian Development Bank which was supposed to be funding the project. Even a Public Interest Litigation too was filed in the High Court but to no avail. The engineers and the rulers had their way as the project involved huge pay offs! Interestingly, the projects which are really meant to be in general public interest get slowed down for unknown reasons. Take for instance the measures for prevention of future floods like the dredging of the River Jhelum and the flood Spill over Channel. These are moving at a snail’s pace because these may not involve easy pay offs! Recently, there has been a news about the mismanagement of the dredging project by a Kolkata based firm which even after a scandal on the Jhelum River is supposed to be engaged again for dredging of the Wular Lake!
The most recent and a glaring example of ad hocism is the shifting of the Batamaloo Bus Stand. No doubt this Bus Stand which has been there for ages is a huge traffic bottle neck but the shifting has to be in a proper way and not just on ad hoc basis. Firstly, the entire traffic bottle neck could have been avoided if the stand had proper strictly monitored one way entry and exit roads manned by traffic police not ready for compromise at any cost. Moreover, the huge bus fleet of various categories is supposed to be shifted to a stand which can hardly accommodate 286 buses! Again that new stand will create another nightmarish congestion point! The idea is not to shift congestion from one part of the city to another part but to ease the flow of traffic everywhere. The most urgent need is to engage an agency which can give a proper traffic plan and then ensure implementation and enforcement of the plan. Flyovers, over bridges, under bridges will not solve the problem unless there is a will to enforce the law regardless of any considerations. Ambulances and other emergency vehicles have the first right of way than siren blaring VIP’s violating all laws! Incidentally, we have so much Armed Police; a part of it could be easily spared for enforcing traffic regulations at all the crossings and congestion points..
In fact, if one were to write about adhocism in development and even all other state activities, it would take a book. The Srinagar Master Plan especially the land use, building bye laws and so on are all in a mess. These are observed more in violation than in enforcement! These are huge money spinning treasuries for some people involved in the observance and enforcement of various laws! They say honesty and water always flow from top to down below. Unfortunately, both the political will and honesty have always been missing in Kashmir. Consequently, we have to continue to suffer whether by flyovers to nowhere or by sudden floods or unending traffic jams!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Winter heating in Kashmir

(Traditional Hammams are giving way to Central Heating)
Winter heating in Kashmir

Winters in Kashmir especially certain months are very cold with freezing temperatures. Even though the amount of snowfall and the severity of the cold are lesser than the earlier times, still one needs to provide some type of heating arrangement in the homes. Traditionally, many Kashmiri homes have a special room called Hammam. This centrally located room in the ground floor has stone slabs as the flooring. Under these slabs there is a fireplace accessible from outside in which firewood is burnt. The stones get heated up and the room is quite warm. The heated stone slabs remain hot for quite some time. The disadvantage is that it is a solitary room in the entire house and everybody has to sit there for warmth. The rest of the house and other spaces like corridors etc. remain cold!  Another system has been burning wood in cast iron stoves in various rooms. These stoves have a pipe going out through the window for smoke. These are called “Bukharis”! These are quite efficient and get heated up quickly.
However, the most efficient system of heating houses and work places is central heating. Most of Europe, America and many other countries in colder regions have been using this circulated. In some cases, a mesh is buried under floors which are heated through circulating hmethod for heating in winter for ages. The heating is through radiators in which hot water or air is ot water. The water is heated in boilers which can be run on electric power, diesel, kerosene or even wood briquettes. In addition to heating, the system can also provide hot water which is primarily used for heating. The system is self-contained and just a push of a switch inside the house can start it running. Also now there is a programmer on which times can be set for switching on and off the system automatically.
 In Kashmir some of the hospitals were the first to get this system of heating. Now most of the hotels, important offices and some private homes have central heating. If the people of Kashmir were in a position to generate and utilise the hydro-electric power of which we have the highest potential, it would really be a paradise in winter. Everything would be heated nicely in winter on electric power! In the present scenario of acute shortage of power the ideal thing is to have heating on diesel oil which is readily available. In fact, the government should have been inducing people to go for such type of heating both within the homes and the work places. In most of the countries in colder regions like in Europe, the schools do not have winter breaks like in Kashmir. In fact, the winter is the best time to study. They get summer holidays to travel all over the world! Here, because of no heating arrangements in schools and other educational institutions, we have a “winter break”! It should be the endeavour of the government to make heating arrangements in all schools and other educational institutions so that the main study season could be the long winter itself. It is worth spending that money to look after our children than waste it on unproductive things!
During recent years, Kashmir has seen massive construction of private houses many by non-resident Kashmiris. Some of the houses may be worth more than 20 crores or so. However, one hardly sees any arrangement of winter heating in these houses. May be because these people come only during summer? Another interesting thing observed in many houses is the use of architecture suitable for hot places or even sea side. Huge spaces, high ceilings, and internal stairs in round shape or so with lot of free and open space all round. These would be really difficult to heat in winter! Interestingly, people spend lots of money in decorating their homes with tiles, decorative bricks or even marble on the outside but do not keep provision for heating which is the most important requirement in winter! Normally an average house with two floors would not cost more than rupees five to six lakhs for a complete central heating system! May be people are not aware about this aspect.
Coming to personal heating, Kashmiris have a unique system. We have mobile heaters called “Kangris”. It is an earthen pot in a wicker frame in which burning coals with ash on top are carried. This earthen fire pot is carried under a robe called “Pheran”. This has been the traditional system of personal heating from the earliest times. The best and the long lasting fire is from the coal made from dried Chinar leaves which are in abundance all over Kashmir in autumn. Even though the “Kangri” is very versatile and convenient, it has its hazards too. There are cases of developing cancer in thighs and stomach by close contact with the hot fire pot under the “Pheran”. In fact it is known as “Kangri Cancer”! However, the new generation is giving up the concept of “Pheran” and “Kangri”. They prefer Anoraks and jackets which are more comfortable and allow ease of working. It is said that the “Pheran” and “Kangri” was introduced in Kashmir by Mughals to make violent and aggressive Kashmiris docile and lazy! There may be some truth in it? Only our historians can confirm it! Incidentally, the “Kangri” is also sometimes used as a weapon in clashes during winter. A Kashmiri version of the famous “Molotov Cocktail”!


Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The (un-) Holy Men!

(The controversy surrounding Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh and the mayhem caused by his conviction for rape seems only the proverbial tip of the ice-berg!)
The (un-) Holy Men!


For quite some time India was known in the west as the land of snake charmers and naked sadhus. Well, the Sadhus are considered to be the holy men who have been associated with India from the earliest times. The Himalaya, the greatest mountain chain in the world has been called the “Abode of Gods”! Traditionally, most of the holy men have been going up in the mountains to meditate. However, the real spiritual beings about whom one reads in history books have been totally non-materialistic. They, in fact, have always renounced the material world in preference to the spiritual world. However, with the modern progress and development, the spiritual and the holy men too have progressed from the spiritual to the material world. India is home to dozens of these holy men quite a number of whom have been indulging in un-holy things!
In 2014, the rediff.com carried a detailed article about these holy men under the title, “India’s 10 most controversial Gurus”! It would be interesting to give excerpts from the article. The first one is Sant Rampal, an Engineer who after coming into contact with a seer set up Satlok Ashram in 1999.He owns a fleet of luxury cars and lives in a 12 acre sprawling farm in Barwala, Haryana. He has 25 lakh followers! He has his own Facebook and YouTube page. After a clash with the followers of Swami Dayanand Saraswati he faces charges of murder, attempted murder and contempt of court cases.
Next is AsaRam Bapu. Born in undivided Sindh, he has 425 Ashrams and more than 50 gurukuls and tremendous following in India and abroad. He is accused of raping a 16 year old girl in his Ashram at Jodhpur even as the mother of the girl waited outside. He is also allegedly accused in a 700 acre land grabbing case. He and his son are also accused of death of two boys whose bodies were recovered near from Sabarmati near his ashram.
Another Guru is Swami Nityananda. Popular for his spiritual discourses and meditation programmes, Swami Nithyananda was named as one of the 100 most spiritually influential living people in the world by Watkins ‘Mind Body Spirit magazine.   He claims to be the most-watched spiritual teacher on YouTube.com with more than 14 million views, and the author of more than 300 books published in 27 languages. He landed in controversy after video footage showing him in a compromising position was telecast by some tv channels. He was also accused of rape by Indian born American citizen, Arthi Rao in June, 2012. Rao went on Indian television accusing him of raping her for several years. He denied the allegations!
Then comes Baba Ramdev known for popularising Yoga. He has been very vocal about many political issues in the country. Tehelka Magazine has reported many irregularities and tax evasion by his trust. Brinda Karat, the senior communist leader has accused Divya Pharmacy of using human and animal bones in their medicine. He has been claiming cure for many diseases including Aids through Yoga.
Next is Swami Agnivesh. He is Arya Samaj Scholar and activist and is former member of Haryana Legislative assembly. He has many controversies associated with him.  Agnivesh, during a trip to Jammu, had allegedly said that he "does not understand why people go" for Amarnath yatra and such pilgrimages and had termed the "Shivlingam" that forms inside the Amarnath cave shrine a geographical phenomenon. The Supreme Court condemned Agnivesh for hurting the sentiments of Hindus. “You cannot take sentiments of the people for granted," the bench said, noting that a large number of people go on Amarnath yatra every year.
One of the most controversial spiritual leaders is Rajnesh or Osho.  He is considered to be the most controversial spiritual leaders of 20th Century to have emerged from India. He has been outspoken in his criticism of socialism, Mahatma Gandhi and institutionalised religion. He advocated a more open attitude towards sexuality which earned him the sobriquet of the “Sex Guru”! He has been accused of giving drugs to Sannyasins. Due to controversies in India he fled to USA. However, in Oregon his commune was accused of many violations and he was deported.
Another Guru is Chandraswami, the tantric who was close to Prime Minister Narasimha Rao. He has been accused of many financial irregularities        . In 1996 he was arrested for defrauding a London businessman of $ 100, 000. CBI has also been investigating him for involvement in Rajiv Gandhi murder case as a financier!
Next is  Jayendra Saraswati who is the sixty-ninth Shankaracharya of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham.  Kanchi seer Jayendra Saraswati and his junior Vijayendra are the prime accused in the murder of Sankararaman, the manager of the Varadarajaperumal temple at Kanchipuram, in September 3, 2004.
One of the most famous God Men is the world famous Sathya Sai Baba of Puttaparthi. He was the most famous Guru with millioms of followers in 126 countries. Often regarded as ‘Bhagwan’, Sathya Sai Baba, who passed away in 2011, ruled the hearts of his devotees through many social service endeavours like building multi-specialty hospitals providing free treatment, schools and colleges among others. However, his life and times were also marked by several serious controversies involving allegations of faking ‘miracles’, sexual abuse and even paedophilia -- all of them vociferously refuted by his followers. There also have been allegations of misappropriation of funds in the name of donations in running the Rs 40,000 crore Sathya Sai Baba trust. Moreover, even after the Baba’s demise, trustees found cash of Rs 11.5 crore, 98 kg of gold and silver articles weighing 307 kilograms from his private room, which again raised eyebrows. The money and valuables took 36 hours to be counted.
Finally, we come to the present Guru whose conviction for rape created havoc in Haryana and some other places. Leader of the Dera Sacha Sauda, a socio-spiritual orgnisation, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh has led his organisation to several Guinness World Records. The spiritual leader and preacher has, in association with the American Society of Echocardiography, created a world record for most cardiac echo tests. He had been found guilty of raping two woman followers and has been sentenced to 10 years in prison. Following this, his followers went on rampage in Haryana and Army had to be called out. He wept in the court and asked for forgiveness!
Apart from these well-known “holy” men, there are numerous others all over the country. It will take a book to describe all of them. The main reason for the phenomenal growth of these pseudo-Gurus is political patronage and the lack of true faith in the ultimate being among the masses. They get taken in by these Gurus who claim to be nearer to God. One does not need a lawyer to plead before the Almighty. Basically all religions preach approaching the Highest Being directly. These Gurus exploit the weakness of the masses. In fact, the followers of these Gurus are massive vote banks! There is urgent need to investigate all the Ashrams, Trusts and other organisations claiming to be closer to God Almighty through the National Investigation Agency. Many skeletons may fall from the cupboard! In the meantime, the innocent masses will continue to be exploited by these (un-) holy men!
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Thursday, August 24, 2017

“Azadi” to “Special Status”

(There seems to be a deliberate hype for retaining the so called “Special Status” in order to dilute the universal demand for total freedom called “Azadi”!)
Some people have opined that the Central Government has deliberately shifted the focus of Kashmir agitation from “Azadi” to “Special Status”. Almost all so called mainstream political parties are totally worked up by the proposed abrogation of the so called special status enjoyed by the J & K State by virtue of Article 370 and the Article 35-A of the Indian Constitution. They are behaving as if they have had no role in bringing Kashmir to present pass! In fact, all these mainstream parties are guilty of diluting Kashmir’s “Special Status” all through the years they ruled Kashmir with the Central Government’s consent and support. These parties have been agitating in such a manner that would give an impression as if Kashmir has really enjoyed a “Special Status” all these years. The so called “Special Status” had gone for a six on the 9th of August, 1953 when the principal supporter of the accession had been dethroned and imprisoned in the worst ever violation of the Indian Constitution. The “tunnel” of Article 370 has been used all these years to impose all the Indian laws in J & K. There is hardly anything left of the so called autonomy. This was possible only through the local collaborators who helped in the virtual integration of the State into the Indian Union. Nothing has ever happened in Kashmir in any sphere of activity without the consent of the Central Government. As regards the State Subject Law, it was enacted by the former Maharaja of Kashmir in 1927 to safeguard not only the rights of the Muslims but of Hindus both from Kashmir and Jammu. He was apprehensive that without the permanent residence safeguard the people of the whole state who were very poor, would be swept away by the Punjabis with their money!
As regards a demographic change of the whole state, it has already happened in 1947 itself. The brutal and savage massacres of Muslims in Jammu carried out under the diabolical plans of Hindu extremist from within and outside the state reduced the Muslim majority considerably. Moreover, the West Pakistan refugees settled in Jammu are for all practical purposes part of the local population. The only thing they lack is certain rights for employment, owning land and voting in Assembly elections. When one considers their rights, one cannot forget the rights of the Muslims displaced to Pakistan in 1947 and even afterwards. For that there is already the Resettlement Act passed by the State Assembly which has been kept in limbo!
One has to understand that the core sentiment and yearning for freedom locally called “Azadi” is universal in Kashmir regardless of outer political aspirations. This yearning has been there for last four centuries or so or precisely from 1586 when the Independent and Sovereign Kingdom of Kashmir was annexed by the Mughals to their empire by treachery. After four centuries of external slavery there was an awakening in the twenties and thirties of the last century. A strong movement for “Azadi” started which got mixed up in the sub-continental contradictions due to the confusion and insincerity of the leaders. Subsequently, Kashmir has remained in uncertainty even though the day to day life carried on. However, for last two and a half decades there has been total alienation of the new generation of Kashmiris from the Indian mainstream. The youth have been clamouring for total and absolute freedom. The Pakistani sentiment, the Pak flags and the rise of pro-Pak militants is because Kashmiris are facing a Hindu India which they find easy to confront and beat with pro-Islamic and pro-Pak actions. A number of surveys conducted by some neutral organisations have clearly shown that given a choice, the majority of Kashmiris will opt for total Independence.
One of the main fears of the local population over the years has been that they would be swallowed up by the Indian mainstream. As long as the so called autonomy even if only in name was there, the people had a psychological satisfaction that they will not get drowned in the Indian mainstream. However, the BJP tirade on the so called special status has not only woken up all the Kashmiris but has generated extreme fear and apprehension among them regarding their future. It is for the first time all parties from all ideologies seem to be converging against this diabolical move of the Hindutva Brigade. However, there is a catch here. The new generation of Kashmiris some of whom are dying everyday does not follow any leaders or parties. They seem to have one point programme of getting total freedom. They consider Kashmir to be a colony and the Army as an occupation Army. The mass support of these new young militants has given rise to a totally new type of militancy. A few armed youth being followed and supported by unarmed masses even during encounters with the forces! Common people just armed with stones have been facing Army bullets  to save armed militants during cordon and search operations of the Army and the militants have many times escaped the dragnet due to people’s mass participation in preventing Army’s cordon and search operations.
The Prime Minister in his Independence Day address declared that the Kashmiris would be won by embracing them and not by bullets! These are very nice words and sublime sentiments. Well, that is not what is actually happening on the ground! Either he is totally unaware of the ground situation or he is being too na├»ve! Kashmiris have now become totally used to such nice phrases over the years and no one is going to take him seriously after Vajpayee’s “Insaniyat” and “Jhamooriyat” went up in smoke! Incidentally, Geelani is also seeking Kashmir solution through “Insaniyat”, “Jhamooriyat” and “Kashmiriyat”! But the million dollar question is how and who is going to approach the irreconcilable new generation of Kashmiris constituting almost 60% of the population? They are neither bothered about Article 370 nor about Article 35-A, but have only one slogan everywhere: “Go India, Go Back” and “We want Freedom”!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Aadhar reminds of Orwell’s 1984!

(Aadhar, the new ID card which is virtual indexing of the entire population, is reminiscent of George Orwell’s famous novel 1984!)
Aadhar echoes Orwell’s 1984!

One of the most important aspects of a totalitarian or a fascist regime is indexing of the population so as to keep watch over their activities. It is virtually practical implementation of the famous slogan in 1984, the “Big Brother is Watching You” in a different form and shape. The pupil scan, the finger prints, the photograph and all other particulars for each citizen are being digitised. Additionally, DNA and many other biometric elements are being added. Subsequently, all activities are being linked to the Aadhar number. Imagine digitising the entire population of 1.25 billion people! It must be the biggest enterprise of this type in history. The digital India of the future! The data base must be massive. On the positive side it may be a big help in doing away with forms, applications and so on. Just keeping a finger on the digital finger print reader gives out all one’s parameters! Definitely, it is going to end a lot of paper work. The entire project is being executed by private companies with foreign collaboration.
There are umpteen articles on the Google about the advantages and disadvantages of the Aadhar project. It would be interesting to reproduce some of the observations. Aamjanta.com has an article “Intellectual Anarchy” which gives a detailed background of the Aadhar project. Some portions are quoted here for the information of people in general. “The Aadhar is the Unique Identity number for India. The project involves issuing identity cards to all citizens which will have their biometric data stored on computers, very strangely, located in USA. Virtually, it is a Silicon Valley project! The cost of the project is estimated to be Rupees 1, 50, 000 crores! Incidentally the entire census project in 2011 which reached every citizen and created an information base that is of tremendous utility and diverse applications, cost only 2200 crores! Additionally, while the investment is done using government funds, ready databases will be controlled by private entities (who will profit from offering identification services), and the government will be paying customers of the databases it has already spent a bomb to create”.
Another website, moneyline.in carries an article by Gopal Krishna of Civil Liberties Organisation. Some excerpts from it: “The most worrisome aspect is the invasion of privacy of the citizens. Right to privacy and freedom belong to citizens by right. It is not granted by government. A government is the servant of the citizens, not its master. Governments are supposed to seek the permission to limit these rights in certain circumstances. It signals a break-down of a democratic government if it chooses to engage in indiscriminate surveillance of citizens or to impose a system of compulsory identification or to open a file on each citizen or to criminalise citizens who refuse to comply.”
“Biometric identification treats Indian citizens worse than slaves. It is an act of identification prior to any act of omission and commission.  It is a case of a deepening of everyday surveillance. It is similar to what was done under the Britain's Habitual Criminals Act of 1869 required police to keep an “Alphabetical Registry” and cross-referenced “Distinctive Marks Registry. The first held names and the latter contained the descriptions of scars, tattoos, birthmarks, balding, pockmarks, and other distinguishing features”. The surveillance aspect is the real worry. Biometrics can allow with the help of drones locate any person and monitor all activities within seconds! Government will also be in a position to know of everything by linkage with various activities.

“The proposed convergence of biometric information with financial and personal data such as residence, employment, and medical history heralds the beginning of the demolition of one of the most important firewalls in the structure of privacy. Such convergence of databases poses a threat to minorities and political opponents as they can be targeted in a situation where government is led by any Nazi party like political formations”. Incidentally, we have the present dispensation working on those “lines”. People in many of the US States and UK have rejected similar unique identity number. The privacy laws do not allow such intrusion.

Incidentally, the Supreme Court had observed that Aadhar is not mandatory but an optional thing. However, in spite of these directions, most of the government departments, banks and other public utility services are coercing people not only to go for Aadhar but to link all services with it on a compulsory basis. Every day one receives messages from mobile companies, banks and so on to link Aadhar against pain of disconnection or closure of accounts! It is really a totalitarian state coercion.

Keeping in view the cost of the project and then its utility for the major portion of the population, one wonders whether it is really worth it. Millions of Indians are still living below the poverty line where they cannot even afford a square meal daily! Large portion of the population is without cured water supply. Majority of the population in rural areas still use fields to ease themselves in spite of the project to provide toilet facilities all over India. Would it not have been better to spend this Rupees 1, 50, 000 crores on providing basic welfare services including the missing healthcare? It is tragic and ironic that Prime Minister Modi can find crores to give Aadhar card to everyone but there is no money to give oxygen to dying children in Gorakhpur Hospital! Something to ponder upon! Isn’t he climbing the wrong tree?

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

India China Border Conflict

(Slowly increasing border problem may be a fore runner of a limited border engagement similar to 1962 clash which had a basis other than the disputed demarcation line!)
India China Border Conflict
There is a media hype on the Chinese side regarding possibility of a border clash in the Doklam plateau. Some reports have even suggested the possibility of a clash within two weeks! The Chinese appear to be determined to throw out the Indian troops in the area. It seems unlikely that the Chinese are so suddenly very much concerned with their border which has been in dispute for umpteen years. Chinese seem to have some other motives in pin pricking India! There appears to be a deeper political and regional motive behind Chinese aggressive posture.
One is reminded about the 1962 clash which too had a background other than the disputed boundary line. It was rather a political and an ideological clash in which China succeeded in completely changing the India neutrality! Those days India led by Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru was aspiring to be the leader of South Asia. He had succeeded in setting up a Non-aligned block with Josef Tito of Yugoslavia, Dr. Sukarno of Indonesia, Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, and Nkrumah of Ghana. In fact the Non Aligned Movement was started in 1961 in Belgrade. Those days there were two blocks, one led by the Soviet Union and the other by USA. India under Nehru after very successfully initiating the Non-aligned movement was hoping to be its leader. This was not to the liking of Chinese. They gave a strong border push and Nehru completely forgot about non-alignment and went straight into the lap of America. The Indian Army that time was equipped with Second World War vintage 303 rifles while the Chinese already had automatic weapons. They totally dislodged Indian Army everywhere. The Indians would claim that “to strengthen their defences they have moved back to strategic locations”. A number of villages in North East were taken over by Chinese and the inhabitants had run away leaving everything there!
 Once the American C-130’s started airlifting automatic rifles and other weapons for Indian soldiers, the Chinese stopped and subsequently withdrew to the line claimed by them to be the actual border. Other interesting episodes of that conflict were Chinese humiliating steps. They cleaned and painted all the houses in villages whose occupants had run away and put sign boards, “Owners missing”! Also the Indian POW’s were sent back after brain washing and with many gifts for their families. The Non Aligned Movement was completely forgotten! Even though the NAM still exists with over 122 members, after the end of the cold war it has become totally irrelevant.
This time there is a new regional issue but with global ramifications. The alignments have also changed. The issue is the CPEC, the China Pakistan Economic Corridor. In sixties of the last centuries, the tussle was ideological and political. It did not materially affect China so much. However, the present conflict has an economical basis. For the first time China is getting a direct access to the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf. Already China has completed the major parts of the corridor. It involves a total investment of over $ 62 billion. The importance of CPEC to China is reflected by its inclusion as part of China's 13th five-year development plan. CPEC projects will provide China with an alternate route for energy supplies, as well as a new route by which Western China can conduct trade. Pakistan stands to gain due to upgrade of infrastructure and introduction of a reliable energy supply. Normally, India should have welcomed this economic initiative and joined the group. However, it has deliberately become a US proxy in opposing this initiative. US feel economically threatened by Chines access to the Gulf Region. Ultimately, the tussle is between US and China. Because of problems in South China Sea route and its length, the Chinese have the maximum stake in the success of the CPEC. They will not tolerate any sabotage or interference in the success of this basically an economic initiative. Apart from this the Chinese are also irked by the Indian interference in Tibet by projecting Dalai Lama through his visits to the disputed areas in Arunachal Pradesh. India is also losing its contact with Nepal and Bhutan by a bullying attitude.
Militarily, at the moment the Indian Army even though the third largest in the world, is no match for the Chinese War Machine. There have been a number of articles regarding lack of modernisation in the Indian Armed forces, especially the Air Force. The only sensible solution appears a rapprochement through dialogue. In the larger interest of the region, India should try to solve even Indo-Pak disputers through the Chinese mediation which they have readily offered. The Hindutva wave of lynching the minorities and creating a Hindu Rashtra are not going to help! If the Chinese do really push on militarily, it may prove a nemesis for the present dispensation. The time is running out fast! Let us hope and pray that the good sense prevails all around.