Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Kashmir needs a “PETER”!

Like Holland which is supposed to have been saved once by Peter of Haarlem, Kashmir badly needs someone to plug the hole in its protective dyke!





During our school days we used to read the story of “Peter” of Haarlem, a Dutch boy who once saved his country from getting submerged by the mighty sea. Holland is situated below the sea level which is kept out by dykes. Any breach in the dykes would immediately submerge the whole land. The legend goes that one day a school boy, “Peter” of Haarlem whose father had been looking after sluices, while going along the dykes in the evening heard the sound of water trickle. On having a closer look he found that there was a hole in the dyke through which water was trickling in. This hole had to be plugged as otherwise the trickle would cause a breach and his country would be submerged. He put his finger in the hole to stop the trickle. Whole night he stayed there alone as no body passed from that side and he was afraid of leaving the trickle unattended. In the morning when he was almost numb with cold a clergy man passed by and saw him. He fetched help to plug the hole and thus Haarlem was saved from submerging by this brave boy.
Incidentally, Kashmir has also been quite often protected by the natural dykes of the mighty Himalayan Mountains from outside marauders that have always been eyeing its natural beauty. From time to time these external aggressors have succeeded in breaching these mountainous dykes and pillaged the country. For almost four centuries it has remained under external rulers. During the modern times, natural or manmade dykes hardly protect a people. Modern technology breaches all barriers. Now, instead of the mighty tides of water, people are usually swept away by human waves generated by economic means. It was to safeguard the poor inhabitants from this possibility that the last Maharaja of Kashmir, Hari Singh had enacted the state subject law thereby prohibiting outsiders from buying or owning any land here. This political dyke put up by the Maharaja has to a large extent prevented Kashmiris from being swept away from their land. There was a possibility of a major breach in the dykes in 1947 when tides from the two newly created countries swept over Kashmir. The intervention of the world body for peace, the UN Security Council put up a dyke which has so far held and saved Kashmiris from being completely submerged in the ocean of humanity that the sub-continent represents.
The Indian side drilled a hole in the UN dyke called Article 370 and started trickling in various laws to take over complete control of the state. Sheikh Abdullah put his finger in the hole to prevent the complete merger. However, unlike Peter he could not stay their all night long and the water which had started like a trickle turned into a torrent sweeping away every semblance of Kashmir’s unique identity. There have been many attempts to turn this hole into a complete breach. However, so far the people have been resisting the complete take over. Recently, a new tide has risen which has already reached the foothills of the dyke. Many attempts are being made to turn the hole into a breach. Permutations and combinations are being made to sweep Kashmiris off their feet. Kashmir is at present desperately in need of someone like the “Peter of Haarlem” who can put his finger in the hole in the dyke and stem the impending flood. Will any of the Kashmiri politicians act like the Peter of Haarlem? Will all the people come to his help to save Kashmir being overwhelmed and swept away by the tides coming in from both the directions? These are the questions in every Kashmiri mind right now! God alone knows the answer!


Saturday, December 27, 2014

A Repetition of History!



8th century AD, 1953, or 2014, the story is the same. Only the characters have changed!


Kashmir is the only place in the sub-continent which has the earliest written history from the ancient times till twelfth century A.D. Kalhana’s Rajtarangani has a written record of Kashmir’s history from the earliest times, almost for 5000 years! The earlier part of it is more or less mythological but the last couple of thousand years are verifiable with the remains of historical buildings and the monuments of those periods. Sir Aural Stein who had translated this record of historical events from Sanskrit to English has verified it through his memoir on the ancient geography of Kashmir. One interesting aspect of this history is the regular and continuous palace intrigues which took place in ancient Kashmir at the time of royal succession involving the crowning of a King or a Queen. The powerful feudal landlords called Damaras had a decisive hand in the final selection. There is an episode when they were unable to choose and it was decided to crown the first person who enters the Kashmir valley from outside! Well, the situation is almost the same now!
In spite of the fact that the state now boasts of a democratic set up, the streaks of royalty continue to be strong in the character of Kashmiri politicians of all shades and colours. We do not really have a democracy but instead a nepotic-feudocracy! Instead of the earlier princes and princesses, we now have sons and daughters in the business of governance. In the recent election, the people have given a real headache to all the politicians in regard to formation of a government. They are truly between the devil and the deep sea. The present day Damaras are very active again. The million dollar question is whom to make the new King of Kashmir and how? There are many permutations and combinations but first question is who should be the “King”? Most seem to agree on the veteran politician Mufti Sayed. As a journalist has observed, the ball of government is in his court!
The three mainstream political parties claiming to be secular need to cobble together a combination to stem the onslaught of the declared religion based party. This can only be done if they rise above their individual egos and are sincere in ameliorating the lot of the common people. At this juncture, their decision is not only for the future of the state of J & K but for the entire region. Taking the overall scenario of the sub-continent in to consideration, the final scene in J & K can be a turning point as regards the tides of religious violence which are trying to sweep the entire area. On the other side innocent children have been mercilessly butchered in the name of God! On this side, people are being forced to reconvert from their practicing religion to restore India to its ancient Hindu “glory”! There is an urgent need on both sides to put a stop to this fanaticism. These violent tides which have risen from the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean can only be stopped by the will of the common people. The majority of the people in the state of J & K who came out to vote have given their verdict in this regard notwithstanding the fact that the population in certain areas have been swayed by the fanatically propagated religious sentiment. 
It is observed by some quarters that for any success in implementing their agendas regarding the improvement in the daily living of the people and the long term realisation of the peoples’ aspirations of a final solution, the rulers in Delhi have to be supportive and not antagonistic to the set up in the state. Yes, it is true but only for the people who are installed by Delhi and not for those who claim to be elected by the free will of the people. In fact, Delhi is looking for a person to do their bidding as in 1953! The peoples’ representatives who have been sincerely elected can take Delhi head on if it tries to scuttle their people friendly agendas. This has been amply demonstrated by similar set ups in other regions. If they are not allowed to implement what they have promised to the people in their manifestos, they can always go back to the people. The only rider is that one has to be sure that these representatives have come up to sincerely and honestly serve the people and not because of their lust for power! Time only can reveal the truth!
ashrafmjk@gmail.com

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The “Wave” peters out!

The “Wave” of Hindutva which had risen from the Indian Ocean through the shores of Gujarat has petered out on the soil of Sufi Kashmir!


Mahatma Gandhi having been pained by the communal carnage in the sub-continent in 1947 had seen the only ray of light in the darkness of the all-round mayhem in Kashmir. Well, the vision of the Mahatma has been reaffirmed during the recent election. The Gujarat wave of Modi had swept the entire India like a Tsunami during the Parliament election. He had hoped to sweep the state of J & K with his Mission 44+ but the valley of the saints has dramatically petered out the “Wave”. The chauvinist corporate Indian media has been crying hoarse about the unusually large voter turnout in Kashmir in spite of fervent calls for boycott and has been terming it as reaffirmation of faith in the Indian democracy and a vote for development. The truth on the contrary is only a re-affirmation of the Kashmiri in his own traditional religious tolerance and the mystic outlook. People came out to vote in large numbers neither for Mission 44+ nor only for Bijli, Pani, aur Saddak but also to ensure that the Hindutva “wave” does not enter the calm and serene shores of the land of Kashyapa Reshi! Kashmiris have voted to keep their identity intact!
All but one BJP candidates lost their deposits in Kashmir valley. Congress has been seen as a lesser evil than the trident wielding Hindutva brigade. The wave would not have entered even some parts of the Chenab valley and Pir Panchal but for the division in the regional vote. The BJP candidates who won election from these areas have polled lesser votes than the combined votes of the regional parties. Had these parties been supporting each other, the wave would have petered out on the Trikuta Hills itself!
Interestingly, most of the sitting MLAs who have won the election are the ones who have been devotedly nursing their constituencies and have been always accessible to their constituents. However, in Jammu area, the “Wave” has almost swept everyone regardless of their individual efforts. Even though the “Mission 44+” has remained an unrealised dream yet the polarisation caused by the campaign has created a challenge for the integrity of the state. The State of J & K has been functioning as a single integrated unit for more than one and a half centuries notwithstanding the fact that the entity was not a natural conglomeration but the creation of conquests and the sale of territory. Since 1947, after its dismemberment due to the Indo-Pak conflict over its ownership, it has still remained a single unit because of the interdependence of the three basic units.
Incidentally, the Ladakhis who have been clamouring for the Union Territory status to have direct central control have not voted for the strongest ever central party but for the congress. Probably, because they have already experienced the nuances of the “Wave” through the Sindhu Darshan campaign of the Hindutva brigade which had generated apprehensions in their mind that the new “Wave” could sweep away their Buddhist identity?
Ironically, the situation resembles the one in early fifties when the Kashmir’s tallest nationalist leader was made to perform a political somersault by the extreme rightist elements from Jammu demanding complete integration of the state with the Union of India. The history could very well repeat itself. The challenge is not only to safeguard the identity of the Kashmiris and find ways and means to fulfil their true aspirations on one hand but at the same time cater to the aspirations and sentiments of the Jammu people and the Ladakhis on the other. On the face of it, this may seem a tall order but given the will and the sincerity, it is not difficult to achieve it. The only choice is the combining of all the non-communal mainstream forces. The two regional parties and the other national party have a combined strength of almost 2/3rd members in the house. They need to support each other in forming a government which could give both good governance and safeguard the identity of the state by trying to fulfil aspirations of all the three regions. Are the leaders of these parties sincere enough to rise above their vested interests and fulfil the challenge? That is the million dollar question!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

NC-PDP Alliance:Modi’s Nightmare!

Do they have the sincerity and the urge to serve the people and heal their wounds?

 

The two regional parties are expected to get sizeable majority in present election but may not be in a position to form a government on their own. Can they give Narendra Modi nightmares by joining together? In ancient Kashmir wood had been one of the most popular building materials used for constructing both palaces as well as ordinary houses. Kalhana mentions lofty wooden houses as one of the five most well-known attributes of ancient Kashmir. The most common and ancient way of joining two pieces of wood is a tongue and groove joint. The use of wood has been replaced by cement concrete and even if we use wood, we join it by nails or adhesives like fevicol! The loss of tongue and groove joint has also psychologically affected our political as well as social life. It has got totally disjointed and has gone virtually to pieces. The main reason for this has been mushrooming of egos, false pride, and jealousy. Right from day one of the ongoing freedom movement started in 1931, there has been a split at every stage. The parting of ways has been apparently for ideological reasons but in reality the under lying cause for every split has been a clash of egos. Humility and submission to truth seem alien to us. Each one of us wants to be a leader and not a follower. The result is that we have a leader in every nook and corner but hardly any dedicated followers. If the aim of all those struggling for last so many decades is to achieve the basic right of self-determination, then why do we have so many parties and factions of parties? It is simply because of the clash of egos. 
A friend wrote sometime back that two Kashmiris cannot walk even ten steps holding each other’s hand. There are dozens of external agencies from both the sides interested in keeping the pieces apart. The reason is that none trusts Kashmiris. We do not even ourselves have faith in us! In the latest phase of the struggle which started in 1990, initially great unity was shown by one and all and a single united face was presented to both the local people and the outside world. However, the joints in the pieces did not last as these did not form tongue and groove joints and the pieces were scattered all over.
However, what is wrong with the other stream of politicians? The so called main stream which too has local involvement. Again a clash of egos or rather clash of “families”. There are only two main stream regional parties claiming to represent the “true” aspirations of the people. According to them the aspirations of the people are within the existing external framework. They would like to get the people a place of honour and dignity within the present political parameters. But so far they have failed to achieve even this limited goal. Again the problem is their failure to complement each other. They are wasting their energies in confronting each other even though their professed goals are same. They present a perfect example of tongue and groove and should have normally joined long back. The differences are only of nomenclature. One is pleading for the restoration of the already agreed autonomy within the union which has been totally diluted over the years while as the other calls it the “self-rule” with an undefined external dimension. Both have an interesting composition contrasting with each other. One has a good material of old stalwarts but inconsistent and fickle minded leadership devoid of political acumen. The other has seasoned leadership with political sagacity but no substantive material. They have rather a collection of defectors. The two could fit in easily as a tongue and groove joint and become a formidable combination which would make our common adversary feel very uneasy. If only they would rise above the “family” and their egos, they could make a difference. By taking a united stand they could have easily got the suffering masses some interim relief. Do they have the sincerity and the urge to serve the people and heal their wounds? Yes, only to the extent of professing it for their own selfish goals. The last 60 years of uncertainty which have made them go round in circles have not tempered them and made them realise the bleakness of the future. By all accounts both do not seem to have any future in the ultimate disposition of Kashmir. They still have a chance to change it if only they see the writing on the wall. It would be in their own interests to give up their hypocritical stances as well as mutual confrontation and come out openly in support of the true aspirations of the people. This will either make the other umpteen parties professing to be popular saviours of the people totally irrelevant or force them to coalesce like tongue and groove joints in wood to maintain their credibility. Either way it is the common people who will benefit from such an eventuality. Is there anyone to take such a bold initiative? Usually this comes from the “Intelligentsia” but in our case unfortunately they are paralysed in a deep freeze! Someone or something needs to de-freeze them!
ashrafmjk@gmail.com

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Mahabharata’s Last Battle!

( Parading India as a Hindu Nation may lead to the final round of the battle of Kurukshetra!)


 
There have been alarming reports about the reconversion of Muslims to Hinduism. It has been given the name of “home coming” for the Hindus who had supposedly accepted Islam as their religion. It has also been announced that many more reconversions will take place. 5000 conversions are allegedly scheduled for Christmas. The RSS objective is to revert India back to the ancient Bharatvarsh, the land of Hindus. Bhagvad Gita is slated to be the “National” Book of India. It is already being formally presented by the Prime Minister to various world dignitaries as such. Godse has been declared to be a patriot and Mahatma Gandhi as unpatriotic! People have been projecting the developmental side of Narendra Modi forgetting the fact that he is an RSS Parcharak!
Mohan Bhagwat sometime back had said, “Hindustan is a Hindu nation. Hindutva is the identity of our nation and it (Hinduism) can incorporate others (religions) in itself.” He is right only the extent of India being called Hindustan. Truly, India in the Arab world in earlier times was known as Al-Hind and Indians were called Al-Hindi! This was of course on the basis of the predominance of the Hindu religion. Since that time, India has seen many religions including Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Christianity and Islam. Apart from religion, India has a total ethnic diversity. At the present moment calling India a Hindu Nation in spite of the fact that its partition was on the basis of religion, does not gel. No doubt it has a Hindu majority yet there are sizeable number of other minorities including Muslims and Christians. Even though it is starkly evident that there is always dominance of Hindu religion in all spheres of daily life and state related functions and even some other actions, yet it is not correct to call India a “Hindu Nation” in spite of some zealots claiming it to be so! Going by true definition of nationality as given in the books of political science, India has over a dozen nations based on language, culture and history.
The concept of two nations based on religion was brought in by the departing British. It is alleged,that the very basis of the partition of the sub-continent was the refusal of the some Indian leaders especially the Hindutva elements in India’s majority Hindu population to accept Muslims as equal citizens of the country once the freedom was granted. Muslims were considered by these extremist Hindus to be outsiders left over by the invaders. The fear of getting marginalised and persecuted in the free united India had forced some Muslim leaders including Mohammad Ali Jinnah to seek a separate country for them. The western colonialists who never wanted to leave their colonies, by overt and covert means deliberately fuelled this two nation theory in the Indian sub-continent. Their main aim was to keep a hold on these colonies even after their departure.
After agreeing for the division of the country on the basis of religion, some of the secular leaders of the Indian freedom movement tried to project India as a secular republic giving equal treatment to all its citizens regardless of the religion professed by them. However, these leaders could not change the mind-set of the common people regarding India being a Hindu country especially after creation of another country on the basis of religion. They only succeeded in creating a fa├žade of secularism but failed to change the perception of the majority of the common masses that the most important commonality uniting them was the Hindu religion.
The ethos of the real India of ancient times as perceived by Guru Dev Tagore and Dr. Iqbal cannot be brought back by physically merging the broken away parts again into Akhand Bharat. The India of the ancient times can be redeemed only by making the artificial borders separating these countries irrelevant. If this Hindu-Muslim divide had not taken place and India had remained as one united country, it would not only have been a real super power but would have been one of the best welfare states for its citizens. They can still remain united by adopting the European Union model. If, after the most destructive war, Europe can virtually unite as one country, why cannot India, Pakistan and Bangladesh do the same?
On the contrary,at present both the countries are spending the major chunk of their budgets on defence and security against each other! The few “dirty” rich on both sides are becoming richer and the poor are becoming poorer thanks to the western manipulators whose main thrust is to sell more and more newer and deadlier weapons of destruction to both the countries! These very western powers tacitly support and promote this religious divide. It creates a feeling of mistrust on both sides which suits them. A Jihadi Pakistan and a Hindutva India would always be at logger heads, mistrusting each other, arming themselves to the teeth even with the nukes for the ultimate doomsday scenario.
If both the countries fail to check the religious extremists from taking over, one never knows these western powers may even encourage and allow a small nuclear exchange as a lesson for other similarly disposed countries! Recently a columnist had warned about the possibility of the western countries preparing for a nuclear exchange somewhere in Central Asia. Another possibility could be the Indian sub-continent. The famous epic of the ancient India, Mahabharata mentions Kal Yug, which is already here. India and Pakistan have become Korvas and Pandvas and Kashmir is the Drupadi who has been disrobed umpteen times! Ultimately, this tussle may end in a nuclear exchange which would definitely be the last battle of Kurukshetra thereby ending the whole epic of Mahabharata!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Tongue and Groove

My 2007 article very relevant to present political scenario in Kashmir!

The most common and ancient way of joining two pieces of wood is a tongue and groove joint. In ancient Kashmir wood had been one of the most popular building materials used for constructing both palaces as well as ordinary houses. Kalhana mentions lofty wooden houses as one the five most well known attributes of ancient Kashmir. Even in later period the Sher-e-Khas is reputed to have had even 14 storey high royal palaces. Budshah also built a lofty wooden palace Zain Dab which was a marvel of wooden architecture. The use of wood in ancient Kashmir was because of the extensive lush green forest cover the valley enjoyed in those times. Unfortunately we have ourselves destroyed this green gold of Kashmir. With the deliberate and calculated depletion of the forest cover, there has been a change in the use of building materials. This innovation in construction technology has also affected the use of wood. We do not now use tongue and groove joints in joining pieces of wood. We prefer external agents like nails and adhesives like fevicol! The loss of tongue and groove has also psychologically affected our political as well as social life. It has got totally disjointed and has gone virtually to pieces. The main reason for this has been mushrooming of egos, false pride, and jealousy. Right from day one of the ongoing freedom movement started in 1931, there has been a split at every stage. The parting of ways has been apparently for ideological reasons but in reality the under lying cause for every split has been a clash of egos. Humility and submission to truth seem alien to us. Each one of us wants to be a leader and not a follower. The result is that we have a leader in every nook and corner but hardly any dedicated followers. If the aim of all those struggling for last so many decades is to achieve the basic right of self-determination, then why do we have so many parties and factions of parties? It is simply because of the clash of egos. We are presenting ourselves to the adversary as an umpteen number of pieces of wood which he can scatter easily with a slight of his hand. If all these scattered pieces could be joined by tongue and groove joints which are easy to make without any external nails and adhesives, the result would be a one solid wooden block difficult to smash! The splitting seems to be a common trait of our character. It is visible in almost every activity. Every organisation, whether political, social, religious, and even sports starts with great zeal, enthusiasm, and fanfare but splits up after traversing hardly few steps. A friend wrote sometime back that two Kashmiris cannot walk even ten steps holding each others’ hand. There are dozens of parties and factions of parties led by dozens of leaders all professing to lead Kashmiris to ultimate salvation. It is said that in the face of adversity people have a tendency to unite and combine for their common survival. Not in Kashmir. Normally one expects splitting after reaching the goal for sharing the final fruits of struggle. However, we are splitting even before being anywhere near the goal. It seems illogical. Could it be only due to splitting streaks in our character or there is something more to it? One is inclined to believe that there are dozens of external agencies from both the sides interested in keeping the pieces apart. The reason is that none trusts Kashmiris. We do not even ourselves have faith in us! In the latest phase of our struggle which started in 1990, initially great unity was shown by one and all and a single united face was presented to both the local people as well as the outside world. However, the joints in the pieces did not last as these did not form tongue and groove joints and the pieces were scattered all over. Apart from inherent contradictions, our adversaries did a commendable job for their masters by splitting us beyond redemption. They continue to ensure that the pieces do not come together again no matter whatever the cost in men and material. Pitting one against the other is a game in which they have always excelled. One may even concede that in the given situation of conflict it is very difficult to give a united front when the adversary is bent upon going to any extent including liquidation of all potential leaders. It is a clash between two opposites. Mighty and the weak. However, what is wrong with the other stream? The main stream with local involvement. Again a clash of egos or rather clash of “families”. There are only two main stream regional parties claiming to represent the “true” aspirations of the people. According to them the aspirations of the people are within the existing external framework. They would like to get the people a place of honour and dignity within the present political parameters. But so far they have failed to achieve even this limited goal. Again the problem is their failure to complement each other. They are wasting their energies in confronting each other even though their professed goals are same. They present a perfect example of tongue and groove and should have normally joined long back. The differences are only of nomenclature. One is pleading for the restoration of the already agreed autonomy within the union which has been totally diluted over the years while as the other calls it the “self-rule” with an undefined external dimension. Both have an interesting composition contrasting with each other. One has a good ministerial material of old stalwarts but inconsistent and fickle minded leadership devoid of political acumen. The other has seasoned leadership with political sagacity but no substantive ministerial material. They have rather a collection of defectors. The two could fit in easily as a tongue and groove joint and become a formidable combination which would make our common adversary feel very uneasy. If only they would rise above the “family” and their egos, they could make a difference. By taking a united stand they could have easily got the suffering masses some interim relief till the other lot would put their act together. Do they have the sincerity and the urge to serve the people and heal their wounds? Yes, only to the extent of professing it for their own selfish goals. One would have thought that last 60 years of uncertainty which have made them go round in circles would have tempered them and made them realise the bleakness of the future. By all accounts both do not seem to have any future in the ultimate disposition of Kashmir. They still have a chance to change it if only they see the writing on the wall. It would be in their own interests to give up their hypocritical stances as well as mutual confrontation and come out openly in support of the true aspirations of the people. This will either make the other umpteen parties professing to be popular saviours of the people totally irrelevant or force them to coalesce like tongue and groove joints in wood to maintain their credibility. Either way it is the common people who will benefit from such an eventuality. Is there any one to take such a bold initiative? Usually this comes from the “Intelligentsia” but in our case unfortunately they are paralysed in a deep freeze! Someone or something needs to de-freeze them.
 

Friday, December 12, 2014

(Mission 44+) +70%polling =(Mufti 44+)!

Exit polls under election law are banned and one can never be sure of the trends till the final results are declared. However, there is always whispering going on among the voters and the general public about the possible outcome of the voting. Many experts had predicted that a total boycott may help BJP as they could manipulate the votes polled. It would be very difficult to rig the polls when there is overwhelming participation. So far the polling has been appreciable from 72% to 58%.
Many theories have been advanced for this unprecedented turn out. Some say it is a deliberate attempt by the youth of Kashmir to defeat the mission 44+ while others attribute it to the failure of the popular leadership. They have neither succeeded in advancing political settlement of Kashmir nor done anything to ameliorate the lot of the people in their daily lives. Thus people have been coming out in large numbers to at least improve their daily living conditions.
During interviews to various TV channels people have been mostly speaking about choosing good representatives who would help them in various day to day needs such as employment, roads, power, and water and so on. They had chosen some people in the last elections on the same plea but those people completely let them down. There has been total lack of good governance during last six years. Over and above, there has been repression and indiscriminate killing of innocent youth.
Now people seem to be treading the same path and there is every possibility of the earlier lot being rejected entirely as was evident from the Parliament elections! The possibility of people turning to BJP at least in the valley is remote. The only alternative left is Mufti Sayed’s PDP. There may be some independent candidates favoured by local people because of their honesty and uprightness.
In Jammu though BJP had a clean sweep in Parliament elections, the assembly election is a different story at least in Chenab Valley right from Kishtwar to Poonch. Kashmiri speaking Muslim areas too will not go with BJP in case of sizeable turnout of the voters. Rumours are afloat that PDP may be leading in some areas. There has also been lessening of enthusiasm because of the wavering of BJP regarding Article 370. One cannot predict with certainty but the general feeling is that the PDP may emerge as the single largest party. It would be in the interests of stability if they get absolute majority on their own. They would not be then getting continuance nagging from their partners as has happened in earlier coalition governments.
Now the million dollar question is whether this turning of the “Mission 44+” into “Mufti 44+” is inadvertent or deliberate? Narendra Modi is a very shrewd and astute player. He keeps his cards to his chest. It is not an easy job to rise from a Chai Wala to become the Prime Minister of a country never mind the democratic credentials of the constitution espoused all over the world especially when money has been a major player in all these elections. One needs brains, guts and above all the shrewdness to do that! Imagine the pariah of the Gujarat massacre shunned by the United States being host to the President of that country on the forthcoming Republic Day celebrations. A perfect 180 degrees turn around!
Narendra Modi has a mission to turn India into a true Hindu Rashtra but of the corporate type which Arundhati Royhad named, the “Upper Caste Hindu Corporate Republic”! Having had the first brush with Kashmir in nineties when he tried to hoist the tri-colour in Lal Chowk with Murli Manohar Joshi, Narendra Modi very well knows the feelings of common Kashmiris. Being a product of RSS, he must be fully aware about the feelings of some of the top RSS ideologues who had, during the 2010 agitation, described Kashmir as an unnecessary burden, virtually a mill stone in the neck of developing India. Some of them had suggested dis-investing Kashmir in the long term interests of India. In fact, Vajpayee had been following the same advice.
Getting rid of Kashmir would ensure billions of dollars of NRI investment in India which remains in limbo because of the uncertainty in the sub-continent and the apprehension of a nuclear holocaust. At the present moment there could be no better alternative than Mufti 44+ during whose earlier tenure Vajpayee had started his mission Kashmir within the parameters of humanity!
Coming to Mufti Sayed’s mission of self-rule, the moot point is how far will he be allowed to go if he ultimately takes over on his own? PDP manifesto covers many things, the developmental as well as political. Can they ensure implementation of these or they will forget once they take over as has been the usual routine of mainstream parties in Kashmir? These parties usually get reminded about their promises and commitments only just before the next election!

In the final analysis, will Mufti Sayed be able to resist demographical changes planned by the Hindutva brigade? Time only can tell! At the moment all these observations may sound mere speculation or loud thinking. However, it would be interesting to watch the Kashmir scene if the “Mission 44+” really turns into “Mufti 44+”!                 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Crorepatis and Crorepatnis!

According to news reports the disclosure of assets before filing nomination papers as required under the election law has given some interesting sidelights to this mega show. There is a line of crorepatis (multimillionaires) in the field! Spouses of these candidates too are millionaires and can be called crorepatnis! In one of the newspapers there is daily asset watch highlighting the property both moveable and immovable owned by various candidates contesting the ongoing elections. Moveable property consisting of luxury cars, immoveable property comprising housesand land, cash in hand, and then property of spouses such as jewellery and so on. With each announcement of different phases of elections, there is disclosure of lists of crorepati candidates. Almost every list has 40 to 50 crorepatis! These rich candidates seem to be present in every political outfit.
According to the report of PS Bali in Greater Kashmir, in the fourth phase, out of 182 candidates, 77 are crorepatis! Average asset per candidate comes to Rs. 2.71 crore. Jammu and Kashmir in regard to these rich “peoples’” representatives must be the richest state in India? 12 candidates are alleged to be facing criminal charges. PDP is supposed to have fielded the highest number of crorepatis, 17, while the NC and Congress have fielded 16 and 10 crorepatis respectively. Among the independent candidates, there are 16 crorepatis. Among the smaller parties, at least there is one crorepati candidate. The richest candidate worth Rs. 84 crore is from PDP representing Amira Kadal constituency while as their Zadibal candidate is the second richest with 27 crores. The third richest is DPN candidate from Batamaloo worth 21 crores!
Representing people seems to have grown into a big business involving massive amounts of money in all forms. It has been a very useful exercise to have the mandatory disclosure of assets as part of the election law. However, the moot point is the source of this money. How have these assets been acquired? At the present moment in entire South Asia, politics has turned into a big business. Democracy as understood in some of the western countries such as the Great Britain, has remained on paper only. The entire process of electioneering and subsequent governance in South Asia is in the hands of corporates both domestic and multinational including those dealing in lethal armaments.
The election of the Prime Minister itself involved thousands of crores. According to some reports, the advertisements alone cost rupees ten thousand crores! The money was allegedly dished out by corporate houses from within the country and abroad. In the present situation the really poor representatives have no chance of standing for and winning an election. Everything boils down to the “dirty” rich representing the “wretched” poor of the country. The story is same everywhere. One would not mind millionaires representing poor people if those millions had been earned by these representatives honestly. They would have no desire to make more money through illegal means by misusing their political position and clout. However, can anyone become a millionaire through legal means in India or for that matter in whole South Asia? It is debatable! In India out of a GDP of $1.6 trillion, 60% goes into scam money stashed all over the world!Had this money not gone into scam, India would have been a welfare state and a real super power. According to world standards of poverty, India’s 65% population comes in the poverty line. How can such large number of poor have so rich representatives?

In J & K, the politicians have distinct rags to riches story. Another aspect is the physical appearance of these “peoples’” representatives. Out of power they are lean and thin but once in power, they physically fatten! It is interesting to seethese representatives roaming on the roads like ordinary people once they lose their positions. In power, they completely change their physical appearance and carry a clout. Not only do they change their dresses and head gear like the Karakul caps but they also groom themselvesby using beauty aids! Election for them is an investment. They know that once elected, they will live comfortably not only for six years or so but gather enough money for themselves and their kith and kin with the added attraction of a life-long pension! Someone has rightly said, "The politics is the last refuge of scoundrels". Will we ever get rid of these crorepatis and crorepatnis? The way the things are shaping up, it is doubtful unless we have something like a French Revolution with its guillotine!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The “Difficult” and the “Impossible”

The massive devastation caused by the recent flood especially in the capital city of Srinagar has made many people comment that it is not only difficult but impossible to restore this historic city to its past glory. The general assessment is that it will take Srinagar more than 10 or even 20 years to come back to what it was before the flood not to speak of turning it into a modern metropolis! Tyndale Biscoe in his book, “Kashmir under sunlight and shade” observes that if the oppression Kashmiris have suffered had been experienced by the British, they would have lost their manhood! It has been the resilience and the stamina of Kashmiris which alone has enabled them to survive the most difficult periods in their long history. Somehow they seem to take all these natural and man-made calamities in their stride. They never give in. Temporarily, they may be down but they always rise like a sphinx to the surprise of everyone. In case of oppressors, they may lie low as a matter of convenience but they burst out once they find a suitable opportunity, thereby giving their tormentors nightmares.
According to official estimates, 282 people were killed, 61,326 cattle were killed, 6.84 lakh hectare crop areas were affected, and 2.53lakh houses were damaged. The low casualty figure in spite of the enormity and suddenness of the flood also points to the fact that a Kashmiri has the capability to survive in the worst possible situations. Notwithstanding the total failure of the administration in arranging rescue and relief, the people kept on going by voluntary efforts of the local youth. The dithering on part of the central government in declaring the disastrous flood as a national calamity has not affected the local voluntary effort and people are not only surviving but going on with their reconstruction and revival programmes as if nothing has happened! On the comments by some that it is difficult and impossible to bring Kashmir especially Srinagar back to its past glory, one is reminded of a road sign on Srinagar-Leh road. It reads, “Difficult can be done now, impossible may take some time!” This seems to be the spirit behind the voluntary efforts going all over the valley to restore normalcy.
It is alleged that the people at the helm in Delhi had wrongly guessed that this disastrous flood had crushed Kashmiris and they will not be able to rise again and would gladly accept the “Mission 44+”. The strategy, according to some experts, was to bank upon total poll boycott especially because of the all-round havoc caused by the flood. This would allow for massive rigging. However, the unusually large participation in elections in spite of the disaster may have thrown a spanner in the works. Delhi may have missed a very good opportunity to lessen the alienation. The perennial dithering may once again give an anti-climax to the rulers in Delhi! As one journalist has observed, the youth of Kashmir seem to have taken the charge. This has been now happening for quite some time especially during some important events in the past.The youth seem to be imbibed by the spirit that they can overcome all difficulties right now and may even achieve what has been labelled as impossible after a while! After all they are the products of the bloodiest conflict Kashmir has seen. They have faced the worst oppression and nothing can cow them down. As has been observed by many Kashmir watchers, the present generation of youth is in a way leaderless or rather they are all leaders in themselves. In fact, the traditional leaders have been following their lead in some recent upheavals like the one in 2010.

\ These youth do not seem to be impressed by the political jugglers vying with each other to grab the power to once again squeeze everything out of the suffering people. Kashmir has survived for centuries and the secret of survival is the unshakable faith the people have in their own selves. And the greatest symbol of that faith is the youth of Kashmir. Narendra Modi and all the so called local leaders of all streams are not going to restore Kashmir but the new generation of the youth of Kashmir is going to overcome the difficult as well as the impossible to redeem it to its ancient glory! People seem to have given them a chance to lead them for the time being.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Kashmir: Reviving The Social Fabric

 Positive outcome of the recent flood may be the revival of the social fabric in Kashmir


In ancient times, Kashmiri Society used to be very interactive and sociable. It also used to be very lively and humour loving. According to a British writer one could get the best out of a Kashmiri with a kind word and a joke. In spite of the worst suppression from external rulers, the Kashmiri humour and liveliness has not withered. In some of the worst situations, they have not abandoned their sense of humour. This aspect of their character still remains unchanged. Kashmiris are also famous for giving nicknames to one and all! Yes, people sometimes get shocked and dumbfounded after every bad episode but they soon recover and carry on. Anyone who visits Kashmir after such episodes like a political turmoil or a catastrophic natural disaster would not believe that these are the same people who have gone through such tribulations! The resilience of a Kashmiri is limitless bordering even on total passivity. Of course that is the reason it is named as the valley of the saints in Kashmiri!
The social interactions have always continued in spite of the modernization and technological development. Till 1947 the main interaction with outside world was through the Jhelum Valley Road and Rawalpindi was the main contact point. There were caravans coming and going to Central Asia like Tajikistan and also to Chinese Sinkiang province. There was very little interaction through the Bannihal Road which used to be closed for six months of winter.
The partition and the subsequent conflict isolated Kashmir totally and the only interaction was through the Bannihal Road. The start of air services in subsequent years increased outside interaction. Still Kashmiris did not travel much. This was very true till late eighties. However, the turmoil of nineties totally changed the situation.
Two important things happened which had profound and far reaching impact on the psyche of Kashmiris. Pandits had to go out involuntarily which completely changed their outlook and social well-being. The Muslims went out voluntarily to escape the troubles at home as well as to look for newer pastures for their business and means of livelihood. As regards living in Kashmir itself, there was very significant social impact of the then prevailing situation. The entire social interaction came to a virtual halt. This was the result of continuous shut downs and official curfews. The unending cordon and search operations of the security forces looking for militants forced people to stay in their own homes. Life would virtually shut down just before the descending of the darkness in the evening. This continuous involuntary confinement totally disrupted the normal social interaction. There were only two occasions on which people would meet each other. In a marriage function or during a funeral!
For the intellectual class there was a total break in any meetings. Till nineties one of the central meeting points for the intellectuals used to be the India Coffee House. People used to sit here for hours on end discussing all topics. The journalists would meet here to exchange information. The closure of the Coffee House deprived people of a central meeting point. This continued disconnection remained even after easing of the situation. As a matter of habit people got stuck in their own homes. The usual visits to friends and relatives also declined to a great extent. The coming of the internet with umpteen social interactive sites like the Facebook caused total confinement of people to their homes. They could chat, speak or even debate through these electronic information highways. There was no need to take the trouble of moving out and meeting each other. People started turning into “couch potatoes”! This suited the authorities as going out to express one’s views could result in turmoil.
Then came the great flood. People were suddenly and in a violent manner physically displaced from their “couches”! There was total disruption and displacement. They had no alternative but to take shelter with relatives and friends. It was a forced social interaction. Interestingly, the most of the elite living in posh areas usually called the “Civil Lines” was involved in this forced displacement. In some places, four to five families were staying in a single house. The relatives and even friends who had not seen each other for a long time got bundled together! This forced displacement also compelled people to look for their relations as no one knew where his or her relatives had taken shelter. The things were rendered more difficult due to break down of the communication channels. This forced people to physically search for their near and dear ones in different places including the relief camps! In the process there was more physical interaction. Additionally, the relief camps in different parts of the city also became the centres for social interaction.

Now the moot point is whether this forced social interaction will revive the age old traditional social set up in Kashmir? It would be a very positive and welcome development if it does. Interaction at all levels is very healthy for the orderly growth of a society. The social interaction should not only be revived between relations, friends and intellectuals in general but between the people of different areas and regions. It may not necessarily start with political issues but a good beginning could be the discussion on environment which we have miserably and wantonly fiddled with, resulting in this massive flood of the century. One could demand a commission to pinpoint the criminal negligence which resulted in such massive devastation. Let us hope the broken social fabric gets revived as a pleasant and timely gift from this, otherwise, the most devastating flood in our memory!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Visoka’s Curse!

Sajjad Lone seems to be nearing his “Achievable Nationhood” after forgetting the unachievable part! From the vision of an independent sovereign Kashmir to dreaming to be the Chief Minister of the Indian State of Jammu & Kashmir is a journey full of struggle and turmoil. Most of the so called Kashmiri leaders in recent times have travelled on this journey. The only certain thing in Kashmir otherwise plagued by uncertainty is the changing stance of people from all walks of life especially the politicians. They change their ideology, convictions and stances like changing of the t-shirts which some of them wear! This perennially changing attitude seems to be result of an ancient curse.
The Nilmat Purana verses 294-296 state, “O lord, then angry Visoka cursed Kasmira, "O wicked one, as I have been absorbed by you today by means of falsehood and you have informed Sati about my activities, so your people will be mostly liars, possessed of impurities, hired servants and dishonoured in the worlds"...........
Kashmir has a history of over 5,000 years. The earlier part is more mythological than realistic but last couple of thousand years till about 12th century A.D. have been more or less authenticated by Sir Aural Stein in the “Memoir on the Geography of Kashmir”, which forms the last part of his two volume translation of Kalhana’s Rajatarangini. Stein had visited all the archaeological sites and landmarks mentioned in the first ever written history in the entire sub-continent. It makes an interesting read and one is virtually transported mentally into those bygone eras, some of which were golden while others were terrible times, worse than the recent devastating flood of the century.
The way we Kashmiris have been suffering for over last four centuries makes one think that there is really a curse on this “Paradise on Earth”. Even in earlier times there have been many episodes of suffering due to natural calamities or man-made causes such as internecine wars. Another interesting but unproven theory is about Jewish incursions in Kashmir which claim Kashmiris to be part of the missing tribe of the Israelites who were dispersed all over the world after the destruction of the second temple by the Romans. Jews too as mentioned in holy Quran were cursed by God after their ignominious behaviour mentioned in sura Bakara. In either case, there seems to be a curse on Kashmir which refuses to go away! However, one thing is certain. We have brought on these curses by our own misdeeds!
Most of the earlier travellers visiting Kashmir have been critical of the character and the behaviour of Kashmiris. The reasons for this behaviour have been given as the endless persecution of the local people by outside rulers. One cannot expect a person being persecuted continuously to exhibit any traits of decency, honesty and integrity. A person whose very existence is threatened can be expected to go to any length to save his own self. The worst traits and failings become part of the character and the concerned person feels no compunction in professing these without any moral or psychological remorse. These things get ingrained in the human psyche and a person considers these to be the expected normal behaviour.
After the devastation and displacement caused by the recent flood, one would have expected people to remain under shock for a long time. However, the rallies for the forthcoming elections give an impression that nothing has changed and the people are behaving as they used to do. There has been no chastisement as one would have expected from such a natural disaster attributed by many to be the “Divine Retribution” for our misdeeds! People are on the path to usher in the same lot of so called leaders who turned Kashmir into a virtual den of corruption, dishonesty and immorality.
Incidentally, the first victims of the curse were Kashmiri Pandits who got thrown out en masse from the place where they had lived for centuries. The Muslims left behind had to go through the worst period. Over a hundred thousand were killed, thousands were maimed, hundreds of women were raped, and property worth crores was destroyed. Even such terrible happenings did not make them change their attitude! Then came the recent calamity like the “Great Flood” in the “Paradise Lost”! This should have a made a change but no, not at all. The same story continues endlessly. One wonders when and how will the “Visoka’s Curse” go off from the vale of Kashmir? Will it ever go? Only the sages can predict!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

“Paradise” Lost!

Paradise Lost!
Wikipedia gives an interesting and detailed account of the famous epic poem written by John Milton. Milton is stated to have written the epic poem about the fall of man. God after placing Adam and Eve in Paradise had forbidden them from eating the fruit of the apple tree. The temptation by the fallen angel Satan to Adam and Eve to taste the forbidden fruit, which they did, resulted in their expulsion for committing this sin. Before expulsion when they approached God for grace, the angel Michael made Adam see in a vision everything that would happen till the “Great Flood”! Milton’s purpose in writing the poem as stated in the book has been to “justify the ways of God to men”.

One is reminded about the poem after seeing the massive devastation by the century’s worst flood in Jammu and Kashmir. Incidentally, the state has been promoted as the Paradise on Earth.

Many Kashmiris believe that these floods have been a divine retribution for the sins committed by the people. God is angry with Kashmiris and they have seen just a glimpse of His wrath. It is true that over last few decades people have become very materialistic and greedy.

Finer qualities of life like honesty, integrity, truth and morality have been totally relegated to the background. The word accountability has been wiped out from the dictionary of Kashmiris. There is absolute free for all. Take any aspect of society and social life. People, especially the nouveau riche, have virtually gone over the fence. Breaking of any law relating to every aspect of life is not frowned upon at all.

In fact, it is a normal routine to flout all laws whether relating to environment, traffic or building malls, houses, hotels and so on. Speaking a blatant lie gives no compunction! It is a replica of George Orwell’s 1984! The real truth neither comes out nor is believed even if it comes out. It is usually drowned in a stream of propaganda disseminated by one and all. Especially, the propaganda indulged in by the governments on both sides of the artificial divide must be making Dr. Goebbels turn in his grave.

Some people attribute this material and moral corruption to the streams full of money flowing into Kashmir from the two neighbouring countries. One is the “Mainstream” of money from this side which has become very murky over the years and the other is the blood in the jugular vein which has darkened and thickened with the passage of time.

Incidentally, the recent flood has rendered Kashmir’s elite and the capitalist class homeless. The flood has wreaked havoc in the poshest colonies of Srinagar. It is difficult to move through these areas because of garbage strewn everywhere giving an obnoxious stench. Srinagar Municipality workers have been working round the clock and moving tons of garbage consisting of the spoiled precious belongings of the elite with their dozers and trucks. Every day one sees newer heaps of these belongings destroyed by the murky waters of the flood lying on the roads. A large number of poor people have been seen picking up some useful items from the heaps of garbage!

There is a story circulating in the downtown area of Srinagar that the areas under seven police stations which had been most of the time kept under curfew by the authorities have more or less escaped the major destruction. On the other hand the civil lines area which has seen the least turmoil and curfew has been turned upside down!

Coming down from the spiritual to the temporal level, it is a stark reality that we Kashmiris have ourselves wreaked havoc with our environment because of our unsatiated material greed. God had given us this most beautiful land with one of the best natural environments in the world. Unfortunately for us, we did not cherish and respect this wonderful gift and left no stone unturned to destroy and disfigure it in every possible way.

Dal Lake, the heart of Srinagar was squeezed and polluted from all sides. 50,000 people are living inside the Lake in permanent brick houses on artificially created islands. The Lake has been reduced to one third of its original size. Same has been the fate of the second largest sweet water lake of Asia, the Wullar Lake which incidentally has been a flood basin of Jhelum.

The River Jhelum itself has been turned into a shallow gutter! Jhelum or Vitasta or Vyeth has the same importance and significance for Kashmir as the River Don has for Russia. Jhelum has been quietly flowing for centuries but once in a while it has exhibited its anger when fiddled with. We have weakened its embankments by constructing hotels, guest houses, hospitals and even mosques at many places.

The same has been the fate of the flood spill -over channel constructed to save the city from inundation. All the wetlands and the major portions of the flood basin of Jhelum have been converted into built up colonies. There has been no dredging of the river or the flood channel for decades. The most criminal has been wanton destruction of forests resulting in massive soil erosion. All these years timber smugglers in connivance with authorities have been indiscriminately felling young trees. The famous green gold has been massacred and in many places the forests look like freshly harvested wheat fields!

Material greed compounded with total and absolute unaccountability has wrought havoc to the environment. These stark realities make one think that the flood has truly been a retribution for our wanton and senseless actions.

Like John Milton one feels like justifying the ways of God to men! There is a saying making the rounds that it has been only a warning and if we do not mend our ways, worse would follow and then Paradise may be permanently lost!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

NO ELECTIONS IN JAMMU AND KASHMIR PLEASE!

There appears to be some extreme urgency on the part of certain quarters within Jammu and Kashmir and in Delhi to somehow hold the assembly elections at the earliest as the present state Assembly completes it tenure in December. These sections are either unaware of the real ground situation or have some other aim of capitalising on the present discomfiture of the people.

Kashmir has just gone through the most devastating floods in more than a century. The top most priority is to give succour to the traumatised people rather than force them virtually at the point of gun to partake in elections which anyway remain a controversial issue in the state. Apart from a couple of times, t most of the elections are alleged by some to be sham elections. Generally the 1977 election held under Janata rule is supposed to have been fair and widely participated. No doubt elections are an integral part of a democratic set up and give an opportunity to the people to choose their representatives to govern them yet these need a conducive atmosphere to be free and fair.

Thousands of people comprising the social and intellectual elite of Srinagar who had been living in the posh colonies are out of their traditional homes living with relatives or in rented houses. Thousands upon thousands of poor people are virtually living on the roadside in tents and are scared about the bone chilling winter on its way. They have to be properly housed to face the rigours of the popularly known chillai kalaan, the dreaded period of freeze during December-January in Kashmir’s winter. Agriculture and horticulture has taken a direct hit and the loss is in thousands of crores. Trade and commerce has virtually ceased and only a semblance of it has been revived so far by the efforts of the local people. Tourism has gone for a six as the “Paradise on Earth” has been lost! The Government is busy in shuffling and reshuffling bureaucracy and police. Other day the State’s Finance Minister had to hurriedly leave a meeting being held with the Minister in Prime Minister’s Office due to the angry outburst of the local people present there against him. Some of the district officers are reported to have been manhandled by the people in their offices for tardy relief and rehabilitation measures!

Incidentally, the State Chief Minister has been forcefully pleading for the postponement of the elections. However, his reasons are totally different. He is sure of the stark reality that this flood is going to prove a nemesis not only for him but the party he represents and they are bound to lose on every count. The incompetence and criminal negligence during his tenure had already wiped out his party during the parliamentary elections when even his father lost the prestigious constituency of Srinagar. The “Flood” has swept away whatever good he may have done earlier. He himself admitted on TV that his government had disappeared with the flood! There are already allegations that there is bungling in relief distribution. Every day local newspapers report flood relief being distributed among non-flood affected people. Schools are being opened even without providing safe alternative accommodation. Such activities are being indulged in to show that the state government is capable of restoring normalcy. Healthcare, with most of the hospitals declared unsafe or not being fully functional, is virtually in shambles. Everyone should thank his stars that the flood came just before the approaching winter as otherwise a number of epidemics would have broken out by now!

The top most priority at the moment is to take out people from the shock and trauma of the disaster they have just faced. They not only need physical rehabilitation but psychological reassurance both for their future safety and their means of livelihood. This can be done by initiating a massive programme of restoration and rehabilitation through dedicated, honest and dynamic machinery headed by an upright person. Delhi is capable of initiating such a step but unfortunately, it has always dithered in the past whenever such an opportunity had risen. This dithering has been the main cause of prolonging the alienation of the people. The unusually lukewarm attitude of the Central Government including the hesitation in declaring Kashmir flood as a national calamity has already started creating doubts in the minds of the people whether Delhi is sincere about helping them in this hour of need?

Thus, the urgent need is to go in for massive restoration and rehabilitation programme with national and international assistance through dedicated and honest people rather than put the entire administrative machinery into election mode thereby leaving them in the lurch in view of the fast approaching winter.

The elections could be held during June next year after regaining the lost “Paradise”. At the present moment it will be a foolhardy exercise.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Kashmir: The Pretence of “Normalcy”!

The most repeated statement these days from the State Government is about the fast returning “Normalcy” to the flood devastated Kashmir and especially Srinagar. One of the barometers of the “Normalcy” is the forced opening of Schools. According to Government itself thousands of Schools have been damaged by the unprecedented floods. Even some of the poshest schools in Srinagar were under water for days on end. A local daily correspondent has done an investigative report which states that the flood hit schools are a time bomb of infections. According to him not only are the school buildings structurally unsafe but pose a serious risk to the health of the school children who are vulnerable to deadly infections, which can target even lungs and brain. However, the state authorities are forcing these schools to open to pretend return of “Normalcy”! The politicians who had been washed away with the floods have started slowly re-appearing through photo-statements in local dailies claiming restoration of various civic services.
“Normalcy” is the most battered word in Kashmir. However, in the past its restoration has been exclusively used in regard to political turmoil and violence. Now it has been applied to the natural calamity. How can one call people who have faced the worst trauma in their lives caused by the most devastating flood in last 121 years be normal so soon? They are all dazed and still under a shock moving like zombies. Some of the villages have been washed away even without a trace. In the capital city of Srinagar, some of the poshest colonies like Raj Bagh and Jawahar Nagar look like some war torn localities. Dozens of collapsed houses on different roads appear to have been bombarded and appear like scenes from a war movie! There is strong stench of muck and filth all round. No doubt Srinagar Municipality has been working round the clock with newest machines and dozers yet the extent of devastation is so much that it will take months to really clean up all the areas and restore these to somewhat normal conditions.
Some of the healthcare facilities such as the main state hospitals, private hospitals and clinics which had faced the brunt of the floods have yet to resume their usual working. Even the diagnostic facilities in different parts of the city have yet to resume normal working. In most of the main shopping areas very few shops are open. Most of the shopkeepers are still cleaning their shops and stores and throwing away the goods spoiled by the flood waters which remained in these areas for about 20 days or so due to absence of sufficient dewatering facilities. The number of vehicles which had been affected by the floods runs into thousands. Most of the workshops are overflowing with these damaged vehicles. Some people have even sent their vehicles in trucks to Jammu and other places for repairs.
Apart from the tardy pace of restoration, there have been allegations of relief being distributed among people who did not face the floods. Even some people have been accused of politicising the relief distribution. One would not be surprised if our politicians and some corrupt bureaucrats make hay while the sun of flood relief shines! It would have been better if instead of channelling the relief through the state government or some non-governmental organisations it was distributed directly among the sufferers by the agencies sending it. The worst part is the tardy progress on the provision of dependable shelters capable of withstanding the fast approaching winter for the displaced persons. They would need insulated warm shelters to face the freezing winters during which even the day temperatures fall below zero. One fails to understand why is the central government dithering in taking charge of the restoration and rehabilitation on an accelerated pace through some of the international agencies readily offering generous aid and expertise? Common people are getting the impression that some of the elements in the central government are drawing sadistic pleasure from the discomfiture of suffering Kashmiris. Instead of lessening the alienation, this dithering is going to increase it and may result in an upheaval sometime in the future.
In the present circumstances, the forthcoming assembly elections appear not only to be an exercise in futility but these could seriously jeopardise the restoration and rehabilitation process. The most immediate need is to bring some semblance of normalcy to the devastatingly disturbed life of the people than to provide means to the corrupt and greedy politicians to come back and suck whatever blood has been left in the veins of the presently suffering common people! Kashmiris are a resilient people and have faced numerous calamities and external as well as internal oppression in the past. They have survived and will survive and rise again. However, the present process of restoration and rehabilitation to bring in real “Normalcy” can only succeed if the present lot of corrupt politicians posing as pretenders of “Normalcy” is sent packing. Kashmir at present needs a single line administration with the clear goal of restoration and rehabilitation without any political interference if the “Normalcy” has to be real and not pretence!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The “Banana” Chief Minister!

After the recent floods devastated Srinagar, Omar Abdullah was shown on TV throwing “Bananas” to the marooned people from the state helicopter. One was reminded about the “Rise of the Planet of Apes”. He should thank God that the people did not pull down his chopper like in the movie! This “Banana” episode reminded one about the “Banana Republics” of South America. According to Wikipedia, “Banana republic is a political science term for a politically unstable country, whose economy is largely dependent on exporting a limited-resource product, e.g. bananas. It typically has stratified social classes, including a large, impoverished working class and a ruling plutocracy of business, political, and military elites. This politico-economic oligarchy controls the primary-sector productions to exploit the country's economy”. The exploitation, corruption and nepotism associated with Kashmir is the same as in those republics. Kashmir has virtually been turned into a “Banana Republic” by the last scion of the Abdullah dynasty! This was evident during the most destructive flood in its recent history. In fact, the entire political elite from 1947 onwards has been responsible for turning Kashmir into a virtual “Banana Republic” with the lead role being played by the Abdullah dynasty. The dynasty had to meet its nemesis but unfortunately for Kashmiris, it took along entire Kashmir! Probably because most of us had for materialistic worldly reasons stood with it rather than stood against it!
The flood was in fact Nature’s backlash as it had been plundered mercilessly for last few decades. The Jhelum burst its banks in vicious ferocity drowning Srinagar’s elite, for a change, in its muddy and murky waters. The posh localities of Shivpora, Indra Nagar, Sonawar, Raj Bagh, Jawahar Nagar, Gogji Bagh and Wazir Bagh were all under 10 to 20 feet of water. It was probably for the first time that the upper classes had faced such a disaster. Most of the down town area had mercifully been spared. The encroachers in Dal Lake too were submerged. In fact, Dal and Nageen Lake had become a large water body of the earlier times. It too was a revenge of the ravaged Dal Lake! The destruction and damage in south Kashmir too has been colossal. Some villages have been completely washed away. It is supposed to have been the most destructive flood after the one in 1893. As reported the disaster had been predicted by some local engineers in a report submitted to the “Banana” government in 2010. However, the report got drowned in bureaucratic and political wrangling between the state and the centre. In fact, the government had ignored the warning about possible flash floods given by the Met Office.
The coming of the flood and the handling of the situation during and after it are typical of the South American “Banana Republics”! The entire political set up and their administrative machinery disappeared like the dictators in these countries who run away with their material possessions and lackeys. It is the brave new generation of Kashmiris and the Army which rescued people. In fact, some of the Army rescuers complained that there was no one from the local administration to guide them unlike Uttrakhand where they had been on earlier rescue missions. There was mess up in dewatering pumps. Most of the posh localities remained water logged for more than 20 days after the receding of flood waters. Even now some of these areas are still water logged! People on their own breached some embankments of the main river and the flood spill-over channel to drain out water unmindful of the future consequences. The role of the government and its paralytic administration deserves not only its immediate removal but prosecution for criminal negligence!
What is most surprising is the dithering on the part of the central government. By all accounts it has been a national calamity. The most bandied about “Crown of India” had been devastated but the reaction and response from those climbing every pulpit to proclaim it as an integral part was nothing but lukewarm. There could not have been a better opportunity to bridge the gap of alienation than this tragedy. One fails to understand why, on the contrary, the Government of India should refuse permission to foreign agencies especially those connected with healthcare, cleaning, rehabilitation and relief from coming to Kashmir. In fact, they should have been themselves asking for expert international aid to deal with the situation. During the destructive earthquake of 2005, the Pakistan Administered Kashmir received unlimited foreign aid especially in the field of healthcare like prefabricated hospitals and shelters. It did not change the basic political situation of the area. If the Prime Minister Narendra Modi had been true to his word of winning the hearts and minds of the people, he would have been here with his all American and other international corporate friends to give succour to the devastated and suffering people of Kashmir! He can still do it by sending the local politicians on a long leave of a year or two and bringing in an upright and dynamic person with some capable advisors to run the administration with the involvement of national and international assistance. Will he do it? That is the million dollar question!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

News about our safety

Dear Friends,
I have got internet connectivity after 20 days or so. Many relatives and friends were worried about our safety. We were marooned in Jawahar Nagar in our house for four days when the water level was about 18 feet or so. We were rescued by Army Engineers. We are safe with some relatives in Hyder Pora. It has been the most traumatic experience. Will give my own impressions after sometime. Thanks to all my friends who repeatedly and frantically called to know our safety.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Mahi Adji te Tsari Dodh!

Mahi Adji te Tsari Dodh!. (Mosquito Bones and Sparrow’s Milk). This Kashmiri proverb alludes to the most difficult things in the world to procure!

Sometime back, the BJP leader from Jammu, Chaman Lal Gupta had said that the Kashmiris did not enter into Mutta marriage with India in 1947 but it was a genuine and pucca marriage with a proper deed. This reminds one of the famous Kashmiri proverb sometimes used in connection with marriages. The Kashmiri language has innumerable proverbs connected with various daily activities. These proverbs not only provide immense humour in the dullness of the daily life but are also very intelligently crafted. The proverb, “Mahi Adji te Tsari Dodh” translates into, “the bones of a mosquito and the milk of a sparrow”. Both the things are impossible to procure. It is said that in earlier times, at the time of writing a marriage deed, the bride’s people would put this condition for annulling the deed! This would be considered something impossible to procure and thus the marriage could never be annulled. The proverb aptly describes Kashmir’s relationship with India especially in the present context. 
 Kashmir has always been compared to a beautiful bride decorated by Nature itself. All the outside travelers have been fascinated by its beauty. Unfortunately, this beauty has also been the undoing for its inhabitants. They have been in the bondage of one after the other foreign rulers for centuries. In fact, Kashmir has been a bride in chains for last more than four centuries. In 1947 when the whole sub-continent of India was in turmoil due to its partition by the fleeing British colonialists supposed to be past masters in divide and rule policy, the bride of Kashmir was wooed by the two emerging bridegrooms each promising her the moon! One of the bridegrooms, a Kashmiri migrant of the past, Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru was madly in love with the Kashmiri bride. He describes the beauty in his book, “….Like some supremely beautiful women, whose beauty is almost impersonal and above human desire, such was Kashmir in all its feminine beauty of river and valley and lake and graceful trees.”  And then, “….Kashmir calls back, its pull is stronger than ever; it whispers its magic to the ears, and its memory disturbs the mind. How can they who have fallen under its spell release themselves from this enchantment?” 
It was this mad love for the bride Kashmir which has been Kashmiris’ undoing. Pandit Nehru’s obsession with Kashmir did bring it into the lap of India but ultimately resulted in the virtual exodus of all his co-religionists in 1990. Sometimes one ponders if Nehru had not been a Kashmiri, what would have been the fate of Kashmir? It was his mad love which made him to hurriedly enter into a marriage deed in 1947 overlooking the fact that the bride had changed her religion and may not be in the long run comfortable with him. He realised this after sometime but before he could make some amends, the angel of death snatched him away leaving Kashmiris in the lurch on a marriage deed with impossible conditions to fulfil for their ultimate release! The conditions described in the Kashmiri proverb about securing the “Bones of a mosquito and the milk of a Sparrow” usually put in by the bride’s people had been metaphorically put in the reverse by the obsessive lover. 
The marriage deed was not a pucca one but only temporary which fact was certified even by the World Body, the United Nations Security Council which declared that the final marriage will take place only with the full consent of the bride to be obtained through a plebiscite. However, till the survival of the groom, Pandit Nehru, one heard reaffirmation after reaffirmation that the final consent had yet to be obtained. After his death, the Indians flatly and blatantly refused to honour the fact of the temporary marriage. They have, in fact, been taking step after step to strengthen the relationship, consent or no consent, making it starkly appear as a forced marriage. Kashmir is now under the total stranglehold of India. Security wise, over seven hundred thousand Army personnel, hundreds of thousands of paramilitary and police spread in every nook and corner not sparing even civilian residential areas make it the most militarised area of the world. Economically for all its needs Kashmir is totally dependent on imports from outside the state. Even it does not generate enough revenue to pay for a colossal colonial type administrative set up created over last few decades! The most important resource, the hydro-electric power generation has already been usurped by NHPC by manipulation and connivance of local politicians. In these circumstances, Kashmiris may not be able to secure their release from this political as well as economic bondage even after procuring the proverbial “Mosquito bones and Sparrow’s milk”! Only some divine intervention may get them the salvation and emancipation they have been pinning for centuries. However, this too can happen only if they change their basic character which is the biggest hurdle for them in moving on a straight path ahead! The starkest example of this lack of character is their inability due to stubbornness to even assemble on a same platform for the cherished common goal! The attainment of even this noble goal appears to be a task more difficult than securing the “Mosquito bones and Sparrow’s milk!”

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

India cannot have a Muslim PM!

Kashmir can have a Hindu Chief Minister but a Muslim cannot be an Indian Prime Minister!


According to a news report, the BJP Chief Amit Shah is working hard to install a Hindu Chief Minister in J&K. Reportedly the right hand man of PM Narendra Modi is banking upon consolidating Lok Sabha poll gains, enrolment campaign for eligible Kashmiri Pandits and an understanding with regional players. The declaration of the ruling Congress minister Sham Lal Sharma for having a Hindu Chief Minister possibly from Jammu in J&K lends some uneasy credibility to the alleged move. It is quite well known that in case of J&K, all the Indian political parties work in unison. Legally and technically as per the constitution of J&K there is no bar in having a Hindu as a Chief Minister. The J&K Constitution is more secular than the Indian constitution. It does not have religion as basis for any constitutional activity by the state unlike the Indian constitution, the clause 25-2 (B) of which gives the state the power to throw open institutions of a Hindu character, thereby, implying that the constitution framers were sure that the state would be always Hindu!
However, the entire plan has some sinister background which has been slowly emerging over past sometime. These may be the various tactical moves of a long term plan devised by the Hindutva brigade for a diabolical final solution of the perennial Kashmir problem. They probably dream about its reconversion into the ancient Hindu Kingdom! There have been a series of actions already taken or there are still actions purported to be taken which fit into a long term plan. The progressive increase in the number of pilgrims as well as duration of the Amarnath Yatra. Search for new pilgrimage spots which never existed in the history of Kashmir to present Kashmir as a holy land for Hindus. The permanent settlement with the giving of property rights to Pakistani refugees in Jammu. The clamour and the initiation of practical steps to abolish article 370 giving special status to Kashmir under the Indian constitution. The eroding of financial autonomy of the state including the bringing of the J&K Bank under the total control of the Reserve Bank of India. Kashmiri Chief Ministers have already been converted into puppets on a string! The Kashmiri equivalent of which is “Badri Nathin Adri Mohar”!
The only problem with the plan of installing a Hindu Chief Minister is the fall out which may ultimately result from its initiation. Kashmir is not an isolated island of ab origins or a reserve of Red Indians which can be colonised after decimating the local population. It is home to millions of Kashmiris majority of who have been professing the religion of peace, Islam for last more than 8 centuries. Their neighbours in close proximity are not as peace loving as the Kashmiris. They have universally declared to protect Muslims all over the world and any disturbance in Kashmir is an open invitation to them to fulfil their declared obligations!
  In 1947 as stated by the BJP leader Chaman Lal Gupta, Kashmiris were forcibly married to India and it was not a temporary marriage called “Mutta”. Unfortunately, it is the Indian leaders themselves who declared it to be “Mutta” by taking the marriage deed to the UN Security Council. The entire story since then has been about the Indian attempt to wriggle out of the basic conditions of the marriage deed.
While debating the installation of a Hindu Chief Minister in Kashmir many people have posed a question whether there can also be a Muslim Prime Minister in India? The answer to that question is a big no! This has already been made clear by the RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat in a recent statement, “Hindustan is a Hindu nation. Hindutva is the identity of our nation and it (Hinduism) can incorporate others (religions) in itself.” In fact, he needs to be appreciated for speaking the truth fearlessly. He is not beating about the bush like the pseudo secularists of the Congress or other political parties including the Communists. Ostensibly, India in the west has been portrayed as the largest secular democracy in the world. However, the reality has not only been stated by Mohan Bhagwat but by Arundhati Roy who calls it, “the Upper Caste Hindu Corporate Republic”! The recent elections have vindicated her description. The paint of secularism has been slowly but steadily peeling off and the crowning of the RSS nominee Narendra Modi as the Prime Minister has been its ultimate climax.
 In spite of all the constitutional guarantees regarding the basic human rights and the equality of all citizens, there is no chance of a Muslim becoming the Prime Minister of India. This is especially so after the creation of Pakistan whose existence is still a sore point with the Hindutva brigade pinning to re-join it with the mother country, Akhand Bharat! However, Kashmiris should be prepared to accept a Hindu Chief Minister if the RSS plan goes according to schedule. But one does not need to panic or get worked up by such a move. Sometimes certain steps taken in haste have consequences which the initiators could never imagine. If the Pharaoh’s daughter had not taken Moses as an infant floating on the Nile in a basket for adoption, the Israelis may still have been in the bondage of Egyptians! A Hindu Chief Minister may unintentionally result in the ultimate salvation of Kashmiris!