Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Chattisinghpora to Pathribal!

Not only the fake encounter of Pathribal but even the massacre of Sikhs at Chattisinghpora needs to be probed by an impartial agency

Army’s decision to close the case pertaining to the cold blooded murder of five innocent civilians in a fake encounter thoroughly investigated by CBI and pursued for prosecution has sent shock waves in Kashmir and beyond. It has also established beyond any iota of doubt that the security forces enjoy total impunity under AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act) and seize the draconian legislation every now and then to escape justice in almost every felony they are involved in.
It has been generally observed by various commentators that the very idea of trying the accused in a military court rules out justice being delivered to the aggrieved. The main reason cited is that any action against the personnel of the security forces even though for gross human rights violations will demoralise these people. This, according to certain quarters, cannot be done because of the fact that the anti-insurgency operations requiring total freedom of action for their success are still continuing. This is a stark admission of the ground reality that everything is not normal in Kashmir. Normally, the security forces would not need draconian powers to deal with a limited number of insurgents if the population of the concerned area is fully supportive of their actions claimed to be taken in national interest to safeguard the integrity of the country. The truth is that due to these gross violations of human rights, the entire population is extremely alienated. This can be vividly seen in the funerals of the militants killed in various encounters usually attended by thousands of people without any fear of the authorities.
The relentless pursuit of the case by the CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) had raised high hopes that the perpetrators of this heinous crime would be punished. The clean chit given by the army by closing the case has dashed all hopes of any justice being meted out from the Indian institutions. This has come right after the surreptitious hanging of Afzal Guru to satisfy the collective conscience of India and subsequent remission of death sentence to fifteen other convicts. It would be na├»ve for the Indians to expect Kashmiris to have faith in their “democratic” and “fair and just” set up after these events? Peoples’ faith in any set up depends upon the system giving out exemplary punishment to the perpetrators of human rights violations regardless of the rank and status of a person. There have been many instances in India where corrupt people have been hauled up regardless of their status. A number of perpetrators of crimes against women have been awarded exemplary punishment. However, the buck stops in Kashmir. Every wrong committed in Kashmir either by the uniformed people or the civilian persons is taken to be done in the all accommodative “National Interest”! The tragedy is that there is no leader of standing from the mainstream side who has the courage to call a spade a spade. They are attuned to eat a humble pie!
While talking of Pathribal one needs to remember that it was the sequel of an earlier and more gruesome event, the massacre at Chattisinghpora. That unfortunate and ghastly incident has not been as thoroughly and relentlessly probed by CBI as the Pathribal event was. This was supposed to be the only such action alleged to have been perpetrated by Kashmiri militants against the Sikhs. The most important aspect of this tragedy was its timing. US President Bill Clinton had just landed in India and during that night the incident blamed on Kashmiri militants took place. Next day, Bill Clinton in his address mentioned the gruesome event but qualified his condemnation by saying, “Whoever has committed it” thereby not going with the Indian claim that the Kashmiri militants had done it! In fact, subsequently, in his introduction to Madeleine Albright’s book, “The Mighty and the Almighty” he clearly accuses Hindu militants to have perpetrated the crime. The exact quote on page xiii is, “During my visit to India in 2000, some Hindu militants decided to vent their outrage by murdering thirty-eight Sikhs in cold blood. If I hadn’t made the trip, the victims would probably be still alive.” This passage which is in the original hard cover edition of the book has been removed from the subsequent editions probably under pressure from certain quarters. It is reported that the CIA had briefed the President about the actual happening which had prompted him not to blame anyone during his address but he had mentioned it in his introduction to the Albright’s book. This raises lot of doubt on the real happening and as such deserves a thorough probe. Sikhs in Kashmir have often demanded thorough investigation of the Chattisinghpora massacre but the government has preferred to be completely silent on the subject. Now that the Pathribal is in the limelight again and many feelers have been issued that the whole episode may be probed again, it would be just and fair if the gory event that apparently led to the killing of five more innocents and subsequent police firing on groups of protesters at Brakapora leaving another half a dozen people dead too is thoroughly probed by an impartial agency.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Masheedi Waanass Jathke Puj!

Kashmiri proverb appropriately describes the present set up!

Mosque is a very revered place in Kashmir and almost every locality has one or more mosques depending upon the population of the area. It represents the gathering of the faithful. A sacred place to offer prayers to the Almighty God. In true sense a holy spot related to the religion of Islam. Many mosques in Kashmir have shops which are rented out to the faithful to earn some revenue for keeping the place neat and clean. Renting out the shop to a butcher selling jathka meat not slaughtered in Islamic way (Halal) is the worst tragedy that can befall a sacred place! A shop attached with a holy and pious mosque undertaking unclean business does not gel. It is the worst contradiction that can exist anywhere!
Kashmir is the only Muslim majority state in India. However, the Muslims here are not religious extremists like the Hindutva brigades. Islam, the religion of peace, came to Kashmir in total peace. Kashmiris converted to Islam voluntarily under no compulsion. Bul Bul Shah and Shah-i-Hamadan converted the bulk of Kashmiris to Islam by their example of brotherhood, serenity, selflessness, and above all piety. They were the harbingers of the religion of peace and love. These spiritual leaders gave Kashmir the mystic aura rather than the fundamentalist hue. The valley is even now called by local people, “Reshi waer” meaning “An abode of saints”. One can imagine the whole valley to be a mosque where people preach brotherhood and humanity. Unfortunately, the present rulers who in terms of the Kashmiri proverb rented a shop from this mosque started doing all the reverse of what Kashmir has stood for and even now stands for. The meat slaughtered in an unislamic way is totally repugnant to the Muslims all over the world. This process has not only caused colossal damage to the psyche of a Kashmiri but has physically, socially, culturally degraded Kashmir in every possible way.
Often the sizeable participation of the people in the last elections is cited as the reposing of faith by them in the existing system. Well, the tenants of the shop proclaimed from every pulpit that the election is not a solution to the basic problem of Kashmir which is pending a final solution but only a means to get good governance to provide the essentials of daily living. The slogans were the “Bijli, Pani aur Saddak”, power, water and roads. The majority of the people believed that the participation in elections is not going to affect their basic aspirations. So they went in for improving these necessities of daily living. However, they were in for a shock. The meat they were getting was jathka! No bijli at all. Instead the tariff was getting raised every now and then. Same is the story with pani and saddak. Youth were promised jobs of every kind in the state as well as private sector. Finally, towards the end of the term they are being told that there are no jobs! The only thing that was available in plenty and freely were the dog bites. The animal lovers made it a point to ensure with the state help that the stray dog population in Kashmir would outnumber the humans soon.
The worst and the most shocking was what people faced at the hands of the security apparatus. In spite of repeated announcements and commitments, the draconian legislation giving unbridled powers to security forces remained in force making them totally unaccountable for all their actions. Kashmiris continued to be killed as target practice. The freedom of expression remained totally suspended. The much touted zero tolerance to violation of human rights became zero accountability to all actions! Hundreds of young ones were shot in cold blood while protesting with stones against the highhandedness of the security agencies. Fake encounters, rapes and suppression of every kind of public protest became the norm. Politicians became subservient to the security apparatus whose bosses alleged that all of them were on their payroll. Any sympathy shown by any conscientious Indian acted as a red rag to the extremely biased bullish media. Any kind hearted Indian sympathising with the plight of Kashmiris faced the wrath of the Hindutva brigades. Guru Dev Tagore and Mahatma Gandhi don’t seem to have been living in India. In fact, an innocent person had to be hanged surreptitiously to satisfy the collective right extremist conscience of India thereby taking the alienation of Kashmiris to the extreme! The court which sentenced the innocent to death as a matter of conscience commutes the death sentence of 15 convicts who were also on the death row. Divisible justice! Still the mosque shop tenant keeps quiet and swallows everything. Thus the present plight of Kashmir can be aptly described by the Kashmiri proverb, “Masheedi Wanass Jathkeh Pooj”!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

“Azadi” from “Egos”!

Before reaching the goal of ultimate freedom, the “Azadi”, one has to achieve the “Azadi” from the bloated “Egos”!

The most battered word in Kashmir over the past few years has been the “Azadi”, meaning freedom. However, the most active word in the same period has been the “Ego”. According to the Cambridge dictionary, “Ego” is “your idea or opinion of yourself, especially your feeling of your own importance and ability”. In Psychoanalysis, the part of a person’s mind that tries to match the hidden desires (wishes) of the id (part of the unconscious mind) with the demands of the real world. It is an established fact that before a man is physically free; he has to achieve the mental freedom and emancipation. Kashmiris have been egoists from the very dawn of history in the valley. Having an ego is a natural human behaviour but what spoils the show is a bloated ego! Well, we all appear to have a bloated ego genetically. It seems to be part of our DNA.
Internecine warfare has been the part of Kashmir’s history from the ancient times. People have always followed personalities rather than principles. One has only to open any chapter of Kalhana’s Rajatarangni, the earliest book of history in the sub-continent, to read about the continuous wars of succession among Kashmir’s royal families from the ancient times. Damaras, the barons of ancient Kashmir, were the kingmakers. They would put anyone they liked on the throne or dethrone a king whom they disliked. Another trait of our character which has been playing spoil sport has been the personality cult reinforced by dynastic succession.
As observed by foreign authors, we also have the trait of extreme jealousy and cannot see a fellow Kashmiri doing well in life! Kashmiris are fond of being ruled by kings and queens. Well, it is true for entire human civilization that a leader with a charismatic personality sways all. However, generally such persons after becoming popular lose their self-control and their egos get bloated which results in their fall. This has been true of Kashmir also and the vivid example is the great “Lion of Kashmir”. It was his bloated ego which landed Kashmiris in the present mess from which they see no escape!
Kashmiris have been aspiring for freedom popularly known as “Azadi” for a pretty long time. They have had umpteen leaders offering them leadership to the cherished goal. Unfortunately, most of the leaders have painted a utopian picture of that ultimate emancipation without bothering to give it a concrete and a precise shape. Some of them have been changing both the ultimate goal and the road leading to it from time to time. It is because of these changing stances that the people at present feel confused and lost. Several intellectuals within Kashmir as well as from outside often ask if the goal is same then why so many parties led by so many leaders? The reason is simple. The personality cult and the bloated egos. Every Kashmiri leader feels he is not only the right one but the best one to lead and achieve the goal unfortunately he is not sure what the goal is.
Freedom movements all over the world which have seen fruition have invariably had a single distinct leader and mostly one party led by that leader. Kashmir must be the only place in the world which has the unique distinction of having more than a couple of dozen parties led by an equal number of leaders struggling to achieve the goal of freedom. This infighting among local leaders has been Kashmir’s undoing right through its history of last four centuries or so. Outsiders have made most of this internecine warfare in capturing Kashmir and keeping it under their tutelage. In the present context, the agencies have been working overtime with commendable success in motivating these people to be at each other’s throats rather than facing the real oppressor! In fact, the agencies from both the sides work overtime to unite as well as disunite these people from time to time. While the agencies from the other side try to unite the people toeing their line, the agencies on this side try to dismantle that initiative by engineering split after split. Sometimes it is difficult to discern who are the “Real” people claiming to lead Kashmiris to salvation? Such things will go on endlessly until we are prepared to deflate our bloated egos and descend on the ground to face the actual reality. The ground reality is that the two sides of Kashmir have virtually been merged by the two neighbouring countries and the merger is physically guarded by huge armies and politically supported by their lackeys. The status will not change by seminars, sermons and press notes. The change can occur only if there is an indomitable urge among the people for a change. At the present moment no one has been able to create that urge and the people quietly go along with the status quo. The only hope is the younger generation simmering with a new urge which may burst forth anytime. Thus there is no need to get disheartened by yet another split in the conglomerate claiming to lead Kashmiris to the ultimate goal of total freedom. Incidentally, some members of the conglomerate are being guarded by the very same people against whom they claim to be struggling! People living on past glory rarely change the course of history. In the long run, it will be the bubbling youth led by convictions and ideology rather than the past glory men that will change the course of history and usher in the glorious dawn which all of us have been aspiring for! Kashmiris have survived on hope for centuries and will continue to do so in future also.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Kashmir’s Neros!


Just a couple of feet of heavy snowfall have totally paralysed the entire Kashmir because of what some call administrative unpreparedness. However, there is more to the failure of administration at the critical juncture. It is the rulers who control the administrative machinery who need to take the blame. Merely sitting in cosy committee rooms and reviewing the preparedness over hot tea or coffee does not make the administrative machinery more efficient and alert. Apart from ensuring accountability at every level, the practical lead given to the workers in the field not only by the administrative heads but by the rulers themselves can make a difference. If some semblance of normalcy is returning it is not because of the rulers. Rather it is in spite of them. They should be thankful that the staff at the grass roots level is putting their best in spite of the most difficult working conditions and lack of proper facilities.
If the power supply keeps on running or has been restored in some areas it is because of what one calls PDL (Permanent Daily Wagers) of the department who are yet to be regularised even after 20 years of service or so! The roads are getting cleared because of people like Rafiq Ahmad of Mechanical Engineering Department who has given his life on the job. Woking in sub-zero temperatures without proper clothing and other facilities is not an easy task. One has to only watch on foreign TV channels workers doing similar jobs during bad weather with most sophisticated warm clothing, bright coloured security jackets, gloves, hats and most modern implements. One could easily have the similar equipment here if we had not wasted major chunk of our money on fancy golf courses, cable cars and other recreational facilities enjoyed only by few members of the elite. These new Maharajas living on the Gupkar Road (these days renamed by some as the “Gatkar Road” because of the darkness the ruler living there has given to the people in severe winter) would have had the first-hand experience but for their cosy stay with the Durbar in Jammu. The high voltage line carrying supply from Chashmashai station had snapped. The entire Gupkar area too had plunged into darkness! Never mind if for security reasons the Maharaja’s Residence is supplied by essential services feeder in spite of the fact that he was not there! Of course it is more important than a lifesaving hospital. To realise the misery people are facing they have just to go out of Srinagar to see that quite a few areas have been without power for days on end.
It is said that when Rome was burning, the Nero was watching from the balcony of his palace and fiddling with his guitar. He was shedding tears on this misfortune which according to some was started by him to clear some areas of Rome! Similar is the story of Queen Marie Antoinette. When the revolutionaries were storming her palace, she asked her courtiers why people were shouting. When they told her that they had no bread, she said, “Why don’t they eat cakes?” On being told that they had no water, she said, “Why don’t they drink champagne?” It is said that when Marie Antoinette was put in prison by the revolutionaries, her entire hair turned white in a single night! When Kashmir freezes, the modern day Nero keeps on tweeting sitting in cosy places or flying in choppers and special aircraft snapping beautiful landscapes from the windows. He too, like the Queen Marie Antoinette, is totally disconnected from the people at the grass roots level suffering the miseries of winter especially in some remote places. Incidentally, it appears that he does get tense and is worried sometimes because his hair has turned white at such a young age! The worst tragedy is that some of the opposition leaders are worse than the Nero who at least watched the burning Rome from his balcony. These people criticize the rulers sitting in their warm rooms without doing any productive work themselves. They could at least move about in the field among the suffering people and relieve some of their hardships.
These days there is loud thinking and common talk about having someone like Kejrilal and his Aam Aadmi Party in Kashmir. Well, Srinagar is not Delhi and it does not require Kejrilals in politics. There are already scores of politicians of all hues and shades leading people in a dozen different directions. What Srinagar needs is Aam Aadmi initiative in civic life to improve the daily living conditions of the Aam Aadmi here. We need broom wielding crowds taking the initiative in civic affairs on their own. Civil Society leaders sitting in cosy restaurants and discussing problems over tea do not help the suffering people in any way. They do a lot of pinning but no productive work. Someone motivating people and then practically leading them in the field may make a difference and force the administration to be more responsible and accountable. But the moot point is who will do it? The disconnection of the rulers and their opponents from the people as well as the dichotomy of the main narrative and the woes of daily life for the leaders of popular movement appears as a logjam! We may continue to suffer the hardships of day to day living for quite sometime!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

White washing history!

BR recently wrote an article about Kashmiri leadership claiming these to be the “Gods that fail”! For unknown reasons some people take Kashmir’s movement for emancipation to have started from early thirties when Kashmiri Muslims rose to demand their basic rights from the autocratic rulers. However, Kashmir’s history does not start in thirties only. If one wants to understand the Kashmir’s present problem and especially the perennial unrest, one has to go back in history to the times when Kashmir lost its sovereignty and was merged into the Mughal Empire.
Since that first take over, Kashmiris never got a breather and had to face the external masters one after the other who by their notorious means of oppression squeezed out every sign of civility, honour and self-respect out of them. Kashmiris have never accepted external rule willingly. They have been fighting external hegemony even before Mughals, right from the era of the Sultans when they fought and chased away the Sayyids. Similar to the present rule in Kashmir engineered by external forces over a period of time, Kashmir was in the same situation in the time of the Sultans. According to Dr. Abdul Ahad, the historian, “the reign of Sultan Hassan Shah is remembered not for any tangible achievement but for the disrepute he brought to the Sultanate by falling into lap of luxury and pleasure…”
The rule was full of corruption and oppression. It was during this period that Malik Ahmad Yatu, the Prime Minister of Hassan Shah invited Sayyids to fight against Tazi Bhat, the Commander-in-Chief of the Sultan. “The Sayyids, a riotous group of great notoriety who had been turned out of the valley for their nefarious designs, not once but twice (by Bud Shah and, subsequently, by Hassan Shah) accepted the invitation and swooped”. They took over Kashmir by their notorious machinations. However, the Kashmiris rose against this external rule and valiantly fought the Sayyids under the leadership of Jehangir Magrey and others. The Sayyids were humiliated and had to surrender and run away. Thus Kashmiris were able to restore their own local rule.
However, the trend set in those early times for inviting outsiders for settling local scores has been Kashmir’s undoing through subsequent periods under Mughals, Afghans, Sikhs and Dogras. This continues even during the present times when people either look towards the West or to Taliban to bail them out from the Indian oppression. The same had been Sheikh Abdullah’s weakness in looking outside for riddance from the autocratic rule of the Maharaja. Had he stood on his own, the things may have turned out quite differently.
It is not correct to claim that the Kashmiris are not a separate nation. By all definitions of nationhood, Kashmiris constitute a nation. Kashmir is the only place in the sub-continent which has a record of written history. Kalhana wrote the earliest book of history in the sub-continent, Raja Tarangani in the twelfth century A.D. Kashmir’s history goes back few thousand years B.C. Throughout the external rule there have been many uprisings. The Shawl Baf’s uprising in 1865 was an attempt against the oppressive external rule. The Silk Factory strike and the presentation of a memorandum to Viceroy of India in October, 1924 was another bid by Kashmiris to throw off the external yolk. The massacre of July, 1931 gave the real impetus to Kashmir’s movement for total freedom from external rule. Sheikh Abdullah was thrown up as a charismatic leader by this movement.
There is no point in comparing Omar Mukhtar and Sheikh Abdullah. Both were teachers and tall leaders. Both had risen to free their nations from oppression. Omar Mukhtar was a principled leader and gave his life rather than accept the Italian offer of compromise. On the other hand, even though Sheikh Abdullah suffered for his people initially yet he proved totally unprincipled and compromised with the authorities against whom he was leading his people. He preferred the comforts of a chair which he regretted in his last days. Kashmiri youth were furious when the movie Omar Mukhtar, the Lion of the Desert, was shown in Kashmir’s cinemas as they genuinely felt upset for Sheikh Abdullah not behaving like him. The movie had to be taken off the cinemas in view of anti-Sheikh protests by the youth. Had Sheikh not committed the last blunder, there would be no need to guard his grave. It would be a shrine by now!
Kashmir’s political movement has always suffered by the personality cult nourished and encouraged by external forces. However, the present day youth are no longer looking at the “Gods that fail”. Although some forces are still trying to prop up various new leaders or “Gods”, yet the youth do not follow these blindly. The days of “Ala Kari Wangan Kari, Bab Kari” are gone now. As shown in the last couple of agitations in 2008, and 2010, the youth rose en masse on their own because of convictions and it is the” Gods” who had to follow the youth. Attributing the idea of Independent Kashmir to Sheikh Abdullah is a gross mistake. Attainment of absolute freedom is ground in the psyche of every Kashmiri because of the centuries of external suppression. Sheikh Abdullah only voiced it openly. It may be a debatable question whether an independent Kashmir is possible or not in the present circumstances but no one can deny that every honest Kashmiri has desired absolute freedom. A place where he could walk with his head held high.
There have always been attempts to cloud the Kashmiri aspirations by confusion and irrelevant debate. As Immanuel Kant while describing the “Theory of Causality” says in his “Critique of Pure Reason” , one gives a thesis, then anti-thesis and then tries to have synthesis but ends up by creating what he calls the “Dialectical Illusion”! It would be better not to confound the reality but to accept the fact that the Kashmiris have certain basic aspirations which need to be attended to without wasting any more time!