Thursday, July 31, 2008

Zahida’s anxious walk to freedom

I was accused of assisting Fidayeen attack on Cong rally, I came to know about charges in Court room’

NASEER A GANAI
When the District and Sessions Judge Srinagar ordered release of a detainee, Zahida, in an open court here on Wednesday, her daughters and other family members were on tenterhooks. They apprehended she would be arrested again, and their fears were not unfounded. In the past police has arrested thousands of political prisoners soon after their release outside the court, to be imprisoned again for some other charges. Zahida’s lawyer Muhammad Abdullah Pandit was more aware than anyone else about the whole game. He asked a policewoman to unlock Zahida’s cuffs. She obeyed. He asked Zahida to come along, warning people to stay away and not to follow him. Zahida’s family, policemen in uniform and civvies, lawyers and journalists, watched.
Zahida had been taken away, this time not by the security agencies, but by her lawyer. In the past 20 years it was one of the few instances when a detainee, about to be re-arrested, walked to his or her freedom outside the court.
“The lawyer has taken her to a safe place,” said advocate Urfi, who assisted senior lawyers pleading Zahida’s case.
Zahida, 50, was brought to the court from central jail in the morning. “I was very reluctant to come. I thought the court would order my release and the personnel of CIK (Counter Intelligence Kashmir) would re-arrest me and take me to police station. I have kidney and heart ailment; I am dying; I don’t want to be taken to police station again,” Zahida told this correspondent when she was waiting for the court ruling.
She said police arrested her in July 2006 from her home. “We had gone to attend a marriage ceremony. There we were told that police is looking for us,” she said.
Police arrested the entire family upon reaching home. Her husband, two daughters, and son were released after some days but she was detained in police station Rambagh.
“Then I was shifted to central jail Srinagar where I was asked to sign some papers, and I signed,” she said. She had signed the Preventive Detention Order passed by the district magistrate under the Public Safety Act, the infamous Act under which a person can be jailed for two years without a trial, often on flimsy grounds.
“In jail,” she said, “I was wondering why I have been jailed. During trial I came to know in the court room that I have been booked for Section 302, which means a murder charge,” she said.
Her family moved to the High Court through senior counsel Mian Abdul Qayoom. The Court quashed the order. “I was released outside gate of centre jail and arrested again minutes after the release,” she said.
She was then detained at Kothibagh for a month.
The state then again booked her under the PSA charging her with assisting a suicide attack on Congress rally in Lal Chowk in 2006. The family again filed a plea in High Court, which quashed the detention order. She was released outside the central jail where CIK cops arrested her again. On June 23, she was booked under PSA. The High Court quashed the order but state slapped another detention order under PSA. The court quashed the order third time.
Her lawyers sought her release on bail, which was granted by the court. She was asked to submit bail bonds, which she did.
Today the lawyers had suspended work citing human rights abuses by the state as the reason for strike. But the president of Bar Association Nazir Ahmad Ronga and Muhammad Abdullah Pandit attended her case.
“When the bail bonds have been attested by the Court, the High Court has ordered her detention, and the superintendent jail says she is not required in any other case, the Court has no option but to release her,” argued Ronga and Pandit. They argued that police officials or any government prosecutor has filed application for her continued detention.
The superintendent police central jail was present in person before the court during the hearing.
After the court ruling, Zahida was apprehensive. “If they will arrest me again, I will die this time. I can’t survive in police station,” said Zahida. “I am ill and I have not seen my younger son for past one year. He has developed fear psychosis and he didn’t come to meet me in the jail,” she said.
Zahida’s detention has devastated the family. They sold their house and her daughters and her son gave up education. They are living in a rented house presently.

JK should seek participatory sharing of power from 3 eastern rivers’

INDUS WATER TREATY

NASEER A GANAI

That the Indus Water Treaty between India and Pakistan is inflicting recurring heavy losses to Jammu and Kashmir is widely acknowledged. But, is there a way to seek compensation from the government of India for this treaty?
“Yes, the state government should ask for full participatory sharing of power generated on the three eastern rivers from New Delhi,” says a senior government official, pleading anonymity.
Under the treaty, the eastern rivers - Sutluj, Beas and Ravi - of Indus Basin, which pass through Himachal Pradesh and Punjab, have been made available for unrestricted use by India for utilization of water for irrigation and power generation. The three western rivers - Chenab, Jehlum, and Indus - which flow through Jammu and Kashmir, have been made available for unrestricted use by Pakistan. The fallout of restricted storage of water and run of river power generation is that the installed capacity of the hydel projects in Jammu and Kashmir is drastically reduced.
Senior officials of the Power ministry say that the restriction imposed by the treaty has resulted in colossal loss of power to the extent of 15000 megawatts to Jammu and Kashmir.
Had the storage of water on these rivers been permissible, it could have been utilized to store the summer discharge, which in turn could have boosted the generation capacity during winter when the energy demand shoots up particularly in the valley.
For the projects like 450 mw Baghilhar Hydro Electric Project, the officials said, the annual loss of energy was estimated at 1000 MUs accounting for a whopping Rs 200 crore because of the treaty and for the life of the project the loss would amount to Rs 7,000 crore.
Presently, according to revised estimates, the hydroelectric potential is 20,000 mw. But the annual energy loss would be 60,000 MUs valuing Rs 12,000 crore. Compared to the total cost of individual project like Uri-I, Rs 3000 crore, Salal, Rs 1,000 crore and Dul Hasti, Rs 5,000 crore, it is a huge loss. Even if these projects are handed over to the state, they said, it would not compensate the loss inflicted by the 1960 treaty.
Still, the situation is not that bleak. In 1998, the government had assessed the potential of Chinab and Indus rivers as 10,000 mw on the basis of run of the river schemes with small storage capacity in their tributaries limited to maximum storage capacity permissible under the Indus Water Treaty. If the state government is allowed to go for tapping the potential on its own, it would change the whole power scenario here.
Sadly, however, the government of India has scuttled all such moves in the past by refusing to provide counter-guarantee when the state government tried to sign MoUs with foreign consortiums forcing it to hand over seven projects to NHPC in 2000.
Presently, the NHPC generates 2175 mw from different projects in India out of which Jammu and Kashmir alone contributes 1170 mw i.e. 54 per cent of the total installed capacity.
Based on the reported completion cost of Rs 1,000 crore on both stages of the 690 mw Salal Hydro Electric Power project, a standard debt equity ratio of 70: 30, discounting factor of 10 per cent and return of equity of 16 per cent, the NHPC till 2004 would have recovered about Rs 600 crore and ROE alone at present value would be equivalent to about Rs 354 crore against their total investment of Rs 300 crore. This would be in addition to the NHPC having paid off the entire debt of Rs 700 crore along with the accrued interest till its repayment.
The state government had pleaded that 690 mw Salal Hydro Electric Project has paid back more than its debt and equity investment of NHPC, the project needed to be transferred to the state. But nothing has happened on the count.
Officials say the state government had asked the government of India it to make Jammu and Kashmir fully participatory for sharing of the power generated on the three eastern rivers as compensation to the Indus Water Treaty. It had pleaded that the water was being stored on these rivers at the cost of Jammu and Kashmir and consequently the state should get the share in power generation on these. However, the state government never pleaded the case vigorously.
The state government has been so indifferent that Bhakta Beas Management Board has withdrawn its meager share of 25 mw to 30 mw to Jammu and Kashmir about two decades ago forcing it to purchase the same at a much higher cost. The cost of power was 5-paise per unit. Sources said the state government never took up the issue with the BBMB thus allowing the continuous loss to the state.

Monday, July 28, 2008

POWER POLITICS

Advani’s autobiography reveals that New Delhi neither forgets nor forgives those who challenge its power.

Naseer A Ganai
P.V. Narasimha Rao, former prime minister of India was famous for not taking decisions. He was once asked why he is not taking decisions. His response was too pat, “I have taken a decision not to take a decision,” he said and it became his famous quote. The same Narashima Rao during his premiership went to Burkina Fasco, a little known Island in West Africa and from there he promised “anything short of Azadi to people of Jammu and Kashmir.” It was in 1995.
Presuming “anything short of Azadi” could be only Autonomy, when National Conference was brought to power by New Delhi in 1996, it constituted a committee to examine the restoration of the autonomy to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The committee prepared report and the resolution was brought in the Assembly, which passed it. Here NC’s role came to an end and New Delhi entered the scene. The then National Democratic Alliance led by BJP rejected the resolution without examining it. And National Conference continued to remain in power. But how could New Delhi forgive National Conference for coming out with the autonomy report and then passing it in the State Assembly.
So New Delhi had to hit back at Farooq with Advani’s revelations, in which the latter openly says that “Shyama Prasad Mukherjee’s martyrdom in Srinagar was for the cause of Jammu and Kashmir’s full integration into the Indian State.” And the autonomy resolution was an open challenge to the “martyrdom” of Mookerjee.” For this, Advani or New Delhi could never forgive Farooq.
What Advani has written and whether it should be viewed as truth or not, but he in his “revelations” tried his best to put the National Conference in the dock which has either intentionally or unintentionally produced a legal document in the shape of the autonomy report to challenge everything which New Delhi has done in the State of Jammu and Kashmir since 1953. And which Dr Abdullah rightly describes the document which New Delhi can neither afford to digest nor afford to vomit out. New Delhi was promising anything short of Azadi to people of Jammu and Kashmir who were seeking right to self-determination as promised by the United Nations to them and when Farooq came up with the autonomy report, it shattered New Delhi and now it has no answers. It has no answers to questions like if it is not willing to give the autonomy for those who believe in the Indian constitution, what it could offer to the pro-freedom groups.
Passing of the autonomy resolution was not the blunder committed by the National Conference but sticking to the power was. One is not sure whether Farooq sacrificed the resolution for his son Omer Abdullah as stated by Advani or was he lured by the promises made to him by Vajpayee and Advani as claimed by Farooq, but the fact is that the resolution has brought NC into the bad books of New Delhi. And it seems that for long time it would be viewed suspiciously by New Delhi. Particularly after recent events in Kosovo where parliament declared independence shocking not only Serbia but New Delhi too. It has fears of being Jammu and Kashmir having, even for name’s sake, its own constitution.
Advani’s other revelation’s are about Mirwaiz Umar Farooq led Hurriyat Conference. If Farooq Abdullah described Advani’s statement that he preferred to be in power than quit after rejection of the autonomy resolution as “untrue and unbecoming of the persons who wants to be the Prime Minister of India,” Mirwaiz too reacted on the same lines. He has been accused by Advani of agreeing to hold talks with the Government of India under the ambit of Indian constitution. Mirwaiz is not among the favorites of New Delhi either. He has been over the years presented by the Government of Pakistan as the sole resistance face of freedom struggle of Jammu and Kashmir. It is Mirwaiz Umar who is being recognized in the western countries as resistance voice of Kashmir. It is Mirwaiz who says after Kosovo, it is the turn of Kashmir. It is Mirwaiz who could make western countries understand the Kashmir conflict in a language which they understand and appreciate. Consequently he is becoming a serious challenge to New Delhi in international arena. So he has to be taught a lesson. Hence— “revelations.”
Advani has cleared his position and his party’s position—that full integration of the State of Jammu and Kashmir is BJP’s agenda and it won’t sacrifice it. BJP as they say is the soul of Indian politics and congress is its body. And whatever BJP says should be construed as policy of New Delhi. But in Advani’s revelations whether they are true or a part of BJP’s agenda there are some lessons for all Kashmiri politicians whether it is National Conference, Peoples Democratic Party or the pro-freedom parties like both the factions of Hurriyat Conference: That New Delhi should be taken very seriously. And those who take it lightly, pay a heavy price.
NC should have resigned once its autonomy resolution was rejected. It was a Himalayan blunder and they would continue to pay a heavy price for it. And Hurriyat led by Mirwaiz committed a much bigger blunder by entering into a dialogue process with New Delhi without any preconditions. And that made its position vulnerable to more and more “revelations.”
It seems except Peoples Democratic Party patron Mufti Muhammad Sayeed no one among pro-India politicians understands the maneuvers of New Delhi. For last five years the PDP is working on the document of the self-rule literally without working on it. It is not that the PDP is not in position to come up with the document. It can. But it won’t. It knows the price the National Conference had to pay for the autonomy resolution and it also knows the price it will have to pay for slogans of demilitarization, local currency. It will be fragmented and the process it seems has already began. And in these circumstances if it tries to reveal the sphinx of the self-rule, if there is any, it would be a greater risk for it. It seems Muftis have realized it. So they have now given up all slogans including demilitarization, local currency and self-rule and have confined themselves to Srinagar-Muzafferabad bus, hoping with this bus New Delhi would bring them back to power.

Endnote:
Syed Ali Shah Geelani is popular resistance leader in Kashmir and he knows why. He never trusts New Delhi and fixes pre-conditions for the dialogue. It seems he knows the fate of all those who have entered into the dialogue with New Delhi. Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah gave Kashmir to New Delhi literally on platter. And he was paid back in different coin— 22 years in jail and then Chief Ministership. No pre-1953 position. That is it.
Advani has again proved Geelani right. And henceforth whosoever tries to enter into dialogue with New Delhi from pro-freedom camp, they would have no choice but to be doubly cautious. The danger of “revelations” will always haunt them from those who promise “anything short of Azadi” and give nothing except “revelations.”

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Kashmir Dispute, Islam and West

Today Geelani, dubbed as ‘hardliner Islamist’ seeks nothing but UN intervention in Kashmir. And if New Delhi continues to push its agenda in Kashmir and the West continues its indifference, tomorrow fault lines may be different. Muslims of Jammu and Kashmir would have no choice but to safeguard their Muslim identity. What at present is a simple resistance movement is fraught with the risk of getting morphed into a Muslim resurgence against Hindu rule comments Naseer A Ganai


Kashmir dispute is a political dispute though its roots are in partition of the British India, which took place in 1947 on religious lines with formation of two nation States India and Pakistan. India described Kashmir as face of its secularism and Pakistan called it an unfinished agenda of the partition. But now in India there is a section that doesn’t perceive loss of Kashmir or autonomy and self-rule to Jammu and Kashmir State as cull-de-sac for India’s secular fabric. And in Pakistan, president Pervez Mushraff changed discourse forever when he stated Pakistani State would give preference to Kashmiris wishes over the interests of Pakistan. Kashmiris have all along fought for their rights seeking right of self-determination as guaranteed by the United Nations in its resolutions, despite the partition on the religious lines being root cause of Kashmir problem. Thus, Kashmiris have all along reposed faith in institutions created by the Western powers and are hopeful that one day the West would “realize its obligation to resolve the dispute.” The faith on the UN is so strong when in early 90s lakhs thronged to the Unites Nations Militarily Observers Group (UNMOG) in Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir, seeking UN intervention in the dispute, they were shouting pro-Azadi (pro-freedom) and interestingly pro-Islam slogans. They were handing over memorandums to the UNMOG observers asking the world body (United Nations) to play its role in resolving Kashmir dispute by implementing resolutions passed by it in 1950’s. 60 years down the line, the UN resolutions continue to guide struggle of people of Jammu and Kashmir. Perhaps no other community among Muslims in the world might have such a faith on the institutions of the West as Kashmiris. And whenever human rights abuses took place in Kashmir, Kashmiris never looked towards New Delhi or Islamabad for redressal of their grievances. They sought intervention of the Amnesty International, Asia watch and ICRC. Syed Ali Shah Geelani is the popular resistance leader of Kashmir who is being dubbed as “hardliner, Islamist.” He has never gone beyond UN resolutions. His “hard-line” stance commences at seeking resolution of Kashmir dispute according to the UN resolutions on Kashmir and ends at urging the world body (UN) to implement those resolutions. Mirwaiz Umar Chairman Hurriyat Conference and Mirwaiz of Jammu and Kashmir believes in result-orientated dialogue for solution of Kashmir dispute. He is the leader who sees positive US role in ending the dispute. And another separatist leader who prefers to call himself realist, Sajjad Gani Lone, believes in achievable nationhood. He came up with comprehensive document for laying out details how achievable nationhood could be achieved. Thus, the leadership understands Kashmir as political dispute and hopes that the West would understand Kashmir dispute as Muslim political dispute. This is also true about people of Jammu Kashmir. But the hope of the Western intervention has always deluded them. Mirdu Rai in her classic book on Kashmir “Hindu Rulers Muslim Subjects” relates an account of traveler. She says the traveler in Kashmir in closing years of Gulab Singh’s reign (Gulab Singh was first Dogra ruler) records the grinding oppression of that ruler and the poverty of ‘labouring people of Kashmir’ who still harbored the hope that the British would take over and bring them relief. “He wrote of how ‘some men weeding in a field looked up as he passed and called out: “Oh! Sahib! when is the company’s (East India Company) reign to commence? When are we to eat a little of this we labour for,” writes Rai. But the Sahib (British) who had sold Kashmir along with its people in 1846 through a sale deed to Gulab Singh was reluctant to intervene. In fact Kashmiris at one time stopped complaining to the British Resident in Kashmir against oppression of Maharaja (Dogra ruler) when they realized the Resident has clipped his own powers and he has no interest to intervene. Presently the Western powers are behaving like British Resident of the past. People visit them with complaints but they have decided not take any cognizance of them. This would have serious repercussion as some shortsighted elements in New Delhi have decided to change Kashmir as into a religious dispute. The recent controversy over State government’s decision of transferring nearly 40 hectares of forest land to the Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board, a Hindu religious body looking after Amarnathji Cave in Kashmir, has taken a serious turn. The Cave was earlier managed by the Muslim family and it was one of greatest symbol of communal harmony. Later the State government established the Shrine Board to manage pilgrims who visit the Holy Cave in a particular time for 15 days. But first thing the Board did was to oust the Muslim family from the affairs of the Holy Cave. Gradually, the former Governor S.K Sinha (Governor by virtue of his position is chairman of the Shrine Board) extended duration of pilgrims to two months and demanded land for the Shrine Board ostensibly to raise pre-fabricated structures for the pilgrims. He didn’t stop there. S.K Sinha sought his legitimacy to rule, and with active support from New Delhi, in his Hinduness. He not only confronted Kashmiris by re-inventing history but also showed disregard to his own government and legislators when they asked questions about the functioning of the Shrine board. He rebuffed them by simply by saying the Shrine Board couldn’t be questioned. People of Jammu and Kashmir particularly of Kashmir valley and Muslim dominated districts Jammu are seriously concerned about the land and demography of the State. The government decision to transfer land to the Board provided argument to their concerns. Thus, they came out in lakhs from June 25, 2008 upto July 1, 2008 shouting pro-freedom slogans and revocation of land transfer order. The government finally revoked the order on July 1, 2008, which was described by the protesters as first win by Kashmiris since 1947. But now it is not the question of 40 hectares. It is the question making whole environment as religious and communal. The chief minister of the State Ghulam Nabi Azad understood the situation more than anyone else when on June 25, 2008 he said “once the disputes are turned into religious disputes it becomes difficult to solve them.” The Governor Sinha has left. But he and his religious zeal to portray Kashmir as most sacred religious place for Hindus as set streets of Kashmir on fire. There were protests. Five persons were killed and nearly 1000 injured. Again the blood has been shed by people of Kashmir and this time for cautioning the government of India that Kashmir is a political dispute and it should not be turned into religious dispute. Ironically the protests of Kashmiris are being presented in different form. This time by Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP), the largest opposition party in India. The British historians did same thing in past. Being guilty of selling Kashmir and its people to Gulab Singh, British didn’t try to rectify the wrongs. Instead, Rai writes, British historians did everything to dehumanize Kashmiris to justify their wrongs. They in one breath tried their best to legitimize the rule of Gulab Singh by portraying him as Rajput. Hence born to rule. On the other hand they tried to dehumanize Kashmiris by describing them cunning, week, coward and undeserving of beauty of Kashmir. Thus justifying every tyranny against them. In Today’s India if BJP describe concerns of Kashmir as off-shoot of Islamic fundamentalism and Parveen Swami (Parveen Swami writes for popular fortnightly left wing magazine, Front Line) explains recent protests on CNBC TV as “God’s problem” then it could lead to serious consequences. Everyone knows once disputed piece of land is turned into a religious place, it becomes hard for even an enlightened politician to go for its solutions. Religious disputes are civilization wars. They end up with concentrations camps, holocausts and annihilation of one civilization. If India claims Kashmiris have rejected Muslim league theory of partition and aligned with the secular India, does it mean Indian State and its shortsighted bureaucracy want culmination of “accession to India” by ending Muslim majority character of the State? Time has come that New Delhi should re-look at its Kashmir policy. It has to accept Kashmir as political dispute and then pave a way for its solution. The West has to understand Kashmir as Muslim political dispute rather than Islamic dispute and then play its role to solve it. Today the senior most resistance leader Geelani seeks nothing but UN intervention. Tomorrow the fault lines would be different. If New Delhi continues to push its’ what some analysts describe, Hindu agenda in Kashmir and the Western Institutions continue their indifference towards Kashmir, Muslims of Jammu and Kashmir would have no choice but safeguard their Muslim identity. The state must understand these hard facts. There would Muslim resurgence against Hindu rule. Presently it is simple resistance for solving Kashmir dispute.