Thursday, August 21, 2008

Time To Act

The anger is boiling and this is the time to resolve the dispute once for good, comments Naseer A Ganai.

Kashmiris again had to brave bullets. This time for raising voice against economic blockade ensured by people of Jammu and Kathua districts with support of Sang Parivar and the state administration. People of these two districts of Jammu and half district of Udhampore participated in the anti-Kashmir and anti-Muslim agitation on perceived notions of discrimination. Despite ruling the state for 60 years through their bureaucracy, they are not satisfied. They want every Kashmiri-and there are only a few out of administration and they want all ministries should be manned by their men. That is, people of these two and a half districts. They don’t even own Ghulam Nabi Azad. Because Azad is from Baderwah and speaks Kashmiri. That is their only demand and only grievance.
Over the years politicians and bureaucrats of Jammu and Kathua districts have fed people on theories that Kashmiris have discriminated them. But one look at the state administration proves all these theories wrong. Since 1947, only eight Kashmiris have been chief secretaries of the State. The Kashmir Administrative Service has 80 percent recruitment from the two and half district of Jammu. But it seems they are not satiated. Their politicians and bureaucrats are not satiated. It seems they don’t want to see Kashmiri in State of Jammu and Kashmir. At least not at any decision making level. And they have been successful in this design. After ten years, it would be hard to see any Kashmiri as commissioner secretary. In terms of infrastructure and development Srinagar city is no match to the Jammu city. It would take another 30 years to Srinagar city to reach what Jammu city is today. But still they want more for themselves and nothing for Kashmir, nothing for Poonch, Rajouri, and nothing for Doda, Kisthiwar.
Some sections projected that protests in Jammu are against revocation of land order. Are they really? If you go by utterances of leaders of Sangarsh Samiti, it is clear the protests are not for land. People of Jammu are not sending two persons to Amarnath pilgrimage. In fact the VHP a year ago had censured people of Jammu and Kathua district for not participating in Shri Amarnath pilgrimage. So why should they protest for revocation of land order.
Jammu city was calm when people in Kashmir valley and other districts of Jammu including Doda protested against the transfer or diversion of land to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board. The protests in Kashmir were protests against the pro-active governor who wanted to thrust his definition of Kashmiriyat on Kashmiris. And against the government of Jammu and Kashmir which supported him in his plans. The resentment was brewing against him and the government. And land transfer was the last thing, which was expected. The government should have objected to it knowing well how Kashmir reacted when land in Gulmarg was given on lease in 2006. It didn’t and bowed before the governor meekly evoking strong reaction from people here.
The decision though taken in the cabinet on May 20, 2008 was kept under carpet by the government. Even the government didn’t talk about the decision of diversion or transfer land when the forest department issued the order on May 26, 2006 in pursuance of cabinet decision. But the governor played the role of “whistle blower.” Leaked the decision taken in May to the press on June 6, 2008 through UNI. And the rest is history.
Finally Azad government did revoke the order. This time seven Kashmiris had to give their lives for forcing government to revoke the controversial order. Kashmiris construed the revocation of order as success. Former High Court Bar Association president Mian Abdul Qayoom described it as the first win of Kashmiris since 1947. The Sangh Parivar didn’t like it. They took it as, Kashmiri nationalism versus Indian nationalism. And when Omer Abdullah gave speech in the parliament saying that yatris are welcome but land would not be given, it hit Sangh Parivar hard. And after it, trouble started in Jammu.
Why Sangh Parivar is keen for land to Shri Amarnath Shrine Board? Because, it believes that land transfer as only way to defeat Kashmiri nationalism. The assertion of Kashmiris and their leaders across the board against land transfer has hurt ego of BJP. They want revenge. And when protests started in Jammu apparently against the revocation order, some sections in the State government encouraged it. And BJP openly supported it. BJP and some sections in state administration presumed that they could defeat Kashmiris by equating Jammu protested with Kashmir protests. But then it went out of their control.
But how they rallied around people of these districts who have nothing to do with Amarnath Yatra and who don’t send people for Yatra at all? If one looks at the speeches of leaders of Sangarsh Samiti, they talk more about discrimination than the revocation order. Their speech starts with 60 years of so-called Kashmiri rule. There is reason for it. They can only assemble people on discrimination issue because politicians there have worked hard in making people believe that they are being discriminated.
And when government of India stepped in to have talks with Sangrash Samithi, they Samithi refused to talk. It wanted Farooq Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti and Saif-Din Soz out of All Parties Conference. Not only out of conference but out of Jammu soil. Ghulam Nabi Azad, though from Baderwah area of Jammu too had to leave that meeting. The Samithi leaders said Kashmiris were responsible for subjecting “Jammu people” to discrimination. Again it is discrimination. They didn’t talk about the land. And the funniest part of it is that those whom no one knows even in Jammu city drove these well-known figures out of Jammu. Thus through Samithi BJP conveyed it to the government of India and people of Kashmir it won’t tolerate assertion of Kashmiri nationalism at any cost. Even if it is Mehbooba Mufti or Farooq Abdullah, the three time chief minister of the State of Jammu and Kashmir, as Kashmiris they are unacceptable to them. They are only welcome as long as they behave like second-class citizens.
In Kashmiri people protested against the government and in Jammu they protested against Kashmiris, and burnt the Kolas of Muslim Gujjars. This is vast difference. The two can’t be equated. And the economic blockade of Kashmir and Muslim majority districts of Jammu proved all those people right, who had advocated the cause of Muslim Kashmir including Sajjad Gani Lone who in his achievable nationhood gave the concept of, opt out option.
Though it is an admitted fact that when the dispute is between two nation states it would continue to remain the dispute as long as two states exist, even if one state succeeds in changing demography of the disputed area. But in present scenario, it seems, opt out option would help in resolving the present fa├žade of crises in two and half districts of Jammu. The opt out option would satisfy the “discriminated lot” of these two and half districts.
But this is an administrative solution and it could not be described as solution to larger Kashmir dispute. There is rage and anger among people. People want solution of Kashmir dispute. From Kashmir to Kargil, Kishtiwar to Rajouri, from Doda to Poonch there is yearning for solution of the dispute and opening of road links. New Delhi must listen to it. In these years people have seen everything. Now, nothing frightens them. Not even bullets. Not even target killings. Those who are ready to cross tread on LoC for opening of road to Muzafferabad knowing well what will be its consequences can’t be frightened with the might of the State.
So what is wrong if natural routes are opened? In present era of globalization, nation state is losing its meaning. So it is ridiculous to think that opening roads for trade and movement of people would bring catastrophe. But resolution of Kashmir dispute should be the ultimate goal. Today it is in the hands of New Delhi. But tomorrow it won’t. The world is keenly watching and observing what is happening in Kashmir today. Tomorrow the world will not be watching from the sidelines. It won’t allow Kashmir’s decent into chaos. It would be an active player. Kashmir is different. Here people have faith in the West and the United Nations.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

It was a revolution’


Chahal (Uri), Aug 11: It was a revolution on the roads. For 20 kms we couldn’t sight the road. There were people—shouting pro-freedom and pro-Pakistan slogans.
In the morning we moved from Srinagar to Sopur to cover the march to Muzaffarabad. But police stopped us at Mirgund, in the city outskirts. They didn’t allow any media person to move ahead. “There are orders not to allow anyone, not to even a media person to move ahead,” said the policemen on duty. We returned and took the Hajan route to reach Sopur.
On the way people were cooperative, showing way to the press vehicle.
At Amargard, at 11:00 a.m, people were already on the streets shouting pro-Azadi slogans. The presence of two press vehicles was too little and too late for them. “Where were you?” shouted a youth. He was bursting with anger. He said police in Sangrama fired at peaceful protesters who were marching towards Muzaffarabad. “Two Suporians were killed by police and STF,” the youth said. We heard him and assured him that we would write about it. This mellowed him down to an extent and he gave us passage.
But soon we were among a sea of people. It had no end and no beginning. Near Sangrama chowk we saw two police gypsies destroyed by people and the bunker, empty. “They killed two civilians here. Police fired at the march without any provocation,” an aged and angry Ghulam Nabi Hajam of Sangrama told us. And in the meanwhile some marchers occupied rooftop of our vehicle. The speed of the vehicle slowed down, but not the sprit of people who were marching ahead on foot.
Incidentally, a boy fell from a truck carrying people. Blood was profusely coming out of his head and the people kept him in our vehicle. It gave us a chance to speed up our vehicle. But we couldn’t move at the desired speed. “It is million-man march,” said a young boy who was with the injured.
Thousands and thousands of women were moving along with marchers, shouting pro-Azadi and pro freedom slogans. There were children too, upbeat. At Kanispora Varmul we asked a small boy where he is going. “To Muzaffarabad. My family is also with me and I am from Pathukah,” said Abid Khaliq, a 5th class student.
Somehow we reached Varmul and took a left turn to drop the injured person in Varmul hospital. We kept vehicle in the hospital yard and went ahead along with marchers on foot. In Varmul town the Army on seeing the sea of marchers, shouting pro-freedom slogans, left the scene. Significantly, no one was shouting slogans against the Shrine Board.
In Varmul some youth entered the KMDA Bus Terminal and Food Supplies Office and themselves drove out the parked vehicles. Some people boarded these buses, food supplies vehicles, tractors, scooters, and moved on. It seems they had decided to stop at Muzaffarabad. And we marched along with them on foot. Some 400 buses carrying people were moving on the road mostly used by the Army. There was no army vehicle on the road and the army bunkers were empty.
Interestingly, we saw Sheikh Aziz on a tractor like a commoner when the people were near Sheeri Varmul. And when he waved at us, we didn’t know it would be his last wave to us. All along the way— there were residents ready with eatables, fruits and water for the marchers.
And when we reached, along with these countless people, near Nowshera Boniyar, we had lost sense of time. On our way we continued to spot empty bunkers and no police on the way.
But the march had its first halt at Chahal. Sheikh Aziz waved at the police and the CRPF post there, perhaps wanting to convey them that the march is peaceful. But they ignored the peace gesture and fired at people, including Sheikh Aziz.
“I saw a young boy hit by bullet on the road. His intestines and other vitals were out,” a journalist, who was at the exact spot, some 150 yards from us, said. The police and CRPF had taken positions as if there was a war and were targeting the people by firing at them. People started calling ambulances from Varmul. The ambulances came, but the youth were driving the ambulances themselves. There was a 100-yard difference between the people and the police and CRPF personnel at Chahal. The firing left many people injured, including Sheikh Aziz. But people were not moving back. They stopped there and were cleaning the blood of injured; some of them later expired on way to hospital. Some marchers frightened by the firing retreated, but others continued to march towards Uri.
We were told that police had dug the road at Chahal with GCB.
At about 6 p.m, we decided to return. On the way people were shouting pro-freedom slogans on seeing the ambulances carrying the injured and the dead. In Varmul town people were shouting slogans when the Kashmir Police Chief was present there on the bridge. Police opened fire, injuring a young boy. But the residents told us that the boy died on the spot. Police left the scene after the firing, but people attacked bunkers, burning one and razing down another. The CRPF personnel, who were more in number than the protesters, were watching the fury of people. “Ham Pakistani Hain” (we are Pakistanis), the protesters were shouting in front of the CRPF personal.
On our way back, when we reached Mirgund, we heard Sheikh Aziz has achieved martyrdom and curfew has been imposed in Srinagar and Pulwama.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Leaders of Kashmir

Their arguments, their articulation

For the past one week Kashmiri leaders cutting across party lines are strongly opposing economic blockade of Kashmir and questioning the very purpose of Jammu agitation on various news channels. They include Times Now, NDTV and CNN IBN.
The leaders talk about the issues with some separatists terming protests in Jammu as “drama enacted with the help of state administration” and the pro-India leaders warning the Government of India that if “it allows BJP to repeat Gujarat in Jammu, it would lose Kashmir forever.”
Switch to any of these TV channels in the evening, you will find Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Sajjad Gani Lone, Mehbooba Mufti and Farooq Abdullah responding to questions and giving arguments in support of their respective stands.
The leaders are all fire over, what they say, communalization in Jammu and Kathua districts.
Dr Farooq Abdullah, the National Conference patron in the all-party meeting convened by the prime minister said he would have to visit his father Sheikh Abdullah’s grave and ask whether staying with India after partition was the right decision. “A time has come when I would require a visa to visit Jammu,” he said.
He too was not calm before the camera. On Tuesday during discussion on a news channel, Dr Abdullah was all fire when Ajay Charangoo of Panun Kashmir accused the Valley leadership of communalism and adhering to exclusivist ideology. Dr Abdullah shouted back and said he did not need certificate of being secular from the likes of Charangoo. He defended the agitation in Kashmir and said Kashmiris never objected to Yatra.
On the same channel, Sajjad Gani Lone raised the issue of the economic blockade and asked the show Anchor to visit Kashmir and see how the economic blockade was affecting life in Kashmir. “Believe me those who are agitating in Jammu district are hooligans who have active support of state administration,” he said.
On Wednesday a news channel had two guests- the PDP president Mehbooba Mufti and BJP leader Ravi Shanker Prasad. When asked why BJP is keen to have the land back, Prasad said the Government of India and the Government of Jammu and Kashmir buckled before the ‘separatist elements’ by revoking the land transfer order. He said the Government of India should immediately restore land back to the Amarnath Shrine Board as demanded by the “nationalist people of Jammu.”
He said the Government of Jammu and Kashmir and the Government of India have hurt Hindu pride. When asked why the BJP state president Ashok Khujuria asked Muslims to leave Jammu, Prasad said he has been quoted out of context. But when the statement was read to him, he ducked the question.
In response to a question, Mehbooba Mufti defended the agitation of Kashmiris saying Kashmiris have all along supported Amarnath Yatra and they are doing it for the past 150 years. She said there is no harm if the Government of Jammu and Kashmir takes responsibility of Yatra, providing all facilities to pilgrims. She accused the BJP of trying to repeat Gujrat in Jammu and said if this happens, India would lose Kashmir forever.
Mehbooba condemned economic blockade and described it as ‘making a Palestine out of Kashmir.’ “How come the Industries minister of Punjab visits Jammu and supports the economic blockade? Have Punjabis forgot that when they were massacred in 1984, Kashmiris were the only people who agitated against it and six Kashmiris were killed?” Mehbooba asked. The Anchor asked Mehbooba and Prasad to condemn Geelani for “asking non-Muslims to leave Kashmir” and Ashok Kajuria for asking Muslims to leave Jammu. In response, Mehbooba said Kashmiris didn’t communalize their agitation and Geelani has not said anything like this. And then she added if at all some one has stated that non-Muslims should leave Kashmir, I will condemn him. She insisted that India should not lose Kashmir for 800 kanals.
On Wednesday the debate continued on various channels with Kashmiri leadership strongly opposing the economic blockade and ridiculing the argument of preferential treatment to Kashmiris. “If killing of one lakh Kashmiris is preferential treatment to Kashmiris, I don’t want the same treatment should be given to the people of Jammu,” Sajjad Lone told a news channel. Arguing with Panun Kashmir leader Dr Ajay Charangoo, Sajad said Jammu people had nothing to do with Yatra as it has been going on in the Valley with local support without any fuss even before ’47.
He said Panun Kashmir wants to be seen as anti-Kashmir and that they should come to Kashmir then talk about these issue, not from Delhi, as they don’t know the ground realities.
Mirwaiz told a news channel that Jammu district had no reason for agitation. He said Kashmiris were conducting the Yatra for past 150 years and when in Kashmir agitation was at its peak, Yatra was going on smoothly. He said the economic blockade has forced the people of Kashmir to seriously think about the opening of the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road. He said the land belongs to Kashmir, Yatra is going on smoothly and one wonders why people of Jammu and Kathua districts are protesting and attacking Gujjar Muslims.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Lesser known Kashmir

Gurez (LoC): “Please stop to have a sanga view” reads a board near Razdhan Pass about 11,762 feet up in the greater Himalays. The beauty of the area is so breathtaking that a caravan of jeeps carrying journalists, travel operators and tourism department officials, who were on way to Gurez to attend Gurez Festival, stopped here without even looking at the board. “It is so close to nature,” said a Polish photographer, and with it she started capturing the landscape in her camera.
Others too were mesmerized. From Sanga the entire Bandipora, including Wullar Lake, is visible. Labourers who work with Border Road Organisation here say that at times cloud hang so close above the earth’s surface that “they could be touched”.
Nearly 200 meters from Sanga is Peerbaba shrine managed by Army. All visitors have to report to Traffic Check Point Peerbaba before proceeding forward. But the caravan was allowed to proceed without the searches to which they are accustomed in the city and towns and villages of Kashmir. Still it stopped to see “Sarva Dharma Sthal” (all religions place). Outside the shrine there are bathrooms constructed by various regiments by Army and donated to the shrine. Scribbled in white stone in Hindi and English is a biographical note on Peerbaba just outside the main shrine. It says Baba had come to this place from Mansar Pakistan. He was known as Nanga Baba as he didn’t wear clothes even in winters when temperature here goes several degrees below zero degrees Celsius, and “subscribed to no religion”. He died after the partition and days after his death one person known as Malik, a resident of Bandipora, dreamt that baba had died. So he went up to Razdhan to bring his body to Bandipora. Heavy rains and snow failed him in his endeavor forcing him to bury the Baba at Razdhan. Inside the shrine there is Mausoleum of Baba and symbols of all faiths. Mostly army men visit the place to pay obeisance. This is perhaps shrine in Jammu and Kashmir, which is under the direct control of Army.

Road to Gurez
The road to Gurez from Razdhan gives you back ache; it is riddled with bumps and potholes. And there is a lingering danger of slides. This only lifeline to Gurez is so fragile that it can’t stand a slight snowfall. It remains cut off from the Valley and the rest of the world for six months in a year. And in summer the condition of the road is such that this 86 kms stretch from Sunerwani in Bandipora to Gurez takes at least four hours to cover by a Sumo. This road was jeep track managed Military Engineering Service of army. Later, officials here said, the road was constructed on the orders of former Prime Minister of India Indira Gandhi. The officials of the Roads and Building Department say that if the road comes under their jurisdiction, they would keep it open for round the year. “Three places, Dragbal, Zadkhusan and Kanzalwan are prone to slides and to manage this 30 kms stretch PWD needs men and machinery which it has in abundance to keep this road open,” said Muhammad Dilwar Khan, an official of Roads and Building. Presently road is under the control of Beacon. From Razdhan to Kanzalwan there is omnipresence of outside the State labourers who work the beacon project. “We work with Sarkar,” said a labourer. Asked what is Sarkar, he pointed towards an official of Beacon project.

Gurez festival
The travel is back breaking. But once you reach near Gurez valley cold breeze, high peaks, view of Neelam, irrigated plots, log houses and smiling faces of Dards work as a balm. “I have been to every part of the Jammu and Kashmir, but this is different. Foreigners would love to visit here,” said Nasir Shah, a tour operator. And on Saturday, July 14 when two day Gurez Festival was inaugurated, the president of tour operators Akram Siah promised Minister for Tourism Dilwar Mir that they will bring some 40 foreign tourists here next month. Siah, however, had some apprehensions, which he didn’t hesitate to express. Directly addressing Brigadier Roy, who was present in the function, he appealed that foreign tourists should be spared the hassle of security checks.
Explaining later, he said foreigners are not afraid of difficult terrain but they should not be subjected to security hassles. This area, he said, has everything for adventure tourists and if tourism is allowed here it will bring revolution. “There is everything in this area for foreigners: meadows, mountains for rock climbing, water for rafting and then you can also go for trekking; it has no parallel,” he said.
The minister was prompt to respond. “The government has plan for the development of this area. Nearly Rs 5 crore will be spend on the infrastructure development of Gurez,” promised Dilawar Mir. The words of the minister didn’t only get applause from the locals who had come from different villages to Dawar, Tehsil headquarter of Gurez but local MLA of the area was ecstatic. He stood up and shouted “Dilwar Mir Zindabad.” Minister earlier said that the festival could take place because of the efforts of Nazir Gurezi. “He has converted my office into his own office,” the Minister said.
Perhaps it is the first time that the National Conference MLA has been seen shouting slogans in favour of Peoples Democratic Party Minister. Political analysts in Srinagar might conclude that Gurezi may join PDP, but people are unfazed. “So what. No matter what party he joins he should do something for this constituency,” says Amir Lone, 60, of Churvan village. Churvan is last hamlet on this side of the border. He says since Gurezi became MLA, the area has seen some activity and the ministers are visiting oftener. A young schoolteacher sitting next to him however had a different take on the issue. He was not against Gurezi but said the area will only develop once the politicians here start fighting election on Ladakh pattern. “We should send MLA from this constituency unopposed. This would help the MLA to always support the ruling party and there chances of his becoming a Minister as well. And once MLA from this area becomes the Minister he could do more for the area,” he said. Lone appreciated the teacher for his wisdom.
The people here belong to Dard tribe and take pride in their history and culture. But years of isolation, closure of Gilgit route in 1947, and exodus of highly educated people has changed the things. The tourism Minister was quick to realize the gravity of situation. “You have great culture so it is frustrating that you people are deserting your log-houses and giving up your culture,” said Dilwar Mir, who was perturbed on seeing some concrete construction in the area.
Mir argues that log-houses and culture of Dards including Shina, the Dardic language, which only the 30,000 people of this area could speak and understand, could be added attraction to tourists. “Concrete buildings are not compatible with the landscape,” he said. The joint director Tourism Department Sarwat Hafeez says there should be total ban on concrete construction in the area. For it tourism department has made some plans. “We will construct hutments here on the pattern of log-houses,” says Director Tourism Farooq Shah. He said foreign tourists look for local touch and we will do our best provide the same to them. Locals in the evening asked Shah to provide helicopter facility to the area. “There should be two sorties at least once in a week. This is terrible place when people in winter suffer from aliments here. There is no health care facility available and helicopter sorties would bring some relief to us,” pleaded a delegation of local respectable to Shah. Shah promised he will take up the matter with the government. “Please do something in this regard. The closure of road is killing us,” said an aged person before leaving the meeting hall.
Others asked that Gurez Festival should be organized every year now. “This was part of our culture in years gone-by. Its’ revival will help in great deal to revive our culture,” said Abdul Aziz, a political leader. Aziz proudly says that Dards are first Aryan race to accept Islam and “we came from ruling clan.” He says Yousuf Shah Chak, the last Chak ruler of Jammu and Kashmir was a Dard. There is a small stream, which immerses into the Neelam near a mountain named Habba Khatoon Mountain. Residents said Yousuf Shah Chak had moved from this area and when he was incarcerated by Mughal emperor Akbar, Haba Khatoon came here to look for him. “She went to the peak of the mountain to search for Yousuf. Hence the name Habba Khatoon Mountain,” said Abdul Aziz.

Road to Gilgit
From Churvan, Dodigai village in Gilgit can be seen clearly. Amir Lone says after it there is another village called Zeyan. “I only remember these two villages of Pakistan,” he says. He says before partition, this was the route used by the traders and army of Dogra Maharaja. However after the partition this route of commerce was closed. The residents long for opening of the road. “There are various check points on various borders. If they are not opening the road at least they should open the check points so that we can cross over to see our relatives,” said a villager.

Road to Drass
Whether Gilgit road will be opened or not, but the government of India would soon throw Gurez-Drass road open for the traffic. Officials here said this strategically important road linking Gurez to Drass was constructed after the Kargil war. “Initially when the construction was taken up 1995 the plan was for 59 kms to connect Chakwali in Teilal with Dawar,” said an official. However after 1999 the government changed the plan and included 37 kms from Chakwali to Drass in the construction. The road constructed by 56 RCC Gref will be thrown open in August-September this year, officials said. This is route which will provide alternate road to the Ladakh area. They said the road has been constructed through forest and wildlife areas and both the departments have given permission to the construction company for the construction of the road. The travelers can travel to Kargil from this route and then return to Srinagar from Zojila.

Separatist politics
Residents here say that this is only border area where people didn’t join militancy. However, this doesn’t mean that they have no interest in politics. They remember names of all the pro-freedom or separatist leaders but say that they have not seen any leader visiting the area. “I don’t know why they didn’t come here. In fact I don’t know any who had even tried to visit here,” said a resident. Despite it residents discusses politics at length and ask why there are so many factions in the separatist politics when the goal is same? That’s why the pro-freedom leaders didn’t visit border areas. That’s why border areas were always ignored. Any answers?

Border within the border in Gurez

Economically hard pressed people say fencing is devouring their cattle, mainstay of their livelihood

Purna Tulail (near LoC): Ghulam Rasool Wani, 70, curses and abuses his dead father Juma Wani who had migrated to this village, fenced on all sides by army, from Gilgit. Rasool has not forgiven his father’s decision to migrate to this place. The bitterness is unbecoming of a son for his dead father. “He has put me and my children into this hell. May God avenge him there,” Rasool says in chaste Kashmiri pointing towards the sky. The Dards apart from their mother tongue Shena also speak Kashmiri fluently.
The villagers call him Rasool Chacha (uncle). They feel the death of one of his goats was the cause of his anger. Rasool’s goat died when, while grazing, she got stumbled into multilayered fencing erected by army around the village. Rasool wonders how his father settled in the area where there are no basic facilities and if someone falls ill, the only thing his family could do about him was to pray for his peaceful death.
Army fencing has annoyed everyone. Rasool is labourer and has four children. But unlike in other parts of Kashmir, labourers here are not well paid. They are being given Rs 65 a day. Domestication of animals is the mainstay of livelihood. And the fencing is posing a threat to cattle.
Everyone here insist that they are not against the border fencing but they argue fencing should have been erected “on borders not on our lands.”
“There are nearly five villages that belong to Kashmir which fall outside the fenced area; beyond those five villages is the LoC. But they have erected the fencing here, in our village,” said a government employee who didn’t want to disclose his name.
The Purna Tulail people are not the only suffers. The situation is same for everyone in Gurez valley where people feel fencing in villages has created more problem than solving any.
From Kazlwan, which is some 15 kms from Tehsil headquarter Dawar, fencing has been erected along the river Neelam (Kishan Ganga). And in Dawar situation is not different. The fencing has been erected across the river, and with it a vast area where the people gathered Cumin, has been made literally inaccessible.
“We objected to fencing when it was erected it in our lands. We even protested but then who cares. They went ahead and we are really suffering,” said a revenue department employee. He said thousands of cattle’s have died due to fencing. “The cattle die terrible death once they trip up the fencing. They are badly wounded by the razor and then there is no cure for them,” he said.
“I wonder what the status of these villages is. These are our villages and we have put a fence in between. And if call this border fencing then Pakistan can claim these areas,” says a teacher.
However a senior official of the Tourism Department who was on visit to area in connection with Gurez festival instead had other views on the issue. Pointing towards sandalwood trees across the fencing he said the fencing has saved the trees from the axe of smugglers. He thanked army.
Fencing is omnipresent in villages and on the road from Dawar to PTL. From Dawar to PTL it is a one hour car journey. The village Kashpat is on the roadside but it is fenced and to enter villages named SK, Refugee 1, Refguee 2, Bozgai, close to the LoC, the villagers have to enter from the fencing gate at Kaspat. Both sides of the road from Kaspat to Burnai are fenced. And to enter Burani, one has to cross fencing gate.
The residents say that the fencing has been erected on their property land and it has partitioned their land and villages. “This is border within the border,” says Abdul Aziz a political leader of Samajwadi party in Dawar.
“This fencing is nothing but a farce. It has brought untold miseries on us,” he said. Aziz says it has become difficult for them to go for fishing in the Neelam, famous for its trout. During heavy rains the slides push the fencing into the river making angling difficult. The remnants of the uprooted fencing could be seen in the river at many spots.
However at PTL Chacha Rasool is not worried about angling. He is still lamenting death of his goat. “Can government give us some compensation for it,” asks Rasool. The compensation is what everyone here demands and wants. But it seems government has no plans. “The government had earlier promised but so far nothing has materialized,” said an official of the Revenue Department in Dawar.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Muslims a minority in JK services

Most HODs non-Muslims; no Muslim heads vital departments of Home, Finance and Planning, Health, Industry & Works

While the Sachar Committee report has painted a dismal picture of the condition of Indian Muslims, the plight of the community in Jammu and Kashmir, according to senior government officials is no better. Muslims figure at bottom when it comes to their share in the state administration. And to top it, they’re a distant minority in the top bureaucratic positions.
Official sources said out of 63 IAS officers–both direct and inducted–30 are Muslims, 28 Hindus, three Sikhs and two Buddhists. Muslim representation in the present top bureaucratic line up is zero. Most of the Financial Commissioners and Principal Secretaries of the state happen to be non-Muslims. No Muslim bureaucrat heads important departments like Home, Finance and Planning, Health, Industry, and Works. The only senior-most Muslim IAS officers are Iqbal Khandey and Khurshid Ahmed Ganai. While Ladakh region has had its first Chief Secretary in the shape of the incumbent C Phunsong, only eight of the 24 CS’ since 1947 were Muslims.
Situation in the police department is worse.
Since 1914, when the post of J&K police chief was first created by the then Maharaja of Kashmir, the state had only two Muslim police chiefs. In fact from 1914 to 1979, no police chief was a Muslim. The situation was no different till last year. The state’s seven DGPs and five ADGP rank officers are non-Muslims and only four of 15 IGP ranks are Muslims.
And down the line in police, there’re only six Muslims among the 15 DIGs and only 26 among 87 SSPs. Muslims form less than one-third of the IPS officers. Out of 111 IPS officers, only 33 are Muslims who include an IPS officer of Bihar cadre, Abdul Gani Mir who was repatriated to the state last year.
Though the state’s civil service, the Kashmir Administrative Services (KAS) shows somewhat different picture, it won’t remain the same for long. Out of 343 officers, 217 are Muslims. But if the last two KAS results are anything to go by, this will also change soon.
Muslims form a small percentage of the candidates who passed the two KAS exams held in the past five years. In 2001, for example, only 80 out of the 208 successful candidates were Muslims. Similarly in 2004, of a total of 137 successful candidates only 62 were Muslims.
The question is not only how many Muslims are there at higher position but how many are there from the Jammu and Kashmir state at the decision making level. Of course the Chief Secretary is from Ladakh but what about the rest of the top-level bureaucracy?
Top two officers presently holding principal secretary position are non-locals. They are Ajit Kumar and SB Mathur. The financial commissioner BR Singh and Principal Secretary Agriculture Satinder Singh too are non-locals. Manu Des Lupin, Additional Secretary Agriculture, Government of India, is on deputation in the state, and Sham Singh Kupur, presently Principal Secretary Planning is also a non- state subject.
AS Sidhu, Samuel Vergese, Madav Lal, Babu Lal Navesh, Pankaj Jain, Dr Arun Kumar, Sonali Kumar, and PG Dharchakerverty are Principal Secretaries heading different departments. They are all non-state subjects.
Now have a look at the Commissioner Secretaries who are from the state: Brij Raj Sharma, Promod Jain, Atul Dulu, Basharat Ahmad Dhar, Devender Nagrotra, and Mehbood Iqbal. The number of Commissioner Secretaries from other parts of India is 10. They are: KB Agarwal, BB Vyas, Lokesh Jha, Suresh Kumar, Pradeep Tripathi, Sudesh Panday, Sandeer Naik, Arun Kumar Malhotra, Umang Narola, and RK Gowel.
The non-local Secretaries are: Shant Munu, Shailendra Kumar, Vipul Pathak, AK Parimar, and Deeraj Gupta.
However, some officials of the Public Service Commission, attribute the growing low percentage of candidates from Valley in administrative services to “lack of interest” among the Valley candidates in the KAS examinations. A senior PSC official said that in July 2005 some 7000 candidates from Valley appeared for the preliminary examination. From Jammu, 11,000 appeared. Some even attribute low percentage of Muslims in government services to “lack of Muslim educated class” in the state.
But the opinion runs contrary to the findings of the Sachar Committee report which paints an encouraging picture of the educational status of the Valley Muslims.
According to the report, the primary class enrolment of Muslim children exceeded 5.3 lakh last year with the boy-girl ratio a healthy 50.3: 49.7. The number of Muslim male literates has increased by 25 percent and the women by 23 percent over the past two decades, revealed the Sachar Committee findings.
Besides, Kashmir produces more than 16,000 Muslim graduates every year and the number of postgraduates crosses 3,000 annually. The figure for female students pursuing higher education is also encouraging. Of the 57,000 students enrolled in colleges, more than 25,000 are girls.
On the contrary, despite the hullabaloo about the proliferation of Islamic seminaries across the Valley, only 2691 students–950 of them girls—are enrolled in the Darul Ulooms.

In 2001, 5 Kashmiris were killed for highway blockade


Srinagar: In Kashmir both the civil administration and security forces are quick to react to any traffic blockade.
On February 14, 2001, a JKLF activist Jaleel Ahmad Shah of Haigam Sopur was killed by troops allegedly in custody, a charge denied by police. Following day the residents of Haigam blocked the Srinagar-Varmul highway demanding the body of Shah. As police was pacifying the protesters, troops appeared on the scene, opening fire on people. Five persons were killed and 10 injured. The killings evoked strong reaction forcing the government to appoint one-man commission of Justice O.P Sharma to inquire into the incident.
The army counsel argued before the commission that the crowd had violated the prohibitory orders issued by the district magistrate Varmul vide order number 60 of 2001 wherein section 144 CrPc was promulgated in the district and no assembly or congregation of more than five persons and procession without permission of the district magistrate is allowed. He argued that crowd was violent and describing the firing from army ‘in defence’ saying “a fire from crowd prompted the firing.”
The villagers and eyewitnesses through their counsel however denied any sort of violent agitation. The counsel of the villagers argued that demonstrations were peaceful and against alleged custodial killing of Jalil Ahmad Shah. The witnesses said no stone was pelted on the troops by protesters.
In its findings, Justice O.P Sharma maintained that firing had become imperative in view of the law and order situation and the personal defence of the troops. Holding the villagers guilty of violating the prohibitory orders under section 144 CrPc and of taking law in their own hands, causing inconvenience to the people traveling on the highway, Justice Sharma held the civilian administration responsible for not clearing the roadblock. Justice Sharma observed that the crowd was guilty of criminal offence under section 341 and 341 of Ranbir Penal Code for unlawful assembly.
The family members of those killed in the incident and injured rejected the finding of the commission and said the findings were not based on what was deposed by the eyewitnesses and police officials. They demanded appointment of another judge to probe the incident, which the NC government at that time didn’t accept.