Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Ragda II may not return soon but New Delhi’s claim of restoring democracy is in tatters

Courtesy: Daily Rising Kashmir dt. Feb., 26th, 2009 by Riyaz Masroor
The killing of two youth in the unprovoked firing by army at Bomai, Sopore, on February 21 and the excesses by Police and paramilitary troops against the protesting masses is a big challenge for India. It’s, in fact, bigger than the country has met in Kashmir earlier in the form of a deadly spell of Pakistan-sponsored militancy. It’s not challenging just in the sense that India cannot ‘take care’ of the new phases of resistance or does not know the ‘method’. It is challenging primarily because in November-December 2008 India had got a windfall in the form of 62 percent voter participation, that too without open coercion and with the fresh background of a successful mass mobilization for Azadi – the background in a way suited for selling elections to the world. It’s challenging also because the pro-democracy voices from within the society had become louder and the rhetorical aversion of separatist leaders toward the concept of democracy was being mocked in chat rooms and gossip lounges. Also, even Pakistan was dropping broader hints that Kashmiris better take recourse to the democratic means of resistance. In sum, the model of democracy despite having been abused shamelessly in Kashmir by Indian government (remember 1951, 53, 84, 77, 87, 1996) was again in currency, much to the comfort of India’s Kashmir handlers.
Whether the 2008 elections had bolstered India’s foreign policy discourse vis-à-vis Kashmir dispute remains debatable. What is of significant note is the elections and the formation of the new Congress-NC government, Kashmir had witnessed a lull in separatism and any return of the uprising of last summer, which came to be known as Ragda movement, was hardly predicted. None would say there would be no Ragda 2 but none would anticipate it returning so quickly without even the chief minister completing 60 days in office. The fresh unrest that was sparked by the killing of two youth in Sopore on February 21 during an army shootout, may not sustain as longer as the Ragda 1 but the expression of anger that is writ on the face of every youth, from Srinagar to Sopore sounds an alarm that the summer of 2009 or may be the autumn could be greeted by a rather more troubling Ragda. On February 24, when the news about the mysterious murder of the close relative of a top separatist leader, Muhammad Yasin Malik broke in the Town, the anger got fueled further. We saw anguished youth in Srinagar scaling life-size hoardings, which depicted the India’s most influential woman and Congress Chief Sonia Gandhi alongside her son Rahul Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The masked youth would defile the images and shred them down with vindictive rage, burn down the traffic beats and move on with vengeful expressions.
As this was happening Sonia’s and Singh’s responses to Kashmir elections were still fresh in popular memory here. Just ten days ago, on February 14, during the inauguration of Srinagar International Airport, Sonia Gandhi had asserted that the formation of new government and “restoration of democracy” was a gift (from New Delhi) to Kashmiris. “The overwhelming response shown by the people of Jammu and Kashmir in the assembly elections shows their faith in democracy. People actively participated in the elections and elected the government. And they showed that democracy is the true means to achieve peace and development,” Gandhi said in a brief 15-minute speech on the newly constructed Airport terminal at Srinagar. She also ridiculed the separatist policies and asked Hurriyat leadership that they should draw a lesson from the massive voter participation. Past year on December 28, when the election results were out, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi were attending a special function in New Delhi to mark the 123rd Foundation Day of the Congress party. On the flanks of this function the Prime Minister Singh and Sonia while speaking to newsmen termed the election results as the “vote for democracy” and a “lesson to be learnt by our neighbors”. According to an Indian Express report Singh and Gandhi said, "It is a vote for democracy. It is a vote for national integration. As far as who wins or who loses is a secondary issue … it doesn't matter who wins, what matters is that the people of the valley, the people of Jammu and Kashmir have placed their full faith in the democratic system which is a lesson to be learnt by our neighbors." Both Singh and Sonia were right in a greater measure. If people voted, although with limited expectations, it was a loud expression that they have believed once again in the democratic concept. But this faith is now once more shaken, unfortunately this time irreparably, by none other than the army that is supposedly here for “winning hearts and minds”. How many hearts and minds would every incident like Bomai win for India?
Indeed the killing of Javed and Amin of Sopore has dispelled the much projected impression that the civilian government in Kashmir could be any better than the Governor Raj, which is perceived as the direct army rule. And, the people now seem convinced that elections howsoever participatory and clean hardly matter when it comes to passing through an army camp. So, if people really voted for democracy they must be surprised to see bullets greeting their vote. Diplomatic costs for New Delhi are far too visible to be downplayed but the political costs for Congress-NC coalition in J&K are colossal. The incident will give Mufti Muhammad Sayeed a ‘benefit of doubt’ and he would try to project himself as the only CM in the past decade and a half who could ensure security and could rein in the armed forces in J&K. How could he do that? That is a separate subject but he has already grabbed the opportunity by highlighting the need to abrogate the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act, which gives the troops the ‘license to kill’. Moreover, Omar Abdullah is currently banking on tourism campaign to showcase his government’s ability to bring the troubled Kashmir back on track. But the incidents like Bomai and the subsequent demonstrations would be a bad advertisement of J&K government.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

‘Establish Truth and Reconciliation Commission’APDP Reminds Omar

Courtesy: Daily Greater Kashmir dt. Feb. 11th, 2009 by ZULFIKAR MAJID
Srinagar, Feb 10: The Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons on Tuesday reminded the chief minister, Omar Abdullah, of his promise of constituting a truth and reconciliation commission to probe the human right abuses and the enforced disappearances in the state in past 19 years. The relatives of the disappeared persons, who met at Pratap Park here, said that Omar during election campaign had on numerous occasions promised to set up the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on the pattern of South Africa and Ireland. “We want to remind him of his promise. If Omar is sincere then he should establish an independent and credible commission to probe the enforced disappearances,” they said.
The APDP members said that if state government fails to keep up its promise of tracing the disappeared persons they would seek assistance of international community. “Before elections, individually and collectively every leader and party promised that they would do their level best to ascertain the whereabouts of our kin who have disappeared in troops custody in past 19-years. We want them to keep up their promise,” they added. The APDP chairperson Parveena Ahangar said, “Recently Omar Abdullah had stated that the families of the victims would be provided Rs four lakh as compensation. Several family members of the victims told me that they don’t need money and just want to know whether their loved ones are dead or alive.” The members of APDP stage a silent protest in Srinagar on 10th of every month to remind the authorities about their kin.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Rememebering Martyr Maqbool Bhat

Courtesy: Daily Rising Kashmir dt. Feb., 11th, 2009 by Shafi A. Athar

Maqbool Bhat has a unique place in the history of Kashmir, in more ways than one. He was possibly one and the only leader who received hero's worship many years after his death. He raised the question of complete freedom of Kashmir, all areas included, as before the partition of British India. He wanted Kashmir in the same geographical and political landscape as about 480 years before, when Kashmir's own ruler Yousuf Shah was arrested by Akbar's army to die a lonely death. Maqbool Bhat believed in complete sovereignty of Kashmir and died for it. He fought bravely and died a brave man. He remained committed to his idea, lived with it in Indian and Pakistani jails, strived to keep his calm and composition in the small cell in Tihar Jail and died with a smiling face as he knew he had not betrayed his people. Even his worst detractors confess his deep sentiment for the cause he pursued all his life. Though call of death unnerves many a great minds but even the Indian press acknowledged that he died with a smile on his face. Going to the gallows, his last words have been reported as, " I love my people. I have loved the life and today I embrace death happily". The love for his people and his motherland prompted Maqbool Bhat to announce complete freedom for his country in 1966.Soon after the news of Ravindra Mhatre, an Indian Diplomat in London, having been killed reached Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India, shot back, " How fast can we execute Maqbool Bhat legally?" That was enough for the people at the helm of affairs to arrange the execution of Maqbool Bhat which eventually happened on 11th February, 1984. The vengeful execution by the Indian establishment was followed by the denial of his remains being taken to Srinagar which according to Maqbool Bhat's will were supposed to be buried at Trehgam, his native village. He was buried in the premises of Tihar jail while prominent lawyers R S Pathak, Muzaffar Hussain Beg and Tufail were made to wait at the gate of the jail. By not allowing his remains being shifted to Srinagar or Trehgam, though the government tried to skip the fear of his burial being turned into a place of reverence for his people, yet he has become a bigger threat with his death, than when he was alive. The conviction he nurtured has seen Kashmir turning a battleground for last eighteen years with attention of the whole world including the only super power focussed on the problem.Maqbool Bhat took his birth in a remote village of Kupwara, and may be the appalling condition of the people might have given him the first hand experience of subjugation, poverty, neglect and state of slavery. That is why he carried a burning desire of freedom that would radiate from his eyes. This prompted one of his teachers Fr. MacMohan to comment, "Though he was a student of 9th class only but his personality reflected that he would change the course of events for his country". Teachers happen to be better judges of their pupil and so are the companions during studies. One of the Maqbool Bhat's colleagues at Baramullah College recollects his days as a student. In one of the informal conversations with this writer, Late Prof. Rahi recollects Maqbool Bhat's assertive mind. "During a seminar at Baramullah College, in the presence of a Hindu Deputy Commissioner, Maqbool Bhat insisted that he would speak on the subject Iqbal and the concept of Pakistan. Though he was asked to speak on other aspects relating Iqbal he declined to speak.

CRPF throws youth into rivulet for refusing to shout "Jai Hind"

Courtesy: Daily Rising Kashmir dt. January 10th, 2009 by Mir Tariq
Boomie (Sopore), Feb 09: A youth, who forgot to say ‘Jai Hind’ to CRPF men here Monday, was dipped into a rivulet by the troopers. When a teacher tried to rescue him, he was beaten mercilessly by the paramilitary troopers. An eyewitness, Mehraj Ahmad said that the CRPF personnel swooped on a young boy at Bomine, some 30 kms from Sopore on Monday morning. “The CRPF personnel dipped him in a rivulet and his only sin was that he forgot to say ‘Jai Hind’ to the troopers deputed on the Sopore-Kupwara highway,” said Mehraj. He said that the CRPF men have made it mandatory for the people to say ‘Jai Hind’ to them while passing through the area.
A teacher, Javed Ahmad Bhat, who along with his students was passing through the area, was moved by the plight of the youth. He pleaded with the CRPF men to release the youth. “The troopers got infuriated by his intervention and pounced on him. They mercilessly beat him with gunbutts and sticks,” said a group of students. They said that it was only after the intervention of the locals that the youth and the teacher were released. Talking to Rising Kashmir, the teacher said, “While I was moving through Zindra bus stop in Bomai area, I found a boy being dipped into the rivulet by the CRPF men. I appealed them to release him as he will die. Instead of releasing him, the CRPF men pounced on me and beat me mercilessly”, he said. Meanwhile, the residents have demanded stern action against the CRPF personnel for thrashing the teacher and dipping the youth in a rivulet. The CRPF spokesman in Srinagar, Prabhakar Tripathi claimed that he has not received any complaint of the nature so far. “We will look into the matter,” he said.

Monday, February 9, 2009


In my previous post I have discussed the necessary strategies to be adopted by the state govt. in order to achieve the aim and objective of promoting the rapid growth of a market driven, knowledge based, efficient and competitive industrial sector in the state. Today let me put forth few specific suggestions and measures required to achieve this goal in terms of our technological upgradation, infrastructural development and development of our human resource.
The first principle step towards giving impetus to the economic growth of the state has to be be technology upgradation. In particular, putting in place an institutional mechanism and a viable revenue model for the rapid technological upgradation of the small and medium industries in J&K must receive special attention. To catalyze the efforts of technology upgradation, the Government of J&K must establish a corpus like “The Technology Upgradation Fund” of Rs. 100 Crores over a period of 5 years. The fund must be administered through a Government/ Industry partnership and its deployment dictated by the logic of the market and by industry. In particular, this fund should focus on niche products and processes in the value chain of industries in which J&K has comparative advantages and reinforce best practices in technology and business. The following specific schemes and proposals must be implemented under this scheme:
(a) Interest subsidy to SSIs who avail loan from State Financial Corp. for technology upgradation and modernization;
(b) Promoting Technology Business Accelerators with the active involvement of private sector in identified potential locations in the State. Government assistance should be in the form of providing financial assistance for creation of basic infrastructure facilities subject to a ceiling of say Rs.50 lakhs per Accelerator.
(c) To establish, over the next 5 years, at least five Science & Technology Entrepreneurship Parks [STEPs] in potential districts of the State. Government assistance should be in the form of capital grants for creating basic infrastructure facilities to the extent of 25% of the cost of each STEP subject to a specified ceiling, say of Rs.25 lakhs.
(d) To assist and encourage the private sector to establish material and product testing as well as quality assurance laboratories in different districts of the State. Government assistance for establishing such laboratories and testing centres should be in the form of capital grants of 10% of the capital cost subject to a pre-specified ceiling, say of Rs.10 lakhs per Centre; and
(e) Government must encourage the SSIs to obtain ISO 9000, ISO 14000 and similar international certification with a view to promote total quality management and best practices in SSIs. Government Assistance should be in the form of meeting 50% of the cost of obtaining such certification, subject to a pre-specified ceiling, say of Rs.75, 000 per industry.

(a) The Government of J&K must recognize that a key parameter to make local industry globally competitive is to provide industry access to high quality industrial infrastructure at competitive prices. Towards this end the Government must establish an “Infrastructure Development Fund” with an initial corpus of Rs.100 Crores. This fund will seek to leverage the strengths - technical and financial - of major private infrastructure providers through a Public-Private partnership. The common infrastructure fund should be aimed at meeting the infrastructure needs of sector specific and location specific technology parks/industrial estates/industrial areas for the focus sectors. This corpus fund would be used to kick-start investments in common industrial infrastructure, which could be accessed by the industry.
(b) In order to fulfil its goals of developing a market driven and efficient management of industrial infrastructure, govt. should establish Industrial townships in major industrial estates/areas. The Industrial Townships will provide for management of the Industrial Infrastructure by private industry associations/user groups. The Industrial Townships are expected to allow industry to manage their own assets and ensure a high order of maintenance of the basic infrastructure like roads, power, water supply, telecommunication etc. within the Industrial Estate/Industrial parks. The ill effects of bad wheather conditions that prevail in the valley during winter season, on the industrial activity due subsequent closure of the Jammu-Srinagar highway can be countered to a large extent by opening up of alternative routes like Mughal Road and Singthan-Kishtwar Road. Opening up other alternative roads for large scale trade like Muzaffarabad Road, Kargil-Skardu and Poonch-Rawalakot Road besides the traditional silk route will also alleviate the jitters of bad wheather conditions over industrial activity during winter season.
(c) Industrial Areas Development Board must be constituted that will act as a key Govt. agency to develop sector specific/location specific industry parks over the next five years. This Board may also promote the following:
i) Agro Food Processing Parks at Srinagar, Baramula, Kupwara, Budgam, Anantnag, Pulwama, Doda, Rajouri, Jammu, Udhampur and Kathua.
ii) A Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in a suitable location of each division.
iv) An Export Promotion Industrial park each in Jammu and Srinagar.
v) A knowledge park each, dedicated to IT, Biotechnology and related industries near Srinagar and Jammu.
(d) In order to ensure that cost of land to the entrepreneur is not exorbitant, wherever Government land is available, the same will have to be transferred to the proposed Industrial Area Development Board (IADB) free of cost so that this could be used as a cushion to reduce the price of land acquired and developed by IADB for allotment to entrepreneurs;
(e) Govt. will have to take steps to ensure uninterrupted and quality power to the Industrial sector by establishing dedicated sub-stations of adequate capacity in all major Industrial Areas/Estates over the next five years; and
a) Developing a large skill/knowledge based workforce is fundamental to a self-sustaining industrial sector. Recognising this imperative, the Govt. must, with the active participation of Industry, revitalise the network of Artisan Training Institutes, the District/Industrial Training Institutes and Polytechnics to upgrade the quality and skill of manpower employed by SSIs. This effort should receive impetus from industry and established academic institutions of the state.
(b) As part of the initiative to promote a strong entrepreneurial base, the Government will have to strengthen the Entrepreneurship Development Institute of J&K. The objective will be to utilise the creative capabilities of the local people particularly in less industrialised areas. EDI must be encouraged to collaborate with recognised National/International organisations involved in Entrepreneurship Development. Government of J&K must seek to develop EDI into a Centre of excellence in Entrepreneurship Development, Business Management and Training.
(c) In order to encourage micro enterprises in rural and backward areas the Government of J&K must chalk down a suitable programme of establishing Rural Development and Self-Employment Training Institutes in all Districts of the State. The Management of these institutions should be largely through private initiative to meet the needs of local industry.

Saturday, February 7, 2009


In one of my recent posts I have at length discussed various measures needed to be taken by the government of Jammu and Kashmir in order to tackle the monster of unemployment. Today I will elaborate upon the various points that I have enumerated therein. Once again I wish to reiterate that it is not possible to solve the problem of unemployment merely by inducting our huge armies of jobless youth into the government service. That will be just a cosmetic treatment to the problem. After a couple of years or so, we shall be faced with the same problem again with even greater magnitude and manifestations. For a long-lasting solution to this long-standing problem, an overall economic development of the state is of utmost importance and that can be achieved through sustained industrial and entrepreneurship development.

These days news regarding implementation of sixth pay commission is hogging the limelight in print as well as mass electronic media of the state. Only a few days back a highly level committee, constituted for the purpose by the new govt. had a meeting with the Planning Commission of India where the said commission is reported to have bluntly refused to give money on this count and asked the state govt. to generate its own resources. Moot question is wherefrom the state will generate its resources when it already has a debt burden of Rs. 13000 crores inherited from the previous regime clubbed with a meagre total income of Rs. 26,700 crores, out of which Rs. 5000 crores alone go to the govt. employees as their monthly wages.

Resources can be generated only through sustained economic development achieved through robust industrial development of the state. This cannot be achieved overnight. For this to happen, state govt. has to chalk out policies and procedures for the next five years, by means of which an economic growth rate of 7% to 9% can be achieved by promoting the rapid growth of a market driven, knowledge based, efficient and competitive industrial sector. This can be done by providing industry access to high quality infrastructure, extending institutional support for technology upgradation, deregulating the business environment for an efficient, proactive and transparent administrative framework and catalysing the entrepreneurial as well as creative capabilities of the human resources. State government should therefore aim to achieve an average industrial growth rate of around 10% per year and attract investments of at least Rs.10,000 Crores per year and create, on an average, employment potential of at least 1.0 lakh per year.
In achieving this goal, the focus will have to be on the following OBJECTIVES:
a) Encourage rapid growth of sectors and markets in which J&K has strategic advantages.
b) Enhance value addition in products and processes through rapid technological upgradation.
c) Enable optimal utilisation of capacity and resources in different sectors viz., Hydroelectricity, Food Processing, Floriculture, Medicinal and Aromatic Plants, Agriculture, Horticulture, Animal Husbandry, Minerals and Human capital.
d) Enable industry to access new markets – domestic, national and export - through new products that meet global standards of quality and competitiveness.
e) Give impetus to knowledge based industries like Information Technology, Biotechnology, Electronics & Communication, Medical Engineering etc and the service sector.
f) Create a market driven environment with the private sector being the primary engine for growth.
g) Provide Industry access to high quality infrastructure, including uninterrupted power and water supply, good roads, adequate transportation facilities, telecommunication facilities, subsidies, incentives, heavy discounts on loans, excite duty waivers, other duty cuts, raw materials (wherever essential) etc.
h) Fully tap the potential of the Small Scale Sector and encourage establishment of new tiny and Small Scale Industries, particularly in the rural areas with the help of establishments like Khadi & Village Board to achieve the twin objectives of employment generation and utilisation of local resources. Again provide heavy discounts on loans, duty cuts, subsidies and attractive incentives to the budding entrepreneurs.

Towards this end government must undertake, through an expert group, a detailed study of the small scale industrial sector in the state to ascertain their present status; problems and prospects and come out with a separate policy on employment generation in the industrial sector which among other things would also include a suitable incentive scheme linked to employment generation. This study may be completed in another six months’ time

In order to achieve these objectives the following strategy will have to be adopted:
a) Forge a strong partnership with the private sector in all aspects of Industrial development
and its implementation to provide for a demand driven decision making process in an increasingly market oriented economy.
b) Create a policy framework to facilitate competitiveness of local industry and enabling ease
of doing business.
c) Enhance public and private expenditure to build efficient and competitive Industrial
d) Give impetus to technology upgradation by forging symbiotic and mutually beneficial
institutional arrangements between Government, Academic/R&D Institutions and Industry.
e) Focus on catalyzing comparative advantages that J&K has in the global market by increasing
its exports in handicrafts including carpets, shawls, paper machie items, wood carving items etc, floriculture, medicinal and aromatic plants, food processing, electronics and communication, gem stones and minerals.
f) Assist the tiny, small and medium scale industries to upgrade their technologies and
manufacturing processes to face the increasing competition; and
g) Radical restructuring of the State Public Sector undertakings as well as Government infrastructure agencies and Financial Institutions by promoting private sector initiative in these activities.

In my next post I shall discuss in detail various specific necessary measures needed for infrastructural development, technology upgradation and human resource development of the state that are pivotal for a sustained growth of our industrial sector as well as our overall economy. Good bye till then...........

Thursday, February 5, 2009


Well well, you accused me of misleading people by citing my own so-called, “Grand Indian Conspiracy Theories”. By stating this you probably wanted to convey that you are the only genuine and authentic voice left on the blogosphere of Kashmir and whatever you say is the “Aakashvani” that can hardly be challenged by anyone. Rest everyone else is blogging through the figment of his imagination with little truth and objectivity in their words. But I wish to remind you that you were the one who sometime back had falsely claimed on your blog that you were the runner-up candidate from Zadibal constituency thinking that nobody would ever try to verify that fact whereas in reality you were the second runner up.

Secondly even today you display on the main page of your blog that you are an IT (computer science) graduate from Mumbai, whereas the affidavit submitted by you to the Chief Electoral Officer of J&K (available at his official website) at the time of assembly elections on December 1st, 2008 clearly reveals that you have done your BITM from the Utkal University, Bhubaneswar, Orissa. I suspect that you have got a fake degree from somewhere because Utkal University does not offer any such course either in regular or distance mode as is evident from its website. Moreover if the degree was genuine, why should you lie about the University?

If this is not enough to reveal your true character, there is more. Among other things that you have sworn in the above mentioned affidavit, it greatly surprises me that in spite of hailing from a well-off business family (as per your wikipedia profile) you don’t own any piece of land, any house, any car, any golden jewellery and not even a scooter or a bicycle. You have declared that you have absolutely nothing deposited in any bank and that you just have Rs. 1 lakh cash in your possession. It astonishes me because I know you have been a corporator for the last few years and rupees one lakh is too meagre a sum that a corporator like you can make when government gives them crores for spending in their jurisdiction and how much they actually spend is no hidden secret.

I don’t think this affidavit reflects your honesty by any means. This is usually the way politicians go about declaring their assets. They start with a naught and leave scope for making money during sunny days. After all, for politicians like you making money by fair or foul means is the sole aim of entering into the dirty game named politics and you do so under the garb of progress and development of your constituency. You were the one pitted against erstwhile NC candidate for the post of Mayor Srinagar Municipal Corporation namely Ghulam Mustafa, as PDP candidate and miserably lost an obvious battle. Then you fought assembly elections and lost again to the NC candidate Peer Afaq. Inspite of these two huge defeats by NC, you are shameless enough to shower praise after praise upon Omar Abdullah under the shroud of political maturity. This makes it obvious that you are a turncoat like your father politician Sadiq Ali who didn’t mind changing sides like you every now and then.

Your repeated attempts of progressively brewing up your loyalty towards Omar are indicative of your future plans and your sturdy ambitions of gaining some position with NC support (that you have lately realised as being inevitable to achieve your goals). Your preposterous Omar sycophancy is not a sign of any political maturity as you have been blabbering; it is just your treacherous slow march towards NC for gaining a seat in the Legislative Council with NC support. Your volte face reminds me of people like BJP’s Kalyan Singh who show no character while taking sharp U-turns day in and day out and you or your father are no different from those politicians. Your father changed sides after sides and gained nothing at the end of the day. Exhausted and disappointed, he passed on the baton to you and you are faithfully treading the same path now. This is what all politicians are made of.

Your high talk about development, Kashmir cause, progress, change, bla bla bla is nothing but a farce and a political gimmick which you blissfully presume that nobody understands. But you are utterly mistaken my dear, people are smart enough to gauge the real motives of traitors like you who don’t mind selling their conscience for a few petty morsels and do not mind selling the blood of martyrs to quench your lust for power. It is still manageable to tackle the pro-Indian plague from outside the valley but is really difficult to get rid of cancer within i.e., traitors like you. As they say, “Ghar ka bedi lanka dhaye”, you are that breed. Real cause of our failure is the conscienceless and selfish people like you. It is time for you to do some introspection and regret your past mistakes. Think about those mothers who lost their young sons, those countless sisters who lost their chastity, those children who lost their parents as well as home and hearth. Think about the immense sacrifices that people have made over the past twenty years and stop siding with pro-Indian stooges, lest you shall be remembered in history as a traitor of Kashmiris. You didn't post my comments onto your blog because you have lost all courage to face criticism. I don't expect you to post my comments in future that is why I am writing over here. Hope it serves as an eye-opener to you.

Monday, February 2, 2009

J&K Elections - A shift in equation not in commitment

And we must see the things in the perspective they merit to be seen.
Courtesy Daily Greater Kashmir dt. Feb. 3rd, 2009 by Gautam Navlakha.
There were many firsts in the J&K state assembly elections of 2008. It was a seven phased poll, spread over five weeks, covering three winter weeks of December. A time when tens of thousands leave the valley for seeking fortunes elsewhere during winter months. An unprecedented deployment of 538 companies of central paramilitary forces, which included 388 companies of CRPF, were pressed in for election duty. This was supplemented by 60 to 70 companies of J&K police and Rashtriya Rifles, which were part of the security grid. Each phase of elections saw constituencies where polling was held, cut off through imposition of curfew in rest of the valley. Highways were blocked and non-residents of constituencies barred from entering. All separatists leaders, barring two who were placed under house arrest, were booked under the Public Safety Act to prevent them from campaigning against boycott. This despite the fact that canvassing for votes and campaigning for boycott form part of any democratic process. A phenomenal 1354 candidates stood for 87 seats i.e. on an average 16 candidates for each constituency. A large number stood for parties which have no presence in the state least of all in Kashmir and yet they spent money quite lavishly! Above all for the first time since 1990 militants, heeding the appeal of the people, halted all activities which could be perceived as obstructing people from casting their vote. Thus the extra ordinary security cover was grossly dis-proportionate to any threat posed by the militants or the non-violent boycott campaign. I believe that were all the faults of the election process i.e. electoral rolls which shows a higher proportion of voters for Jammu region than Kashmir despite Kashmir having 6.9 mn population in contrast to 5.4 mn for Jammu, 15-20 % of voters in Kashmir missing from rolls, 75-80% high voter turnout in border areas (Karnah, Uri, Langait….), lack of EPICs, mobile voters etc are counted then average electoral turnout becomes close to 35%. In other words a very large number, despite the extraordinary impediments placed against the movement, kept aloof . It would be foolish for anyone to ignore this or belittle this. Nevertheless, with these caveats in mind, it is true that more people did turn up to vote and this exceeded the 20% votes cast in 2002, in the valley. These elections also took place in the wake of agitation in Kashmir, and hindu dominated districts of Jammu region, for well over three months, which also saw a communalized response by the Indian state. They cracked down on agitators in Kashmir with brute force whereas they used kid gloves against the rabidly communal agitation spearheaded by RSS supported by BJP and Congress. This makes the larger than anticipated turnout in Kashmir quite remarkable. What should one make of it? It would be a mistake to read a relatively decent turnout in seven phased state assembly elections in J&K as rejection of the demand for self-determination. Not too long ago similar claims about demise of the movement were rubbished by massive non-violent assertion for 'azaadi'. Land transfer to the Amarnath shrine board, occupation of land by thousands of security forces camps spread amidst civilian habitations, economic blockade imposed by Jammu's right wing agitation has consolidated separatist sentiments. People joined of their own volition and it was their participation which persuaded the indigenous militants to silence their guns. Although protests were brutally suppressed in the valley, in contrast to the kid glove treatment of the Jammu agitators, the idea of 'azaadi' from India did not get eroded but remains a material force. It is, therefore, those who cast their vote pointedly de-linked assembly elections from their demand for self-determination. So why did they come out to vote?
Its common knowledge, that assembly plays little role in so far as future dispensation of J&K is concerned. It enjoys no authority over the most visible public issue of concern for people namely demilitarization of J&K. Going by PDP's experience of being part of a coalition government, upward revision of rent paid to the land owners, whose land is occupied by security forces, is about all they managed to wrest from New Delhi. State government is in fact powerless to even decide on its own to release political prisoners. All this falls in the domain of New Delhi's security apparatus. But they enjoy power to build roads, schools, health centre, create job opportunities, stop land transfers to non-state subjects etc. In short they can provide some material succor to a people who have suffered immensely for over two decades. Thus, people are wise enough to know that assembly polls do not amount to disowning the right of self-determination. The point is that elections to assembly in general, and the J&K assembly in particular offer a narrow range of prospects and people participate out of hope more than any other reason.
A watershed has been reached in Kashmir. Most significantly, if 1987 elections acted as a catalyst and tilted the balance in favour of armed resistance, then the summer agitation and elections mark a breach too. The equation between armed and non-violent resistance has again shifted. Catalyst for the shift in equation was the recent agitation in the valley, which brought closer home the political effectiveness of mass agitation. Indian state stood out as a callous brutish force against a non violent movement for everyone to see. Make no mistake, people continue to own militants as their own, have not disavowed armed resistance, and they continue to be wedded to the idea of 'azaadi'. In the midst of the long drawn out election process the killing of a Hizb ul Mujahideen commander Raees Ahmad Dar in Pulwama on 17th December saw more than ten thousand turn up for his funeral. Besides, one of the recurring feature of the election in Kashmir region was of voters pointedly claiming that they had not given up their desire for 'azaadi'. Even as fairly large number of voters boycotted arguing that they do not want to dilute their commitment by participating in polls. Apparent division between voters and boycotters are likely to erode rather than widen as time passes. Summer of discontent 2008 should act as salutary reminder against over-reading election averages and desire for 'azaadi' can scarcely be dismissed. So if the recent elections to J&K assembly carry any message it is that one should not take people for granted. Within limited options available to them they exercise their choice. Those who came out to vote in J&K comprised many who had also participated in the agitation. Between the assertion for 'azaadi', and the recent elections, nothing substantial happened to suggest that in the intervening three months things had improved. Instead brutal crackdown took place under Governor's rule. The experience of Governor's rule in the past two decades in general, and the recent one in particular, drove home the relative advantage of having even a weak kneed assembly over an all out repressive regime. An assembly maybe powerless to remove the security forces from amidst the people. But, in contrast to Governor's rule, it is relatively better placed to restrain an overbearing Indian security forces from brutalizing the people.
There is also a message for the movement. The linking of these elections with boycott, knowing that this did not amount to giving up of right of self-determination, was a tactical mistake and gave Indian state a propaganda advantage. The boycott campaign itself was not wrong as campaigning for boycott is perfectly legitimate. But investing it with high stakes as amounting to a virtual referendum for or against the movement, post summer agitation, was erroneous. It is true that separatist leaders and cadres were obstructed at every step. They were incarcerated and their voices gagged by forcing the newspapers from not carrying any news related to election boycott. But it is equally true that in the period heading towards elections they erred in their ability to propel the movement forward through an action program. In September-October Valley newspapers were full of news and comments about the absence of imaginative politics and fatigue setting in over frequent hartals. Juxtaposition of a non-violent assertion for 'azaadi' and participation in assembly elections reveals people's preference for politics of agitation. Recall the remarkable discipline and restraint exhibited by the agitators in the valley who have had to live at the mercy of Indian security forces all these decades. A people so brutalized could have given way, during the agitation, to anarchy and communalized frenzy or even snatched weapons from para military forces in the first few days of emotional outburst. Instead it became a manifestation for a collective affirmation of their desire for 'azaadi' i.e. for freedom from tyranny and oppression. This stood out in sharp contrast to the jingoism of the right wing hindu agitation in Jammu and their viciously bigoted behaviour, all under the benign gaze of the Indian state. Politics of hate and politics of assertion took place, so to say, side by side. All this makes imperative that people read the post-election situation soberly. PDP's vote and seat share has expanded and NC's base in Kashmir has shrunk. As an opposition party perforce PDP will espouse separatist concerns if it is to remain effective. Therefore, doing nothing is not an option for New Delhi. But playing a charade will make it worse. Composite dialogue with Pakistan and so called peace process never fired people's imagination even at the height of Indo-Pak bonhomie. They were not seen as paving the way for resolution, rather perceived as yet another attempt to arrive at a settlement between two contenders over the heads of the people. But even this process has halted. The cost of procrastination have only risen. On the other hand it is tragic-comedy to see the re-emergence of calls for pragmatism by talking about "internal sovereignty", "self-rule" etc which is nothing but reverting back to the failed four point formula of Pakistan's former military dictator Pervez Musharaf. Those willing to short-sell the movement will do a grave dis-service, therefore, by bickering amongst themselves and reviving call for 'adhuri azaadi'. A divided leadership pulling in different direction suits the Indian state perfectly. Ironically, this is just the wrong time for movement to dither. Indian state may not like it and they may be able to thwart emergence of Kashmir on international agenda for sometime. But there are far too many straws in the wind which points towards the fact that Kashmir is surely making its way into the world agenda. Besides, the stakes have been raised by Pakistani state which has referred to the "water crisis" which is "directly linked to relations with India" and to likely "environmental catastrophe in South Asia". At such a moment, a divided movement in J&K, needlessly getting sucked into debate about plebiscite as per UN resolution and independence, or self-determination versus negotiated compromise etc is immensely harmful. It should be clear to all, that those who see Kashmir from prism of 1947, as well as those who underline that in 61 years of Indian rule a strong popular desire for independence has emerged, ought to know that neither goal can be reached without the right of self-determination. Leaders and commentators who arrogate for themselves the right to negotiate away the rights of their people or speak of compromise have also not read people's mood since June 2008. They do not know that people want to exercise the right of self-determination and do not want this to be bargained away.
But by far the biggest challenge is posed to the Indian state. Enlightened self-interest suggests that allowing people to determine their destiny, in so far as future dispensation is concerned, makes for an attractive democratic closure to a 61 year old dispute. This could augur well for Indian democracy and south asian regional cooperation. But with Indian policy and opinion makers in a celebratory mode and blinded by their own propaganda that back of the movement has been broken and people subdued, likely course of action will be little bit of the same old prevarication. The Omar Abdullah government has already resiled from talks (CM claimed that everyone will have to wait till after the parliamentary elections are over and new government settles down i.e. six to eight months away) and from autonomy (because its coalition partner Congress is opposed to this they have stepped back from their stance). If New Delhi is not clear what it wants and having sold these elections as its success story likelihood of even empty talks renewing anytime soon is remote. Fact of the matter is, however, longer Indian state delays more difficult will it get for them to dictate the course of events. It is this dilemma which stares at India. So those who feel down and out after elections ought to know that what seems to be need not be what it appears to be. The message and meaning behind appearance and reality are very different. Real meaning is the need for a politics which reinvigorates unity around the right of self-determination and takes it forward.