Saturday, August 30, 2008

Notion of 'Azadi' and 'Kashmiriyat'

Notion of 'Azadi' and 'Kashmiriyat'
By U. Mahesh Prabhu

Much is being written about the current state of affairs in Kashmir. The 'Azadi' of Kashmir and independence to 'Kashmiriyat', is being spoken of. But what Azadi are they dreaming about? And which Kashmiriyat are they talking of?

Have Hindus no share of that Kashmiriyat, on the basis of which separatists are demanding an 'independent' state for themselves? Which Kashmiriyat are they talking about—is it 500 or 5,000 years old? That was the time when everyone in Kashmir was a Hindu. The separatists in the valley today, tend to forget, and are even motivated to forget, the fact that they are descendants of Hindu ancestors.

In Kashmir, like in the rest of the country, Hindus and Muslims have the same ancestors, share the same history, the same culture, and the same land. Therefore, nationalism is also the same. If that be so, then, how can ancestors change with change in religion and mode of worship? Can it be construed that wherever Muslims are in majority they will have their separate nationalism and get delinked from India? I assume it to be so. This is the bitter truth about history and it has to be accepted. The history of the world is replete with events illustrating that whenever Muslims are in majority, fundamentalism has raised its head—giving birth to separatist ideas.

According to political pundits and philosophers all over the world, national unity and separatism are two different and completely opposing elements. Paucity in the outlook of nationalism breeds regionalism which gives birth to separatism. A powerful feeling of nationalism is the right weapon for ending separatism. The reason the poison of separatism has spread over many regions in India is due to the lack of a feeling of oneness—of being one nation.

In reality, when India achieved independence, the lawmakers should have framed the constitution on the basis of the nation and its culture. But the thought hardly crossed anyone's mind. The result was that national outlook was eclipsed because educational and economic policies remained divided in many social and political groups. Blind imitation of the western pattern remained the base of our policies. Everything related to British imperialism was considered supreme and we even visualized and understood the nation and nationalism through the eyes of the west.

Deliberately, British historians presented, in a twisted form, our national history, national culture, and national outlook, for their selfish political interest and in becoming victims of their conspiracy we relinquished our ancient glory. The result was that community, region, sect, and language, pushed back nationalism. The problems of not just Kashmir, but also Assam, are its products.

Nationalism cannot be born without understanding national culture. Right from the beginning, India has remained as one nation, one people and one culture. According to Indian philosophy, nation is a cultural unit which can be only developed—not constructed. In the west, however, nation has been merged with the Government which has been considered a political unit. Culture unites people and politics disintegrates them. Therefore, so long as the nation remained linked with culture, this country stayed united; but when western political influence became dominant, it gave birth to the country's disintegration. This is also a misfortune of Kashmir.

As long as the high ideals of nation and national culture remained dominant, religious activities remained linked with the Indian nation. But when religion was brought into politics and the concept of an ethnic state developed, it paved the way for separatism in Kashmir.

The modes of worship born and developed in Kashmir—which include snake worship, Shaivism, Buddhism, and Vaishnavism—never came into conflict with one another because they remained linked with Indian nationalism. Even foreign rulers like Kanishka and Mihir, who belonged to the Kushan and Hun sects respectively, had accepted Buddhism and Shaivism and while Indianising their sect had merged into the Indian national mainstream. The advent of Islam in Kashmir, on the other hand, gave birth to inter-sectarian conflict, religious conversion, and separatism. The reason was clear—because fundamental Islam does not permit its follower to get linked with any country and its national culture. Whenever there is Muslim majority, there should be an Islamic state. Pakistan too, is the result of this opinion. The forcible religious conversion of Hindus in Kashmir and then their mass exodus are the offshoots of this anti-national trend thriving in the valley.

The Muslims in the valley should understand that by joining Pakistan or by remaining independent, they will neither remain safe nor can they protect their idea of Kashmiriyat. Their Islamic principles too will remain safe in the Kashmiriyat based on the culture of their ancestors. The amount of religious freedom that exists in Indian culture is found nowhere.

The dream of an independent Kashmir, too, is unrealistic and Pakistan would never tolerate this. It will not give any military or economic aid. What do they have to give? Hitherto, several thousand crores of rupees have been spent on development of Kashmir by India and all this will be stopped with de-accession. Kashmir's tourism industry, economic development, and geographical security, are secure because of India, and not due to Pakistan. Let's not forget that fact.

The only solution, I foresee, to the Kashmir problem is if our Kashmiri Muslim brothers link themselves, like other Indians, with the national mainstream. The Government of India needs to adopt solid steps for resolving the problem after accepting it as a national issue and realization of its earlier mistakes.

But the misfortune of this country is that the politics of vote come in the way of acceptance of mistakes. It is because of this that the history of mistakes and foolishness keeps on repeating itself in this land. There is a need for national consensus on protection of Kashmir which is possible only if all political parties give up their selfish goals. But national consensus is not possible because of paucity of national outlook. When instead of the nation, eyes are fixed on power and vote banks, how can national outlook grow?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

West Bengal’s future in limbo

West Bengal’s future in limbo
By Susenjit Guha

The indefinite sit-in demonstration by Mamta Bannerjee of the Trinamul Congress party in front of what is to be the world’s cheapest car factory--- a 4D hatchback Nano by Tata Motor ---is not only about returning 400 acres farmland allegedly wrested from the villagers by the ruling Left Front government in addition to 600 acres offered to Tata’s for the plant.

It is about gaining control of rural Bengal which has helped the Front---headed by the CPM (Marxist communist party) and several smaller left parties--- romp home to power in successive elections for the last 30 years.

The CPM led government was led for the first 24 years from 1977 by veteran communist Jyoti Basu who sewed together the Left Front before handing over charge after the 2001 election victory to his protégé, a literature aficionado, Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, earlier known for his haughty intellectual demeanour. The patriarch who oversaw Left Front’s ride to power may witness its climb down.

While Bengal turned into a graveyard for industries thanks to militant communist affiliated trade unions in the first 24 years. Buddhadeb switched gears to court industry after bending over backwards in a bid to spruce up the state’s image. Even the British Airways office was vandalized by party cadres in the early 90’s. Investors considered it suicidal to plough capital in West Bengal.

Contrary to logical analogy that everything was hunky dory in agricultural Bengal, mostly party cadres and sympathizers flourished while the bulk of the poor farmers whose holdings were insufficient to make ends meet could not find occupation in industries as they closed down or were shifted out of the state. Leftists harp that industrial policy was on the blueprint way back in 1996 under Buddhadeb’s predecessor, couching it in traditional pretexts of a step-motherly central government which neglected the state. But that does not explain the erosion of work culture, conduct of irresponsible trade unions, strikes at the drop of a hat and flight of capital to greener pastures.

The only notable industrial activity during the last decade of Jyoti Basu’s time was restricted to several MOU’s (Memorandum of Understanding), perhaps to add credence to his regular summer trips to Europe. Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, in the last 7 years, required to visit abroad officially, only a couple of times.

Trouble erupted last year in rural Nandigram, 70 kms south west of Kolkata with a sizable Muslim population---they form 27% in the state and impact electoral results-- when police with armed communist party cadres beat up and fired at unarmed villagers protesting against land-takeover for a proposed chemical hub to be set up by the Indonesian Selim group...

Singur, 50 kms from Kolkata, from where Nano, priced at an incredible $2500, is expected to roll out in the October festive season, also has a sizable Muslim population and where the sit-in demonstration has begun from last Sunday.

Opiners with non-journalistic gingerliness highlighted only the Muslim’s plight---they are the most secure in Bengal---without treating it as a rural raw deal. Both Tapasi Malik, a teenager allegedly raped and murdered and a woman stripped and dragged along during the last village level elections in which the Left slithered in their strongholds, were non-Muslims. Print media, even if mandarins are unwilling to admit, are at risk from electronic media, internet, text messages, citizen journalism and blogs---the portals in the near future for the wired generation---for news upfront without tails tied to some pressure group or other.

Violence simmered even though chief minister Buddhadeb categorically withdrew the proposal of a chemical hub.

Priced at an incredible $2500, Nano is expected to hit the roads in the October festive season.

Problem has arisen with the 400 acres earmarked for ancillary units, which the opposition TMC---other parties have also jumped into the bandwagon---wants returned to the farmers and the land sourced elsewhere. It is not possible for ancillary units to be distanced from the mother plant. After sidling off the forced acquisition issue, the government confessed using a late 19th century colonial act to justify the takeover and reiterated its inability to return citing legal tangles. Tata group has issued an ultimatum of pulling out even at a cost of nearly $350 million if the demonstration does not cease.

The Left government’s obituary will be inked with their exit as several other projects in the pipeline on several thousands of acres of land are watching this mammoth investment after several decades before taking a plunge.

In thrall of Stalin, the vintage Marxists of Bengal---some of whom had honed their intellect in US and West European academes--- packed off information technology during the initial years and withdrew English instructions at the primary level in government schools to perhaps create a non-skeptical bureaucracy, turned arrogant with untrammeled power. Arrogance persisted even after capital was courted with gusto and villages, the core constituency, were taken for granted.

And Buddhadeb Bhattacharya once again---like he did some years ago by talking about the profusion of madrasas along the Indo-Bangla border only to retract later--- waded into controversy by admitting his displeasure over the Left’s penchant for bandhs about which he promised to let his views known in future. Whether he can do it or it was meant for the Assocham crowd is not known.

What is clear is that the government is now taking no chances with the proposed thermal power plant in Katwa near Burdhwan for which it has called an all party meeting.

Clearly, the siege of the Durgapur expressway by TMC which is now the quickest conduit to Kolkata from neighbouring states is threatening to send prices of essentials skyrocketing. But the freeway is a fairly recent phenomenon to attract investments for which Kolkata is also spruced up.

Left Front had the villagers with them not so long ago who are now threatening to careen towards Mamta Bannerjee, known for being headstrong and unpredictable. Not being the darling of the English language media which pitches for Buddhadeb and a resurgent Kolkata, Mamta is banking on the villages to switch sides.

She is unmoved by overtures by the administration for talks as this is her only chance to unseat the Left in the coming elections even if it means setting back Bengal’s clock once again.
And for this impasse, it is the Left who should shoulder much of the blame for not having taken time and patience to convince villagers and allowing her to take centre stage.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Rise and Reign of Sheikh

The Rise and Reign of Sheikh
By U. Mahesh Prabhu

With the objective of perpetuating their rule on the vast Indian subcontinent, the British made two things the foundation of all their political activities. First was the 'divide and rule' diplomacy and secondly, the arrangement of able agents and even stooges for implementing this appropriately in the political setup.

The rulers of Indian states too, played their role in strengthening the British political base. These Rajas and Maharajas neither dared nor thought it proper to oppose the foreign power because they were busy with entertainment of all sorts. The freedom struggle of 1857 was a revolt at a time when the British were yet to gain a strong foothold. Therefore, the British gave importance to the individual egos of these rulers and never tried to interfere in their world of pleasure. This is precisely why the foreign rulers had nothing to fear from them and kept on using them as the base for stability.

But something interesting occurred at the Chamber of Princes' round table conference of 1931 in London. Maharaja Hari Singh of Kashmir, in his capacity as Chairman, talked about 'Indian independence'. Such talk, that too from the head of the Chamber of Princes, was undoubtedly a challenge for the British Crown. Those were the days when the pace of the freedom movement and partition of India were getting faster.

Kashmir was a Muslim majority state and the Maharaja, by talking about India's 'complete independence', had struck at the caste-based politics announced by the British. Getting angry and alert, following the unhelpful attitude of the Maharaja, Viceroy Lord Mountbatten started looking for a suitable British agent in Kashmir to field against the Maharaja.

Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), which had produced many leaders for assisting the Indian Muslim society in adopting the path of separatism, also happened to produce Sheikh Abdullah. Sheikh who had an M. Sc. degree from the university was appointed as a teacher in the government high school in Srinagar. Facts suggest that he began his political activities in the state then.

Though he claims to have 'given up' his service in the interest of the state, an investigative account published in his book 'Our Kashmir', by Dr. Gori Nath Rastogi, states that he was sacked because of his 'immoral behavior' which reportedly enraged Sheikh Abdullah. Combined with the seeds of communalism, received from AMU, he began encouraging separatist ideas – then onwards – openly. The British diplomacy had the need for such a person in Jammu and Kashmir.
A prominent weekly of Bombay, 'Blitz', in its April 24, 1964 issue published a comprehensive article in which Sheikh Abdullah has been dubbed a British agent. In the article, original documents in the form of secret correspondence and letters have been published exposing the anti-national activities of Sheikh, Dr H L Saxena has published the entire article of 'Blitz' in his book 'The Tragedy of Kashmir'.

Before embracing death, however, Sheikh Abdullah decided to wear a mask of nationalism. He wanted the support and blessing of some Indian leaders and Hindus to see his dream of becoming the Sultan of Kashmir, fulfilled. He succeeded in receiving guidance, support, and blessings, of influential national leaders like Pandit Nehru, and Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, to reach the level of national leaders.

According to Prof. Balraj Madhok in his book 'Kashmir, Jammu & Ladhakh', Sheikh Abdullah had converted the Muslim Conference into the National Conference in 1939, in the interest of his political ambition; he wanted to secure the support of the Indian National Congress and, even, the Indian Press fraternity. This strategy paid him dividends, indeed.

Very astonishingly, facts also reveal that Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, better known in India as 'Frontier Gandhi', too played a pivotal role in this. The Khan had explained to the Sheikh that since 95 per cent of the population of the valley was Muslim, he would get the power, whenever and however, as a leader of Kashmiris.

In this way Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah a region leader, highly communal person, and also a stooge of the British, succeeded in making an appearance on the all India stage. Even after 'Blitz' lifted the thick veil from the initial political life of Sheikh, some of our eminent journalists have continued to term him s a 'champion of the Kashmiri cause ', 'a nationalist' and what not!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Is the Nation losing Dignity and Pride?

Is the Nation losing Dignity and Pride?
By Seema Mustafa

The other day a old former government officer who had seen much happier days asked, "are we as a nation losing our sense of dignity and pride?" The question posed between a heated debate on Kashmir and related issues took the room by surprise. There was a sudden silence, and then every one started talking at once. Are we? Except for two persons in a room of 12, everyone agreed that we have failed in nation building and infusing our people with pride in the country.

I know this sounds like one of those quick television sms polls that mean absolutely nothing. But take the evidence that was offered by those who had obviously decided to ask the question in the affirmative. A word in warning, the conversation was about the better to do in urban cities. Not about the poor or the villager who does not figure in the map of government planning. Take the people on the road. They litter, they pee, they drive like maniacs, they abuse each other, they shout at cops, they break all conceivable laws, they pay bribes when checked, and they show scant consideration about the 'other' on the street.

Take the people in their homes. The other day a newspaper carried a story about NRIs who had returned to work in India, and left within months as they could not cope with the lifestyle. And what is this lifestyle? You cannot get a gas connection if you do not pay a hefty bribe, you cannot get a plan to build a perfectly legitimate house passed through the municipal corporation without bribing every one in sight, you cannot pay a challan in the courts without carrying sufficient bribe money in your pocket, you cannot admit your child to school without paying lakhs in "donations", you cannot get a ration card without bribing every one, you cannot get a driving license without paying the under the counter fee, you cannot buy a flat without paying black money. The list goes on and on….

Take the people at work. Every one wants to 'make it' and this means to make as much money as possible. High income but in black is the key, as otherwise you have to pay income tax. Black money allows you to buy a farm house in a good address, travel, shop and not deny yourself the luxuries in life. This is the value system you pass on to your children who are taught, even before they learn the alphabet, that only the fool lives on his salary. The clever Indian earns over and above the legal figure. It is all about stocks, shares, growth, and more growth. Inflation hits only those without the spending ability. It matters little to those live their lives on black money.

The soul less class, that is growing by the day, does not bother about the issues at hand. It has no time for sovereignty, democracy, secularism, stability, poverty alleviation. It wants a good life, and does not tolerate those it perceives as coming in its way. Land has to be acquired for shopping malls. How does it matter if no one in government is now bothering to set up hospitals and schools for the poor? The nuclear deal with the US will bring in the consumer fare, and life will become even more comfortable. Who cares if India has to fine tune her policies to meet US requirements? A little here and there can always be adjusted after all. Kashmir is coming in the way, so let it go. How does it matter? It might destabilize India. Arre let that happen first, nothing will happen, we are too big.

Terrorism? Now that's a problem. They must arrest all these people, so what if they arrest the innocent people and destroy homes and families all over the country. Indians are one of the few peoples of the world who endorse not just the arrest but also the torture of the innocent to get to the guilty. That again demonstrates the complete callousness that has become almost a genetic quality in society, where little thought is paid to the trauma undergone by the innocents who are being detained, tortured and eventually released because of lack of evidence. The resulting anger and alienation erode the foundations of a nation state, but this fact is not even recognized let alone understood by the urban Indians.

It is true that the Dalit is still marginalized, and still the victim of untouchability in the country. There are enough incidents on a daily basis---some reported some not---to underline the crippling discrimination they face throughout India. It is true that the Muslims are getting increasingly marginalized and becoming the target of an increasingly irresponsible and unaccountable security machinery. But when actor Shabana Azmi says that she, despite her stature, is finding it impossible to get a house in Mumbai no one approaches her for remedial action. No one in government tries to find out if this is true and what should be done about it. Instead she is left at the mercy of the communal forces who ask her to apologise for speaking the truth. It is true that the gap between the rich and the poor is increasing, but no one in government is willing to do anything about it, and no one in society cares. The rich have access to employment, education, health care. The poor live without jobs, cannot educate their children, and die because of the complete absence of proper hospitals, doctors and even medicines in the villages.

So to get back to the senior official and his question. Are we building a nation we can be proud of, where every person can live with dignity and respect, where freedom is not for the few but for all, where secularism thrives, where equality flourishes, and where tears are still shed for the deprived , the marginalized and the oppressed? I do not know, perhaps you have the answer.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Dispossessed Gets Possession

Dispossessed Gets Possession
By Mubasshir Mushtaq

"Mahmoud Darwish, the internationally renowned poet, was a man of pain and poems. Darwish was part of the Arab Exodus of 1948. If his forced exile signified pain his poems stood for Palestine."

Mahmoud Darwish, the "sightless vagrant" finally got a place, a grave to declare as his own. All through his life he lived the life of a gypsy who finally found his resting place, Do gaz zameen (Two yards underground), in Ramallah. He was an important pillar of Palestinian Dream. Like the late Edward Said, Darwish employed his pen to shape the Palestinian Dream. The former chose prose while the latter stuck to poetry.

Darwish, 67, who passed away following heart surgery in a Houston hospital on August 9, must have been aware of a word called death. It is an inescapable noun which puts a full stop to a short as well as a long sentence called life. Darwish knew this pretty well. In a recent poem titled 'The Dice Thrower' Darwish saw death knocking on his doorstep.

"To Life I say: Go slow, wait for me until the drunkenness dries in my glass.
I have no role in what I was or who I will be.

It is chance and chance has no name.

I call the doctor 10 minutes before the death, 10 minutes are sufficient to live by chance."

Mahmoud Darwish, the internationally renowned poet, was a man of pain and poems. Darwish was part of the Arab Exodus of 1948. If his forced exile signified pain his poems stood for Palestine. When he was stripped of an Israeli passport in 1971, he penned a poem called 'Passport' in which he challenged the idea of passport:

Stripped of my name and identity?On a soil I nourished with my own hands?
All the hearts of the people are my identitySo take away my passport!

Mahmoud Darwish was an epitome of dispossession, subjugation, and exile. In his poetry Palestine was a "metaphor for the loss of Eden, birth and resurrection, and the anguish of dispossession and exile."

Israel always saw Darwish as an enemy but Darwish was not against the Jews. He was against the State's policy towards fellow Palestinians. In an interview with Susan Sachs he had made it abundantly clear:

"The accusation is that I hate Jews. It's not comfortable that they show me as a devil and an enemy of Israel. I am not a lover of Israel, of course. I have no reason to be. But I don't hate Jews. (New York Times, March 7, 2000).

A cursory glance through Darwish's poem reveals that he wrote poems for Palestine but it had universal appeal. His poetry infiltrated Israel but yet he was not allowed to set foot in Israel for almost 30 years!

His love for fellow human beings reflects in the following extract of his speech:

"I will continue to humanise even the enemy... The first teacher who taught me Hebrew was a Jew. The first love affair in my life was with a Jewish girl. The first judge who sent me to prison was a Jewish woman. So from the beginning, I didn't see Jews as devils or angels but as human beings…These poems take the side of love not war."

His poem 'Identity Card' chillingly summed up the complications of being a Palestinian in Occupied Palestine. It warns of hunger as well as anger; the only weapon of the dispossessed:

I have a name without a title

Record on the top of the first page:

I do not hate people
Nor do I encroach
But if I become hungry
The usurper's flesh will be my food
Beware..Beware..Of my hunger
And my anger!

His poetic brevity did what a book can't do. Sample the following couplet:

A woman told the cloud: cover my beloved For my clothing is drenched with his blood.

To writers all across the world, he communicated the pain of his writing:

Writing is a puppy biting nothingness Writing wounds without a trace of blood.

People find love in life but Darwish was an exception. He found love in death; in meeting with his beloved land:

I am the lover and the land is the beloved.

The man who used his pen to 'cultivate hope' is gone but he kept hope alive in the form of bitter sarcasm:

The siege will last in order to convince us we must choose an enslavement that does no harm, in fullest liberty.

Darwish, the man who talked about identity all through his life, went prepared. I am not Mine was the title of one of his poems.

Even if I spell it (my name) wrong on the coffin – Is mine..

Darwish can now claim to be an owner. At least of his name if not his land.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Islamic Fanaticism—Not Economic Backwardness

Islamic Fanaticism—Not Economic Backwardness
By U. Mahesh Prabhu

It's almost a month since Jammu began, what seems to be, an insuppressible agitation against the Governor and the pro-partisan and Muslim-appeasing politicians on their refusal to re-allot the land to Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) for providing facilities to Hindu pilgrims visiting Amaranth. The depth of resentment is evident looking at an incident which occurred on July 22, when Kuldeep Raj Dogra, in his mid-30s, while participating in a hunger strike at Jammu's Parade ground, consumed poison, stood up, read a passionate, self-written patriotic poem, faltered, and then… fell dead. Since then the situation has gone haywire, well beyond the control of the administration. But what made the people of Jammu, mostly peace-loving, to turn so aggressive? Is there a logical explanation for this?

Owing to our aimless and weak policies, Kashmiri youth have, with open support from Pakistan, taken up the sword for Islamic Jihad. The programme of Islamisation in Kashmir, which has been on for the past several years, is being given final shape - now. The mass exodus of Kashmiri Pundits has left the Valley devoid of Hindus. Conspiracies for removing all the Indian symbols in Kashmir are being hatched. Temples have been destroyed. The ancient names of towns and roads have been changed and Muslim names have been given to them. 'Assalam valekun' has replaced 'namaskar' on Srinagar Doordarshan. Watches follow Pakistani time zones. People take pride in burning the Constitution of India and the Indian flag. Sanskrit words are being deleted from the Kashmiri language and are, instead, being replaced by Arabic words. The first phase of total independence for Kashmir was to oust Hindus from the Valley. Success has been achieved in this respect. The second phase was to destabilize and paralyze the state administration in which also success has been realized. Now guerrilla attacks on the Army are being embarked on to accomplish the third phase.

The 'intellectuals' deserve pity, for they evade reality by putting on the mask of so called 'secularism', when they term the grave situation in Kashmir a result of 'economic backwardness and political suffocation'. If only they stop playing in their make-believe world and start searching for realism, will the real face of the problem become crystal clear. There is neither poverty nor political discrimination in Kashmir. The entire trouble is the product of religious fanaticism.

The reality is that after independence, our rulers, in the intoxication of appeasement, gave more political and economic facilities to Kashmir than to any other state in the country. Not only this, they made available all facilities and amenities to the Kashmir valley at the cost of the rights of the people of the two other regions of the state—Jammu and Ladakh. Under the umbrella of Article 370, whatever maximum political and economic facilities were made available to Kashmir strengthened and deepened religious fundamentalism of Kashmiri youths.

Ignoring the population ratio, the assembly seats in the Valley are more than what it is in Jammu region. There is a majority of Kashmiris in the Government services and hitherto, only a Kashmiri Muslim has been the Chief Minister of the State. The representation of ministers from the Valley is greater than others, in the council of ministers. Despite the fact that Kashmir has been considered the centre of political activities, the talk of political suffocation being the root cause of the current problem is, as Narendra Sehgal puts in his book 'Converted Kashmir', 'bankruptcy of wisdom'.

As far as the area is concerned, Kashmir Valley is one-eighth the total area of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. But a major share of the State's revenue and Central Assistance is being spent on Kashmir. Ninety-five per cent of the budget of the Tourism Department is spent on Kashmir. The headquarters of all the 11 State Corporations are in Srinagar. Between 33 and 35 per cent of senior Government officers and secretaries, are from Kashmir. It is so because the population of Muslims is more in Kashmir. The height of discrimination became evident when veterinary hospital and college, dental care centre, and artificial limb centre, which were allotted for Jammu, were set up in Kashmir even before the current SASB land row.

All major industries including cement factory, HMT watch factory, telephone industrial unit, television unit, Government process, textiles industry, and the like are being developed in Kashmir. Medical college, engineering college, agricultural university, and other educational institutions are in Kashmir.

A major portion of the state budget is being spent on Kashmir. Of 2,876 villages in Kashmir 2,086 have been connected with main roads. More than 70 per cent seats in Srinagar Medical College are given to Muslim students.

As a result of liberal financial assistance from the center and on account of petro-dollars from the Arab world, people of Kashmir have become prosperous and richer than people in the rest of India. Even the Government figures reveal that the per capita income in Kashmir is among the highest in the country.

Yet who can convince our so-called, 'intellectuals' and politicians, that in comparison to Kashmir there is major economic backwardness in Jammu and Ladakh regions. As far as political rights are concerned, these two regions live in suffocation. Had political injustice and economic backwardness been the cause for terrorism, Jammu and Ladakh regions should have witnessed it much before it took roots in Kashmir.

Those who in their mental exercise try to trace the genesis of the problem to economic backwardness should stop such exercises when then Governor, Jagmohan's suggestion for absorbing Kashmiri youths in a separate battalion of BSF and for appointing 5,000 educated youths as Government teachers was turned down on the plea that "we do not want it, we want an independent Islamic republic." Experience has made it clear that the more money Government of India spends in Kashmir, the more religious fanaticism and exploitation thrives.
A former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Junejo, has told the National Assembly, while speaking on the Kashmir issue, that the riches of Kashmiri Muslims would be helpful for Pakistan. This fact now stands established that the pace of Islamisation increased because of wealth in Kashmir. It is because of riches that a mosque on the pattern of Mecca was built in Srinagar.

Fundamentalists from outside the state have been posted to top posts in Government institutions. In place of Sanskritised Kashmiri language, Persianised Urdu has been made the official language. Money has played an important role in destroying fully the old links with India and the result is that nobody talks about renowned Kashyap Rishi, Avantivarman, Lalitaditya, and Kalhana. Mohammed Iqbal of Pakistan is considered a great philosopher there.

India is now considered a foreign nation in Kashmir! The Indian Army has to listen to insulting slogans like 'Indian dogs, go back.' The suspected leaders like Mufti Syed and Dr. Farooq, and his son Omar, Abdullah keep on shedding crocodile tears over the 'dreadful situation in Kashmir' when in the initial stages they too had favored Islamisation and even today support the demand for separate political existence of the Valley.

What people in Jammu are stating through their protests is 'enough is enough; this ought to stop. We shall not tolerate anymore. We shall fight with our lives, for Kashmir is also ours.' The current surge of the protests is no less than a Hindu Intifada. And I wonder if all this would stop without availing justice.

For those who want to blame Hindus in Jammu for the unrest let me assert that there is not an iota of truth in it. The basis of the Kashmir problem is neither economic backwardness nor political suffocation of Muslims in the Valley. Its roots are in the froth of religious fanaticism which is being nourished both by India, through Muslim appeasement, and Pakistan, by harboring terrorists. This has to stop.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Boiling J & K amidst blame game!

The Boiling J & K amidst blame game!
By Seema Mustafa

There is urgent need now to restore not just law and order but communal harmony. This has to be done on a war footing, for it is already too late and one cannot say with any sense of certainty whether peace ---even if it is arrived at ---will be long lasting or short lived.

Jammu and Kashmir is boiling. And the Nero's of New Delhi are fiddling. They are holding all party meetings where every one sits around a table, gives vent to his or her views, and returns home without a single solution in sight. Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil does not have even a half baked proposal to offer, and after the last round met the media to suggest that the Kashmiris could take their goods to Pakistan occupied Kashmir if Pakistan agrees.

There was no reaction from any of the worthies attending the all party meetings to this complete abdication of authority. It was as if the Kashmiri protestors were just out for a picnic, and the Indian Home Minister had decided that they could extend their trek to Muzaffarabad if they so desired. Of course, that many of them were being killed in the firing at about the same time was another story altogether, and one not referred to by Shivraj Patil.

The people of Jammu and Kashmir have been let down by the leadership of the state and the center. Earlier and again today. Not a single leader has risen above the separatist and communal politics to strike a real note of peace and harmony. All have sat back and fed into their little constituencies, even as they accuse the 'other' of fanning the flames. The issue is no longer of land, it is of alienation, of anger and resentment. In the process the fanatics and the fundamentalists have taken hold of politics in the state, with the mainstream politicians totally sidelined. The center, of course, has little to offer except the spiritual guru who has been sent as an emissary in what is perhaps a sad first in New Delhi-Srinagar relations.

Every one is now blaming the other, whereas actually all are at complete fault. Former Governor Lt General S.K.Sinha who is briefing the BJP these days, was wrong in moving a file without making a correct assessment of the consequences. And for doing so in a clandestine manner, on his last day in office. The Kashmir reaction was fuelled by created perceptions, with the people responding to rumours that their land had been permanently given away. Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad was wrong in allowing this to happen, and then for not stepping in with the vigour and determination needed to prevent the rumour from taking over the fact. New Governor N.N.Vohra was wrong in revoking the decision, again without a word of explanation.

The BJP was wrong in fanning the communal flames in Jammu and through the Amanarth Shrine Samiti actually organizing an economic blockade of the Valley. This was perhaps the worst move of all, and evoked memories of the ghastly and inhuman blockade of Gaza by Israel. The state government disappeared from the scene. The Hurriyat fanned the secessionist flames, with arch rivals Mriwaiz Omar Farooq and Syed Geelani making common cause in the Valley. Instead of acting with responsibility the Mirwaiz urged the people to march to Muzaffarabad, and quite forgot to inform them that the blockade was over by the time they actually faced the bullets.
The PDP joined the separatists and when asked about this its leader Mehbooba Mufti had little to offer by way of explanation. Her father and former chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed was neither seen nor heard during the crisis. Former chief minister and National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah was abroad and returned hitting out at all and sundry. His son Omar, has barely been able to keep his inexperienced head above the boiling waters. The Congress is in the doghouse, the BJP is making hay, as the separatists and the communalists who had been totally marginalized, find themselves blessed with an astounding revival.

But as always, it is the government that emerges as the worst offender. For while the communalists and the secessionists have a declared agenda that works against the country, it is the government that is expected by the people to provide and protect. The state government has opted out of the crisis. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made mention of Jammu and Kashmir from the ramparts of the Red Fort, and while everyone shares the sentiment that peace must be restored the question reverberating around the nation is: How? This is what the government is required to answer, but the silence from Delhi's corridors of power is deafening, to say the least. The government appears to have no solution in sight, and clearly unless there is immediate intervention to cement ties the state is going to see even worse days in the immediate future.

What could have been done? The former Governor and the chief Minister should not have allowed to act arbitrarily but should have ensured that the decision to allocate the land was done with full consultations and in a completely transparent manner. Once taken, the decision should not have been revoked without discussions and consultations. The economic blockade of Srinagar should not have been allowed by the state and central governments for even a minute, and the army should have been moved in immediately to end this. The crisis could have been converted into an opportunity even at this stage, with the army being cast in the role of peace maker and provider of medicines and essential supplies, instead of the killing machine. But the government, very deliberately, let go of this opportunity and sat back leaving it to the people of both parts of the state to battle it out.

The all party meeting in Delhi should have been held much earlier, almost immediately, in Jammu and Kashmir. The Prime Minister and the Home Minister should have flown down and convened discussions with the representatives of all sides. If the army had busted the blockade, and the government had started the dialogue, those who continued to fan the fires would have again been isolated. At least to some extent. Instead, in the face of complete inaction, they have all become the heroes and are reveling in the spotlights.

There is urgent need now to restore not just law and order but communal harmony. This has to be done on a war footing, for it is already too late and one cannot say with any sense of certainty whether peace ---even if it is arrived at ---will be long lasting or short lived. Some one has to speak the voice of reason and cold logic, and it is time that the center takes control. Otherwise the voices advocating the religious trifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir will be strengthened both in and outside the country. The dangers inherent in this demand are visible to all secular and responsible sections of society.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Constitutionally Recognized Separatism

Constitutionally Recognized Separatism
By U. Mahesh Prabhu

Is accession of Jammu & Kashmir complete like other states? If the accession is complete then why is this special appeasement? Is it so because there is Muslim majority? Had there been a Hindu majority in the Kashmir valley, would there have been this clause of the Constitution?
During the time of India's partition, in the year 1947, all the states of the subcontinent were given the rights, under the Indian Independence Act, to accede either to India or Pakistan. Displaying his grand statesmanship the then Indian Union Home Minister, Sardar Patel, succeeded in merging 565 princely states with the Indian Union. As a result of obstinacy and rigidity of Hyderabad and Junagarh, Sardar Patel merged them by employing military means.

But the issue of Jammu & Kashmir was retained by Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru. His national outlook and his capacity to take decision were eclipsed by his affection for Sheikh Abdullah and his animosity with Maharaja Hari Singh and his ingrained Kashmiriyat. This personal ego, of Nehru, is the reason because of which India is loosing, though unconsciously, the state of Kashmir, today.
Jenab Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah was the Prime Minister, and not the Chief Minister of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The state was governed by its own constitution and not by the Constitution of India. The National Conference flag was the state flag and NOT the tricolour. The Indians needed a 'permit' for visiting Jammu and Kashmir. There were several other such separatist concessions and customs which Nehru offered, as his gift, in connection with the delight on Sheikh becoming the 'sultan of the state'. And yet, Sheikh was not pleased.

There was one special reason behind this dissatisfaction of Sheikh Abdullah despite having the blessings from the Prime Minister of India, support of the UN Security Council and Pakistan. He had 'fears' that Hindus of India may come and settle in the state. He had fears that Kashmiri Muslims may be swept by the national mainstream. He had fears that Kashmir may be recognized on the basis of its ancient culture, Kashmir may be amalgamated like other states in India, after Nehru. Such fear would spoil his sleep.

Thus, in order to realize his dream of total independence for Kashmir, it was necessary to keep Jammu and Kashmir away from India permanently. He needed an instrument through which he could protect the seed; he himself had sown, of separatism in Kashmir. He again took Nehru for a ride and brought him under the clutches of his schemes. By incorporating Article 370 in the Constitution of India, Nehru offered him that instrument.

Article 370 of the Constitution gave constitutional validity to Abdullah's separatist ideas and international intrigues and gave a special position to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Its stamp 'confirmed', to many, the fact that 'Muslim majority cannot remain with India.'

This Article 370 of the Constitution, which has grouped Jammu & Kashmir as a special and different state, actually ridicules this declaration that Kashmir is an inseparable part of India. This special status delinks the state from rest of the country. It won't be an exaggeration if it is called 'constitutionally recognized separatism'.

Is accession of Jammu & Kashmir complete like other states? If the accession is complete then why is this special appeasement? Is it so because there is Muslim majority? Had there been a Hindu majority in the Kashmir valley, would there have been this clause of the Constitution?

It's a fact that Maharaja Hari Singh signed the accession papers on October 26, 1947 under which the state acceded to India. The accession of J&K with India was carried out on the same patter as other states acceded to it. But as a result of the misfortune of the country, Nehru pressurized the Maharaja for handing over power to Sheikh Abdullah. The Maharaja gulped with bitter draught and exhibited his patriotism. The misfortune does not end here. On the request of Sheikh Abdullah it was decided that the State Assembly will take the final decision on the accession and it was done to appease the Muslim society in Kashmir. From here the State was given the special status. The question arose as to what should be done till the Assembly took the final decision? For this period Article 370 was incorporated in the Constitution as a 'temporary measure'. But even when the State Assembly ratified the state's accession to India, the Article was not scrapped. Could there be another bigger instance of treachery than the interest of the vote bank and the politics of appeasement than this? I truly wonder.

With the blindfold of political interest we lent permanency to the temporary character of the Article making our position not only ridiculous before the world but also provided a golden opportunity and solid base for separatist-oriented terrorism to grow in Kashmir. The most shameful part is that we are not ready even now to throw off the soiled blindfold. Instead, it seems as if, we are keen to keep this blindfold as a permanent failure.

It is because of this Article that the Government of India cannot enforce any law connected with Jammu and Kashmir without the approval or concurrence of the State Government. Only defence, external affairs and communications fall in the Central's list. The Parliament has the powers to frame laws for rest of the states in the country. But Article 370 of the Constitution restricts the hands of the Union Government and the Parliament in doing this in case of Jammu and Kashmir. Its dangerous consequence has been witnessed in the past decades, when the law prohibiting misuse of religious places could not be extended to Jammu and Kashmir, with the result the state does not come within the ambit of secularism. And even after the independence the ignoble thing happened in Kashmir when hundreds of temples were destroyed and where people belonging to a particular community were victimised and subjected to cruelties. On the question of Ayodhya and the consequent Babri Masjid episode the Union Home Ministry had been issuing threats to the Uttar Pradesh Government and ultimately the Government was dismissed under the Article 356 of the constitution but this article cannot be implemented directly in Jammu and Kashmir.

There is only one system of citizenship for the people of India but in case of J&K, its dual citizenship, one of the state and the other of India. The citizens of J&K are citizens of India but the citizens of the rest of India cannot be citizens of J&K. If a girl belonging to J&K marries a boy from outside the state, who is not a state subject, she looses all her rights in the state. Even wealth tax cannot be imposed in the state. The Urban Land Act, 1976, which is in force in the entire country is not applicable to J&K. The result of this is that rich landlords, belonging to the majority community in the Valley, indulge in economic exploitation of the poor and the Indian citizens, who are non-state subjects and living in the valley, cannot even secure loans from the financial institutions.

It is quiet evident that Article 370 has not integrated J&K with India but it has delinked it. There in Kashmir is no place for secularism and nationalism in the mind of youth. The feelings of regionalism, communalism and separatism have developed in their mind. Instead of coming closer to the national mainstream, they have distanced themselves from it and have now started raking up the question of independence.

The ongoing row over the land transfer to Amarnath Shrine Board, too, is just a small consequence of this historical blunder, of including article 370 in the Indian Constitution. I am unable to understand why is it that Hindus cannot be allowed to have lands allotted for their religious purposes in Kashmir, when Muslims can have thousands of mosques anywhere in this country?

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Kishore Kumar's surge past Mohd. Rafi

Kishore Kumar's surge past Mohd. Rafi
By Susenjit Guha

A singer’s relevance and mass appeal long after he is dead and gone can be judged from the song track of commercials that break in between prime time soaps and serials.

Be it hair oil or fun munch companies, they still bank on a line or two from Kishore Kumar’s hit songs sung thirty or forty years ago to hook customers.

Had he been alive today, he would have been 79.

Did he have some magic in his voice which other great singers of his era lacked? Was he --- as believed by many of his fans---a freak genius?

Or, was he just in tune with the changing preferences of a new generation of movie goers?

Bombay films or Bollywood as it is known now, like Hollywood, always amplify and echo popular sentiments. Music was always synonymous with the story line and in sync with the principal characters. The present should not be confused with the past when musicians gave singers a much needed breather, not vice versa.

While conservative India gave stardom to Dilip Kumar and Raj Kapoor in the fifties, the closeted rebels itching to brace up found their hero in Dev Anand.

While most Raj Kapoor productions stuck to nasal Mukesh, Dilip Kumar and Dev Anand rode the crest with the melodious Mohd.Rafi.

Rafi had few parallels during his time.

In the late fifties and sixties when Errol Flynn look-alike Shammi Kapoor became India’s very own on screen Elvis Prestley commanding the highest signing amount as hero, Rafi’s songs made his films memorable. Nasir Hussain’s ‘Dil Deke Dekho’ made Shammi Kapoor a star because he could match his lip movements best with some of Rafi’s greatest fast paced numbers and was blessed with an excellent beat sense.

But during Mohd.Rafi’s heydays when Majrooh Sultanpuri and Hasrat Jaipuri penned the lyrics to the music of all time greats like O P Nayyar and Shankar Jaikishan, Dev Anand experimented with little known Kishore Kumar in his Navketan home productions. Another well known music director, S D Burman, another Dev Anand favourite, spotted raw talent in Kishore Kumar.

He was also a complete raw artiste who could sing, play comic roles and dance ahead of his time.
His songs went down well with the closeted rebels who finally swelled the tribes of Hindi film buffs and fans.

But it was some years after the numbers in ‘Guide’, ‘Gambler’ and ‘Padosan’ endeared a new set of fans to a fresh voice in tune with the late sixties, the single Kishore Kumar ‘Zindagi ek safar’ song sung onscreen by an unknown Rajesh Khanna in a guest appearance in the film ‘Andaz’, sent Shammi Kapoor into hibernation.

Mohd. Rafi, the voice behind Shammi Kapoor’s success sadly slipped to the second slot in playback singing soon after. It was said Shammi Kapoor’s fans, put off by his bulging mid-riff, left the cinema halls soon after the song.

And soon after, Shakti Samanta with ‘Aradhana’---the director, who like Nasir Hussain could feel the pulse of the audience---made a superstar of Rajesh Khanna and pushed Kishore Kumar up to the first slot which he occupied till his death in 1987.

They knew the right mix for a super hit movie.

Shakti Samanta repeated the scene from his 1960 Dev Anand-Waheeda Rahman starrer, Jab Pyar Kisise Hota Hai where the chart buster, Rafi’s Jiya o Jiya o Kuchh Bol Do was sung with the hero hanging out of the toy train and the heroine traveling alongside in a Dodge up the winding road to Darjeeling.

He kept the scene and location, but changed the position of the actors in ‘Aradhana’. Perhaps he thought 1969 demanded a makeover. Rajesh Khanna belted out the Kishore Kumar all time favourite ‘Mere Sapno Ki Rani’ from a jeep with Sharmila Tagore inside the toy train.

Mohd. Rafi was the ultimate in melody while Kishore Kumar was sonorous to the hilt.

The swinging 60’s emboldened the rebels in India who defined audience tastes for the next two decades. And they were not averse to yodelling in public.

Songs with a classical bent were passé as screen plays got bolder with heroes and heroines more relaxed enacting song sequences.

There was more action in movies. More heroes vied for attention as more money flowed into the film industry.

Kishore Kumar could adapt and put in the required punches in his songs to suit everyone. Producers, directors and financers found in him a recipe for return on their investments even if the lead artistes were little known.