What happens in Kashmir does not stay in Kashmir

This is guest post by Miss Manpreet Kaur Dhupia

A recollection of pictures, words, lyrics and poetry lingered throughout that one hour ten minutes flight; vivid and vivacious. These were not born out of my own physical touch or senses but were deep ingrained in thoughts by dictates of people around me. I knew there is a Shalimar Bagh, I knew there is a Dal Lake, I knew there is a Shikara, I knew there is an ethereal feeling; I had sensed it time and again, whenever anybody spoke about the land of valleys and snow. What I did not know was that the recollections would not give justice to what I was about to experience in the next two days.

Kashmir, my destination of dreams and long sustained wait.

A message from an office collegue sums up the entire gamut of expectations that build up when one steps on this land and of feelings that hold you for the rest of your life- “Welcome to Heaven”. A little laugh followed that reading and a big smile follows every memory of the place now.

“Are these houses? Do people really live here?” came the question when the drive from Srinagar airport to hotel showcased a series of wooden structures that exuded elegance and craftsmanship “Yes, we Kashmiris spend our lives on two things- food and building a house.” The statement was very generic but the pride which reflected was singular. The geography of the land insists wooded structures but for people who have grown up in the “flat and society building culture” it meant a feeling inexperienced. The structure of roads, of shops, of lanes , of people , of clothes –everything made me feel distant from the world that I left behind for sometime but so very close to the calmness and peace that the same world I left behind never gave me.

“Please do not venture out alone, it wont be safe. Call somebody to take you to wherever you have to go”. Words of wisdom that were shooted when I told people about my upcoming trip to Kashmir. Were the words wise? Yes , considering the disturbances that have engulfed the area. Were the words true? Not at all. Rickshaw rides on the unknown lanes were of a so called “disturbed area” were my little tribute to Zindagi Na Milegi Dubara spirit in my life!

Dont understand what was Shammi Kapoor praising more when he sung the most romantic Hindi movie song ever- ” Tarif karun kya uski jisne tumhe banaya”- beautiful Sharmila Tagore or the locale behind her; the locale of Dal Lake. If any character of Harry Potter wants to put his/her friend or foe on a stationery mode then why waste a charm or spell, that person should be brought here- the beauty and aura that surrounds the lake would just “stone” him/her. The movements that become out of water when Shikara passes through it are lyrical! One cannot just miss the serenity that suddenly surrounds you. The shopping in water was interesting, the tea break during the ride was refreshing and the sight of mountain range in the background was breathtaking. Did I feel the chaos of Delhi? No, did I feel the stampede of Delhi? No, did I feel the brashness of Delhi? No. Not a single moment spent in that calm reminded me of anything that I brace myself up to every minute of my life everyday.

Sopore, a small quiet town on the outskirts of Srinagar and on way to Baramullah. The orchids of apple and plums that are indigenous to the town made me feel the true sense of the word “flora”. They are your connection to a world unknown to city life- a world of natural food and trees. I will always fall short of words to describe the wonderful hospitality that embraced me that day. The love showered by the family was unconditional. My heartfelt thanks and respect to that family and all the other Kashmiri families who I know treat their guests in the same manner. One thing, did I see the efforts and preparations that went into making a guest comfortable and laying out the table for people? Yes, and trust me for the first time in my life I agreed and accepted that there are people who could beat Punjabis in hospitality!

The last day in the heavenly land saw me tagging behind my friend to have the fastest and largest tour of any city ever. Five hours down and I could beat any localite in describing the insides of University and four Mughal gardens. History lessons of school reappeared everytime a Mughal garden was explored. Shamilar, Nishat, Chama Shahi and Pari Mahal enthralled me to the core. God bless Mughals for giving these to us.

What was the most stand out thing I saw in Srinagar? Houses or Valleys/Mountains or People. Yes they were definitely charming and beautiful but what was most striking was the sense of reality that hit whenever I stepped out. No doubt a trip to Kashmir takes a person away from the madness of city life but one cannot ignore that Srinagar or any other city in Kashmir is just like any city in the country. I walked around the place alone and independently- nobody kidnapped me. It took my friend 1 hour to cover a distance of 30 mns- there was traffic jam in Srinagar (mild one though). I stepped over people and got stepped over too by them while walking on the lane beside DalLake- there were people all around the area-South Indians, Punjabis, Gujratis. I roamed around in Lal Chowk- no bomb exploded there. It was as real as leading a normal life in any town or city or megacity. The simplicity and beauty of Kashmiris and Kashmir distinguishes it from the crowd but Kashmiris and Kashmir are as true and real as are Delhites and Delhi or Mumbaikars and Mumbai. The stories of Kashmir made me wish for a trip to the place but the lores heard always described it as a land far out of reach and too ethereal to exist. It is true in terms of the blessings of nature that you see around but is untrue in terms of the experiences of everyday life and people that you get there.

A recollection of pictures, words, lyrics and poetry lingered throughout that one hour ten minutes flight; vivid and vivacious. This time the flight was taking me back to the crowded life but the recollections were born out of my own physical touch and senses, routed deep inside my heart and mind for ever. Proving a proverb incorrect, “What happens in Kashmir, doesn’t stay in Kashmir”.

The author is a Dehli based HR Professional and can be reached at @rimman

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Kashmir’s Healthcare Mess

During my college days (outside valley) I used to boast of Kashmir having the world class doctors. Whenever there was an argument with respect to valley not being able to sustain itself on its own, the quality of Kashmir’s doctors, leading to medical tourism, was always one of my key points for rebuttal. I would use the case of Cuba to prove my rebuttal, of how Cuba even being under U.S sponsored embargo (for almost 52 years now), became the world leader in healthcare, biotechnology, Cancer treatment, Drug research & development etc.

The first step towards the continuation of the tradition of producing world class doctors is the selection process. But of late some people have been able to bypass or fox the selection process through money, reach or appropriate connections. The people from this lot magically get transformed into a serial number on the qualified candidates list. All among us personally know at least one of these “Munna Bhai’s” , somehow we all expect the medical education system either to weed them out or make them well trained and educated for the profession they choose. What we can currently see of our healthcare has proved both these assumptions wrong, almost every serial number on the qualifying list sooner or later gets a degree and regarding making them better qualified for the profession I have my reservations.

Regarding the current status of Kashmir’s healthcare, there seems to be no better word to describe it then “Chaos”. Kashmir sans a proper referral system, which leads to overcrowding of the major hospitals or by the time the patient reaches a specialist precious time has been wasted. A patient even with minor ailments wants to visit the major hospital in Srinagar as no or few specialists are available at Sub District Hospitals (SDH).

Due to lack of Grass-root infrastructure couple of hospitals are being forced to coup up with the requirements of the whole state. It is humanly impossible to try to deliver healthcare services for a complete state/region through  couple of hospitals only. Even these highly vital hospitals are not well equipped to help our doctors perform their duties with out any hindrances . SHMS hospital’s CATH lab is ill equipped due to which all the procedure can’t be performed there despite one of the most renowned specialist being available. Recently patients died in SKIMS because oxygen supply was stopped due to some technical snag, the G.B Pant Children Hospital has recently transformed a graveyard for the want of ventilators and what can one say about Lal Ded Maternity Hospital, which happens to be Kashmir’s only Maternity Hospital!

Taking into consideration that every doctor in any major hospital is working extremely hard, at times working for at a stretch for 48 hours or more! We have to commend them for their excellent services. With everyday our doctors challenge the humanly limits, the least they deserve are “better working condition”.

Government needs to keep politics aside and help doctors and other stakeholders in improving Healthcare practices and infrastructure. We all know what happened to Dr. Shawl’s dream project of a super specialty cardiology hospital. If government instead of creating hurdles would had only ignored, not even supported or encouraged the initiative Kashmir would have a Cardiology Hospital by now. Who knows it might have even encouraged some other people to take some other initiatives, but now it is what deters them from making any such efforts.

Only encouraging private sector to invest in healthcare won’t solve the problem here, it is high time that this sector is regulated properly through laws and regulations, which should be implemented with rigorous zeal. The enactment of Drug policy with proper implementation seems to be a good beginning but we have a long way to go. We need to look into our medical education system, try to restore the past glory of Government Medical College, Srinagar, which in near future has too often come too close to de-reorganization from Medical Council of India. Unless we take thing as seriously as they are, a poor man will continue to pay with his blood and the saviors will continue to be enticed to embrace their darker side.

Many  people have been asking for banning of private practice of doctors, well it won’t be possible till there is a demand for it and there will always be demand. So why not try to better regulate private practice. As long as the doctors sincerely deliver their duties in their respective hospitals or places of posting, no one should have a problem with what they do after their duty hours. What needs to be looked into is the undue advantage that some doctors take of their position and reputation. Some well established and reputed doctors in Srinagar (and other towns) in their quest for a complete monopoly have trained their wards in complementary services like radiology or pathology and they don’t accept reports from any labs other than the ones they recommend. So among the family members a patient is sucked till the last drop of blood. May I ask what gives the doctors the right to declare all labs, other than their wards (or the one they recommended) to be pieces of junk. Can government dare to take some action against these affluent doctors? Why is government making any effort in raising the standard of Hospital Labs?

With each passing day healthcare is becoming costlier, every single J&K resident needs to be given access to a Health insurance. Government had started this initiative for its employees but suddenly it has lost all steam, May we ask why?

For this dismal state of Healthcare government is more responsible than doctors. The government’s apathy is such, that it many a times it sends rules and regulations flying through the window. In government hospitals we find Ayurvedic (Unani) doctors practicing homeopathic medicine, which happens to be completely against Supreme Court guide lines.

There is also no proper planning while identification of sites for new hospitals or even when implementing these projects. I would like to ask the government, pardon my language, who was the idiot who approved the construction of Unani (Ayurvedic) Hospital at the HMT chowk (square), didn’t he know that the road widening will happen. Does environment of one of the busiest squares on a national highway qualify for a site for any Hospital? Regarding how efficient our government machinery is in implementation of projects let’s take the example of Sub-district Hospital (SDH) Sopore, the founding stone of this hospital was laid in 1984 and still it has not been completed! Well we can say it confirms another entry for Sopore in Guinness Book of World Records, first one being for it’s yet to be completed by-pass bridge. SDH Sopore is operating through its OPD Block, which itself is not complete!

Coming back to comparison of Cuban Healthcare with that of Kashmir’s, there are many similarities (having large number of qualified, hardworking and intelligent doctors and paramedic staff etc) but there is one major difference that hinders our transformation into one of the leaders of healthcare and that is government will.

Also Appeared in The Kashmir Monitor http://kashmirmonitor.org/kashmonitor/05192012-ND-kashmir%E2%80%99s-healthcare-mess-26697.aspx

May Day, Mayday!

1st of May has been celebrated as a springtime festival since 13th century and later on from 1880 it also was celebrated as labor day, to give due recognition to the working people. Here in Kashmir we are not sure whether to celebrate it or not, we haven’t seen much of spring yet nor are we known for giving due reorganization to people for their work.
Since ages Kashmir has been very famous for its handicrafts, woodwork, paper-machie , silk, Saffron etc., but recently all these arts are dying a silent death. The taste of people has changed, the architecture has changed, priorities have changed and in the middle of all this change our culture is vanishing. The craftsmen have tried and are trying to survive this wave of change but the question is how much have the successive governments helped to promote these crafts. To summarize all the help that these skilful people have received nothing more should be required to be said then that these people are making every effort to make sure that their sons and daughters do not get into their father’s & grandfather’s trade. Recently a genius of a craftsman, the creator of “The Lonely Tree”, Khazir Mohammad Qasba, died but none noticed. With death of the masters, the death of art itself will follow and with it another part of our rich culture is destined to die a silent and lonely death.
In Kashmir the thinking minds and the able bodies are being exploited in open day light and nothing is being done about it. Well what can one do when the Government who is supposed to be the protector of week is actually facilitating this exploitation.  Government took the saying “something is better than nothing” a bit too seriously and the young generation is bearing the brunt. Teachers, agriculture graduates, forestry graduates etc (many a times even PhD’s) are being hired by government on temporary basis on remuneration of fifteen hundred rupees per month, yep you read it right just Rs 1500/-. This has acted as a blessing for the private players (NGO’s, Private companies etc) in the state, now they have made this remuneration amount as a benchmark. Teachers in private schools are being paid around Rs 3,000/- per month but the amount that these schools show to their benefactors and Government authorities (from whom they receive grants & Donations) is not less than Rs 10,000/- (as salary per teacher). It is an open secret not hidden from any one, but still no action is being taken against the perpetrators. The Labor Department who are supposed to take action against these violators of law is a just namesake department. Just outside the office of Labor Commissioner, Batamalo ,we can observe child labor; children are working in the mechanic shops, they are working as conductors / helpers in public transport vehicles. When the labor department is so blind to something in front of their eyes then how can we expect them to check whether “Shops & Establishments Act” or “Contract Labor Act” or “Remuneration Act” etc are being implemented and adhered to or not.
The government never lets an opportunity go begging when  it comes to claiming accolades (even for someone else’s work) but when it comes to punishing the corrupt, well a probe is setup and nothing more is done. This has had a very bad effect on the whole setup. Nothing moves forward unless you grease some palms. Now a day’s even the Jobs are on sale and there is a proper rate list. All this is being done unofficially but governments is even through its official policies promoting only certain class of people (elitist). The government is not providing equal opportunity to everyone to compete in competitive exams or in government jobs. The government uses High application fee for competitive exams and for applying in the government jobs as a deterrent. To describe the situation in a better way let me give a comparative example of fee structure for different posts and exams recently advertised by J&K PSC and UPSC:
Post/Exam
Recruiting Agency
Fee (RS)
IAS
UPSC
100
KAS
J&K PSC
800
Asst. Provident Fund Commissioner
UPSC
25
Court Manager
J&K PSC
400
IFS (exam stretched over 10 days)
UPSC
100
Asst. Surgeon (Veterinary)
J&K PSC
500
Now you can yourself see and compare the exaggerated charges that that J&K PSC is charging from the candidates (who do not have a source of income). It is a general concept among the youth of J&K that whenever the government doesn’t have funds to pay salary of it employees it advertises couple of posts and then forget about these post just to be remembered in time when most of those who had applied have become over-aged, then the process is repeated over again. An intelligent plan for a continuous source of income one can say.
Now coming back to the question whether to celebrate May Day or not, I think you all will agree that we here in Kashmir have nothing to celebrate. We can only cry Mayday hoping that someone will hear us, is anyone listening!

Kashmir’s Human Resources in Disarray!

A recent survey has revealed that Jammu and Kashmir has the highest rate of unemployment among the northern states of India. Unemployment in itself is a big monstrous problem but J&K, especially Kashmir is fighting against a bigger monster (violence and turmoil). More than often the state machinery portrays the first monster as the mother of the second monster, making it more important to tackle unemployment more seriously and in a proper way.

For any State which considers unemployment as its greatest nemesis the first step towards taking it head on would be setting up of an efficient and highly active Human Resource department. Well the state of Jammu & Kashmir has setup Human Resources Management units (HRM units)in five Govt. departments (Health and Medical Education, Power Development, Public Works, School Education, PHE, Irrigation and Flood Control) rather than a central department. The main aim with which these units have been formed is to exclusively look after seniority, promotion, vigilance cases etc in these departments. Well I would say it is an ill aimed move in the right direction and thus a waste of a very important resource. A well designed HR tool can take care of the seniority list or promotions list, these should had been add on activities of these units rather than exclusive. A better use of this resource would be made by employing them to fine tune the HR Policies of these departments, all the ruckus that arises in different departments regarding hiring or promotions is due to wrong or unclear HR policies, it would help in nipping bud at the base altogether . Recent report in an English daily (Greater Kashmir, published from Kashmir & Jammu) has revealed that as many as 18817 posts are vacant in 18 Govt department. Well this revelation puts a big question mark on Recruitment Agencies and makes the establishment of a central HR department altogether more important. The central HR department can decide and design HR policies for all the departments, do all the HR related work and at the time of hiring they should decide requisites of any job, based on ob analysis (eg qualification, experience etc required) and then forward it to recruitment agency for hiring (PSC or SSRB). This will result in better clarity, better coordination and better accountability (no blame game).

The second step would be to have a proper recruitment policy (in other words, hiring policy, which becomes first step of HR dept.). By recruitment policy I mean a proper well defined rules, who should be hired for what, which should be backed by logic & reason and should not be based on whimsical thinking or should not be twisted and turned for the benefit of near & dear ones. One can find umpteen number examples where the existing policy (in J&K) was twisted to give undue advantage to certain people. And at other times due to lack of clarity wrong people were (are) hired. It is said that the hardest part of job of a HR professional is to find an appropriate person for a job and hiring him. Well in J&K we seem to ignore the importance of this very basic fist step. It can happen only in Kashmir that for a post of labor officer candidate having a degree other than MBA-HR (one who has studied Labor welfare & law)is given preference or where for teaching a management subject the corporate experience is given no importance Or where a student from Barkatullah University (localy known as BOPO) or Dehradun is given preference over a student from Kashmir University or Jammia Millia or Jammia Hamdard or Aligarh Muslim University etc ! More recently the J&K public service commission advertised for the post of Court Manager and MBA set as the required qualification. But again due to lack of clarity problems seem to arise, the PSC authorities are very reluctant in accepting applications from candidates who have PGDM (Post Graduate Diploma in Management) which is approved by the AICTE ( All India Council for Technical Education) . MBA degree can only be awarded by a University and PGDM is awarded by autonomous education institutes, even the IIM’s don’t award MBA they too award PGDM! This needs to be addressed immediately.

Let us try to understand the recruitment procedure (mostly followed by SSRB, Universities, Colleges, Schools and other Private Companies in J&K) for any post in any department in J&K; be it Govt, non-Govt, Permanent or contractual. The first step of the recruiting agency is to advertise for the post, in the notification itself it is mentioned that the selections will be on the basis of merit and then details the distribution of Marks for different aspects are listed as such:

Degree Marks
Phd 5
M.Phil 3
B.Ed 15
Masters 10
Interview 20

Now when the response in form of applications come in overwhelming numbers, the recruitment agency has to come out with a short list (merit list) as to who have qualified for interview. Now it seems to be a good policy, but what we don’t pay attention to is how this short listing is done. For short listing they take in to consideration the percentage of the qualifying degree, with out taking into consideration from which ( college or university) the degree has been earned from . Well we all are well aware and understand that all education institutions can’t stand on the same pedestal in terms of their student selection process or education imparted there after. So now I ask you is short listing on basis of only percentage (when students of Prist etc have marks %age well above 80 even 90, while students from reputed college only lay between 70-80 ) a good way of gauging talent. Now let me put it this way, can a student who competed on all India level to get admission in a certain college be held equal to a student from PTU (Punjab technical University) or PRIST or any other such institute, wouldn’t it account to being unjust. I am not saying that students from PTU etc are not good enough, what I am trying to convey is don’t mix cream with rest because after wards if you try to search for cream it would be same as searching for a needle in heap of hay. The process directly reflects in the quality of the employees that are being hired by different department, these are same people who are entrusted to serve the public in general, Teach our kids in schools & Colleges, sit in chairs of high responsibility and decide what is good for us and what not. Now taking into consideration the far reaching effects that a wrong person can have on the society at large, who would you want the responsibility to be bestowed on?

A better way to deal with this problem is by clubbing different college or universities into groups (Tiers) (A,B,C,D). Then at the time of short listing or selection process giving preference to the students from upper most tiers. Now you would say that the process of forming this list (Tiers) is time consuming and needs discretion as to which college should be included into which tier. To all those people who have this question in mind would like to tell them, well somebody else has already done this hard work for us we just need to compile. NAAC & AICTE (many other private bodies) give recognition and ratings to colleges and universities. We can make use any one of them or a mixture, but the thing that needs to be kept our mind is what ever we choose should be able to satisfy our needs, if not completely then most of our needs. Later on when the Human Resource Department of our state is competent and efficient enough we can make our own list. Where ever need for screening test is felt & is feasible, it can be included in the whole process.

This will increase the quality of the new hires drastically thus slowly having an affect on the over all working of the whole Govt. and Non-Govt. apparatus. This will make the whole procedure more just and transparent. To make this system more effective it needs to be communicated in a very robust way to all the stake holders. And hopefully we will see less litigation after any selected candidate list is released, thus time and resources will be saved. The bright minds will stop cursing themselves for working hard and getting admissions in good colleges and Universities. I am not claiming that this is the Solution of all that is wrong but over all this can be the first step towards the adoption & implementation of the world renowned Human Resource Policies in J&K.

This Article also appeared in “The Kashmir Monitor” http://www.kashmirmonitor.org/kashmonitor/04012012-ND-kashmirs-human-resources-in-disarray-23803.aspx

The Loss of Pain

This article was first published in Bloggers Park (Jan 2012, edition)

It is a weekend and to add icing on top it is new year’s eve (the last weekend of year 2011) and where am I; in Kashmir’s biggest hospital (SKIMS), among the dead and those waiting to be. You would say I don’t have a life, yep true my life doesn’t matter the last time I managed to run a check. I Am a Kashmiri and to make things worse a Muslim, not a good combination to have in this part of the world!

 

This particular hospital is very famous (or should I say infamous) among the Kashmiri’s, a local (kind of) legend has grown around this hospital according to which, “from here either you leave cured or you leave dead”. Some sections of the society blame this particular characteristic on the name itself {Sheri (Loin of) Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences}. Many a times the issue of name change has been raised and there was once Shakespeare saying, “What is in the name”. In this hospital almost every 6 hours there are couple of deaths in a ward.Here I saw people wailing over there dead and the whole atmosphere of ward, with almost 50 other patients, turning very gloomy and heavy and at the same time a small room in the corner is upbeat with smiles flying around and smiles turning into laughs occasionally due to some funny joke being shared. This upbeat room belongs to no other but the doctors! You might be thinking, how unsympathetic, rude and ill-mannered our doctors are. But the question that is rising in my mind is, “How and what made these people so immune to other peoples pain?”

 

This same question had risen in my mind couple of months ago when Amnesty International in its report had disclosed the discovery of the Mass Graves in Kashmir valley and the subsequent response shown by the international fraternity, politicians and the media at large. Even the general masses behaved as if nothing significant had been uncovered. Is it because the people have seen too much bloodshed and no amount of killings will move them now or is it because of the fact that these deaths didn’t affect them personally? While I was brooding over this, there came another possible reason, perhaps people were just too busy earning their livelihood and making ends meet. The later seemed to be more logical and human, as I couldn’t accept the first two causes which would simply mean that we no longer are humans! Accepted the fact that the masses are fighting for their livelihood and hardly have time for anything else, what happened to the institutions which the masses had entrusted for upholding the social and human morality. It seems that these institutions (elected representatives, NGO’S, Media etc) have themselves become morally corrupt and chose economics over morality. All chose not to speak about it, but when someone else (Mr. Steve Baker, British parliamentarian) tried to highlight the issue and bring it in notice of the world fraternity the Indian Parliament raised the issue of their authority of discussing India’s internal issue (even when India is the largest beneficiary of British foreign aid) rather than discussing the issue itself! And simultaneously with help of some jokers an attempt (I must say a successful one) was made to divert the attention in some different direction by raising some non issues like, Cinema’s, Liquor and skillfully transforming them into issues, they also raised some genuine only to help them in diversion like AFSPA . So what do we do when entrusted breach our trust; we introspect a little, take the reins in our hands and show them that we can’t be taken for a ride.

 

Whenever I hear the term Mass Grave in no instance the scenes from the movie “Behind the enemy lines” flash in front of my eyes. The movie got 1 award and 2 nominations because of good acting by Owen Wilson & co. and the importance of the issue which it brought among the masses. Now trying to bring forth magnanimity of the issue in Kashmir let me put forth some figures and facts. The Issue of Mass Graves in Kashmir is not a standalone issue but with it is entangled the issue of torture and enforced disappearance. When we talk about torture it is the most underreported phenomenon in Kashmir, it seems that both authorities and people have accepted it as a norm. If you go to any village almost every single person has been tortured be it physically or emotionally not just men but women, children and even old. I happened to read recently about the torture of a 60 year old man on www.projectcensored.org narrated by Parvaiz Khurram, Liaison of the International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Indian-Administered Kashmir (IPTK), “I have documented very horrible cases, but this is the most horrible.” The army kept a 60-year-old man in solitary confinement for one month. During that time, he wasn’t given anything to eat, but his own flesh. They cut the flesh from his body and served it to him. This was all he was given to eat for a month. Recounting the torture Parvaiz said, “This was something that shook me. We have hundreds of Guantanamo Bays here. Why is nobody talking about it?” there are more gruesome stories like these; Kunan Poshpora: a village, where woman were mass raped by Indian army

http://www.thekashmirwalla.com/2011/03/kunan-poshpora-a-forgotten-tragedy/,

Sopore Massacre on 6th Jan 1993 http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,977469,00.html

These are only a few and there are many more but the thing is who will report them to you!

 

In July 2011, the State Human Rights Commission of Jammu and Kashmir (SHRC) released a report documenting 2,156 (according to Amnesty the number is 2700) unidentified bodies in 38 graveyards People are fearing that the dead in the mass graves are those who were reported disappeared (enforced disappearance) and to add to their fears 574 bodies (out of 2700) have been already identified as disappeared locals – 17 of these have already been exhumed and shifted to family or village grave sites. So if we are to deduce that all the disappeared people found their way to mass graves then the numbers are going to increase many folds, almost 8000 people have been reported disappeared till now. Recently more mass graves have been identified and investigation regarding them has started. Here would like to mention that till 2004, 16500 bodies were recovered from mass graves in Bosnia (considered to be this centuries holocaust, even a movie “Behind enemy lines” was made regarding this issue). Now you can imagine the magnanimity of the issue and amount of human rights violations that is happening in Kashmir. Even now should we turn a blind eye and accept anything and everything in the name of national interest and security. Don’t you feel that it is our moral duty to raise our voice against the injustice and human rights violations?

 

It will not be wise to blame security forces only for all the rights violations (Mass Graves) out and out; no doubt they are responsible and should be held accountable but there are others equally responsible. If the media had showed a little bit of interest and investigated the story a bit they would have added a new dimension to the story. They didn’t do it that doesn’t mean we can’t do it, so let us try to retrace the footsteps leading to Mass graves. As the mass graves and enforced disappearance are linked so following one should reveal something about the other. If we try to figure when did people start disappearing (or when did the process of disappearances intensify, at the same time let me clarify the process is yet to cease) it overlaps with the birth of Ikhwan (the dreaded pro Govt. brigade). Now let’s try to answer another question who created Ikhwan and we reach the erstwhile people who are in power even now in the state. So it is not so surprising after all to figure why they created a comedy circus to divert and distract the attention from the burning issue of Mass Graves. They were trying to cover the footprints which led to their home.

 

Even after all this pondering was not able to figure what made the doctors immune to others pain. Finally gave up my so called intellectual quest and decided to ask a Doctor. So I went ahead and shot the question, “how & what makes you so immune to others suffering?” bemused , staring at me, doctor not knowing what to say say he could just utter “What!!!” so understanding that he never expected this question, I slowly broke it down to him exactly what and why I want to know. So doctor took some time and finally said that it is due the combination of a lot of things; during degree it is made sure that you don’t freak out seeing a dead body so you are given a lot of exposure wrt dead bodies and experiments, then when you join hospital as an intern you have long, hectic work hours and you tend to work on lot of seriously ill people all of whom don’t make it. It is sort of conditioning, which is very necessary to make you emotionally strong as it is very much needed in this profession. Hope we as a society are not being treated to same sort of conditioning by the media and other institutions to make us emotionally strong and with a promise that we are going to enjoy the loss of pain!

Kashmir’s Eternal Wait For The Leader

Kashmir has been a crown of thorn for India and a thorn stuck in throat of Pakistan, still none wants to give it up. Both countries fought two full fledged battles for the sake of Kashmir. Now as none can afford another war, Kashmir has transformed into a stick with which both beat each other. In this whole process everybody seems to have forgotten Kashmiri’s, no one talks about the people who have been caught in the middle. It seems that it is the land & resources that everyone wants.

The War for water is not a future scenario anymore, Kashmir is the stage of one the biggest such war’s, only the tactics have changed. India would like to have complete control over all the rivers flowing into Pakistan through Kashmir and thus be able to dictate terms to Pakistan. Pakistan on the other hand at no cost can afford to be reduced to a puppet and to be left at the mercy of India. So we can say that the game is same only the conventional weapons are no more being used.

The departure of Kashmiri’s from the world’s or even from the sub-continental cousin’s focal point has shoved them into oblivion. There are many reasons for this, but one of the most glaring one is the lack of leadership among Kashmiri’s.

{Kashmir is remembering Maqbool Bhat, the founding leader of the Kashmir Movement who was hanged by Indian authorities in Tihar Jail, under controversial circumstances on 11 February 1984 and buried there only. Ever since people of Kashmir have been demanding the return of the mortal remains of their Leader but Indian authorities seem to be so afraid of what Bhat stood for that they can’t even afford his dead body to leave Tihar Jail, thus making him an eternal prisoner of Indian Democracy.}

Kashmir has transformed from a solvable dispute into a sort of Hilbert’s Problem because of the earnest efforts of the Leaders (Indian, Pakistani & Kashmiri). The paradox of the forgotten conflict is that it is one of the least represented conflicts and yet every Tom, Dick, Harry presents himself as the well wisher of the godforsaken people of Kashmir. With time the three parties of the conflict have added many sub groups and each group having its own point of view, thought process, of the conflict. Thus there no more are only three parties to conflict (in a micro sense), this has only complicated the issue.

From time to time, need for unification of Kashmiri Leadership has been felt. And on days like today (when someone has said something that is not being appreciated and media adds fuel to fire, Maqbool Bhat Day, Martyr’s Day etc.) the topic of Kashmiri Leadership becomes talk of the town. People of Kashmir know the importance and value of leadership, but still Kashmir is divided, Kashmiri Leadership is divided. After Shaikh Abdullah Kashmir has not seen a Leader who could unify people behind him like he did, people followed him with an unwavering belief (what he did with that belief that is secondary). Since then Kashmir is waiting for its leader.

Why has the wait been eternal? For that, the mental (Psychological) status of Kashmiri’s needs to be into account in addition to socio-political. The people of Kashmir have seen some great betrayals. Many a times the hopes of the people have been raised sky high only to be smashed. These betrayals have made people apprehensive of the every person who presents himself as their Savior. Kashmiri’s have evolved to believe that for them to survive they have to trust none. Such an environment puts extra pressure on the genuine people and at times the pressure & scrutiny is so intense that people find it feasible to bail out mid way rather than carry on. Public seems to be only waiting for any flimsy issue to raise its head and it is good enough reason for declaring him/her a traitor. So under such condition; where people are afraid of another betrayal, another sellout, the wait is meant to be eternal unless for any divine intervention!

Also appeared in “The Kashmir Monitor” http://kashmirmonitor.org/05122012-ND-kashmir%E2%80%99s-eternal-wait-for-the-leader-26261.aspx

Kashmir A Fire Ball In The Making!

From time to time in history there has been a call raised by people who cared (or seemed to care) for Culture, Architecture, Language and even Religion. The call has always been, “back to basics”. This call can be heard in Kashmir these day’s, in fact the tone of the call is too aggressive to qualify to be called a “Call”.

Kashmir has always presented itself as a place where religious tolerance is taken seriously, even Mahatma Gandhi accepted this when during partition riots he said that he saw the only ray of hope coming from Kashmir.

During Ramadan this year I was in Kashmir after a long duration of almost five years. When Iftar time (time for breaking fast) came I realized a lot had changed since the last time I was here during Ramadan. I was confused about when I was supposed to break my fast, on hearing which azaan (call for prayer) was I supposed to allow my lips to touch first drops of water for the day. Later I was to discover that this was just the tip of the ice-berg. The whole Kashmiri society was subtly in conflict with itself or to put it more appropriately, it is in conflict with a younger self (the generation-next, mostly).

Kashmir has been centre or hub of Suffism for centuries (most refer to suffism as the moderate form of Islam), it has had its effects on how the people of the valley perceive & practice Islam. There are certain practices [like Duaye Subuh; special morning prayer supplement etc.] prevalent in Kashmir which can not be found in any part of the world. All (majority of) such practices can be traced to some suffi saint. Now the new generation (a sizeable number & growing continuously) with all the worldly knowledge at its fingertips, thanks to internet and other technologies, is kind of rebelling against all these practices and are even declaring these un-Islamic. This has created kind of rift among the old and young. Old people are of the opinion that the younger generation doesn’t respect them or the suffi saints and the younger generation feels that the older generations were sheer ignorant with little or no religious knowledge, what ever they had been practicing for ages is un-Islamic. Thus leading a call for back to basics from these energetic young people, so as to correct all that has been going wrong.

People who are well versed with Islamic history know that this is not something absolutely new, from time to time there have been similar calls but the only thing that seems to have changed are the people and their way of approach. The religious scholars of the earlier times would bring the conflicting parties together at a single platform and try to discuss the problem, if possible hammer out a compromise (that is how the Sunni’s became the largest firqa/ sect amongst Muslims). currently in Kashmir with this conflict raging on subtly (for now), are there any scholars or intellectuals of such intellect and caliber who can facilitate this discussion in a proper and appropriate way, so as to stop the intoxication of young minds with hatred against fellow Muslim brothers and avoid a blood bath in future (as we are seeing happening in Pakistan on daily basis; bombings of mosques and other religious places).

With no one seemingly concerned about this, thus avoiding acceptance of existence of a problem in society, the future doesn’t seem to be too bright. We can only hope that the scholars and intellectuals realize the gravity of the situation and decide to address it other wise the ray of hope which had given Ghandi hope, may be soon turned in to a big fire ball!!!!