Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Kashmir's Padma Awardee Caught in Rights Violation Row


Amidst nationwide raging controversy on the most coveted national civilian honours, the name of one of three Padma awardees from Jammu and Kashmir is in soup for his alleged dubious past. In wake of a dominant cry against selection of a former militant turned counter-insurgent for national honours, the state government has distanced from the controversy with Chief Minister Omar Abdullah saying that no recommendation was made for Ghulam Mohammad Mir who has been nominated for Padmashree in public ‘service category’.
Opposition PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti accused the National Conference for allegedly patronizing those commit human rights violations. State Government’s recommendation for Padma award to a person who has been involved in a number of cases authenticate that this regime has been repeating the same blunders which was earlier committed by the previous National Conference from 1996 to 2002. “It was also after recommendation of State Government that Ghulam Mohammed Mir, a counter insurgent who has been involved in a number of cases of extortion, kidnapping and killings, has been conferred with such a prestigious award”, she said and pointed such irresponsible act of the State Government reflects that this regime has not learnt any lesson. “This acts is like rubbing salt on the wounds of people of Kashmir”, she observed.
Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, however, tried to distance himself from controversy saying, “the State Government has not recommended his name for the award. A militant turned counter insurgent Ghulam Mohammed Mir alias Mumkana of Magam, has been conferred with Padamshree award on this year’s Republic Day.
Omar said, “I am not aware about his recommendation for the award. It is possible that he his name might be recommended at personal level by someone.” “I inquired from the senior officer of the State and it has become clear that no recommendations were made for awarding Padamshree award to the said individual”, he clarified.
He, however, regretted, “Unfortunately there are already controversies about screening of this award through out the country which required wider discussions. Omar disclosed that his government had recommended the name of Rukshana Kousar for the bravery award. “Rukshana was not recommended for Padma award,” he said.
In a statement issued here today, president of PDP Mehbooba Mufti said that State Government’s recommendation for Padma award to a person who has been involved in a number of cases authenticate that this regime has been repeating the same blunders which was earlier committed by the previous National Conference from 1996 to 2002. “It was also after recommendation of State Government that Ghulam Mohammed Mir, a counter insurgent who has been involved in a number of cases of extortion, kidnapping and killings, has been conferred with such a prestigious award”, she said and pointed such irresponsible act of the State Government reflects that this regime has not learnt any lesson. “This act is like rubbing salt on the wounds of people of Kashmir”, she observed.
In the midst of this, Mir wonders why he was being dragged into a controversy. "My name has been mentioned in one FIR of a mine blast. The case has never been proved."
"But what I can prove with full documents is saving the lives of former minister Khemlata Wakhloo, former MP Mir Magami and two foreigners besides busting several militant hideouts," claims Mir whose house Central Kashmir is guarded by one full company (100 personnel) of CRPF.
Mir, whose brother and nephew were killed by militants as part of a revenge plan, said that the police certificate mentions that he had no role to play in militancy.
He said his son had been shot twice and "what is hurting is that today I stand as a culprit and am being asked questions as to what is my contribution to the country."
When contacted, Habibullah said he had supported his case for the Padma Shri as he had been a great support to him in his anti-militancy drive during his tenure as the Divisional Commissioner of Kashmir.
Habibullah was the Divisional Commissioner of Kashmir between February 1990 to June 1991 and second time between July to November 1993.
The CIC said that he had no issues in recommending his name because of the services rendered by him. "Rest, I believe we all make recommendations. There is always a proper background check done before giving the award," he added.
Mir also named Girsih Chander Saxena and several former Directors General of Police of the state who had acknowledged his services in fighting the militancy.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

PDP calls for resumption of Kashmir dialogue, effective governance

Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Democratic Party headed by Mufti Mohammad Sayeed had this year’s first meeting of its legislators in Jammu on Saturday, January 30. The meeting passed a two point resolution asking the government of India to revive Kashmir dialogue and asking the state government to put its acts together for effective governance. The meeting was chaired by party president Mehbooba Mufti Below is full text of resolutions:

Peoples Democratic Party expresses deep concern at the continued freeze of peace process in the wake of terrorist atrocities in Mumbai and calls upon government of India to respond positively to the yearnings of peace and conflict resolution in South Asia.
The Central Executive of the party notes with anguish the current diplomatic exchanges between the governments of India and Pakistan that convey the impression of a cold war and feels it could have a negative impact on the situation in and around Jammu & Kashmir. Along with an apparent hardening of postures the recurrence of ceasefire violations across LOC and international border and increased incidence of violent actions within the state create a recipe for a throwback to pre 2003 situation which needs to be prevented. J&K having been at the receiving end of situations like that is obviously looking at the scenario with an element of strong disapproval.
Rededicating itself to the cause of a permanent resolution of the issue of Jammu & Kashmir, the PDP feels there is no substitute to a process of structured dialogue that should be insulated against actions of the enemies of peace, individuals or groups. The party feels that the composite dialogue process between India and Pakistan should be restarted without delay to respond to the call of history.
The party views with hope and a positive outlook the proposed initiative of the government of India to address the internal dimension of the issue of Jammu & Kashmir as articulated by the home minister of India. But the party is impelled to strike a note of caution. It feels that an honourable solution that satisfies people residing in all the three regions of the state should be the objective of this exercise and not mere dialogue to lead the participants to yet another dead end that has happened in the past. PDP calls upon the government of India to seek and ensure participation of all the major stake holders in the dialogue process which should be credible, sublime and result oriented.

Peoples Democratic Party is deeply disturbed by the crisis of governance faced by the state for the last one year and calls upon the government to put its act together before it is too late.
The Party Central Executive after discussing the situation that prevails in the state feels, with pain and concern, that the government led by the National Conference has failed in living up to even the bare minimum expectations of people. The government has let loose its instruments of suppression on the people instead of providing them an honest and efficient administration. The law and order situation is once again a cause of worry and the human rights disaster is only getting compounded with innocents losing life property and self respect.
The party notes that the development works have at best become cosmetic exercises restricted to ribbon cutting and suffer from lack of perspective and supervision. In spite of receiving huge dozes of funds there is an unprecedented financial crunch with most schemes started by the previous coalition government being pushed to backburner. The government has been in almost a running battle with its employees for one reason or the other and most issues are being tackled on the streets and through force rather than on the table.
PDP cautions the government against the increasing levels of alienation among the people as a result of its anti people policies, corruption and non governance. The disappearance of power, water and even food items from the government system for the last one year has not only thrown people into a vortex of miseries but has ominous portents for the politically volatile nature of the state. The people, who voted in the last elections against heavy odds and in great numbers had reposed their immense faith in the democratic system which the PDP feels has been grossly betrayed.
Failure of the government to deliver could come at a heavy price to the confidence of the people which the PDP had helped repair with great effort after 2002, the party places on record with utmost regret.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Kashmir CM Omar is concerned over rising corruption

Epilogue Blog Writer
Chief Minister Omar Abdullah says that he does not intend to create an anti-graft hullabaloo campaign but will not tolerate corruption defaming name of Jammu and Kashmir State at national level.
A strong critic of the regimes of his predecessors Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and Ghulam Nabi Azad when Jammu and Kashmir “clinched top positions on corruption”, Omar said corruption has to be eradicated in a systemic manner with apolitical approach and means. He asked officials to ensure that the state does not get the ignominy of being named the most corrupt.
The Chief Minister asked officers of the State Vigilance Commission, the anti-graft agency in the state, not to allow that day to appear in Jammu and Kashmir's calendar.
Omar Abdullah, who during his role as president of the then opposition National Conference had criticized the Peoples Democratic Party-Congress rule for its failure to check corruption in the state. Transparency International listed the state as number two among the most corrupt states, and Abdullah was equally ruthless in denouncing this tag at a conference of vigilance officers in Jammu.
"The fact of the matter is that Jammu and Kashmir has been listed as number two among the most corrupt 22 states in India and I am afraid that if this trend continues that day is not far off when J&K would be on the top of the list."
"That is not acceptable to me at all," the chief minister said in a stern tone.
Omar chose the occasion of the Vigilance Officers' Conference to give vent to his feelings, as reports continue to pour in of corrupt practices of officers and some ministers.
As president of the ruling National Conference and in his role as the main opposition voice, he had been severely critical of the Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and Ghulam Nabi Azad governments for allowing corruption to peak.
Issuing a wake-up call to vigilance officers, the chief minister said firmly Thursday that corruption needs to be checked effectively and the Vigilance Commission needed to gear itself to the task.
Asserting that eradication of corruption is on the top of his agenda, Chief Minister said that whether it is a question of issuing minor license, ration cards, state subject certificates or execution of small or mega works, the corrupt elements use all these public-oriented works as the means of their corruption. ‘I will be happier when big trap is executed where high profile corrupt elements are caught red handed while receiving lakhs of rupees under the table/. He said he as the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir State will ensure that no political patronage is given to any such corrupt person.
The Chief Minister said that corrupt elements are being charged and suspended, but later on they maneuver their return back to their position. However, he said that law is required to be amended in such a manner that from the first day of charge against them they do no find any entry back in the services. He lamented that in case it is true that some transfers in some departments take place after paying bribe then it is time for the Vigilance Department to apprehend such persons without any delay.
Omar advised Vigilance Department to remain highly alert on this account and detect such people without any hesitation adding that they will have full support from his side for apprehending such persons.
The Chief Minister said that one should realize that the person is innocent till proved guilty and added that mere allegations are not proof against a person to declare him corrupt one. Therefore, Vigilance Officers have to make thorough probe meticulously in depth, study in all cases of corruption and ensure that their cases are strong enough, based on full-proofs so that the State is able to prove its case in the judiciary and succeed in penalizing such persons through judicial practices and seize the benefits and property accumulated by them through corrupt process.
The Chief Minister said that on every last Thursday of January and last Thursday of July DVOs Conference should be held so that substantive progress made during the period should be discussed and highlighted. He said that involvement of mass media has also become necessary as battle against corruption can be fought on pages of newspapers and small screen of TVs and channels as well so that people start hating corruption as well as corrupt elements.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Interview with Nyla Ali Khan

A new scholastic work on Kashmir, “Islam, Women and the Violence in Kashmir: Between India and Pakistan” is a book, first of its kind written by any Kashmiri woman scholar who goes through hundreds and thousands of pages of history, travels across length and breadth of the state and revisits the hearts and minds of the key players and eye witnesses to tell the world the story of Kashmir. The Author, NYLA ALI KHAN, until recently a Professor of English at University (now on move to Oklahoma University) in United States, says her book is a tribute to the resilient spirit of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. In an interview to ZAFAR CHOUDHARY, the author talks about the motivation behind this book and the work she plans to carry on Kashmir in near future. Here are excerpts:

Since your book “Islam, Women and the Violence in Kashmir: Between India and Pakistan” hit the bookstalls, it is being described by readers and reviewers as first of its kind. First in depth study by a woman…. first thorough study of the tragedy of Kashmir” etc. How is it first of its kind?

Although there is a plethora of richly nuanced books on the complexity of the Kashmir issue, Islam, Women, and the Violence in Kashmir, is the first book written by a Kashmiri woman from an interdisciplinary perspective seeking to challenge the hegemony of statist versions of history and foreground the versions of history that have been relegated to the background. My book, Islam, Women, and the Violence in Kashmir: Between India and Pakistan is a labour of love into which I put my heart and soul. It is an interdisciplinary work in which I have deployed not just literary analysis but political critique; history as a revisionist project; erosion of the cultural syncretism of J & K; significance of retrieving our rich cultural heritage and building a whole new edifice on our legacy; role of lay women during the awakening of nationalist sentiment in J & K in 1931, during the resurgence of the separatists movement in 1989, the increase in gender violence because of the brutal militarization of the State; and finally, the nuclearization of J & K. I have used self-reflexive and historicized forms, drawn on my heritage and kinship in Kashmir in order to explore the construction and employment of the Kashmiri political and cultural landscape, and gender in secular nationalist, religious nationalist, and ethnonationalist discourses in J & K.

In my book, I seek in the collision of modernity and communal memory a horizontal relationship producing intersectional spaces between different cultural realities, times, and ways of reflecting upon the construction of my own subjectivity. I have tried to underscore the dire need to retrieve and renew contact with our national culture but also recognize the dangers of mythologizing historical and cultural pasts. Acknowledging our complicity in oppression, reconceptualizing paradigmatic structures, and mobilizing cultural and political coalitions is riddled with conflict but it is the need of the day for us to engage in these processes, in doing which I have employed all my energies.

It appears, unlike most of the members of your family, you are scholar first and then anything else. What was the primary motivation for writing this book?

First off, the interdisciplinary approach in my book is designed to help readers think critically and constructively about the ethical implications of various approaches to research selection, evidence gathering techniques, inextricable link between social power and structures of inequity, and the production of knowledge. The reprehensible endeavours of the Indian and Pakistani establishments to rewrite history impelled me to undertake the book-length study of the politically tumultuous situation in the state of J & K which has led to an increase in gender-based violence. In my book I have made an honest attempt my to provide my interviewees with a legitimate forum at which they voice their political, cultural, and social ideologies without fear of reprisal or erasure. The ethnographic field research, which I undertook, was a method of seeking reconnection by simultaneously belonging to, and resisting, the discursive community of traditional Muslim Kashmiri and Gujjar rural women. I was further motivated by the desire to critically observe the sociopolitical discourse in Kashmir through from the margins instead of from an elitist center. My goal was to engage in reflective action as an educator working with diverse cultural and social groups. I wanted to examine the systems that have generated the culture of silence, in which the political elite has been complicit.

“…… Kashmir: Between India and Pakistan”, the title clearly suggests Kashmir a victim, in equal parts, of India and Pakistan. This is contrary to the popular perception, at least in Kashmir valley. Your comments

Kashmir is a parchment on which various discourses, nationalist, ethnonationalist, secular nationalist, Islamist, militaristic, have been inscribed and reinscribed for several decades. Since the dawn of the Independence and Partition of India, the aspirations of the people of J & K have gone unheard in the cacophony of the vacuous political rhetoric voiced by Indian and Pakistani mainstream politicians, who have made no bones about their myopic political agendas and political strings attached to any developmental aid given to J & K. The long history of discriminatory treatment of the populace of J & K, the discriminatory nature of which was further aggravated by the visibility of their perceived difference of, has created a negative self-image in many Kashmiris, which hasn't been redressed by the militarization of the region. Kashmiris have time and again attempted to chart a viable course in the choppy waters of duplicitous subcontinental politics but have always been subjected to political and social constraints. We still have a long way to go in recognizing the dire consequences of trauma brought on by political turmoil, military brutality, the dadagiri of militias and paramilitary divisions of the police, and fear psychosis created by such happenings. There are people who do not have recourse to the judicial and administrative machinery. It is unfortunate that the more unaccountable state-sponsored agencies have become in J & K, the more aloof and gluttonous our bureaucratic, military, and administrative machinery has become. The culture of impunity has grown around India and Pakistan like nobody's business. Given the reality of the two nation-states, I emphasize that it is upto us, the people of J & K, to bring about restitution in a war-weary and battle-ravaged society. We cannot confuse the idea of the nation with the practices and power of the nation-states of India and Pakistan.

You have depended significantly on the oral history. You met people and have named them. After all your family is also an essential part of Kashmir's history. Who do you relied most (in the family) on in gathering information for your work.

History is not a seamless narrative in which all the pieces effortlessly fit together. On the contrary, History with a capital “H” is replete with gaps, omissions, erasures, and strategic manipulations. The use of oral history in my book addresses the complex ways in which challenges to an established or state-sponsored discourse might be voiced from the periphery, which recognizing the power of centrist discourses to defang the theory and practice of resistance.

While researching I was fortunate to have access to the priceless archival material collected by my maternal uncle Sheikh Nazir Ahmad, who was a young and zealous political activist during the heyday of the Plebiscite movement and was persecuted during the autocratic repression of the autonomous status of J & K. He has a well-developed sense of the various historical discourses, dominant and peripheral, which have been inscribed, erased, and reinscribed on the political and sociocultural matrices of Kashmir. I also talked with Ghulam Mohammad Shah sahib about the nationalist awakening in J & K in the 1930s and later the duplicitous policies implemented by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and his ilk to break the revolutionary spirit in the State. My mother, Suraiya Ali Matto, who spent invaluable time with Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah sahib while he was in externment in Kodaikanal from 1965 until 1968, reminisced about that period. Last but not least, my father, Mohammad Ali Matto, was generous with the scholarly materials in his library and enriched me with narratives of the consciousness movement, beautifully interweaving the personal with the political and social.

One of the good things about you book is that it originates from margins and touches upon perspectives of varied hues. You are essentially from elitist background. How you have able to keep yourself away from your background in leading with objectivities.

Working on my book enabled me to critically appraise political, cultural, and social discourses which my locations of privilege hadn't allowed me to question previously. I have been conscious of the limited representations in some other works on Kashmir which reflect the power relations between those who represent and those who are represented. For me, my maternal grandfather, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah sahib, has always been a larger than life figure, whom I revere. I question some of his political decisions but am fully cognizant of the collision of the ideas of self-determination, identity, and unity propounded by the young members of the Reading Room Party and the Plebiscite Front with the brutal force and suppression wielded by the Indian and Pakistani nation-states. I have appraised not just the history of the Kashmiri nationalism dominated by the elite but I have carefully looked at the politics of the people and the political mobilization engendered by such politics. Popular mobilization in J & K during the 1930s and 1940s took the form of uprisings, which was a primary locus of political action. This potent political resistance was led by people like Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, Chauhary Ghulam Abbas, Mirza Afzal Beig, Maulana Masoodi, Ghulam Ahmad Ashai, Kasap Bandhu, who did not have access to the echelons of power and spoke vociferously from the margins. Their activism made substantive forays into established discourses and structures of power. I have engaged constructively with issues of representation and knowledge production. The primary question for me is “Who is speaking and who is being silenced?,” enabling me to recognize the legitimacy of knowledge produced from the point of view of the local subject, like the vaakhs of Lalla-Ded; the cultural and religious knowledge disseminated by Nund Rishi; the determination of the women's militia in 1948; the stoicism and perseverance of the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons; the conviction of the workers of political parties who maintain the vibrancy of the credo of self-determination; the collision of the idea of self-determination with military oppression on the contentious site of nationalism .

While working at such an important project on Kashmir, I find, you have missed to deal in detail with Sheikh Sahib's lately troubled relations with Nehru and the latter's betrayal of commitment on Kashmir. Isn't it?

On the contrary, I have delved into the disastrous ramifications of Nehru's volte face in 1953, which bolstered the courage of the then sadr-i-riyasat Karan Singh to unconstitutionally oust Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah from office and install Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad as head of government in his stead. Abdullah's pro-independence stance received a severe blow when the dissident faction within the NC was joined by the Constituent Assembly speaker G.M. Sadiq and D.P. Dhar, a Pandit deputy minister of interior. The Soviet stance on the Kashmir issue seems to have had an influence on this group. The fall-out of this rift was the dismissal of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah as prime minister by the titular head of state, Karan Singh, and his arrest under a law called the Public Security Act. Abdullah would be shuttled from one jail to the next for the next twenty-two years, until 1975. This coup was authorized by Nehru.

Subsequent to his arrest, Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad was installed as prime minister. A few days later, Abdullah loyalists including Mirza Afzal Beg, were also arrested under the Public Security Act. Bakshi's de facto regime was given some semblance of legitimacy by being formally ratified by members of the NC general council and Constituent Assembly delegates in specially convened sessions. In September 1953, Nehru, who earlier had underscored Abdullah's importance to the resolution of the Kashmir issue, did a political volte face: he justified Abdullah's undemocratic eviction from office before the Indian parliament by asserting that the latter had “autocratic” methods which resulted in the loss of the majority of his cabinet and had caused trauma to the electorate. Despite his political maneuvers, Nehru and his ilk were unable to provide democratic justification for Abdullah's shoddy removal from office. The well-planned coup in Kashmir that led to Abdullah's prolonged detention, mass arrests of his loyalists, and fabricated shows of loyalty to the new regime, unveiled the strategies deployed by New Delhi as manipulative measures that lacked political and ethical legitimacy.

I met with the former Sadr-i-Riyasat, Karan Singh, at his quasi-regal home in New Delhi in the summer of 2007. Fortunately, he was willing to answer the questions I had regarding the 1953 coup. He was also gracious enough to give me a copy of his autobiography in which he has unapologetically written about his role in that hideous manifestation of political wiliness and despotism. When I asked Karan Singh whether his office had entailed work of political import, he averred that subsequent to the 1953 coup, his was the only office that enjoyed constitutional legitimacy.

Contrary to what Karan Singh would have one believe, the dismissal of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah's de jure regime and installation of Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad's plunged the Valley into moral and political turpitude, which reverberated in later years. I have quoted the current General Secretary of the National Conference, Sheikh Nazir Ahmad, in my book, according to whom the events of 1953 drastically altered the political landscape of Indian administered J & K. Abdullah's dismissal and subsequent incarceration engendered an irreparable distrust between the populace of the state and the government of India. I reiterate that Nehru had been cast in the mold of the deceiver.

There is quite informative and analytical approach (in your book) to the story of elections in Kashmir and hints on New Delhi's deals in fixing up governments in Srinagar. Statistics are there but such analysis is missing in case of 2002 elections when regime was changed through elections billed as the fairest in history of J&K. Would you like to explain that here!

I have written about the complicity of the Farooq Abdullah led National Conference with the Congress as well as with the BJP, which led to the erosion of the mass base of the NC and also to the alienation of grass roots level workers of the NC. I have been very clear about the deleterious effects of the disconnect between the NC top brass and marginalized workers, which led to the routing of the NC and the rise of a previously obscure political organization, the PDP, in the 2002 elections. I was in the Kashmir valley a couple of months before that election in which the NC suffered a miserable and humiliating defeat.

As far as the claim about the 2002 elections being the fairest in the history of J & K goes, I have my doubts because by then the Centre had very carefully made fissures not just in the mass base of the NC but also in the autonomy of the election process. National and local Newspapers reported despicable attempts at intimidation and coercion by Indian paramilitary troops. According to a rather dubious claim by Indian authorities, the voter turnout in Baramullah district had been forty percent and fifty-five percent in Kupwara district. These figures, however, include voters who were coerced to exercise their franchise. Interestingly, almost a million and a half citizens entitled to vote are just not registered and are, therefore, not included when estimating these figures. Apparently, women didn't participate either in large numbers or enthusiastically in these elections. There were districts, however, in which the voting was impartially carried out. The politicization that was palpable in Kashmiri-speaking areas hadn't occurred either in predominantly Gujjar or Ladakhi constituencies, which did not harbor the antipathy toward the Indian State and its institutions as a large section of the Kashmiri Muslim population did.

You have laid huge emphasis on the dangers associated with the ideas of (any) division of Jammu and Kashmir on ethnic, regional or religious lines. This is what every saner soul says but entire talk ends up in Kashmir valley alone. Jammu and Ladakh are already feeling not only alienated but also suffocated in these two regions' power negotiations with Kashmir. 'Stakeholders' and opinionated experts often say problem is all about Kashmir because sufferings are centered in valley alone. Any one making a case of Jammu and Ladakh is seen as somebody lacking sense of history and may be regional chauvinist. Despite strongly advocating unity of regions, your book also refuses to go much beyond boundaries of the valley. I am asking this lengthy question because your book has not been taken as yet another book as Kashmir. You may like to answer the regional questions.

Sir Owen Dixon, the United Nations representative for India and Pakistan, noted in 1950 that the Kashmir issue was so tumultuous because Kashmir was not a holistic geographic, economic, or demographic entity but, on the contrary, was an aggregate of diverse territories brought under the rule of one Maharajah. Sir Owen Dixon propounded the trifurcation of the state along communal or regional lines or facilitating the secession of parts of the Jhelum Valley to Pakistan. Despite the bombastic statements and blustering of the governments of India and Pakistan, the Indian government has all along perceived the inclusion of Pakistani administered Jammu and Kashmir and the Northern Areas in India as unfeasible. Likewise, the government of Pakistan has all along either implicitly or explicitly acknowledged the impracticality of including predominantly Buddisht Ladakh and predominantly Hindu Jammu as part of Pakistan. The coveted area that continues to generate irreconcilable differences between the two governments is the valley of Kashmir. Despite such obstructions, Sir Owen Dixon remained determined to formulate a viable solution to the Kashmir issue and suggested the a plebiscite be held only in the Kashmir valley subsequent to its demilitarization, which would be conducted by an administrative body of United Nations officials. Although, separatist movements have been surfacing and resurfacing in Indian administered Jammu and Kashmir and parts of Pakistani administered Kashmir since the accession of the state to India in 1947, the attempt to create a unitary cultural identity bolstered by nationalist politics has been subverted by regional political forces. The culturally, linguistically, and religiously diverse population of Indian and Pakistani administered Jammu and Kashmir has been unable to reach a consensus on the future of the land and the heterogeneous peoples of the state. The revolutionary act of demanding the right of self-determination and autonomy for Indian administered Jammu & Kashmir has not been able to nurture a unity amongst all regional groups and socioeconomic classes. Due to the regional sentiments that are so well entrenched in the psyche of the people, the attempt to create a unitary identity is still in a volatile stage. The symbols of nationhood in the former princely state, flag, anthem, and constitution, have thus far been unable to forge the process of nationalist self-imagining.

My book, Islam, Women, and the Violence in Kashmir, is about the militarization of Jammu and Kashmir which has undermined the syncretic ethos of the State, not just the Valley. I am completely opposed to the attempts of Indian and Pakistani mainstream historians to underscore ethnic, religious, and regional divides in their explications of the Kashmir conflict. For this particular project I conducted field work only in the Valley but hope to expand my work by conducting field work in Jammu and Ladakh as well.

Any differences one could have marked in the book if author were not the granddaughter of first prime minister of Kashmir.

Islam, Women, and the Violence in Kashmir has been written by a Kashmiri Muslim woman academic who teaches at an American university and has a deep emotional investment in Kashmir. I am a writer who wants the recognition of the right to my opinion; the right to stand up for myself and be taken seriously; the right to express my anger without being labeled an 'Islamic militant;' the right to legitimately question things I don't understand; the right to peace of mind; the right to dream and to go after my dreams; the right to seek more spiritual awareness without being labeled a 'heretic;' to feel confident, secure, and peaceful. I just happen to be the granddaughter of the first Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir.

There has always been curiosity among readers to know about the authors. Would you like to tell us about the choice of your career, route to Amar Singh College, the journey to University of Nebraska and what is ahead?

After completing my schooling in Kashmir, I joined the English Honours Program at Lady Shri Ram College, New Delhi. My three years at LSR, 1990-1993, are memorable because of the enriching opportunities I got to interact and learn from erudite educators. I was an avid reader and a responsive student, but an unfocused examinee. I had an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and the courses at LSR whetted my appetite for the idyllic and ornate world of canonical English literature. After completing my B.A. at LSR, I went on to pursue my Masters in English Literature at the University of Delhi, South Campus. The two years at DU were uneventful, rather banal, and not as growth oriented as I would have liked them to be. Most students just went through the motions and learned by rote, which did nothing for one's creativity or critical thinking. Subsequently, I taught at Maulana Azad women's College, Srinagar, as an ad hoc lecturer for about a year and a half. The pedagogical experience afforded to me at the women's college enabled me to work on pedagogical skills, collegiality, communicating with students, and made all the reading that I had done seem useful. I realized that I wanted to establish myself in academia and that motivated me to move to the U.S., unfamiliar territory, in order to pursue a Masters and a Ph.D. in Postcolonial Literature and Theory at the University of Oklahoma, Norman. I realized my full potential at the University of Oklahoma, where I worked with some wonderful scholars and experts in their respectable fields. While working on my Masters and Doctorate, I taught two full-fledged classes giving me hands-on training as an educator. My work became a lot more purposeful, goal-oriented, and politically motivated. I came into my own as a writer, scholar, and teacher. It was incredible to discover that literature and politics were inextricably intertwined. My Ph.D. dissertation, The Fiction of Nationality in an Era of Transnationalism, was published as a book by Routledge in 2005. I was hired as an Assistant Professor at the University of Nebraska-Kearney soon after I completed my Doctorate in 2004. I teach courses on non-western literature and World literature at UNK, where I am now an Associate Professor. I will teach at the University of Oklahoma, Norman, which is a research university, in spring 2010 (Inshallah!).

You have said this book is first in the series. Can you give is some ideas about what is pipeline and when do we expect that.

Working on Islam, Women, and the Violence in Kashmir was emotionally exhausting, physically grueling, and required a lot of soul searching, but it was extremely rewarding. Currently, I am teaching three courses at the University of Nebraska-Kearney, which doesn't leave much time for research. But my book is going to be reprinted in the U.S. by Palgrave Macmillan (Inshallah!), for which I need to make some revisions. I hope to begin work on a cross-disciplinary anthology on Jammu and Kashmir to which I have requested academics from the State to contribute.

(Zafar Choudhary is Editor of Epilogue Magazine and can be reached at epilogue@epilogue.in)

Text of Jammu-Kashmir Governor NN Vohra's Address on 61st Republic Day

Dear Brethren,

Today, on the joyous occasion of the 61st Republic Day of our great nation, I extend my greetings and good wishes to the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

Last year, on this auspicious day, I had thanked the people of Jammu and Kashmir for turning out in large numbers for electing their representatives to the State Legislature. Today, I compliment them for their robust participation in the Parliamentary elections, which were held last year soon after the State Assembly polls. The large scale participation of the people of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh in both these elections signifies their abiding faith and commitment to democracy and their yearning for the State being restored to lasting peace and normalcy.

Agitations leading to violent confrontations and repeated calls for observing bandhs and hartals have resulted in severe economic losses, varied adversities for the common man and daily wage earners. The functioning of public institutions has been most adversely affected and the repeated disruptions of the academic schedules have done irreparable damage to the future of the younger generation.

The elements in our society who have not so far been inclined to pursue the democratic path for the resolution of their demands need to seriously reflect on the untold losses suffered by the people in the past years and recognize the futility of continuing on the path of confrontation.

We must bring to an early end this most unfortunate phase of agitations and confrontations. It would be necessary for all those who hold contrary beliefs to come forward to participate in a meaningful dialogue. Our liberal democratic framework provides ample space for divergent thought and opinion. Conciliation and dialogue are the best means of resolving all issues involving contrary positions.

The people of J&K are rightly proud of their centuries old pluralistic ethos and invaluable traditions of communal harmony and brotherhood. There is, today, an urgent need for re-invigorating and strengthening these bonds to foil the divisive designs of elements inimical to the unity and integrity of the State.

In the past two decades the growth of extremist ideologies and terrorist activities, sponsored and supported from across our frontiers, have resulted in enormous human and economic losses. While the outgoing year witnessed a significant decline in terrorism related incidents there has been a sustained increase in infiltrations in the past weeks. This leaves no scope for lowering of the guard by the Security Forces who will need to maintain constant vigil on all fronts while ensuring that the rights of the people are respected and protected and no law abiding person suffers any harassment.

In their continuing battle against terrorism many brave officers and men of the State Police, Central Police Organizations and the Army have laid down their lives to preserve the unity and integrity of our country. I salute our gallant soldiers who made the supreme sacrifice.

After assuming charge, the present State Government has been faced with continuously rising public expectations. These would need to be met with a people-centric decentralized development process which involves people’s participation at all levels. The poor and marginalized segments of society must have a voice in deciding what needs to be done to ameliorate their lot and how it should be done.

The State Government, has been receiving continuing generous support from the Centre. The outlay under the 11th Five Year Plan, at Rs. 25,833 crore, is 78% higher than the 10th Plan allocation. And for the current financial year, J&K has the highest ever annual outlay of Rs. 5500 crore, another Rs. 1200 crore under the Prime Minister’s Reconstruction Plan and Rs. 220 crore as “counter-part share” to enable the State to raise a matching loan from the Asian Development Bank. The State Government, which also has access to over Rs. 1800 crore of funding under various Centrally Sponsored Schemes, enjoys the challenging opportunity of delivering a capital expenditure of Rs. 8000 to Rs. 10,000 crore during the current year. The Central Government has also sanctioned over Rs. 1000 crore for the construction of the Mughal Road and conservation of Dal-Nageen Lake and Rs. 125 crore for the infrastructural up-gradation of 5 towns in the Valley.

While devoting high priority to enhancing economic growth, the Government would need to ensure equitable distribution, particularly addressing inter-regional and intra-regional concerns to secure balanced development of all parts of the State. Special attention must also be given to meet the pressing needs of the people residing in the remote, far flung and backward areas and speeding up the pace of identified projects which are aimed to serve the interests of Gujjars, Bakarwals, Pahari speaking people, members of Scheduled Castes and Tribes and other minority groups. A suitable environment would need to be created to enable the return and resettlement of the Kashmiri Pandit migrants.

Planned attention is needed to attract private investments in the State by evolving a viable framework of Public-Private Partnerships, particularly to speed up growth in the health, education, power and road sectors. To be successful, such partnerships would need to subsume locally available talent and resources. It is encouraging to note that certain steps have already been initiated to turn around Power generation and various measures to improve transmission, distribution and conservation are also being considered.

To tackle unemployment the Government has recently launched several initiatives. The new Employment Policy aims to create employment and, alongside, enhance employability through skill-transfer, skill-upgradation, and multi-skilling of our young men and women. Side by side, the Central Government shall be providing upto 8000 seats in various ITIs every year for our youth to undergo modular skill development training in potentially fast developing sectors. I am confident that the various programmes underway would yield very encouraging outcomes if these are executed honestly, efficiently and timely.

It is essential that every wing and agency of the State Government works overtime to deliver efficient services, particular attention being paid to alleviate the difficulties faced by the disadvantaged segments of society and those living in the remote and unconnected areas. We must not forget that for the common man governance relates to the honesty, efficiency, promptitude and sensitivity with which the governmental agencies deliver essential services. I am confident that, with the various steps underway, the governmental machinery will continue to progressively improve its functioning, on all fronts.

For good governance it is necessary to have a well informed citizenry. Mobilizing people’s involvement in securing efficiency and accountability in the functioning of public institutions is both necessary and fruitful. The State Government has already taken a step in this direction by enacting a law on the Right to Information. The State Information Commission is also expected to become functional in the near future. If the people make use of this law in a mature and responsible manner, we can look forward to the emergence of transparency and enhanced accountability in all areas of functioning.

The empowerment of people shall receive a further boost when the projected elections to Panchayats and Urban Local Bodies are held in the coming months. The functioning of democratically elected self governing bodies at the grass root level, in the urban and rural areas, will make a vital contribution to enable the people to take their own decisions and become responsible for the execution of various programmes for promoting their welfare. Such empowerment of people will also give a powerful impetus to the overall developmental process.

The Kashmir Valley Railway now provides convenient, speedy and cheap transport from Baramulla to Qazigund. When the Udhampur─Qazigund sector gets completed, Kashmir will enjoy rail connectivity with the entire country and enable the people to profitably market their products throughout India and beyond. Large investments are also being made to connect various parts of the State with a network of roads. Work on the four-laning of the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway project, which has commenced, will significantly reduce the distance and time for those travelling to the Valley.

The three regions of the State comprise one organic whole and the surest path for the State to grow and prosper would be for each of the three regions to develop and prosper in complete harmony with each other. Towards this objective the State Government would need to ensure that the present and future developmental strategies harmonize with the urges and aspirations of the people and meet their larger welfare goals.

In conclusion, I would stress that for achieving peace, progress and prosperity in J&K, the Government and the Opposition as well as all other social, cultural and religious organizations in the State, shall need to work together closely and collectively. I appeal to the leaders of all sections of society, in each of the three regions of the State, to close their ranks and work determinedly together to build a strong and prosperous Jammu and Kashmir.

A new year has just begun. I wish the people of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh good health, happiness and prosperity in 2010. The Government completed the first year of its tenure earlier this month. I wish the Chief Minister, Sh. Omar Abdullah, and all his Cabinet colleagues, a very successful year ahead.


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Neither good politics, nor good economics

Politicians, Economists Debate Omar’s Job Policy


Politicians say it is not a good politics, economists say it is not a good economics –the ambitious employment policy of the National Conference led government will have to bear tests of the times before it can be called as a historic initiative.

A day after the Chief Minister Omar Abdullah announced the mega-employment policy, the reactions coming in are not entirely unexpected but there are technical and policy points which are being debated. Arguably, it is third time in the state that an allowance based job policy has been formulated. The first such is reported to have come from Syed Mir Qasim in early 1970s and the second during first tenure of Dr Farooq Abdullah in early in 1980s when he created such a provision for Engineers.

It is not unusual for the opposition parties to criticise what the governments do and the criticism coming in is not out of place. However, when asked what they would have done, the consensus answer is that instead of allowances and jobs the best route to be taken is always creating avenues in the job intensive sectors.

What Omar has done on the eve of birth anniversary of his grandfather and National Conference founder Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah appears to be loaded with politics –of election and image –but how far it goes to deliver him results is a hard question to answer. It is a difficult economics to explain as finances of the state are not too stable to support one lakh jobs, allowances and investment supports. As far as the politics of the policy is concerned, assembly elections are five years away and expecting people to hold on results for as long time is bit too risky.

Veteran economist and Director of JK Bank, Prof Nisar Ali allays the fears of financial indiscipline. Ali, who has worked with many Finance Ministers on budgets and policy formulations, says, “since the scheme comes into effect in April it is expected to be fully budgeted”. Isn’t it a burden still? Ali says, “it is all about resource mobilisation, if government is able to mobilise then nothing bad about the idea”. “There are many areas where taxation is long overdue as they were often skipped in budgets for a variety of reasons”, says Prof Ali, who is also member of the high powered State Finance Commission.

Describing the Sher-e-Kashmir Employment and Welfare Policy as repackaging of existing schemes, Nayeem Akhter of the Peoples Democratic Party says that allowance can’t be a substitute of jobs which youths are looking for. Mockingly describing the allowance scheme as “Rs 500 subject to many terms and conditions”, Nayeem alleges a political motive behind the announcement at this stage. He argues, “one the one hand the Chief Minister is talking about Panchayat elections and on the other he suggests engaging youths under Voluntary Services Allowances in the process of Panchayat elections which clearly suggests that they (government) for immediate political gains”.

Contradicting Nayeem, Dipanker Sengupta, an economist, says that allowance is not a bad idea altogether. Sengupta is perhaps the only respondent, this writer spoke to, who supports the allowance scheme “to an extent”. He says, though meagre, the allowance scheme does two things –it saves many a youths from the routine embarrassment of pocket money they undergo and it does not hurt the state finances much. After all, says Dipanker, whosoever is getting few hundred rupees from the government is also rendering some service.

“It is an insult for the educated youth and the Chief Minister has hurt all badly”, says Ashok Khajuria, the state president of BJP. A graduate or postgraduate was expecting a descent job but he has been insulted with Rs 1100 offer”, alleged Khajuria. Admitting that unemployment is a problem in Jammu and Kashmir, when asked imaging in place of Chief Minister how he would have tackled, Khajuria said, “Unemployment can’t be a problem anymore if the government looks inwards”. How? “Cut the wasteful expenditures, mobilise funds on schemes and employ educated youths on the projects”, this is how Khajuria says the system can be made to work. The BJP president stressed to add that National Conference-Congress combine has always spoiled Jammu and Kashmir and this is what they are engaged in at the moment.

So what is the best employment policy for Jammu and Kashmir? “Wait for a while, I promise, that is what we will deliver”, says Nayeem Akhter with an added emphasis that Peoples Democratic Party believes in an employment policy which neither hurts the state finances nor the public sentiments.

Former Minister and Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Forum, Hakeem Mohammad Yaseen has an honest confession to make. “It is very difficult to work out a comprehensive employment policy, we failed to do it, our predecessors failed to do it but what Chief Minister Omar has announced Saturday is far below the expectations”, says Hakeem Yaseen. If the government meant by an allowance it should have been something around Rs 2000, to begin with, till an educated youth is gainfully employed. “I don’t think anyone is going to apply for this Rs 500 trouble”, believed Hakeem Yaseen.

Dipanker Sengupta feels voluntary allowance scheme is a workable proposition but the promise of creating one lakh jobs over next five years is “disastrous”. Where it does not hurt the finances it is tokenism where it hurts it is disastrous, says Sengupta, who teaches at the University of Jammu. Taking a poor view of overall economic policy, Sengupta regretted, “the present government has no care for the financial discipline and they are not even talking about it”. Recalling the initiatives taken by the previous coalition of PDP and Congress, Sengupta says, the previous government always appeared on tenterhooks streamlining finances, organising power sectors and mobilising resources but the present government is taking things too easy”.

Ashwani Sharma, an independent MLA, agrees with Nayeem that the employment scheme is more or less a repackaging of various ongoing state and central schemes. If the government is a bit serious about honestly addressing the unemployment problem, “they should make the self employment schemes workable as at stage people often give up to norms and procedures”.

Friday, November 20, 2009




A lost has been written and debated on politics on Jammu and Kashmir but nothing much on the economy. Reading into J&K’s annual budget that was presented in August, Epilogue’s September Issue focused on developmental and economic profile of Jammu and Kashmir.



August 2009 issue was one of the path-breaking in the life of Epilogue magazine. The cover story explored many aspects of life in Ladakh and carried a first hand of research on the state of media in the Himalayan cold desert.



July 2009 issue offered a rare insight into the whole gamut of Kashmir issue. An ACDIS, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign sponsored study, which was the cover feature, examined Kashmir issue from different perspectives.

June 2009: LOK SABHA POLLS 2009

June 2009: LOK SABHA POLLS 2009

With Prof. Rekha Chowdhary looking into various aspects, the May issue offered a complete view of the Lok Sabha elections in Jammu and Kashmir. An interview with Finance Minister Abdul Rahim Rather explained most critical questions on the state’s economy.



May issue was one of the rare collections of ideas where 12 natives from both sides of Jammu and Kashmir poured their ideas out of the heart on how boundaries can be blurred and relations can be strengthened.



As world watches keenly the new unfolding developments in Pakistan, our consulting Editor D Suba Chandran traveled to the troubled country to bring fresh perspectives for our readers in April issue.

March 2009: CONNECTING J&K

March 2009: CONNECTING J&K

Connectivity is a major issue in J&K and people in many areas taunt the government saying that roads were laid in remote areas only because they close to borders. Our March issue looked at the connectivity via roads, rail and air to bring to the fore the missing links.



The coalition government of National Conference and the Congress headed by Omar Abdullah took over on January 5 but it did not declare a shared agenda. Epilogue’s February issue put together opinions of well meaning people from across the country setting out an agenda Omar Abdullah government.

January 2009: MANDATE

January 2009: MANDATE

A collectors issue, the special number on our second anniversary came as fastest possible. Yet professional correct work, on J&K elections. Result were declare on December 28 and our issue carrying complete elections analysis and elections trends at constituency level was out before the government was sworn

December 2008: HUNG ASSEMBLY

December 2008: HUNG ASSEMBLY

In the middle of elections our small team of staffers along with some 30 volunteers traveled across the length and breadth of Jammu and Kashmir to gauge the public mood. The conclusion was that there will be a hung assembly with NC as largest party, PDP second and Congress third. Looking at the pages of our December issue one can see all parties have come up with same number of seats as we had predicted except the BJP.

November 2008: ELECTIONS: CHALLENGE 2008

November 2008: ELECTIONS: CHALLENGE 2008

We have brought out three issues on assembly elections 2008 and the November issue was first in the series. Elections were being held in the backdrop of a worst separatist and communal agitation in state. With a commentary on the prevailing political and security atmosphere, the November issue carried a complete backgrounder on the past elections.



Shortly before the historic cross-LoC trade was launched between two parts of Jammu and Kashmir, the United States Institute of Peace had come up with a most comprehensive study on making borders irrelevant. Under a special endowment from USIP, Epilogue carried reproduced the study in fall. It was a painstaking research taken by Hassan Askari and PR Chari, two leading policy experts of Pakistan and India, respectively.

September 2008: J&K’S SUMMER AGITATION

September 2008: J&K’S SUMMER AGITATION

Summer of 2008 will always be remembered as a dark chapter in the secular and tolerance history of Jammu and Kashmir. On Amarnath land row, the lunatic and hawkish voices had completely taken over the sensible voices. We launched a search for the voices of peace and reason and came up with as many ideas as possible. We are happy that no chance was given to the narrow regional or religious views to creep in our pages.



The coalition government peoples PDP and the Congress had come up with a Common Minimum Program at the time of its formation in 2002. When the government fell down in July 2008 after a bitter acrimony between coalition partners, they went out without leaving a report card on their performance. Epilogue brought out a point-wise examination of all 30 points contained in the CMP of governance and concluded that the pledges were forgotten.



In June-July-August 2008 Jammu and Kashmir was at face to face with a worst crisis of the history. Earlier the troubles have been involving regions this time religion was at the center of controversy. Truth was the obvious casualty when all parties involved fought pitched battles with state on streets and in the media. We carried a complete backgrounder in July issue and wrote an elaborate account of politics mixing up with religion. Then Governor Gen SK Sinha was in the line of fire. He gave a detailed interview to Epilogue –the only occasion he spoke to any media outlet before demitting Raj Bhawan office.



Trade across the Line of Control has arguably been the mother of all confidence building measures between India and Pakistan involving Jammu and Kashmir. Epilogue was arguably the first news and current affairs publication to come up with a comprehensive issue on broad contours of Cross-LoC trade. The bottlenecks we had talked about were later evident when trade was actually initiated in October.