Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Entrepreneurship: Kashmir way


HALMATPORA to HELL-MET PURA


From Halmatpora to ‘Hell- Met PURA’ ---- a journey called as ‘disaster’.
Sheikh Fayaz Ahmad
Halmatpora, a small village where I was born some 26 years ago, is a place much closer to the Pakistan borders than to our ‘city’ Srinagar. I was brought up in this small village and studied here till I joined JNU in 2010. Almost, away from the eyes of authorities and devoid of basic immunities of life, this small village today however reflects some ‘metropolitan’ features. Expensive cars are running rough on kacha roads, Korea and China made mobile phones have penetrated deep into this village, and more surprisingly the lifestyles have become increasingly consumerist. The ‘good life’ or precisely the ‘modern life’ is characterized by the ever- increasingly accumulation of material products, and ‘activities’ like shopping and banking. The village which till yesterday was a marvelous piece of natural beauty, a space with clean air and a place with fresh gushing water streams and ponds is now a dumping site for plastic and other non-biodegradable items. The phenomenal rise in the use of plastics, and Gujarat filled water bottles in the last few years is striking and shocking equally.
Police and Army have occupied agrarian land, playfields and beautiful forests. Small and innocent school girls are exposed to the Goa beaches under Operation Sadbhavna; Kashmiryat and Sufism is taught to us by Police using radio and TV as communication channels. This sudden intrusion of many new cultures in this small village has disrupted the local ways of life. The so called ‘urbanization’ here has rendered the old people irrelevant, relationships meaningless and the traditional values worthless.
Few years ago, everything was local, native and indigenous here. Culture was respected, local language was given much emphasis and more importantly local shared mental models or precisely local institutions where well in place. However, rush for the so called ‘modernity’ has destroyed that ‘local’ factor here. Race for the ‘private’ has intensified (private cars, private life style, private buildings and private affairs) and the communitarian values are gone. This private life and enclosure in a village like Halmatpora has deprived the village people of access to the commons. Collective form of economic life is lost, artisans, painters and farmers from other states have overcrowded this village. And, unfortunately the marginalized groups suffer the most due to this ‘new life’. They can’t afford hire ‘private laborers’. Many of the poor, marginalized classes and the subalterns thus lose out in this race and the village gets stratified with every passing day. A very large section of this village is going through severe and multiple crises: food insecurty; water shortages, inadequately fuel availability and proper health care facilities. And, this majority living at the margins has unfortunately very limited alternative options.
Natural environment in and around this village is under attack, almost destroyed. Army ‘Good will’ schools are constructed near forests to impart ‘modern education’ to our ‘backward children’. Contractors in nexus with corrupt bureaucrats and politicians are hell bent to use agrarian land for the construction purposes. Roads are widened for the smooth passage of private and luxurious cars without giving fair compensation to the farmers. This damage to our natural environment and culture precisely exposes many social, economic and political forces which are at work to cause insecurity and disruption in our lives.
Despite having all ‘metropolitan’ characteristics, ‘modern education’ and technology, city dwellers are still ashamed of rural areas like Halmatpora. Rightly so, villages are seen backward in both economic and cultural terms; a place that has become redundant in modern times. Different agencies (both government and non-government) are although trying hard to impart ‘modern education’ and ‘modern cultural values’ to the natives and the ‘unexposed people’ of this village; however instead of real development we all are heading towards a big disaster. This so called modernity and development has devoured all our assets - both the cultural and economical. Today, it is not Halmatpora; it is really a ‘HELL’ we all Halmatporians’ have met…

Sheikh Fayaz Ahmad is from Halmatpora, Kupwara and is full time Research Scholar at the Center for Studies in Science Policy, Jawaharlal Nehru, University, New Delhi. He can be reached at fayazjustinternational@gmail.com




BOOK REVIEW: THE WINNING STORY



 SHEIKH FAYAZ AHAMD, CENTER FOR STUDIES IN SCIENCE POLICY, JNU- NEW DELHI

Title :  THE WINNING STORY
Author :  Ayangti Longkumer. Power Publishers, 2012. 152 Pages. Price: 250

In the current scenario, when we feel to know more about the northeastern part of India, there is a cool breeze in the form of “The Winning Story” a novel by Ayangti Longkumer, a budding writer from Nagaland. The prologue of the novel says it all, “The last course of the meal is the best, but if you have stuffed yourself so much with the starters then you have to choose between what your heart wants and your mind. I am claiming to keep your mind free from any preconceptions of what the story is going to be, for there is so much twist and turns. There is an urgent requirement for lots of empty spaces in your mind and heart, the domains in which I will proudly pour out my words so to make it everlasting for you to argue upon it.It is a story about a woman named Eve and the various relationships that twirl around her; and various situations which refines her. It unravels the various relationships that circles around a person and has flavor of love, compassion, commitment, and trust. At times we might sympathize with the protagonist but it is to be noted that it is not weepy story. Although it has an imaginary setting where the protagonist narrates her decades of memories, one can find oneself in her shoes. The greatest strength of Ayangti Longkumer’s debut novel is that it is not a story about mindless twist and turns or high intense actions, which as a reader we have become so accustomed to, but it has one straight story line which makes it natural and delightful to read, for readers might find themselves in her shoes. The interesting part is that it tells how circumstances shape the protagonist’s life and her response to the world. The author does not make a superhero of the protagonist but engages her in the emotions which any person can feel when countered with.
To give the autobiographical touch the novel is written in first person. It has poems and notes which shows the author’s brilliant creativity, adding sweet touch to the story. The following lines extracted from the novel could support the claim,
“Was I a saint in my last birth or did I fed the poorest of the poor to deserve you?
 When I shed a tear, you cried a river,
When I faked a smile, you drew a rainbow of laughter;
When I slapped you real hard, you give the sweetest of kiss,
When I was all cold, you were the eternal sunshine to my buried soul.”
Indeed, the author has carefully placed the words and lines, and has been successful in not making the readers bored, she deserves applaud for that. The readers of this story need not be of a specific age group and that is the versatility of this novel. Though the settings are contemporary, the story of the novel has a classic touch which students of literature might easily agree with. Plot wise, Ayangti has chosen not to have the staple set-piece of the panoramic novel; she has avoided the cliché ending as there is no climactic scene where all the disparate characters meet. The ending lines could make the reader thirst to have a sequel of the novel. The author has done justice to all the characters, and the story is fresh and appealing. All in all, The Winning Story is a diverting read.


Sheikh Fayaz Ahmad
New Delhi, India
Email: fayazjustinternational@gmail.com


Friday, June 8, 2012

"OBJECTIVE SCIENCE" ?


" OBJECTIVE SCIENCE "  ?

   Sheikh Fayaz Ahmad

This is in response to the article ‘Wonderful speech: But why reconcile religion with science?’ by Ajaz Ul Haque in GK’s special Sunday column ‘Write Hand’ dated 3rd June 2012. First of all I would like to congratulate the writer for precisely delineating on the topic and most importantly for raising some significant questions related to science and religion. I do fully agree with the writer that reconciling religion with science can’t always be a successful effort. Nevertheless his argument that science believes in the objectification of things and religion can’t be objectified is something which can be contested and questioned on many grounds. The writer in his small write-up gives us a feeling that science is somehow vastly superior to other knowledge systems and overrides various beliefs. This he argue by grounded his assumption on the argument that science believes in the objectification of things whilst religion can't be objectified. 
To extol science as an ‘objective’ piece of knowledge without even questioning its basic premises and the intricacies linked to it is to accept science without understanding science. So far many influential science philosophers have questioned this much touted “objective” knowledge system and have successfully questioned the hegemony it has created over the period of time. The two influential science philosophers who have eloquently exposed the objective character of science deserve to be mention here. First, Thomas Kuhn who in his path braking book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962) argued that ‘science is not a steady, cumulative acquisition of knowledge’. Instead, science is "a series of peaceful interludes punctuated by intellectually violent revolutions". Kuhn was the first to successfully question and doubt the ‘objective’ character of science by arguing that scientists are not objective and independent thinkers. Rather, they are conservative individuals who accept what they have been taught and apply their knowledge to solving the problems that their theories dictate. 
The second person who is credited to have  punctured  this “objective” science balloon was none other than Paul Feyerabend; one of the twentieth century's most famous philosophers of science who published Against Method in 1975. Feyerabend not only attacked the prominent scientific methodologies but also questioned the scrupulous character of some “great” scientists. Feyerabend while supporting his argument nicely defines the so called ‘objective’ character of few industrial revolution heroes particularly Galileo , who according to Feyerabend make full use of rhetoric, propaganda, and various epistemological tricks in order to support the heliocentric position. Feyerabend also argues that the aesthetic criteria, personal whims and social factors highly influence the scientific knowledge. In Against Method, Feyerabend writes “science is much closer to myth than a scientific philosophy is prepared to admit. It is one of the many forms of thought that have been developed by man, and not necessarily the best. It is conspicuous, noisy, and impudent, but it is inherently superior only for those who have already decided in favour of a certain ideology, or who have accepted it without ever having examined its advantages and its limits ( p. 295)”.  Similarly Claude Alvares in a book chapter in Science Hegemony and Violence: A requiem for Modernity edited by Ashis Nandy argues that the “scientific method itself has become not only anti-rational, it has become culturally and socially oppressive, ecocidal and generally anti-life”. 
So to celebrate science as a body of ‘objective knowledge’ and not to question its rational and empirical character is more dangerous than to accept any other form of knowledge or belief system without bothering to ask some very basic questions. 

Sheikh Fayaz Ahmad is Research Scholar at the Center for Studies in Science Policy, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and can be reached at fayazjustinternational@gmail.com  

Friday, May 11, 2012


BETTER NOT WRAP NOORI IN A
 SHAWL
Sheikh Fayaz Ahmad 

It’s indeed time to celebrate the successful female cloning of Noori, the world's first pashmina goat clone, produced in Kashmir a few weeks ago by a group of local scientists and researchers. The whole Centre of Animal Biotechnology at Sher-i-Kashmir Agriculture University for Science and technology (SKAUST) deserves kudos for this breakthrough. Nevertheless this project was funded by World Bank and Karnal-based National Dairy Research Institute (NDRI) so they too deserve appreciation. This small newspaper article will not deal with the ethical ramifications of cloning but instead will locate the economic benefits of this biological breakthrough. Will this cloned Noori help us develop our pashmina industry? Will these types of scientific breakthroughs help us to save our dying art and revive our ailing industries? These are some questions to be delineated here. 
Many people including the scientists believe that with Noori there is hope that pashmina can be yielded in lower altitude like Kashmir valley which ultimately is going to boost the pashmina shawl industry. True, this cloned pashmina goat may help us reduce our dependency on those areas and markets who sell pashm (raw form of pashmina) to the merchants in Srinagar but to argue that Noori alone will rejuvenate and revitalize our ailing shawl industry is refreshingly a naïve claim.
Here I am in no case overlooking the economic importance of this cloned pashmina goat but to me pashmina shawl industry can only be rejuvenated by empowering its  real unsung actors like the cleaners, dyers, weavers, , buglers and washer men. These are some of the forgotten creative brains behind the success of the pashmina shawls. However it is unfortunate to reflect that they are living a miserable life. Thousands of impoverished artisans are desperate to live a happy life. The benefits of their creativity and ingenuity are being expropriated by a handful of exporters. These ‘disadvantaged’ artisans have kept the pashmina shawl industry alive despite many odds and challenges.  The weavers have lost their sense of sight...most of them can’t see, the washer men and dyers have eaten up all the chemicals  and the women who clean the coarse from the pashm have ended up with severe ailments and no one has ever patted them consolingly. It’s unfortunate but true. This industry need to be democratized at the earliest else this local shawl warped in the local culture and tradition will disappear very soon. 
The second important step to revive the pashmina shawl industry is to check duplicity and imitation. Pashmina shawls are imitated everywhere in the world. France, Russia, USA, Australia, Japan, England, China and Nepal are some countries known to imitate the Kashmiri pashmina shawls and are selling them under the trade name cashmere. Not only have the European and Middle Asian countries imitated the Kashmiri pashmina shawls but within India itself one can find many state governments encouraging the imitation of the shawls. Imagine in the National Museum of India, New Delhi, a place meant to preserve the objects with scientific, artistic, cultural, or historical importance selling imitated Paisely made pashmina shawls with the tags ‘Made in the special factories of Kashmir’. Where are these Paisley factories in Kashmir? Why are we silent over such ruthless imitation and duplicity? Where is the government? Celebrating the success of Noori alone won’t do, we need to be particle and have to take some concrete steps towards the development of pashmina shawl industry in Kashmir. In Kashmir the local brokers sell and supply the duplicate form of pashm containing viscose, acrylic and other low-quality fabric of rabbit and camel wool. We need to break this vicious nexus which damages the reputation of this famous brand. The practice of selling Amritsar made shawls in the name of Kashmir should also be discouraged. 
Alas! government is blind to all these concerns. Instead of encouraging and empowering our artisans, our state officials seem hell-bent on disempowering them. How our states describe the local artisans who have developed this craft can be well gauged from the Annual plan for 2010-11 published by the Planning and Development Department, Govt. of J&K. This annual report on page 680 reflects that “The machine made fabrics and trade liberalization have affected the handloom sector adversely…The handloom sector is facing multiple challenges from the main textile sector. Poor productivity of the weavers, increased cost of production, cheaper synthetic substitutes in the textile sector and changing customer tastes has put forth challenging pressure in competitive”. From this report one can sense the attitude of our policy makers towards the development of artisans in general and the shawl industry in particular.  One can contest this irresponsible description by questioning them how the so called ‘unproductive’ artisan could come up with new designs and products. Without any government intervention or support they compete with the jacquard and other power looms of the west. Despite being under paid they utilize their maximum creative potential to preserve and diffuse the local culture and tradition to the world. Still we call them ‘unproductive’.  
Finally I would like to conclude with the argument that we need to democratize the pashmina shawl industry at the earliest; we have to empower the artisans and come up with artisan friendly policies. Technological and biological breakthroughs alone won’t solve our problems. In fact to use technology we need human resource with some technical knowhow. No doubt Noori project is a good attempt towards the revival of the pashmina shawl trade, however our researchers should also focus on some bigger problems which otherwise impede and delay development. 

Monday, May 7, 2012


C for Creativity
WHY WE NEED A ‘C’ GRADE UNIVERSITY IN KASHMIR?
MIND MATTERS BY SHEIKH FAYAZ AHMAD

                           http://greaterkashmir.com/news/2012/May/6/c-for-creativity-65.asp

As of now we have more than seven universities in Jammu and Kashmir out of which some Universities have been accredited as ‘A’ grade university by the National Accreditation Council of India (NAAC) while the others are yet to get graded. But the university model I seek to delineate in this article is purely of the ‘C’ grade/type. When I mean ‘C- grade’, please don’t mistake it with the NAAC grading. I am actually referring to ‘creativity - a University exclusively meant to nourish and nutrify creativity and innovations. I am talking of a university which will encourage creativity, imagination and originality. Imagination and creativity are two important aspects of ‘knowledge based economy’ or what we call a ‘knowledge based society’. 
Can we think of a university which will channelize creativity and help solve our unsolved problems and puzzles? Is such a creative university possible? My answer is yes… We can think of such a C-type university in Kashmir.
 Kashmir had given some brilliant creative ideas and innovations to the world in the past. For instance, suspension bridge technology, seamless celestial globe, twill tapestry and paper, to mention a few. Dick Teresi, the author of God Particle in his path breaking book on history of science titled Lost Discoveries: The Ancient Roots of Modern Science-from the Babylonians to the Maya published in 2002 referred to Kashmir as the place which gave the technology of suspension bridge to the world. Amit Bhattacharyya in another book Swadeshi Enterprises in Bengal, 1995 argues that the art of paper making got diffused to the whole of India from Kashmir. Ali Kashmiri another unsung astronomer and metallurgist invented the first seamless celestial globe in 1589. Not only did the contemporary scholars but also the western travelers who visited Kashmir between 15th and 17th century recognized the ‘creative genius’ in the local people here. Francois Bernier in 1665 remarked that “the people of Kashmir are very active and industrious compared to the people of Hindustan”. Similarly, William Moorcroft in his travelogue titled Travels in the Himalayan Provinces of Hindustan and the Punjab, in Ladakh and Kashmir, in Peshawar, Kabul, Kunduz and Bokhara, from 1819 to 1825 has fully recognized the creative potential of Kashmir’s. Moorcroft contends that “The natives of Kashmir have been always considered as amongst the most lively and ingenious people of Asia, and deservedly so….With a liberal and wise government they might assume an equally high scale as a moral and intellectual people”. He further described the people of Kashmir as ‘decided genius’; “...He has great ingenuity as a mechanic, and a decided genius for manufactures and commerce”. Later on Lawrence in The Valley of Kashmir (1895) described the natives of Kashmir as intellectuals and wrote “He is timid yet persistent, degraded yet intellectual”. After considering the creative contributions by the people of Kashmir in the past, one can safely conclude that Kashmir had developed an innovation ecosystem much before Korea, Japan and USA. Hard to believe but true! 
However, many people can contest this argument by questioning the present drab system of education in the valley. We have a number of universities which lack in innovations and publications and where rote learning is a common practice. Learning by doing and understanding by experiencing and experimentation is hardly encouraged. There is hardly anyone to give a boost to pedagogical innovations; it is as if everyone is in a deep slumber. Take the example of the famous Dal Lake, encircled and crowded by a bunch of universities, technical institutes and with the residences of top govt. officials. This famous water body is dying! Who will save it? the big, expensive and useless machines from Switzerland. Yes, the local researchers and scientists have to get the job done. Government should fund such research activities. Technical institutes would add value to such research and the local administration should be happy to apply such local solutions. To be concise I must say, that a university with the hallmark of ‘creativity’ and ‘innovation’ is possible provided all the three actors i.e The Government, The University and the local people wish so. Let us keep this C–Type University open for everyone so that ideas can flow from all the sectors. Instead of heading to Switzerland or France for finding the solutions to our problems, it would be a better option to seek the solution from our own people.
 Sheikh Fayaz Ahmad, the author of Unsung Innovators of Kashmir is a full time Research Scholar at the Center for Studies in Science Policy- Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi-India. He can be reached at fayazjustinternational@gmail.com.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Story about my work in Financial Chronicle, the financial daily of Decan Chronicle and International Herald Tribune (Global Edition of New York Times ) dated 19th of January 2012

Book Review of Unsung Innovators of Kashmir in Daily Aftab

Article in Greater Kashmir dated 19th of January 2010

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

William Moorcroft : A Pirate or a Doyen of the Kashmiri Shawl.

William Moorcroft, born in Ormskirk , Lancashire in 1767, by profession a veterinary surgeon , was in India as a military stud with the East India Company. Belived to the first western traveller to reach Ladakh during the 19th century. Moorcrooft is credited as the first person from the west to study and document various nuances of the Shawl weaving techniques in Kashmir. And is eulogised as the first western to introduce the importance of pashmina fleece to the world. Moorcroft, actually went to Bengal in 1808. His expedition to Ladakh according to Prem Singh Jina the author of Famous Western Explorers to Ladakh started in 1812 and he remained there till 1825. Jina (1995) argues that Moorcroft traveled extensively throughout the Himalayas, Tibet and Central Asia to meet his twin objectives. First to obtain and study the Pashmina wool and second, to survey sacred Hindu lakes. In 1842, all the papers of Moorcroft were obtained by the Asiatic Society and were edited by H. H. Wilson with the title Travels in the Himalayan Provinces of Hindustan and the Punjab, in Ladakh and Kashmir, in Peshawur, Kabul, Kunduz and Bokhara, from 1819 to 1825 in two volumes.
It was on 3rd November 1822 when Moorcroft reached Kashmir. During his stay in Kashmir, he visited many areas both southern and northern parts. He not only studied the shawls of Kashmir but even visited Sogam, Kupwara to collect the 'Deodar seeds'. After studying Kashmir ; it's people and the art, Moorcrooft in his travelogue, Travels in the Himalayan Provinces of Hindustan and the Punjab, in Ladakh and Kashmir, in Peshawur, Kabul, Kunduz and Bokhara, from 1819 to 1825 has described the people of Kashmir as selfish, ignorant , dishonest and fraud. “In character the Kashmirian is selfish, superstitious, ignorant, supple, intriguing, dishonest and false; he has great ingenuity as a mechanic, and a decided genius for manufactures and commerce, but his transactions are always conducted in a fraudulent spirit (p.128)”. This understanding of Moorcroft about the people of Kashmir motivated me to deconstruct his claim, i tried to understand some basic facts. Facts about the big fraud, facts about a pirate, facts about a fraudulent spirit. And what i found is that William Moorcroft himself was a big fraud, a fraudulent spirit was in him and also was a dishonest traveler. He was a pirate, a cheater, who destroyed the shawl industry in Kashmir. He illegally shared all the technicalities, designs, and other information related to the Shawl weaving to his close relatives in the west. H. H. Wilson the editor of Moorcraft's travelogue substantiates this fact. “The creation of the manufacturer of British Shawls is no doubt to be ascribed, in a great degree, if not solely , to Mr. Moorcroft. From the period of his first journey to the Hiundes he was at great pains in sending home the shawl-wool, and in his present journey he sent to England patterns of shawls, and information regarding their manufacture , which , though addressed mostly to his private friends, found their way silently to persons engaged in similar manufactures, and enabled them to imitate successfully the shawls of Kashmir (p.165)”. Moorcroft according to Caroline Karpinski (1963) became, in fact ,obsessed with the shawl industry and was so engrossed in it that he tried to naturalize the pashmina goat in England. “Unable to import the wool because of a Kashmiri monopoly, they tried to naturalize the goat, and Moorcroft focused on the problem his professional attention. His herd of goats embarked for England, the males on one ship, the females on another, a scheme that proved a blunder, for the ship carrying the females was wrecked with no survivors (p. 116)”. Moorcroft according to many authors sent as many as 40 drawings related to different designs and formulas of the Kashmiri shawl to England. In his zeal to make the western shawls supreme, in order to expand the business of western shawls, Moorcroft campaigned to promote the emigration of the whole families of the artisans who were directly or indirectly linked with the shawl business from Kashmir to Norwich and Paisley.
One can thus safely argue that Moorcroft was a pirate, who violated the intellectual property of the local artisans. The local artisans of Kashmir much before the modern Patent system, are credited to have developed a brilliant method of protecting their intellect. This method of protecting their creative potential is known as 'Taleem'. And Moorcroft was the first person to demystify this code system thus violated our intellectual property. The irony is that after destroying the Kashmiri shawl industry, after committing such a  big fraud, Moorcroft still described us as a 'dishonest lot'. What an approach of studying people.....indeed 'western'. No doubt, many people have wrote in detail about Kashmiri Shawls, like Dr. Ab Ahad, Frank Ames, Monisha Ahmed, Parvaiz Nemati, Rosie Thomas, Sherry Rehman and Janet Rizvi but no one has so far highlighted the invisible hands who  have destroyed our past.

Sheikh Fayaz Ahmad
Halmatpora Kupwara.  

Sunday, January 8, 2012

KUNAN POSH PORA MASS RAPE

       Kunan Poshpora Mass Rape by Army

Every heart cried and every eye shed tears in the intervening night of the 23rd and 24th February 1991, when the young and energetic, but inhumane, Indian troops of the 04 Raj Raffles of 68 Brigade C/o 56 APO launched a search operation in the village of Kunan Poshpora, just 5kms from the main township Kupwara, and toed all humanitarian principals with the raping of as many as thirty women, including teenage girls and a near 100 year old frail grandmother. 

The troops firstly cornered all the men not allowing any of them to enter the houses, and whilst a group of them interrogated and adopted cruel measures to torture the men, others went ahead and mercilessly raped the women for hours together, irrespective of their age, irrespective of them being married or unmarried, or even pregnant, and they continued to do so until 9 O’clock the next day. The incident sent shock waves across villages, however, the helpless people could only cry and cry. Those who dared to resist were beaten ruthlessly by the troops of Raj Raffles. The heart rendering incident had a prolonged impact on the lives of women who became victims of the troopers’ aggression. Almost all the victims suffered psychosomatic disorders and at least two pregnant women (victims) were ultimately divorced by their husbands. From here onwards, the victims were subjected to official apathy, while the police registered a case vide FIR (First Incident Report) No R-1/1387/88 under RPC 376-452-342 dated 07-03-1991 at the Trehgam police station. However call it an irony that no legal action was actually initiated against the erring troopers involved in the heinous act. Keeping abreast with the past record of human rights violations during the 17 years of turmoil, the NGO’s and other organizations, including the APHC (All parties Hurriyat Conference), which claim to be safeguarding the interests of the victims of violence, did not extend any moral or financial help to the victims, only paying a visit to the village to ‘show face’. Instead a local teacher, Ghulam Hassan Dar of Kunan Poshpora, gave away a shameful Rs.50 to each victim. And it still remains a mystery whether the teacher donated this money from his own pocket or from any other source. The victims narrated the woeful tales recalling the traumatic experiences after sixteen long years. “At 11pm, I as usual was busy offering special prayers (naffil) and, at least four troopers broke down the window and entered into the room in candle light. As my son, who is serving in the Police Department, was rendering his duties in Uri, Baramulla, I was all alone. The troopers tore my cloths as I cried, but all in vain. They raped me one by one for hours. I could only cry but they put cloth into my mouth to cease my cries. After hours of trauma, I became unconscious.”, recalled Lass Ded who was 70 years old at that time. Her son, after learning about his aging mother’s ordeal, turned mad and even today has not recovered fully requiring medicines on a regular basis. Lass Ded was the first women to become the victim of the troopers’ aggression, and 16 years later, though the ill fated women regrets that nobody whole heartedly came forward to help the victims, she only demands punishment to the erring cops and nothing else. Lass Ded is one among many victims who in addition of having undergone the physical and psychological trauma of the heinous act inflicted upon her, have also suffered the social stigma of being raped in this conservative society. Lass Ded added that this heart rendering episode has held them back in their own houses and hearths, as they that punishing the erring cops would further damage their character in public. Lass Ded agrees that she had received a compensation of the mere Rs.50 from the teacher, but feels dejected in recalling this. While the inhuman and widely condemned event in Kunan Poshpora exposed the tormented women on a very sad note, the victims continue to carry a social stigma after such a long period of time. They still feel shy and ashamed of living a life in their village, but what haunts them the most is the fact that the erring cops are still roaming scot-free and no action has been taken against them. “It has been more than 17 years that the troopers have tarnished our chastity in open and no punishment has been accorded to the guilty. It amounts to encouraging crime. Those who committed this heinous crime are roaming scot-free. The government claims to have a check on gross human rights violations but the cops who committed this heinous crime in open where not taken to task.”, said Naseema Bano, d/o Ghulam Mohammad Dar, who was twenty two years old at the time of the incident.Although more than a decade has past by, the victims of the troopers’ aggression are still lost deep into the bitter memories of the traumatic experiences that they underwent on the night of 23rd February. The village still presents a grim picture of the said event which not only sent shock waves across entire border district, but also drew wide criticism from one and all in the Kashmir valley. The lives of victims became more miserable owing to the fact that the government and all other organizations almost failed to deliver goods on account of getting the guilty cops punished, not to speak of extending compensation to the victims.The trauma does not end here, the heart rendering incident had a telling impact on the women folk in the village, few women wishing anonymity say that they still receive unruly comments while visiting other villages as Kunan Poshpora came to the limelight after the mass rape event. “It is highly unfortunate that victims apart, even village girls have to listen to unhealthy comments with regard to the mass rape incident. Every mature girl wants to get married-off happily and to her best satisfaction, but believe us, scores of our girls’ proposals were turned down after the boys parents came to know about the mass rape incident.”, a young women pursuing her graduation said.The victims who bore the burnt of the unruly troopers in this remote village include;
The magnitude of the crime committed by the Indian Army could be well assessed by the fact that even Jaan Ded, now 110 years old was not spared. The old frail-bodied lady has been rendered dumb after this shocking incident. The locals say that after 36 hours of the episode, the women lost her voice to dejection as she could not bear the shock of this inhuman act.During the past 17 years of turmoil the gross human rights violations in Kashmir Valley went on spiraling as the paramilitary forces, interested with the job of fighting counter insurgency, indulged in letting loose their aggression upon the beleaguered Kashmiris caught between two guns. In the frontier district of Kupwara, the Kunan Poshpora mass rape incident is believed to be the most gross human rights violation during the ever growing phase of violence and blood shed. As the years have passed by, the human rights violation cases in Kashmir valley have increased drawing the attention and criticisms of people, however, unfortunately, it seems the government has never been serious enough in punishing the guilty and putting a check on atrocities. 
Sheikh Fayaz Ahmad
Kupwara 2007

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Think beyond obvious

This is in response to the article “Think beyond obvious: Will this bloodshed ever end? by Amit Kushari dated 12th of September 2011. The writer has tried to connect Delhi blasts with the unrest in Kashmir and North Eastern states. I am in agreement with a few arguments made by the retired IAS Officer in his write up. First, Indian state has crushed the people in Manipur, Nagaland and Kashmir, and they have been doing so for a long time with many acts giving Indian troops immunity to any kind of prosecution. Second, India needs to resolve Kashmir and Northeastern issues. True, Indian has to resolve the Kashmir Imbroglio, for its own survival and existence. But, the political argument made by the writer that these blasts are linked to Kashmir and North East is not correct. If this is the case, then what about Lokesh Sharma and Devender Gupta, both activists of RSS and BJP accused of carrying terrorists’ acts in Mecca Masjid? what about the Samjhauta Express train blast accused Swami Aseemanand the main and senior RSS activist and now in the Jail? There are many evidences and police FIR’s which clearly indict the Hindu terror outfits for these heinous terrorist acts. So to find a Kashmir connection with Delhi blasts is totally nonsense. India instead of going to Kashtawar, in Jammu region and arresting school going children on the charges of carrying out Delhi blasts should reopen the Aseemanand file. They will definitely find more concrete answers and evidences which will help India to avert more such tragedies in the future.


S. Fayaz Ahmad

Halmatpora, Kupwara

fayazjustinternational@gmail.com

Interlocutors Report

This is in response to the news report titled ‘Solution within Constitution: Interlocutors ‘Governance Can’t Substitute Political Settlement’ in Greater Kashmir dated 22nd of September 2011. It is indeed a good move that finally the interlocutors are going to submit their findings to the Government of India. Dileep Padgaonkar, one of the three interlocutors while briefing the press said that the agenda is to seek a permanent political settlement of Kashmir within the framework of Indian Constitution. One may like to suggest a few points to the interlocutors before they submit their report. First, before submitting the report they should deliberate on ‘Treaty of Amritsar’ signed on March 16, 1846, when British illegally sold Kashmir to the Maharaja Gulab Singh. This treaty was not only immoral but it also makes any accession with India technically illegal and illogical. Second, interlocutors should also reflect Article 152 of 1956 Amended Constitution which defines Indian States and specifies that the expression “state” does not include the State of Jammu and Kashmir. The report should also highlight all the UN Security Council Resolutions passed on Kashmir and particularly the UNCIP Resolution adopted on January 5, 1949, which talks of “democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite in Kashmir”. We hope the three member interlocutors team will debate all the pledges made by Nehru to the world community and to the people of the Kashmir. We hope they will reflect the speech of Nehru which he made on All India Radio on November 2, 1947 in which he reaffirmed the “Indian Government’s commitment to the right of the Kashmiri people through plebiscite to determine their own destiny”. We hope interlocutors will not forget to discuss the 1951, July 6 speech of Nehru in which he said “people seem to forget that Kashmir is not a commodity for sale or to be bartered. It has an individual existence and its people must be the final arbiters of their future”. If the interlocutors will debate on these lines then one can expect sense out of the report. Otherwise debating unemployment, infrastructure, tourism and Kashmiryat in the findings will be nonsensical activity . But before I will conclude let's again remind the interlocutors the speech of Nehru that “Kashmir is not a commodity for sale and you can’t barter it”. Yes dear interlocutors, any readymade solution within or out of the ambit of Indian Constitution will not be accepted to the people of Kashmir. We also request you to please stop branding ‘Kashmir issue’ an economic problem or a cultural tension. It is actually the issue of a nation, which had its history. We hope the interlocutors will not submit a bureaucratic and politically biased report. After all this is the question of the credibility of the world's largest democracy.


S. Fayaz Ahmad

Halmatpora, Kupwara

fayazjustinternational@gmail.com

New Recruitment Policy in Kashmir

This is in response to the news item “Govt notifies modalities under new recruitment rules SSB asked to re-advertise posts” dated 28th Nov. 2010. These new modalities are dubious, destructive and of course discouraging and preposterous. It will not be wrong to call it a ‘new form of state terrorism'. Indeed it is a new experiment to exploit and to subjugate the talent of the valley. This strategy is yet another farce game with the people of Kashmir who are yet to get healed of the faulty socio-economic policies adapted by our state. Had the government been serious enough to tackle the problem of unemployment, it would never have devised such a meritocratic and divisive policy. The policy is utterly undemocratic and ‘exclusive’ as in the first place it distances the common man of Kashmir from the basic right to live with dignity and honor.

With these new modalities the so called “civilian” government is trying to encourage more corruption in the valley as these modalities are housing the seeds that will bloom an already bloomed corruption in Kashmir. Look at the corruption rate in Jammu and Kashmir. We are already top in South Asia, and I am sure with this new salary modality, we will top the world. What the heck this new decision of the government is? How can they, the 'bureaucrats' and 'politicians' expect a teacher, and a health worker to live on such a meager salary of Rs. 4000 for five years? This decision of the government needs to be condemned and all those who have formulated such a drab policy deserve to be castigated. It is these bureaucrats and politicians who by expropriating the state's resources have created a financial famine in the state, have created a situation where they can easily exploit the future generations. If these 'graduate bureaucrats', and ' ignoramus politicians' are so concerned about Kashmir, let they start charity from their homes. Let they stop taking bribe, let they settle on less salary, let they spent less on fuel, office maintenance, security, and what not. It is certainly the fallout of the bad governance that our State is in the mess, financial condition is worse, local industries are dying, water bodies decaying, natural resources depleting, forests are deforested and resources are destroyed. And now with this faulty employment policy they want to attack on the 'human resource', the last hope of the state. Very unfortunate! This decision reflects how corruption, dictatorship and bad governance is the hallmark of our state. Shall we call it a new form of state terror, or the ' failure of the state' or the reflection of the drab state policies. This new policy actually is inherently ‘exclusive’ in nature as it tends to keep out those who live at the bottom of the economic pyramid. It will be wrong to say that this policy will overhaul the unemployment mess in Kashmir; rather it will worsen the current situation. This new salary policy will hit hard the common man and the economy. He will have no alternatives, no choices, and no satisfaction. He will be determined by the state to live in a miserable condition and die as such. He will be financially jeopardized, he will be craving…The demand curve will come down, the economy and the local market will face a new threat. A new disaster is inevitable.
So come and protest this new form of state terror.
Sheikh Fayaz Ahmad , Muzaffar Ali are Research Scholars at the School of Social Sciences, JNU, New Delhi and can be reached at fayazjustinternational@gmail.com

AFSPA and Indian-ness

AFSPA AND INDIAN-NESS

This is in reaction to an article 'Save us from squinted views : AFSPA Revocation is to be seen from all possible perspectives' by Binoo Joshi dated 25th Oct 2011. The writer has very cleverly tried to justify AFSPA in the valley albeit he has raised few questions in his well drafted conceit. AFSPA, the worst draconian law which gives Army officers legal immunity for raping, killing ,and humiliating anyone irrespective of sex, creed and cast also empowers Army to intervene in the civilian affairs of the government. AFSPA, according to Joshi is to fight counter-insurgency so to bring law and order in a so called “disturbed” area. But let me correct the writer, that AFSPA is not to fight counter insurgency but is a violence to institute “Indian-ness” or the legitimacy of “Indian State” in specific areas and their inhabitants wherein the “Indian-ness” is a problem. Why AFSPA is not imposed in the disturbed areas of Central India where according to Indian Home Minister 'the most violent movement worst than terrorism or insurgency is going on' ? The reason is simple, the people there are compatible with the “Indian-ness' and the people of the valley are not. Second, revocation of AFSPA technically means a transition in the political space from so called "disturbed" area to "peaceful" area. So if AFSPA is revoked from valley then with AFSPA, Army too has to leave, which i see is very difficult for New Delhi to do. That is the reason New Delhi defense heads rushed to valley to calm down CM Omar, who a few days back said that AFSPA will be revoked from few places in Kashmir. Anyways let's see who is more powerful in Kashmir, the government which claims to represent the aspirations of the people or the Army.

S. Fayaz Ahmad

Halmatpora, Kupwara
fayazjustinternational@gmail.com

Book Review in Greater Kashmir