I have a dream to go back to the ages when our paradise Kashmir was neat and clean. I cherish the time we had ponds, springs, lakes, streams, fresh and soothing. I still feel the beauty of the mountains and our rich forests, flora and fauna that is hard to forget. Ah! The sweet snow and icicles in the glorious past makes me feel cool today although Sun has turned wild now. For anyone visiting Kashmir and exploring its vast resources has proven as a therapy for many ailments. Alas! Our pure environment is no more pure now and our springs, lakes have dried up. Our rich streams have been filled with dust and dirt and a big hole in nature has occurred. Man’s foul play with the nature and self centric interests is not going well with our present and future. Our growth and development will be short-lived if we didn’t safeguard the natural environment and its resources. Our environmental problems are alarmingly mounting but we are yet to recover from our deep hibernate/sleep mode. Environmental pollution has existed for centuries but increased at an alarming rate after industrial revolution in the 19th century. Pollution is one of the biggest global killers, affecting over 100 million people. We must join hands across the globe and help save our beautiful planet before it is too late. As a good citizen don’t expect results only from the agencies involved for everyone must show huge love and care towards the environment. A strong belief system needs to be developed that our citizens at any levels can make a huge difference with simple and small choices in life.
The world is overburdened with the population now and its vast resources are being overexploited. There is greater need that we must promote better and efficient use of resources. We must encourage the reduction, recycling and re-use of wastes as raw material for new products. I remember my childhood days when our family was operating a transport business. We had huge bus and truck tyre scrap getting heaped up at our home. My beloved mother once covered a garden with the useless tyre scrap. I never liked the idea and hence removed the covering. When I joined ITM University Gwalior some years back, I could learn from students how better we can use the same scrap. It was good to watch our students using similar scrap tyres to make a fancy sitting arrangement. Our younger generations are highly creative and only support and opportunities are needed. Not only scraps tyres received good treatments but plastic waste was also turned into decorative stuff by the students. The idea was also there decades back with my beloved mother but the proper guidance and shape was missing to get charm out of tyre scrap. We must promote ‘Jugaad’ creation, the idea of using the waste to make something novel and save resources. We need to set examples from our home places and re-use what we would easily throw away and conserve for a future. What we cannot recycle let us not use them. Let’s promote paper products as they break down better in the environment and don’t affect our nature as much.
Let’s be environmentally friendly citizens in our Kashmir. Learning to be more environmentally friendly is not that difficult task than we think. We must start by living with a greater awareness of the resources that we use in our daily life. For example we must turn off the lights as soon as we leave a room and be environmental friendly when it comes to building our home. Trees are necessary for us to survive. We must plant small trees around our home, don’t cut them unless it’s necessary, work with local environmental groups to plant more trees and educate others about the beauty and benefits of trees. Water needs to be conserved. Few ways to conserve water are – take short showers, keep the running tap close while we brush our teeth, recycle water in our home, use water saving appliances etc. More good ways to contribute will be consume less energy, buy recycled products, and create less waste and many more. We must refrain from open burning as backyard trash and leaf burning releases high levels of toxic compounds. We must use public transit as much as possible. Let us walk more and drive less to conserve fuel and prevent auto-emission. Let’s use bicycles and scooters for shorter distances to save resources.
Cleanliness leads to cleanliness is my strong observation. I have keenly observed that when there is a dirty place, it becomes dirtier and everyone spoils it more. When we find a fresh and a clean place, we think twice before making it a dirty place. It is for that reason we see no changes in dirty as well as clean places. I purchased an ice cream recently and the shopkeeper appreciably offered me a box to throw the wrapper into it just to keep the road protected. How pity is that I keep my home clean and hardly care for the roads, hospitals, educational institutions, offices, markets etc. Our mindset has to undergo a big overhaul that our public property is our own property.
India is one of the three worst offending countries when it comes to environmental performance. Corporate leaders have started joining the race to save the planet. Being environment-friendly, eco-friendly, going green are huge claims referring to goods and services, laws, guidelines and policies that inflict reduced, minimal, or no harm at all, upon ecosystems or the environment. But the attempts need to be concrete ones and in real terms. It’s all about taking bold and safer steps so as to make this planet a better place for our communities and generations to come. Small and medium sized companies in particular generate a lot of pollution and need awareness and support policies in order to be environmental friendly.
Some good people lead by examples and we must follow them to bring a good change in our society. Mexican Ambassador to India is an inspiration who is using an auto rickshaw as her official vehicle to be environmental friendly. She easily deserves using a super luxurious car. Dutch Prime Minister goes to office using bicycle. The same PM in a recent video was seen cleaning up the mess himself after he accidentally spilt coffee inside the country’s parliament. They have won hearts worldwide for their brave efforts. Why our ministers and officials can’t learn similar lessons and be contributive towards the society? Swachh Bharat Abhiyan was a good attempt but we need results rather than just making it a filmy/circus show. The dream of cleanliness can be achieved only when we are sincere in our efforts. Individuals, organizations and governments need to join hands to protect our environment.
We must come forward and join the clean earth campaign. We must realize that this is not the legacy we are supposed to leave behind for our future generations. Let’s educate others about the significance of living an environmentally friendly life. The more we will share an awareness of the richness of the environment, the more we can do together to protect it. Our educational institutions from lower to higher levels must take high leads in fostering creativity and innovation. It will not augur well with the future prosperity if we have environmental care restricted only to specific days of our calendar. Environmental love and care must receive an all time priority. Besides knowledge and good initiatives must go beyond the model building and turn into reality. Isn’t it possible that our educational grids and organizations highly reward and praise their students and employees every year for their efforts and environmental care? This can be a booster to promote wellbeing of our environment. Let’s go green and owe the responsibility to protect our environment.
(The author is Assistant Professor, ITM University Gwalior. E-mail: [email protected])
Shujaat Bukhari: In many worlds at the same time, yet rooted to the ground
Shujaat Bukhari, perhaps embarrassed about his tall and distinct demeanour, hunched just a wee bit to make his friends comfortable. His two children, before they were five, would walk with their head distinctly bent to the right, as that was a good imitation of Abba, always on the cellphone, trying to be hands-free. Always wired, he was quick to read up NYT and The Guardian first thing in the morning, before the smartphone arrived, as he tapped his fingers, itching to read the newspapers that reached only in the afternoon. With a trademark mischievous smile, he had mastered just the right manner to disarm you as he proceeded to slowly rip your arguments apart —whether in the biting Kashmir cold or the sweltering Delhi heat. He had just turned 50 this February.
A journalist with spunk, courage and a keen sense of his calling, of telling the story, Bukhari fundamentally believed it was his bounden duty to jump fences between holders of different truths and come to his own conclusions. It is no surprise that his ‘pinned tweet’ is from an Editors Conference in Lisbon in May. He liked being in many worlds at the same time.
Bukhari, widely travelled inside and outside Jammu and Kashmir, was able to blend a truly rooted view of the ground in the state with an easy cosmopolitan perspective. His stints in universities abroad, his long journey with The Hindu brought out the best in him, even though in his final years he gave his newspaper, Rising Kashmir, his everything.
Laughingly, he would speak of The Hindu as being the best teacher, because he had to ultimately ensure that “Anna Salai” (the road with The Hindu’s head office in Chennai) understood the importance of what was happening “downtown or in Baramulla”. That, he said, forced him to be able to tease out stories and be most matter of fact. A long and sustained stint there through very troubled years in the state made his a reliable and valued byline. Says Harish Khare, his editor for many years who got him into The Hindu group, “He was my first contact in Kashmir and I was always struck by his commitment to fairness in reporting. I met him in 1994, got him into the group then.”
Bukhari, in his own office at Press Colony, hosted hundreds of parachuting journalists in and out of the state — in dark times, when stepping out was impossible after sunset, to rosier times, when apple orchards would be covered and there was optimism over the bus service between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad.
Says Sachidadand Murthy, resident editor of The Week, “His deepest quality was his curiosity. He was always hungry for all kinds of information from all sides and had an ability to piece together all the nuggets. He was an excellent reporter, always ahead of things. After a recent health scare, we all flocked to him after he came to Delhi, but he scoffed our concern away with the reminder that he needed to bring out a paper everyday and had to have his hands back at the wheel.”
On quitting The Hindu, Bukhari took to editing his own newspaper. Even in his avatar as an Editor-in-Chief, with more responsibilities now and a sibling who went on to become (and still is) a minister in the PDP-BJP government, always punched hard and stayed above the fray. In a world dominated by social media, Bukhari adapted remarkably to being able to translate his thoughtful and shrewd assessments to the demands of expressing himself 24X7.
With a declared and courageous view that he stood by the peace process, Bukhari was part of a small group of voices with a well-rounded view of the Kashmir situation and an ability to convey what changed there and what didn’t, convincingly to the rest of the country and world. He was happy to not always be seen to be in sync with the dominant view of his peers in the field. For example, he felt that Kashmir should host a literature festival in 2011, contrary to what influential colleagues and writers felt, and he wrote about it and held his ground. In the past few months, while he welcomed the Ramzan ceasefire, his world had grown darker and he did not like what he saw.
Among the last things he did was to still write about his defence of objective and solid reporting from Kashmir as he wrote about allegations that Kashmiri journalists were biased, “we have done Journalism with pride and will continue to highlight what happens on the ground”.
Journalists In Kashmir Risk Everyday
In one of his last tweets before he was brutally shot dead, Shujaat Bukhari wrote,” In Kashmir, we have done journalism with pride, and will continue to highlight what happens on the ground.” This was Shujaat, exasperated with the increasingly polarised discourse in the country which seeks to label all of us, and more so, journalists from Kashmir. Shujaat was hard to label. Because he was a moderate voice from the Valley. In today’s reductionist terms, that means he was a “jihadi” for the extreme right wing, which is now a ‘compliment’ for anyone who advocates peace and dialogue. And that is exactly the reason why the other side thought he had “sold out” to India.
The fact is, Shujaat always stood for dialogue and peace. He was very active on the “Track 2” circuit between India and Pakistan. And within India, he regularly organised and attended seminars and conferences on Kashmir, which included sessions on bridging the divide between Kashmiri Pandits and Muslims. Over the last few years, he appeared regularly on our TV shows. We didn’t always agree, but he was polite and put across his point of view firmly but respectfully.
He would make it a point to always tell me how some other TV channels had poisoned the discourse in Kashmir with their hate-driven agenda night after night. Those sections of the media have done so much harm, essentially in labelling all Kashmiris as stone-pelters and terrorists, calling anyone who wants peace a “lobbyist” and “Pakistan apologist”. They haven’t even spared Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti from these labels, she who is a democratically-elected Chief Minister no less.
Which is why I tweeted last night that armchair patriots really don’t understand what journalists in Kashmir go through, the kind of pressure they face in their reporting day after day. My colleague Zaffar Iqbal was shot by terrorists and miraculously survived. I know it takes immense courage for him to report from the Valley; for years, he didn’t have the strength to go back to live there. Both he and NDTV’s Nazir Masoodi have always been fair, objective and courageous in their reporting, along with many other journalists in the Valley. Today, I want to thank them for what they do.
Shujaat had welcomed the recent ceasefire announced by the centre in the Valley, a ceasefire that terrorist groups and their supporters have been seeking to destroy from the very moment it was put into place. His killing reminds me of the assassination of separatist leader Abdul Ghani Lone in 2002, who was murdered for talking about peace. I have no doubt that Shujaat has been killed by the same forces. The onus is on us to make sure those forces are eventually defeated. RIP Shujaat.
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