By Bhushan Parimoo
Frenetic calls have been pouring in even at odd hours these days. Imploring upon the Environment Awareness Forum, an NGO working for the cause of the Environment since last 40 years, to restrain J&K State Forest Corporation for anti Forest approach.. Has pressed Mechanised cutters in service to extract timber from the allotted Forest Compartments. These mechanized cutters do not fall in Hand Saw category but, instead, qualify as Band Saw, though smaller in size. Asked callers to rise to the occasion and protects and resists. Confided that musclemen on behalf of the sub contactors threaten to get them arrested branding them above ground workers. Hence pleading to bring it to the notice of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India. Under section 29(i) of the J&K Forest Act, 1987, “saw mill” has been defined as ‘any device and machinery with which and the premises (including the precincts thereof) in which or in any part of which sawing is carried on with the aid of electrical and mechanical power. The Supreme Court of India has banned the operation of saw mills within a distance of less than 8 km from the boundary of any demarcated forest in the State of Jammu and Kashmir where as in other states it is 10 kms limit. Therefore, the mechanised cutters or saws, which have been allowed by the State Forest Corporation for timber extraction, are not only being operated in the blatant violation of the Section 6(j) and Rule 2(n) of the SRO 103 dt. 26.03.2012, mandate seeking of licence from the prescribed licensing authority viz, the territorial Conservator of Forests as defined under rule 2(h) of the said SRO.
Environmentalists at local level are of the opinion when the Government introduced Mechanised Sawing Machines, how locals shall be refrained from using it, which will encourage the carrying out of clandestine timber trade. Already under the very nose of the concerned authorities, Big Saw mills have been operating illegally. These are not a needle hidden in a stack of hay. Forests belong exclusively to the State Subjects. Those who are brought in to save, have nothing at stake; hence no sentimental attachment barring the locals. Forests belongs to the State Subjects exclusively. Those who are brought in to save have nothing at stake hence no sentimental attachment barring the locals. EAF did approach on cell to the Suresh Chugh, Managing Director of the State Forest Corporation. He had his view that it does not fall under Band Saw, which is utterly not correct. Second he was of the opinion that it is beneficial on two accounts one work is carried fast second non availability of local labour is one of the main reason to press this mechanised Saw machine, besides Labour has to be imported. That means envisaged Man days generated for local youth is defeated. There is no hurry to put in practice which is not legally allowed, because tree won’t run and cross the LOC. This is like CEC drew the notice of the Apex Court that it had been unable to agree with the contention of the State of Jammu and Kashmir that regulated felling of trees from the forest is absolutely necessary to maintain and improve upon the quality and quantity of the forests cover. In the eco-sensitive hilly areas of Himalaya, it may be desirable that a conservative approach is followed. Awareness dawned among the state Subjects that the world famous rarest of rare Green Gold has been almost wiped out causing direct severe impact of the biodiversity here.
To save Forests from further vandalism J&K State Forest Corporation was established in 1978 to carry timber extraction on scientific lines. History of J&KSF Corporation has been a sordid affairs, since it was established. Earlier Forest lessees had a strong a clout and it were they who would decide which Compartment should be releases for timber extraction. Copies of working plan used to be in their possession and services of retired Forest officers were engaged to suggest after scrutinise the Working Plan. After the establishment of the J&K SF Corporation, most of these became sub-contractors. Nothing changed except nomenclature. It was P.C.Kapoor subjected to correction who retired as Pr Chief Conservator Forest, while as Conservator Forest noticed that the J&K State Forest Corporation is not remitting Royalty for the timber extracted from the Forests. Lack of records to reconciling, besides sister concern, worked out a plan let bygone be bygone for onwards things be carried as per rules. It was the Environment Awareness Forum who through a Writ Petition before the Supreme Court of India State of J&K 7 ors No 171/96 has revealed that the Corporation has been extracting timer to the tune of 1.25 corers of CFT annually. Despite of the fact during a Periodical Review Meeting of Forest Department taken by the Planning Department in 1987. A survey report was presented in the meeting from 1966 to 1987 where a pronounced decline of the regeneration of these species. Survey conducted in 1966 took for test check a commercial area of 404053 Ha. First time sigh of ill health of these Forests was recorded. Another examination conducted area covered was 588467 Ha in 1982. Things showed no sign of improvement. There after it was 1987 area considered was 592401 Ha. Same story to convey nothing to write home about. Quite clear that instead of Forest growing in stock as per its normal behaviour showed consistent decline. Indicated that the Forests have been in distress needs immediate attention. While regeneration showed perturbed trend still department carried increase in areas for commercial exploitation. Only looters not protectors can do it. Commissioner Planning and Development out rightly called for the cause for this decline. Queried further that on one hand Forest Department claim that Forests management and regulated in a manner. Where the natural regeneration commensurate with the rate of removals. Then where from this abnormal behavior cropped up. Coniferous Forest of North Kashmir called Kamraj area was subjected to reckless clearing first, followed by Chenab Valley. Once the valley exported these species outside the state. And it was the Kamraj Circle timber transportation two log booms were established. One atDoabgah, another the main on river Jhelum, at Jhelum city borderingState with then Punjab, now part of Pakistan, even accommodated the needs of Jammu Division as well. Readers may like that till the Supreme Court of India intervenedthrough its 12-12-96 judgment in the Writ Petition (Civil) Environment Awareness Forum v/s State of J&K and Ors, State Forest Corporation had been extracting Timber up to 1.25 crores CFT. Which adherence to the direction of the Apex Court has scaled down as per norms just less than 25 lakhs CF. To meet local demand import has reached to about 50 lakh CFT of timber. At present State has no stock of Deodar or Kail to extract. Only Budloo is being extracted. It calls for us to ponder about the status of our forests. Budloo has few takers in preferenceto unspecified imported Timber.it was In an affidavit on Behalf of Ministry of Environment and Forests Before The Supreme Court of India Civil Original Jurisdiction I.A No 19 of 2000 in WRIT PETITION ( C) In the matter of Environment Awareness Forum, Petitioner (S) Versus State of J&K 7 ors, Respondent (S) “Supreme Court of India in this very case stressed that involves active participation of the village youth in plantation and forest regeneration Besides Village Forest Committees for the affairs of the Forest, which earlier used to be called Joint Forest Management Committees which never took place. Department bring in outsiders to carry the job disregarding the orders of the Apex Court. Kashmir valley cleared of its mature coniferous forests. Deforestation shifted to Chenab valley, where from needs of the Kashmir valley has been met. Last 60 years almost all the mature trees in a scheme ofthings were felled. Tree canopy gone, cleared areas allowed toencroachments. Corporation, as already said is a sister concern of the Department of Forest Environment and Ecology, HOD interchangeable as comrades in Arms, make it a point to overlook shortcomings and shield as one. Readers may like that once wood from log boom at Kanthan, Reasi used to be carried under Form no 25 to Jammu, by the political backed Contactors and on one form at least three trips inconnivance and later to cover up the fraud loog boom was made to collapse.EAF raised crusade, but vigilance department was oiled even meteorology Department gave a report that that days it rained heavily though before and after collapsed of the Boom days were sunny.
Lt Gen S.S.Salaklani, when he was Advisor to the Governor in charge Department of Forest Environment and Ecology, directed to make it State Forest Development Cooperation on the Kerala Forest Development Corporation, thought it has been carried but while write this piece found it is still Tree Felling Cooperation. During that period Advisor was approach by the EAF to establish in each blocks of the state demonstration cum traing Fodder Nurseries, he appreciated the idea and pass on the job to Corporation, which it not carry. Just a few years back under Bamboo Mission it was asked to restart Value added Bamboo products from Crafts centre Gagwal with a seed money of rupees 40 lakhs but it did not took the challenge. Similarly about 40 lakhs Corporation paid in advance a sum of Rs 40 laks to the forest Department for the rights to extract minor Forest Produce, but not a single extraction is in the record. Agreement with a private concern as alleged had strange terms, first it was to be jointly rum in Forest area. Dumping of Timber at Leh against no demand has been another dirty job but no one taken to task. What makes this writer to surprises when timber extraction has come down from 1.25 crores to mere 22 lakh Cft of timber annually, how staff on borne of the Corporation is almost same besides how number of vehicles to the staff has increased. It requires mention that the field staff carry are working against very heavy odds under charged circumstances for month no salary on retirement no dues for years. But forests are to be protected. Advisor has to its credit one Veerapan, here he has to face in every corner of the forest set up in Forest Uniform. Save Forest or Leave Forests choice lies with him.
(The writer is a Jammu based environmentalist)
Not in the Mahatma’s name
The recent uproar over the glorification of Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin, NathuramGodse, by the BharatiyaJanata Party’s Bhopal candidate Pragya Singh Thakur has forced her party to tick her off. It should be a solace for us that there is at least one non-negotiable in Indian politics, that the political cost of the celebration of the murder of the Mahatma is formidably high! But now we would be told to let the matter rest as she has been chided even by her mentors.
Let us look at the implication of this approach, that Ms. Thakur, sans this statement, should be acceptable to us as a potential representative in Parliament. She continues to be the ‘symbol of Hinduism’, as she claimed Prime Minister NarendraModi had said of her. Our satisfaction over the condemnation of Ms. Thakur makes us forget that she is being audaciously presented as the most fitting answer to secular politics, which holds that a person accused of attacks on Muslims cannot be a people’s representative in India.
The idea that a Hindu can never indulge in a terror act is, in fact, another way of saying that terror acts are always committed by non-Hindus. Or, by Pakistan, which for BJP leaders is a proxy for Muslims. Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, while talking about the Samjhauta Express blast case acquittals, claimed that it was unimaginable to accept that Hindus could be involved in such acts, and that he believed that in all such crimes there was the hand of Pakistan. A crime has been committed, and since the Hindu suspects cannot (being Hindus) do it, it can only be Muslims even if they are not caught — this is the underlying assumption.
It is this theory which is being thrown at us by the BJP by presenting Ms. Thakur as its choice for the electorate of Bhopal. It has another sinister aspect. She was selected knowing well that she could not be a choice for Muslims. Her selection is therefore a message to Muslims that by not voting for her, they disregard the sentiments of Hindus, thus showing intolerance towards the majority.
By supporting her, the ‘symbol of Hinduism’, they have a chance to endear themselves to the Hindus. If they don’t, they would always be a suspect.
This argument is not new. Many pundits, while accepting that Mr.Modi was a divisive figure, urged Indians to choose him as he was the best bet for the economic development of India. So, can Muslims be so sectarian as to think only about themselves while the greater national interest is at stake?
The swift and determined move by the BJP to reject her statement on Godse is a clever ploy to make this issue irrelevant while judging her. It is as if we are asked to judge Godse, setting aside the act of murder of Gandhi by him. There are ‘respectable’ people who feel that Godse spoilt his case by murdering the Mahatma. They regret this folly as they believe that there was strong merit in his ideological stance. According to them, he rightly opposed the Muslim appeasement of Gandhi, his anger at the dangerous friendliness of Gandhi towards Pakistan is correct, and his impatience with the unwise and impractical pacifism of Gandhi is to be understood if we want to make India strong.
We are asked to understand that there was a reason Godse was forced to kill Gandhi. We are asked to not treat him as a simple criminal. He was driven by high ideas. To make him a man of ideas, he is constantly humanised. We have seen over the years people talking about his childhood, his education, his editorship. Gandhi must have done something really horrible to provoke a thoughtful human being to turn into an assassin. If anything, they imply, he was a just assassin!
So, we are asked to move away from the trivia, that is the act of the murder, to the substantive, the issues raised by Nathuram in his ‘brave defence’ in the court, which had moved people to tears even then.
The RashtriyaSwayamsevakSangh (RSS), unlike the Islamic State and the Maoists, understands it well that an individual and identifiable act of violence makes it abhorrent and repulsive for the masses, whereas anonymous acts of violence are always more palatable. It was therefore important for Savarkar to distance himself from his disciple, Godse, to remain respectable. For the RSS it was necessary to disown Godse to be able to keep working on the majoritarian ideas he shared with or had learnt from Savarkar and the RSS. No known RSS hand soils his hands with blood; yet it is the politics of the RSS, not at all different from Godse’s, which makes blood flow.
Gandhi had said again and again that it would be better for him to die if India were to become inhospitable to Muslims. He was talking to those who were objecting to the recitation from the Koran at his prayer meetings. Death he could accept but not the narrowing of his heart! Neither bowing to threats or force! In the same invocation, he said, if you ask me to recite the Gita at gun point, I would refuse to obey you.
Gandhi told his audience, your heart is also large. Don’t constrict it. It is this challenge which needs to be accepted. It requires immense bravery of intelligence and humanity to be able to hear Gandhi. This intelligence would tell us that the distancing from the murder of the Mahatma by the co-travellers of Godse is in fact a strategy to enlarge the space for majoritarian ideas and draw more and more Hindus towards them, thus making Gandhi irrelevant while keeping his facade decorated.
Why I want Pragya Thakur to win
By Saba Naqvi
Regardless of whether NarendraModi remains Prime Minister or not I want terror accused Pragya Thakur to win from Bhopal. The esteemed leadership of India’s pre-eminent political party chose a terror accused as a candidate and they must endure her tenure as MP.
Pragya may be a poisonous vendor of hate and violence but she is not a hypocrite. Ever since she spoke her mind on describing NathuramGodse, the individual who shot MK Gandhi to death, as a patriot, the BJP national leadership has claimed to be disturbed. The Prime Minister spoke up after her statement, saying, he would never forgive her for what she had said and the party stated that it had initiated disciplinary action against her.
But by the time the party took this position, many members of the BJP had come up with twisted arguments somehow justifying Pragya’s validation of the assassin of a figure many revere as a Mahatma or Great Soul. Party members exposed their own problematic ideological heritage that included non-participation in the freedom movement led by Gandhi. Some of them could not help but reveal their own natural impulse to drop the veneer of falsehood and come clean on how they do indeed believe that Godse was a patriot despite having killed Gandhi.
The Godse remark in just two days exposed the ideological underbelly of the ruling party that does indeed have members who believe that Gandhi was a villain who loved Muslims and Pakistan. That’s why Godse, by his own account in a famous trial, shot him. A must-read for those who wish to engage with this debate is the book titled “The Men Who Killed Gandhi” by ManoharMalgonkar.
Seventy-one years after that crime on January 30, 1948, we have come to the point where a candidate contesting in an election for Parliament embraces the Godse world view. What’s more, a member of Modi’s council of ministers, AnantkumarHegde, endorsed her position. The MP from Karnataka had earlier kicked up a storm when he had said that “we are here to change the Constitution”. Yes, the same Constitution he took an oath to protect.
Hegde’s also received a show-cause notice to explain his position and on May 17 BJP president Amit Shah said the party’s disciplinary committee would submit a report on the matter in 10 days, after the election verdict, that is. There was more: the BJP media cell chief in Madhya Pradesh, the state from where Pragya is contesting, was brazen enough to say that Gandhi was the father of the nation of Pakistan. The BJP suspended him.
So how do we read the ideological contortions ever since Pragya uttered the “Godse is a patriot” words? One could say that the BJP is trying to occupy the space of both extreme and moderate in a national ideological pendulum that has shifted right-wards. It’s not a bad ploy—the ideological family plays to the more core beliefs, that are to be revealed step by step, and just in case some voters find them unpalatable, there are the “reasonable” elements as well.
And, voila! Modi becomes a moderate who is being stern with the fringe! That is a useful projection at a time when there is the possibility of needing some allies post-23 May. The BJP has made this ideological journey before, of being all things to all men. Earlier, former Prime Minister AtalBihari Vajpayee was offered up as the moderate to LK Advani, the architect of the Ram temple movement, who brought the BJP to national prominence. Today Modi today is the moderate who is speaking up against the hardliners, who are called “fringe” by those who believe it’s all part of a great national purpose.
It’s not. The “fringe” has been mainstream for some years now. Much before Pragya was presented to the nation as a candidate for parliament, the BJP leadership chose an unabashed Muslim-hating monk of a religious order to be the chief minister of India’s most populous state. All these debates about ‘moderate’ and ‘hardliner’ are a farce designed to make the BJP constituency feel better about themselves. It’s part of the good cop/ bad cop tactic.
To conclude, therefore, I want a terror accused to win, just so that we can, as a nation, get a reality check on where we have landed up. And just in case someone wants to ask me about whether I am afraid, here is my reply: I am so certain about the courage of my convictions, that there is no fear, although I do feel some shame for those who have tied themselves into knots over something about which there should have been no ambiguity. Bring on Pragya and let’s see what happens next.
The ‘unpeople’ of India
By Abdul Khaliq
Muslims now have to live with the bleak truth that the most powerful political party and its ideological parent, with tentacles spread across the country, are pathologically hostile to Muslims.
I fear for our future as a secular, multicultural country that once celebrated a richness of culture and tradition. Till not long ago we affirmed our common humanity even as we celebrated our differences. Our nation represented diversity, kindness, compassion and a revulsion of extremist views. But, over time, our collective souls have been deadened by violence, deepening communal and caste divides and the most perverse thinking. The cosmopolitan spirit has been throttled by hyper nationalism, populism and a deep distrust of the liberal values of tolerance and inclusion. A creeping majoritarianism is spreading across the land.
In this overheated, protracted election season, Muslims are up against it, caught between a rock and a hard place. Theirs is an Orwellian world where they are the “unpeople”— a term coined by George Orwell in his scary masterpiece 1984, to define those whose names and existence had been erased because they had incurred “Big Brother’s” ire. Muslims now have to live with the bleak truth that the most powerful political party and its ideological parent, with tentacles spread across the country, are pathologically hostile to Muslims. What makes their plight infinitely worse, is the fact that even the major allegedly secular party has consigned Muslims to social invisibility. Can one trust a party that is afraid to even allude to the Muslims’ problems, let alone address them?
When the PM evoked the 1984 mass slaughter of Sikhs and quoted Rajiv Gandhi’s infamous justification about the inevitable effect of the falling of a big tree, why did the Congress president not hit back by recalling the 2002 Gujarat riots and Modi’s Newtonian observation justifying the killing of hundreds of Muslims as a reaction to an action? He refrained, not for any ethical reason, but simply for fear of being seen as empathetic to Muslims and their problems and of equating the two tragedies. Caught between the flagrant hostility of the right-wing and the fraudulent concern of the secular front, Muslims are India’s outcasts.
In today’s India, where all issues across the political spectrum are seen through the lens of identity politics, Muslims are vilified for their custom, dress and tradition. They are physically attacked for the food they eat, discriminated against in employment, housing, and even civic amenities, and, they are routinely victimised by law-enforcement authorities simply for being Muslim. Social media is awash with the most hateful, stereotypical portrayal of Muslims as terrorist sympathisers, baby producing factories and worse. Although India has been the home of Islam and its adherents for much more than a millennium, Muslims today are constantly pilloried about their loyalty to the nation.
All assessments about Muslims are universalised, in black and white and deeply problematic. In a conversation with two CRPF sub-inspectors who have recently returned from Kashmir (I did not reveal that I was Muslim), I was told that “these Muslims are a nuisance as even their women throw stones at us.” Please note that the stone-throwing by the disgruntled Kashmiris is perceived as a common trait of Muslims — all 190 million of them. Their other complaints were that Muslims support Pakistan and insist on eating only halal meat. When I asked how the civil unrest in Kashmir could be resolved, I got an answer that stunned me: “Make sure that the police force in Kashmir is recruited only from the Shia community and they will teach these Sunnis a lesson!” How well have the British taught us the art of “divide and rule” and of polarising communities! The conversation filled me with anguish at the gratuitous distrust and hatred for Muslims. The animosity runs deep and is expressed by ordinary citizens in a matter-of-fact tone that is unnerving.
I recall clearly the sense of cautious optimism among Muslims when NarendraModi assumed power in 2014. His swearing-in was a strikingly symbolic moment, epitomised by the presence of the Pakistani PM that signalled hope of rapprochement with Pakistan (Indian Muslims know through experience that their well-being is linked to this crucial relationship). The PM represented a more decisive polity that promised an equitable social order expressed most eloquently in the Socratic slogan, “Sabkasaathsabkavikas”. This slogan encapsulated this nation’s foremost mission of fostering social solidarity based on the principle that every human being matters. Minorities felt reassured by the PM’s emphatic assertion in 2015 that “my government will not allow any religious group, belonging to the majority or minority, to incite hatred against others, overtly or covertly.” He repeatedly made appeals to preserve our core values of diversity, tolerance and plurality, calling on Hindus and Muslims to work together to fight poverty instead of fighting one another. His stunning embrace of Nawaz Sharif on Christmas Day 2015 filled everyone with hope.
On the ground, however, India began witnessing a deepening cultural mutation as vigilante squads terrorised and lynched Muslims in the name of protecting the cow, launched “gharwapsi” campaigns that have all but ended the freedom to choose one’s faith and used “love jihad” to stifle any kind of solidarity between the two communities. Minorities began to believe that the present dispensation’s aim is to convert India into the Hindu Rashtra of Hindutva where Muslims and Christians would live as second-class citizens. The current election rhetoric has only exacerbated those fears. The BJP LokSabha candidate for Barabanki boasted that “NarendraModi has made attempts to break the morale of Muslims. Vote for Modi if you want to destroy the breed of Muslims.”
We are on the cusp of having a new government at the Centre. Opinion polls and the most reliable — the bookies — predict victory for the NDA, but with a reduced majority. Ironically, the return of Modi as PM is the best hope for peace within the country and the neighbourhood. Imran Khan was right when he said that only Modi could help resolve Kashmir. He is the only leader with the power to rein in the lunatics whose purpose in life is to polarise communities and engage in eternal war with Pakistan. In any case, the new government’s first task would be to combat the overpowering atmosphere of distrust and hate bedevilling society which constitutes the foremost threat to the nation, more so than terrorism. The creation of a truly secular society free of prejudice and discrimination must be the prime mission.