The boycott of Municipal elections has thrown up a new challenge before the people of Kashmir. The boycott squarely helped the pro-Hindu BJP to capture most of the Municipal institutions directly or indirectly. The emergence of the BJP on the valley’s political horizon has given rise to a serious debate in a section public circle and on social media whether boycott of elections should be the pat of the ongoing resistance movement against India. The separatist have been calling for boycott of elections since 1989 when the gun made its way into Kashmir to challenge Indian rule. Though majority of the population do go by the boycott call, however, section of people affiliated to pro India political groups have been using their right to vote religiously on given occasions. This time, however, two main pro India parties—National Conference (NC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)—too went for boycott of the elections. It is, in fact, boycott by these parties that helped BJP take hold of Municipal institutions in Kashmir. Some advocates of electoral politics say that boycott is no more an option now. They argue that in the changing situation, boycott has caused more damage than serving any purpose. They say that in the absence of good people, it is natural corollary that bad people occupy positions of power. The emergence of the BJP and its allied groups is the outcome of boycott politics. It is quite necessary to fight on this front too to keep unwanted groups away. The argument the advocates of boycott put forward is that the participation of people in the elections is helping government of India internationally as the world sees it as peoples’ faith in Indian system. But a section among them too is now confused in the aftermath of Municipal election boycott. They apprehend that if the people remained away from assembly elections in the same way, the BJP would capitalize it in its favor to the hilt. The understanding in the BJP too is the same.
People privy to the BJP’s new thinking do affirm that the party is eying to win Kashmir through boycott. BJP has already carved out a constituency of allies like Sajjad Lone’s Peoples’ Conference (PC) in the valley. Though the PC’s influence is strictly restricted to some pockets of north Kashmir only, however, the party’s Mayoral win in Srinagar has given it a great push towards extending its base in the city. But the question is whether supporting PDP and NC in elections is any option to keep BJP away. The BJP, in fact, owes its emergence to political power in the state to the PDP. The party had been ruling the state in coalition with the PDP till June before it pulled the rugs under feet of Mahbooba Mufti. In 2014 assembly elections, Mahbooba raised a slogan that if people of Jammu and Kashmir wanted to keep BJP away, they should vote for the PDP. But after the elections, PDP joined hands with same party which they fought against in the elections. The story of National Conference is no different. NC is the first party to have shaken hands with the BJP. Omar Abdullah was a minister in Vajpayee government between 1999 and 2004.
National Conference expelled Saifuddin Soz from the party for voting against Vajpayee’s government which led to its fall on April 17, 1999. In political conduct, one sees little difference among BJP, NC, PDP, Congress and others. How would voting for NC or PDP help? After the elections these parties have again to ally with the BJP and its allies to form the government. This has put a common man in a very precarious position as how to behave in the elections.
Swine flu also known as H1N1 has once again taken lives in Kashmir with over 22 deaths recorded so far at Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) Soura.Swine flu is now considered a seasonal flu which mostly survives in cold humid conditions. Since September last year, over 1400 samples had been tested and more than 270 samples were found positive. Besides that at least 117 patients had been admitted in the hospital since September. In Kashmir, the situation turned worst during last season when 30 swine flu deaths were reported at SKIMS between October 2017 and February 2018. Doctors in the hospital have warned that H1N1 is a contagious disease and can transmit from one person to another.
They have asked for taking precautionary measures to escape the disease. This is matter of serious concern. The even more alarming is the shortage of medicines. Report says that the valley hospitals are without proper medicine. Barring SKIMS and SMHS hospital, there is no flu vaccine available in any hospital in the valley. This leaves SKIMS and SMHS as the only testing and treatment centre. Experts say that the swine flu outbreak can be contained but only if medicines reach the affected on time. When the hospitals are not equipped with the testing and treatment drugs, how the disease could be contained. There is every reason for the people to feel panicky and authorities need to take the problem seriously and equip hospital with adequate medicine before the panic take over the valley. The panic has gripped even the medical fraternity as well as the lack of relevant vaccines has put the lives of doctors at risk.
Doctors at SKIMS, who are dealing with patients at the Emergency and the OPD of the hospital, too are vulnerable to the disease and could catch infection in the absence of immunization and protective gear. Doctors and other hospital staff are not provided with personal protection equipments while dealing with H1N1 patients thus putting them also at risk of contracting the virus. There are no H1N1 vaccines which are to be given to high-risk persons with diabetes, elderly, children below 5 years, pregnant women, chronic diseases, immuno compromised and healthcare workers as the virus can be fatal in them. The designated laboratory for testing at SKIMS does not have the desired Biosafety-3 level for handling and processing H1N1 samples which is dangerous to staff and community. No sensitization and awareness programmes are conducted in hospitals with the result majority of H1N1 patients are overlooked. What is even more criminal is the silence by the concerned authorities.
They have maintained complete silence over the deadly contours of the disease and the non-availability of the medicines.It is no less than criminal that despite these disturbing realities, some sections in the government would give false hope to people and come out with advisories of ‘no-panic’. The state administration should, in first place, take note of health hazards in the wake of fast spreading swine flu and activate the administration to take necessary measures, provide relevant vaccines and other medicine and expertise for the disease.
Sanity should prevail
Kashmiris in Jammu or elsewhere are under fire. The fallout of the Lethpora suicide bombing, in which 49 paramilitary troopers were killed, has made the people of the valley the main target of the right-wing violence. Incidents of arson and direct attacks on Kashmiris in the winter capital have turned the situation tense. The situation in other states, especially ones in northern India, where Kashmiris are studying or operating their businesses isn’t any better. Valleyites putting up in many states have been warned to vacate their rented accommodations by mobs, who have given ultimatums to the landlords asking them to throw out any Kashmiri tenant they have. Videos of the attacks, warnings and vandalisation are being shared online. Since Friday, Jammu is officially under curfew. However, even after that mobs on Saturday attacked a number of quarters belonging to Kashmiris, especially ones at Janipur area. A number of Kashmiris in Janipur said they were attacked by the frenzied mobs despite the presence of police. The mobs entered inside the premises and attacked quarters of Kashmiris while police, according to the callers, remained a mute spectator. Already on Friday, there was widespread violence in which mobs torched 30 vehicles and damaged over 50 of them during a strike called by the Jammu Chamber of Commerce and Industries and Bar Association against the Thursday’s attack.
The anger that has exploded against Kashmiris has exposed the claims politicians have been time and again taking refuge in. One: The people of the valley need to be a part of ‘mainstream’ (whatever that means) and two: Kashmiris should chase their dreams in mainland India. How can they? The way the situation has unfolded after the deadly attack on Thursday reveals the vulnerability of the entire premise.
For now, the need of the hour is ensuring sanity and calmness prevails. The people in Jammu, at the majority of them, are not anti-Kashmir. They are simple, middle-class people who want to live and let live. However, at times they may be drawn out and flocked by miscreants looking to cash in on this opportunity of fomenting trouble for their own interests. Loss of lives, whosoevers’ and wherever they are lost is condemnable. Instead of falling into the trap of pitting one against another, the need to is avoid the situation getting out of control and avoiding fallouts that can snowball into major rioting or something even worse.
Plight of Indian Muslims
Islam is the second largest religion in India, with 14.2% of the country’s population or roughly 172 million people identifying as adherents of Islam. Over the centuries, Muslims have played a notable role in economics, politics and culture of India, however 70 years after independence the overall condition of Indian Muslims is pathetic.
Poverty illiteracy and ghettoization has marred Muslims for decades now. Ghettoisation among Indian Muslims began in the mid-1970s when first communal riots occurred. It got heightened after the 1989 Bhagalpur violence in Bihar and became a trend after the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992. Soon several major cities developed ghettos, or segregated areas, where the Muslim population moved in. This trend however, did not help for the anticipated security the anonymity of ghetto was thought to have provided.
During the 2002 Gujarat riots, several such ghettos became easy targets for the rioting mobs, as they enabled the profiling of residential colonies. This kind of ghettoisation can be seen in Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and many cities of Gujarat where a clear socio-cultural demarcation exists between Hindu-dominated and Muslim-dominated neighbourhoods.
In places like Gujarat, riots and alienation of Muslims have led to large scale ghettoisation of the community. For example, the Juhapura area of Ahmadabad has swelled from 250,000 to 650,000 residents since 2002 riots. Muslims in Gujarat have no option but to head to a ghetto, irrespective of their economic and professional status.
Increase in ghetto living has also shown a strengthening of stereotyping due to lack of cross-cultural interaction, and reduction in economic and educational opportunities at large. Secularism in India is being seen by some as a favour to the Muslims, and not an imperative for democracy
The Sachar Committee Report explored and commented upon a truly wide range of random issues and concerns, often with a view to forcefully place the Muslim viewpoint on those issues in the public sphere. This included making observations on the high birth rate in the Muslim community in comparison to Hindus: the committee estimated that the Muslim proportion will stabilize at between 17% and 21% of the Indian population by 2100.As per the 2011 census, the population of Muslims is nearly 15% and rose by over 2% over a period of only ten years.
The Sachar Committee highlighted and presented its suggestions on how to remove impediments those preventing Indian Muslims from fully participating in the economic, political, and social mainstream of Indian life. The report was the first of its kind to reveal the “backwardness” (a term used in Indian academic and legal discourse for historically dispossessed or economically vulnerable communities, not meant to be pejorative) of Indian Muslims. An issue highlighted was that while Muslims constitute 14% of the Indian population, they only comprise 2.5% of the Indian bureaucracy. The Sachar Committee concluded that the conditions facing Indian Muslims was below that of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
Report brought the issue of Muslim Indian inequality to national attention, sparking a discussion that is still ongoing. The Committee recommended setting up an Equal Opportunity Commission to provide a legal mechanism to address discrimination complaints, including in matters such as housing. In response to the Committee’s findings, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram proposed an increase to the National Minorities Development and Finance Corporation’s (NMDFC) budget, citing new duties and expanded outreach that the institution would take on to implement the Committee’s recommendations.
However, no such recommendations have been implemented and Muslims continue to suffer in India even seven decades after independence.
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