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Editorial

Human lives matter more

The Kashmir Monitor

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National Conference’s (NC) boycott of upcoming Panchayat elections has put a big question mark on these elections. NC is the biggest and the oldest political party and its position, whatever way, on crucial issues like elections cannot be disregarded. National Conference President Farooq Abdullah on Wednesday announced the boycott of elections by his party in protest against the lackadaisical approach by the government in protecting the Article 35-A in the Supreme Court. This has forced the other parties too to make a rethinking on their stand on Panchayat elections. The Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) call for holding all-party meeting to decide about the elections should be viewed against this backdrop. The PDP has, in essence, sought postponing the elections as the situation was not ripe for any such political venture. Much to the eyes and understanding of even a lay man, Kashmir is passing through a dangerous phase of turmoil. Holding of panchayat elections would only but add fuel to the fire. Militants have vowed to punish any or every person participating in the elections. These threats cannot be dismissed without giving any thought. The government should re-read the situation in its right perspective. Last week when militants kidnapped over a dozen kin of policemen, they trod beyond a point to prove their claim. They made it known to everybody they had the power and prowess to make their point. Militants have threatened to put acid in the eyes of those who contested the panchayat elections in Kashmir. One must ignore the latest warning of militants in which they said “we don’t have jails and sub-jails to lodge the culprits in. We will go for on-spot action”.
Panchayat and local bodies’ members, in virtual sense, are unprotected common people. They are vulnerable to all threats and risks. It does need to have mobs of armed men to harass or harm them. Even a single odd armed person is powered enough to scare away dozens of such people. Government has to blame itself for making such provocations. In 2011, Hizbul Mujahideen said that they would disturb the panchayat election as a Panchayat member did not need to take oath of Indian constitution. That saw a large number of people participating in the elections. After the conclusion of elections, government declared the peaceful conduct of panchayat polls as victory against militants. It was a straight provocation to militants, who later forced many a Panchayat members to resign. On occasions it appears that the government has developed vested interest in keeping the pot boil. Kashmir is yet to recover completely from the unrest that swept the valley after Burhan Wani’s killing. Government should have learnt lesson from the anger people expressed during polling for Srinagar parliamentary seat when just around 2% voters turned out to cast their votes amid heightened tension. The government appeared so helpless that it had to put off the election for Anatnag parliamentary seat indefinitely. The seat is still vacant and government does not muster courage to hold elections there notwithstanding the fact that parliamentary candidates and campaigners do have full protection cover from the government. Panchayat members and sarpanchs, as against this, do not have any security cover. They are left to mend for themselves. That makes them easy targets. Deputy chief minister Nirmal Singh is reported to have said that the government was aware of the threat and a strategy has been devised to hold elections peacefully. But it is not a case of a day or two. Panchayat members would be vulnerable to threats permanently and round the clock. It could be said with great convenience that government is simply befooling the people and exposing them to dangers of insecurity deliberately. The state administration should take a dispassionate view of the situation, devoid of political undertones. That, by not holding the elections, the state government would lose over Rs.4000 crores specified by the central government for panchayat elections is no justification. Not, money, but human lives matter the most.


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Editorial

Afraid Of Heights? VR Therapy May Help You!

The Kashmir Monitor

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If you are acrophobic or are scared of heights, then taking automated virtual reality (VR) based psychological therapy may help reduce the phobia, say researchers.
According to the study, published in the journal The Lancet Psychiatry, the participants took part in activities during the VR session that challenged their fears and helped them learn that they were safer than they thought.
“Immersive VR therapies that do not need a therapist have the potential to dramatically increase access to psychological interventions,” said lead author Daniel Freeman from Britain’s University of Oxford.
“As seen in our clinical trial, VR treatments have the potential to be effective, faster, and more appealing for many patients than traditional face-to-face therapies.
With our unique automation of therapy using VR, there is the opportunity to provide really high quality treatment to many more people at an affordable cost,” Freeman added.
For the study, 100 people with clinically diagnosed fear of heights, who were not receiving psychological therapy, were divided into two groups and were given either the new automated VR treatment or usual care, which was typically no treatment.
Participants were given six VR treatment sessions roughly for 30 minutes each for two weeks where they wore a VR headset.
Throughout various activities, starting with simpler tasks, such as watching a safety barrier drop gradually, leading to harder tasks like walking on a platform over a large drop, the virtual coach offered encouragement, and afterwards explained what the participants had learned from their activities and asked whether they felt safer than before.
The virtual coach also encouraged participants to try real heights between sessions.
At the end of the treatment and at follow-up, participants from the VR group reported that their fears have reduced as opposed to the control group who rated their fear of heights as remaining similar.

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Editorial

Unending traffic woes

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It has become routine with the officials related to traffic department to come up with meetings and announcements of new measures to regulate traffic in Srinagar. But nothing concrete is done to streamline the traffic management and road safety. It can be said with great authority there is complete mess on roads all across Kashmir, and the authorities responsible for maintain roads and managing traffic are doing mere lip service. Though the traffic problem is an old case but it needs to be corrected at some point in time. Jam and mess on Srinagar roads is a daily affair.

The main city intersections remain jammed all through the day making travelling difficult even for pedestrians. The distance which normally could be covered in minutes takes hours to travel over. Travelling on Srinagar roads, indeed, has become longer and grueling affair. The huge traffic jams at Pantha Chowk, Hyderpora, Ram Bagh, Exhibition Chowk, Batamaloo, Qamarwari, Budshah Chowk, Hari Singh High Street and Dalgate have reached unparalleled proportions.

The traffic congestion at Qamarwari clogs the city from the west end. The north end gets blocked with huge jams at Soura and city interiors like Khanyar and Rainawari.

There are instances when a commuter had to wait for hours to get cleared of the traffic jam. The mess right from Iqbal Park to exhibition Chowk is so grueling and time consuming that many a commuters, who have their work places in and around Lal Chowk, have made it a habit to leave their homes in early morning hours. The mess on prestigious Boulevard Road, which is the face of Kashmir tourism, is even more agonizing. The evening time, when there is presence of tourists in the area, gives a horrible look. The installation of traffic signals has not helped to the level one had expected in regulation of traffic at Exhibition ground. The commuters could not be absolved completely for the mess. The moment the light turns red, cars zip past in a flash. The zebra-crossings are blocked by cars, forcing pedestrians to make their way through the vehicles. Shameless drivers on the wrong side, nosing through illegal cuts, taking U-turns before roundabouts, driving with mobile phone fixed to their ears – all are direct causes of the mess on the roads. Undoubtedly, much needs to be done for regulation of traffic in the city to make life easy for the people. The development of road infrastructure is the primary need but it cannot be done overnight. It would take time. The mess on the city roads is a strong reminder to the government to build road infrastructure on priority bases. Till then people should not be left to suffer. There is a strong need for regulation of traffic to minimize the peoples’ problems. The strength of traffic police should be increased in proportion with the increase in rush on roads. The policemen have to become more responsible. There are large scale complaints that policemen allow illegal parking of vehicle against payoffs. They need to change and be harsher with the people who break traffic laws and believe that rules are not for them.

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Editorial

Homage to the Martyr

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To understand the story of Karbala, one must take into cognizance that Islam is a religion, nay, away of life, revealed by Divine Grace, inviting all mankind to the Blessings of Allah, the Supreme.Islam, consisting of a complex structure of thought, practices, statutes, and transcendence,spread among diverse peoples, from the West Coast of Africa to the islands of the Pacific, withina matter of a few years, an unheard of phenomenon, as a ‘miracle’ from the Divine. It changedthe perceptions of right and wrong, and the foundation of societal interactions of precedinggenerations. Islam was challenging man to reach beyond himself to reach stages of the highestprosperity, spirituality and inspiration. This could not be accepted easily by the existing power structure. Ingrained base emotions especially of jealousy and vengeance raised its evil head inthe form of rebellion against the Prophet’s legacy. As long as members of the family of theProphet remained, they was always a threat that Hussain (AS)’s supporters would come to power and, therefore Hussain (AS) had to be eliminated forever from the Caliphate. Hussain was alarmed when Yazid wasdesignated his successor. Hussain (AS) was resolute against the imposition of dynastic rule inIslam and decided to oppose Yazid by giving support to his own followers, no matter what thecost. Hussain (AS) had previously been offered largesse and many gratuities to stay away fromthe struggle which he had stridently refused. Hussain (AS) wanted to save Islam from corruption,and if necessary, by shedding his own blood, and that of his children. Hussain (AS) was invited to go to Kufa from Medina to become their leader. Having reached theoutskirts of Kufa, beside the Euphrates river, with a group of around 175, he and his immediatelyfamily and the other direct descendants of Prophet Muhammad (SWS), and their followers, weredenied water for 3 days in the desert and ultimately brutally killed by an army numbering a fewthousand.
The story of the Battle of Karbala is actually the age old story of the struggle in man between hishigher virtues that reach out to heaven, and his vices that pull him down into the abyss of ignominy, despair and defeat. Hussain (AS) showed that one must fight and strive to establishtruth and justice in the land, and for it, must be prepared to offer the supreme sacrifice. Throughhis legacy he established firmly the basic foundation of the religion – readiness to sacrificeeverything for achieving closeness of Allah, which is best for the hereafter, and is the goal of thedevout.To understand the decrepit state of Islamic society today one must examine it through the lens of Karbala. Power hungry men devoid of the love of Allah, the Prophet and the Ahle Bayet, unableto grasp advances in other branches of knowledge of the last 5 centuries, and fostered by acrude zeal to acquire the ‘former glory of Islam’, not for its virtues of achieving closeness to Ahle Bayet for achieving worldly power, are terrorizing not only their own communities but the peace of the entire world. Misleading the Ummah in the garb of devoutness, they borrow from history for the sake of glory. They have no appreciation of the proper qualities of leadership as personifiedby the Ahle Bayet, the Close Companions, and the learned ones of society, no reflective study of the literature available on Islam, and above all, no willingness to offer self sacrifice either for theUmmah or for Allah.
Today, as never before, we need to know the ideals of Hussain (AS), and remember thesorrowful days of Karbala not for worldly gain but to attain the love of Almighty Allah. Every timethat we remember the gallant Shahadat of Hussain (AS), we celebrate Hussain (AS)’s victoryover the depravity of Yazid and Islam becomes victorious. Each time we shed a tear for Hussain(AS), the doors of Allah’s Blessings open once again on the tortured and wavering souls of modern day Muslims. To keep the spirit of Karbala and Islam alive in our hearts, we must learnto observe the Muharram in a manner that befits the great traditions of Islam as laid down by the Prophet.

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