Ships, as is said, don’t sink because of the water around them; ships sink because of the water that gets in them. When you let what happens around you get inside you, it will definitely weigh you down. That is what happened with the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP).
The PDP made entry into Kashmir politics with a huge bang but is vanishing with a whimper. Its leaders are leaving the party like the rats running away from a sinking ship. Many of its former legislators and ministers have resigned or maintained distance from party ever since Mahbooba Mufti was dislodged from power in June. Some of them have joined the rival parties while many others too are weighing the options of leaving the party and joining others. Two of its senior leader and former ministers—Basharat Bukhari and Peer Hussain—are likely to join the National Conference. Mahbooba Mufti’s brother Tassaduq Mufti—the MLC and former minister—has reportedly left politics and joined back his previous profession in Mumbai. He was a cinematographer and film director before his brief foray in politics.
Several others leaders are there who too would like to leave the party but have little options before them. Their association with the party is only a compulsion. They are waiting for the opportunity. And if today Mahbooba Mufti feels herself lonely, she has a reason. She, of course, has succeeded in retaining Muzaffar Hussain Baig by appointing him as party patron. But for all those who know Kashmir and its political psyche, he is not more than an individual. He must have some support in his home constituency of Baramullah Gujjars but he lacks appeal outside Baramullah. Disintegration of PDP had, in fact, begun the very day when Mufti Mohammad Sayeed breathed his last.
It goes without saying that PDP was, in essence, an alliance of individual. Most of its leaders were one constituency leaders. Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, for his experience and intelligence, was the only biding factor among them. He was an astute schemer who had all the ability to make most out of even small things. That one could see during his three year stint as chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir.
Instead of indulging in populist politics and slogan shouting, Mufti focused on genuine concerns of people in their daily life. That had made Mufti the party’s Unique Selling Point (USP). PDP overburdened itself with a serious political agenda but it was too huge to be engaged in by smaller characters. Feeding people with false expectations are bound to boomerang. Nobody had expected PDP to deliver on the issue of Kashmir. People knew it for a fact that Kashmir is too a big issue to be resolved by small regional actors. They don’t even look towards separatist leaders for that. That had made it all the more necessary for the PDP to take a realistic look of the political scenario of Kashmir and formalize and strategize its priorities in tune with those political realities. Emotional politics or sloganeering has no takers now. National Conference tried to in bring in that element during last election campaign but failed to impress the electorate.
PDP’s main strength was good governance that people saw between 2002 and 05. Of the four chief ministers, the people of the state saw since 1996, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed was seen as the best who could deliver as the head of the state. He managed and controlled things even with aggressive BJP. Mahbooba Mufti, who took over the reins of the party and government after him, did not appear in a pale shadow of her father. The present disintegration of the PDP is its natural corollary. However, there is nothing permanent in politics. Leaders do rise and fall, and one cannot be written off forever in politics.
Begging is legally prohibited in Kashmir. But it is the most cherished profession for a large number of people with no fear of law. The generosity with which people oblige beggars by giving them alms is driving more and more people to the profession. Come Ramadan, non-state residents also join this class and one sees beggars surfacing in huge numbers, swarming streets and homes like mosquitoes. They are found everywhere—homes, mosques, streets crossings, shopping malls, government offices, public places. There is no class distinction of these beggars. They are young and old—men, women and children. They are healthy but pose to be infirm, put up indigent faces when they approach their target. It is the easiest and simple way to find sympathy. Begging is professed even by ‘respected’ citizens. They have found novel ways for begging, which do little affect their ‘respectability’. It rather adds to their ‘stature’ and ‘standing’ in social life. They would approach their targets in the name of helping orphans, physically infirm and poor people. One comes across hundreds of people collecting alms in the name of ‘orphanages’. A single ‘orphanage’ generally uses dozens of people—young and old, mostly with long beards—to collects alms, who are paid a particular percentage of the money collected as their return commission. This gives the ‘collectors’ more a sense of commitment and dedications.
Since Kashmir has witnessed deaths at large-scale in the past years of armed trouble, people get influenced easily by the ‘orphan’ theory of money seekers. No doubt there are some credible institutions run of by people of impeccable integrity and honesty which are dedicated to the cause of orphans and poor. One cannot ignore the services rendered by RahatManzil (YateemKhanaBemina), JK YateemTurst and JK Yateem Foundation in this field. People running these institutions deserve all praise and encouragement, and there should be a great reward for them before Almighty Allah as well. There could be some more institutions, which might be contributing towards the society in their own way. But most of the ‘orphanages’ exist only in name. All you need is a hand bill indicating Iftar and Sehri timing and a coupon or receipt book under some orphanage-name. One finds sign boards (of orphanages) erected at various places across the city. But their veracity has never been checked. One wonders how an orphanage can be run in a small room. It should have been the job of police to check the activities of such people. Many such centers are being run under the very nose of police. Some years back KothiBagh Police Station arrested office-bearers of a so-called orphanage for being involved in immoral activities.
Since Ramadan is the month of sympathy and compassion, people give alms to the seekers generously and without checking their antecedents. This has quite a serious negative impact on the entire social fabric of our society. It not only encourages people to take recourse to means of easy money but also inculcates sick and corrupt mindset. Last year, the begging was restricted to some extent after ban on it at public places by district magistrate Srinagar but this time it is the very old scene that is being witnessed on Srinagar streets. There is urgent need to protect our society from this negative fallout. We have already suffered much on this front, and we cannot afford any more losses if we want to live as a responsible and civilized people. Police can play a major role in reining in fake and fraudulent people.
During Shaikh Mohammad Abdullah’s government in late 70s, police had cracked down on beggars and the practice had somewhat stopped but for a brief period. It is necessary that the anti-begging law is practiced and society be cleared of this uncivil and insulting menace. People seeking alms in the name of institutions may also be verified, and fake among them be dealt under law.
Beware of anti-social elements
The outrage over the alleged rape of a three-year old girl in Bandipora district is spilling on streets. Hundreds of residents in Srinagar, Budgam, Pulwama and Bandipora districts took to streets on Monday in protest against the horrific incident. Political leadership of all shades too has expressed their anger, and voices for stringent punishment for the accused are getting harsher and louder. Some political sections had called for shutdown on Monday. The outrage on social media is even more severe. Every individual and group is demanding death penalty for the accused. Police too has acted in a professional way. The accused has been arrested and booked under relevant sections of the law. This makes it a case of collective conscience of the entire people of the valley, leaving no scope for doubts and misgivings. Not a single voice, even from the family, has been raised in support of the accused. However, there are attempts from certain sections to side track the issue and give it a sectarian colour. One should not be oblivion of the fact the society’s overall response too was befitting. That makes one believe that as society we are still active, live and conscious. There is no reason for one to be sceptical about the way people and police responded to the gruesome incident. There is not iota of evidence that suggests that the accused is shielded from any quarter. Not a single voice, not even from his family, has been raised in support of the accused. The principal of the school who had issued a fake date of birth certificate in favour of the accused has equally been condemned which led to his arrest.
Despite this certain sections are hell-bent on giving the incident a sectarian colour. They are trying to portray the incident as an organized crime from a particular sect against the other sect, which is the most shameful and dangerous. The act is purely a heinous social crime, not happening in our society for the first time.Such crimes are happening everywhere, with Kashmir being no exception. Only last month, a teenage-girl committed suicide in the same district after she was raped by her own father. In Uri, last year, a woman got her step-daughter raped and murdered by her son and his friends. The latest is indeed a rare of the rare cases in view of the age of the victim and the accused. One must not be oblivion to the fact that the situation in Kashmir is not normal. We are living under extreme conditions.Any wrong move from any side can result in enormous damage to our societal fabric. There are dozens of self-interested groups, state and non-state, who are on watch to exploit the situation to their end. It would the most unfortunate moment for the entire people if these elements succeeded in their nefarious design. People of the valley need to understand this intricacy. They should know that any wrong move at public level can have dangerous consequences for the entire society. It is time that political and religious leadership of the valley accept the challenge and rise collective against wrongs of these sections. They need to educate people about the consequences such ‘hangamaAaraei’ is bound to lead. It is very unfortunate that the protestors indulged violence at several places, blocked traffic and pelted stones at every passing vehicle. They did not spare even ambulances. Around half a dozen ambulances carrying patients were showered with stones causing serious damage to them.The patient, their attendants and the medical staff had narrow escape. This is sheer ‘gundagardi’. As responsible people, we should not get carried away by sectarian whims. We should demonstrate a civilized attitude even in extreme provocations, and discourage the anti social elements who are attempting to destroy our social fabric.
What ails our tourism?
Despite abnormal situation, tourism is gradually picking up in Kashmir. Not only domestic but foreign tourists are coming in substantial numbers. The official data says that 20,258 foreign tourists have visited the valley in the first three months this year. The majority of them was from Malaysia (2945) followed by Indonesia (1010) and Thailand (691). Officials in tourism department say that the inflow of foreign tourist in the past three years has been increasing. Despite a being tumultuous year in the wake of Burhan Wani’s killing 24516 foreign tourists visited the valley in 2016 which went up to 31516 in 2017 and 56029 in 2018. The foreign tourists visit Kashmir despite adverse advisories by some countries. The inflow of domestic tourists too is quite high. Even in the most turbulent years of 90s, tourists never shunned to visit the valley. But the million dollar question is why tourism has not flourished as a vibrant economic industry in Kashmir. This can well be understood from the fact that tourists have been coming to Kashmir in large numbers ever since its existence. But tourist trade never expanded beyond the Dal Lake and limited places of Gulmarg and Pahalgam. People associated with tourist trade could be counted on finger tips. A limited chunk of people in and around Dal lake in Srinagar, and some hoteliers, shopkeepers, taxi drivers and labourers (including poneywallas) in Gulmarg, Pahalgam and Sonamarg are all who are related to tourist industry. They do not form even one percent of our overall population.
Kashmir is nature’s gift with extraordinary beauty and breathtaking forested and snow-peaked landscape. It is bound to attract the outside visitors. Government, every year, specifies crores of rupees on advertising and propagation to lure outside tourists. Tourist sector has always been termed as the mainstay of the state’s economy. But a keen study of the case makes one to feel that tourism is overemphasized while talking about economic development of Jammu and Kashmir. All the studies and surveys conducted in the state have shown that tourism is no major contributor to our economy. It contributes less than 3 percent to our overall economy. The state tourism department, after the collapse of so-called tourist industry in the wake of militancy, conducted a survey in early 90s, which showed that hardly around 10,000 people were directly and indirectly associated with tourist trade. If a similar survey is conducted even today, the conclusions would not be too different.It may not be going overboard to say that tourism is the one of the prime sectors that saw unprecedented spending by the government during and before militancy. During militancy the spending on ‘revival of tourism’ touched new heights. In the name of attracting tourists, road shows and so-called festivals were held in and outside the country. These were held to showcase Kashmir as “peaceful” and “worth visit” place.
Besides, huge money was spent on publicity through advertisements in newspapers. This practice is going on in the department without any break. But at the end of the day, only a handful of tourism officials benefitted from these extravaganza shows. The government at the highest level should take cognizance of the fact why tourism has failed to grow as a viable industry. It goes without saying that tourism for its vastness has immense scope to absorb lakhs of people in the trade. But it needs proper education, professional training and right planning at the top to make it happen. It is sad trajectory of facts that the tourism department has always been headed and handled by unprofessional people. Government should rethink its policy engage skilled and qualified people to lead the department.
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