In 2016, the central government declared that, both, Jammu and Srinagar—the rotational capital cities of Jammu and Kashmir—included in the list of 100 smart cities that BJP had promised to develop during general election campaign in 2014. Even as over two years have passed since but there is not even a modicum of movement on this front so far. There is no official word as when the work on making these cities as “smart” would begin. The Smart Cities would have automatic traffic signal, better public transport facility, quick accident relief, smart traffic system, data centre, face identification system to catch criminals, control room for crime, health, services and traffic for better coordination to provide quick help to the people besides series of other facilities for which several millions would be spent by the Central Government. Now have a look at Srinagar—the face of Kashmir. It is turning uglier with each passing day. Mounds of stinking garbage strewn in every nook and corner, Dug up roads, overflowing drains, coverless manholes, and swarms of wild and vicious dogs prowling everywhere is a common sight in Srinagar. The famous River Jhelum is like a sewerage drain of all the towns, cities and villages on its banks. Presently, Srinagar is considered as the dirtiest and the most polluted city in India. Santek Consultants Pvt. Ltd for Union Ministry for Tourism has very startling revelations to make about the city. In a survey, conducted last year, the agency found that the city is below mark in tourism related facilities as well. Gathering opinions from the visitors—both domestic as well foreign—the agency has found that besides the dirty surroundings, shortage of pure drinking water and power supply is also cause of worry for visitors. The findings are startling and speak volumes about our insensitivity towards our own surroundings. The daily look of such nasty stuff has made us insensitive and makes no difference for us. In a much more recent survey Srinagar listed in 15 dirtiest cities of the world. The city, once known for its spaciousness and cleanliness, has turned into a congested dirty place not fit for human living. The encroachment by greedy people with complete connivance of concerned officials has choked the roads and streets causing trouble even for pedestrians to walk about. The footpaths have been occupied by shopkeepers and street vendors forcing pedestrians to walk through the middle of roads enhancing the dangers of accidents. The officials responsible for keeping the footpaths clean and clear appear to have submitted to the will of street vendors and shopkeepers against monetary considerations. It looks as if these have been rented out to the occupiers. Srinagar Municipality has been raising hue of shortage of manpower. This is only a ruse being used for not doing the duty. The Municipality staff is found cleaning the roads and streets which are being travelled by senior state officials and VVIPs. What further mutilates the city is presence of street dogs. No lane, by-lane or street in the city could be found without dogs. Even Lal Chowk, the face of the city, is not without dogs. One finds dozens of stray dogs occupying Lal Chowk. The city outskirts are presenting more horrible picture. The famous Dal Lak is virtually on the last throes of death. Its area is squeezing and water stinking. Various governments in the past and present have time and again claimed to work for restoration of the glory of the lake. Hundreds of crores of rupees are reported to have been spent on cleaning the lake but its deterioration could not be arrested. It is generally believed that the officials responsible for taking care of the Dal have siphoned off most of the funds listed for it. There is absolutely no accountability. There is no co-ordination among various departments of the government. The only one thing where co-ordination and cooperation seems supreme is passing of underhand transactions. The people in the higher echelons of power should awake to the pangs of this dying city and take immediate measures to save the city. It would be great if the Governor takes note of this grim situation and take measures to save Srinagar. Making it smart is going too far away.
UN report on Kashmir
United Nations has accused Indian forces of using excessive forces in Kashmir, killing and wounding numerous civilians. The UN also called for international; inquiry into alleged human rights violations by Indian forces in the troubles region. This is for the first time since the eruption of militancy that the United Nations officially admitted human rights violations by India in Kashmir. U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein called for maximum restraint and denounced the lack of prosecutions of Indian forces in Jammu and Kashmir due to a 1990 law giving them what he called “virtual immunity”. In a statement, Zeid called for the Human Rights Council to launch a commission of inquiry into all violations. Alleged sites of mass graves in the Kashmir Valley and Jammu region should be investigated. The 49-page report, while focusing on the latest phase of the violence in the valley from 2016 to 2018, recalls developments since the origins of the dispute between Pakistan and India. Most significantly it calls upon India to “fully respect the right of self-determinations of the people of Kashmir as protected under international law”. It also recommends an “urgent need to address past and ongoing human rights violations and to deliver justice for all people in Kashmir who have been suffering seven decades of conflict”. The report has been endorsed by none other the secretary general of the international body himself. António Guterres also appeared to support UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein’s call for an independent international investigation of the massive rights violations. India has outright rejected the report calling it “fallacious, tendentious and motivated”. We question the intent in bringing out such a report. It is a selective compilation of largely unverified information. It is overtly prejudiced and seeks to build a false narrative”, the foreign affairs ministry said in a statement after the report was released last week. India is also cool to Guterres’s remarks urging India and Pakistan to find a peaceful solution to the Kashmir dispute. But the report in itself is severe indictment of India’s conduct in Kashmir. It is also huge demonstration of the fact that the international opinion on India with regard to Kashmir is changing. For media use, it is the only right thing government of India can do is to reject the report. But on ground it invites a serious attention of the powers that be. It goes without saying that Kashmir presently depicts a horrific picture with civilian killings being committed more-often-than-not. Just a week before security forces raided a government high school in Hawoora village in Kulgam which resulted in killing of a 9th class girl student besides two other civilians. As many as 49 civilians are reported to have died and more than 200 injured in security forces actions across the valley since January this year. After Governor’s rule was imposed in the state since the unceremonious exit of Mahbooba Mufti, direct threats are hurled on the people of Kashmir through TV studios. In one of the debates on India’s most rabid news channels where retired army generals mostly express their opinions was said “aik aik ko mariege, chun chun kar marienge”. They projected Governor’s rule as that of martial law which is a serious reflection on the Governor itself. Governor N N Vohra is a seasoned and experienced man with right knowledge of Kashmir situation. He will not ignore what is going around in his rule. He should take up the matter with his bosses in Delhi and make them agree to change their hardened approach towards hapless people of Kashmir. New Delhi must understand the fact that India’s image as a tolerant and civilized country is fast dwindling. It cannot be rebuilt just by abusing or accusing Pakistan or any other country. Nor can be it built by US or Russian support. The image of a country is determined by the actions of the state and its people. For a country that is indicted by some credible international agency, something wrong must definitely be happening. Let government of India pause and look inwards to make corrections wherever needed.
Hard times for Muslims
Life is becoming tougher for Muslims in India. The bloody campaign by extremist Hindus continues unabatedly against them and they are killed without any fear of law. That makes one to believe that the so-called law enforcing agencies are either in connivance with the killers or have political pressure to look the other way. The excuse is simple….carrying beef. If you are not carrying beef then you must be a child lifter. On Saturday a lynch mob beat to death a Muslim Mohammad Azam, a Hyderabad based techie who worked for Google, in Karnataka on the rumour of being a chid-lifter. Azam was on vacation with his three friends, Salham Eid Al Kubasi, a Qatari national and Noor Mohammad. A mob of some 2000 people gheraoed them at Thoul village Bidi district and attacked tgem with rods and lathis. They were dragged out from the Toyota Innova and beaten up by the mob. While Azam who was driving the car died on the spot, Noor Mohammad suffered a grievous injury on his head and is paralysed on one side. Salham too was injured in the brutal attack. The rage against them was engineered through whatsApp message that they were child-lifters. Lynching Muslims under than one or the other pretext has become norm in India. That the lynch has the patronage of the state and the ruling BJP can be understood from the fact that a minister in Narendra Modi’s Jayant Sinha garlanded and feted eight men convicted in the Ramgarh lynching case in Jharkhand after they were released on bail on Thursday.The life sentences handed to the eight men, including BJP functionary, was suspended by the high court and they walked out of the Jai Prakash Narain Central Jail and headed straight to the residence of Sinha, where the minister garlanded them. The convicts were led by local BJP leader Amardeep Yadav, who is also the OBC Morcha president of the party. India is losing its face in the eyes of international community as a country that has descended to medieval madness in targeting Muslims in particular and Dalits in general. Muslim individuals were targeted under the manufactured allegations of eating or carrying beef or slaughtering or ferrying a cow for slaughter. Around two dozen Muslims were killed by these lynch-soldiers on false pretexts. The lynch mob has public support from the BJP as most these cases have happened in BJP-ruled states. The common people and India civil society too have maintained criminal silence over the brutal incidents. Instead of recognising that a sickness is spreading through Hindu society, the silence grows, revealing how most Hindus—instead of standing up and saying this must not happen in our name—either choose to be ignorant, find justifications or are complicit. Many have few qualms in saying this is what Muslims deserve. By now the lynching has become part of what is now known as the normalisation of hatred, the process of becoming immune or deadened to atrocity because there is so much of it. The creation of the new normal is well underway among those in India’s Hindu right, which barely reacts to the killing of Muslims. Over the past some time, the attacks by lynch mobs is not restricted to Muslims only. Many a Hindus belonging to lower sections of the society too have become the target of these extremists. Most of the latest killings have occurred due to rumours on social media of child-lifting. Innocent people are being beaten to death by an angry mobs blinded by rage and powered by rumours of child-lifters circulating on social messaging platforms, that is, WhatsApp. Some time when some Congress workers slaughtered a cow in Kerala, a hue and cry was made by the BJP people in and outside power but when innocent people are lynched; they maintain criminal silence, more so, if the victim is a Muslim. The lynching of Pehlu Khan in Rajsthan was done in full public view and videos of which went viral on social media but still no action was taken against the killers. Some of them arrested for the crime were released after three months with claims of lack of evidence. This is making a new India where crime and criminals are seen through religious prism. This should be a matter of serious concern for all those who believe in multi-religious and multi-culture unity of India.
Our shared legacy
Governor N. N. Vohra should be appreciated for maintaining the dignity of the government with regard to the historic Martyrs’ Day on July 13. By issuing the message of peace on the occasion, he recognized the Day as significant and historic quite in tune with state government’s established position but in quite contravention to BJP’s stand. Ever since BJP came to power in the state in alliance with the PDP in 2014, the rabid Hindutva group used to dishonour the Martyrs by boycotting the official functions on the Day. They instead used to praise Dogra Maharaj, whose tyrant regime had usurped the rights of Kashmiri people. Representing the Dogra political legacy, they viewed it as Kashmiris’ struggle for dominance over Jammu. There had been voices oft and on against Kashmir domination. Some sections there favour a separate statehood for Jammu. What is even more insulting both for the people of Kashmir and the martyrs is that, last year, a BJP leader Ravinder Raina had the audacity of saying that his party did not consider those killed by then Dogra Maharaja’s police as martyrs. As the state is presently running under Governor’s rule, N N Vohra toed established official position. In a message on the occasion, he called upon the leaders of all political and religious parties and social organizations and the people of the state to shed all differences and join hands to make Jammu and Kashmir peaceful, prosperous and among the leading states in the country. He observed that Jammu and Kashmir was known for its glorious pluralistic ethos, amity and brotherhood, and urged the people to work towards restoring the pristine glory of the State as an abode of peace, harmony and prosperity.
July 13 is a significant day in our history. The day is commemorated in memory of the 22 Kashmiris who were shot dead outside the Srinagar Central Jail by the troops of Dogra Maharaja, where they had gathered to witness the court proceedings against one, Abdul Qadeer, who was being tried for his alleged “crime” of instigating Kashmiri people to defy Dogra rule. In political terminology, the day marks the beginning of Kashmir’s’ struggle for justice and human and political rights, which had been trampled upon by the despotic Maharaja ruler. The Maharaja rule ended in 1947 and for those fighting against him the struggle was over and objective achieved. That is the belief people in power hold. National Conference views it as party achievement against Maharaja Rule for the reason that its founder leader Shaikh Mohammad Abdullah was at the forefront in the battle against Maharaja. For quite a long time since 1947, the NC would claim exclusive rights of July 13 martyrs’ as if they were their party cadres. The followers of Mirwaiz Mohammad Yousuf Shah, in parts Srinagar, were the only exception who would observe the day other than NC and people in the government. With the eruption of militancy in 1989-90, the common perception about July 13 martyrs changed squarely. Rather than being a party affair, the people of Kashmir adopted them in general. The separatist sections added a new meaning to the martyrs’ cause by calling that the struggle for justice did not end in 1947. They said that it rather made a new beginning that year. For the coming years, July 13 became a moment of reverence for one and all. Voices were raised loud and clear that the struggle for justice was still on and would be achieved only after India grants right of self-determination to the people of Kashmir. Almost for a decade, the pro India parties and government had to remain away from the martyrs’ graveyard, though the state government, through press statements, continued to pay tributes to the martyrs. That, at least, showed the spirit that, whatever the political differences; the martyrs of July 13, 1931 are our shared legacy.
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