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Silence of Muslims on the renewed push for a Ram temple

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By Ajaz Ashraf

The silence of Muslims on the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid movement is in sharp contrast to the shrill pitch of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and its affiliates.

Over the last three weeks, the Hindu Right – from Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat to Union ministers Uma Bharti and Giriraj Singh, to various sadhus and seers – has been clamouring for a law to build the Ram temple at the site in Ayodhya where the Babri Masjid stood before its demolition on December 6, 1992.

 

Their incessant chatter has not provoked the Muslim community to engage them in a debate on Ayodhya. The Muslims have not snidely sniped at the Hindu Right for its disregard of the Supreme Court, which has been blamed for delaying the judgement in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title dispute through its decision on October 29 to postpone the hearing to January. Nor have the Muslims threatened to mount a fierce opposition to appropriate the disputed land in Ayodhya through an ordinance or law.

The silence of Muslims is both existential and political. It is existential because Muslims have witnessed the Narendra Modi government deploy state power to terrorise its ideological opponents. The Bharatiya Janata Party-led government has foisted court cases on human rights activists and student leaders. It has sought to deter the media from publishing stories perceived to be against the interests of the BJP. The religious identity of most of those the government has targeted is Hindu.

Given the plight of Hindu critics of Hindutva, including the beating of activist Swami Agnivesh in BJP-ruled Jharkhand in July, Muslims fear their fate would be worse if they were to display their outrage against the government. It is for this reason that they have been muted in their protests against the lynching of community members in the name of the cow, the targeting of Muslim youth who are in relationships with Hindu girls, and the concerted attempts to demonise them ever since the BJP swept to power in May 2014. They would rather hunker down and wait for the storm to blow away.

The possibility of that storm blowing away is crucially linked to the outcome of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Muslims think the Sangh Parivar’s decision to revive the Ayodhya matter is aimed at communally polarising the electorate, and ensuring that the heightened religiosity of Hindus distracts them from harshly judging the Modi government.

The strategy of polarisation is predicated on whether Hindus can be made to harbour a sense of victimhood and rage against the alleged injustice perpetrated on them.

Muslims are aware of the intensity of the religious and emotional appeal of Ram for Hindus. For Muslims to engage the Sangh Parivar in the renewed debate on the Ram temple implies goading the Hindus into voting as Hindu.

They do not wish to score a self-goal, so to speak, because the jury is still out on whether the Sangh’s talk of a law or ordinance on the Ram temple is scripted merely to stoke Hindu fury, or is a precursor to the Modi government implementing the Hindu Right’s demand. Should the Modi government take such a precipitous step, it is very likely to get stayed by the Supreme Court. In that case the Muslim claim to the disputed site would remain intact.

The disputed site in Ayodhya is not the place where they offer prayers – there is, in fact, a functioning makeshift temple there. Until the status quo is changed unilaterally, and irreversibly, extinguishing their rights and claims to the disputed site, there is little for Muslims to gain from reacting prematurely. It will only work to the BJP’s advantage.

The Muslim community’s strategy of silence on Ayodhya is subliminally based on three assumptions. They accept that Ram enjoys an exalted status in the Hindu pantheon of deities. Issues connected to him are likely to trump those rooted in the mundane, whether it is a slowing economy or corruption. They are also aware of the increasing religious consolidation of Hindus. Last but not least, it is the BJP that, to borrow from historian Ayesha Jalal’s book on Muhammad Ali Jinnah, has emerged as the sole spokesperson of the Hindu votebank.

These assumptions of Muslims paradoxically underscore the futility of their reliance on the judiciary to resolve the Ayodhya tangle. Yet, they have resorted to the judicial process because many of their religious sites are claimed to have belonged to Hindus, who have periodically asked for their restitution. Their acquiescence to the BJP’s demand in Ayodhya will become a template for imposing the majoritarian will on the minority community at other contested religious sites as well.

This is not paranoia on the part of Muslims. In fact, Hindu residents of Varanasi confided in this writer their nagging suspicion regarding the ongoing process of beautifying the surroundings of the Kashi Vishwanath temple. Homes have been acquired and demolished to turn the alley into a wide road to provide easy access to the temple. Since thousands can simultaneously reach the Kashi Vishwanath temple, my Hindu confidants suspect the Sangh could have a hidden agenda to gather a throng, in the distant future, to demolish the adjoining Gyanvapi mosque, in a replay of the tactics that were adopted to reduce the Babri Masjid to rubble. The reallocation of the Gyanvapi mosque has long been the Hindu Right’s demand.

Forcible appropriation of places of worship symbolises the humiliation of the community owning it and signifies its inferior status. Muslims are wary of handing over the disputed site to the Sangh because the act will legitimise the meaning inherent in the destruction of the Babri Masjid and also signal their acceptance of it. This could encourage Hindutva forces to enact the symbolic subordination of the community in other parts of India.

Muslims can evade such a fate if the Supreme Court declares that the disputed site in Ayodhya belongs to Hindus. The handing over of the site will not establish the supremacy of the rule of majority over the rule of law.

It is always possible that the Supreme Court could deliver a verdict favouring Muslims in Ayodhya. Based on many conversations with Muslims over the years, this writer can report that most community members feel the removal of the makeshift Ram temple in Ayodhya is inconceivable. Yet, they have given primacy to the judicial process because victory in the court could establish a new frame for negotiations. Most past attempts required Muslims to rescind their rights to the disputed site as the starting point.

In the new frame, it is tempting to think Muslims can, for instance, relinquish claims to the site in Ayodhya in exchange for the Sangh publicly avowing to adhere to the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act. Passed in 1991, the Act freezes the ownership of all places of worship, other than that of the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid, as it existed on August 15, 1947. Since the Babri Masjid stood only on 1,500 square metres of the disputed 2.77 acres, they can also leave vacant the 1,500 square metres and let the temple be built on the remaining portion.

Indeed, generosity is interpreted as timidity when displayed under duress. It has quite another meaning in victory.From this perspective, the silence of Muslims reflects the psychology of religious minorities, who almost anywhere are not inclined to sign away their future because of compulsions in the present.


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Religion and Religions

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By Amir Suhail Wani

Religion, as far as dictionary meaning is concerned is “the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods” or else as American heritage dictionary puts it “The expression of man’s belief in and reverence for a superhuman power recognized as the creator and governor of the universe”. These two definitions vaguely convey the meaning of religion in general, but it is highly impossible to give a harmonious and comprehensive definition of religion.

The issue of religion is a very subtle one and different people interpret it differently as demanded by their religion. The Islamic concept of religion may not be compatible with that of a Buddhist interpretation and alike the Christian picture of ascetic and celibacy may seem alien to Islam. But one thing that is invariably common in all religions is their allegiance and subordination to some superhuman powers.

 

All religions hold that the mechanism of universe can’t be self-substantial, but needs a divine will, divine power and divine energy to maintain its system. Religion teaches us to bow before this divine will, which permeates the whole universe and even what lies beyond the cosmic edges. By this subordination, religion wants to harmonize our position in the universe and to frame our actions according to the dictums of divine will.

The domain of religion is mainly spiritual, though it aims at the overall wellbeing of humans and aims at helping them to attain highest ideals of life. But before man could master his universe, religion teaches him to master his own self and helps him in unleashing the infinite power that already lies in the matrix of his constituents. The central point all thesis of knowledge be it philosophy, sociology, psychology, metaphysics or religion is man.

All the subjects try to see man from a particular view point and from a particular frame of reference. But religion transcends all frames of reference and analyses man in his totality. It takes into consideration his physical, mental, spiritual as well as metaphysical needs and thus aids him in perfectioning his attitude in this perfect universe. Religion prompts man to believe in supernatural, not on dogmatic basis, but on sound rational and analytic grounds. As Allama lqbal says:-

“Indeed in view of its function, religion stands in greater need of a rational foundation of its ultimate principles than even the dogmas of science. Science may ignore a rational metaphysics; indeed it has ignored so far Religion can hardly afford to ignore the search for a reconciliation of the oppositions of experience and a justification of the environment in which humanity finds itself.

That is why Professor Whitehead has acutely remarked that ‘the ages of faith are the ages of rationalism”. And by anchoring man with supernatural, religion next guides man through this infinite universe. It refrains from piece meal treatment of reality, rather sees reality as an organic whole and it does not see universe merely as a dichotomy of matter-energy but infuses in it a new spirit — the spirit that gives life even to pebbles and stones.

No matter how diverse their beliefs are, I pretend that the followers of all religions will agree upon these characteristics of religion, for they do not belong to any religion but to the religion on the whole. The historical evolution of religion is still another facet of religions that will require large amount of space for full description. But suffice to say that from theist’s point of view, religion was revealed upon the mankind by the supreme deity, to guide their conduct and to escort their transactions with the rest of universe. Time and again, God choose some blessed men and through them guided the whole of humanity from gloom to gleam.

Thus the origin of religion is divine, as opposed to atheistic stand who believe that religion is a social phenomenon which arises purely on the basis of man’s interaction with his universe. The atheists believe that due to his sheer fear of natural phenomenon like thunder, earthquakes and other natural calamities the early man reckoned the concept of divine to interpret these phenomenon. They are correct in saying that man needed explanation for these phenomenon’s and was scared by them. But to say that this fear gave birth to god hypothesis is highly unjustified, for man was already conscious of Supreme Being and thus sought refuge with him.

The lure towards religion and the concept of God is engraved very much in the psychology of man and to say that religion is something which arose as a social phenomenon and was imposed on the nature of man is highly disturbing—. Even most of the world’s greatest scientists were theists and openly confessed that the interpretation of this universe is impossible without invoking the presence of supreme conscious who directs its course. C.S. Lewis wonderfully wrote in The Problem of pain that “A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word ‘darkness’ on the walls of his cell”. So the existence and acceptance of religion is a universal phenomenon even one may comply with it or not, its worth cannot be diminished. We shall now take up the concept of man in different religions keeping their implications in mind for future use.

Hinduism: – Hinduism is regarded as one of the most ancient religions of the world and in fact its origin is obscure to researchers and scholars. For academic purposes it can be said that Hinduism is the group of religious and philosophical traditions of India that accept the doctrinal authority of the Vedas and Upanishads, comprising the schools Mimamsa, Sankhya-Yoga, Nyaya-Vaishesika, and Vedanta. J.L. Nehru writes in his magnum opus the discovery of India, under the title “What Is Hinduism” that “In this quotation Vincent Smith has used the words ‘Hinduism’ and ‘Hinduised’. I don’t think it is correct to use them in this way unless they are used in the widest sense of Indian culture.

They are apt to mislead today when they are associated with a much narrower and specifically religious concept. The word ‘Hindu’ doesn’t occur at all in our ancient literature. The first reference to it in an Indian book is, I am told, is in a Tantric work of the eighth century A.C., where ‘Hindu’ means a people and not the followers of a particular religion. But it is clear that the word is a very old one, as it occurs in the Avesta and in Old Persian”. He further goes on to say that “The famous Chinese pilgrim I – Tsing, who came to India in the seventh century A.C., writes in his records of travels that the northern tribes that is the people of Central Asia, called ‘Hindu’ (Hsin-Tu) but, he adds, ‘this is not at all a common name … and the most suitable name for India is the Noble Land (Aryadesha)’ The use of the word ‘Hindu’ in connection with a particular religion is of very late occurrence”89.This account compendiously sums the rhetoric aspects of Hinduism. Now coming to its main tenets, we note that Hinduism is based upon diverse beliefs, rituals, customs and practices. Hinduism is also called the Vedic religion as is based upon the teachings inscribed in Vedas. Vedas form the fountain head of Hinduism and are the ultimate sources to which legacy of Hinduism can be traced. Although, it is difficult to fix any timescale for the composition of Vedas, but it is believed that around 1500 B.C., the Vedic age started, when the Aryans arrived in India.

It is believed that the facts mentioned within Vedas are infallible and invariable. It is also believed that Vedas were revealed to early mystics in course if their spiritual discourses, who expressed them in words. Thus it is assumed that the origin of Vedas is essentially divine. As Witzel puts it “We owe the transmission and preservation of the texts to the care and discipline of particular religious, or better, priestly schools (or, sakhas).

It should also be emphasized that both the composition and the transmission of the texts was completely oral for the entire Vedic period and some considerable time afterwards”.Thus the study of Hinduism is essentially the study of Vedas and affiliated texts. For convenience, the Vedas are divided into four main categories viz Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sam Veda and Atharva Veda. Each Veda deals with a particular aspect of human life. Besides Vedas, the religion of Hinduism stands on the texts of Upanishads. One of the most important doctrines in Hinduism is that of the theory of Karma, which states that action and its consequences are inseparable. Any deed, any thought that causes an effect, is called Karma. The Law of Karma means the law of causation. Wherever there is a cause, there an effect must be produced.

(The author is a freelance columnist with bachelors in Electrical Engineering and a student of comparative studies with special interests in Iqbaliyat & mystic thought. He contributes a weekly column for this newspaper that appears every Monday. He can be reached at: amirkas2016@gmail.com

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Criminalisation of Indian politics

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Shabbir Aariz

India after independence adopted the parliamentary form of government for it being the largest democracy in the world and a constitution with secular and democratic features as envisioned by its leaders who were part of the freedom struggle with laudable credentials.

Indian parliament was graced from the prime minister to the smallest member by the individuals who were like institutions unto themselves, the feature that continued, unfortunately not very long.
Soon after the first crop of leaders of independent India kicked the bucket, the degenerative metamorphosis of the system started setting in. People like Shashtri and Gulzari Lal Nanda and likes of them suddenly disappeared and the citizenry started suffering. Nehrus and Aazads those adorned the parliament were replaced by Pholan Devis and individuals with criminal background.

 

And as recently as 2018, the supreme court of India in its five judge bench including the chief justice, on a PIL by Public Interest Foundation & others V/S Union of India, observed that the citizenry suffers at the hands of those “who are nothing but a liability” to the country. The said bench however left it to the parliament to make a law to ensure that persons facing serious criminal cases do not enter the political stream.

The bench maintained that criminalization of politics strikes at the very root of democracy. This unsettlingly increasing trend of criminalization of politics, to which the country has been witness, tends to disrupt the constitutional ethos and strikes at the very root of its democratic form of government.

The judgement has also come under a great criticism for the reason that the Apex court instead of laying law has passed on the task to the parliament and the critics say that the judgment is disappointing because of the inconsistency and the fact that it “misses the wood for the tree”.

The apex court while sharing the petitioner’s concern about the growing criminalization of polity, which is a threat to the basic structure of the constitution. Still, it has expressed its inability to go beyond what it did, on the ground that it is bound by the doctrine of separation of powers between the legislature and the judiciary not to cross the “Lakshman Rekha’. The bench has ignored the precedents which it had set to determine what constitutes Lakashman Rekha. Petitioners had wanted the court to step in as the parliament had not enacted the requisite law to fill the void for so many years.

It was believed that politics is the last resort of the scoundrel and in India this is loud and clear as we see that criminals seek shelter in politics after contesting elections and even getting elected either to the parliament or state legislature.

It is also no secret that nexus between the criminals and some politicians exists.

Criminals need patronage and politicians need money and muscle that comes from the criminals to enable politicians to win elections.

And criminals also directly contest elections. Booths are captured, goons hired to mobilize or suppress turnout, criminals protected from the reach of law, favors showered and the competitive search for underground financing by the parties has made criminals most sought after commodity who in turn have sought space for themselves in the political stream and got it.

Studies suggest that a substantial percentage of individuals with criminal record of serious crimes like rape and murder, over the years have made it to the parliament and state legislatures. There have been political murders in India and the killers controlling the system never were brought to justice. Much of the nexus between the criminals and politicians has remained covert in the past but for the past few years it has not only been overt but also glorified in the ugliest manner.

We are witnessing mob lynching, killings, destruction of properties, humiliations and organized targeting of under privileged and voiceless citizens brazenly defended by the politicians in power. Meanwhile Sadhvi Pragya Thakur, 2008 Malegaon blast accused has been favored with a ticket by BJP for parliament elections in Bhopal.

The scnario does not only threaten the democracy but the basic edifice of India and there are no regrets or remorse for this socio-political degeneration and undermining the very constitution of India. So much so people involved in terror attacks that consumed lives of innocent people, have earned their freedom from the clutches of law through powerful political patronage. Feeble voices against the trend are indicted and gaged. The situation has come now to such a pass that it has attracted the attention of world bodies which have reported their concern on various happenings in India and have linked it to the human rights, which even if rubbished by the ruling class, does not do any good to the image of India.

It is, therefore, high time for the saner India to effectively rise against the menace and brave the adversity as that wrestles with you shall only strengthen your nerves and sharpen your resolve. Otherwise a society which is incapable of ridding itself of such barbarian element is indeed plunging into a primitive state of moral chaos and lawlessness.
(A leading lawyer and eminent poet, author contributes a weekly column. He can be reached at: vaklishabir@gmail.com)

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Refractory Brick Kilns operators in the State

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By Bhushan Parimoo

Was it a coincidence or the preponderance which accorded an opportunity to this writer to have privy to a deliberations, providing answers to many of unsolved riddles plaguing the J&K State Pollution Control Board.

It so happened the other day in one of the Office Chamber of the Board at Jammu Tawi. Discussion was between an owner of the daily English Newspaper and the coordinator of the Board, who had come to expedite the clearance of Plastic Bottles Manufacturing Unit.

 

To give legs to the file to run faster he raised the issue as a pressure tactics about the operation of Brick Kilns against norms.

Emphasising upon that he has raised the issue number of times, but things continue to be carried on unabated before the very eyes of the Board. The officer in chair meekly had no answerer to offer.

This refreshed the memory about the lines by Pearl .S. Buck Noble Prize novelist. In one of her novels The Promise “And promises were nothing but words, and words were bubbles of air, falling easily from men’s lips and broken and gone as though they had never been”.

What surprised this writer all the more that the coordinator took liberty knowing well that whole scenario in its totality is known to me as well .Because the matter had been consistently raised at various forum including him by me since 2014. Besides media has been consistently raising this serious issue umpteen times over the years.

It was last September on way to Pilgrimage to Badekali Shrine Handwara, I found Brick Kilns spewing huge quantity of smoke from their chimneys .The emission of  carbon dioxide  cause  serious  polluted air related diseases  beside adverse impact  on the environment.

Same was brought in to the notice of the authorities who concurred with the concern. Beyond it matter continued as it was being carried.

Still on pilgrimage I learnt that Advisor to the Governor Vijay Kumar had already held a meeting at Srinagar with regards to Brick Kilns functioning against Environmental norms, which was attended by Commissioner –cum-Secretary to the Government for Forest, Environment and Ecology Department, the Chairman and Member Secretary of State Pollution Control Board, Divisional Commissioner Kashmir and others.

It was deliberated in the said meeting that in Kashmir Division none of 334 Brick Kilns active in manufacturing Burnt Bricks have Environmental Clearance. Badgam has the highest number 212, Anatnag 55, Pulwama 41,Kulgam 21, Shopian 3, Baramulla 2. While as Jammu South 44, Jammu North 85, Samba South 47.Samba 01, Kathua 41, Udhampur 9, Reasi 02. In Jammu Division these are not in conformity with the laid down eco-friendly technology norms.

All Brick Kilns use raw material from agriculture land against the norms. What transpired there in the above referred meeting has not been made public. State Pollution Control Board feigns ignorance about the meeting under an RTI, dated 9 January 2019, but do admit illegal function of the brick manufacturing units. Undeniable fact is that the matter has been deliberated thread bare in the meeting chaired by the Advisor Vijay Kumar.

Thereafter situation remained as it has been before. Now question arises did the Advisor drop hints not to act even as under rules authority is supposed to perform its legitimate duty. Or in other case did he directed to proceed under law which is generally it expected of him in a normal course. Then what made authorities not to act. It is a fit case before National Green Tribunal where citizens can claim damages on human life and environment.

The State Pollution Control Board is the sole authority established to ensure what is guaranteed under Constitution. But the orders of judiciary and National Green Tribunal are not being got adhered to. Commoner neither can afford to establish the unit nor he can influence the clearance agencies to establish these against laid down norms which are spewing death and destruction around? 

How these Units get permission which has to pass through various check and cross check passage to ensure these to be eco-friendly. It is well aware fact that every part of the machinery is well oiled to run it smoothly and noiselessly.

Hapless are the sufferers because civil society most of them retired or businessmen are busy to be in good books of the Government. State do has an act to regulate and control the establishment of Brick Kilns in papers never used. Jammu and Kashmir Brick Kilns (Regulation) Act, 2010, makes it mandatory that No brick kilns shall be established on any land which Is agricultural land; is fit for cultivation of any agricultural produce; has not been declared as Banjri-Kadim in the Revenue records; or is within the demarcated forest area of the State under the Jammu and Kashmir Forest Acts,.

Every application under sub-section (1) and sub-section (2) shall be made in the prescribed form and shall contain the particulars regarding the location of brick kiln, the size and type thereof and such other particulars as may be prescribed. It shall invariably be accompanied by the following documents:, site plan and Revenue extract duly attested by concerned Tehsildar indicating the title, location, status and type of land; II no-objection certificates from (i) Deputy Commissioner concerned; ii) State Pollution Control Board; (iii) Divisional Forest Officer concerned; (iv) Wildlife Warden concerned; (v) Director, Geology and Mining; (vi) District Agriculture Officer concerned;(vii) Block Medical Officer concerned;(viii) Tehsil Education Officer concerned; (ix) The Executive Engineer (PWD/R&B) concerned; and(x) Tehsildar concerned. (6) Before granting licence under sub-section (5), the licensing authority shall make or shall cause to be made a full and complete investigation in the prescribed manner in respect of the application having due regard to the following, namely: (a) the suitability of the locality wherein the proposed kiln is to be established;(b) the number of kilns operating in the area;(c) whether such kiln is not detrimental to the health of general public, habitations, water resources, fauna and flora in close proximity;(d) whether such kiln is proposed to be set up on land which is or was put to agricultural use, save as that the existing brick kilns, if set up on such land, though categorized as “Banjar Kadim”, should be relocated within a period of five years and punitive action shall be taken for non-compliance as per the rules to be framed under this Act;(e) the setting up of brick kilns should be allowed on the areas considered suitable for the purpose without any detrimental effect to the agricultural/productive land.

It is to be ensures  that  every holder of Brick Kiln licence shall abide by the pollution control laws in force and shall take all precautions, adopt such measures and install such devices as prescribed for protection of environment and control of pollution as may be directed by the concerned authority. Air pollution due to dust, exhaust emissions or fumes shall be controlled and kept within permissible limits specified under the relevant laws in vogue from time to time.

And then there are penalties for violators  contravenes or abets contravention of any of the provisions of this Act or the rules made there under, he shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years or with fine which may extend to fifty thousand rupees, or with both. The cognizance of offence no court shall take cognizance of any offence punishable under this Act except on a report in writing of the facts constituting such offence made by licensing authority or any person duly authorized by the Government in this behalf. Apart from it these units are grossly violating Labour laws; incidents have been reported from time to time of bonded labour practices. Welfare schemes are denied to the workforce.

History of manufacturing of fire Baked Bricks in the Kiln is about 150 years old in the state. And the manufacturing procedure has remain by and large same hardly changed .Brick manufacturing had been started by Maharaja Ranbir Singh, in Kashmir during his rule. Maharaja owned a brick kiln which remained a major and assured source of his income apart from other royal revenues.

More significantly it had the name “Maharaji Seer’ (Brick in Kashmiri) .Because of the fact that Maharaja was the sole owner of such manufacturing enterprise.

Making them was the personal commercial enterprise of Maharaja Ranbir Singh. The term for the real estate affluence of a Kashmiri, the present writer, believes is the unforgotten phrase “Maharaji Seer” found in many house constructions of Srinagar of the recent past. Small, thin rectangular baked blocks of clay would accord its unique and distinct feature to Kashmir building architecture not seen elsewhere in the state.

This type of brick is still seen in several old houses in down town Srinagar. However, with changing times and use of modern- day European building materials, the houses in Srinagar no longer provide this conventional look of the brick used in their construction.  Any relics still left out must be preserved as state building heritage.(The writer is a Jammu based Environmentalist).

on pilgrimage I learnt that Advisor to the Governor Vijay Kumar had already held a meeting at Srinagar with regards to Brick Kilns functioning against Environmental norms, which was attended by Commissioner –cum-Secretary to the Government for Forest, Environment and Ecology Department, the Chairman and Member Secretary of State Pollution Control Board, Divisional Commissioner Kashmir and others.

It was deliberated in the said meeting that in Kashmir Division none of 334 Brick Kilns active in manufacturing Burnt Bricks have Environmental Clearance. Badgam has the highest number 212, Anatnag 55, Pulwama 41,Kulgam 21, Shopian 3, Baramulla 2. While as Jammu South 44, Jammu North 85, Samba South 47.Samba 01, Kathua 41, Udhampur 9, Reasi 02. In Jammu Division these are not in conformity with the laid down eco-friendly technology norms.

All Brick Kilns use raw material from agriculture land against the norms. What transpired there in the above referred meeting has not been made public. State Pollution Control Board feigns ignorance about the meeting under an RTI, dated 9 January 2019, but do admit illegal function of the brick manufacturing units.

Undeniable fact is that the matter has been deliberated thread bare in the meeting chaired by the Advisor Vijay Kumar. Thereafter situation remained as it has been before. Now question arises did the Advisor drop hints not to act even as under rules authority is supposed to perform its legitimate duty. Or in other case did he directed to proceed under law which is generally it expected of him in a normal course.

Then what made authorities not to act. It is a fit case before National Green Tribunal where citizens can claim damages on human life and environment. The State Pollution Control Board is the sole authority established to ensure what is guaranteed under Constitution. But the orders of judiciary and National Green Tribunal are not being got adhered to. Commoner neither can afford to establish the unit nor he can influence the clearance agencies to establish these against laid down norms which are spewing death and destruction around? 

How these Units get permission which has to pass through various check and cross check passage to ensure these to be eco-friendly. It is well aware fact that every part of the machinery is well oiled to run it smoothly and noiselessly. Hapless are the sufferers because civil society most of them retired or businessmen are busy to be in good books of the Government.

State do has an act to regulate and control the establishment of Brick Kilns in papers never used. Jammu and Kashmir Brick Kilns (Regulation) Act, 2010, makes it mandatory that No brick kilns shall be established on any land which Is agricultural land; is fit for cultivation of any agricultural produce; has not been declared as Banjri-Kadim in the Revenue records; or is within the demarcated forest area of the State under the Jammu and Kashmir Forest Acts,. Every application under sub-section (1) and sub-section (2) shall be made in the prescribed form and shall contain the particulars regarding the location of brick kiln, the size and type thereof and such other particulars as may be prescribed.

It shall invariably be accompanied by the following documents:, site plan and Revenue extract duly attested by concerned Tehsildar indicating the title, location, status and type of land; II no-objection certificates from (i) Deputy Commissioner concerned; ii) State Pollution Control Board; (iii) Divisional Forest Officer concerned; (iv) Wildlife Warden concerned; (v) Director, Geology and Mining; (vi) District Agriculture Officer concerned;(vii) Block Medical Officer concerned;(viii) Tehsil Education Officer concerned; (ix) The Executive Engineer (PWD/R&B) concerned; and(x) Tehsildar concerned. (6) Before granting licence under sub-section (5), the licensing authority shall make or shall cause to be made a full and complete investigation in the prescribed manner in respect of the application having due regard to the following, namely: (a) the suitability of the locality wherein the proposed kiln is to be established;(b) the number of kilns operating in the area;(c) whether such kiln is not detrimental to the health of general public, habitations, water resources, fauna and flora in close proximity;(d) whether such kiln is proposed to be set up on land which is or was put to agricultural use, save as that the existing brick kilns, if set up on such land, though categorized as “Banjar Kadim”, should be relocated within a period of five years and punitive action shall be taken for non-compliance as per the rules to be framed under this Act;(e) the setting up of brick kilns should be allowed on the areas considered suitable for the purpose without any detrimental effect to the agricultural/productive land. It is to be ensures  that  every holder of Brick Kiln licence shall abide by the pollution control laws in force and shall take all precautions, adopt such measures and install such devices as prescribed for protection of environment and control of pollution as may be directed by the concerned authority. Air pollution due to dust, exhaust emissions or fumes shall be controlled and kept within permissible limits specified under the relevant laws in vogue from time to time.

And then there are penalties for violators  contravenes or abets contravention of any of the provisions of this Act or the rules made there under, he shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years or with fine which may extend to fifty thousand rupees, or with both. The cognizance of offence no court shall take cognizance of any offence punishable under this Act except on a report in writing of the facts constituting such offence made by licensing authority or any person duly authorized by the Government in this behalf. Apart from it these units are grossly violating Labour laws; incidents have been reported from time to time of bonded labour practices.

Welfare schemes are denied to the workforce. History of manufacturing of fire Baked Bricks in the Kiln is about 150 years old in the state. And the manufacturing procedure has remain by and large same hardly changed .Brick manufacturing had been started by Maharaja Ranbir Singh, in Kashmir during his rule. Maharaja owned a brick kiln which remained a major and assured source of his income apart from other royal revenues. More significantly it had the name “Maharaji Seer’ (Brick in Kashmiri) .Because of the fact that Maharaja was the sole owner of such manufacturing enterprise.

Making them was the personal commercial enterprise of Maharaja Ranbir Singh. The term for the real estate affluence of a Kashmiri, the present writer, believes is the unforgotten phrase “Maharaji Seer” found in many house constructions of Srinagar of the recent past. Small, thin rectangular baked blocks of clay would accord its unique and distinct feature to Kashmir building architecture not seen elsewhere in the state. This type of brick is still seen in several old houses in down town Srinagar. However, with changing times and use of modern- day European building materials, the houses in Srinagar no longer provide this conventional look of the brick used in their construction. 

Any relics still left out must be preserved as state building heritage.(The writer is a Jammu based Environmentalist).

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