Even as the harsh winter days are over and the spring is dawning in the horizons of Kashmir but its problems continue to haunt the people every moment. The main among these problems is the paucity of power supply—a trouble that touches every individual. Despite the improvement in weather conditions and increase in water flow in the valley’s water bodies, the darkness continue to loom large in Kashmir. It is not difficult to imagine a life with power. But the power woes have affected the tourist industry the most. People associated with tourist trade complain that the lack of electricity in hotels, houseboats and other places of tourist-lodge have a negative effect on the psyche of visiting tourists. All the charm tourists enjoy in the day turns into an ordeal for them in the evening which continues throughout the night. Hundreds of tourists have been thronging daily to witness the snowy scenes in the valley. With the valley having witnessed heavy snowfall this winter, the charm and beauty of Kashmir has gone up beyond bounds. It is after several winters that the valley has witnessed a good snowfall. Last winter went completely dry. The valley is presently host to hundreds of tourists who have come from non-snow zones across India and outside world to enjoy the picturesque snowfields and mountains. Hotels and huts in the land of snow—Gulmarg—are fully occupied. A thick blanket of snow is still covering the Gulmarg bowl and its surroundings making it a great attraction for tourists. Tourists have come from different parts of the country besides from abroad. Tourists are having a good time here. They are enjoying the snow and the snow clad mountains in the backdrop. This is despite the fact that the temperature here runs in sub-zero during the night. But what mars their mood is the lack of electricity. It gives a frightening picture in the evening when the darkness spreads its tentacles around. Most of the hotels have put in place alternate arrangements like diesel generators for lighting. But turning on number of generators simultaneously makes the whole atmosphere earsplitting noisy. It makes a horrible picture of this unparalleled tourist place. The visiting tourists too have on record expressed their displeasure on the poor power supply and the delight and charm one gets in the snow vanishes once one reaches hotel. Frequent and long unscheduled power cuts destroyed the whole mood.
The power scenario is worst of all in the Dal Lake where visitors stay in houseboats. The houseboat owners say that they cannot light on diesel generators as they have very limited space in the houseboats. The generators cause so much noise that the visitors get annoyed. This has a telling effect on the overall tourist industry. In the prevailing tense situation, tourists usually come after hard persuasion by tour and travel agents. It is the word of the mouth that motivates them. But when they confront with issues like no-power in the hotels, they have all the reason to counsel their friends against visiting the valley. The local residents of Kashmir live such a life permanently. While the city population avails the power supply in bits and pieces, most parts of the rural Kashmir have to remain content with sporadic but meagre power supply. Over the past few days, people in several areas protested on the roads against the government failure in providing scheduled power supply to the consumers leading to halt in traffic movement at various places. This scene is repeated every year with no attention from the powers-that-be. The present dispensation headed by Governor Sat Pal Malik has appeared somewhat different. He recently raised a genuine concern of the people of Kashmir over arbitrary rise in airfare with the Prime Minister. One hopes that the Governor would take note of what is happening with the people in these wintery days and deliver in mitigating the problems of immediate nature confronting them.
The most sacred month Islamic calendar, Ramadan is all set to enter and with that the month long fasting shall begin across the Muslim world.Fasting is an essential part of faith in innumerable religions spread across the world. Yet, the fundamental difference between fasting in Islam and other beliefs is that the one prescribed in the sacred book of Islam ensures that although abstinence is there, the permitted period of food consumption guarantees that there is no real chance of malnutrition or inadequate calorie intake.
The basic difference between abstinence in Ramadan and total fasting is the timing of the intake of food. We basically miss lunch, have an early breakfast and do not eat until dusk. Nothing more.Even the insufficient supply of water, which is essential for human survival, does not have an adverse impact — it adjusts the concentration of all fluids within the body, resulting only in a nominal state of dehydration, which itself has beneficial effects.
One of the five pillars on which the monotheistic religion of Islam stands upon, fasting is primarily a religious obligation and a spiritual experience. Yet, the design of a month-long fast makes it clear that Islam is pragmatic even in its obligatory duties.While fasting is ordained for all Muslims, it is not obligatory for the elderly, the young or the ill, and people suffering from some other clinical, or non-clinical circumstances. From a nutritional point of view, fasting in the month of Ramadan is not a burden, but rather, a manner of reaping physical and, as research shows, even psychological benefits. This, as many claim, is proof that Islam is a pragmatic religion that addresses the realities and more.
To maintain a healthy life, every human being needs a certain number of calories, which differs from person to person. While it is true that generally during Ramadan the body is somewhat deprived of its total calorie count, any form of short fast, lasting anywhere from 20 to 36 hours, can in fact, reduce risks for heart disease, diabetes, and possibly, even cancer!
The changes that occur in the body depend on the duration of the fast. In the month of Ramadan, for a practicing Muslim, the body enters into a deprived state for approximately eight hours. In a normal person, body glucose, which is stored in the liver and muscles, is the body’s main source of energy. While fasting, this store of glucose is used up first to provide energy. Once the body runs out of the stored glucose, it starts using up from the fat reserve.
Short fasts also reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in cells. Many theorise that this helps prevent and even repair damage to our DNA; studies have linked damage to the DNA with developing cancer.
Scientists also have strong arguments for fasting as an anti-ageing method. In other words, fasting just may help us keep our organs health and this prolonging life. Fasting has been found to be an effective treatment for psychological and emotional disorders. It helps people build self-esteem and a strong will, cultivate and refine their taste and manners, and strengthen convictions, which ultimately all contribute towards a sound and healthy lifestyle.Besides conditioning for abstinence, fasting also reflects on outward physical appearance by help cutting out gluttony, and getting rid of excess fat, which, in today’s world, is a major medical issue.
One common term that gets thrown around is ‘detox’. However, only a few have a clear idea about what detox actually refers to, and how Ramadan can be linked with it.Detoxification is one of the more widely used treatments based on the principle that health can be hampered if toxin (toxic substance) becomes high in the bloodstream. Detoxification takes place when any toxins in the body’s fat reserve are dissolved and removed from the body.After a few days of fasting, higher levels of endorphins (a hormone) appear in the blood, which, without us even realizing, make people alert, giving an overall feeling of mental wellbeing.
BJP’s poll pangs
As India is in the thick of parliamentary elections, and polling for 302 seats (out of total 543) has already been held, the ruling BJP finds itself on a fiercely challenging wicket. The social engineering by regional parties, in UP and Bihar in particular, and MumtaBannerji’s assertive position in West Bengal, is likely to upset the BJP’s calculations. BJP’s position in southern states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh Orissa too is reported to be fragile. Rahul Gandhi’s rise from ashes is another factor that is casting shadow on BJP’s electoral prospects. Mocked as “Pappu” for being a novice and inexperienced in politics by the Prime Minister NarendraModi and his party colleagues, Rahul Gandhi appears to have come of age. He is putting up a valiant fight against the BJP and in the recent past has defeated the ruling party in three crucial states—Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh—in assembly elections. The Congress president—heir of Nehru-Gandhian dynasty—has made a careful departure from the party’s rhetorical and symbolic commitment to secularism and minority rights. He is taking on the Prime Minister on the agenda set by the BJP itself. To establish his Hindu identity, Rahul Gandhi visited hundreds of Hindu temples in the past few months leaving little scope for the hard-line Hindu detractors to call him a “non-Hindu”. Rather than stand against BJP’s majoritarian and Islamophobic politics, Rahul Gandhi chose to fight the electoral battle on the terms set by the Hindu right. He stayed silent about the violence and hostility encountered by the Muslim citizens. He essentially agreed with the terms set by Hindu nationalists that to speak of equal citizenship and political rights for India’s 165 million Muslims is no longer acceptable in India. Rahul Gandhi regularly posted on Twitter but he avoids references to India’s Muslims.
This seems to have paid for the Congress president in this new Indian frame of politics where inclusiveness is no more a virtue. It has rattled the BJP and its leadership, and they are finding themselves on quite a sticky wicket. Though it is premature to draw any conclusion about the outcome of the elections but the desperation in the BJP camp is visible. It is for this fact that the BJP leadership is trying hard to renew and revive the communal polarization ahead of four other phases of polling. There are two main indicators of this BJP plan. Prime Minister NarendraModi is trying to invoke Pakistan and nuclear bomb in his poll campaign to attract voters to his side. The other day he warned Pakistan of nuclear bomb saying “our nuclear bomb is not for Diwali”. Addressing an election rally in Rajasthan, he said that India could no more be frightened or blackmailed by Islamabad’s threats and said its nuclear capabilities are not being kept for Diwali. “Every other day they used to say ‘we have nuclear button, we have nuclear button’. What do we have then? Have we kept it for Diwali?” he said. The other major indicator of BJP’s growing frustration is fielding of terror accused Pragya Singh Thakur as party nominee from Bhopal parliamentary seats. She is challenging the Congress strong man Digvijay Singh. Singh is the main accused in 2008 Malegaon blast case in which six people had died and around 100 others injured (all Muslims). The trial court had in October last year framed charges against Pragya and other accused under the UAPA and other sections of the Indian Penal Code for murder, criminal conspiracy and promoting enmity between religious groups. If convicted, the maximum punishment would be life imprisonment or death. Pragya and the others facing trial in the case are charged with “hatching a conspiracy” to “strike terror in the mind of the Muslim community, to create communal rift….” Currently she is out on bail on health grounds. It goes without saying that charges against her have not been proven yet but the moral and political propriety had it that she, for the seriousness of the charges, should not have been considered for such a place in the party. By owning and fielding her, BJP has played out a game of polarization of voters on religious lines.
Collapse of Afghanistan peace talks
The hope for end of the war in Afghanistan has suffered a major blow as the peace talks between Taliban and the Afghan government have collapsed. A key meeting of Taliban leaders and Afghanistan government officials was scheduled to take place in Qatar on April 19 but a last minute row over the large number of delegates Kabul wanted to send culminated in the fall down. Taliban leaders refused to accept the Afghan government delegation in such a large size. The peace talks have been postponed indefinitely. The talks have collapsed at a moment when bloodshed continues in the war torn country. On Saturday suicide attackers stormed the Ministry of Communications in the capital Kabul trapping thousands of people inside the building for hours while security forces battled the assailants. At least 10 people died in the fighting. The Islamic State group claimed credit for the attack, which came a day after U.S.-led peace talks between the Taliban and Afghan leaders broke down in Qatar, with no immediate plans to reschedule negotiations. Taliban indeed is the major power group in Afghanistan. It now controls or influences more than half of Afghanistan. The government writ has largely been squeezed to Kabul only. A recent United Nations tally revealed that around 4000 civilians were killed across Afghanistan last year. The United States, which is leading an effort to end the war, signaled its disappointment and urged both sides to return to the table, though organizers gave no hint about when the conference might be rescheduled.
Efforts to end the Afghan conflict have accelerated since the appointment of U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad in September last year, who has since been shuttling across the region to revive Afghan peace talks. He has held several meetings with the Taliban leaders at their political office in the Gulf country of Qatar. American President Donald Trump’s letter, in recent past, to Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan seeking Islamabad’s support in establishing peace in Afghanistan too has helped in reviving the peace efforts in the decades old war torn country. Trump had earlier tried to terrorize and pressurize Pakistan through intimidating measures, and in the process stopped all the military aid the country was supposed to get as its share for being a partner in America’s war on terrorism. Trump directly accused Pakistan of harbouring and sponsoring the terrorists, and wanted Pakistan to fight the America’s war in Afghanistan. Trump issued threat and warnings to Pakistan with the intention that like in the past it would succumb to such pressure. But as it saw Taliban capturing more and more areas, Trump stopped all military and economic aid to Pakistan to make Islamabad more pliable. America even threatened Pakistan of military action if it did not comply to the US orders. But the rise of Imran Khan to power saw a new and confident Pakistan refusing to toe the American line. American officials have now admitted that the Taliban control more than 60 per cent of the territory in Afghanistan. Hence, the Trump administration has finally come to the conclusion that there is no other option but to talk to the Taliban. The U-Turn by Donald Trump is a huge indicator that no country, howsoever powerful it could be is invincible. In the new scenario, America’s interests in peace in Afghanistan are growing as the US wanted complete withdrawal of its forces from the country. There is no other alternative to peace. Irrespective of what America or other interested powers want, peace should restore in Afghanistan in the interests of its people. More than anyone else, it is the people of Afghanistan who need peace. It is imperative on all stakeholders to restore peace talks without any delay so that peace returns to the war-torn country.