Each year, Human Rights Day is observed all over the world, especially by the oppressed nations on December 10, as on this very day in 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The day is also celebrated in Kashmir where protests, demonstrations, seminars and conferences usually mark it. But the people in power have always played as villains in curbing such activities. In contrast, the day—in the rest of the world—is observed to protect the rights of the people. That makes Kashmir quite differently exceptional. It is not going overboard to say that animals have more rights than humans in Kashmir. Last year former MLA Engineer Rasheed and his supporters led a march of animals-a mule, dog, goat and a cow with cards slung on their necks; animals have more rights than the people in Kashmir, he only but highlighted what was evident. Srinagar municipality, a few years back, came up with a plan to restrict the growing dog population—which had grown to disturbing proportions (reportedly 2 lakh), the animal ‘lovers’ all across India made hue and cry against the plan. Many of them including BJP leader Manika Gandhi barged into Srinagar to protect the dogs. One has never heard Manika Gandhi or any other animal lover ever raising voice against the rights violations of humans in Jammu and Kashmir. In the past 30 years, thousands of people have been killed, maimed and jailed by government forces. Around 10000 people are reported to have gone missing after their arrest by security forces, and nobody knows their whereabouts. The systematic killings continue unabated but discreet silence is maintained in the name of national interest. In 2008 and 2010 and 2016 around 300 persons, most of them young boys, were killed in disproportionate use of force by the police and CRPF to quell street protest. The brutality played in Kashmir streets was enjoyed like some action film. International human rights organizations like Amnesty International and Asia Watch besides some civil rights individual and groups within India have censured India for its decimal human rights record. Lately, United Nations too have come out with a damning report of anti human acts of security forces in Kashmir. The irony is that the violators of these rights have been given legal protection under Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSA). It is very sad state of affairs in Jammu and Kashmir that any demand for revocation of AFSPA is seen as ‘anti national’. Just a feeble mention of the demand gives belly bouts to the whole media, political and security establishments all across the country. On occasions it appears that some sections are deriving sadistic pleasure from the miseries of the people of jammu and Kashmir and they want to keep them under check for ever. Jammu and Kashmir is presently one of the most highly militarized regions in the world. The history of military violence—disappearances, shootings, extrajudicial killings, torture, arson, and rape—has touched virtually every home and family in Kashmir. The total number of those killed, maimed, and otherwise harmed will probably never be known. To date, no one has been held accountable for these atrocities. Personnel responsible for such crimes enjoy impunity under AFSPA.
Soldiers who commit violence against women get away with it by invoking the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act. People live in permanent fear worrying every moment for their lives property and honour. The so called representative governments led by National Conference, Congress, PDP and BJP on different occasions are equally guilty of committing crimes against the people of Jammu and Kashmir. When out of power, these parties, barring BJP, would demand withdrawal of AFSPA but back in power they would plead for its continuation. This duplicity and hypocrisy by the NC and PDP is condemnable in every sense of term.
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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