Sunday, August 10, 2008

'Throw every separatist out of this country'. 'Why can we not have land in Kashmir?'

'Throw every separatist out of this country'. 'Why can we not have land in Kashmir?'

Rashid Ahmad, Hindustan Times

Domail (Baltal), August 10, 2008

First Published: 00:03 IST(10/8/2008)

Last Updated: 00:25 IST(10/8/2008)
Jammu vs Kashmir: Reign of peace

From Domail (Baltal), at a place called Baltal, begins the shortcut to God. The Amarnath caves are just 16 km away from this piece of land the size of a football field — the Himalayas towering around it and the Sindh river gently gurgling past. Pilgrims begin the quickest climb to the shrine from here.

Shortcuts often come with dangers.

In the last six weeks, this piece of land 93 km from Srinagar has triggered one of the deepest communal divides in independent India in the Valley, with 10 people killed and more than 500 injured on the streets of Jammu and Srinagar.

On Saturday, the streets still burned, even as the Amarnath Yatra Sangharsh Samiti, the organisation demanding that the Baltal land be returned to a temple trust, climbed down a bit by agreeing to peace talks with Home Minister Shivraj Patil.

At Baltal’s Ground Zero, however, peace has never had to be talked out in the 30 years that pilgrims have been pitching tent here.

In an extension of a 160-year-old tradition of Hindu pilgrims being helped by Muslim workers on the older route to Amarnath from Pahalgam, around 300 Muslim labourers and seasonal workers escort people to the cave, carrying the old on their shoulders, providing mules to others, supplying water and helping with backpacks and other luggage.

There is little sense of the street rage and deep religious divide sweeping Jammu and Srinagar.

“I am here for more than a month, helping yatris,” said Ashiq Hussain (25), a resident of nearby Kangan. Hussain is an Arts graduate but could not get a government job. His three younger brothers, two sisters and widowed mother depend solely on him for livelihood.

“This is the time I earn for my family. We have no other means,” he said. Ashiq has earned around Rs 12,000 in a month.

The piece of land at the centre of the conflict has pre-fabricated structures, including latrines, bathrooms and shelter sheds.

The control over the conduct of the yatra, which rested with the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (which now looks only after religious matters), is now with the state tourism department.

On Saturday, about 200 yatris were ready to set out on the trek. Officials said 250 yatris had already left. Those who could afford were taking the helicopter service.

Abdul Gani Khan, another resident, said he had been associated with the annual pilgrimage for 15 years.

“We have never treated yatris like outsiders invading the Valley. They are like family,” said the 55-year-old.

Akhel Kumar, a 23-year-old Delhi student, agrees. “We have no problem here. When my friend Abhishek and I decided to leave for the yatra, friends and relatives advised against it,” he said. “We faced problems in Jammu. Agitators threw stones on our vehicle at Samba and Kuthua. We thought the worst might be waiting in the Valley. But we are surprised to see the hospitality and generosity of the people here.”

On the way from his home state Chattisgarh, driver Anil Kumar’s Scorpio was stopped at several places in Jammu by protesters who asked him to go back. “At Samba some people hurled stones at us,” said Kumar (35). “But it is all calm once I reached the piece of land over which battles are being fought.”

Om Prakash Karlekar (45), a pilgrim from Maharashtra, termed the rioting over the yatra as a “political stunt”.

“This is disgusting. We must not be swayed by what is being said and done,” he said.

Aurangzeb Naqshbandi, Hindustan Times

Email Author

New Delhi, August 10, 2008

First Published: 00:01 IST(10/8/2008)

Last Updated: 00:02 IST(10/8/2008)
Solution: Do as Rajiv did in 1987, Mr PM

If Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is looking to douse the flames lit by the Amarnath shrine land row, all he needs to do is flip through the pages of history. In 1987, then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi defused a similar divisive situation within weeks.

On October 7, 1987, then Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah tried to end the century-old practice of Darbar Move by which government offices were shifted from Srinagar to Jammu during the six winter months.

Abdullah ordered the permanent stationing of 20 departments in Srinagar and 17 in Jammu. The people of Hindu-dominated Jammu took this as an act of discrimination, fearing that it would lead eventually to Srinagar being the year-round capital of the state. They also felt that the region’s economy, boosted every year by the Darbar Move, would take a hit.

What followed was a backlash similar to the current one, triggered by the grant of 100 acres of forestland to the Amarnath shrine authorities for pilgrim facilities and a subsequent revocation of the order.

The shutdown in Jammu, Udhampur and other Hindu-dominated areas lasted five weeks. As in the past few days, supplies to the Valley were cut off.

The crisis was resolved after Gandhi intervened, rushing his Home Minister Buta Singh to the state. Singh persuaded Abdullah to revoke his order.

Though this revocation too led to angry reactions, they were few and lasted only four days. Normalcy was restored in both regions soon.

Coffee Break / Sunday Pioneer / August 10, 2008

The bushfire of Hindu rage by Kanchan Gupta

For the past five weeks Jammu has been witnessing a veritable uprising against the pro-Muslim, anti-Hindu politics and policies of the establishment in Srinagar and the Government in New Delhi. At the heart of the dispute is the contrived controversy over the allotment of 97 acres of land to Sri Amarnath Shrine Board for creating temporary facilities for Hindu pilgrims who trek to the hill cave shrine every summer. The Muslims of Kashmir Valley -- let us not be coy and refer to them as 'Kashmiris' so as to suppress the fact that they are Muslims -- took to the streets, chanting blood-curdling slogans and waving the Pakistani flag, to scuttle the allotment of land. The National Conference of the Abdullah clan and the People's Democratic Party of the Mufti clan joined the fanatics in insisting that Muslim Kashmir would not tolerate such Hindu intrusion.
Instead of standing up to the rank communalists who have Hindu blood on their hands, the Congress and its stooge, who now occupies the Governor's office, meekly surrendered to them, thus delivering a crippling blow against the Indian state, though not for the first time. And how did the media react to this abject surrender? The cancellation of the allotment of land was hailed as a judicious decision, an assertion of secular values, to protect 'Kashmiriyat'; it was praised as being mindful of 'Kashmiri sentiments' and 'Kashmiri psyche'. Stripped of its sophistry, what all this means is that the Congress has done well to pander to Islamic fanaticism and mollycoddle those who heap abuse on India and curse Hindus. Such is the standard used by the media for judging secularism in this wondrous land of ours.
And how has the media responded to the snow-balling protest against Muslim appeasement, which has engulfed all of Jammu region and brought men, women and children out into the streets to brave bullets and batons? There has been universal condemnation; the agitation has been dubbed as 'communal', 'distressing', 'disruptive', 'anti-Muslim' and 'needlessly provocative'. Kashmir's Muslims have been described as 'tolerant' and Jammu's Hindus as 'ingrates'. For 365 days a year Kashmir's Muslims hold the Indian state to ransom and not an eyebrow is lifted. For 35 days Jammu's Hindus petition the Indian state to protect their rights and they are ridiculed. Much concern is expressed over the manufactured grievances and imagined victimhood of Kashmir's Muslims by the lib-left intelligentsia that dominates media. But scorn is poured on the genuine grievances and victimisation of Jammu's Hindus.
Ever since the first violent protest in downtown Srinagar against the allotment of land to Sri Amarnath Shrine Board, facts have been twisted and the truth has been obfuscated to portray Kashmir's Muslim fanatics as saints who wouldn't swat a fly and Jammu's Hindus as a violent, unruly and communal lot which should be crushed into submission. There is nothing new about this perversity: We have seen in the past how the cleansing of Kashmir Valley of Hindus has been whitewashed; how massacre after massacre of entire Hindu families have been treated by media as 'minor incidents' not worthy of notice; how lakhs of Pandits thrown out of their ancestral land have been reduced to refugees in their own country; and, how bogus terms like 'Kashmiriyat' have been used as a convenient cover to hide the brutalities inflicted by Kashmir's Muslims. All that and more is not 'communal' but in keeping with the 'secular' principles of the Indian state; if Hindus raise their voice in protest, it is not only 'communal' but an assault on the 'secular' Indian state!
For the benefit of those who have come of age in the last two decades, among them many of the 24x7 news channel anchors who talk utter gibberish while donning an air of supreme confidence to camouflage their limitless ignorance, let me recount the events of January 1990, which mark the beginning of the latest crusade against the Hindus of Jammu & Kashmir. Since 'secularists' are allergic to events of the distant past, we need not go into the details of how Hindus were decapitated by the Sword of Islam wielded by the original Islamists. The present will suffice to highlight the duplicity of those whose hearts beat for the hate-India hordes in Kashmir.
Srinagar, January 4, 1990. Aftab, a local Urdu newspaper, publishes a Press release issued by Hizb-ul Mujahideen, set up by the Jamaat-e-Islami in 1989 to wage jihad for Jammu & Kashmir's secession from India and accession to Pakistan, asking all Hindus to pack up and leave. Another local paper, Al Safa, repeats this expulsion order. In the following days, there is near chaos in the Kashmir Valley with then Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah and his National Conference Government abdicating all responsibilities. Masked men run amok, waving Kalashnikovs, shooting to kill and shouting anti-India slogans. Reports of killing of Hindus, invariably Kashmiri Pandits, begin to trickle in; there are explosions; inflammatory speeches are made from the pulpits of mosques, using public address systems meant for calling the faithful to prayers. A terrifying fear psychosis begins to take grip of Kashmiri Pandits.
Srinagar, January 19, 1990. Mr Jagmohan arrives to take charge as Governor. Mr Farooq Abdullah, whose pathetic, whimpering, snivelling Government has all but ceased to exist, resigns and goes into a sulk. Curfew is imposed as a first measure to restore some semblance of law and order. But it fails to have a deterrent effect. Throughout the day, Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front and Hizb-ul Mujahideen terrorists use public address systems at mosques to exhort people to defy curfew and take to the streets. Masked men, firing from their Kalashnikovs, march up and down, terrorising Pandits. As evening falls, the exhortations become louder and shriller. Three taped slogans are repeatedly played the whole night from mosques: "Kashmir mei agar rehna hai, Allah-hu-Akbar kehna hai" (If you want to stay in Kashmir, you have to say Allah-hu-Akbar); "Yahan kya chalega, Nizam-e-Mustafa" (What do we want here? Rule of shari'ah); "Asi gachchi Pakistan, batao roas te batanev san" (We want Pakistan along with Hindu women but without their men). As the night of January 19, 1990, wears itself out, despondency gives way to desperation. And tens of thousands of Kashmiri Pandits across the Valley take a painful decision: To flee their homeland to save their lives. Thus takes place a 20th century Exodus.
Their wounds, as also the wounds of Hindu India, have been festering for 18 years. The simmering anger of Hindus has now burst into a raging bush fire that threatens to burn to ashes media's perverse notions of 'secularism' and destroy the politics of Muslim appeasement. Consternation and panic in Delhi and Srinagar are understandable.

Jammu burns with pent-up anger

SANKARSHAN THAKUR (Kolkata, Telegraph, 10 Aug. 2008)

Jammu, Aug. 9: This might sound like an exaggeration, but that’s perhaps because you’ve been tuned too finely to pervasive political correctness. The trouble in Jammu isn’t merely over 80-odd acres of land around a faraway mountain shrine, it is over reordering the entire political landscape of a state that doesn’t care being polite about its bitter and visceral faultlines any more — Valley versus the rest, Kashmir versus Jammu, Hindu versus Muslim, if it comes down to that.

And, in the ringing words of Lila Karan Sharma, convener of the storm called the Shri Amarnath Sangharsh Samiti, it is even “Tricolour-carrying patriots of Jammu versus Pakistani flag-bearers of Kashmir”.

History is often a cause-and-effect lesson. The immediate cause of what’s unfolding today probably goes back to 1990 and the exodus of Pandits from the Valley under the sweep of the “azadi” movement. The accumulated causes go even further back the decades. Amarnath is probably merely the latest flashpoint.

Jammu, were you to get a sense of reigning sentiment in this shuttered, khaki and concertina-ridden city, is feeding sackfuls of its old and perceived grudges to these fires.

“We’ve put up with this for 60 years, 60 long years,” says Rati Razdan, a politically unaffiliated schoolteacher who has been at the barricades in Gandhinagar each morning, “all in the name of national unity. Those who blackmail the nation with threats of separation have been pampered, those who have been loyal have been ignored. What am I to do to be heard, pick up a green flag and shout anti-India slogans? Why can we not have land in Kashmir, why must Kashmiris have their way all the time in this country?”

Why does the Valley have more seats in the state Assembly even though Jammu is greater both in population and land area? Why must they have three MPs and we only two? Why must they have all chief ministers and we none? Why do they get 80 per cent of government jobs? Why must they have 60 per cent of power? Why must they have reservation in colleges and technical institutions even though our boys and girls do better? Why is it that we can be thrown out of our homes in the Valley and nothing happens? Why is there such a crisis if we want to set up facilities in the Valley for two months each year? Why do their leaders get to build private mansions in the forests of Jammu’s vaunted Bhatindi outskirts whereas we can’t even be granted land in the name of a shrine? Why are they part of an all-party delegation? They are the creators of this problem, why should they now become judges? And why should we go to them?

Why? Why? Why? Us and Them. Us and Them. Us and Them. Jammu is an angry trigger-burst of questions wherever you go. And they are well aware who they are firing them at. The casting out of all Valley leaders — Farooq Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti, Saifuddin Soz — from the all-party delegation before the Samiti agreed even to come to the Raj Bhavan this afternoon was a stark demonstration of where and how Jammu is marking the divide.

“This is a disturbing flashpoint in the state’s history,” says professor Dipankar Sengupta who teaches economics at the University of Jammu, “this is the first time Jammu has shaken up the country and the Valley, and that is because of the accumulated history of grievances. The Valley has got too much national attention too consistently, it is Jammu’s turn now and it believes it has reasons to scream. It wants corrections.”

Sengupta, like many others you’d call liberal or middle-of-the-road, is not unaware that a virulent brand of Hindu nationalism is the flaming head of this extended tumult. It isn’t as if the consequences of things getting out of hand don’t alarm them. But, equally, they aren’t prepared to damn Jammu’s uproar as cynical rightwing opportunism alone.

“It is true the Sangh is the spearhead,” says Sengupta, “but that is because of the nature of when and how these frustrations have come to be vented. There are more people behind this than just the BJP, although the BJP is very happily behind it. Don’t forget the local Congress is straining to get on board as well, something must be pushing them.”A retired Kashmiri bureaucrat who is settled in Jammu and has no time for the Hindu rightwing, concedes there is more to this than just the row over land around the Amarnath cave. “It is true that the Sangh and its front organisations are in the forefront, it is also possible that the BJP will draw electoral mileage from this not only in Jammu but elsewhere too.

“But remember two important factors: this is still a city ruled by the Congress, the BJP won but a single seat in the last election. But more important, this is essentially a mercantile city. Businessmen and shopkeepers don’t tolerate such long closures if they don’t feel deeply about issues. Jammu has been closed 40 days and there is still no sign things will open up. There’s a sign for you.”

Jammu agitation a fight of nationalist forces: BJP

Chandigarh (PTI): The BJP on Sunday claimed the agitation in Jammu over the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board land transfer controversy is a "nationalist movement to throw out anti-Indian forces" out of the country.

In a statement, BJP's investor cell and the party's Punjab state chief Sukhminderpal Singh Grewal said the "row is not between Jammu Hindus and Kashmiri Muslims as branded by some section of the media but rather a fight of nationalist forces against separatist elements".

"You can see Hindus, Sikhs and even Muslims out on roads to support the movement," he added to corroborate his claim.

Grewal further claimed that the movement is not restricted to relinquish the land to the shrine board but "it's a movement of four lakh Kashmiri Pandits who are bearing the brunt of being refugees in their own country for over 19 years and it's a movement of every Indian who consider Jammu and Kashmir as integral part of India".

"This public outcry is to throw out each and every separatist out of this country so that people of Jammu and Kashmir and rest of India could shun fear forever and live in peace and tranquillity," he asserted.

He also said the Congress-led UPA Government had "failed" miserably to pacify agitators and sense public mood. Grewal demanded that the UPA Government should accede to the demand of people and restore control of forest land back to the shrine board immediately.

He further cautioned the government saying that defying the wishes of the people is playing with fire and every Indian is watching the situation. "If the government will not relinquish control of the land immediately to the shrine board then every road and every Indian will lead to Jammu and Kashmir," Grewal added.

Dangerous divide: Jammu officials put it in black and white

Muzamil Jaleel

Posted online: Sunday, August 10, 2008 at 0139 hrs IST

Srinagar, August 8
The Jammu administration told the visiting all-party delegation today that the Amarnath land revocation order has “hurt the religious sentiments of Hindus in the state” and their protests have “assumed the dimension of a mass movement”. And “public mobilisation” fanned by provocative speeches by religious leaders and “vested interests” had created “regional and communal polarisation amongst the population”.

The all-party delegation will be briefed by the administration in Srinagar tomorrow.

In fact, the Jammu administration today gave data to the all-party team to underline the communal dimension of the agitation. The visiting team was told that 3,758 protests took place in Jammu city, 2,270 in Kathua, 1,850 in Samba, 1,480 in Udhampur, 740 in Riyasi, 115 in Doda, 74 in Ramban, 74 in Kishtwar, 37 in Poonch and 115 in Rajouri district.

The administration provided a detailed Hindu-Muslim population break-up which shows that Hindu-dominated districts saw the most protests and that any communal violence could have alarming repercussions.

As per population details provided by the administration, in Jammu and Samba, Hindus make up 86% of the population while Muslims constitute 5.68%. In Udhampur and Riyasi, Hindus are 73% of the population while Muslims 25.57%. In Doda-Kishtwar-Ramban, 41.46% of the population is Hindu while 57.92% is Muslim. In Kathua, Hindus are 89.8% of the population and 8.14% are Muslims; 37.28% of the population in Rajouri is Hindu while 60.23% is Muslim while Poonch has 5.2% Hindu and 91.92% Muslim population.

The salient points of the briefing:

* 18 cases have been registered in connection with communal violence in which 20 persons were injured, 72 Kulas (hutments) of Gujjars were burnt down, 22 vehicles damaged and several trucks carrying supplies looted. “These are only reported incidents. Many such incidents have taken place, which have not been reported so far,” the officers told the team.

* 117 police personnel and 78 civilians were injured including two policemen who were lynched and are “battling for life” in PGI Chandigarh while six civilians were killed, including three in police and Army action.

* 129 cases were registered against the rioters. A total of 1171 arrests were made but most of them are now out on bail.

* 10, 513 protest demonstrations and 359 serious incidents of violence have taken place across Jammu in which 28 government buildings, 15 police vehicles and 118 private vehicles have been damaged.

The violence has taken its toll on pilgrims bound for Vaishnodevi and Amarnath. In May and June, the average number of yatris per day to Vaishnodevi was 29,126 and to Amarnath 3310. These have dipped to 8619 and 347 respectively. All schools, colleges, government offices and services, including utilities — hospitals to post offices — were paralysed.

The administration was critical of the role of local media in Jammu. “Local media channels and newspapers not only supported the agitation but often fueled it by publishing inflammatory photographs and reports and glorifying violent incidents,” the administration said. “Two local cable networks repeatedly used highly provocative clips for long duration to encourage and incite violence and create law and order problems in gross violation of Cable TV Regulation Act 1995. National channels giving less coverage received threats from agitators”. The administration also talked about the misuse of SMS service to foment “communal violence”.

The administration also gave details about the economic blockade, saying that the “agitators stopped blocking the national highway repeatedly with a view to alter supplies to the Valley, including the supply of LPG, diesel, petrol.”

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