Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Kripya Prateeksha Karien

Some of you have been curious about "De Militarize Civilian Kashmir" on my Orkut profile. Well if truth be told the addition of that by-line/statement/one liner/whatever is the emotional, humanist me. I have been asked questions about it...questions filled with curiosity, accusation, betrayal, surprise, anger too. Admittedly there have been some heart felt thank yous and good job's too. Reactions varying in nature and in intensity.

But the explanation for it is where this article's title comes in...Kripya Prateeksha Karien..:) You will have to hang on for the revelation :)
I am not guilty of trying to build up the mystery but am simply pressed for time.

I have too many things on my plate these days and I am at that point in my life that I ask myself the following questions everyday...

1) What was I thinking???????

2) What day is it today? At least 3 times in one day.

3) When did I last comb my hair? I mean really run a comb starting from my roots to the end of the hair shafts.I know that is how one combs but if you have long hair and have been really busy at any point in your life you know what it is to comb on such days...gather all your hair up and tie it in a fashionably messy bun/knot high up on your head. I am convinced, this hairdo is deservedly called 'fashionably messy/sexy bedroom hair' and really I am too busy to even consider or care about a different opinion.

4) I have driven and then suddenly jolted into a state of high alert when I realize I drove for the last 10 minutes not really knowing where I was driving to.

5) I have been guiltily and not so guiltily and frequently popping miniature Hershey kisses..a sign that I am under stress.

6) I have been writing dry one liners in response to some of my dear friends long mails...I am so sorry, I promise I will make up to you guys. And for those dear dear friends, whom I should be calling..please dont give up on me. The phone will ring ..sometime...soon..

So hang on, I will land soon enough. To all those who have praised me for my multi tasking, muaaah, I love you all and your words keep me going. And for all those "I told you so's" and tsks tsks on my insane schedule...drop it ..I will never learn and never change. I am a moth driven to the flame. This flame of intellectual stimulation and challenging myself to the point where it can also get mentally and physically challenging.

But this moth would die without this flight to this flame.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Child Trafficking in Flood Affected Areas in Bihar

How evil can evil get? Evil is not human and definitely has no emotions except for more evil. These are some thoughts that flitted through my mind when I was mailed a report of increase in trafficking in flood affected areas in Bihar. I mean, is there no end to depravity? How can one do this really? It has to be evil within, which allows for actions of such nature.Here are some facts for you about the trafficking and the good work being done by Bachpan Bachao Andolan, A Child Rights NGO (BBA), :

1) There has been a spontaneous increase in human trafficking, in particular of the children from Saharsa, Supaul, Araria, Purnia, Madhepura, Katihar, Sitamarhi and other flood affected districts. It is not difficult to see the large number of traffickers luring away children from the flood prone villages, relief camps, bus stations, and railway stations in these districts- all in the name of providing relief from this flood.

2) Rescue operations since 26 August 2008:
More than 100 complaints were received and 22 children between the age group of 8-13 years have been physically rescued by BBA,activists from the clutches of traffickers from Saharsa and Katihar railway stations. These children told in their statements that the traffickers had given an advance amount to their parents and promised to take them to Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and other cities.

3) Legal action: 5 traffickers have been arrested and cases booked against them for trafficking of children. Legal action would be initiated against all perpetrators of trafficking.

4) Government actions: BBA has written letters to the Prime Minister bringing the situation to his light, and to railway authorities and the district magistrates of all affected districts to prevent trafficking. Upon BBA’s appeal, the District Magistrate of Saharsa, Mr. R.Laxman met with the railway authorities to step up vigilance in the railway stations and prevent trafficking.

5) Recorded messages relayed at Saharsa railway station: Recorded audio messages of the appeal are being relayed through an audio system in the Saharsa railway station. This has proven to be very effective and has had a huge impact in generating awareness. BBA plans to replicate this model in other places as well.

6) Awareness among flood victims: In Saharsa, Madhepura, Katihar, Darbhanga and Araria, BBA activists have reached all relief camps in the area. The activists and volunteers are generating awareness against trafficking through the word of mouth, posters, leaflets, radio messages etc.

7) Training of and coordination with local NGOs and religious workers is being done to sensitise the people on trafficking.

8) A 24 hour helpline is being initiated in Delhi where complaints about children being trafficked would be taken and immediate necessary action initiated.

9) Media action: Electronic and print media – news channels, dailies and magazines would be mobilised to sensitise and generate awareness among the people and the civil society as well. Advertisements would be aired, audio messages relayed and press releases issued. This would have an impact on the general public as well as the government bodies.

10) People’s Commission: A people’s commission on child trafficking of flood victims is being proposed by BBA with some of the most reputed and acknowledged individuals in Bihar.

Some Links:


Thursday, September 11, 2008

Mumbai Meri Jaan

I have lived in Delhi for three years and then anther 3 years I spent in Mumbai. I was in the college hostel in Delhi. The hostel had ridiculously strict rules and me being the typical fresh faced small towner rarely ventured out or ventured too far. But whenever I did, I faced always without fail some kind of eve teasing, or sexual harassment. Travelling by public transport was nearly impossible and taking the autorickshaw not only expensive but no safer. In fact the auto driver would also end up fleecing me thanks to my ignorance about the city and rigged meters. I was always struck by how no one seemed to be inclined to help a damsel in distress. I was also told by a fatherly auto driver that he avoids taking young female passengers after 7 p.m because he has been hounded by men in cars, catcalling and indulging in far worse. He told me he could not stand such behavior but felt helpless and preferred to not put himself in such a situation.

As opposed to this Mumbai where I did my Post Grad was refreshingly and surprisingly different. It is an egalitarian society where the top financial analyst and an average Joe would travel by the same train and by the same compartment even. In case of a 'takkar'/ accident the auto driver could get out and fight it out with the driver of the Mercedes car without the fear of hearing " tu jaanta hai tu kisse baat kar raha hai" dialogue commonly heard in Delhi. The public is disciplined to the point of being awe inspiring. I have seen long queues in bus stands snaking past the overhead shed and standing in order, come sunshine or rain. The auto/cab drivers seem so professional and one is never cheated. There are some exceptions though especially at Dadar and Kurla station. But these are few. I have also accosted men for eve teasing with a confidence that the 'aam junta' will support me and beat the perpetrator to pulp. I even found the Mumbai Police more approachable versus their Delhi counterparts. I could travel freely and without fear in Mumbai at odd hours. The lone police constable in the ladies compartment of the local train after 9 pm was always a reassuring sight.Simply said I love the energy and the people of Mumbai.

I am not starting a Delhi vs. Mumbai debate.I mentioned Delhi because that is the only other metro besides Mumbai that I have lived in. And I will now directly come to the point....

What is Raj Thackeray doing with the spirit and the image of Mumbai?

What is this insider vs outsider clash? The last I heard nothing akin to Article 370 applies to the state of Maharashtra. When did living in Mumbai and despite loving it , it was anti-Marathi/maharashtrains to mention your birth place and speak in your native tongue.

”When in Maharashtra, they must act like Maharashtrians. They (referring to SP) must adopt our way like saying Mumbai and not Bambai,” Shishir Shinde, MNS (Maharashtra Navnirman Sena)spokesperson.

Shiv Sena has been debating for quite sometime now whether to push for a more inclusive Hindutva identity or to stick to its regional Marathi Manoos identity - sons of the soil versus migrants.

Raj Thackeray took advantage of this and has become the born again messiah of the Marathi Manoos.....defending them from the evil North Indians. He has been attacking one and all...from Bollywood demi Gods like Amitabh Bachhan, Shahrukh Khan to Mumbai's Joint Police Commissioner, K L Prasad. He has been holding the city to ransom with threats of violence.

Issues like water, congestion, pollution, thoughtless urbanization , health, etc become non issues in the face of Mumbai vs. Bombay, North Indian vs. Maharashtrian.....

So who really is a Mumbaikar?

Jammu vs. Kashmir, Mumbai vs.North Indians.....different players, a new playing field but the same game, with a dash of local flavor respectively.........at stake the upcoming assembly elections........

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Driving in the Rain

My daily ritual includes driving through a park - a park which unlike the parks back home is a heavily wooded area. The small winding road is lined by huge trees and one is fooled into fantasizing that it is a drive through a thick forest. I choose this route over an alternate quicker one. Because this drive through my 'forest' never fails to bring some sort of peace and tranquility to my frazzled, over worked and sleep deprived mind.

Today morning when a million thoughts were vying for attention I eneterd my 'forest' and it was like someone switching off a harsh flourescent bulb in favor of a soft romantic table lamp. I have noticed how messy rooms look cleaner, people in the room more beautiful, the ambience suddenly more romantic just by a small change in lighting. The same happens to me when I enter this 'forest'. The lines creasing my forehead suddenly relax. The clamoring thoughts silenced. I swear even the music playing in my car radio suddenly seems to get better. A smile plays on my lips while my eyes feast on nature's bounty.

Today it was raining heavily and as I channel surfed through the issues in my head...troubles ailing Jammu & Kashmir besides a zillion others...I entered my 'zone'. And what a sight it was...a green like no other green, the branches of those majestic trees heavy with raindrops, little puddles everywhere, a wet squirrel darting in and out...it was wet and green and wet and green...
It reminded me of cycling back from school under the gulmohar trees, the smell of rubber..the'duckback' raincoats, the music and romanticizing the rain endlessly in the college hostel, the not so pleasant wading through knee high rainwater in Mumbai, the ducking under heavy 'rajais' and hugging a 'kangri' during bone chilling winter rains in Jammu, pakoras, munching on a 'garam bhutta' while soaked to the skin in Lonavala, the daily evening rains in Nigeria,running around gleefully as a kid with my brother near Lake Geneva and finally dreaming dreams of spending many a days watching the rain from my cozy little cottage up in the mountains some day..................

I do not remember the last time I got wet in the rain with a sense of absolute joy and abandonment. I will get back to my endless, sometimes pleasant and sometimes not so pleasant musings and to my political blogging but for the moment I thank God for this beautiful earth and this beautiful life. Let there be Peace and Let there be Rain :)

Monday, September 8, 2008

Discrimination : Myth Or Not?

I was planning a post on the Indian Army/CRPf etc in Kashmir and why there is an immediate need for de-militarization. But this post is inspired by the comment or rather article cut copied and posted by my friend Shah who is now my most avid reader and my best critic.

To my other readers please read the 7th comment for the previous post by Shah. This post is in response to that. This is also a cut copy paste from Jaidev Jamwal's researched data.Thanks Jaidev.

Compare size and population of Jammu Vs Kashmir. Jammu is bigger with more voters, but pays more taxes almost 2/3rds of total. Then see what we get less of a lot of things.

1) TOTAL AREA (sq KM)-----------Jammu 26293````````Kashmir 15948

2) VOTERS------------------------ Jammu 3091193`````Kashmir 2986670

3) LOK SABHA SEATS------------- Jammu 2 ```Kashmir 3

4) STATE ASSEMBLY SEATS------- Jammu 37 `````Kashmir 46

5) REVENUE COLLECTION ---- --- Jammu 70% `````Kashmir 30%


a) Electricity(2007-08)
Target---- Jammu 417 crore`````Kashmir 519 crore
Realised ---Jammu 443 crore ```Kashmir 246 crore

b) Sales Tax since 1957-2007--- Jammu 2474.8crore ````Kashmir 1075.2 crore

6) a)Non-plan Expenditure------- Jammu 35% ````` Kashmir 65%

Notice the discrepancies and compare the size and population of 2 divisions.
Each figure is in crores and it refers to the 8th and 9th Plan respectively.

1)Agriculture____ Jammu 57.6 ---Kashmir 104.5 ~~~Jammu 147.3 ---Kashmir 253.7

2) Irrigation____ Jammu 91.1---Kashmir 136.6~~~Jammu 112.7 ---Kashmir 210

3)Roads & Building __Jammu 144.2 ---Kashmir 247.2~~~Jammu 229.3---Kashmir 403.6

4)Health ______ Jammu 123.8---Kashmir 135.34~~~Jammu 229.3--- Kashmir 274.45

5)Tourism ______ Jammu 15.2---Kashmir 34.39~~~ Jammu 34.9 --- Kashmir 58

6)Power______ Jammu 516.75 ---Kashmir 775.1~~~Jammu 56.94--- Kashmir 85.4

7) Sewerage____ Jammu 2.9 ---Kashmir 6.8~~~Jammu 6.2---Kashmir 14.6

8) Drainage____ Jammu 20.37---Kashmir 47.53~~~Jammu 27.84---Kashmir 64.96

Details compiled from J&K State Govt sources and

Though it may seem like a Jammu VS. Kahmir debate, it was not intended to be so. Though it will probably turn into one in the near future. I had to put these facts up to throw light on what is really happening in the State and why the people of Jammu who suffer an identity crisis beyond their state borders stood up unanimously raising their voice for their rights. This was not a communal issue but more of a fight for our rights to land and property in our own state. The land was not going to be used for a training camp for the militants, it was not for an institution which would hold mass conversions...it was going to be used for no subversive activities.

It was for some necessary provisions for the yatris. There are no clean, private toilets, no hot water and the the pilgrims are fleeced by the locals and charged 5-10times for everything. A piligrim is charged anything upwards of 1800 rs. for spending one night in a cloth tent shared by 5-10 other people in sub-zero temperatures and occasional snowfall, landslides, hail and rain. 250 pilgrims died because of bad weather conditions in the recent past. Was a demand by the state subjects to provide basic amenities to pilgrims too much to ask for?

The peaceful protests by the Jammuites, despite anti-national comments like....'this is our land, agar le sakte ho to le lo"...and "We will not give an inch of our land"
is a measure of the kind of people they are. The Dogras and Ladakhis of the State who had long decided that they are an integral part of India have to suffer because of the indecisive, misguided and leaderless Kashmir. I do not condone the call for 'Azadi' but I do not support it too. But being labelled as communal pushes me against the wall. I too feel like calling for 'Azadi' ...azadi from this troubled paradise, azadi from obscurity and invisibilty of my region and azadi from the Article 370 which ruins my chances to live 'normally' in the nation state of my choice.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

So What Was It All About? Part 2

Amarnath Yatra has been a shining example of communal harmony, sufism in Kashmir and the composite culture of the state. So really what was it all about? If things were so simple , no land was being transfer ed to anyone permanently,no permanent structures were being planned,the local populations depend on this yatra for economic reasons, what was the hullabaloo about. I am grappling with this fundamental question and am debating between which of the conspiracy theories to choose from. The theories in question are:

1. PDP decided that it was not winning any big battles read seats in the 2009 elections and needed something to lean on for a decent show in the upcoming elections. What better than Hindu vs Muslim, us vs them ploy which never fails to disappoint. I have no doubts that PDP and Mehbooba Mufti are to blame for starting this mess. What Ms. Mufti did not expect I guess was a resounding response from the Jammu region which has no history (in the last 61 yrs) of any kind of political activism. The situation quickly spiralled out of control with separatists in Kashmir finding new vigor and voice. This separatist angle does not suit the PDP too. Hence as a saving face gimmick Ms. Mehbooba has been calling for starting trade between POK and Kashmir and the opening the Muzzafarabad Road. Unfortunately for her and funnily for the rest of us, many PDP ministers have been beaten and their cars stoned by the local Kashmiri Muslims, during this entire land drama. I do not see them winning too many seats after all.

2. Mr. Prem Shankar Jha who is called an expert on Kashmir and is just that in my opinion. He is not an expert in the history and psyche of the people of the Jammu region. Mr. Jha has mentioned a land scam, where land was going to be sold for ridiculous prices and it was a big racket which went bust. Well if we were to believe that then it is quite likely that the some of the parties involved wanted a bigger portion in the scheme of things and when that did not happen like a bad player decided to ruin things for the rest of the players. Again I have a feeling they did expect or were prepared for the game to be completely hijacked by the separatist voices in Kashmir and by the suddenly awake, alive and kicking Jammuites.

3. What was glaringly absent was Mr. Prime minister's direct and intense involvement in the issue. All the cry about economic blockade, could the Center not have air lifted the 'baby food'which was scarce amongst other things in the valley and shut the separatists up. The Home Minister of course has proved he is not suited for the job. This whole things reeks of the opportunistic politics Congress excels in. It did not want to get its hands dirty just before the upcoming elections. It played safe at the cost of a troubled state becoming more divided.

4. The hostage crisis left the separatists labelling it as a staged encounter by the Indian Government. If true it only reflects the sorry state of the region's politics. Though the recent build up of militants on the border should put things in a different perspective.

5. Pakistan would have had marathon parties to celebrate what was happening in J&K if it was not too busy cleaning up its own internal mess. From the impeachment of Musharraf to the recent US attacks on its soil against its innocent civilians, it should really focus on things ailing them. Though the state of affairs in J&K was an excellent opportunity for Pakistan to add to the activities of its Department of Kashmir, The Unfinished Agenda. It made grand statements about protecting the Human Rights of the Kashmiris and appealing for international intervention, all the while breaching the cease fire and allowing militant build up n the border and aiding their infiltration.

The State of Things as they are now:

1. An awakened Jammu which has found its lost voice finally. Such a large scale people's movement has not been witnessed in the country in the recent past. We will see more political activism from this region in future. BJP by supporting this people's movement stands a good chance of winning the maximum seats if not all in this region. If tomorrow the Sangharsh Samiti decides to contest the elections, undoubtedly they will be the winners hands down.

2. An awakened and renewed demand for freedom in the valley. There will be debates and discussions and maybe the freedom movement in Kashmir will take a new direction, under new leadership.

3. The Amarnath issue has brought to sharp focus once again the HR violations in the valley. There is a need for de militantization and de militarization for a return to normalcy. It is a must for winning the trust of the people and giving peace a serious chance.

At the end of the day I am thankful for the political awakening of the people of Jammu. That is how I see it irrespective of the communal labels applied to this movement by the so called experts. As far as I am concerned no real experts on the Jammu region were interviewed in any of the TV debates or interviews.

The cries of Bum Bum Bhole and Nizame Mustafa reiterates the fact that the line between religion and the civil society are very hazy and easily overlap at times.

The burning of the Indian flags and cries of Jeevay Jeevay Pakistan throws light to the nature of separatist leadership and the separatist voices in the valley.

I am grateful that Human Rights violations have been thrown up for discussion once again and hopefully measures will be taken to correct and improve the conditions in the valley.

I am thankful that questions about the return of Kashmiri Pandits have been raised once again and maybe the new blood in the valley who say that they want their Pandit brothers back will march to Delhi/Jammu/ Muzzaffarabad or a place of their choice to demand a return of the KPs.

All the economic losses suffered by the state is a terrible waste.

I am also sorry for all the innocent lives lost and the lingering bitterness between Jammu and Kashmir.

I am hopeful that the state known for its natural beauty, will witness a revival of Sufi Kashmiriyat and communal harmony and bounce back to its full glory.

So What Was It All About? Part 1

I went out of the state for the weekend and when I came back all was back to 'normal' in Jammu and Kashmir, or atleast in Jammu. There were huge victory rallies in the Jammu Region after the retoration of land to the Shrine Board. Basically the cancellation of the land order has been revoked and we have arrived at status quo. The most important points of the order are:

A. The State Government shall set aside for the use by Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board, exclusively, the land in Baltal and Domail (Compartment No. 63/S, Sindh Forest Division) comprising an area of 800 kanals, traditionally under use for the annual Yatra purposes.

B. The proprietary status/ownership/title of the land shall not undergo any change.

C. The Board shall use the aforesaid land for the duration of the Yatra (including the period of making the required arrangements and winding up of the same) for the purpose of user by various service providers according to its needs and priorities.

'The aforesaid land shall be used according to the Board's requirements, from time to time, including for the following:-

i. 'Raising of temporary pre-fabricated accommodation and toilet facilities by the Board;

ii. 'Establishment of tented accommodation by private camping agencies (locals, permanent residents of the State);

iii. Setting up of the shops by shopkeepers (locals, permanent residents of the State);

iv. Facilities for Ponywallahs and Pithuwallahs;

v. Provision of healthcare and medical facilities;

vi. Setting up of free Langars by private persons and groups which are licensed by the Board;

vii.Facilities for helicopter operations/ parking of vehicles;

viii Arrangements of security by local police/para-military forces and other security agencies as per the arrangements in place here-to-fore; and

ix. Undertaking measures relating to soil conservation, land protection and preservation of ecology.

It has further been agreed that the Board shall continue to remain responsible for the overall arrangements of the Yatra on both the routes during the Yatra period, including all arrangements as mandated under the provisions of the Shri Amarnathji Shrine Act, 2000 A.D.