Read Jammu and Kashmir, one of the most exciting datelines in India, through editorial positions of the state’s leading newspapers.
Talks with Taliban?
Kashmir Images, Srinagar | Editor, Bashir Manzar
Army Chief General Bipin Rawat’s statement that Taliban should be engaged in an unconditional dialogue has generated quite a few strong reactions from Jammu and Kashmir. Two former Chief Ministers – Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti – have raised questions saying why the same approach is not adopted in Kashmir. Both the leaders have a point if their statements are seen in the backdrop of some statements made by the General in recent past vis-à-vis Kashmir protests wherein he said that those marching towards encounter sites would be treated as ‘over ground workers of the terrorists’. If General could be so tough towards unarmed civilians of Kashmir, how can he be so soft towards Taliban who have waged full-fledged war against Afghan government and NATO forces? If General believes that dialogue is the only way to resolve conflicts, he better look towards his own country and suggest such things for here.
That said, India is gearing for general elections this year and it would be too naïve to think that there could be any opening of dialogue either with Pakistan or Kashmiri separatists. The tensions between India and Pakistan are once again touching a crescendo. Almost every day there are skirmishes along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir with both countries blaming each-other for violating the ceasefire. Both claim it is the other side which resorts to firing and shelling and that their own forces are only retaliating in a “befitting” manner. In the prevailing confusion, it is impossible for anyone to ascertain the reality as to who actually the aggressor is, and who is retaliating in defence. But irrespective of who could and should actually be blamed, fact of the matter remains that innocent people on either side of the border, those who live and work close to the LoC – the poor people of Jammu and Kashmir in both sides — are once again at the receiving end of the Indo-Pak hostilities.
Now the question is: why is all that is happening along the LoC and international border in J&K, happening? Is India deliberately raising the temperatures along the borders as the new elections are approaching? Or is Pakistan doing it in retaliation to India’s spurning its latest peace initiatives in the aftermath of two countries agreeing to open Kartarpur corridor? Or is it that both the countries are doing it under some tacit understanding so as to ease their respective domestic political pressures? There are certainly many more reasons which could be cited as being the possible motivation for the each party to do what all they are doing along the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir.
However, whatever the cause, the unfortunate reality again is that the people of Jammu and Kashmir are once again caught between the guns of two countries. The protracted conflict between the two neighbours, which has been raging since their inception in 1947, is as ever, still being fought in Jammu and Kashmir over the heads of the poor people of this God forsaken region. And what is still more unfortunate is — that it is the strategic thinkers of the two countries sitting in New Delhi and Islamabad who determine the fate of the people of living along both sides of the Line of Control.
In such a scenario, Omar and Mehbooba’s “dialogue cry” may have no takers but the two government’s will have to come to the negotiating table if intention is to have peace in the region. Fact of the matter is that pitching for Kashmir dialogue at a time when BJP is gearing for a tough battle ahead is of no use. But still the stake holders have to keep on reminding the two countries that unless they open up communication channels, they can’t ensure peace in the region. May be, once the new government is in place in India, the dialogue threads would be picked up from where these were left years back.
Justice to juveniles
Rising Kashmir, Srinagar | Editor, Hafiz Ayaz Ghani
A number of cases related to juvenile injustice have come to light in the last several years with the state police accused as violating the Juvenile Justice Act with impunity. Legal experts say that the Act continues to be paper tiger as no strict directions are passed in the ranks of police to abide by the law, provisions of the JJA. Juveniles who according to the Act must be send to observation homes in case they are not granted bail or set free are said to end up in lockups and jails. In India there are over 10,000 children who are said to be in conflict with the law and living in observation homes. Lack of infrastructure in the state may also be one reason that juveniles instead of curative homes end up in prisons. In the first week of January the government held a meeting with regard to the effective implementation of Juvenile Justice Act (Care and Protection of Children). In the meeting chaired by Advisor to Governor Khurshid Ahmed Ganai, it was decided that two building in Jammu and Srinagar districts will be hired to function as makeshift shelter homes till the construction of government’s own buildings. Without the needed infrastructure, it is pointless to talk about implementation of the Act, except in all those cases where the juveniles should not be detained. With the state government failing to provide amenities to the prisoners as per the jail manuals, it is farfetched to think of just behavior towards minors. A stark reality was exposed by NCRB (National Crime Records Bureau) about the condition of children in the Jammu and Kashmir state. The report served as a grim reminder that the government is faced with an uphill task to set up a credible justice system. The children have faced the brunt of turmoil in Kashmir, many have been orphaned and thousands have been injured. There is no policy in place to deal with the trauma that has been unleashed here due to the daily incidents of violence. An inclusive policy intervention would have been a must, as is the need to set up curative homes where the children could be reformed to lead better lives. The pendency of cases due to lack of proper administrative set-up and absence of juvenile justice boards at district level have also foiled the attempts to treat the children in the just manner. The onus of ensuring that laws are not violated lies on the state government and the police only.
Kashmir Reader, Srinagar | Editor, Haji Hayat Mohammad Bhatt
The nagging moral, ethical and humanitarian issue of homelessness is a global one. A wander into and across any metropolitan city of the world will reveal the extent and scope of the issue. The reasons for homelessness are many. Among these, poverty and mental health issues are the most salient ones. Consider an example. Post the 2008 financial crisis, whose main cause was subprime lending, that is lending to high risk borrowers for mortgage loans, and then securitization of the same, hundreds of thousands of people had to forego their homes and thus rendered homeless. But, this was or constituted a mild form of homelessness which entailed losing homes and most of the subprime victims did have some kind of an income. The most egregious form of homelessness is when people cannot afford a dwelling and thereby have to either live on the streets or just wander. Another form of homeless accrues from mental health issues where people lose their sense of space, place and time and then wander. Sometimes, there is a confluence of these two factors which makes people homeless. The phenomenon exposes the homeless to the elements , the general ruthlessness of society, illnesses and disease. The result is that their life chances are undercut and their mortality rates high, among other things. All this raises an obvious moral and ethical dilemma: what to do about these people and how can they be helped? Sometimes, the homeless are shunted and obscured from view; they are herded to places where they can’t be seen. This is an inherently cruel measure whose operating premise appears to be , “ out of sight and out of mind”. The underlying issue is not resolved but merely made to disappear from sight. Yet again this raises an obvious moral and ethical dilemma. The question then is: how can this issue be resolved? One prong of the answer lies in economic growth and development where all segments of society, especially the vulnerable benefit, so much so , in the least that they can afford a dwelling which accords them a dignified shelter. But, what about those for who homelessness accrues from psychological and emotional issues? The answer here lies in developing shelters which are manned by efficient and empathetic staff and which are provided with abundant resources. These shelters must actively scout for the homeless and help in their rehabilitation, to the extent can be. In the final analysis, homelessness cannot be entirely eliminated but through concerted measures, the problem can , to a large measure, be obviated.
Jehangir Chowk- Rambagh flyover
Daily Excelsior, Jammu | Editors, Kamal Rohmetra, Neeraj Rohmetra
Ambitious Jehangir Chowk- Rambagh flyover which was conceived many years back, announced in early 2009 , supposed to be completed by 2012 but actual work on it started only in September 2013 , continues to play hide and seek towards getting fully completed. This project , we feel , perhaps, due to the reason of not only the cost of construction of whooping Rs. 350 crore but by its expected utility to address the mounting traffic problems of Srinagar core city attained much hype but has shown up to miss deadline after deadline , the latest one that of December 31, last year.
We could manage to give a few “bonus points” to the status of the project on two counts , one – that the project is executed by state based Agency Jammu and Kashmir Economic Reconstruction Agency , “popularly ” known as ERA known for its adhering to motto of its own version …”(very) slow and (less) steady wins the race” and two- a bit of inclement weather and “other” conditions for not meeting the deadline of completion of the work. However, decidedly not for so much of delay , any cogent reasons on consistent basis could be thought of .
The fact of the matter is that the work on this flyover is still going on as it is still incomplete. Phase 2 , i.e. from Rambagh to Aloochi Bagh was expected to be all over and complete by the end of the last year but one could add this failed deadline into several ones since the work began on it. It may be recalled that the construction work on this flyover began in the year 2013 and since the project is funded by Asian Development Bank, the worries on account of funds availability were not to be there, it was expected that the woes of traffic congestion in Srinagar city centre would be over as also would it provide quick access to Srinagar International Airport. This project initially got embroiled into various problems which included the main issue of rehabilitating the affected shopkeepers and other offices as it would have , in the alternative meant a loss of their livelihood and business respectively. So the construction work could not be started due to this main reason. Later the floods of 2014 caused a lot of problems to the construction as the areas remained inundated for weeks together. Law and order problems of 2016 also cast a shadow on its work. It was 2016 itself which was the first deadline of the completion of the work which it missed. It was thought that an “extension ” of one year would do the needful , say by 2017 end but that too was missed followed by the third in succession, that of the end of 2018 which too has been missed.
However, the first phase of this flyover from Amar Singh College to Barzulla Bridge got completed only last year which was thrown open for traffic but a penalty of Rs.1.25 crore was imposed on the contracting agency for the delay in the project last year and the contractor was “instructed” to complete the left over task on this flyover from Rambagh to Aloochi Bagh by December 31, 2018. Chief Executive Officer of ERA has, however, come up with the “reasons” of the delay in his own right but has assured that the structural part of the flyover was expected to be completed by April 2019 and surfacing part of the work in May 2019 provided the temperature was favourable. Let us hope that by mid 2019, this part of the flyover would be fully completed so that it was thrown open for traffic. Now, no more ‘extension’ or granting of one more deadline is the requirement.