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  1. ashakantasharma

    Kashmir: Where Religion Is Killing Culture

    Kashmir: Where Religion Is Killing Culture Updated on August 26, 2017 Kashmiri Pandits are Refugees in their Own Nation Is There a "Kashmir Problem" in Kashmir? Kashmir’s Culture is Unique! The Kashmir Valley is easily counted among the most scenic places on the earth: snow covered mountain peaks, lush green pastures and meadows, orchards of almonds and apples, Chinar trees, magnificent lakes and springs, Mughal gardens, handicrafts and Pashmina shawls. What tourists experience is a surreal bliss. Native Kashmiris proudly call their land, the ‘Pir Vaer’ – the alcove of Sufis and Saints. Over the centuries, a unique culture evolved in Kashmir; a hybrid mix of Hindu and Sufi spiritualities. In ancient India, Himalayan region used to be the cherished abode of saints and sages who lived in isolation and strived for liberation (moksha, in Sanskrit). As Islam arrived in Kashmir, its spiritual essence practiced by Sufis synched well with universal Hindu spirituality. Kashimiris proudly call this culture ‘Kashmiriyat’ – it gave them their unique identity. It is an open culture that transcends the narrow philosophies that get boxed as religion. Kashmiriyat does not recognize divisive boundaries that divide humanity. This makes it closer to Hinduism that sees humanity as one global community. This confuses stereotype Muslims who are trained to see humanity divided between the believers and non-believers, and want to see everything as Islamic or un-Islamic. Without understanding Kashmiriyat or Kashmiri-ness one can’t understand Kashmiri people. Just as there is German-ness in Germans and French-ness in French, people of Kashmir have their Kashmiriyat. Most people in France and Germany may be Christians, but that doesn’t give them the French or German traits. Seeing them as mere Christians would be both wrong and deceptive. This logic applies perfectly well on Kashmir and its natives – Hindus, Buddhists or Muslims. Imagine what would happen to France if radical Christians from outside start meddling in France in the name of Christianity and start imposing unhealthy ideas under threat. But this clearly what is going on in the Kashmir valley – conspiratorial meddling in Kashmir by radical Islamists trained in ‘jehad factories’ and sent from across the border to spread violence and terror. Terrorists are seen as highly important ‘strategic national assets’ by the Islamic State of Pakistan which is more Wahhabi than Islamic now. Since 2002, while pretending to fight jehadi terrorists alongside the US in Afghanistan Pakistan continued to use aid money to nurture its terror industry. Americans have woken up to this double game much too late – after 17 years of ‘war against terror’ Afghanistan, losing several thousand troops and handing over more than 60 billion dollars to Pak generals. President Trump now vows to disinfect Pak-Afghan region from the Jehadi virus. Let’s see how it unfolds. Coming back to the topic, let’s first understand how Kashmir’s beautiful culture evolved since ancient times. Historical Evolution of Kashmiri Culture Since the ancient Vedic period, being situated in the Himalayan ranges, Kashmir has also been the abode of spiritual seekers who renounced the worldly life to experience self-realization and liberation from all human suffering (Moksha or Nirvana in Sanskrit). Attaining Moksha has been the spiritual goal of every Hindu’s life since ancient times. These saintly people lived in isolated areas and led ascetic life fully devoted to spiritual practices. These sages were called Rishis (in Sanskrit) because they explored the Rit or Nature of existence – which is collectively called Dharma. They can be clearly seen as the dedicated spiritual scientists who studied all facets of human existence and its interconnections with everything else in the Nature. Various yogic practices and meditation techniques evolved as a result of their efforts. Mastery over the mind was an integral part of their life, which they used both as an instrument and as an analyst. The knowledge was put in the Vedas and other texts. Vedas are called so because they came from personal experience, not imagined concepts or logical inferences. In this timeless chain of spiritual scientists, the Buddha is a famous example who lived 500 years before the Christ. All such enlightened saints taught how to live a life according to “Dharma” – which is all about right conduct coming from doing the right thing in thoughts, words and deeds – to enjoy peace and harmony. This art of leading a ‘dharma’ based life is universal; for the whole humanity. Different saints taught in different ways, but they were all seen as different paths leading to the same ultimate truth – this collectively evolved to be what is called “Hinduism” today. It is a collection of plurality and is entirely different from the monolithic ‘religions’ or ‘faiths’ that later evolved in the West. Thus, Kashmir has been a land of Rishis – ascetics, recluses and sages of different spiritual traditions, since time immemorial. Sufi Muslims too got absorbed in that tradition. For tourists, Kashmir is the Switzerland of India Arrival of Sufi Islam in Kashmir Perhaps the earliest known (and recorded) Sufi saint in Kashmir was an Islamic saint from Turkistan, Syed Sharif-ud-Din Abdur Rehman who arrived towards the end of 13thcentury. He later became popular as Bulbul Shah. He was followed by many Sufi saints from Turkistan who arrived in the 14th century looking for safe refuge to avoid persecution in their home Islamic societies. Kashmir offered them an ideal environment – long nurtured by countless sages and rishis. People of Kashmir accepted them as practitioners of just another tradition and held them also in very high esteem. What distinguished the Sufis from their other co-religions was their absolute focus on the “essence” of Islam which is spiritual. Unlike others, they did not preach mere ‘words’ of Islam or used Islam as a political tool for dominance, but actually ‘lived’ the “spirit” of Islam. They communicated through their conduct. Keeping away from all worldly pleasures, they also devoted fully to prayers or meditation, like ancient saints of the soil. Their extremely simple, humble and compassionate demeanors resembled closely with the conduct of the ancient rishis. Since the Sufis followed the ‘essence’ of the prophet’s teachings, it couldn’t be different from the Indian “Dharma” – the universal laws of ethics and morality, lived and taught by countless sages since ages. Their deep commitment to the philosophy of Divine Unity (wahdat-ul-wajud) mirrored the Hindu philosophy of non duality (Advaita). Thus, even if these Sufi saints used Arabic phrases their message of universal love, peace and ‘oneness of humanity’ easily transcended the divides of languages, faiths and beliefs. So the Sufi Islamic culture amalgamated with the profound ‘dharma’ knowledge to produce a unique society where religious labels got subordinated to human identity. Kashmir Sufism The Sufi – Rishi Culture of Kashmir Sheikh Nur ud-Din Noorani (1377-1440), more popular as Nund Rishi, is often seen as the pioneer of the Sufi Rishi tradition in Kashmir. People saw him as an ‘enlightened’ saint for whom Islam was a universal message of love, tolerance and service, and at the same time a crusader against social injustice and useless rituals. Serving humanity was a cornerstone of this tradition and helping the poor and suffering people was seen superior to rituals of worshipping God. A lot of people who abhorred the Brahmin and their dry ritualism were automatically attracted towards the simple and welcoming Sufi Rishi culture. Even in those days, their message of universal goodness was often taken as a threat both by the “Bookish” Islamic priests living on doles from the rulers of Kashmir as well as the arrogant Brahminical establishment. Their message of “one God for the whole humanity” was particularly threatening to the orthodox Islamic preachers for whom maintaining the distinction between believers and non-believers was essential to maintain their authority on people. Once, sensing tension between Hindus and Muslims, Nund Rishi advised: "We belong to the same parents. Then why this conflict? Let Hindus and Muslims (together) Worship God alone. We came to this world like partners. We should share our joys and sorrows together." Nund Rishi also holds importance in the Valley’s history because he broke away from the tradition of writing in Sanskrit or Persian and started writing in the local Kashmiri language. He was highly venerated and he became a spiritual legend even beyond Kashmir border. Almost 400 years later during 1821-23, the Afghan governor, Ata Muhammad Khan, minted coins bearing his name. His tomb is located in Chrar-e-Sharif, about 20 miles from Srinagar. People of all faiths visit his shrine to take solace in the serene and sublime environment. The annual Urs celebrations attract people not just from Kashmir but from other Indian states and abroad too. It is this secular culture of Kashmir that Kashmiris proudly call their “Kashmiriyat”; it doesn’t recognize the narrow confinements of faiths and beliefs. It is a melodious synthesis of universal “Dharma” and “spiritual essence” of Prophet’s teachings. It is only in Kashmir where many Muslims have Hindu surnames such as 'pandit' and 'bhat'! Islamic Terror in Kashmir Kashmir's Stateless People The Sufi-Rishi Culture comes under Attack But sadly, this sublime spiritual culture is under severe attack, particularly since late 1980s – predictably by radical militant Islam. It worries all far sighted Kashmiris and people of India. But, why would anyone attack such a peaceful and humane culture? The answer lies in the regional politics of Indo-Pak rivalry and Islamization of what was a purely political issue. A quick walk down the memory lane up to 1947 will provide the perspective to understand what is going on today. Kashmir dispute in brief When the colonial British left India in 1947, the country was partitioned based on a two nation theory to meet the Muslim demand for a separate Isalmic nation. The then India was a sum total of 561 tiny princely states ruled by Rajahs or Nawabs; they were given the option of joining either side or staying sovereign. Most chose sides but some harbored the ambition of sovereignty. Ruler of Kashmir was among them; he did not make any move. But Pakistan was expecting that Kashmir would automatically join it on the religious ground (due to Muslim majority), so in impatience it invaded Kashmir. The ruler fought back but soon realized the vulnerability. So he frantically sought Indian military help. New Delhi agreed but demanded accession to India first. Thus, the ruler signed the treaty of accession and Indian troops arrived in Kashmir. When the conflict ended, India held two-third of Kashmir and the rest was under Pakistan control. This became the line of control (LOC) that still holds today despite three wars since then. So, basically Pakistan wants Kashmir in the name of Islam. (Using the same Islamic logic, Pakistan also invaded Balochistan (which was not even a part of colonial India) on April 1, 1948 and is still sitting there, as occupier.) Import of Fundamentalism and Militancy in Kashmir In 1989, the Soviet occupiers in Afghanistan decided to end their 10 year occupation, after suffering heavy losses at the hands of Afghan Islamic jehadis, who were trained by the Pakistan and armed by the US. Suddenly, thousands of trained jehadis went out job. Basking in the glory of defeating the communist superpower, their trainers decided to aim the jehadis at their sworn enemy India in Kashmir. Thus, rather than closing down the training camps Pak continued to operate them – now to spread jehadi violence in Kashmir and in India. People wonder, what is the source of Pak’s morbid hatred of India? Answer: It is the humiliating defeat in the 1971 when its East Pakistan territory became a sovereign nation, Bangladesh. And what led to that situation? It was because politically powerful West Pakistan refused to honor the verdict of recently held general election that went in favor of a party based in East Pakistan. It threw the country into civil war: civilians vs Pak military. Over 10 million refugees arrived in India for safety. India intervened to end the bloody conflict; Pak surrendered and Bangladesh was born. Since 1989 Pakistan trained jehadis have been spreading terror and violence in Kashmir. Thus, the decade of 1990s saw the magnitude of violence Kashmiris had never witnessed before. First, the entire minority Hindus community was driven out. Next, the Sufi shrines were targeted because they symbolized Hindu-Muslim unity and peace. In 1993, jehadis even seized the Hazratbal shrine which houses a hair strand of the Prophet. But somehow the Shrine remained unharmed. Two years later, they seized Nund rishi’s shrine in Chrar-e-Sharif. They burned it down after a 2 month seize and standoff with Indian army. It provoked deep anguish across Kashmir. The shrine was however rebuilt later. But the jehadis continued their tirade against all Sufi symbols of peace and love. In 2012, several shrines, including the Dastageer Sahib in Srinagar, were destroyed in “mysterious fires”. The extremists proudly declared, on social media sites, all these acts as “the divine acts of God.” Ironically, the sufi shrines across the border in Pakistan have also been targeted and destroyed by the same lot of trained Islamic fanatics. Arrival of radical Islamic preachers in the Kashmir valley started to vitiate the social fabric of Kashmiri society. Unemployed youths were initially attracted towards the ideas of radicalism but soon realized that they are being brainwashed into hating their very own sufi-rishi philosophy. They realized that they were being misled to convert their “Pir Vaer” (garden of saints) into “Devil Vaer” (garden of devil). The goal of the perpetrators of violence is clear: If we can’t get Kashmir ‘in the name of Islam’, we will destroy it ‘in the name of Islam’. It’s pathetic, but true. Conclusion The remote controlled Islamic militancy in Kashmir is clearly aimed at New Delhi, but it is destroying the precious and unique home-grown Sufi-Rishi culture of Kashmir. What has been going on in Kashmir is clearly a case of religion killing culture and humanity. Evolution of Kashmir can be clearly summarized as below. What was Kashmir without Islam? It was a peaceful holy abode nurtured by spiritual Hindu saints and Rishis. It was a land of spiritual liberation and bliss – Heaven on earth! What was Kashmir with Hindus and Muslims? It was a peaceful land of Sufi-Rishi culture, a superb mix of Hindu and Islamic spirituality – called Kashmiriyat. It was a land of eternal peace and harmony – Heavenly abode on earth! What is Kashmir without Hindus? It is a den of dreaded Islamic terrorists who kill humanity every day. It is a land of death, violence and brutality – Hell on earth! Yet, there is hope that Kashmir would soon be Kashmir again! The political landscape of India has drastically changed since 2014 and there is no political compulsion to go soft on cross border terrorism to appease anyone. Indian military is killing terrorists every day and the government is targeting terror funding network. The US is likely to redesign its strategy in Afghanistan and focus on eliminating terrorists and terror training camps, as President Trump indicated. Quite likely, very soon the sponsored terror and violence will be things of the past in Kashmir. https://hubpages.com/religion-philosophy/The-Wonderful-Sufi-Rishi-Culture-of-Kashmir
  2. akhilesh yadav

    RTI Day Observed In Kashmir

    Srinagar: J&K RTI movement observed RTI Day across the state on Friday with much fervor and passion. A spokesperson of the Movement said, “On its 6th anniversary large number of RTI Activists participated in a programme which was held at it's Headquarters in Srinagar. Apart from discussing success stories and changes RTI Act has brought in J & K, the programme was meant to create awareness among general public especially people from rural areas. Grass root level activists associated with the Movement discussed various challenges they face while filing the RTI applications and their solution.” Read more at: RTI Day observed in Kashmir | Kashmir Observer
  3. SIC’s notice to Political Parties [h=3]CM has failed to stick to his words[/h] Last week the J&K State Information Commission (SIC) issued notices to some political parties including National Conference asking them to clear their stand as to why they shouldn’t be brought under the ambit of J&K Right to Information Act. These notices were issued after some Jammu based RTI activists had filed a complaint under section 15 of J&K RTI Act 2009 in the State Information Commission (SIC) as they were not provided information under RTI by some renowned political parties of the state. The RTI activists had sought details under JK RTI Act 2009 about donations received by National Conference (NC), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Congress, Panthers Party and BJP. Out of these political parties, PDP was the only political party which had responded to the RTI query and others had chosen to remain mum over the said issue. The aggrieved information seekers finally knocked the doors of SIC which has now sought the counter reply from NC, Congress, Panthers Party and BJP. Background: On June 3rd 2013 the Central Information Commission (CIC) had declared many national political parties as “Public Authorities”. A Full Bench of the Commission headed by the then Chief Information Commissioner Satyananda Mishra held six parties -- Congress, BJP, CPI(M), CPI, NCP and BSP -- to whom RTI queries were directed, fulfill the criteria of being public authorities under the Right to Information Act. Considered to be one the landmark judgments, the Central Information Commission (CIC) had ruled that political parties come within the ambit of the Right to Information Act. As the CIC’s order had send shock waves within various political parties including Congress and BJP , on 12th August 2013 the Congress Party tabled RTI Amendment Bill 2013 in Lok Sabha to keep political parties out of RTI ambit. The Bill was deferred to the Winter Session of Parliament on September 3rd 2013 and on December 17, 2013 the Rajya Sabha Standing Committee on Law and Personnel tabled its report in the Parliament which reads as: "The committee considers the proposed amendment is a right step to address the issue once and for all. The committee, therefore, recommends for passing of the Bill". With this observation the CIC’s order got scuttled as the amendment would apply retrospectively i.e., from June 3rd 2013 , the date on which the CIC had issued the judgment declaring political parties as Public Authorities and bringing them under the provisions of the RTI law. Read More: SIC s notice to Political Parties Lastupdate:- Tue, 22 Jul 2014 18:30:00 GMT GreaterKashmir.com
  4. It seems cases of suicide and fratricide are posing a bigger threat to the security forces than militants in the country. According to the latest statistics, more security personnel have died in such incidents than in militant attacks since January this year. In response to an RTI filed by Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Societies, a non-governmental organisation, 24 jawans have killed themselves either by suicide or fratricide as compared to 15 killed in encounters with the terrorists across J&K. The security establishment is finding it hard to tackle this menace despite several measures to reduce incidents of suicide and fratricide. As the Valley is heading for normalcy and peace, strategists find the trend alarming. Read more: Suicides and fratricides pose bigger threat to soldiers' lives than militants | Latest News & Updates at Daily News & Analysis
  5. As reported by Shashwat Gupta Ray at sakaaltimes.com on October 24th, 2009 PUNE: The implementation of new Right to Information (RTI) Act in militancy-troubled state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) would help in removing the disquiet in people for almost two decades by enabling their participation in the governance system, Chief Information Commissioner (CIC), Government of India and J&K State CIC designate Wajahat Habibullah said here on Friday. “The genesis of unrest in Jammu and Kashmir is the feeling of alienation in the daily governance system. They have developed a sense of mistrust against the state governments ruling the region till now,” Habibullah told Sakaal Times. Habibullah was in the city to attend a function organised by Public Concern for Governance Trust (Pune Chapter) to analyse the completion of four years of RTI Act in the country. However, the recently introduced RTI Act of 2009 in J&K would help in resolving the disquiet of almost two decades amongst people of the state as it would help in removing the sense of alienation among them and allow them to participate in the governance system, the CIC said. A draft bill on RTI Act was tabled on March 7, 2009, and passed by the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council by March 12. The Act subsequently came into force on March 20. The government is presently in the process of appointing Public Information Officers (PIOs) and Assistant PIOs. “This sense of alienation led people believe that they don’t have any stakes in the government’s decision making and it was acting on the behest of Delhi. But now, empowered with the RTI, they can question the government on its policies and remove their doubts,” Habibullah said. According to the senior bureaucrat, this will help people develop sense of belongingness with the government. “People will know whether the state government works for them or it is a stooge of Delhi, as some disgruntled groups want the people to believe. The transparency through flow of information will encourage more public participation in the governance, which is the essence of freedom and democracy,” the CIC said. Source: RTI Act in J&K will help remove disquiet: CIC
  6. As reported by Muzamil Jaleel in indianexpress.com on 01 February 2009: 24X7 call centre, new RTI, assets list each yr: Omar’s ‘open govt’ roadmap 24X7 call centre, new RTI, assets list each yr: Omar’s ‘open govt’ roadmap Srinagar: A call centre, an Omar Abdullah blog, a legislation to strengthen the Right to Information Act in the state and a directive to his Cabinet to disclose their assets. These are among J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s plans to make his Government “open and transparent” and he plans to do them before his fledgling government completes 100 days in power. “I want every member of my government to disclose their assets every year. I will start with myself,” he told The Sunday Express in an exclusive interview. At the planned call-centre—the first CM’s office to set up one—20 executives will handle calls and complaints from the public. “This call centre will report directly under me. We will have dedicated phone lines and complaints will be received through phone, text messages and in person,” he said. Abdullah says he wants a stringent Right to Information Act on the lines of the Central RTI Act. “We need to repeal our existing Act and bring in a fresh legislation,” he said. Abdullah will also take to blogging to get his message across. A new and exclusive website of the CM will talk of the government’s policies and plans. “I want to be in touch with people. I would make sure that I see every comment, every complaint myself. I will write a blog on the website as well.” The CM said he was also planning an “institutional approach” to put an end to human rights violations.
  7. karira

    Lost in time

    As reported by Neelesh Misra on hindustantimes.com on 18 August 2008: Lost in time- Hindustan Times Lost in time When Wajahat Habibullah once went to Kashmir as India's Chief Information Commissioner, he asked a top official for a copy of the state's best kept secret - J&K's own RTI-type information law that would enable citizens to find out what was hidden from then in the name of national security The official couldn't even find a copy of the law to give to Habibullah. It had, of course, never been implemented. Transparency has been in severe short supply for more than 20 years in Kashmir, now hurled back in a simmering cauldron that shows no signs of cooling. So here are the people who should be reading this book this summer: the Prime Minister, the Union Home Minister, the separatist leaders who are egging on Kashmiris to confront the Indian State, the fanatics in Jammu, and the security forces. Habibullah, who served long years in Kashmir as an administrator and negotiated the Hazratbal hostage crisis, has straddled and understands both the worlds of Srinagar and New Delhi. My Kashmir offers a sweeping chronicle of what went wrong in Kashmir - a candid look at everything from human rights violations and the Islamisation of a secular paradise to gaping holes in governance and policy misadventures - and what could fix it. Habibullah is a soft-spoken man, but is refreshingly straightforward for an Indian official. "If Kashmir is to be treated as an 'inte- gral part' of India," he writes, "India must adhere to its Constitution, and the Kashmiris should be allowed to enjoy the freedom that is guaranteed to them by that Constitution." Of the separatists, he writes: "True freedom in Jammu and Kashmir cannot be won by independence, which would bring even more suffering and would be unacceptable to both India and Pakistan." The author raises crucial issues related to governance and government conduct that often is glossed over in 'Kashmir discussion". He writes about, for instance, the tottering health system in the state and the massive unemployment. "Kashmir's forests have been among the principal casualties of violence," he writes. "People in the security forces set about felling trees to build their homes in villages across Punjab and Haryana." He also points out how the State Accountability Commission, creat- ed to check government corruption and uphold human rights, "quickly lost steam, possibly because it put political leaders and senior bureaucrats under increased public scrutiny". Habibullah's work - the result of a fellowship at the United States Institute of Peace ran into misplaced criticism when he pointed out that the US could play a crucial role as a facilitator in the Kashmir conflict. We can grudge it or welcome it, but it is widely believed that American pressure has been one of the key factors that helped ease the situation in Kashmir until this summer Howevel: the US State Department interestingly told Habibullah that the country "had played no role in the decrease in violence, and the Kashmir issue figured low on the US agenda in talks with Pakistan". Habibullah gives interesting details of his meetings with separatist leaders. In a 2003 meeting, Yasin Malik is quoted as saying that American pressure had indeed helped suspend ISI-backed infiltration - and hence put pressure on the Hurriyat Conference (from whom, the author does not say). He writes of a meeting with Mirwaiz Umar Farooq: "He reflected little apprehension of the ISI, a characteristic of previous conversations." The issue of KashmiriPandits is a punctuation mark in the larger story of J&K, but a very crucial punctuation that tells the story of how the fabled 'Kashmiriyat' was ripped. Habibullah raises the issue of the Pandits in detail, writing that the exodus of the community was "due to a calculated and cynical effort to convert a movement fuelled by public disaffection on civil issues into a religious insurrection". The authol: who was posted in Anantnag, the hotbed of insurgency, in 1990, describes the day when hundreds of people, led by the brother of separatist leader Shabir Shah, accused the administration of encouraging Pandits to leave so that the army could freely target the remaining Muslim and Sikh citizens. Habibullah told them that it was hardly surprising that the Pandits were leaving, as prominent community leaders had been killed and mosques were being used to announce threats. Objective, grounded in facts and peppered with interesting anecdotes, My Kashmir will teach something to all shades of opinion. As also confirming what British historian Vincent H. Smith had stated in 1928 and stands true especially today: "Few regions in the world have had worse luck than Kashmir in the matter of government."
  8. Govt clueless about death toll of Pandits in the Valley AS reported in Yahoo News! Sat, Jun 21 01:10 AM The Centre may have the number of security personnel or militants killed in J and amp;K since the outbreak of violence in 1989, but it does not have any count of the Kashmiri Pandits who fell prey to insurgency. This admission, by the Centre, came in response to an RTI application filed by a Kashmiri Pandit, Aditya Raj Kaul, who wanted to know how many of his community members were killed in the state since 1989. "J and amp;K Police has not shared information on the killings of Kashmiri Pandits with the Central Government," the Union Home Ministry had said in its reply. Jammu and Kashmir Director General of Police Kuldeep Khoda told HT that sharing of information with the Centre was a routine matter. "We furnish whatever information is sought from us." The RTI came in the wake of a report, carried by a newspaper recently, and said to have been compiled by the J and amp;K Police for the first time since the outbreak of violence in the Valley. It said militants had killed 209 Kashmiri Pandits since 1989. The report also said 31 militants were booked for killings in 24 out of 140 cases while killers in 115 cases remain unidentified or untraced. "Since we contest the numbers of Kashmiri Pandits killed as cited by the report, we wanted to cross check it. The fact that all 31 militants charge-sheeted for killing Kashmiri Pandits were on bail was what prompted me to seek more information about it" Kaul said. The Ministry said while 20,621 militants had been killed between January 1990 and April 2008 about 5147 security personnel laid down their lives while fighting terrorism. Kaul had filed another RTI with the Home Ministry, seeking details on the Wandhama massacre, in which militants killed 23 Kashmir Pandits on January 25, 1998. However, the Centre again had no information about the incident. "We wanted to know what real progress had been made in this case and why wasn't it referred to a better agency had the local police failed to make any headway," said Kaul. Govt clueless about death toll of Pandits in the Valley - Yahoo! India News
  9. karira

    RTI: What?

    A letter by Dr Muzaffar Bhat, Convenor, J & K Right to Information Movement, published in etalaat.net on 03 June 2008: The Daily Etalaat Srinagar - RTI: What? RTI: What? Conducting a survey on official handling of queries under the Right to Information act may sound simple. Having tried to do it, I can say it is a nightmare. One can be made to run around in circles for three or four days just to get a one-and-a-half page questionnaire filled. Could it possibly be that our public servants are afraid to commit themselves on what they have or have not done regarding citizens’ right to information? When I, along with two volunteers, went to the director of health services, Kashmir, a few days back, he carefully read the questionnaire and forwarded it to his PA. The PA forwarded it to the Section officer, and then told me to come to collect it the next day. When I returned next day, the section officer said he was busy and very coolly told me to come the next day. When I went, he made me wait for hours and still the questionnaire had not been filled. When we went to the Mayor of Srinagar Municipality, he handed the questionnaire to his Private Secretary – who in turn marked it to the Assistant Secretary. It took me two days to get the questionnaire from the Assistant secretary, and still it was incomplete. Then the Assistant secretary told me to contact the Joint Muncipal Commissioner. The peon did not allow us to go into his office chambers. We were told to meet his PA instead. His PA called the PA of the assistant secretary and told him to forward it to the Joint Commissioner in a proper way. So once again we returned empty-handed. Filling the questionnaire takes hardly five minutes but this doesn’t happen. This is Kashmir! This story doesn’t end here. The Deputy Director, Social Welfare said there is no RTI in J&K. I asked him if he had attended any training on RTI. He replied that he had, at IMPA (a government training agency). I told him that in spite of being trained on the RTI, why did he not know that J&K has an RTI Act 2004 in force. This conversation took place in the director’s chamber, and the director clarified it to his deputy that J&K state has its own Right to Information Act. The director, who was until recently the special secretary, power at civil secretariat, told us that he had replied to one RTI application while he was the designated officer in charge there under the J&K RTI Act. Still we had to wait for two days to get our questionnaire filled. All these hurdles won’t deflect us from achieving our goal. We will go ahead. "Iraadey jinn key pukhtaa ho, nazar jinn ke Khudaa par ho, talatum khaiz mojoun sey woh gabhrayaa nahee kartey". Those who have strong will power aren’t afraid of high tides.
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