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17th April '2013
Kashmir’s Contradictions

A British author in his book on Kashmir had remarked that the most difficult thing for an outsider was to know what is really in the heart of a Kashmiri. According to him a Kashmiri never opens his heart to an outsider. He mistrusts all foreigners who have been his oppressors for centuries. According to him, a kind word and a joke would get the best out of a Kashmiri. Apart from the anomalies in the behaviour of a Kashmiri, the valley itself is full of contradictions in many ways.

The first glaring contradiction in the dark Kashmir is in the field of electric power. The contradictions here areworse than those seen in the political field where people change sides like changing of clothes. Kashmir is supposed to be one of the most potential areas for generation of hydro-electric power. The potential is now estimated to be 30,000 megawatts. However, in spite of this water, water everywhere, there is not a drop to drink for the locals. It has been shared by its two neighbours without giving a damn to the poor Kashmiris through whose land it flows! The other side across the line of control is still better off with their micro-hydroelectric projects and lesser demand because of the absence of any major industrial units and so on. On this side the most industrialised area is across Bannihal but the worst shortage in on the valley side. The most tragic part is that the power generated from the rivers in Kashmir has to be bought back at exorbitant rates from the northern grid. Well, the main culprits are the Kashmir’s ruling families who have always signed on the dotted line for their own selfish interests leaving the people in the lurch.

Next come the glaring contradictions in preservation of environment. On one hand we have crated what we claim to be Asia’s largest Tulip Garden while as on the other few hundred metres away, the heart of Kashmir, the Dal Lake is in throes of death. One fails to understand why we have to cater to tourists only. Why can’t we think of our own requirements both for the present and the future generations? The Srinagar’s backdrop, the Zabarwan range of mountains have been disfigured by the security forces by taking a road up and putting various slogans. Stone quarrying in many places have totally disfigured the mountains and just on reaching Srinagar, the outsiders have an awful view of these disfigured mountain sides. Wular Lake is almost disappeared under willow and other plantations. It was once considered to be next only to the Lake Baikal, the largest sweet water lake in Asia.

The River Jhelum, once considered to be the lifeline of Kashmir, is totally silted, with its banks disfigured and encroached upon by the greedy people all over. It is like a sewer now! No one realises that the environment is not only our precious tourism potential but very basis of life in this Himalayan valley called the Paradise on Earth. In the garb of developing new areas for tourism we have spoiled our most beautiful spots through numerous Tourism Authorities by creating permanent structures as infrastructure. No one realises that greatest attraction of these spots could be saved by going for environment friendly ecotourism. But there is not much money involved in developing ecotourism! In recent times, a pilgrimage has become uncontrollable as no one has the courage to bell the cat and say that this unregulated crowd is destroying Kashmir’s fragile and delicate mountain environment. Only an outsider of the same religion had the courage to speak out the truth!

Let us look at unemployment. There are supposed to be more than half a million educated youth registered with the employment department. In addition, there are thousands more working as casual or daily wagers in various government departments. However, no one is prepared to do any work with ones’ own hands. There is no dignity for manual labour. Everyone wants a government job at the lowest level regardless of the qualifications. It is a sort of social security in these uncertain times. On the other hand we have more than half a million Biharis, Bengalis, Jharkhandis, both men and women working all over Kashmir. In western countries especially in USA, a large number of students going for higher education work as manual hands in many places including for dish washing to pay for their expenses. Manual jobs are paid on hourly basis and one can make sufficient money. There is no disrespect shown to manual workers. Here we have been groomed to be only babus sitting on a chair with a table without bothering to do any work with our hands.

In the field of education there is a mess. On one hand the government run schools are supposed to be virtually in shambles in many places especially in rural areas. On the other hand there is a mushroom growth of private western medium schools and coaching centres. Even though we claim to cherish our Islamic values yet most of these western medium schools borrow names of all the Christian saints and convents! Interestingly, some of the top religious clerics get their wards admitted in English medium Christian Missionary Schools and Convents. While sitting with the Principal of a Christian School, he got repeated phone calls. On being asked who was he talking to, he said it was the top most religious priest recommending for the admission of a kid in the school. He remarked, why with all that money, Muslims could not set up some top class modern boarding schools in the valley. They are setting up instead hotels with that money. There was no answer to his question! It was a glaring contradiction.

Tourism field has had many contradictions. Firstly, it is touted as the backbone of the economy. This claim has been refuted many a times by prominent economists and others. Recently, Arsalan Yousaf, in his article, “Of Tourism and Occupation” has shattered the myth by giving specific facts and figures. According to him, “Tourism contributes only 7.93 % to the gross domestic product (GSDP) of Kashmir and provides livelihood to only about 2% of its population. In contrast, agriculture constitutes an important sector of Kashmir’s economy as around 70% of the population derives its income directly or indirectly from this sector. Agriculture also absorbs 49% of the total work force of the state with 42% as cultivators and 7% as agricultural labourers depending directly on agriculture for their livelihood”. No doubt, we have tremendous potential for Tourism development and it could become an important contributor to the economy but first requirement for that is peace which has been eluding us for long. Unfortunately, both the governments at Delhi and Srinagar are using Tourism as a barometer of political normalcy which has created uncertainty even in this sector. Apart from all these contradictions, there are many more in different sectors and sections of our society including the social customs and so on. The only conclusion from these contradictions is that we have become total hypocrites. We will not get the salvation unless we are prepared to shun the hypocrisy and face the truth regardless of consequences. Will it ever happen, that is a debatable point!

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