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Current Affairs ( 12 Aug 2008, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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The situation in Kashmir has unravelled like a knitted patchwork blanket and there seems to be no way of stopping the complex and intricate pattern from developing large, gaping holes, much like open wounds that will not heal easily. All the good intentions of creating normality in the region has gone to the winds, making a mockery of the processes of peace and fair governance. The rather ineffective and laid-back manner in which the crisis is being dealt with by the various authorities and the reckless political interventions by those who oppose the government have together shattered the lives of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, who have been living under assaults of all kind for the last few decades.


For years and years, the Amarnath yatra has happened as a pilgrimage dedicated to worship and done in good faith without any angst. Why then this appalling, physically brutal upheaval over land use for the period of the yatra? Why is a simple reality being magnified into an anti-religious fight? Is it the rising land values that make for greed and therefore an unrelenting position? And why did the government of Kashmir, including the two People’s Democratic Party incumbents, ratify the proposal presented by the then governor of the state? Surely they had an opportunity to reject the ‘suggestion’ and enforce the status quo. The entire saga is about faulty and parochial positions and a gross mismanagement of sensitive and fragile issues.


With Mehbooba Mufti threatening to walk across the line of control with the other separatists from Kashmir, into Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, the aggravation in the valley has accelerated, running amok over what had begun to seem like a period of reconciliation, well on the way to restoring normalcy in the valley. It is an extremely sad and unneccessary trauma that Kashmir has been put through yet again.


Valley of darkness


Political posturing on all sides — the clash among parties bent on capitalizing on the divided support base in order to serve diverse self-interest — has managed to destroy a secular society that was intrinsically Sufi in its way of life, never insular, bigoted or extreme. The responsibility for the destruction of Kashmiriyat rests with all political dispensations who have, over the decades, infiltrated their polarized positions into the fabric of the society, compelling friction and degradation.


The Bharatiya Janata Party remains adamant about linking Amarnath with Sethu Samudram, intent upon forcing another line from the crown of the subcontinent to Kanyakumari, dividing the plurality of our civilization. The people of India may fall into the trap of this kind of polarized politics or they may well reject it out of hand as being detrimental to the essence of India and therefore unacceptable to them. The United Progressive Alliance government continues to dither about with the home minister trying to draw a different kind of line between the states and the Centre, absolving the Centre of its failure to deal with the growth of militant naxalism and its clumsy performance in enforcing the law on acts of terrorism.


A Central cabinet overhaul is imperative. A definite and comprehensive plan needs to be hammered out with the signatures of all political parties. The mandate must be spelt out clearly in an effort to assure Indians that lethargy has given way to joint affirmative action. Any waste of time on this front will lead to the demand for separating Jammu and Ladakh from the Valley of Kashmir, which will be suicidal for the ethos and cultural truths of India and Bharat. Separatism will become the new call across this land and will empower all the political elements that are desperate for a share of the spoils. This is all very dangerous and, the situation needs to be seen for what it is developing into.






Why not ask the apex court?


The land transferred was not some sacred ground over which you need to fight a crusade


By Rajeev Dhavan


JAMMU and Kashmir (J&K) is in turmoil.


One cannot help thinking that much of this turmoil is pre-election controversy

on both sides. The BJP should know better. But rath yatras and agitations are part of their fundamentalist approach. No one seems to be looking for solutions at a time when it is not electorally propitious to-do so.


What on earth are we doing to J&K Entrenching a de facto bifurcation on religious grounds? Religious sentiments are to be respected, but not exacerbated. Protest, too, has to be respected but it cannot turn into continuing violence. The issue is not just the first step of peace but more fundamentally of basic principles of secularism in relation to religious endowments.


India is a secular state which protects freedom of religion, allows celebratory neutrality without discriminating between faiths and social reform. We are concerned here with the principle of celebratory neutrality which is a vast improvement on the American doctrines – a wall separating Church from State which toys with ideas of high wall of separation and strict neutrality but ends up elsewhere to resolve Christian controversy in an America which perceives itself as a Christian nation. This is important to India which does not really sport dharma nirpeksha (religious neutrality) but sarva dharmasambhav (goodwill towards all faiths).


Nehru gave a grant for the reconstruction of the Somnath temple at the behest of K. M. Munshi. India gives public holidays for Hindu, Muslim and Buddhist festivals – with some States ignoring Christmas Day.


We provide support for the poor who want to do a Haj. There is a Haj terminal at Palam airport. We celebrate each other’s faith and exhort others to do so on the basis that celebratory neutrality should arise in both civil and governmental action.



 What does Indian secularism say about religious endowments? No religion survives without an institutional basis to take the faith forward. This is true of mosques, religious educational institutions, churches, stupas, maths and temples amongst others.


The question is: what is the state’s attitude to religious endowments? A fair reading of the religious freedom clause is that creating and sustaining religious endowments is a matter for peoples of the faith. It is not the business of the state to create or sustain endowments and their boards except in three areas. First, religious temples can be opened up to Dalits and others and to abolish practices like temple prostitution through devdasis. Second, restorative grants could be given for preserving cultural heritage. The third is to provide public order and other facilities and support for prayer. The Indian state cannot create or invent religious institutions.


Equally, the Indian state cannot go overboard in its generosity in matters of money or land. True, Aurangzeb gave grants to Hindu temples. Most of the religious endowments have benefited from lavish land grants by Rajahs and Maharajahs. That era is over. The post-1950 Indian State has no business to make land grants as leverage to any faith. If this is accepted, a huge list of potential grateful recipients would come from all faiths making it difficult to please all of them.


Our Constitution does not allow new religious jagirs by the state but allows past jagirs. To allow a new system of religious state jagirs would open up endless possibilities to revive religious strife in both rural and urban areas and open a Pandora’s Box, inspiring J&K style agitations many times over.


Once this fundamental principle is understood as being critical to Indian secularism many other questions will fall in place.


We are seeing a disturbing trend instate policy towards Hindu religious temples. Earlier the British model since 1863 was to allow temples to do what they liked except permit breaches of trust, by stealing, cheating and alienating property under non-necessitous circumstances. The Indian Supreme Court approved this supervisory model for financial accountability. But what we are now witnessing is the rise of Jagmohan’sVaishno Devi model whereby Hindu endowments are nationalised into statutory corporations.


The use of the model is increasing and resulting in the Hinduisation of the Indian State. In the 1990s, Justice. Ramaswamy with other Supreme Court colleagues approved this nationalisation model in respect of many temples including Vaishno Devi, Tirupati, Jagannath and KashiVishwanath over the protest of Hindu functionaries. This is a far cry from the light non-invasive model of the Supreme Court in the Srirur Math Case in 1954. That worshippers were happy about the facilities provided by Jagmohan at Vaishno Devi does notjustify the broad drift to a ‘Hindu State’ running temples through statutory boards to disturb a secular multicultural society.


Flawed This background is necessary for examining the Shri Amarnath Shrine controversy – which has been placed under a Board. The Government of India and the State of J&K agreed to transfer several acres of land to the shrine. The State of J&K had an obligation towards the safety and wellbeing of pilgrims. But, the government cannot pretend to be Emperor Ashok, Kanishka, Samudragupta or Akbar. The policy of providing land grants is ill-conceived. Consider its implications if this was available to all religious endowments everywhere.


The patronage of land grants raises the question of whom the State government will give or refuse land grants. If any religious endowment wants land it must purchase it or get it by private donation. Much of the land around the Babri Masjid was purchased by Hindus. The donation of land was considered ill-advised.




To return to J&K. There was violence.


People died. Buildings were ransacked. A government fell. This gave an opportunity to fundamentalists to fan electoral flames ahead of the polls in the state. This is shocking.


The first step of the solution is peace now.


The second is for the state to provide offsite travel comforts for pilgrims outside the shrine. The third step should be to give the land back.


If the third solution is not acceptable, the fourth would be that the matter is referred to the Supreme Court under its advisory jurisdiction as regards the question: “Is it consistent with Indian secularism for the state to make land grants to religious endowments for religious purposes? If so, in what circumstances, in what manner and for what purposes and to what extent?” The Supreme Court’s advisory jurisdiction has quelled many disputes including Berubari (1965), the UP crisis (1965), and the Babri Masjid dispute (1994). It is a safety valve.


The essence of the celebratory neutrality of Indian secularism and its limits have to be understood. The J&K land is not Jerusalem or the Holy Land to be won and lost in a modern crusade. Do not make Kashmir Palestine. We are not replicating a Palestine-like situation here. The transferred land is secular land of no religious significance.


It was wrongly and surreptitiously transferred. This is not a case of giving up one’s birthright for a mess of pottage. We need forbearance and peace – not violent controversy overland pushed into the limelight for electoral reasons.


The writer is a Supreme Court lawyer


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Kashmir marches into precipice

Hurriyat leader killed, govt forced to fall back on curfew




Mirgund (Baramulla), Aug. 11: Key separatist leader Sheikh Abdul Aziz and four others died when police opened fire on a swelling procession that rumbled towards the Line of Control in a bid to get around an alleged economic blockade in Jammu.


The jittery state administration was forced to clamp curfew in Srinagar, an option it was unwilling to consider even in the most extreme circumstances, lest it indicate Kashmir is sliding back to the grim situation of the nineties.


A 160km stretch of the road from Anantnag in south Kashmir to the Line of Control at Uri in the north was almost impregnable with thousands of security personnel keeping a close vigil. But that did not stop a sea of people from trying to march from several points to Muzaffarabad to rally behind the call of fruit-growers against the alleged blockade.


Protests in Jammu against the revocation of the Amarnath land transfer order have severely curbed trade from Kashmir. As a result, the traders had threatened to sell in Pakistan-held territory goods they said were rotting because of the blockade.


Aziz, 54, who was among the top seven leaders in the Hurriyat executive, was leading a 1-lakh strong procession from Sopore — the one that created the maximum problem for the administration which is now run by the governor.


The march was fired on at Sangrama, 4km from the starting point, leaving one person dead and several injured. But braving bullets and barricades, the protesters pressed ahead towards the LoC, 38km away.


By the time the procession reached Chehel, 10km further ahead, the number had touched 1.5 lakh, fed by people on foot, trucks, buses and tractors.


Sheikh Ghulam Rasool, a lawyer who travelled 28km to join the procession, said the procession came under fire at Chehel. “I was determined to go. Then there was firing but we stood our ground. Minutes later, vehicles started returning, carrying the injured and perhaps the dead,” said Rasool.


Sources said Aziz was hit in the police firing and was removed to the Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences where he succumbed to the bullet injury.


As news of Aziz’s death spread, the Srinagar administration shrugged off its reluctance and imposed the curfew. “The curfew was imposed as a precautionary measure. There were some violent incidents and we thought that it was necessary to clamp curfew for public good”, said the DIG, central Kashmir, Mohammad Subhan Lone.


The sources said the army was alerted after the police failed to control the situation. The army dug up the road at Chehel to make it non-motorable.


The authorities have handed over the 38km road from Chehel to Kaman bridge, the last post on the LoC in Uri, to the army. “The army has sealed the entire belt and erected barricades to prevent people from reaching Uri,” a police officer said.


The authorities had earlier launched a crackdown on fruit-growers and separatist leaders, arresting more than 100 to prevent them from joining the march.


“Muzaffarabad chalo is basically a call for economic independence. People in Kashmir think that the fundamentalists can choke our supply lines any time. They want to have an alternative route so that they can have access to other markets,” said Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, the chairman of the moderate Hurriyat Conference.






Kashmir coils up in death rage



Jammu, Aug. 11: The Amarnath row has suddenly triggered a far grimmer crisis that threatens to plunge the Kashmir valley into the anti-India tumult of the early nineties.


Senior Hurriyat Conference and People’s League leader Sheikh Abdul Aziz was among five shot dead in police firing near Uri this afternoon, at once stunning and inflaming a Valley already in uproar over the alleged economic blockade imposed by protesters in Jammu.


Today’s events have spiralled swiftly out of hand and left the government besieged on more fronts than it had anticipated. The dramatic escalation in the Valley may indeed have radically transformed the nature of the crisis — a provincial problem has overnight reincarnated into an emergency with international ramifications.


There’s an angry — and growing — mass of Kashmiris bent on marching across the Line of Control into Pakistan-held Kashmir. Within the Valley itself, Aziz’s killing is bound to provoke fresh and violent reaction.


To make matters worse, Pakistani forces have resumed firing across the LoC on Indian Army pickets in the Poonch-Rajouri sector.


“This is no longer a political crisis in the state,” said a senior official based in Srinagar. “This is now a fullblown national crisis that could require extraordinary measures.”


Indefinite Valley-wide curfew was clamped and security forces were put on optimum alert this evening in anticipation of trouble, but tempers in Kashmir are known to make short work of such restrictions.


Sheikh Aziz’s funeral tomorrow — slated in the hotbed of militancy near the Jama Masjid in downtown Srinagar — could prove a fresh flashpoint. An irate Hurriyat chief Mirwaiz Omer Farooq tonight warned the government against keeping the Valley clamped under curfew tomorrow, saying the people of Kashmir would give “a fitting funeral” to the slain Sheikh Aziz.


“We want to ask the government who is responsible for the death of Sheikh Aziz and four other innocent Kashmiris and only then shall we disclose out future course,” the Mirwaiz added.


“The atmosphere has suddenly become darkly surcharged,” said an old Srinagar resident. “This could be worse than 1990 because the Valley is intent on pushing into Pakistan (occupied Kashmir) and nobody seems in control. Sheikh Aziz’s killing will give greater momentum to a movement that has erupted out of nowhere.”


The rapid and dramatic deterioration of the security scenario in the Valley has verily hijacked the focus from the Amarnath movement and produced a flaming exigency that may well demand immediate intervention from New Delhi.


Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has called an all-party meeting in the capital on Wednesday to find ways of undoing the Amarnath tangle; the Valley’s lightning descent into chaos today could make that agenda redundant. Especially with Mehbooba Mufti’s People’s Democratic Party intent on exhorting an inflamed Valley mob across the LoC.


The 54-year-old Aziz was a member of the moderate Hurriyat faction led by the Mirwaiz, but began his career in the early 1990s as a militant. He was the first supreme commander of an outfit called Al Jihad but later came overground to join the People’s League and espoused secessionist objective.


Frequently jailed, the Pampore-based leader had been released in January this year and was an active spokesperson of the Hurriyat.







Protests over Amarnath land transfer gain communal, separatist tones

Rashid Ahmed , Hindustan Times

Srinagar, August 12, 2008


Fifteen people were killed and over 100 injured as the police and army fired on angry, curfew-defying crowds in 20 locations across the state on Tuesday. In Delhi, the union government called a second all-party meeting in five days in another bid to control the explosive situation.


Slogans attacking the government and openly seeking independence, rent the air once again. "It is not a protest against land transfer, this is anger against India," said Pakiza Dar, a college teacher. Thirteen of the deaths occurred in the Kashmir valley where thousands poured into the streets, ignoring the curfew imposed, to mourn the death of Shaikh Abdul Aziz, the separatist leader who was killed in firing by security forces on Monday. Two other people were killed in Jammu, where the situation turned rapidly communal, with Hindus and Muslims clashing in several towns, burning each other's shops and houses.


Over 50,000 people, some from faraway towns, converged in Srinagar to offer burial prayers for Shaikh Aziz. Large crowds surrounded the policemen deployed outside the houses of separatist leaders Syed Ali Geelani and Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, both of whom were under house arrest, rendering the police helpless. Both leaders, at the urging of the crowd, walked out free and led processions to Aziz's grave.


Four people were killed in firing at different localities of Srinagar, three at Lasjan on Srinagar's outskirts, three more at Bandipora and one in Ganderbal. Two more, injured in the firing at Chahal near Uri town on Monday, during which Aziz was killed, died in hospital on Tuesday.


The valley's initial anger over the alleged economic blockade enforced by Jammu's agitators, protesting against the cancellation of the transfer of land to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board, appeared to be rapidly transforming into an upsurge seeking separation from India. Separatists leaders, sidelined in recent times, were once again sought after.


Slogans attacking the government and openly seeking independence, rent the air once again. "It is not a protest against land transfer, this is anger against India," said Pakiza Dar, a college teacher.


Meanwhile, police opened fire in Jammu as well killing two people, following a series of communal clashes in Poonch, Rajouri and Kishtwar districts.


At the all-party meeting, leaders of all political parties impressed upon the centre to "act fast" in resolving the Kashmir crisis, but no concrete decisions were reached.


(With Arun Joshi in Srinagar, Aurangzeb Naqshbandi in Delhi and agencies)






J&K death toll rises to 12; PM calls second meet

12 Aug 2008, 1825 hrs IST, AGENCIES


SRINAGAR: Violence in Kashmir region left 12 people dead in firing by security forces as authorities clamped curfew on all the 10 districts in the Valley for the first time in 13 years.


Amid pro-freedom slogans, the body of senior Hurriyat Conference leader Sheikh Abdul Aziz, who was killed in police firing on Monday, was laid to rest at Eidgah graveyard here on Tuesday.


Defying curfew in force in Srinagar city since Monday, thousands of people led by separatist leaders Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mohammad Yasin Malik and Mirwaiz Umer Farooq attended the burial amid calls for maintaining peace.


The death toll in firing by security forces rose to 18 on Tuesday. Six people including Aziz were killed in Monday’s firing during a march towards Muzaffarabad by thousands protesting against the "economic blockade" in Jammu region by the group spearheading the Amarnath agitation.


In Kishtwar, the army was called out after two persons were killed and over 20 others injured in clashes, police firing and a grenade blast, officials said. Police earlier lobbed teargas shells to disperse groups belonging to two communities which pelted stones at each other at Kishtwar's Hidyal Chowk.


Security forces opened fire in several areas in the Valley killing three persons each in Aribal in Bandipora district and Lasjan in outskirts of Srinagar, two in Bagh-e-Mehtab area and protester each in Rainawari and Zoonimar, all in Srinagar area, and one each in Ganderbal and Anantnag district, official sources said.


One of the victims was a local journalist identified as Javed Ahmed Mir who died in police firing in Bagh-e-Mehtab area.




PM calls for second all-party meeting


NEW DELHI: With violence spiralling out of control in Jammu and Kashmir, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has called for a second all-party meeting on Wednesday to try to hammer out a viable consensus formula that could be acceptable to both Jammu and the Kashmir Valley.


An all-party delegation headed by Home Minister Shivraj Patil that carried an on-the-spot assessment after visiting both Jammu and Srinagar over the weekend failed to arrive at an agreement on finding a compromise solution to the crisis.


The meeting was attended by NC leader Farooq Abdullah, Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad and SP leader Amar Singh among others.


"The leaders met again Tuesday but could not arrive at a workable formula or solution that would appease the people," said a senior government functionary.


In the last meeting on August 5, the prime minister appealed for calm and decided to send a delegation to the troubled state.


During its trip, the delegation held talks with the Amarnath Sangharsh Samiti, which has been spearheading the agitation in Jammu to press for restoration of the land transfer to the Amarnath shrine board - a demand fiercely opposed by the Kashmir leaders - besides holding parleys with the leaders of the valley.





J&K situation grave: Farooq Abdullah

12 Aug 2008, 2026 hrs IST,PTI


NEW DELHI: Terming the current situation in Jammu and Kashmir as "grave", National Conference patron Farooq Abdullah on Tuesday said the prospect of a division of the state on the Amarnath issue is dangerous for the country.


"Jammu and Kashmir is one state and unless it remains one, the danger is to the entire country," said.


"I think there has been regional divide for a long time. People have been raising their voices to separate. There are people who want the state to be separated...the recent unfortunate happenings on the issue of Amarnath shrine board has triggered out of basic problem," Abdullah said.


But he was hopeful of a solution. "There is nothing that cannot be solved through dialogue but the issue should not be politicised. Let people from both the sides talk," he said.


"My feeling is that we have to dampen the fire rather than raising it. I would sacrifice myself anytime rather than see innocent people being sacrificed."


Terming the Amarnath row as "unfortunate", he said that the shrine board should be made up of locals but should also have people from outside.


"The Board was made for better management of yatra and is governed by good people...the bigger complaint is that all of them should be local but I believe majority should be locals but you should have people from outside also..."


Raising questions on BJP's role, the former chief minister said "Its role is totally one sided. Why is it having a three-day agitation in the country when one place is burning? Are they going to burn other parts too?"





Hurriyat leaders defy house arrest orders; attend Aziz's burial

12 Aug 2008, 1725 hrs IST,PTI


SRINAGAR: Senior Hurriyat leaders including Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umer Farooq on Tuesday defied house arrest orders and led processions towards the Jamia Masjid, where senior leader Shiekh Abdul Aziz was laid to rest.


Three other persons, who died in police firing in various parts of the city on Tuesday, were also buried at the graveyard along with the Hurriyat leader.


Aziz was killed in police firing at Chahal village in Baramulla district when he was leading a march to Muzaffarabad in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir against "economic blockade" of the Valley enforced by the Amarnath Sangarsh Samiti.


Geelani led a procession from his residence at Hyderpora to the Jamia Masjid in the interior city where Aziz's body was kept. Mirwaiz, who was under house arrest since Sunday evening, also led a similar procession, they said.


The biggest procession was led by Shia leader Aga Syed Hassan from his Budgam district headquarters. About 20,000 of his supporters marched towards the interior city to take part in the funeral procession.


Smaller groups of people from Bijbehara, Pulwama and Ganderbal also headed towards the city.