Madam panch

When Asha was declared the elected president of Wusan Panchayat in tangmarg area of north Kashmir, she had no idea she will make it to the front pages of newspapers. Well, she is the first Kashmiri Pandit woman to get elected in the ongoing Panchayat polls. Most from her community have migrated from the area two decades ago. She sees her election as an opportunity to serve the belt that took care of her family even at the peak of turmoil. Asha defeated her rival, a Muslim woman, by 11votes.

Asha is wife of Radha Krishan who survives on a modest earning. For a long time, he is not keeping good health and is running a small shop. For last 27 years she is working as a helper in a local high school that pays her Rs 150 a month. “At times, when I am in the fields I get summoned to the school.” she says. Asha has two sons – one is a cop and another has completed his twelfth standard.

“My victory is a clear message to all the community that lives outside Kashmir,” she says “If they (read Muslims) can protect and elect me, what are the fears left?”

But Asha is just a face in a huge crowd that is getting elected to manage the gross-root level institutions. Those contesting and getting elected are from all walks of life. There are carpenters, former cops, laborers, housewives, unemployed graduates who are contesting, and winning. All of them want a say in what society requires at the development front.

There are many people among the contestants who think that one day the government will pay them a salary. The success of the exercise has not infuriated the fugitives. Barring murder of a women that chief minister Omar Abdullah said was not linked to elections, there has been only one incident of an attack that was reported few days back.

A new headcount
The skewed sex ratio has made various players in the state government to issue decrees, initiate new policies and take certain harsh decisions as well.

Within days after the fall in sex-ratio creating banner headlines in the newspapers within and outside the state, state’s health ministry acted very harshly against the shops that have acquired ultra-sonography machines. These machines are almost everywhere from the urban jungle to the cool Shangri la’s in the periphery and most of them lacked the symbolic but mandatory permissions from the state health ministry.

It is not known how many of them were direct contributors to the crisis? The government, however, locked them and the process is still on. Regardless of its impact on the ground zero, a media campaign is on already asking people not to be so hateful of the girl child which is fundamental to the life.

Off late, however, some policy makers in the state government have taken an interesting decision. They have ordered a count of child births in the last five years in the state. And this headcount is going to start from arid desert of Ladakh which is showing a disturbing trend because of the counting of security forces which are all adults and male.

Though the government maintains that ‘census figures are not being disputed with’, that chief medical officers have been asked to check the records of births for last five years to know the trends. A government order issued on April 16, 2011 directs all Block Medical Officers to engage health workers and ASHAs to collect the data.

Officials say they are not contesting the general census figures but they are actually crosschecking their own estimations. None of them is ready to believe that some of the districts will lose as many as 200 points in a decade in the sex-ratio.If the special headcount vindicated the managers in health ministry, the larger question that people are talking about is what will be the fate of the plethora of figures that the census department generated.

Since the growth rate has distinguished regions within the state, will it create a larger debate of questioning the exercise? In last two decades, this has been the first headcount that even separatists lent their support to.

A disease discovered ?
An “epidemic-like” outbreak of disease in upper reaches of Keller Pulwama, followed by a startling revelation in a British medical journal is becoming a major cause of concern.

The disease reportedly has claimed the lives of four children so far and according to reports more than 450 people in a population of about six thousand have fallen sick.

A British medical journal has reported that Kashmir is hit by a “unique hitherto unrecognized disease” involving lining of the duodenum and producing hundreds and thousands of 2 to 5 mm size tumours.

The report, published in the British Medical Journal Gastroenterology (BMC) says the disease involves lining (mucus membrane) of duodenum and produces hundreds and thousands of 2 to 5 mm size tumours. The disease has been named as “Diffuse Duodenal Nodular Lymphoid Hyperplasia (DDNLH).”

The disease affects both sexes and most of the affected population is young to middle aged persons. First the disease affects young persons and causes intractable severe illness. Second it is associated with H pylori infection and potentially treatable. Thirdly it has regional distribution in Kashmir and this may be related to specific nature of H. pylori infection prevalent in Kashmir.

Lastly if untreated some of these patients may transform to lymphoma.Association of H pylori infection with DDNLH has never been shown before and this was the first report of its kind in medical literature.

Biographer caught
Initially it was just a case of ‘kidnapping’, then it became ‘disappearance’ and finally it turned out to be an arrest. Yes, it is about Dr Mohammad Shafi Khan, a Persian language teacher in the University of Kashmir who shot into public life with his biography on ailing separatist patriarch Syed Ali Geelani. The book ‘Syed Ali Geelani: Aek Tehreek, Aek Tareekh’ that triggered a lot of heat and dust in 2007 was authored by him under his alias Shafi Shariati. When the book triggered debates and contesting claims, some reporters started a hunt for the author only to be told that he is underground. A year later, the author is in jail.

Now the details are being revealed by different quarters. Dr Khan had jumped the bail and gone underground after Supreme Court of India held him guilty and awarded him life term in Hriday Nath Wanchoo assassination case. According to a Jammu newspaper, Dr Khan is resident of Haari Wanin village in Khansahab- Beerwah belt of Budgam district, Khan had joined PG Deparment of Persian after completing his Ph D in Persian literature in late 1980s. In 1991, he had joined Jamiatul Mujahideen, founded by his neighbour, Hilal Ahmed Mir alias Nasirul Islam of Rawalpora Beerwah village.

After his arrest, he along with Ashiq Hussain Faktoo alias Dr Qasim was tried for his alleged involvement in the 1993 assassination of H N Wanchoo. They were bailed out by the court and Dr Khan resumed his duties as a teacher. While Dr Khan went underground, Faktoo was arrested at IGI Airport on his arrival from London in 1999. Both of them were awarded life imprisonment. Dr Khan went underground after the apex court decision.

After his arrest, reportedly from Srinagar, he is being interrogated. The revelations reported by a newspaper suggest that for all these years he remained underground he was putting up with the families of the unionist leaders representing Congress and PDP – Muzaffar Parray and Sarfaraz Khan. Both the leaders have said Shariati is their relative. The revelations, the newspaper said appears to render the divide between Kashmir’s separatist and pro-India politicians irrelevant. His hiding with relatives, the newspaper said “is in line with an increasingly visible trend of blood and friendship bridging apparently strong ideological differences.” Blood has always been thicker or is it!!!

Taxman on the door
Separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani has been ordered not to move out because administration says his visits around create law and order problems. But he can not sit calm at home coolly as the Income Tax Department has filed a complaint against him for allegedly concealing his income and evading the tax. The case is filed before the Chief Judicial Magistrate Srinagar Yaspaul Bourney and the court has already issued notices.

The case pertains to 2002 when the IT department raided his Hyderpora house. Then he was supposed to file his income return for the period between May 1996 and June 2002. He did not. So the IT assessed it at its own level. As per the assessment his income for the period works out at Rs 48595286 on which he is supposed to pay a tax and surcharge of Rs 30615028. For his wilful default, the IT has prayed the CJM Court that “appropriate proceedings be initiated against Geelani and punish him under relevant sections of the Act.” Interestingly a similar complaint has been filed against Geelani’s son-in-law, Altaf Ahmad. He was supposed to pay a tax and surcharge of Rs 2121400 on an assessed income of Rs 3367304.

Geelani led Hurriyat Conference has termed the cases as “act of political vengeance”. After having failed to make Geelani abdicate his stand by using state power, his spokesman Ayaz Akbar said, the government was now “fabricating baseless tales” through the IT to mount psychological pressure on him. Accusations, he said, could be levelled against Geelani but could not be proved in any court of the world, said Akbar.

Documenting agony
Documenting the mental agony and trauma of Kashmiri women, journalist Afsana Rashid Bhat’s book Widows & Half Widows – Saga of Extra Judicial Arrests & Killings in Kashmir was released on May 12, 2011 at hotel Taj in Budshah Chowk area of Srinagar.

“Impoverished by years of chronic conflict, especially after the exposure of fake encounters, conditions have reached a stage where loss would be measured in terms of generations, rather than years. It is high time that government, non-government organizations, civil society and the community as a whole come forward to address the issue, at the earliest,” she writes. The function was chaired by social activist AR Hanjoora and guest of honour was Editor in Chief Milli Gazette Zaffar-ul-Islam Khan.  The half-widows are the women whose husbands go missing. They can’t remarry at least for seven years or obtain a death certificate.

AR Hanjoora in his address emphasized on the need to have proper documentation. “We need to have documentation for our posterity.”
Writing in the book Afsana says, “The author revealing the motive behind writing of the book  has mentioned in her book, “ to compile the tragedies was done in order to give a voice to the voiceless, courts have failed them, successive governments have brushed aside their suffering, society has adopted an indifferent attitude and there are those who earn out of the indigence of these women.”

Melody queen
With the death of Naseem Akhter Kashmir lost a famous melodious voice. She had sung hundreds of songs, which were broadcast on the radio and the television. She died on May 6, at the age of 79. She was suffering from multiple ailments.

Born in 1931 in Mirpur, now Pakistan administered Kashmir, Naseem was a resident of Magarmal Bagh in Srinagar who sang her first Kashmiri song on All India Radio in 1951 from the Kashmir studio as a regular artist. She was introduced by the then famous artist Ghulam Qadir Langoo. Earlier, she used to sing in marriage parties and later she joined Radio Kashmir as a staff artist and served the station for thirty years.

Naseem was one among the renowned list of folk singers in Kashmir including Raj Begum and Ghulam Hassan Sofi who gave the real identity to Kashmiri singing. She had sung a duet song with Raj Begum, Rum gayem Sheeshas…. (Crack in the glasses), which gained huge popularity.

Ghulam Rasool Akhoon, a poet and broadcaster, termed Naseem’s death as a “huge loss” for Kashmiri folk music. “Naseem was Kashmir’s Lata Manageshkar.

As soon as she joined the radio, she attracted everyone with her unique voice.  She gave Kashmiri a real fillip in the genre of light music.

Naseem and Raj Begum gave the Kashmiri singing, a new recognition, when there was no concept of women singing in Kashmir, as radio was the only source of entertainment those days.

In her singing career, she has more than hundred hit songs to her credit and she is among the few who had performed live. Her fans would remain glued to radio sets, whenever she used to sing.

Her voice was unique and had no resemblance with anyone. She had sung all her songs in Kashmiri language with famous music composers like Nasrullah Khan, Mohan Lal Aima, Ghulam Nabi Sheikh, Mohammad Ashraf, Bhajan sopori, Qaiser Qalandar who were the real marvels of Kashmir’s music industry.

Langoo says that although she was not much educated but her nature was soft and lovable like her voice.


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