Mourning RESTRICTIONS

For the umpteenth year now, the Ashura mourning was crewed again. Two of the 10 days of formal mourning when the Shia Muslims come out in huge numbers, police imposed restrictions in select areas paralyzing the routine. Even reporters faced problems in moving around and covering the mourning.

This, however, did not prevent massive congregations within the designated localities where short distance movement was permitted.Authorities routinely had made all the preparations for the select areas that included round-the-clock power supply. This luxury, however, was not available to the Shia Muslim populations living outside the city municipal limits.

Muharam, the first month of the Islamic calendar witnesses two major mourning processions in Srinagar – one on the day eight and another onday one. These processions were a routine for most of the 1970s and1980s. Maulvi Iftikhar (Jammu & Kashmir Shia Association) and Aga Syed Hassan Al-Moosavai Al-Safavi (Anjuman-e-Sharee Shia’an (ASS) have been alternately organizing Kashmir’s main Zuljanah procession in Srinagar every year on tenth of Muharram. It would originate at Abi Guzar and conclude in the evening in the Shia dominated localities Zadibal and Hassan bad in Srinagar.

However, in 1988 in wake of the disturbances over the death of Pakistani dictator Zia-ul-Haq in an air crash, authorities took the security route for banning these processions. Though situation has apparently improved over the decades, the official attitude towardsthese processions remained unchanged.

Restrictions notwithstanding, some of the mourners do manage to come out. It ends with clashes between the police and the mourners andinjuries to many. The elaborate mourning envisages recreatingthe scenes of the battle of Karbala that eventually led to themartyrdom of prophet’s grandson Imam Hussain (as) along with 72 ofhis followers, over 1300 years ago.

Purchasing MODE
It seems the government is going to finally end up as a big-ticket buyer. If reports emanating from Jammu are taken at face value the cabinet sub committee is suggesting the cabinet to make preparations for buying back the NHPC owned Uri-I project at thedepreciated market value. NHPC is not unwilling to sell its twoprojects 330-MW Uri and 690-MW Salal to J&K government as long as theyget their costs back. Both would not cost more than Rs 3000 crores.

Its possible recommendation to the cabinet notwithstanding, the sub committee comprising Abdul Rahim Rather, Taj Mohiuddin, Ali M Sagar and Nawang Rigzin Jora was basically tasked to unravel the mysterybehind the NHPC’s ownership of its operational projects in the state.

A civil society group used judicial interventions and the RTI route to get information about the “exploitative” relationship between the NHPCand the J&K state. All those details now in the public domain suggestthat NHPC lacks basic documents that could establish NHPCs rights over Salal and Uri. There are even doubts if the NHPC has the documents toprove its rightful ownership of Dul Hasti project.

The second part of the crisis involves the last date that State Water Resources Regulatory Authority (SWRRA) had fixed for the water users including the power projects to get fresh licences has already lapsed. NHPC has not registered its projects because they lack the documents of ownership.

It was in this backdrop that the cabinet sub committee was supposed to guide the cabinet. Nobody knows if it has any idea. Purchasing the power projects include the nearly-obsolete Salal can even be suggested by a layman.

But sources suggest the sub-committee has concluded that Cabinet order of June 1975, which was missing from the records but somehow reproduced in another Cabinet order of 1980s, will form the principal stand of the Government and will be the basis for the return of Salal Hydroelectric Project to the State. As far as seven other powerprojects which the state has handed over to the NHPC for implementation, the sub committee is suggesting the MoUs must followthe Ratley pattern. NHPC will be asked to pay 13 percent of generationas royalty and not 16% as was the case with Ratley. Of the seven fourare nearing completion.

Remembering The FOUNDER
Apart from a number of projects that were inaugurated on the commemorative birth anniversary of  Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, the founder of the National Conference (NC), the day was marked with one difference. While the entire NC leadership jointly went to offer the ritual prayers at his Hazratbal grave, it was Sheikh’s younger son Dr Mustafa Kamal who decided to go it all alone. This was his first soloaction after being sacked as additional secretary general and chief spokesman of the party following his tirade against the Congress and a small ‘throw-and-run’ assault on the army.

“I came to know about their arrival late. Dr Farooq is my elder brother and a fatherly figure. I am deeply connected to the party.Grievances and misgiving are part of life,” Dr Kamaal was quoted saying. “I am part of the family. They (Omar and Dr Abdullah) are provided Z-plus category security. I always come alone.”

AFSPA apart, Omar, who is completing first half of his term later this month, used the occasion to reiterate that everything is hanky dory in the coalition. The coalition with Congress, he said, is cordial,stable and getting strengthened further. The assertion came amid frequent statements made by some Congress leaders that they should getthe right to rule the state for next three years. To bring home his point, Omar said the relations between NC and Congress existed right from the times of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah and Jawahar Lal Nehru, to Mrs Indira Gandhi and Sheikh Abdullah, Dr Farooq Abdullah and Rajiv Gandhi and presently between him and Sonia Gandhi. Without mentioning his bosom friend Rahul Gandhi, Omar said the coalition would furtherstreng then for the larger interests of the people of J&K.

The party’s Rajya Sabha member Ghulam Nabi Ratanputri used this occasion to suggest that everything was not all right in the party. A Jammu newspaper quoted him saying:“Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah was a small time school teacher (who was)empowered by ordinary Kashmiris.” Ratanpuri who was catapulted to a major position by none other than Omar Abdullah said “Today’s NC is not strong because the ‘rats’ have taken over after actual heirs ofthe party have gone into hibernation.” But everybody knows it is a storm is a tea cup.

Congress In UNIVERSITY
Congress is banking on the charisma of Rahul Ghandi to attract Kashmiri youth towards the party, which until last year had just 500 members from the valley. Youth Congress now claims they have a record 25000 Kashmiri youngsters, including 1800 women, as their members.

Congress made inroads in the University of Kashmir where student political activities are not allowed since 2009 after the KU authorities banned Kashmir University Students Union (KUSU). Rahul Gandhi visited Kashmir in September this year – his first visit to theValley since 2009 as part of the Youth Congress’ membership drive. “We had to stop the drive after separatists objected but we have beenable to register 475 students from the campus,” Youth Congress leader Yasir Pandit was quoted saying.

Pandit is associated with the party’syouth wing since 1999. He said in Srinagar alone they have registered 4700 members. “Earlier, the Youth Congress had no significant presence. People would not even participate in funerals of Congress workers. Now, things have changed,” Pandit said, adding that the central government’s employment and housing schemes for the rural poorhave changed the perception of the Kashmiris towards the Congress.

Congress has become the first pro-India political party in Kashmir to establish its base at KU at a time when even the ruling National Conference and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party are yet to make forays. Pro-freedom groups and students have taken anexception to authorities giving Congress a free reign on the campus,while denying space to other shades of political opinion. “It’s not afair game. Either ban politics completely or provide space to allpolitical shades on the campus,” said Babar Qadri, a founder member ofthe KUSU.

Against INFORMATION
Ruling coalition that already had a questionable track record on handling of news and information is keen to work with Press Council of India for creating a new code of conduct for the media, especially news photographers who are usually getting roughed up. But if statements and responses to new issues are taken into account, the government would manage its democracy without even media.

Former chief minister Dr Farooq Abdullah has remained unpredictable, especially in his relations with media. Last week, he attacked media for its“premeditated acts” and suggested it to “restrain itself”. Dr Abdullah who was presiding over a function to commemorate his father said: “You have spoken enough, you have written enough and you have sung enough.

”He added: “Your reportage is all a premeditated act. You all receive phone calls about where the situation is going to get worst and then you reach there and then you present it in such colours that tourists run away.” Dr Abdullah asked media to restrain itself because arestive situation deprives boatmen and other professionals associatedwith the media from their earnings. “What will the Shikarawala eat? What about the horseman in Gulmarg and Pahalgam, what will he eat?” heasked. “I hope you people (Media) will get realization soon.”

Even his son Omar Abdullah, who otherwise is the darling of electronicmedia in the plains and normally is on front pages within the state,distinguished himself as the sole supporter of Union IT minister Kapil Sibal’s initiative of regulating the social networking sites.  Last week, Sibal got all the honchos of Facebook, YouTube, Orkut, Twitter, Google, Microsoft to his office and advised them to self regulate. Thegovernment, he said, government is trying to supervise the contentthat can hurt religious sentiments.

Rgardless of what happens on thatfront, Omar shot a tweet within minutes. “I hate the idea ofcensorship but have seen for myself how dangerous inflammatory contenton Facebook YouTube can be,” Omar wrote of the twitter. “We want theluxury of free speech but not the burden of responsibility for how weuse that freedom. Something will have to give. If push came to shove Iwould come down on the side of freedom of speech but its one of thosefreedoms that has me worried unfortunately.”

A Student Leader Is Born
Succumbing to the political turmoil in valley the varsities in Kashmir valley had almost disbanded the political activity. Although in Jammu University the students were allowed to contest elections and national and regional political parties openly funded the process but in valley it  continued a no-go area.

After almost 20 years,  the Islamic University of Science and Technology has become the first university in Kashmir  which  allowed the students elections.

Even though a student politics is banned in Kashmir, newly established Islamic University of Science and Technology (IUSTS), Awantipora Kashmir permitted students polling in university campus.

The five year old university at Awantipora held its first students union election last week in which, Syed Sarmad, was elected as the President of the students union, Imran Bin Gani as Vice President and Mir Anayatullah as the General Secretary. Sarmad, a 7th semester Computer Engineering student won by 3 votes against Wasim Sarwar Khanday, a Ist Semester MBA student.

Sarmad earned 146 votes and Wasim 143 votes. Imran Ahmad , the vice president did not have any opponent and Anayat, an MBA Ist semester student won by 66 votes . 286 votes were casted in his favour and 220 in his opponent’s favour, Tabish Riyaz, an engineering student.  

Syed Sarmad, a young enthusiastic president was happy that the students were getting a space which would allow his fellow students to talk about apolitical as well as political things in the campus.  

IUST administration has made it clear that the union will not talk about the politics outside; it should only be concerned about student’s welfare.  
The elected Vice President and the General Secretary want to work for the betterment of the university and focus on the welfare of students. Both have done their BBA from IUST.

This time the election was coordinated by a committee formed by Vice Chancellor but in the future it would be entirely students business. It will be held on yearly basis. The IUST Students Union has a constitution framed on the recommendation of Linda commission.

IUST students since past many years have been asking for this free space. They feel that the hegemony of administration cannot be tolerated for long, students have to have a say. Senior students, most of them passed out from varsity had gone to the high court to get the documented proof that forming a student’s union is not banned in Kashmir.

The students include Aamir Malik (MBA), Owais Amin (MCA), Mudasir Khan (MBA), Faraz Beig (B Tech), Aasif Beig (B Tech) and Mir Anayatullah. A few faculty members were also very supportive to the students in this regard. Mohammed Junaid and Wajahat Ahmed from the Department of Peace and Conflict and Arshad Mushtaq from Department of Journalism are few of the names who had supported the students union earlier.

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