The government stopped writer and civil liberty activist Gautum Navlakha from entering Srinagar last week. He was served an order issued by the Deputy Commissioner, Budgam under section 144 CrPC under which he had the option of flying back or being detained.
SSP Budgam Uttam Chand told reporters that restrictions were imposed on him on basis of the magisterial order that was served to him soon after he landed along with Sehba Hussain. Off the record, police officials said Navlakha indulges in “anti national rhetoric” and is “guilty of breach of public order”.
However, there is no case registered against Navlakha in any police station across Kashmir. Navlakha stayed around the airport for the night and flew back the next day. Police had offered him a van that would drive him to Jammu but he refused to be “driven like a criminal”.
Navlakha a frequent visitor to Kashmir, is one of the few non-local writers taken seriously by youth here. His viewpoint on Kashmir goes diagonally opposite to the official discourse. Over the years, he has been speaking to seminars, and has extensively written on Kashmir. He is also convenor of the International Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Kashmir that has been seeking answers to hundreds of unnamed graves that exist across Kashmir.
Navlakha told reporters on phone that police handed over to him a formal order and refused to listen to reason, which shows “the level of control they exercise on people.” This, he said, is for the first time in last 20 years that he has been stopped and deported. Navlakha was planning to visit certain picnic spots during his stay.
The grapevine in Delhi is that the state government did not want him to promote the recent Penguin book Until My Freedom Has Come: The New Intifada in Kashmir – an anthology put together by film maker Sanjay Kak. Back in Delhi, Navlakha accused the central government for not being allowed into Srinagar. He now plans to knock at the court’s door.
The Water WARS
The government is in the process of floating national tenders for setting up a Rs 225 crores canal. It will drain water from Ranjit Sagar Dam at Satwain up to Basantpur in Kathua.
J&K is running a chronic water dispute with Punjab. Apart from denial of various benefits that people whose properties were devoured by the dam in Kathua, J&K was supposed to get 1150 cusecs of water besides part of the energy that the dam would produce. Instead, it is getting only 300 to 400 cusecs of water.
Sharing benefits of the massive water project of river Ravi was part of the 1979 agreement that Surjit Singh Barnala and Sheikh Abdullah signed. J&K was promised a basketful of benefits as it was taken as partner and asked to invest in the canal network that had the capacity to take 0.69 MAF. The agreement gave J&K rights over 20 percent of power generations and 15 percent stakes in all kinds of jobs that the project would generate. Affected population was to be compensated and rehabilitated by Punjab and the areas inundated or the roads damaged were to be aligned by it under the agreement.
Over three decades later, most of the families whose houses and most of the immoveable inheritance were devoured by the dam are still waiting for their jobs. No energy ever wheeled to Jammu and the Shahpur Kandi dam wherefrom J&K was supposed to lift the water was abandoned. Besides, the Punjab government annulled all its agreements with all states, making it a national issue that is now being fought in the Apex court.
Now J&K has decided to lift the water from the banks of the dam that falls in J&K. It intends to take water in a 9-kms long channel that has six kms of tunnelling to reach Basantpur where it intends to have a 21-MW power project.
The water later would be taken to the periphery of the district that is facing Rs 250 crores losses a year on cash crops alone for want of water to 133 thousands hectors of land. Though a unilateral decision, Punjab government has been sounded of the project that J&K intends to take up at the earliest.
The issue was raised by Chief Minister Omar Abdulah recently, when UPA chairperson and Congress president Mrs Sonia Gandhi visited Basohli on May 23.
Return to HURRIYAT?
The Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (IuM) headed by Maulana Abbas Ansari has welcomed the decision of the moderate Hurriyat Conference led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq to permit him to join back the flock. Following IuM’s meeting with the Centre’s Interlocutors some 40 days ago, it was suspended from the amalgam.
However, IuM is still undecided. The party has alleged that Mirwaiz Umar Farooq was having a dual standard over two similar issues concerning the Kashmir problem.
A statement issued by the IuM said, “Why did the Mirwaiz maintain silence when statements, which clearly violate the Hurriyat constitution, were being issued right under his nose or when other Hurriyat constituents are involved in a parallel (political) process continuously?”
IuM alleged that while Ansari was suspended from the Hurriyat, a complete silence was maintained over the statement made by another senior Hurriyat leader, Prof Abdul Gani Bhat, who advocated for trifurcation of the state considered to be against the constitution laid down by the Hurriyat.
The IuM also questioned the Mirwaiz Umar Farooq-led Hurriyat’s decision to engage in talks with the Ram Jethmalani-led Kashmir committee. Ansari, who was earlier served a notice to explain his position on meeting the interlocutors, had claimed that the interlocutors had visited his residence without any prior appointment. “We did not discuss politics,” he said.
Later, a two member committee was formed to deal with the issue. The committee recommended that the revocation of the suspension of Ansari’s party was in the best interests of the movement. The committee also favoured unity among the Hurriyat leaders, but also laid stress on discipline. The IuM has said that the decision of the Hurriyat would help clear out all the misunderstandings. The party leaders will decide on whether to join the amalgam again in the executive council meeting of IuM to be held soon.
KC’s Nine LIVES
A four member team of Kashmir Committee headed by Ram Jethmalani is in Srinagar on a five day tour to meet various cross sections of the society. The committee is trying to work out a solution by meeting every stakeholder across the political spectrum in Kashmir. Jethmalani is accompanied by former Indian foreign secretary V K Grover, senior counsel Shanti Bhushan, woman rights activist Madhu Kishwar, and journalist M J Akbar besides Waheed-ur-Rehman, a local.
Constituted during the A B Vajpayee era in 2002, the Committee was aimed at opening a channel of dialogue mainly with senior separatist leaders in Kashmir. However, it has been inactive for many years now.
The committee began their tour by meeting senior separatist leaders Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Moulvi Umar Farooq. JKLF chairman Yasin Malik declined to meet them and accused the committee of playing a role in dividing the separatist camp.
Jethmalani asserted that a solution to the vexed Kashmir issue can be achieved only through peaceful dialogue. He said that the people of Kashmir are more desirous for peace than any other part of India, and added that “the solution to Kashmir problem is not far away.”
Geelani told the committee that Kashmir issue should be resolved through peaceful means and the residents of either side of the LoC should be given an opportunity to decide their future. He alleged that India tops the list of countries importing war weapons only to keep Kashmir through the barrel of the gun.
Though the reconstituted committee, if compared to the earlier one, was activated by the right-wing camp in Delhi, it still has scored a point over the interlocutors by meeting the separatists.
A Difficult Golf COURSE
NC patriarch Dr Farooq Abdullah was seen dancing in Pahalgam when his son and chief minister formally threw open Kashmir’s new 18-hole golf course.
Spread over an area of 1113 kanals of land, the length of 18-hole course is over 700 yards. So far it has taken up an investment of about Rs 29 crores. Authorities plan to spend another eight crore rupees for further expansion and creation of necessary infrastructure. It is going to be the “most difficult one” given the area it is spread on.
Kashmir now has five golf courses which includes the Royal Springs Golf Course (RSGC) in Srinagar that is one of the world’s 10 top courses. Designed and constructed by the US based Robert Trent Jones Jr.-II, the firm that has designed world’s top 500 golf courses including those in Bangkok and China, it cost Rs 35 crores with a yearly maintenance bill of around three crore rupees.
Apart from Srinagar’s oldest 9-hole golf course on the Moulana Azad Road, there is a small 6-hole golf course just a stone’s throw from RSGC. It is now dubbed a police course because most of the cops play golf here.
Gulmarg has world’s highest golf course that is being expanded and re-laid. It was a 9- hole course earlier but the government is expanding it. Army owns a separate golf course in Badamibagh Cantonment.
In April, Omar inaugurated the first phase of 18-hole Jammu Tawi Golf Course in Sidhra.
Expected to cost the state Rs 41.28 crore, the first phase 9-hole area was developed for an investment of Rs 20.29 crores. Spread over 1400 kanals of land, it is being developed as per the international standards with all the modern facilities. It will have a recreation club that would require Rs 6.50 crore, which will have the facilities of restaurant, change hall, office and party hall besides other facilities.
Though a substantial investment has gone into creating a vast network of golf courses, the marketing part of the sport has been lacking. In the state, the general impression is that the courses are being laid for the political elite. Former Chief Minister Mufti Sayeed, Ghulam Nabi Azad’s deputy Muzaffar Hussain Beig and more recently Omar Abdullah learnt the game after holding the high positions.
Shown the DOOR
BJP’s senior leader Prof Chaman Lal Gupta who is the oldest member of the state legislative assembly has finally landed in crisis despite him being the leader of the six lawmakers in 11-member lot of BJP.
He has been expelled from the party for six years and his rivals have initiated a disqualification process before the Speaker of the state assembly. In quick reaction, Gupta, the MoS defence in Vajpayee regime, challenged his expulsion by filing a writ petition in the High Court. After hearing his counsel, Mr Justice Hasnain Masoodi, issued notice to the Speaker of the state legislative assembly and others.
This has triggered a controversy. The Speaker issued a statement saying the “action (of the High Court) is against law and beyond its jurisdiction.” Explaining legal position on state anti-defection law, Mohamad Akbar Lone said the act itself bars courts from interfering in the issue of disqualification of the legislature and everybody is under obligation not to transgress his or her jurisdiction.
“While I will not like to create a controversy with judiciary, at the same time it is my obligation to uphold the rule of law and dignity of the legislature,” he said in a statement. In the meanwhile, the six members-who are accused of cross voting including Gupta- have approached Speaker seeking recognition of a ‘separate group’ in the House.