Kashmir on the Boil


Kashmir on the Boil
by Col. (Ret’d) T.K. Tikoo on 07-01-2008

IAKF foreign correspondent and Retired Indian Army Colonel, T.K. Tikoo, responds in detail to the outrageous claims of the separatist Kashmiri elements regarding the recent proposed land allotment for Amarnath pilgrims.

The political situation in Kashmir valley is reminiscent of the events of 1990, when lakhs of Kashmiri Muslims came out on the streets shouting themselves hoarse with “Hum kya chahte Aazadi” (we want independence). Ostensibly, these protests are against Indian “moves” to change the demography of Kashmir and a mass movement to preserve its ecology, as Mufti Mohammed Sayed and his Hurriyat masters would have the gullible press and ill informed Indian leadership to believe. None of these causes will stand close scrutiny. The protests are well orchestrated and thoughtfully timed to serve a purely political purpose. That Mufti is merely his master’s (Hurriyat) voice is, by now, well known and widely documented. Remember the last Assembly elections? It was an open secret that PDP was supported by the militants. Sometimes their support was so brazen that opposing candidate’s movement and campaigning in a given area would be seriously threatened by jihadis, whereas Mehbooba and her candidates would not only be provided security by them, but even the crowds would be brought to her public meetings, by employing coercive methods to frighten the common people in favor of PDP.
Mufti feels that having Hurriyat and their assorted militant outfits behind him will ensure his victory over National Conference, which is bound to pose a huge challenge to his PDP in the ensuing elections to the State Assembly. With hardly any presence outside the Valley, winning enough seats in the Valley is the only way he can retain his political relevance in the State politics. This he could do by raising an emotive issue that would fire up the jihadis, who have, over a period of time, been losing relevance as peace and normalcy are increasingly being embraced by the people at large, the anti-Indian Hurriyat, the Islamists who would not want the kafirs to desecrate the “Islamic” soil of Kashmir, and the “Azadi” seekers for whom presence of Hindus from outside, even though for only a short pilgrimage, is an existential threat. That such a course of action would create a serious communal tension in the state and outside does not matter to Mufti, who at one time was
India
’s Home Minister. Allocation of 40 hectares of forest land at Baltal to SASB (Shri Amarnath Shrine Board) had all the ingredients required to rouse passions. The issue, therefore, came handy to the scheming rabble rouser. Let us examine the issue on its merits.
These 40 hectares of land in Baltal area are required to erect prefabricated shelters to house the pilgrims (yatris) during the two months of the pilgrimage (yatra) period. These are not steel and concrete shelters that have the potential to disturb the ecology of the area. In any case, this area remains under a thick blanket of snow for 8 months in a year. For the bulk of the year the weather remains harsh and the terrain is no less treacherous. Living there on a permanent basis is unimaginable. Even the hardy bakarwals (shepherds) who are used to living in such difficult conditions vacate this area in winter. Therefore, in no way can Hindus be settled there on a permanent basis with a long-term aim of changing the demography of
Kashmir. Anyone who knows even a little of Indian/Kashmiri politics and the Valley’s ecology will find both arguments for Kashmiri agitation (changing demography and ruining Kashmir
’s ecology) laughable. But what certainly is not laughable is the fact that the Kashmiri genius for manipulating media and public opinion through sustained a disinformation campaign is once again proving as effective as ever.
Kashmiri’s sudden love for preserving
Kashmir’s ecology is rather intriguing. For God sake, please ask them what did they do with Anchar lake, Manasbal lake, Dal lake, Nagin lake, the great Wullar lake and thousands of water bodies (locally called “mars”). As far as Anchar lake is concerned, it does not even exist now. Nagin, Manasbal, Dal and Wullar lakes have shrunk drastically. This happened only because of a lack of Kashmiri’s concern for preserving these magnificent jewels that once had given Kashmir its distinct identity as paradise on earth and the Switzerland
of the East.
Coupled with this lack of concern has been their greed. For years the local vegetable vendors and boatmen living on the edges of these lakes would deliberately dump all the dirt and junk into these lakes. Over a period of time, small floating islands would form. These would be exploited for growing vegetables and flowers for commercial purpose. A few more years of farming would firm these up as proper islands, ready to be gobbled up as prime property. As the ever increasing pressure of population on land multiplied, these islands became prime pieces of real estate for constructing houses. This is how
Dal Lake
has shrunk to a third of its size now. The same is true of other lakes as well. Such is the concern of locals towards its ecology that a couple of years back a German tourist was so moved by the plight of the Dal lake that he spent his own money, time and effort to clean up the Dal! This event was covered by both local and national media.
Similar has been the fate of the Boulevard that skirts the Dal lake. It has lost its pristine beauty as one of the most magnificent stretches of walkways anywhere in the world. This beautiful road that circumvents the Dal lake is now dotted with residential houses, hotels, restaurants, shops, kiosks, etc. thus ruining the whole picturesque stretch between the Zaffarwan mountains and the Dal lake. The readers might recall that many years ago, Shri Jagmohan, the ex-governor of the State, had made a city forest on the northeast side of the famous Shankaracharya hill to enable the forest to serve as the “lungs of the city”. And what fate did it meet? Farooq Abdullah, who followed him as the State’s Chief Minister, turned it into a golf course, in the process cutting lakhs of trees and saplings that had been planted there for creating this city forest. Similarly, there was no hue and cry when many years ago a road was constructed from the base to the top of Shankaracharya hill and a huge monstrous communication tower was erected there to permanently scar
Srinagar
city’s precious landmark. And what has happened to Devi Angan (Godess’s lawn) surrounding the revered Hari Parbat? The lush green stretch has been so wantonly encroached upon that nothing much is left of it.
Even lately, huge chunks of forest land were given to Indian Railways to lay the track.
Forest land was also given to various telecom companies to erect towers. A similar gesture was shown towards Jammu and Kashmir
and Power Corporation. But there were no protests. Why? Because the local Muslims stood to gain from these projects. The prefabricated shelters at Domail will be only used by Hindus—hence, this hue and cry.
Numerous other examples can be quoted to refute the “ecological degradation” arguments. Significant ecological damage occurred when huge areas of forest land were sacrificed to construct the medieval Mughal road connecting the Muslim majority districts of Poonch and Rajouri with
Kashmir
valley via Lohran Mandi, across Pir Panjal to Suphiyan in the Valley. I myself have witnessed the ecological disaster that the construction of this road has entailed, wherein 10,000 trees till date have been cut, wildlife sanctuaries disturbed, and the fragile ecosystem damaged by blasting and blacktopping the newly laid road. Unlike installation of pre-fabricated shelters at Baltal for temporary occupation during two months in a year, which causes no ecological damage, blacktopped roads and constant vehicular movements on these roads passing through a fragile ecosystem is causing permanent ecological degradation.
Many years ago Kashmir’s wonderful waterway known as the Nallai Mar, a la Athens’ inland waterway system, was filled up to create a monstrous road to please anti-national elements living in what is traditionally regarded as the hub of pro-Pakistani activity. During the past two decades of militancy in the Valley, hundreds of thousands of centuries-old deodar and other rare trees were cut. From these, millions of cubic feet of wood were smuggled out and sold to finance the militancy as well as fill up the coffers of unscrupulous elements. But there were no protests, no hartal, no withdrawal of support from the Government. So much for the Kashmiri concern for the Valley’s ecology! Everyone worked in tandem to make a fast buck—
Kashmir
’s ecology be damned.
Let us now examine the truth regarding the sinister propaganda by the PDP/Hurriyat nexus about the supposed ulterior motive of the Central government to change the demography of the
Kashmir Valley by settling down Hindus from elsewhere in India. Take the case of Kashmir’s own history. It changed from a 100% Hindu dominated place till as late as the 14th century to what is today a 100% Muslim dominated area. Even after the British handed over power to so-called Hindus (Dogras), the latter could not ensure the safety and security of a few lakh Hindus who lived in Kashmir at the time of Independence. These few lakh Hindus were an eyesore to the Muslims. They were mercilessly cleansed from the Valley in 1990 to ensure that the Valley belonged to Allah and his believers. This is the reality of Muslim states all over the world. In 1947, a large number of Hindus, who were uprooted from Sialkot and nearby areas, sought refuge in Jammu. Till date these people are treated as refugees. In the 1971 war, Pakistan captured some areas of Chhamb sector of the State. Refugees poured into Jammu. Till today they have not been rehabilitated. They continue to live as refugees without any rights whatsoever. In contrast, India did not change the demography of the Valley even when Pakistan
lay prostrate after its comprehensive defeat in 1971 war. That says much for its intentions.
Let us now turn to
India at large. Rather than changing the demography of the Muslim inhabited districts in various parts of the country into completely Hindu dominated districts, it is the opposite that has happened. As per the census report of 1991-2000, the Muslim population has increased by approximately 33%, compared to the Hindu population increase of only 22%. During the same period, the Hindu population has decreased from 85% of the overall population to 80%. On the other hand, the Muslim population has increased from 11% to over 13% of the overall population. Please note that this does not include the states of Assam and J&K, where no census could be held. If this was done, the percentage growth would show an even higher increase. Rather than changing the demography of India in favor of Hindus, our ‘secular governments’ have over the decades welcomed millions of Bangladeshi Muslims to settle in India, in order to create secure and captive vote banks. In 2001, Shri Inderjit Gupta, India’s Home Minister at that time (a member of Communist Party of India and therefore a supporter of illegal Bangladeshi influx into India), informed the Lok Sabha that 10 million Bangladeshis had settled in India. He was obviously trying to underplay the seriousness of the situation. The fact is that over 20 million Bangladeshis are illegally living in India, in the process turning hundreds of Assembly seats in Assam, West Bengal, Tripura and Bihar into Muslim majority constituencies. Latest press reports state that such a situation will replicate itself in UP, Delhi and Mumbai. That is what Hindu-majority India does—change the demography in favor of Muslims and not in the favor of Hindus. Muslims in Kashmir
know it well, but they are pretty much sure that the spineless Indian politicians and gullible media will buy their arguments lock, stock and barrel.
Muslim politicians from the Valley, when in government, have never felt shy of playing communal politics, as long as it has helped the Ummah. On the other hand, Hindu politicians dare not use the government machinery to help Hindu interests, even if for completely legitimate purposes. Take the case of
Mata Vaishno Devi University in Jammu—the university was set up by the Vaishno Devi Trust using funds collected from pilgrims. The Trust had to shell out Rs 13 crores to buy land at commercial rates. On the other hand, Baba Ghulam Shah Badshah University
, set up as a countermove in Rajouri, was funded by the State Wakf Council headed by Mufti Mohammad Sayyed, who also gave it a huge chunk of forest land, free of cost.
Epilogue
One does not have to be a genius to forecast the result of the ongoing unrest. You guessed right—
India
has lived up to its reputation of “preferring to crawl when it was merely asked to bend.” The newly appointed Governor has practically dissolved the SASB, returned the land and handed over the yatra back to the state government.
Mera Bharat Mahan!

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