Shravana 32, 2065 Vik Samvat, Yugabada 5110, August 16, 2008

1. FESTIVALS: Sri Ganesh Utsav, a 10-day long worshipping of Bhagwan Ganesh performed every year from Bhadrapad Shukla Chaturthi i.e. Vinayaki Chaturthi to Bhadrapad Shukla Chaturdahsi i.e. Ananthchaturdahsi starts from 3rd Septmber and culminates on 14th Septmber when idols (murtis) of Ganesha are immersed in water. In 1893, Lokmanya Tilak transformed this annual Ganesha festival from private family celebrations into a grand public event which became rallying point for the Bharatiya protest against British rule and also a medium for social awareness. Tilak was the first to install large public images of Ganesha in pavilions, and he established the practice of submerging all the public images on the tenth day in the form of processions. Today, Hindus across Bharat celebrate the Ganapati festival with great fervour, though it is most popular in the state of Maharashtra. The festival assumes huge proportions in cities like Mumbai, Pune, Bhagyanagar and also in distant Tamilnadu as well as Sri Lanka.
2. AMARNATH SHRINE RIGHTS: BJP, VHP AGITATION EVOKES POPULAR RESPONSE: The activists of VHP, Bajrang Dal, RSS, ABVP, BJP and different other organizations including general mass under the banner of Shri Amarnath Sangharsh Samiti took to the streets across the country demanding restoration of land to Amarnath Shrine Board. Rail and road traffic across the country was badly hit. However, the vehicles heading to schools and hospitals were not stopped.
According to VHP general secretary Dr Pravin Togadia who was himself present at Shakarpur crossing in Delhi, the road blockade was done at more than 10,000 places including 1000 places in Uttar Pradesh and 1500 places in Rajasthan, across the country. Trains were stopped at more than 100 places and more than 1000 activists were arrested by the police. No incident of violence was reported from any place. The whole country in one voice democratically opposed the cancellation of land to the shrine Board from 9 am to 11 on August 13. “Nobody should have any misconception and clearly understand that Hindu society will accept nothing short of the reversal of the illegal and immoral order,” said Dr Togadia.
He declared that if the government did not return the land to the Shrine Board the agitation would be accelerated. “The Sangharsh Samiti has decided to tie the Shiv Raksha Bandhan on the writ of more than five crore people from August 16 to 18 at all cities and villages of the country. Carrying the cutouts of Baba Amarnath, the Shivbhaktas would move in all streets with drums and would also recruit people for the struggle. At the same the people of Jammu would start Jail Mein Raho Andolan from August 18. Now they would remain in jails till the land is restored to the Shrine Board. The government must make it clear whether it is with the people marching towards Muzaffarabad or with the people carrying the national flag,” Dr Togadia added.
In the national capital, VHP activists began protest at 9 am blocking roads in 22 places, including ITO, Moolchand, Dwarika, Pitampura and Deepali Chowk. In Chhattisgarh protestors laid siege to dozens of busy squares in capital Raipur besides bringing traffic to a halt at Bilaspur, Jagdalpur, Durg, Bhilai, Korba and Raigarh towns. Protestors squatted on national highway No 43, connecting Raipur to the Bastar region, as well as the Raipur-Bilaspur highway. Railway officials said due to rail-blockings several trains were stuck at different stations in many states. In Himachal Pradesh the two-hour protest ended peacefully. In Varanasi the activists done road blockade at Andhrapur Bridge.
3. A TOSS FOR NATURE: Flinging coins in rivers out of reverence is an ancient Bharatiya practice that most of us have indulged in. However, it is a tradition that the Reserve Bank of Bharat frowns upon, owing to the high cost of metal and minting process of the coins. With inputs from metallurgy and water resource experts from IIT Roorkee, Narmada Samagra, a group working to ensure the health of river Narmada across Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, has minted special coins to clean up the river of its pollutants.
One of the popular practices that caught their eye was the tossing of coins in rivers."The idea is to look for scientific underpinning to our traditions, which might have been obscured with time," says Anil Madhav Dave, Narmada Samagra's promoter.
"Coins composed of 95 per cent copper, 4 per cent silver and 1 per cent platinum have remarkable curative properties for a river's health as it triggers a copper-silver ionisation process in water bodies which disrupts the life support system of microorganisms ultimately reducing the pollution..," said Dr R. Chaudhary, a professor at IIT Roorkee.
The group has produced a freshly-minted batch of 500 coins weighing 10 g each at the International River Festival held on the banks of the river Narmada in February. To prevent Narmada from going the way the venerable Ganga Mata have, the idea of tackling biological pollution with coins is just a beginning.
4. WOMEN SUBMARINE HUNTERS: The Indian Navy has a versatile aviation arm, but unlike the air force, it does not have any women flying its array of helicopters and surveillance aircraft. But that is set to change very soon.
The first of two women observers are currently undergoing training at the naval academy INS Zamorin in Kerala and will join the navy next year. The navy plans to train them as observers to detect hostile submarines and launch attacks on enemy surface and aerial targets.
“Women will serve on our Tu-142 maritime patrol aircraft and could soon be flying our P-8Is (a long range maritime patrol aircraft to be acquired from the US),” says navy chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta.
5. RASHTRIYA SWAYAMSEVAK SANGH (RSS) SENDS MUSLIM DELEGATION TO SRINAGAR: With agitations over the Amarnath land issue continuing in Jammu and Srinagar, the RSS on the 5th August flagged off a delegation of Muslim leaders to campaign for peace in the trouble-torn state.
The 30-member delegation of the Rashtravadi Muslim Manch (or the Nationalist Muslim Front), a Sangh-backed outfit, was flagged off by RSS leader K S Sudarshan from the Red Fort.
"The land allocated for the pilgrims needs to be restored. This is not a view held by Hindus only but by people of all religions across the country," Shri Sudarshan said.
The delegation is slated to reach Lal Chowk in Srinagar and will hold discussions with different section of the society on the issue.
"We stand for the fact that Muslims in Bharat love their motherland. Anyone who stands in our way is not a true Muslim or a Hindu," said Convenor of the Front Mohammed Afzal.
"If there is any Muslim in the valley who feels that Pakistan is his homeland, then we will respectfully leave him to the borders," he added
6. '1 LAKH LEGAL BANGLADESHIS MISSING IN BHARAT': "Over 1 lakh Bangladeshis who entered Bharat with valid passports and visa are traceless as on date, Meghalaya's Additional Director General of Police Kulbir Khrishna said while speaking at a seminar 'Changes in Security Perspective of Indo-Bangladesh' in Shillong.
He said the fact that these Bangladeshis had valid documents, so number could be ascertained. "The total illegal migrants in Bharat could be astounding," he said.
Pointing that there was evidence to show the involvement of HUJI, which has proximity to Bangladesh's intelligence agency DGFI and Pakistan's ISI, in a number of terror attacks in the country in the recent past, he said the porous border has fomented the movement of insurgent elements and illegal migrants.
"The seat of power in Bangladesh is occupied by elements who come from different streams of thoughts. This makes it further difficult to deal with the problem," Khrisnan said.
7. '800 TERROR CELLS ACTIVE IN COUNTRY': In a shocking disclosure, National Security Advisor M K Narayanan while talking to a Singapore-based newspaper about investigations in the serial blasts which rocked Ahmedabad and Bangalore recently, has said that there are as many as 800 terrorist cells operating in the country with "external support". These terror modules, he said, had been uncovered by intelligence agencies. Without naming any country, Narayanan said that there was inspiration as well as support from abroad for terrorist activities being carried out in Bharat.
Narayanan also expressed concern about terrorists coming up with new methods for causing excessive damage like planting bombs near hospitals, as in the Ahmedabad blasts. "Copycat systems are coming up. Like putting bombs in vehicles near hospitals soon after blasts, knowing that large congregations will be there and impact will be much greater," he stated.
"One of the things we had hoped would not occur was that of local elements getting sucked into worldwide movement of al-Qaeda and terrorist related activity. But if you look at the nature of the blasts, there are a great deal of complementarities in terms of triggering devices, nature of explosives and casings used. All this indicates much more high-grade people are involved in this effort," Narayanan said.
8. DON’T INTERFERE IN J&K AFFAIRS, BHARAT TELLS PAK: The events in Jammu & Kashmir sparked a war of words between Bharat and Pakistan, with the latter making adverse comments on the situation in the State and seeking to internationalise it, provoking New Delhi to ask it to immediately stop the “deeply objectionable” actions. New Delhi particularly took strong objection to moves by Islamabad to approach global bodies like the United Nations over the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, dubbing these as “gratuitous and illegal”.
“We are witnessing a recurrence of Pakistani rhetoric and allegations that are factually wrong and that bear no relationship to reality,” Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson said. New Delhi has already cautioned that such incidents could put the future of the dialogue process in jeopardy.
9. BHARAT-MADE DIESEL ENGINES A HIT ON AFRICAN TRACKS: The "Cape of Good Hope" has again opened the gates of mutual growth and prosperity for Indian Railways as well as African countries which have placed huge orders for supply of diesel engines from Bharat. From making just four locomotives in 1961, the first year of its production, Diesel Locomotive Works (DLW) at Varanasi produced 222 locomotives in 2007-08. Railways' current annual demand for diesel locomotives is about 400.
DLW has already supplied locomotives to Mozambique, Angola, Male, Senegal and Sudan, apart from countries like Vietnam, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Malaysia.
Contrary to the popular view that diesel engines are not cost effective due to oil price hike, experts pointed out that barring European countries, diesel locomotives were the mainstay of (bigger) railways in the US, Australia, Africa, China and the Arab world.
10. KALAM TELLS MBA STUDENTS TO PARTICIPATE IN POLITICS: It was a management lesson of a different kind that 400-odd B-school students and corporate delegates got at Indian Institute for Foreign Trade (IIFT) campus on 11 August.
Speaking at a seminar organised by IIFT and PHD chamber, former President Kalam spoke on topics ranging from the scope for Bharat in the consultancy opportunities worldwide and stressed students to be leaders and not just managers. He also encouraged students to actively participate in politics, so that there is a political will to execute the vision for Bharat as a developed nation.
Kalam mentioned that of the $300 billion worth consultancy opportunities worldwide, Bharat today caters only to around $4.4 billion. He suggested strategies for increasing the Bharatiya share of the global consultancy market from 1.5% to 10% within the next five years.
11. GOLD COMFORT: It's been a long time coming. Bharat has won its first individual gold medal even though it has been part of the Olympic Games since 1920. Abhinav Bindra inscribed his name in Bharat's sporting history by winning the gold in the 10-metre air rifle event on 11 August. Bindra's success wasn't entirely unexpected. Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore's silver medal in the 2004 Athens Olympics gave a real boost to shooting. Over the past few years, several Bharatiya shooters have done well in world championships and international tournaments.
For a country of Bharat's size and population, its showing at the Olympics has been pathetic over the years. If we count Norman Pritchard's medals — an Englishman born and raised in Calcutta — in the 1900 Games, Bharat has won a total of 17 medals with the hockey team winning 11 of them.
A glance at China is good for perspective. Even as Bharat has made its debut in the medals standing, China has raced to the top with nine golds. It is widely predicted that by the end of the Games, China could pip the US in the overall medals tally.
China's extraordinary success has lessons for us. Bharat could do the same. Instead of funding a wide variety of sports, the government should target a small number of disciplines. Private companies must pitch in. This is already happening to some extent in shooting, where private sponsors back many of the Bharatiya shooters, including Bindra. If this process is taken forward, we may ensure that Bindra's gold is not a flash in the pan. (Excerpts from Times of India Editorial, 12 August)
12. GROWTH MEANINGLESS IF POOR DON'T BENEFIT, SAYS AMARTYA: Eminent economist Amartya Sen on 11 August cautioned the country's political leadership that heady stories of growth and globalization would not mean much at the end of the day unless they impacted the lives of the marginalized.
Delivering the first Hiren Mukherjee memorial lecture in the presence of the entire political establishment, the Noble Laureate said that a just society should be the "overwhelming priority" of the country. Noting that private healthcare was still unaffordable for the ordinary people, he said that much of Bharat's problems had been created by the inefficiency of the administrative structure.
Dwelling on the theme of equity, he said that a government in a democratic country would have to respond to public criticism and tirades from its political opponents. Democracy in that sense insulates a society against extreme adversities like famines. He illustrated the point by recalling that while no major famine had visited Bharat since Independence, in China millions of people died in the 1950s.
13. GUJARAT'S RS 100-CR PLANS FOR 4 PILGRIMAGE CENTRES: The Gujarat Government has drawn up an ambitious Rs 100-crore plan for development of four key places of pilgrimage in the State. "Left to ourselves, we plan to hike up this figure to Rs 500 crore to cover other religious places as well," said Jay Narayan Vyas, Minister for Tourism and Devasthanams.
According to Vyas, while the major thrust is on the overall makeover of Ambaji temple which attracts about one crore of pilgrims annually, the other three figuring in the first phase include the Narayan Sarovar in Kutch, Dwarka temple in Jamnagar district and Chotila in Surendranagar district.
Unfolding the development plan for Ambaji, "Lighting of the religious complex will come up to international standards and light permutations and combinations to make it a treat to watch by night. This would include creation of entire parikrama of the gabber hills, a three-km affair through highly undulating terrain that goes up to a height of 300 ft providing one of the most scenic profiles of the valley at ones feet," Jay Narayan said.
14. MIZORAM WARFARE SCHOOL GROOMS US SOLDIERS: Recently when Captain Greg Adams along with 29 other US Special Forces commandos arrived from Washington at this hilltop village in Bharat's North-Eastern State of Mizoram, they were far from thrilled. The soldiers upon arriving at Vairengte, a small nondescript tribal hamlet wedged on the border between Mizoram and Assam, were not at all amused - where on earth "have we landed". But after a week at the Counter Insurgency Jungle Warfare School (CIJWS) at Vairengte, the 30 US soldiers of the Special Forces or Green Berets were simply stunned. "This was the most amazing military education facility anywhere," Captain Adams said as he led his troops to a dangerous slithering operation by coming down of a MI-17 helicopter by clinging onto a rope and landing safely.
The school is considered as one of world's most prestigious anti-terrorist institutions. So far more than 1,56,000 soldiers were trained at the CIJWS, including about 1,500 foreign soldiers from 26 countries since the school was set up in 1970.
15. ANTI-BANGLADESHI WAVES IN ASSAM: Assam is witnessing a massive uprising against illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, commonly referred to as 'foreigners'. The State authorities have stepped up their drive to arrest and push back Bangladeshi immigrants, and student groups are busy identifying suspected foreigners and handing them over to the police.
The spurt in official action against illegal Bangladeshi immigrants and anti-foreigners activism follows stinging comments by a Guahati High Court judge in a recent ruling. "Bangladeshi infiltrators have not only intruded into every nook and corner of Assam, but have already become kingmakers," Justice BK Sarma said in his judgement, ordering the police to detain and deport 49 foreigners, among them a Pakistani citizen, who had appealed against the ruling of Foreigners Tribunals.
Pointing out how the Pakistani man had entered Assam from Bangladesh and contested the State Assembly election in 1986, Justice Sarma commented, "This can only happen in Assam." He went on to add, "The day is not far when the indigenous people of Assam -- both Hindus and Muslims and other religious groups -- will be reduced to minorities in their own land."
The past week witnessed the arrest of seven illegal Bangladeshi immigrants in eastern Assam's Nagaon district after the Gauhati High Court pronounced them foreigners. They were pushed back into Bangladesh through the border point of Mahisasan in southern Assam's Karimganj district.
But six of them were back in Assam again. "There is no formal agreement between Bharat and Bangladesh and hence the only way to expel such immigrants is by simply pushing them back across the border," a senior Assam police officer said.
Even as the State authorities were enforcing the court judgement, in which 61 persons were found to be infiltrators, student groups -- including the All-Assam Students' Union (AASU) and the Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuva Chhatra Parishad (AJYCP) -- also started hounding suspected foreigners. Last week, AASU and AJYCP activists rounded up nearly 50 suspected Bangladeshis from various parts of the State and handed them over to the police.
16. IDOLS OF SHIVA, GANESH DESECRATED IN TRINIDAD: Idols of Shiv and Ganesh were desecrated in a temple in Trinidad. Vandals damaged the Idols at the Kolahal Shiva Temple, Chaguanas in Central Trinidad on 8 August. Incident took place a year after a gang of young men went to the temple by the sea in Waterloo on August 4, 2007 and destroyed idols including those of gods Shiva and Krishna and goddess Durga. No one has been charged so far for the incident. The desecration angered members of the Hindu community.
Satnarayan Maharaj, secretary general of the Sanatan Dharam Maha Sabha, while condemning the incident, said it was the handiwork of 'a handful of extremists, who are bent upon sowing the seeds of discord between Hindus and Muslims in Trinidad and Tobago'.
An eye-witness said that he saw two men knock down the idols and leave in a car. The ownership of the car has been confirmed.
17. BHARATIYAS TO SPEND 15 BN POUND TO BUY HOMES IN UK BY 2018- STUDY: Residential investment by Bharatiyas in the United Kingdom is likely to touch a whopping 15 billion pound over the next ten years, says a report.
"Bharatiyas could potentially own 20,000-30,000 UK residential properties over a 10 year horizon and UK-India cross border Investment is all set to grow to 10-15 billion pound by 2018," the latest Jones Lang LaSalle's report titled 'UK-India Cross-border Residential Investment' said.
The report further highlighted the fact that with no restrictions on Bharatiyas investing in UK residential property and strong house price growth, the market would continue to see the current investment size of 0.6-1.2 million pound grow exponentially over the next 10 years.
Beside steel czar Laxmi Mittal, who has bought a number of homes in the past couple of years, there has been a growing tide of lower-profile purchases by Bharatiyas.
18. BHARATIYAS BETTER AT ENGLISH THAN THE BRITISH: Students from Bharat have better English language skills compared to their local British counterparts, academics experienced in UK. Many undergraduates in British universities have such low competence with spelling, punctuation and grammar that despairing lecturers often spend time teaching the basics of English to the English.
Lecturers say that international students from Bharat have higher standards of basic English than their British colleagues in the same classroom.
Some of the most common mistakes are in spelling, often using 'their' when students mean 'there', 'who's' for 'whose', 'truely' for 'truly', 'occured' for 'occurred' and 'speach' for 'speech'.
British students even in their second year of degree study, use "atrocious" English language in their assignments. Ken Smith, a senior lecturer in criminology at Bucks New University in England, said that many English students failed to apply basic rules, such as 'i' before 'e', except after 'c'. The words 'weird', 'seize', 'leisure' and 'neighbour' are regularly misspelt by students, he said.
19. MALAYSIAN BHARATIYA PARENTS PROTEST RACIAL ABUSE: About 500 angry parents and other members of the Malaysian Bharatiya community gathered outside a school to stage a protest the alleged use of racial slurs by a teacher against ethnic Bharatiya students. The incident took place on 4 August at Banting, the principal town of Kuala Langat in Selangor state. The crowd began gathering outside SMK Telok Panglima Garang's main entrance. The headmaster was on leave so some teachers accepted on his behalf copies of the police reports made by two students. The reports also alleged that the teacher had beaten some students.
Coalition of Malaysian Bharatiya NGOs secretary Gunaraj George, said such abuse would only result in breeding hatred and racial polarisation in schools. Ethnic Bharatiyas constitute eight per cent of Malaysia's 28 million population.
20. SHRI VISHWA NIKETAN: Vishwa Sangh Shiksha Varg (Dwiteeya Varsha) held at Sharada Dham, a Vidya Bharati residential school, had the participation of 73 shiksharthis from 8 countries. Apart from the usual Sharireek and Bauddhik programs shiksharthis visited a village nearby and were overwhelmed by the hospitality of the village inmates. The ‘ Matruhaste Bhojan ‘ programme where over 40 families from Bhagyanagar shared a dinner with groups of shiksharthis turned out to be a memoarable family event for most of them. The concluding public function was held on August 11 in presence of RSS Sarkaryavaha Mohan Bhagwat where Sh. Manas Ghosh, Editor – Statesman Kolkata was the Chief Guest and Shri. Surajprasad Agrawal, Chairman of AP chamber of commerce was the distinguished guest. The Samiti Varga was also held during the same days where 61 sevikas from 11 countries participated.
21. FOOD FOR THOUGHT: All theories, all teachings are, in the last analysis, nothing but ways of seeing and speaking. Even the highest revelations are worth no more than the power of realization that comes with them. To live the Supreme Truth, if only for a minute, is worth more than writing or reading hundreds of books on the methods or process by which to find it.
-- Sri Aurobindo.
Tarun Vijay
None should say Omar is not allowed in Jammu. Let him come, listen and speak. Like any other Indian should feel free to visit Kashmir or any other part of the nation. He is welcome to visit my home even if he denies me a piece of land in Kashmir. Why should a few words uttered by him make me change my Indian-ness? If he spoke in Parliament as a Muslim, asserting his Islamic identity, let denial of land to Hindus be his Islam and my Hinduness must keep my nation as a free democracy where difference of opinion is a natural phenomenon unlike Islamic countries.
I had listened to Omar Abdullah when he was in Vajpayee's cabinet and felt he had great potential to be an influential Indian leader. He spoke for India and brilliantly too. Now, if he has chosen to be just a regional one, it's his choice.
But he must stop to think why he can own a bungalow in Delhi or Bangalore and at the same time deny that privilege to a fellow Indian in Kashmir?
Kashmiri Muslim leaders would like to enjoy the fruits and liberties of a Hindu majority democracy but vehemently deny that to Hindus in their area of influence. Why?
When they are in a minority they crave and get special privileges. But once a majority, every single right to be at par is refused to other minorities.
It's the same phenomenon all over the globe. A direct consequence of turning Wahabi. Wahabi intolerance and separatism is poisoning Muslim brotherhood too. A brilliant report in TOI elaborating how Wahabi elements are gaining ground in the small towns of Gujarat and the softer, humane version of Islam, the Bareilevi school, which is resisting their aggressive expansionism makes an interesting reading and gives a frightening picture of the inter-communal strife within Muslim society.
Kashmir is predominantly Sunni and Wahabi. Hence the intolerance that denies even the basic features of Kashmiriyat.
And see what the de-Indianised intellectuals wrote on the front pages in Delhi's newspapers: "All over a piece of land!" Really?
Then why are the Indian soldiers defending a barren piece of dead snow in Siachen? Or what's that piece of cloth known as the Tricolor? Is it worth dying for?
Jammu is witnessing a mass patriotic uprising, unprecedented till now. It's a Second Ayodhya enveloped in the Tricolour outshining the 1952 Praja Parishad movement, which demanded one flag, one constitution and one head of the state. Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee was martyred for this cause in the jail of Sheikh Abdullah, grandfather of Omar. The situation hasn't changed in the last 56 years. It has in fact worsened.
Such a mass movement goes beyond the controls of any party or organisation. For the last 20 days, the roads are empty and markets closed. The sudden eruption of protests has seen grandfathers and grandsons and mothers and grandmothers ringing bells against Muslim separatism and shouting at the top of their voice: "Har har Mahadev". Such a protest by every single member of families who had never come out for a public demonstration can't be engineered. It's an uprising, a spontaneous expression of anger accumulated in the last five decades of misrule by people of suspect loyalties. The Doctor's Association, Bar Association and Govt. Employees Association, Sikhs, Gujjar-Bakkarwal Muslims and Congress MLAs defying their party, the Hotel Association and every single sect of Hindu society have joined and supported the movement.
One young man, Kuldeep Kumar Dogra, took his life in utter disgust after reciting a patriotic poem before the hunger strikers in Jammu. Policemen in plainclothes forcibly took his body away and tried to burn it in his village in the dead of night without even informing his family. A monk saw them burning the pyre with country-made liquor and used car tyres and managed to alert the villagers. The policemen ran away seeing the protesters swelling in number. And none of the human rightists raised a voice of dissent. Did the policemen belong to India or an enemy country?
In fact the whole movement is a revolt of Tricolour people against unpatriotic politics on Kashmir. It's an effort to reclaim India in a region where the central leaders and regional parties have abandoned the idea of pan-Indian nationalism and geographical integration. India has been reducing every day in the valley and the seculars keep on counting their votes and encouraging separatists at the cost of an Indian identity.
After all, the Amarnath Shrine Board was created on the recommendation of the Nitish Sengupta Committee formed by the state government in 1996 when more than 250 Amarnath pilgrims died in a snowstorm. That made the state government realize that facilities are inadequate and hence a committee was formed under the chairmanship of retired senior IAS officer Sengupta. The government accepted the recommendations of the committee a year later and decided to create a separate board on the pattern of the Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board through an act passed by the Farooq Abdullah goverment in 2000. The Secretary, Tourism Depaetment, was appointed CEO of the board.
Initially, toilets and other facilities were added but they proved inadequate as neither the office of the shrine board was set up nor any staff worth its name was appointed. It was only when Gen. SK Sinha took over as Governor in 2003 and hence became Chairman of the Shrine Board that the office was established with Arun Kumar, IAS, as its full-time CEO. Kumar changed the entire gamut and pilgrims were provided with livable camping facilities.
Earlier, mahants and local interest groups were taking home all the offerings of the shrine. Now the shrine board regulated the income, spending it on providing more facilities to pilgrims and regularizing the fare structure regarding pony hiring, collies, camping sites, toilets and emergency medical help. The chief mahant was given huge compensation and other Muslim helpers were employed in the board. Kumar also introduced bacterial toilets using the latest Japanese technology which was environment-friendly and turned night soil into usable fertilizer for local farmers. Prior to this, concrete toilets had proved a colossal waste as they would get choked and the entire structure needed to be demolished. But this had proved profitable for the local contractors; hence, when the new green technology was introduced the contractors' lobby protested and the then Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayed, halted the work in 2005. As a result of it, the Shrine Board approached the High Court which gave a stay order and the work continued.
It's noteworthy that during the while that the Secretary, Tourism was acting as the CEO of the Shrine Board, all the toilets and camping facilities were constructed on government land and nobody objected. It was only when the bribe channels were stopped for the politicians' protégés that they objected to government land being used for pilgrims. Hence, after the stay was obtained from the High Court, the Shrine Board asked the state government in 2005 to regularise use of government land by formally transferring a few plots of land to the board en route to the Amarnath shrine. It took three years to take a decision and finally on May 26 this year, the state cabinet passed a proposal diverting (not selling or leasing) 38 hectares of land near Baltal to the Shrine Board on a temporary basis at a cost of Rs 2.5 crore. The Minister of Forest, under whose jurisdiction the land was diverted for the Shrine Board's use, was a member of the PDP headed by Mufti.
After the order was signed, word spread that a huge amount of land had been given to Hindus and now they would come and outnumber Muslims. It's a plot against Kashmiri Muslims, it was argued. An anarchical agitation began with Mufti, the Hurriyat and Omar Abdullah uniting to deprive Hindu pilgrims a camping facility.
They needed to support their false presumptions and Arun Kumar's press briefing was used for this purpose by communalising his innocuous statement regarding environment and Hindu-Muslim solidarity. Kumar's entire press briefing is audio recorded and though he has been suspended and an inquiry instituted, nothing can be proved against him. In fact he is being punished for providing pilgrims better facilities.
This is the genesis of the whole issue.
The same government has given hundreds of acres of land to Baba Gulam Shah Badshah University in Rajouri and to the Islamic University in Pampore. None objected. The all-encompassing nature of Hindus is taken for granted as is their timidity.
You can tell the facts to those who would like to consider them and not to those who play petty communal politics. Governor Vohra acted on the advice of North Block and not only took back the letter for land allotment on behalf of the Shrine Board without taking board members into confidence, but also gave the charge of providing facilities to the pilgrims back to the state tourism department, which means the same murky business flowering again. With the Shrine Board having no CEO at present, since Kumar's suspension hasn't been revoked, yatra arrangements are in limbo. The Governor's secretary, who has a hundred other tasks, has been asked to take care of the yatra.
Hindus have never been treated so contemptuously as is being done under the UPA dispensation. Kashmir is the land of Shiva, the greatest place of the Shaivite school of Hindu dharma. At every mile there was a Shiva temple, but most Hindu temples have been razed in the valley during the Islamic Jihad. More than 70 lakh pilgrims visit Vaishno Devi and Amarnath every year and contribute enormously to the economy of the state. Yet, Hindus have always been looked down upon and driven out of their homes and hearth. This is the Kashmiriyat of the valley's politicians and patriotism of their protectors in Delhi. The Kashmiri leaders, so possessive about a hundred acres, never raise their voice to take back 78,114 sq km of Jammu and Kashmir under the illegal possession of Pakistan. Thousands of square km of land to Pakistan can be tolerated, but "not an inch" to Hindus.
It was the political expediency of the communally "secular" leaders that created the land row, but now the agitation has gone beyond the land issue becoming a symbol of the struggle to ensure India's return to the valley. The un-Indian elements have to be defeated so that the honour of the Triclour can be protected in our land. The only fear is that the politicians of Delhi may compromise, betraying the cause of the people anytime.
This is the time when a complete abolition of all those acts which segregate the valley from rest of the country are being demanded, including the obnoxious Article 370, and a grand plan to have patriots shifted from various parts of the country to Kashmir valley is implemented, with priority given to soldiers who have served in the area.
Jammu's agitation to reclaim India in J&K has to be supported by every patriotic Indian. It's a pain of Indian nationhood and not just of the Jammu region. Failing this movement will fail India.
The author is the Director, Dr Syamaprasad Mookerjee Research Foundation.
-- 6 August 2008, The Times of India.