Insight on Kashmir

Exploitation of tourist spots in Azad Kashmir

Exploitation of tourist spots in Azad Kashmir


With the tourist season just around the corner, some of the most frequented and scenic spots in Azad Kashmir are attracting a different kind of attention. Seasonal vendors and operators of roadside establishments have been swarming along roads that lead to picnic spots on the Jhelum and Neelum rivers.

The ride up from Muzaffarabad to Chakothi, Kohala and upper Neelum valley is one of adventure with scenic views of the valleys and high mountains around with raging rivers below. But visitors have been complaining of traffic jams because of narrow passageways.

Makeshift structures and stalls by roadside vendors crop up at every three kilometres along the roads connecting the Jhelum and Neelum valleys. Such encroachments not only violate all road safety rules and building by-laws but also cause traffic congestion when visitors stop at these establishments.

Instead of pristine hillsides, the roads leading to the Jhelum and Neelum rivers are now lined with eyesores of shops and other structures which encroach on road space. The Muzaffarabad Municipal Corporation (MMC) and the Muzaffarabad Development Authority (MDA), however, has failed to take action against these encroachers.

“Half of the Jhelum Valley area falls in the constituency of AJK Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider who often visits the area. But he has never directed the relevant civic bodies to take action against encroachers,” noted a Muzaffarabad resident.

The story is similar along the 32 km-long Kohala road where unregulated construction has been cropping up almost at will. “The encroachers and the people constructing structures along the Jhelum valley and Kohala roads have political backing and support from some powerful tribes who do not care about the law,” claimed an official of the MMC while requesting that his name should not be mentioned. “If we go to take action [against encroachment] we receive instructions from some influential political figures of the region to not to touch the structures. And If we do, then within hours we would be suspended,” the official further stated.

Moreover, the MMC official further claimed that officials of the civic bodies cannot even issue warning letters to any of the encroachers in Muzaffarabad without express permission from the senior government or party officials. “In AJK institutions are employment factories for the ruling elite and some influential tribes.  Whatever they want to do, either legal or illegal, they do it for their personal benefit,” the official of the civic body said.

“Law is for poor in AJK who have no say. If sometimes they need to implement the law they implement it on the voiceless.” Repeated attempts to contact the government of AJK Tourism Minister Mushtaq Minhas were in vain as his phone was non-responsive. Other top government officials also refused to speak on the matter.

The article was first published here in The Express Tribune.

Stone Pelting in Kashmir


Stone throwing on a common enemy is a historic method of showing anger, resistance and revenge. It is similar to stoning,  which is a method of capital punishment. In stoning, a group of people with shared social, cultural or religious ties, throws stones at a person/group until they die. No individual among the stoning group can be identified as the one who kills the subject. This is in contrast to the case of a judicial execution. Slower than other forms of execution, stoning within the context of contemporary modern culture and civilisation is considered a form of execution by torture.Stone-pelting

Stoning is historically associated with ancient societies of Arab and African countries. In ancient times, social renegades were sentenced to death by stoning. In modern times, stone throwing, which is very similar to stoning, but less lethal as it is not used to intentionally kill the enemy but as a ploy to advance the political frustration.  It is a symbolic, highly controversial and criminal action to register protest and resistance against brutal force.

Kashmir region is well-known for its stone pelters. They have coined various terms to describe different actions associated with such protests.  In this region, it is termed as “Kanni Jung”, which means fighting with stones. Whereas,  a stone pelter in Kashmir is called Sangbaaz. Indian newspaper the Hindu claimed that stone pelting is driven by the brutal killings of Kashmiri youth at the hands of forces.Street protest of stone-pelters in Kashmir

Mobs protesting in streets, slogans from mosques and stone pelters in small alleys have been in news for quite a while in the Kashmir valley. The peculiar way of protest is not new for Kashmiris.  In 1930, Maharaja Hari Singh was in London to attend the first round table conference when agitation and protests erupted in Kashmir. Kashmiri leaders Sheikh Abdullah, Chaudhary Ghulam Abbas and Maulavi Abdul Rahim had returned from Aligarh Muslim University after graduating and were spearheading the protests. It is said that it was just after a speech of Sheikh Abdullah, when the very first incidents of stone pelting occurred. To control the situation Sheikh Abdullah was arrested.

On June 21,1931, a muslim youth Abdul Kadir delivered a speech from a mosque in Srinagar and ignited a very violent situation .He was arrested and jailed in Srinagar central jail. On July 13,1931, a large crowd gathered outside the jail demanding his release and turned violent .To control the crowd, police resorted to firing in which 21 protestors were killed. Protests continued unabated.

In recent years, the stone pelting incidents have got prominence in Kashmir from the 2008 Kashmir Unrest in which the freedom movement was completely changed from Gun fighting with forces to the pelting of stones on forces.

After the year 2008, stone pelting incidents in the valley were reported on regular basis, the prominent among them was recorded in 2010 unrest and 2016 unrest, nevertheless minor skirmishes were also reported in those intermediate years. The first few months of 2017 have seen an alarming increase in protests in Kashmir.

Vajpayee policy on Kashmir


The Vajpayee doctrine on Kashmir called for peace, progress and prosperity in the Valley by imbibing the spirit of Insaniyat (Humanity) , Jamhuriyat (Democracy) and Kashmiriyat (Identity of the people of Kashmir).The doctrine was universally acclaimed by all segments across of political spectrum in the state.

Vajpayee’s mantra included resolving all outstanding issues with Pakistan, including that of Kashmir issue in a peaceful manner through bilateral dialogue without any third party intervention.
He carried his message of peace to Pakistan during a bus journey to Lahore on February 19, 1999.
Vajpayee made it a point to visit to Minar-e-Pakistan where he re-affirmed India’s commitment to the existence of Pakistan.
He reached out to the people of Pakistan in a passionate speech at the governor’s house in Lahore telecast live both in Pakistan and India.
Vajpayee extended a hand of friendship on the basis of reciprocity and mutual trust and called for collective fight against poverty in the Indian subcontinent devoid of terrorism and drug-trafficking.

His emotional speech made Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to say: “Vajpayee Saheb, ab to aap Pakistan mein bhi election jeet sakte haein (Mr Vajpayee now you can win elections even in Pakistan).”
Vajpayee also signed a Lahore Declaration with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on February 21, 1999. As part of the declaration, Pakistan agreed to resolve all bilateral issues between the two countries, including the issue of Jammu and Kashmir in a peaceful manner and through dialogue and to promote people to people contact.

The Delhi-Lahore Bus Service Sada-e-Sarhad (Call of the Frontier) was launched as a symbol of the efforts of the Vajpayee government to promote peaceful and friendly relations with Pakistan on the basis of reciprocity.

Vajpayee did now allow the bus service to be terminated even when Pakistan army chief Parvez Musharraf launched an attack in Kargil between May and July, 1999, which the Indian armed forces successfully repulsed forcing the Pakistani army to vacate the occupied hills in the region.
However, the service had to be suspended during the heightened tension between the two neighbours in the aftermath of the Pakistan-ISI sponsored terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament on December 13, 2001. It was restored on July 16, 2003 when Pakistan assured the Indian government as well as the international community that Islamabad would not allow its territory to be used for terrorists’ activities.
All the setbacks to his dialogue initiatives, including Kargil conflict, hijacking of an Indian Airlines plane to Kandhar and terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament, notwithstanding, Vajpayee did not allow the peace process to derail despite serious provocations by the Pakistan army and the ISI.

Urumqi to Skardu via the Silk Road


Insight on Kashmir

Urumqi is the capital of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China. The ancient city of Urumqi was a major hub on the Silk Road during China’s Tang dynasty. The city further developed its reputation as a leading cultural and commercial center during Qing dynasty in 19th Century.China-map-2015-with-Urumqi

With an estimated population of 3.5 million in 2015, Urumqi is the largest city in China’s western interior as well as in Central Asia in terms of the population. There has seen a huge economical development since the 1990s and currently Urumqi serves as a regional transport hub, a cultural, political and commercial centre of gravity.

UrumqiDGuide Urumqi, Xinjian , China

Urumqi is well known among tourists as the last destination on the Silk Road, as it serves main transportation hub in the region and links the north and west Tian Shan mountain regions and Xinjiang region. The city is…

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Going Home


DIY in a Dorm

Hey, you guys! Thanks for stopping by today.

After my flight to Gilgit got cancelled for the 5th time in a row due to bad weather, my friends and I decided to go home by road last summer. Here are some pictures I took that day.

Have fun browsing!

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going-home Pin it for later! ❤

Have a great week!

Sahar

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The culture of change in Azad Kashmir


Azad Kashmir- the area controlled by Pakistan of the disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir- is the smallest part of the state as compared to Gilgit-Baltistan (Pakistan) and Jammu & Kashmir (India). Yet, the extent of multiplicity in religious, political and socio-cultural factors is enormous. Particularly, various contradictory undertones of social, political and religious systems run parallel in the tiny state of Azad Kashmir.

In recent years, people have been struggling to achieve a greater blend of pluralistic, multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-cultural identities. However, all of these underlying movements have faced a resistance stemming from fear of intimidation and a sense of alienation from various sides. For instance, political identity in Azad Kashmir was once considered an offshoot of tribal identity. It is not true now in most parts of the area. People do not necessarily observe a strict political affiliation and change their backing of political parties as and when they feel comfortable with it.

The governing document (Interim Act) of Azad Kashmir government is an all-time favourite topic of discussion.jpg

The governing document (Interim Act) of Azad Kashmir government is a cherished topic of local politicians

The motives behind such change of mind-set are various. A change in people’s economic conditions have also impacted the political and social spectrum. Agriculture based economy of Azad Kashmir has shifted towards a services and remittances- based economy- the education sector being a major employment service sector. The 2012-13 labour force survey of Pakistan suggested that informal services sector accounts for about three-fourth (73.5%) of non-agricultural employment and is currently a main source of income generation in Azad Kashmir.

A street view in Rawalakot Azad Kashmir

A street view in Rawalakot Azad Kashmir

The statistics provided by the government also tally the literacy rate figures on advancement of education compiled by  private organisations. For example, the data by Alif Alan indicated that in 2015 all districts in Azad Kashmir had a high education (literacy) score between 70 and 79. Therefore, the economic gains associated with a highly influential agriculture-based tribal, feudal, exploitative and abusive system have now been surpassed by an increased dependency on the role of personal income generation opportunities, beurocratic hurdles, consumption based economic activity and foreign remittances of thousands of local people employed abroad.

Political landscape is messed up with a plethora of various pressure groups which act as branches of mainstream political parties of Pakistan. They tend to seek advice, guideline and cooperation from their political masters in Pakistan. None of the major political forces in Azad Kashmir which is allowed to participate in elections can be identified as an independent political party that has its roots in the area. The worst kind of social, political and state resistance is faced by those groups who identify themselves as pro-independence.

Big rallies of Pakistan's mainstream political parties in Azad KashmirBig rallies of Pakistan’s mainstream political parties are a common spectacle. Although, a political struggle blended with a militant approach based on religious identity was the prime force behind the creation of the tiny state of Azad Kashmir, the religion was not as forceful in the area in the past as is now. However, the dark side of such advancement of religion is the propagation of an environment of increased intolerance. 

Once identified as a highly harmonious population of followers of Shia and Sunni faiths, the whole region of Azad Kashmir is now a hotchpotch of various offshoots of Islamic identity. However, none of the followers of various sects of Islam can boast now to be in identical ethos of harmony and tolerance.

Similarly, social trends, traditions and rivalries associated with tribal and ethnic identities have also been challenged by a broader and inclusive approach adopted by an aspiring younger generation.

Traditionally, the marriage was preferred within the caste in Azad Kashmir, though, in recent years, a rise in marriages between people of different castes and tribes has been witnessed. Similarly, the socialisation trends in Azad Kashmir four decades ago were influenced by an agriculture and labour-based economy. A culture of manual labour where people would work in farmland, small flour-mills, bakeries etc. is vanishing now.

People tended to interact with each other in a relax environment which was free from coercion and fear of persecution. Despite of a fact that the cultural norms were dependent on local, tribal and ethnic identities, the only reason to interact with each other was a sense of locality and similarity. There is no more such social harmony and tolerance in the society.

In the age of social media, private education and the display of personal affiliations or belongings, people tend to interact on basis of religious, political, tribal and ethnic identities. Most features of social organisation have seen a vivid change in the name of kinship, family, caste, wealth and educational attainments. Various tribes are further grouped into smaller clans.

Kashmir – Beauty’s Abode


Some Faaltugraphy

The place where nature blooms to the most is Kashmir, the heaven on Earth.

Jahangir famously exclaimed  “If there is heaven on earth, it is here, it is here, it is here.”

Snow covered mountains with green velvety grass and the ferocious Neelum River flowing along side chants a spellbinding moment, a dream-like experience.

It all starts from Muzaffarabad, the capital of Azad Jammu & Kashmir, a small beautiful city with a number of tourist attractions and lovely people. It’s the place where 2 rivers, Neelum and Jhelum merge into one.

Next comes Athmuqam which is hardly 70 kms from the capital of Kashmir. It is a small town and from which you can easily see the neighboring country India or vice versa.

Keran:

Small town full of small shops, hotels and colorful camps on amazingly soft bed of grass with river Neelam in its full charm flowing right in front of…

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The Killings in Kashmir: Kavita Krishnan


KAFILA - 10 years of a common journey

Guest Post by KAVITA KRISHNAN

An appeal to the conscience of every Indian citizen – to tune down the shrill media noise for a bit, take a step back from the easy, packaged ‘discourse’ being dished out, and ask try and ask ourselves some uncomfortable but necessary questions. 

I am being asked by various persons in the media to comment on my apparently ‘controversial’ and ‘shocking’ claim that Burhan Wani’s killing was extra-judicial’ and must be probed. Let me begin with a few remarks about this issue.

For most Kashmiris, it may not matter all that much whether or not Burhan Wani was killed in a ‘fake’ encounter or a ‘genuine’ one. What matters is that the Indian State killed him – just as it has killed and is killing so many other Kashmiri youngsters. Their grief, their rage, does not depend on the authenticity or otherwise of the encounter…

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Super Silky Highway of the world. ONE BELT, ONE ROAD Initiative of China


Global Overview

“History repeats itself”- this quote has time and again imposed itself and proved its authenticity throughout the history, sometimes to boon and other times to doom. And it is again showing its buoyant characteristics through the 21st Century SILK ROAD, under One Belt One Road initiative of China.

thinklink source: thinklink.com

History Rewind: Silk road or route was an ancient network of trade routes that was central to cultural interaction for centuries and connected East with West, expanding from Korean region to the Mediterranean Sea. It was the main channel for trading and propagating of ideas, philosophies and religion. The credit of widespread faith in Buddhism also goes to this route only. At times, the route also played its role in population control by spreading diseases.

The name of the road comes from the natural fibre “Silk”, as its trading was most lucrative, only being produced in…

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Mountains, markets, and monasteries: Magical one-day tour of Leh town in Ladakh


Traveling Light

If there was ever a desert I would call magical and otherworldly, that would be Leh, though it does not look like a typical desert, save for its monochromatic browns, especially visible from the plane ride. Perched at approximately 3,500 meters (11,482 meters), this capital of Ladakh in the Northern Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir is surrounded by the magical Himalayas and Karakoram mountain ranges.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Magical Leh town from the plane. (See more aerial photos of Leh and the Himalayas in my Delhi-Leh plane ride post.)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Leh town is  surrounded by the world’s highest mountain range.

After resting on our first day to acclimatize to the high altitude, my travel buddy and I began our Ladakh adventure with a day tour of Leh. Because of the winter weather (Leh has no Internet during winter, but the forecasted temperature we checked online beforehand was between -7 C at night to 10 C…

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