Author: Saadut
•5:09 PM



Ejaz Haider in his opinion piece ‘Some realist advice for Hafiz Sayeed’ raised many a points about conflict, water, Kashmir and India – Pakistan. I am no fan of Hafiz Syeed, nor in any case do I condone his acts but some realism was missed in Mr. Ejaz’s article. 

Mr Ejaz says “The Indus Waters Treaty has worked very well so far”: Worked well form whom? It may be working well for India and Pakistan but can the same be said about Kashmir; people who had the first right of use on these waters, a right which stands deprived for decades now?  

The Indus Water treaty of 1960 gave almost exclusive rights on waters of Punjab rivers Ravi Sutlej & Beas to India and Kashmir waters Chenab, Jhelum & Indus to Pakistan. Even though Jammu and Kashmir was already an internationally recognized dispute between India & Pakistan its waters were traded off by India. Keeping in view the disputed nature of Kashmir, India should have allowed Pakistan its share of the waters of Ravi, Sutluj and Beas instead of handing them over rights over waters from a disputed Kashmir, on which both countries were already staking a claim. Also under International law, Pakistan by virtue of being a lower riparian state had rights to water usage for all the six rivers flowing into its territory (3 of Punjab and 3 of Kashmir), even if we kept the dispute in temporary abeyance. Mother of ironies was that the no Kashmiri leader or representative was involved or taken on board during the IWT (Punjab leaders were however involved), while its waters were being traded off.  Even Shiekh Abdullah (in spite of all his pro India leanings) was in jail when the IWT was being put in place and strongly opposed it then. 

“India wants to deprive Pakistan of its waters”: Such fears are not totally unfounded if we take into account how in 1948 India had stopped water flow to Pakistan resulting in colossal damage to crops there, after which Pakistan was compelled it get into inter-dominion agreement followed by the IWT in 1960.
Since Pakistan was a party to Kashmir dispute, how could it agree to rights over waters of Kashmir in lieu for forfeiting rights over other rivers flowing into it from India?  By signing the IWT did Pakistan legally accept that India had a decision making ownership right over the resources of disputed Kashmir? Since Pakistan signed IWT with India and not Kashmir, does it means Pakistan had accepted India’s claim of ‘Kashmir atoot ang’.

Not only did the IWT dent Pakistan’s claim on this dispute but it infringed upon the rights of Kashmiri’s over their waters. Because of the IWT not only has the agrarian economy in Kashmir suffered (IWT prohibits Kashmir from storing water for irrigation or generation) but it has also denied locals proper utilization rights over waters including for navigation (what became Tulbul Navigation Project for India was the Wullar Barrage for Pakistan) and power generation. With an estimated hydro-power potential of 20,000 MW’s of which 16480 MWs have been identified, Kashmir continues to reel under perpetual darkness; its development in a limbo for the past 6 decades. And even of the 2318 MW (14% of potential exploited) the state owns only 758.7 MW’s. The majority of this generation being controlled by Indian firm NHPC, known as ‘The East India Company’ in Kashmir, accused of resources exploitation here.

In a classic case of how Kashmir suffers from both sides, in some cases Pakistan objects to projects in Kashmir resulting in delays and cost overruns (for example Baglihar) in others India comes in way by refusing counter guarantees for projects where J&K government had secured funding from various IFI’s (international financial institutions) (for example Kishenganga). Ironically the Kishenganga project was again later handed over to NHPC, ‘The East India Company’. And this case of electricity deprived darkness stands true for the Pakistan side of Kashmir too, where power generation capacities are huge. There is no denying the fact that Pakistan (by virtue of IWT) is depended on waters flowing from Kashmir for most of its needs. But India & Pakistan water sharing agreements should not be at the cost of Kashmir’s own future.
Pakistan and India may be happy at IWT but that is purely at the cost of robbing Kashmir.
“Disenchantment” Of course nobody advocates that ‘barrel and bomb’ are going to give Kashmiri’s their due, but in a scenario where both India and Pakistan seem in no serious mood to resolve Kashmir, Kashmiri’s can only get pushed to the extreme wall. Having been subject to political and economic deprivation for long, the Kashmir dispute is alive and disenchantment only simmering. 

Lately India and Pakistan have been talking of ‘greater economic cooperation’ to bridge the trust deficit, but how can a core territorial issue be resolved by enhancing trade contacts remains unexplained. Ironically in the name of this ‘greater economic cooperation’, Kashmir has seen how a primitive barter system as ‘cross LOC trade’ was sold to them as a confidence building measure; a CBM that has been part hijacked by non local traders and part by absence of any commerce trading channels (state apathy on both sides). Blindfolded trade looks good on paper; in practice it forces a retreat. 

Talk of ‘People to people channels’ for resolving Kashmir and a limping LOC bus service was offered which faced more firewalls than collaborative efforts to make trans Kashmir travel easy. Thousands of divided Kashmiri families have been in wait for years now to have their papers approved while thousands more applications are still ‘in process’. 
 
Whichever government comes into power in India and Pakistan and whatever place they may accord to this dispute on their priorities, Kashmir will continue to remain the pivotal barometer for gauging India Pakistan relationship. Whatever the circumstances, Kashmiri’s will continue to strive for their genuine political and demographic rights. When both India and Pakistan try to slide Kashmir down their list of priorities (current Pakistan political dispensation having hurt the cause of Kashmir most), it is only people like Hafiz Syeed who will grab centre stage. 

Blame it on the indifference of political powers on both sides about Kashmir, not on the interest of Hafiz Syeed in Kashmir.




Srinagar
8th August, 2012 



Author: Saadut
•6:37 PM


The Public Safety Act (PSA), a ‘Lawless Law’, has been accused to have been used by the Jammu and Kashmir government for holding thousands of people in jail without charge or trial.
As per an Amnesty International report “Estimates of the number detained under the PSA over the past two decades range from 8,000-20,000, with around 322 reportedly held from January to September 2010 alone”

PSA allowing for detention of up to two years without trial for any individual has been used without prejudice in Kashmir to ‘reportedly’ prevent individuals from “acting in any manner prejudicial to the security of the state or the maintenance of public order.” More often than not, detention orders for the detainees under PSA were renewed at the end of the expiry or release order date. Like a recirculation policy, a new PSA arrest warrant could be issued immediately after the expiry of the earlier detention period, restarting the period of detention without trial for that individual. This repetitive process gives detainees minimal chance to seek recourse to justice or contest allegations against them. This policy of repeated detentions of PSA detainees acts like a ‘rotating door’, the process of slapping this act continuing in circles. 

PSA was originally put in place by late Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah in 1978 and the very first victim of this act became Ghulam Nabi (then president of Kashmir Motor Drivers Association) who had ‘dared’ to contest against Shiekh in the 1977 elections on a Janata Party ticket. Whatever the act may have aimed on paper, it was seen to be used for political vendetta. 

One major amendment on the PSA was done by Governor Jagmohan in 1990, ensuring that the detainees booked under this Act could be lodged in any jail in India. Earlier PSA detainees could be located within the state, now this amendment ensured that their address and whereabouts were lost to the huge distances of India; distances which the poor of Kashmir would not be able to cover easily.

The application of PSA has not always been limited to the Kashmir conflict but to political preferences. Earlier claimed to have been aimed against timber smugglers, it was used against one and sundry in Kashmir. In the aftermath of the insurgency, its application drew a wider net; from political dissent, opposition and in silencing common voices. The act was even misused against juveniles in Kashmir; 10th class kids were reported to have been detained first on eve teasing and then charges modified to ‘stone pelting’. Parents claimed that their kids had been held because they could not cough enough money towards policemen for securing their release.  

The rampant abuse of PSA also takes place because it offers impunity to officers who wield it wrongly (Section 22 of the PSA offers protection to erring officers from prosecution).
For many years now militancy in Kashmir has declined to negligible levels and although the incidents of insurgency related violence have come down drastically, application of PSA has not seen any change. Not only is the act seen as applied in wholesale to curb voices but also to assert power of authority, often criticized by legal experts for having been blatantly misused by governments to silence political opposition and exert an iron fist on commoners. Even mainstream opposition parties in Kashmir have been voicing concern about the misuse of this draconian act and asking for its repeal along with AFSPA.

For quite some time now the political dispensation in J&K has been creating an halfhearted rhetoric about AFSPA revocation ; rhetoric because except for the odd occasional statements about revocation there is nothing they seem to doing about it. But even if we were to take their statements about AFSPA seriously (the stress is on ‘Even If’), their silence on an equally draconian law PSA remains unexplained ; remember PSA was not only enacted by their party when in power but also has been as brazenly misused as AFSPA. In fact PSA and AFSPA seem to complement each other; one destroys lives by killing the soul of detainees, the other destroys lives by killing them bodily. And in both acts enough cover and immunity is available to make it a jungle law applied at will. AFSPA kills and dumps the victim under a mound of earth; PSA detains and dumps the victim to obscurity, trampling his life to forced erasure. What difference? If the political dispensation in power was genuinely serious about easing the pain of commoners it would have not only created genuine effort for AFSPA revocation but would have done away with PSA immediately, revocation of which was within its own domain only.

Facing huge criticism against the act, in April this year Jammu and Kashmir government made some amendments to Public Safety Act (PSA). Under these amendments the minimum period of detention under PSA has been reduced to six months from two years and no persons below the age of 18 years can be detained under this law. 

But such amendments have fallen flat in face of criticism that the law is often recycled on people. While the duration of detention period has been decreased, the act can be (and has been) re-slapped on detainees making this an unending cycle of detention for them. Even the clause of ‘not below 18 years of age’ has been often reported to have been misused by authorities. Amnesty International in its report pointed out towards detention of kids below the age of 18 under this law and these juveniles being lodged in adult jails (see page 23). PSA being used arbitrarily in Kashmir against all age groups, a human rights group pointed that ‘large, yet unknown, number of children have been detained under the PSA’.

Those who cry foul about AFSPA for political considerations hide the damage PSA had done to Kashmir; the silent killer that PSA has been used as. If the political dispensation has been blaming New Delhi for the pain and grief that AFSPA caused in Kashmir, whom do they have to blame for the unending, silent hurt and torment that PSA has caused here?

But then guess AFSPA is convenient political rhetoric for them, PSA is not.




Srinagar
7th August, 2012