Published On: Thu, Jun 19th, 2014

Below Poverty Line and ‘Azadi’

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By Dr. Syed Nazir Gilani –

Pride and prejudice in one or the other form has continued to keep the company of human societies. Over the period it has been manifesting itself in various forms at all levels. The controversy of ‘Arabs’ and ‘Ajami’s’ in particular found itself manifested in long Iran-Iraq war and the respective alliances in the Muslim world that backed it. One can see pride and prejudice distilled in Kashmir in day to day life. The categorization of ‘Shahar’ and ‘Gaam’ and at worse the titles ‘greouse’ and ‘Gujjur’ reserved for people from villages or hilly areas have their sway in local narrative.

A collective sense of pride and prejudice grips one and all to put sheen on the failings of one’s national character and common weaknesses. People of Kashmir living outside the borders of the State tend to reminisce and glorify the merits of their culture, fauna, flora, living and the life as a whole. While highlighting the natural beauty of Jammu and Kashmir in particular J and K, we have without exception continued to err in not examining the fate of the inhabitant as well. As a start the people of Kashmir do not have a reliable habit of keeping their interest in their past. Suhail Ahmad of Rising Kashmir has contributed a wonderful piece titled “Treat past with respect” on this subject.

‘Poverty” and “Helplessness”

One thing that intrigues me about a Kashmiri, poor or rich, he does not bother much about investigating the cause of his poverty and does not have the appetite to be a philanthropist to invest his riches to alleviate the poverty of the other. Both start their day and drag their respective interests in poverty and richness in their own separate tracks. It has come to a point that for the last 22, 23 years we have discussed and held seminars at home and shared platforms abroad on all issues from “Azadi” to Accession but we have yet to organise a seminar to discuss the question of ‘Poverty” and “Helplessness” of people, that has further aggravated during these years.

I was shocked to read that Baramulla and Kupwara very high and hot on political activity in Kashmir are the two poorest districts and majority of the populace have fallen below the poverty line. Muslims, Pandits, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists and others all alike take pride in associating themselves with Baramulla for religious and historical reasons. Baramulla is deservedly decorated in accolades of all kind but how sad that we miss on the core concern, that is, the district living below the poverty line. We forget to admit that history has made us rich but what man has made of man is another untold story.
I am a staunch supporter of symbols of all manner in a human habitat, be it an institution, a person, a place, a book, a household or anything that puts my national pride and prejudice on the map. I have never ever, even when it paid, volunteered to abuse any political symbol of Kashmir. So much so that I risked my contract with Radio Pakistan in 1974/75 and refused to allow a scheduled speech of Sona Ullah Shamim (an ex minister in early 1947 in PaK Government and a noted Kashmiri refugee from Sopore) to be broadcast in the Programme. It was on post Indira-Abdullah Accord of 1974 and full of inappropriate (abusive) language against Sheikh Sahib. I have seen Sheikh Sahib and have joined him in prayers at Dargah on Fridays and other days when he would supervise the construction work at Dargah Hazratbal. These were my days at the University of Jammu and Kashmir (as it was called at that time).

Living below poverty line

It never occurred to me that Sheikh Sahib could be accused of a confirmed intolerant behaviour and more seriously held responsible for torture of his opponents and their forced exile from the State into the other side of Kashmir. The Jamaat-e-Islami people and other non-National Conference political opinions have suffered a lot. People of Kashmir still loved him. He and his family seem to have squandered the treasure of Kashmiri love and trust. National Conference and in particular the Sheikh family does not seem to have lived for the people’s common cause. Politics and people of Kashmir have been treated just like a pack of cards after the evening meal.

If National Conference had a genuine love for the habitat, people and were driven by some kind of national pride and prejudice, the survey report of National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) of the Union Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation that the number of households living below poverty line in Jammu and Kashmir has risen to 4.17 lakhs. Out of these 3.71 lakh households live in rural areas of the state. 45 thousand are living in the urban areas. The poverty rate in the state rose from 9.4 per cent in 2009-10 to 10.35 per cent in 2011-12, mainly due to an increase in the number living below the poverty line (BPL) in rural areas from 8.1 per cent to 11.5 per cent.

Kupwara and Baramulla districts lead in poverty

According to this reports the highest estimated households living below poverty line in the state are recorded in north Kashmir’s Kupwara area followed by Baramulla district. In this day and age if a society or its Government remains at ease with itself when the number of people living below the poverty line has increased from 9.4 per cent to 10.35 per cent heavens would definitely fall at one point. The State seems to be fractured at all levels and every level has to run on its model of roller-skate wheeled on enormous corruption.

Not a normal State

The State is not a normal State like any other State in India or a Province in Pakistan. It is currently run under three administrations and people continue to remain distributed against their choice. On the Indian side, the Government of India  is subject to well documented obligations and responsibilities under the terms of provisional accession and further obligations under UNCIP resolutions when the merits of the provisional accession and Indian application came up for an exhaustive debate at the UN Security Council. UN has outsourced a work scheme to the Government of India to follow in partnership with the J & K Government and in full consultation with the UN Security Council. Government of Pakistan and the other people of Jammu and Kashmir living in PaK and GB have a direct interest in the manner in which the J & K Government and the Government of India discharge these obligations.
Government of India may for its own reasons feel uneasy with its international obligations on Kashmir, but it can’t afford to renege on its Charter duties as a member nation of the UN. It has committed itself before a forum of 195 countries (Pakistan in particular) and has addressed the people of Jammu and Kashmir (inclusive) through UN Security Council assuring them that they had the freedom of three choices. Allowing the Government of India (without conceding the merits of the case) a little more time to make up its mind on her obligations under UN SC Resolutions, one can’t allow any further time to her, for not being able to live up to the four particularised duties set in the terms of Provisional Accession of 26 October 1947.

Kashmiri who wishes to live with India

India at this stage is unable to satisfy even a Kashmiri who wishes to live with India through the exercise of a Plebiscite or otherwise, that she has been able to live up to the four particularised duties that became the basis of its first agreement with the Government of Jammu and Kashmir. Indian Government has no choice but to create conditions in accordance with the outsourced duty under UNCIP Resolutions, so that a Kashmiri (in particular ones who wish to be with India) is able to exercise his or her will in her favour or not.  There are people who would like to pull out of the Provisional Accession and Accede to Pakistan or vote for an Independent Kashmir.  In all the three choices Government of India and the Jammu and Kashmir Government have taken upon to create conditions as set out in UNCIP Resolutions, for a free and fair referendum.

As long as Jammu and Kashmir remains distributed and each area has its own elected Assembly, the J & K Assembly would continue to remain incomplete and non-representative as envisaged by UN SC Resolutions and J & K Constitution itself. Jammu and Kashmir Assembly is elected from only a part of the State and its decisions after 30 March 1951 UN SC Resolution, if at variance with the UN mechanism on Kashmir are not valid. The Indian schools of learned opinion have to be careful in their juristic understanding of the J & K Constitution adopted on 17 November 1956. Decisions taken by an incomplete assembly and after the caution of UN SC Resolution of 30 March 1951 cause an unassailable estoppels for them.

We may be or may be not on a way to “Azadi” at this point but we have a settled case for exercising a choice in this regard. The Government of India has entered into a bilateral agreement with the Government of Jammu and Kashmir, that its forces would “defend the territory”, “protect life, property and honour” of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. How far it has lived up to these expressed terms of the agreement and if or not it has reneged on this. Learned Indian opinion has to move forward and accept that the bilateral agreement between the Government of India and the Government of Jammu and Kashmir, has been placed for the final adjudication of the people through the auspices of the United Nations.

People that remain a subject of interest of 195 countries since January 1948, should not be allowed to fall below the poverty line in 2014.

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