Published On: Mon, Jan 30th, 2012

Left at God’s Mercy

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Kashmiri ChildrenDr. Syed Nazir Gilani,
Secretary General – JKCHR.

Every conscientious human being living should join in and enhance the constituency of their strength in pressing their just demands and constitutionally guaranteed rights.

A pro bono publico story done by Sameer Showkin Lone in Rising Kashmir on the living conditions of inhabitants of village Astan Marg, Dhara has all the ingredients to institute a public interest grievance against the Government for having failed in its Constitutional duty to the people of the village.

Public office holders in particular the Governor and the Chief Minister in Jammu and Kashmir have failed the people and the children of Astan Marg, Dhara a village not more than 25 kilometers from the City centre Lal Chowk in their Constitutional duty for the last 55 years and 2 months. Governor takes oath to devote himself “to the service and wellbeing of the State” and the Chief Minister takes oath to “do right to all manner of people in accordance with the Constitution and the law, without fear or favour, affection or ill-will”.

The local population of around 400 people lives a life which makes them outcasts for the guarantees provided in the Constitution. They have been left at God’s mercy. The only educational institute in the village is a Government Primary School where 100 students are enrolled with just two teachers. When the students reach the 5th standard in this school they quit studies and take to cattle rearing. The absence of transport facility has prompted most of the students to quit their studies.

It is a shame that in this day and age, even other people living in and around Lal Chowk just 25 kilometres from Astan Marg village have failed to discover this village forced to live a primitive life under inhuman conditions. The State for the last 55 years and 2 months (since the adoption of Constitution on 17 November 1956) has continued to fail to serve the children of this village as required under article 21 of the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir.

Under article 21 of the Constitution The State shall strive to secure:

(a) to all children the right to happy childhood with adequate medical care and attention and

(b) to all children and youth equal opportunities in education and employment, protection against exploitation and against moral or material abandonment.

We should not only voice the plight of these people but should at the same time encourage the democratic instinct of the inhabitants of this village. The aggrieved villagers staged a demonstration last week and threatened that if water supply, electricity and other basic facilities were not made available to the area within a week they would take to protests. They have announced that “We along with our children, cattle and other belongings will assemble in Lal Chowk till our demands are not looked into.” Every conscientious human being living within the vicinity should join in and enhance the constituency of their strength in pressing their just demands and constitutionally guaranteed rights.

The inhabitants of this village mostly Gujjars and Bakerwal are engaged in cattle rearing. They have to walk five kilometres on foot to fetch water from a pond. It is a daily routine for them to carry some 50 buckets of water on their shoulders to feed buffaloes and other animals. Electricity is a dream for Astan Marg and the village is yet to be electrified.
As a ritual the authorities have put up electric poles and laid wire several years ago, but a transformer has yet to be installed.

I am sure that there would be one or more God fearing and kind hearted Kashmiri who could arrange a generator for the village. Men, women and children would not have to wait till the implementation of UN resolutions or the start of a dialogue of our leaders with India and Pakistan. Self-help is an order of the present day social life. We need to step in.

Our women (short listed) used to paid air travel and hospitality in India, Pakistan and outside Kashmir to highlight the plight of Kashmiri women, should take time off from their high profile interest and visit Fahmeeda Kohli, a housewife in the village. She will be a model case in understanding the real life of real people just 25 kilometers from the City centre Lal Chowk. Fahmeeda Kohli has to carry water for animals from dawn to dusk. She says “I have to fetch water from a pond which is five kilometers away from my home. I walk this distance to and fro numerous times a day to collect adequate water. It is injustice and gives an impression that our rulers are blind.”

There are no transport facilities. It has added to the list of sufferings of people. A narrow kaccha path serves as road for the village. Villagers have to carry pregnant women on shoulders on their way to hospital. And if it rains a little they are not able to walk over the path and it embeds a serious risk to life. The village and its inhabitants have been left at God’s mercy.

Although the Governor on the occasion of India’s 63rd Republic Day has said that police, central police organizations and Army have continued to brave all odds to safeguard the territorial integrity of the State, he has to understand that the ‘integrity of a person’ in this case 400 inhabitants of village Astan Marg takes precedence over the territorial integrity of the State.

State Governor has said that the average annual growth rate and the year to year growth in tax collections have shown positive trends in the past four years. The level of capital expenditure has also been progressively increasing and is of about Rs. 8,000 crore during the current financial year. It may be so but it seems that the constituency of social and political benefit has remained reserved for an elite living in cities.

In a State where people have high ambitions of realizing as equal people the right of self-determination, black spots of social injustice and inequality as seen in the village Astan Marg, Dhara are a shame. It is an aggravated shame that this village and its very small population has not appeared on the radar of interest of the Government, Hurriyat leadership, civil society and Kashmiri press.

One would like to know the names of leaders who have been pocketing trust of the voters of this village from 17 November 1956 for the last 55 years and 2 months and getting away without a blemish for their willful breach of trust in the discharge of their public office. Those leaders who have been trusted by the common man and woman and are still alive have accrued a civil liability and owe reparation to these people to compensate them for their loss. A pro bono publico grievance needs to be instituted against the elected representatives and the government for failing to serve these people in accordance with their oath and the guarantees given in the Constitution.

Author is London based Secretary General of JKCHR – NGO in Special Consultative Status with the United Nations and can be mailed at dr-nazirgilani@jkchr.com


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