Archive for October, 2007

afzal the victim in the hands of media

Posted: October 17, 2007 in justice

supreme court’s verdict to give death sentence to Afzal Guru, the prime accused in the parliament attack, has triggered a nation wide debate. There are people who want him to be hanged. For them, Afzal is the tip of the ice berg of threat to the secutrity of the whole nation. on the other hand, there are human rights activists who argue that the procedure of trail and inquiry was mamipulated. There are also third category of people who are against capital punishment. The parliament was attacked on Dec.13, 2001. Incidently, the attack came at a time when parliament was in turmoil over issues like the coffin case and the passing of Prevention of Terrorism act(POTA) bill. Delhi police special cell completed its entire investigation in a record time of one week and quickly arrested four people-three kashmiri men and a sikh woman for helping the attackers. It was the first case booked under POTA. Human rights activists who raised doubts about the procedure of the inquiry sais that this case is indication of the purpose for which this draconian law was created.
At that time when the attack occured, S,A.R Geelani, a proffessor of the Arabic in the Zakir Hussain college, University of Delhi, was arrested within less than 24 hours of the incident. Police labeled him as the prime conspirator in the attack and also compiled a twenty five thousand page report within a week. POTA trial court had found all the five suspects guilty and given death penalty to them. Meanwhile, the All India Defense committee, formed by social activists like Nandita Haskar and Arundhati Roy filed an appeal in the Delhi High court. Finally Geelani was acquitted. This judgement was a big blow for the POTA trial court and the Delhi police. The delhi police filed an appeal in Supreme Court, which finally led to the death sentence in the case of Afzal. In a letter that Afzal wrote wrote ro his council Susheel Kumar from Tihar jail, he said that he had not been allowed to speak out in the court and was not provided any leghal support from the government. He also mentioned that he was forced by the police to confess the crime in front of hundereds of media persons. It is sad in a country like India, which is proud of its democratic values and ethos, a debatable report should be used as the basis of the death sentence. It is also worthwhile to mention here that many countries across the world have already banned the capital punishment, pre-modren law. If Afzal is hanged without giving him a last chance to tender his version, it would be a disgrace to the democratic values of the country.


Horse-drawn-cart or locally called tonga, the traditional vehicles are dwindling like the traditions and customs of valley itself. Spaces reserved for them across the towns and cities in Kashmir are invariably shrinking in the valley of Kashmir.
From dawn to dusk these Tongawallas used to move, look for passengers and drop them to their destination. But due to advancement of technology and the concept of global village these historical environment friendly have been slowly and steadily replaced by other means of transport like passenger buses, multi utility vehicles and are on the path of extinction.
One of such historical Addas even today can be seen in southern part of valley, Anantnag, commonly known as Mattan Tonga Adda. This Adda is having the history from Maharajas and was established 93 years ago. But today the chronicle has drastically changed as one can see by the condition of the Adda and Tongawallas in the Adda. The Tongas are no more thought to be historical but are only considered as liability as police always find these strange vehicles comical and mere root of traffic problem.
The Tongawallas are blamed for everything, they are held responsible for any kind of nuisance in the traffic. Tongawallas are dominated by the structures of domination like traffic rules and their life has become a tragedy. Though they are hardly managing to hire Tongas which cost them around 50,000muncipal corporation of the area always treat them as low class people without identity.
Ghulam Nabi Peer, 70 year old, in the profession from last 45 years, who manages to feed 7 members depending on Tonga say’s “Police are always unsympathetic towards us, they rarely respect us as our profession they think is not relevant in modern era. We are being ill treated and totally discriminated against”.
Government initiatives have completely failed in providing better life and livelihood to them. The Adda comprises an area of around 1 kanal in which nearly 50 Tongas are accommodated. Many of the times Govt. has tried to relinquish these Tongawallas from the area even though Tongawallas claim that it is their own property, property of their ancestors. But being illiterate and having no proof of their property against written word of Govt. they are in despondent and desperate condition, as obviously their oral culture can’t challenge the written word.
“Governments of different times promised us several times to provide passenger autos for every two persons but they completely failed in doing so” remarks Ghulam Mohi-uddin, which runs 15 member family having Tonga only source of income.
In this cosmopolitan world and bollywoodization of new generation in the valley, the profession of generations has turned to fade and has largely become matter of social status. The young generation are unwilling to take the profession as the profession itself is considered mediocre by this bollywoodized generation.
Showkat Ahmad, in the profession from last 15 years Says “Pulling carts is like insult these days as people as well as people are mediating otherness to us and our children don’t want to be looked as Tongawallas like their fathers”.
Most of the Tongawallas in Mattan Tonga Adda are dressed up as sadhus. Even in this attire the army and police often arrest them, when there occurs some incident like firing in the area. They are reduced to refugee status and its impact is direct as people are abstaining from taking this incorrigible profession.
“It is poor people who suffer (marta hai to ghareeb hi marta hai)” remarks Showkat Ahmad Wagay


Bakerwals of Kashmir, Living On The edge.

After spending harsh winter in their hometown Riyasi, nearly 2000 Bakerwals, hailing from Riyasi are sprinkled at 150 different places in district Anantnag in south of Indian Administered Kashmir. Dispersed in small groups, the Bakerwals have pitched their tents in deserted open fields aside of the inhabited villages. Approximately 1000 members of the nomadic tribe have pitched their tents only in areas of Bumthan and Katran Mirbazar, villages located on National Highway.
Carrying hope for better livelihood even after crossing hurdles to reach their destination they are in dilemma by living despondent life due to lack of amenities. Taking them 20 to 25 days, crossing mountains, gorges rivers they have not succeeded in their hope of living better standard of life. Most are poor and lack drinking water, educational opportunities and health care. The local administration and politicians are callous to their needs.
Rearing livestock and cultivating farmlands in highland areas being their profession from generations they have not yet accomplished any development in any sense. Their so-called “destination” has turned ordeal for them. Now for their survival due to failure in the business of cattle rearing they have taken unusual professions like manual scavenging, hard physical labor work to meet the expense of both ends meal. These Bakerwals have numerous narrations’ to tell but accessibility to enlighten their narration has become impossible in this highly fraudulent and bureaucratic regime.
Zubair Ahmad, 47 year old man, leader (sarfirist) of these downhearted Bakerwals in the area whose job is to resolve all types of conflicts for maintaining peace and solidarity among themselves remarks “It is now almost a decade that we are coming to this place but with the passage of time it is getting difficult for us cope with the conditions here due to lack of facilities”.
The subsidies, which earlier used to be given to these subalterns for taking care of their cattle, have been curtailed drastically with the change in governments. Girl child is considered as huge liability in their families. Their educational rights are deprived from them because of the patriarchy existing in the community. It has become secondary question for these girls to assert their rights for education as right to live has been negated by social constructions prevailing in the community.
Educating male child is the only hope these Bakerwals have to live respectable life in future.
“I want make my child Abdul Satar a “big” officer despite the difficulties that will come in raising him” says Mewa Jaan.
Mumtaz Ahmad pursuing his bachelors degree in government college Khanabal says “It is tradition from decades to marginalise Bakerwals and instrumentalising Bakerwals by politicians in elections claiming pseudo upliftment of the Bakerwals has become common phenomenon”.
In the journey that takes from Riyasi to Anantnag crossing different barriers there is no point of medical facilities available to these Bakerwals.
“If there is any case of pregnancy everything is left to fate (khuda ke hawale)” says Zubair Ahmad.
Lacking accessibility to pure drinking water has led to the deterioration of the health of Bakerwals.
“We have to walk five kilometers to get water for our daily purposes” says Jameel Ahmad 8th class student studying in Akhran.
There is no provision in the government policies to provide them these basic amenities.
Electricity is like alien thing for these Bakerwals. In their five generations they have never seen their tents blanched with electricity. They take their dinner burning flames, which they get from forests.
Zubair Ahmad says “ we have to go to Malwan which is a forest area to get this wood in which we encounter numerous problems like people swear at us”.
They have to sleep before the normal time, as preserving wood is important for them. Their children can’t study at night due to lack of electricity.
These Bakerwals are still happy with the way the people are cooperating with them.
“Still people here are very cooperative and always come to our rescue when we are in melancholy, while comparing to cities where we are being treated as inferior version of human kind” remarks Mumtaz.
They are going to stay in their destination Anantnag for two months and then have to take their route to other destination Pahalgam. While their second destination means more pains to them because of Amarnath Yatri season.
“In Pahalgam we are being seen with suspicious eye and considered as abettors by the security men” says Arshad ahmad the only son of Zubair.