The tool of new destabilization
Dr Ajay Chrungoo
On Feb 18, a local newspaper in Jammu reported that the officer in charge of the Relief Organisation as well as a joint venture firm M/S Mytas Rithwik were booked by the State Vigilance Organisation for causing wrongful loss of over two crores of rupees to the State exchequer. According to the FIR, the concerned officer had made payment of Service tax out of the government exchequer from the Relief Commissioner’s office. The amount was actually required to be deducted from the running bills of the firm Mytas Rithwik submitted in the office of Relief Commissioner as per the newspaper reports. The vigilance probe forced the government to transfer the Relief Commissioner. There is more to this sordid drama than the allegations of sleaze and corruption in the relief department. Not only swindling of money for the beneficiaries in the political class and the administration, but a politics which is demeaning to the victims of religious cleansing and also brazenly coercive to force them to toe the government line is vividly manifest.
The Ministry, under which the relief organisation handling the affairs of relief and rehabilitation of internally displaced Kashmiri Hindus falls, had till recently tried to hush up the matters. When the dwellers of Jagati Camp came to the streets to highlight the substandard and unsafe construction work as also the mismanagement and corruption in the affairs of the Camp by the Relief Organisation they received threats of intimidation from those whom the camp residents recognize as the henchmen of the relief department. To counter the growing public outcry the employees of the Relief Department went on a strike urging the government to insulate them from the public outrage which they saw as interference in their functioning. The Cabinet Minister, who for weeks together did not pay any heed to the agitation in the camps, intervened personally to make the employees of the Relief Organisation to call of their strike. Almost everyone suspected the strike by the employees of the Relief Department of having been a mock one organized at the behest of the corrupt officials who were seething under anger against the agitating camp residents and sought assurances of the continued confidence of the Minister in them. The Minister promptly proclaimed his unflinching confidence in the integrity and capability the Relief Commissioner and the employees of the department. He assured the striking employees of his intention to persist with services of the Relief Commissioner whom the public blamed of being responsible in allowing corruption cartels in the Relief commissioner’s office to flourish.
The special interest of those at the helms in the concerned ministry to persist with and encourage such elements within the Relief Organisation whom the displaced deemed to be corrupt seems to emanate from not only the mutual interest but also a vicious politics. The Relief Organization over the years has been converted almost into a political department of the state government. Through selective favors and share in the sleaze it has propped up individuals who are given the respectability of being leaders of the displaced community. The prime role assigned to this fake leadership is to manage and modulate the opinion of the internally displaced community.
The magnitude of corruption can be gauged from the cursory assessment of how the encampment in Jagati was build. Entire steel used in the construction of quarters in Jagati has been sub standard including the steel used in the basic structure. The wood used in the construction is sub standard. Every other day reports appear in the local media about the falling of the plaster of the construction. Sanitary pits are substandard and the whole camp smells of shit during the summer. Sewerage disposal plant which is incumbent to be built for such a large dwelling place has not been built. Experts in civil construction privately say that money not less than 200 crores out of a project of 400 crores has been drained out. With such huge sums of sleaze available corruption incentives and pressures are generated on everybody down the line. Looking after a pliable flock of self serving leaders in such a scenario is not a big deal. Corrupt cartels in government feed themselves and also the fifth column within Kashmiri Hindus which can do its bidding.
The political management of the issues pertaining to displaced Kashmiri Hindus has become critical to both the Congress as well as National Conference running the coalition government in the state. Congress Party for quite some time has been almost unilaterally seeking to come to a compromise with Pakistan and the separatist regimes in Jammu and Kashmir. Sensing this National Conference has been prodding, pushing and planning to make Government of India to retreat a step or two and reap the political benefits. Kashmiri Hindus are being seen as the spoilers of this dangerous convergence. Their constant refusal to legitimize any process which denies their genocide and helps in the retreat of India from the state is being sought to be neutralized. Relief Organisation in recent times has been made to play a more proactive role to ensure this.
The state government seems to be in fact creating a network of vicious vested interests around Kashmiri Hindus in the state which can act as collaborators in the bigger political game. The dynamics of these vested interests has come to the fore in recent times. The case of the encroachment of the beautiful Hindu shrine at Nagdandi in Anantnag district of Kashmir valley is a vivid example of the nature of these vested interests. . The state government has built a children’s park and a community hall within the premises of the shrine to be used by all in violation of the religious and spiritual sanctity of the place. This has been done in connivance of the manager of the Ashram who happens to be a non state subject. As per information available through RTIs, the state government has allowed and encouraged these encroachments on the verbal instructions of no less a person than the patriarch of National Conference Dr Faroq Abdullah. The manager of the Ashram, without whose indulgence this could not have been possible, has views on the displacement of Kashmiri Hindus no different than the communal separatist establishment. He is publicly as abusive and contemptuous of Kashmiri Pandits as any radical fundamentalist organization of Kashmir valley and can form an excellent cog in the wheel of the fifth column which government is more than eager to create.
The case of happenings in the Hindu Education Society which owns the famous Gandhi Memorial College in Srinagar is another vivid example. Its present President claims himself to be a National Conference worker. Hindu Education society has purchased 200 kanals of land in Bern, Jammu for which money has been paid. The possession of the land has not been taken over even till now more than a few years after its purchase. As per reports around 45lakhs has been paid over and above the price apparently for effecting the mutation of the land which in any case should not have been more than 40,000 rupees. The President of the society has also been trying to change the clauses in constitution of the Hindu Education Society so that Omar Abdullah, the present Chief Minister of the state, can be made as the Chairman of the Society. This as per the advocates of the proposal may facilitate the government help for the Hindu Education Society. The management has also dithered in going for the contempt proceedings after two favorable judgments by the Court were not implemented by the government. As per insiders the present management does not want to take over the control of the Gandhi Memorial College Srinagar for the fear of displeasing the present National Conference establishment which is in favor of the take over of the management of the college. The members of the management under cloud for swindling the money of the Hindu Education society also support the bartering out the property of the society in the valley to the government. They are also very active supporters of the government line on return. Corrupt practices, government patronage, and vicious coercive politics can be seen brazenly in this unfolding story.
The Hindu employees who have joined the new jobs told this author that they would like to testify before the highest in the Government of India about what they are experiencing and why it is crucial to shift them to Jammu. In an atmosphere of intimidation it is extremely difficult to share the facts in the valley with even ones kith and kin. The Muslims living in valley have experienced it in ample measure. Now the new returnees Hindus are experiencing it. While the quotient of freedom of expression was the first causality in the valley after terrorist violence reared its head, there was perceptible freedom in Jammu. Even in the displaced camps people could speak fearlessly about their problems and against their own government. But not after the Relief Organization was assigned the political task of taming the Kashmiri Hindus in the camps. The demise of freedom of expression in the camps is perceptible. People do not speak freely for the fear of retribution that their relief be stopped under one pretext or the other. When the Jagati Tenement Committee gave a call during the day time to protest against the Relief Organization only scores of hard core activists participated in it. But when they gave the call of a candle light demonstration during the evening hours hundreds of camp dwellers participated in it. In the evening it was difficult to recognize faces and hence easy to demonstrate.
The incidents elucidated here are not unconnected routine incidents which we see in public life quite often these days. These are incidents of hate politics organized around patronage and corruption. From the times of Vajpayee era when the idea of accommodating Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir
started receiving the importance which it never had since the accession of the state with India, neutralizing the Hindu opinion in the state and winning their support for a possible compromise with Pakistan has become more and more critical. Neutralizing Kashmiri Hindus is a crucial cog in this sinister outlook. Hostaging Kashmiri Hindus to the new Muslim Order being created in Jammu and Kashmir is an assignment which not only the Revenue Minister in the state but the whole government seems to be implementing by hook or crook. Organised corruption is a critical political intervention within the Kashmiri Hindu community in creating a fifth column for a new and more sinister destabilization.