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Mainstream, VOL LIX No 26, New Delhi, June 12, 2021

Letter to Shri Manoj Sinha, Lt Governor Jammu and Kashmir | Gull Mohammad Wani

Saturday 12 June 2021

by Gull Mohammad Wani

I understand that there is no iron curtain between you and those who would like to visit you and share their ideas about the prevailing situation in Jammu and Kashmir. Somehow I thought to reach you through this letter at a time when you are invested with a heavy responsibility as head of the state. Frankly, I got emboldened by the recent remarks of Prime Minister Mr Modi asking for active engagement of civil society in coping with the pandemic. In fact the empowered ’Group of Secretaries’ has also identified the role of civil society in present times. I am writing this letter when we are in despair because we realize that governments have limitations. In Jammu and Kashmir, there is only an administrative apparatus headed by you and therefore problems of the people have multiplied. The pandemic has created havoc with life, liberty, and livelihood of the people. We were at one time assured of less government and more governance. What has happened is that there is more government and less governance. Mahabharta notes ’’when Bhishmapitamah was once asked does a ruler make the times or do the times make a ruler. He said a ruler makes the times". The people in Jammu and Kashmir are labouring under many hardships which have phenomenally expanded from crackdown (after 2019) to lockdown (after 2020). Two former political scientists Lloyd and Susanne Rudolph had described the Indian state as ’weak-strong’. It is strong when it wants to be. It is weak in poor implementation of policies and in its capability at lower level administration. It is weak for the lack of accountability of officials as well. After 2019 changes old is dead and the new is yet to born. The great Greek political thinker Aristotle wrote that "the state exists for the sake of a good life, not for the sake of life alone". At one time people had at least certain mediatory institutions in the shape of ’Information commission’, ’Human Rights commission’ etc to agitate public issues but now even those channels are closed. When the ration supplied to the poor under ’Gareeb Kalyan Yojna’ is looted what should people watching it do. At one time in history, it was thought that the market is a good servant and a bad master. Today the market is the master. When elected DDC, members are caged and cannot go to people who shall listen to the electors. Human beings are dialogic beings. We speak to our inner self when we are confronted by big and small problems. We very often enter into conversation with ourselves. The ’Mahabharata’ notes "when a crime occurs, half the punishment goes to the guilty, a quarter to his allay, and another quarter falls to those who remain silent". It is only to escape from the criminality of silence that I thought to bring to your notice the following points:

1. Revive Mediating Institutions in Jammu and Kashmir. Historically society is stronger than the state in South Asia. Be it the 2005 earthquake or 2014 floods volunteers played more active role than state institutions. People in all parts of India more often depend upon local solidarities for their problems. It is in nobody’s, interest to weaken these societal institutions which in contemporary parlance are called civil society organizations. It was with great difficulty and with due support from public-spirited people from different parts of India that civil society groups, NGO’s, etc were established post-1990 in Kashmir. Even the state managers were at the forefront of this endeavor. Over the years all these have virtually disappeared. Holders of political /administrative power are bent upon securing a monopoly over power and in the process have abolished mediatory structures viz rule of law, independent media, civil society groups, Information commission etc. It is tragic how people are searching for vaccine, ventilators, voices of wisdom. Encourage "Coming together" which may prove more useful for the state as well. There are kind-hearted people available on the ground to spread out their healing hands. These civil society organizations do not charge for their services. We have seen students and Gurdawaras coming out to reduce the misery of the people. There is fear psychosis perpetuated over the years and initiatives are not being taken. We need to underline that fear is inimical to nation-building process. Lant Pritchett of Harvard Kennedy School calls India a ’flailing state’ and claims that its crisis of governance is one of the world’s ten biggest problems’. Dissent is born the very moment state institutions and practices are unable to accommodate non-conformity. Recently a group of concerned citizens led by Yashwant Sinha also pleaded for reviving the civil society groups so that voices of the people are raised and heard. Saint Kabir Das said ’keep your critics close to you /build them a cottage in your backyard".

2. The state needs to transfer monthly cash of Rs 3000 in the bank accounts of unemployed, orphans, widows, and other marginalized sections of society. Further reasonable financial support to those suffering from life-consuming diseases. These patients are fighting a million mutinies under the shadow of Covid 19. By this, we shall only be localizing the development which is an identified sustainable development goal.

3. Remove FRCA restrictions imposed on NGO’s having a credible and visible record of public service,

4. Ensure free universal vaccination to all citizens and people temporarily living in J&K. There are people who for some reasons do not possess any proof of identification or are working as domestic help need also to be vaccinated,

5. Extension of free ration under PDS beyond May-June 2021 to avoid starvation deaths.

The administration headed by you must also prepare itself for the fallout of the pandemic. Society has already seen different convulsions and the youth have become the victims of circumstances. The last chairman of the State human rights commission publicly stated in one of my academic meetings that around two lakh youth are drug addicts and at least one such youth had spent 65 lakh rupees by stealing the gold ornaments of his mother and sister. We request you to create an administrative culture through which ideas that can emerge from people who have their feet on the ground can be appreciated and put into implementation. The road infrastructure is in shambles everywhere. Srinagar is a lost city. According to a reputed political psychologist Asish Nandy, a lost city is ’one whose life you remember but not its death’. The administrative personnel working at the block and district levels must be part of the change they want to see in Jammu and Kashmir. The management Gurus tell us that there is always opportunity in adversity. That we have to do more with less. Countries face scarcity on a grand scale and across the board and hence we have to be masters of frugality and learn the art of doing more with less. That we need to think and act flexibly and always keep things simple. We should be future-ready as far as education-related problems are concerned. According to one estimate, India could be late by fifty years in achieving educational goals. Our neighbors in East Asia have invested in social capital and moved ahead in economic transformation.

It is important that civil society groups, NGOs, Mohala committees, and other such mechanisms are made stakeholders in the governance. A former New York governor coined the phrase" campaign in poetry and governance in prose" which only means that seductive promises during elections and duplicity of governance is simply not affordable. We must not fear daylight as it always illuminates the world. A great thinker reminded us that ’you are not responsible for the past but in so far as you do nothing you are complicit in the present created by it’.

yours sincerely,

Prof Gull Mohammad Wani
Kashmir University Srinagar

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