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Pohru: The ‘Abandoned’ Unruly Water

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Pohru the ‘zigzag’ stream flows from the district headquarter Kupwara in Jammu and Kashmir after receiving waters from the Nallah-e-Kahmil, Nallah-e-Lolab, Nallah-e- Bohipora, and Nallah-e- Haihama. It meets Jhelum in Doabgah (Sopore Baramulla) and is one of its main tributaries. The river is known and notorious for its most mischievous and unruly character. Every year during the winter and early spring season once the rain showers pour and inundate, it brings disaster and causes innumerable loss of land and property. The Pohru never remains at peace and shakes its banks by its roars during flood-like situations. It never flows in the same direction and course for two years rather changes its direction and course every year and consumes hundreds of Kanals of paddy land, orchards, and habitable land.  

         The river was once a great source and route of communication and trade, particularly during the pre-partition days, which is evident from many old travel accounts and archival records. Sir Walter Lawerence the author of the famous book, “The Valley of Kashmir”, writes, “…and after passing through the Wular lake the Jhelum receives only one more tributary on its right bank before it reaches Baramula, the Pohru stream which drains the Lolab valley and enters the main river at Dubgam (Doabgah)”. John Ince in his, ‘The Kashmir Hand-Book: A Guide for Visitors’ writes, “Dubgao is a small village on the right bank of the river, and about nine miles, or four hours’ journey above Baramula; there is a large timber depot here, from whence most of the wood for boat-building throughout Kashmir is supplied; it belongs to the Government, and there are three or four bungalows in the fine grove of chenars near it, which are occupied by the agents attached to it… It is one of the routes to the Lolabboats can usually ascend as far as the village of Awatkula when the river is high, and the journey occupies about 20 hours”. Ince further writes, “Awatkoolais a small and half-deserted village on the left bank of the Pohra River, about twenty hours’ journey by boat from the village of Dubgaoat which the Pohrajoins the Jhelamand which is about an hour and a half’s journey by boat below SopoorThis is the easiest and most agreeable route, but can only be adopted when the river is high… The Pohra is about 75 yards wide at its mouth, but varies in depth according to the season; it rises in the mountains on the north-west of the valley, and receives in its course numerous tributaries from the adjacent hills…”

Duke in his account, ‘Guide to Tourists in Kashmir’ writes, “Doabgah forms the depot for all the timber cut on the Lolab Valleys, whence it is floated down the Pohru River, which joins the Jhelum just above it. When the Pohru River is high, it is navigable as far as Awatkoola, about 20 hours’ journey. Immense volume of water passes down the Pohru during floods, holding in check the Jhelum’s flow and causing much flooding above…”

The timber procured from the famous deodar forests of Lolab Valley was flown down this stream and received at the timber depot at Doabgah. From here the timber and fuelwood were taken to the city of Srinagar for local use through boats and some of it was flown to Punjab down the “Vitasta” the Jhelum of today. There the timber was used for railway sleepers and other constructions. John Collett in his account, ‘A Guide for Visitors in Kashmir’ writes, “There is a large quantity of timber here (Lolab), which is brought down the Pohru during the floods in May and June and the rains in July and August; after these months the water falls so low that navigation is impracticable. This timber is used in boat-building and for other purposes…A route to Lolab is up the river Pohru”. C.G. Bruce in his book ‘Peeps at many lands Kashmir’ writes, “The Kishanganga, the Liddar, the Wardwan, the Pehro, and other smaller rivers all empty themselves finally into the Jhelum, which in mighty current carries great logs and planks of timber from the forests, which are cast on its broad bosom, till it finally deposits them on the Forest Department’s beach at the town of Jhelum itself…”.

         Most of the officials, travelers, sportsmen, and other people interested to visit Kupwara and Lolab would travel by boats through this stream up to Awatkula up to which the river was navigable then. Francis Younghusband in his work, ‘Kashmir’, writes, “The Lolab is the western end of the Vale of Kashmir, and is remarkable rather for the homely picturesqueness of its woodland and village beauty than for the grandeur of its scenery. It is usually reached by boat up the Pohru River three miles below Sopur. In two days the limit of navigation at Awatkula is reached. From thence the road leads to Kofwara, eight miles, and Lalpura, the chief place, twelve miles farther. The hill-sides are entirely clothed with thick forests of deodar and pine”. 

         Moreover, the river was famous for its beautiful locale, freshwater, and faunal variety, particularly fish. Lawerence while writing his account on Kashmir and its faunal variety mentions particularly the famous fish diversity of the Pohru river. “I have seen what I believe to be the white mullet of India in the stream at Sopur Nagri on the Karywali of Zyn-i-gyr; but it is most probably found also in the Jhelum… Lastly comes the Ram Gad, or fish of Ramah, which has been already mentioned as being caught at the village of Sopur Nagri”.

         The river feeds many canals like the famous Sultanate period canal, ‘Lalla Kul’ built by Sultan Zain ul Abidin the Bud Shah of Kashmir. Apart from this it also feeds the Band Kul and Doon Wari and irrigates thousands of kanals of agrarian land. Furthermore, it also acts as a source of livelihood and employment for many people like the Hanjis the fish catchers of Kashmir, and the sand and gravel extractors. The river also adds some amount to the state treasury in the shape of royalties on crushers and sand extraction. 

         Many state agencies look after the wellbeing of this river, prominent being the Irrigation department, flood control, geology and mining, soil conservation, ecology, and environment and fisheries. But the river has been ignored and abandoned like a stray animal by all these departments. There is no proper management of this water body and no attention has been given to the illegal encroachments and sand extraction. Every day many JCBs and tractors can be seen looting and scratching the body and belly of this once famous stream. The concerned departments responsible for controlling the illegal and misuse of this river hardly pay any heed to their duty and seem in a deep slumber. The sand mafia has damaged the physique of this river and many deep gorges can be seen dug in and outside the area of this river. Such misuse of the river prompts it to change its direction and course which in turn causes huge damage. 

         There is some unchecked and uncontrolled fishing go on for a couple of years and people across professions and castes and from minors to octogenarians can be seen fishing in this river. This trend upsurges mostly during the April-June months as the flow of fish and water both remain suitable for catching fish. But these months are the breeding months for fish and their uncontrolled catching causes unimaginable damage to the growth and rise of the fish population in this river. Some exemplary and necessary steps need to be taken to control this herd fish catching, otherwise, the river once famous for its fish diversity will remain a matter of history and past. The fisheries department needs to act as it is supposed to. The sale of any materials like chemicals, baits, hooks, and nets, and tools that are not allowed by the law books of the fisheries department to catch fish should be banned within the range of five kilometers of this river or as deemed feasible by the department. 

         Apart from departmental negligence, the river has also seen political victimization. The works started by one government were never preferred to be completed by the other government of which some bridges and embankment projects are living examples. The pillars constructed amid the river were never completed and instead of problem solvers, such projects became a matter of headache for the people living around the river. The pillars constructed barricade and halt the flow of water which forces the river to change its head and tail. Such unnatural shifts in the river’s directions cause huge loss of land and property.

         Other than all these issues, a serious matter of concern is the pollution of this water body. The river is becoming the ultimate trash bin of the people living around it. Every day people particularly women can be seen throwing dirt and garbage into this river. Also, some of the security forces camps, located on its fringes or the suburbs of its tributaries contribute a huge amount of pollution to this river. Many villages are living on the peripheries of this river which drink water from this stream. The people polluting this river not only damage the quality of water and its faunal population but also jeopardize the lives of thousands of people taking water from this water body. Here the departments concerned cannot help as much as the civil society can. The village heads, ulemas, mosque imams, and elderly people can spread the word and inculcate a sense of responsibility and the civic sense among the masses. Help from the religious scriptures can also be taken and from the Islamic point of view pollution and irresponsibility is a sin and the most hated crime. Allah says in Quran, “Blessed is he who hath kept it (water) pure and undone is he who hath corrupted it! (Quran, 91:10-11). Such verses need to be taught to people to educate them about the sanctity of water. The concerned departments like flood control, fisheries and environment need also to do their bit by organising environmental education and awareness programs to spread consciousness among the people about the hazards of pollution, the value of water, and water bodies. 

PhD Research Scholar, Department of History, University of Kashmir, Srinagar

South Asia

The Taliban Finally Granted Permission to the Former President Karzai to leave Afghanistan

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Former President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai. (Express photo by Nirupama Subramanian)

Based on the information, the former president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, was permitted to leave the country. At a time, when online meetings between Sohail Shaheen and American representatives are going on in connection with the start of intra-Afghan talks in Doha, The former president of the country, Hamid Karzai, was allowed to exit the country for the first time after August 15, 2021, when the Taliban took over. Nevertheless, it is not yet known when he will start his overseas trip, but his only purpose is to get preparation for the start of Intra-Afghan talks in Doha and to meet with American officials and foreign Afghan politicians. Since the end of October and the beginning of November, there are reports narrating that telephone calls are being made between President Hamid Karzai, and the US special representative for Afghanistan, Thomas West.

Besides, the persons are preparing for future negotiations, the re-established relationship between the former president Karzai and the CIA took place, when a CIA undercover intelligence officer met Karzai sometimes back, when he represented himself as an International media reporter. Sources suspect that the undercover agent interviewed the president under the auspices of a well-known German based Der Spiegel Magazine.

According to the information, former President Hamid Karzai will fly to Germany, while meeting with the CIA officials at the US Ramstein Air Base in Germany. Meantime, the former President Hamid Karzai will meet with some high-ranking officials of Germany and then have separate meetings with Western politicians and intelligence officers. Furthermore, after that, President Hamid Karzai will meet with the American ambassador to lay out the strategy for the potential negotiations.

 Currently, there is a lot of confusion in the Mandigak palace in Kandahar province, where Taliban Spiritual leader and the decision making hub located and it is said that there have been serious discrepancies  regarding allowing him to go abroad. However, Sheikh Haibatullah’s position is still neutral about his exit, while negotiating with his advisors to make a final decision in the upcoming days.

Nonetheless, there are no other specific differences regarding the permission. It is only the low-ranking Taliban fighters, who demand the precise judgement of the Taliban’s leader in this concern; In addition, some Taliban leaders are also unhappy about the whole process, especially the former members of the Quita Council of Taliban.

Now the ball is in the Taliban’s ground, whether they are ready to comply with the demands of the international community, by transferring the power to a transitional government or not, and to get along with the United States and get onboard the international community support. Definitely, it causes further splintering among Taliban groups and ISKP will use it as an opportunity to recruit Taliban fighters, while paving the way for regrouping in Khorasan Province the IS so-called territory.

The ISKP long before blamed Taliban for being ‘’ Rafeda’’, while simultaneously cooperating with the US, Russia, China and Iran for their political ambitions.  To conclude, the Afghan people will not accomplish a lasting peace and sustainable economic developments, since the country will turn into a new battle filed among countries, which have stake in Afghanistan.

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South Asia

The Charisma and Chaos of Imran Khan

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PTI Chairman Imran Khan gestures at the march participants as his convoy arrives in Gujranwala on November 1, 2022. — Instagram

The chances of Imran Khan winning the elections of 2018 were quite murky. Despite his unparalleled fan base and populist rhetoric appeals to the young, and labor class of Pakistan, the legitimacy of his government is marred with allegations of fraud, rigging, and exploitation.

Some argue that his candidacy was a marketing tactic used by the ‘Establishment’ in Pakistan to form a government that is rather weak and dependent so that the ‘Establishment’ can continue its control over domestic security issues including the Nuclear escalation and relations with India.

But by and large, Khan won the elections.

Maybe it was the stardom attached to the name ‘Imran Khan’ and Pakistanis not wanting to confide in the same faces ruling them for centuries.

Maybe it was the mismanagement and violence that marred election day with unfathomable delays in result declaration in metropolis cities, coupled with post-poll manipulation.

Maybe it was the judicial-military nexus, that placed all the votes in the right places by not allowing voters to use their will during elections.

Maybe it was the 7 years-old narcotics case hearing moving forward against the stalwart of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, Hanif Abbasi, giving him a life sentence in a rare late-night session of court, four days ahead of the elections that effectively knocked PML-N out of the race.

But the deal was done and can’t be undone and Imran Khan became the Prime Minister of Pakistan, for better or worse.

Khan the Celebrity

Pakistani nationals were victims of the financial crisis, unemployed people, those who lost their homes, and who were in debt; these people felt like the two parties ruling Pakistan for centuries had destroyed their country’s economy.

Imran Khan, with his humongous stardom as an athlete and philanthropist, seemed like the only ‘Messiah’ that could save them from all the atrocities they were facing.

Though, a significant number of votes were cast in favor of PML-N but not in the places that would have locked the win. So Imran Khan, persuaded the angry Pakistanis, the youth, and the labor class who were fed up with being handed over in trade deals with other nations.

Khan, a socialite that he was, knew how to connect with these agitated masses. Their grievances were clear as a day and so he gave them pretty promises wrapped up in his vibrant rallies filled with catchy songs. His huge social media presence along with the ‘Naya Pakistan’ slogan further amplified his staunch.

But there lies a challenge as to why Khan became the top highlight of this era. To many who were tired of politicians filling their own pockets, and amid the corruption charges on Nawaz Sharif, Khan’s celebrity status, his colorful personality, his promise of a corruption-free Pakistan, and his unconventional ‘Don’t Panic’ attitude – all of this made Khan seem like the only option who would deliver a better life and nation and, if not that, then at least would be the eradicator of what Pakistan had become.

Khan the Totalitarian

The other side of the coin sees Imran Khan as a narcissist, self-centered, and power-hungry mogul. After achieving his eternal craving of becoming the Prime Minister, he hardly showed any respect for the institutions of the country. More often than not he refused to attend the sessions of Parliament, with his excuse being the presence of members of the opposition party whom he referred to as ‘Crooks’ and ‘Chors’ (thieves).

This resulted in laws, instead of passing through an ordinary law-making process, being passed through presidential ordinances, with very limited power. We can clearly say that these laws were passed without debate, consensus, and thorough examination, negating the very foundation of constitutional requirements.

Additionally, Khan likes to fabricate stories in his speeches, a lot. In this vein, he brings down any democratic provision that proves him wrong, including targeting political parties on concocted charges of corruption; sustained attacks on the media; undermining law authorities, even the Supreme Court is not exempted from his allegations.

Through the abrogation of rule of law, irresponsible remarks about institutions, and disdain toward democracy, Khan himself created a fragile parliamentary system, which then collapsed on him. Not only this, but he has fractured the already dwindling democracy of Pakistan into a whole new level.

Khan the Leader

Khan came onto the political scene when Pakistan was facing a volatile situation both at home and abroad, coupled with the tensions going on with the Americas, and the rampant inflation, he was still able to take some impressive measures. His work related to health, relief programs, house loans, the environment, entrepreneurship, and the COVID response is admirable.

In addition, his billion tree tsunami and the building of several small dams initiated an environment-friendly drive in the climate change-affected country. But was he able to deliver on the ‘Promises’ made to the nation? Absolutely Not.

Perhaps he should have paid more attention to the cabinet as the abrupt changes in the system dwindled the confidence of investors in Pakistan’s economic machinery. His careless handling of some important economic programs including the CPEC decelerated the capital influx that caused the GDP to drop considerably.

To top it all off, Pakistan, in 2021 dropped from 124th place to 140th place according to Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), leaving an ugly mark on Khan’s corruption eradication promises on which he has led the foundation of his political career. Maybe he should have abided by the agenda of progression in order to gear up his performance instead of getting involved in blame and shame politics.

Khan the funambulist

The important reason why Khan has a cult following in Pakistan is his unfiltered and raw opinions about topics like the Americas, and Afghanistan which he keeps casting in his speeches. And, the audience, mostly the social media-induced young generation eats it all up like a sweet concoction, without paying heed to the implications it will bring to the foreign policy of Pakistan.

Khan’s decision to appoint Usman Buzdar, an underqualified and inexperienced newcomer to a vital position in the key city of Punjab pretty much sums up his political foresight. Perhaps, the most interesting yet debatable contrivance of his regime is his relentless attitude toward the United States, no previous Prime Minister of Pakistan was able to say ‘Absolutely No’ to the US as it had many allies in the domestic political platform of Pakistan. This stance of Khan was admired a lot in the country, with the phrase being trending in Pakistan. But the remarks came with ramifications for Pakistan on the international forum. This whole scenario further makes people question his political sanity.

Imran Khan possesses all the characteristics of a populist leader and in Populism: A Very Short Introduction, Cas Mudde says: “Populists are dividers, not uniters” they split society into “two homogenous and antagonistic groups: the pure people on the one end and the corrupt elite on the other.” True to this narration, Khan has divided the nation into two groups of ‘Evil and Good’ people, and the consequences are detrimental to the stability of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

Conclusion

To sum it all up, Imran Khan, despite his misgivings, his warts, his narcissism, and his unhinged political views, is still able to reach a class of people that have seen Pakistan erode for centuries and consider him the last hope for the country. But he certainly is not the best choice for democracy as his political understanding is ruined by his self-righteous approach. In this manner, he is no better than former US President Trump who incited his supporters to pass on the U.S. Capitol to forestall the peaceful transition of power after his electoral defeat. It is precise to say that Pakistan has fallen into a deep cauldron and only a Magic Wand can heal it at this point. Though Khan has not singularly created this cauldron, he most definitely is exploiting and feeding on it.

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Chattisgarh Elections 2023: Future of United Progressive Alliance and BJP

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Chattisgarh, the 9th largest state of India by area and 17th most populous state with population of 30 Million will go to votes in upcoming elections in 2023. Chattisgarh saw an electoral shift in 2018 when voters chose INC lead United Progressive Alliance over BJP which was into the power since 2003. The legislative assembly comprises of 90 constituencies and population demography favors the Hindu’s with 93.05%, Muslims are major minority with 2.02% and Christians make up 1.92% of the population of Chattisgarh. The major contenders in the elections are United Progressive Alliance, which came into power in 2018. The major parties in the Alliance are Indian National Congress (INC), Dravida Munnetra Kazghagam, Janta Dal (United), Shiv Sena and Nationalist Congress Party. This alliance faces BJP as major gladiator of the Elections.

INC lead United Progressive Alliance Government

In 2018 elections, United Progressive Alliance defeated BJP in the state to form the government. Previously BJP enjoyed three successive tenures in power. The Alliance proved to be vital in defeating the ex-ruling party and Bhupesh Baghel of INC was sworn in as new CM of Chattisgarh. The newly elected government opted for the developmental model in the state with their activities ranging from sports to health and good governance. The CM gave the vision of ‘Employment Mission’ which aimed at providing 15 lac jobs to people of Chattisgarh. The government provided the masses with the vision of ‘trust, development and security’ in order to remain popular and hence their projects based upon wellness of the general public. The CM started ‘Khelbo-Jeetbo-Gadhbo Nova Chattisgarh’ scheme in order to enhance sports infrastructure and facilities for youth of Chattisgarh. The scheme covered major as well as local games. The government also launched ‘ Makhyamantri Haat Bazar Clinics’ scheme in order to provide and ensure health services in rural and remote areas of the state. This scheme received a lot of praises from the masses during pandemic period. Government also enhanced education sector by setting up more than 600 Hindi and English medium schools. CM launched ‘Swami Atmanand English Medium Education System’ in all districts of the state. The scheme aimed at setting up of the English medium colleges for the students. The government under CM Baghel, also faced severe opposition in form BJP. The BJP criticized government of corruption, farm loans and internal rift among government officials. The CM also survived ‘No Confidence Motion’ tabled by BJP in the legislative assembly in July 2022.

BJP and Caste votes

Caste permutation and combinations have always played a role of dominating factor in the state of Chattisgarh. The state is amalgamation of upper castes, schedule castes (SC), Schedule tribes (ST) and Other Backward Castes (OBCs). The Kurmi’s and Sahu’s dominate upper castes in the state. One third of the population is composed of Scheduled tribes (ST), while Schedule castes (SC) make up 12% of the population and Other Backward Castes (OBCs) are 41% of the population. Upper castes and OBCs have traditionally tilted in the favor of BJP. SC votes have been divided among BJP, INC and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). In 2013 however, BJP swept through 9 out of 10 constituencies of SC reserved seats. Dalit vote bank also has an influential role in elections. There exists around 12% of Dalit vote splitting between BJP and BSP. This vote bank influences 40 constituencies of the state. BJP is also counting upon Sahu’s votes in order to gain power back in upcoming Chattisgarh elections.

Chattisgarh as home ground of Hindutva

Chattisgarh has seen a violent shift when it comes to application of agenda of Hindutva. RSS and its political affiliate BJP have targeted Chattisgarh for Hindutva onslaught. The norms of Hindu identity have gone deep down into the roots of the society. ‘Ghar Wapsi’ scheme is gaining influence in Chandigarh. In March 2022, a ceremony was held and 1250 people returned to Hindu dharma. In states like Odisha, Chattisgarh and Jharkand more than 10,000 people have returned to Hindu dharma. BJP has developed a narrative of targeting Congress for miseries of Hindu’s all around India. Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) an affiliate of RSS has been provided with security umbrella of BJP and it has forced Churches in Chattisgarh to use name of ‘Acharya’ and ‘Up-Acharya’ instead of ‘Father’. VHP has also forced churches to display images and painting of Hindu goddess ‘Saraswati’ in churches. The organization has also forces churches to distribute ‘Prasad’ instead of sweets at the eve of Christmas, thereby attacking the root identities of Christianity in the state. Around the time when BJP formed the government in center in 2014, 5 villages in Bastar district of Chattisgarh were banned for non-Hindu practices. Hindu leaders in Chattisgarh are calling for killing of any individual who tries to convert Hindus into any other religion. The Equation between the minorities and Hindus started changing since 2003, when BJP was installed into power in Chattisgarh. The change has intensified now when BJP is also present in Center. 

Bet on Youth’s vote

The youth vote bank in Chattisgarh can be the turning point in the upcoming elections. The major gladiators BJP and United Progressive Alliance are eyeing the vote share of youth in the state. The initiatives started by the CM Baghel, progressively targets the youth and their development. However, BJP accuses the current INC lead state government of unemployment among the youth. The tussle between the major contenders in the state is pivoted for Youth vote. The saffron party has also targeted youth with the identity confrontation within the framework of Hindutva. However, the INC lead coalition government is centered on the agenda of developmental and governance model for the youth rather than targeting and convincing youth on identity based vote bank. The youth from minority section of the population may opt for INC and United Progressive alliance for the power in state but saffron influenced youth and upper castes are likely to put their weight in BJP’s favor.

Conclusion

Chattisgarh elections 2023 will play a major role in determining the BJPs future in center as well. Chattisgarh has been the power bank for BJP since 2003 but shift in 2018 has taken BJP by shock and surprise. However, upcoming elections can also prove to be referendum of policies applied by BJP at national level. INC will also have to investigate its depth in masses as well. The future of alliance mostly depends upon the INC performance in the state elections. The General Elections can also be strategically targeted by INC in form of alliance and coalition seat shares in order to give tough time BJP which is by far thriving among the masses at national level.

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