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Kashmir’s Bigger Thieves

How can a party, which comes to power by promising to people that their electricity meters would be shut down if they vote it to power, blame Kashmiris of being ‘biggest thieves’, asks Maria Syed

Source: Flickr

Source: Flickr

The remarks of Farooq Abdullah that “Kashmiri chor nahi, maha chor hain (Kashmiris are not just thieves, they are the biggest thieves)” have more to do with Dr Abdullah and his National Conference party than with the common people in the landlocked Valley.

Dr Abdullah who has now denied of having any such statement alleged that people in the Valley would bypass their electric meters to steal electricity so that they don’t have to pay their bills. He made these deriding remarks while releasing a report about power thefts in India.

To explain why this issue had more to do with the rulers we just need to flip the pages of history books and see what historians like Sir Walter Lawrence, fondly called ‘Lawrence sahib’, and Moorcroft have written hundreds of years ago after travelling the length and breadth of the state.

In his popular book, The Valley of Kashmir, Lawrence remarks: “The Kashmiri is what his rulers have made him, but I believe and hope that two generations of a just and strong rule will transform him into a useful, intelligent and fair honest man.”

William Moorcroft, believed to have travelled across the Himalayas, described Kashmiris as ignorant, selfish and dishonest people.

“In character the Kashmirian is selfish, superstitious, ignorant, supple, intriguing, dishonest and false; he has great ingenuity as a mechanic, and a decided genius for manufactures and commerce, but his transactions are always conducted in a fraudulent spirit,” he writes in his travelogue.

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However, he admits that these traits of Kashmiris are not inherent, but an outcome of the regime which ruled over them. “These vices are the effects of his [Kashmiri] political condition rather than his nature,” he writes.

Coming back to Mr Abdullah’s remarks, if one tries to analyse past couple of decades, it is the National Conference that ruled in the picturesque state of mountains and springs for most of the time.

Have the legislators of the NC government during this time been honest and upright enough to give Kashmiris respect and fair dealing during this period? Have they gone by what Lawrence said and really treated Kashmiris in a manner they deserved?

The answer to all these questions, I am afraid, is negative. In fact, the state of Jammu and Kashmir was given the disgraceful tag of being one of the most corrupt Indian states, second only to Bihar in 2005, by Transparency International. The US-based non-governmental organisation had put the state in the list of ‘alarmingly corrupt’ Indian states.

The NC was sitting in Opposition at that time, but it can’t walk away the blame of playing a major role in forcing the state into this abyss of corruption. Today, if you by any chance visit any government office, you would be asked to even pay few bucks, much to your shock, to get a file moved from one table to another in the same office.

Lending credence to such claims, Mercy Corps, a US-based charity, while summing up a report on the sleaze in the state said: “Corruption has plagued every sphere of life and left the private sector desperately underdeveloped.”

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The report published in 2011 quoted a young man saying: “You are confronted with corruption each time you enter a government office. Whether you want a licence or an electricity connection or you are competing for a major tender, you are either directly asked of indirectly expected to offer a bride”.

The situation has changed for worse since the report was published and Omar Abdullah, one of India’s youngest chief ministers, all through this time, was ruling the state. Son of Dr Abdullah, Omar, who was seen as a hope by the state’s young, has done little, except making tall promises, to curb the menace of corruption in the state. In fact, during his tenure, we heard of how fraudulently scores of candidates were admitted to various medical colleges.

Mehbooba Mufti, president of the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP), who led the protest in the assembly today against Abdullah’s remarks, was right when she alleged that the NC was “the patron of corruption in the state”.

How can a party, which comes to power by promising to people that their electricity meters would be shut down if they vote it to power, blame Kashmiris of being ‘biggest thieves’?

And how is it possible that the people will bypass their electricity meters on their own? Of course, there are people who do it, but in connivance with the folks from the power development department. And when your government knows such things are happening, why doesn’t it act against such people.

But the bottom-line is you can’t act against them. And if you do, you will lose your vote bank. Dare to challenge that and lose your key to power.

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