Don’t obfuscate

When newspapers reported that an intrepid bureaucrat had transferred about 400 kanals of forestland to the Amarnath Shrine Board in 2008, and the Board has started constructions in the green zone, the Valley erupted en masse. The then ruling PDP-Congress coalition government fell apart after PDP walked out. Then forest minister and senior PDP leader Qazi Afzal had signed the transfer documents. (In his defence he had said that he was not aware about what he had put his signatures on.) But the greatest moment of hilarity was yet to follow. Since elections were a couple of months away when the uprising was raging, and sensing that the image it had constructed over the years was in danger, PDP said something which is relevant to a somewhat similar issue: PDP and BJP’s dismissal of the reports that say retired soldiers are being allotted plots of land in a safe enclave near Srinagar Airport.  PDP stalwart and then deputy chief minister Muzaffar Hussain Beigh told a press conference that his party was coerced into approving the transfer of land to the Shrine Board by its ally, Congress. Beigh had said that Congress had warned that it will not allow Mughal Road project to proceed if the land was not given to the Board.
Education minister Naeem Akhtar and deputy chief minister Nirmal Singh have said no soldiers’ colony is coming up in the state. There is no reason not to believe them if events like Amarnath land transfer had not taken place in the past. Amarnath land transfer is not the only event that makes all Kashmir governments suspect. The announcement about composite townships was made by a government of India spokesman. The state government did not deem it important to inform the people who had “elected it”. The people of the state got to know about the illegal occupation of about 1400 kanals of land in Gulmarg only after a public interest litigation petition was filed in a court. These facts indicate that there are issues of immense importance which the state governments have always wanted to hide from the public. It is easy for Akhtar and Nirmal to dismiss the reports, but when their spokesmen have publically endorsed the reports, albeit with riders and explanations, their statements are only adding to the obfuscation. In Kashmir, truth has an uncanny knack for erupting in unexpected ways, sooner or later.