Wednesday, 20 March 2013

The Food We Have, The Food We Need

Sometimes questions are raised regarding our attitude to mutton consumption and there are advices for revisiting it. I don’t doubt that on occasions and in certain elite families mutton consumption may be excessive but we need to note that we can’t be a vegetarian society. To properly understand modern Kashmir’s obsession for mutton – the need of mutton as a protein source in the normal diet of all Kashmiris, we may have a brief look at the figures provided by science.
Not only do we consume far less than required when we speak in general terms for the whole population, but we are also deprived of quality meat due to absence of slaughter houses and non-availability of quality meat that goes for export to big hotels. If it were not for Eids, prayer food culture and festivals Kashmir's would, generally speaking, qualify as very poor consumers.Middle classes eat mutton mostly on different functions, festivals and marriages or when guests come visiting. The BPL people can enjoy it only very occasionally. Thus we can safely say that ours is not a meat sufficient state in terms of consumption. There is over -consumption on marriage and festival days and generally under-consumption on routine days. Guests are overfed and hosts underfed.  
We need to educate people regarding quality or balanced nutrition that include animal source protein, and in our conditions it is mutton. We need more reasons than we currently have for assembling together and sharing a meal based on meat dishes.Although requirement of protein can be met from vegetarian or non-meat sources, but according to well-recognized recommendations the value of meat is still indisputable. However, we need not forget that there have been healthy vegetarian communities throughout history.Meat may not be declared an essential part of the diet but without animal products it is argued that it is “necessary to have some reasonable knowledge of nutrition in order to select an adequate diet. Even small quantities of animal products supplement and complement a diet based on plant foods so that it is nutritionally adequate, whether or not there is informed selection of foods.”However, biological argument should not be used to decide the matter in our conditions. Here meat is an inseparable part of our culture. It is not dispensable.As per standard scientific recommendations we require one gram of protein per kilogram of body weight daily of which half should ideally come from animal sources.Human requirements for protein have been estimated by FAD/WHO to be 55 grams per day for adult man and 45 for a woman. The requirement is higher in various states of disease and conditions of stress. As milk and eggs are recommended to be part of our diet, and they supply at recommended rates less than half of daily requirement, the rest has to come from meat, both red and white, for non-vegetarians.
Keeping consideration of meat bone ratio in mutton available in the market we see that a meat piece is needed to be taken daily. Calculating our requirement for a population of one crore (assuming the rest to be pure vegetarian), we need 20 crore kgs. Thus we need more meat than is available and whatsoever is available is quite asymmetrically distributed as much of the available meat goes to the urban elite. 
In fact, in India the per capita availability of animal protein is 10 grams only against the need of around 25.There should be an informed debate on the question of how far can and should poultry replace sheep? Should there be policies for regulating our long-term consumption? We need to discuss short and long term environmental and economic costs of sheep versus poultry rearing.So far no serious studies from the environment point of view on our carrying capacity, on the scope of horizontal increase in sheep population, on relative costs of raising other food animals or vegetables, precise trade off between forest conservation efforts and sheep raising have been undertaken in our state.
 The pitched battles against sheep farming on supposedly environmental grounds between forest authorities, who go on fencing and walling off so much land without considering the possibility that controlled grazing augments need to be first scrutinize, and quality journals should publish the studies and then only could they be taken seriously.Currently sheep farming is under stress from forest authorities in many places and if you deprive sheep of pastures or routes connecting to pastures you are asking people to disinvest. There needs to be better coordination between different departments on this issue and in fact a board which should oversee all decisions that deprive farmers of grazing land. A good number of jobs are at stake. There are standing Supreme Court orders whose spirit dictates that grazing rights shall not be infringed up on this or that ground.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Betraying Our History Of Eco-care

Once upon a time we were people, a community. Today we are individuals. Once we were not wasting a grain. Today not wasting food means that you are not a good consumer. Once we ate meat occasionally but were healthy as were our sub-alpine pastures. Today, we are great consumers of protein and calories but are not healthy. Once almost everything used in construction industry was obtained from local materials, waste products or byproducts. Today we are replacing almost every local material with imported one. Once we used to employ local committees to manage most of our local resources, and today we are competing with one another in destroying them.
Once it was unacceptable to more conscious Pir families to buy land. Today they have amassed huge land property. Once we didn’t keep repeating an posh’ teli yeli wan posh’ but preserved forests, and today we outcompete fast developing economies in deforestation drives. Once most medicines were locally available and local hakeems effectively catered to most requirements. Today we have the largest number of medical shops amongst all Indian states, thousands of local registered drug companies and health has become a casualty in the process.
Once we had great water bodies and our wetlands were known to birds from Siberia and today they are shrinking and shrinking fast. Once we grew food and today we grow money, and lose our soul in the process. Once environment counted as a sacred entity, and today it is only taught as a subject in academic institutions. The lessons on environmentalism were once in our hearts and today they are only remembered for the sake of passing in examinations. So, we have become a sad story of degeneration. Let us review our sins regarding environment.
Our sins begin with our embracing the model of development and rejecting the community approach that we had inherited from our forefathers. Sometimes we have not developed either and destroyed environment for peanuts. We have polluted water, dried up springs, affected the water table, encroached upon water bodies and irresponsibly played with ecology of fish and other creatures of water.
Springs in every village were divine gifts and if they dried up local saints were called to revive them. We have degraded our land at most places, thanks to our embracing modern concept of development and modernization of agriculture. Pastures are disappearing. Forests are being used for construction industry, for roads.
We need to remind ourselves that once upon a time we were concerned about the environment, at a time when people had not heard about environmental crisis. The warm earthly religion of mysticism has been always characteristically eco-coconscious. In fact, the Reshi movement in Kashmir has successfully implemented its ecological vision. There could be no such things as environmental crisis in the Kashmir of the Rishis.
The land of Nuruddin is so deeply respectful of every blade of grass, not to speak of forests that we could see Kashmir as a sanctuary.  The Reshi’s aversion to causing injury to all animate beings including plants, insects and animals, their concern for conserving forests, dissuading hunters from hunting hangul, personal care of pets, tamed animals and birds is well-known and unfortunately well-forgotten now.
As our patron saint of ecology, or St. Francis of Kashmir, Nuruddin’s Reshi-thought and practice involved such things as vegetarianism, asceticism, planting trees, creating springs, adoring nature, non-violence to all animate things, belief in the divinity of man and sacred character of life, glorification of faqr, economy of sharing, sulhi-kul, attainment of peace within and without, altruism and transcendence of ego principle.
Today we are suffering from environmental crisis caused due to the worldview characterized by violence, both metaphysical and political, and by spiritual aridity, ethical relativism, alienation and loss of centre. Eco-conscious, earthly, “matriarchal”, socially relevant and pragmatic philosophy of Reshiyyat could be advocated as a remedy of so many ills that affect not only Kashmir but also the whole world.
We have heard enough of abstract theoretical discourses, sentimental sermonizing, and lamentation sessions on the problem of eco-degradation. We have seen that these don’t make a significant difference. We need concrete proposals and legislations and measures to see implementation of these legislations. Action, concrete and revolutionary action is what is needed today.
Let us question our development planning from the perspective of the Sheikh. But can we afford it or do it? Or we will be content with some hollow seminars and broadcasts or telecasts about Sheikhul A’lam?

Sovereignty of Kashmir

Kashmir: Tragedy and Triumph,  the book under review, is an informed and scholarly attempt to wrestle with the confusion we find today all around in every field from education to politics. The author comes up with some brilliant pieces of analyses and provocative suggestions. Aghast at the sight of a lost new generation hooked to virtual reality of cyberspace, his people’s “tel, bel, tchel and puz, apuz carriage and nalam, halam te kalam baggage” “missing Baba Demb, dying Dal and weedy Nigeen; hammered Kral Sanger; forlorn Brane; despondent Ishbur and downhearted Harwun” and similar tragedies the author does history with a hammer exposing “jobbing historians” and other “collaborators.” He argues some-provocative-suggestions-for historicizing them and attempts to search for missing links in the narrative of sovereignty of Kashmiris. 
The book opens with a poetically composed prayer that shows that the author belongs to the brand of what Sartre called committed writers. Dr Ahad persuades us to revisit received myths and stock judgments about Kashmir and seeks to give voice to the so far largely dumb common Kashmiri. He diagnoses the contemporary malaise putting finger at lack of quality leadership, collaborators and neocolonialism, invokes great leaders from history all the way from Nil Naga, the founder of Jhelum Valley civilization, pleads for vibrant civil society and organic intellectuals while largely accusing the current lot for failure and ends with a big question mark regarding the possibility of fighting the status quo. Dr Ahad argues for a host of theses that need to be debated as they would question the dominant discourse on empirical grounds:
• Instrument of Accession is fabricated. Indian and NC or PDP position on Kashmir that takes it as historical thus is based on a huge lie.
• The idea of Kashmiryat has been an ideological weapon and is not for Kashmiris.
• Nationalist jingoism sells such slogans as “Indianness” that have nothing to do with the destiny or aspirations of aam aadmi.
• Most of Kashmiri leaders are neem hakeems or politically na├»ve. This would call for need of educating them in history and political theory.
• Educational authorities by not teaching history in schools are guilty of perpetuating lies and mutilating the soul of new generation of Kashmiris.
• “Kashmir ‘leaders’ are thriving on the agonies bequeathed to the masses by the partition for which both Nehru and Jinnah were responsible.”
• There are a few if any intellectuals around who, unlike intelligentsia, think beyond “their self, family and relations.”
• “There is no famine of so called ‘professors’, ‘philosophers’ and ‘historians’ to come to the fore to counter the rising Kashmiri consciousness with their “novel” ideas and “intellectual prowess”. Owing to their “contributions” they have risen to the position of Councilors of Legislature, Parliamentarians of Indian Parliament.”
• “It is sheer oddity to divide Kashmir in Buddhist Kashmir, Hindu Kashmir and Muslim Kashmir. It is historically, conceptually and terminologically wrong to term any era of history of any country by the religious beliefs of its ruler.”
The author takes strong positions (inviting strong reactions or responses according to the measure one is hit) that “jobbing historians” are not used to take on a number of issues like long history of our resistance, Kashmiri character (it may be useful for anyone trying to understand Kashmir character as it has eluded leaders and intellectuals alike) medieval Kashmir economy (he notes, for instance, that “Due to historical limitations Kashmir could not provide the missionaries, from Central Asia, the amenities and benefits of city life. This could be done mainly by introducing  Karkahnas they were thoroughly acquainted with and in them they could have been easily employed as they were well trained in various arts and crafts”),  leadership that is more led than leads, sins of bureaucrats etc.  
There are many eloquent, forceful and provocative passages that would invite debate and serve to introduce the best of Dr Ahad. I reproduce only two:
Books on Kashmir, generally speaking, lack credibility and suffer from serious trust deficit owing to their being completely drenched in subjectivism and mendacity. Their treatment of the subject matter is so loopy, nasty and deceptive that it plagues the reader’s mind with prejudice and chauvinism; estranging him socially from communities not subscribing to his race, faith and ideology. These books are compiled and brought to light by authors with erratic, dubious, sycophantic, opportunistic bent of mind and religious, doctrinaire attitude.
About our leaders:
But they are proficient enough in hiding their ignorance behind the facade of “Azadi” which together with their “pro-Kashmir” stance and other related postulates and religious fanaticism have endeared them to the politically naive and religiously sentimental public and trapped Kashmir’s historical ethos in the darkness of intolerance and bigotry from where its resurrection and resurgence is unlikely. The paucity of imaginative leaders with historical perspective is, therefore, a crippling malady that has struck Kashmir perennially.
At times the passages are too long for lucidity and rhetorical imagination seems to intrude in otherwise disciplined, hard headed analysis by the author. The class question and delineating the precise role of neo-colonialism needs more attention in his future works. The author occasionally gets passionate about certain perspective and condemns rather too harshly. Although quite conscious of historian’s mandate as consisting essentially in describing or analyzing to help understanding rather than judging history the strong moralist in him leads him to take the role of a critic than an academic historian and accordingly compromise strict objectivity of approach. On the whole the book is a resounding success in its central objective of passionate search for our lost history and inculcating sense of history in us and our leaders by putting Kashmir’s tragedies in perspective for paving way for its triumphs for which he is hopeful. The book is a good contribution to the studies of folklore and some other aspects of our culture as well. Socio-anthropological insights abound in the book making its scope quite wider than simply a gripping history of tragedies.
The book is not only readable but very provocative – it rightly accuses all of us – and invites a response to the million dollar question with which he concludes the book and I conclude this brief impression of the book. “Would the political Nautankies, Seyasi Duchesses, Fasid Vejbiharis, Chogli-beigs, Self-rule Sodagars, Autonomy Kothdars, Pakistani Farhads and Hindustani Majnoons, who thrive on status quo, let the fragrance of change waft through the vales and dales of Kashmir to make sure the ensconcing of the masses as happy, self-confident, self-respecting Kashmiris?”  

Book Of Ethics

The Prophet of Islam (SAW) expressed the ethical prerogative of his mission in his famous utterance that “I have come to perfect ethics.” There is too much debate about religion or theology but little focus on what constitutes the basic prerequisite for a truly religious life: Ethics. Shari’ah is fundamentally ethics. Even rituals or pillar of Islam are ultimately directed for self transformation. We may never resolve theological quarrels but we can resolve to come forward on the common minimum programme of the Quran that emphasizes Iman in God and the Last Day or iman and aml-i-salih. The Last Day implies faith in the permanent significance of our actions or accountability. Sufism is, according to one definition, perfection of morals. In fact our earliest Sufis had little time for speculations on wujudi or shuhudi Tawhid but simply emphasized sincerity of action or perfection of our ethical self. Ethics unites traditions and in fact the Quran has proposed this as the criterion for grading people when it singles out God-fearing (taqwa) for judging people. How is God fearing shown? By action and action only. Imagine if our debating factions debate how ethical they are in their individual or social lives, how many beggars are in the vicinity of areas dominated by them, how many marriages are funded by them, how many community guest houses or hospitals they have built. Islam has characteristically emphasized correct action (orthopraxy) rather than correct opinions.
Today I talk about a great book that has the distinction of being the smallest book available on web only on the subject. And the book is by a Kashmiri scholar who is not well known in academic circles here but has the distinction of being one of the most gifted scientist-thinkers of the State. True to his lofty ethical philosophy he has not cared for fame and name although he deserves it by virtue of his acclaimed contribution in as diverse fields as veterinary pharmacology and mathematics. Given more conducive atmosphere he could have been a great mathematician and philosopher. As a self taught mathematician and philosopher he has, with his own limited resources, managed to admirably work on binomial theorem and other mathematical problems and evolved some very interesting philosophical theses. It is our misfortune that we have no institutional spaces for harnessing such a great talent which is available in plenty in Kashmir but fails to bloom for want of space or patronage. I present here, in his own words, the crux of world ethical systems including that of the Islamic tradition. We can only marvel at the comprehensiveness of its scope and the elegance and brevity of its formulations. They are not original as there can be no originality in metaphysics and ethics informed by it but nevertheless encapsulate in an original way the key ethical principles of not only religious traditions but great traditional philosophers and some modern thinkers. His choice of language may have slightly reduced its scope but not if appropriately transposed in transtheological language. This is the first “book” on ethics by any Kashmiri scholar.
Saint Augustine was asked to recite the whole scripture in one go standing on one foot only. He raised the foot and said that love and charity constitute the whole of scripture. Our author has similarly stated the ethics of world traditions and philosophies in 12 propositions. One can only think of a qualifying clause here or there or more nuanced use of terms with definitions of them and few clarifications. However, the shortest book could afford to dispense with them perhaps. We may derive a few principles from others and further shorten it but we can’t contradict anyone.
Stating his premise that “We must begin our actions in the name of Almighty Allah” he straightaway lists 12 moral codes.
 Adhere firmly to the principles of justice.
 Honesty is the best policy.
 Be truthful, avoiding injury and harm to innocent.
 Do not do to others what you do not wish others to do to you.
 Do not encourage wrong-doers in their actions. Do all you can to curtail their injurious actions.
 Do not transgress limits set by Allah.
 Be good to yourself. This implies nurturing and improving positive energies and impulses, and curbing and disciplining negative energies and impulses.
 Do not wish good for those whose existence is harmful and/or injurious to those of others.
 Do not disturb the balance and harmony in Nature nor contribute towards those disturbances.
 Do all that you can to contribute towards the preservation and improvement of harmony in Nature, and its embodiments.
 Observe your lawful obligations and duty with sincerity, zeal and devotion utilizing the best of your capacity.
 Do improve your knowledge, wisdom and skills to render the best of possible actions.
And finally “Always end your work while offering a lots of thanks to the Almighty for whatever trivial or great has he bestowed upon His creations and existences.”
Countless volumes have been written on ethics. All great philosophers, saints and sacred scriptures have expounded on ethics. But Mir’s shortest book has succeeded in summing them up. Plato, Aristotle, Confucius, Buddha, Moses, Christ and Muslim thinkers are all here appropriated in these deceptively simple maxims that will take a life time to contemplate and practice. Wittgenstein has also stated his ethics in few propositions. Whenever in doubt we can hang by the golden rule of which others are explications. The whole of ethics consists in acting for self-transcendence, acting so that God acts through us. Let us examine these 12 principles and add anything if one can. I find them not only comprehensive but quite pragmatic in a world where ethics seems to be the last and least consideration.
I hope Prof. Shabir attempts a sort of Spinozoistic treatment of these maxims and engages with very complex questions (we don’t even bother to inquire into them) like ethicality of sending our children to private schools  and thus further weakling public sector institution of education or implicating class division or being part of the system that encourages privatization of healthcare by opting for treatment in private hospitals or being part of the State that is wedded to the interests of the Capital.
(The book by Prof Shabir Ahmed Mir is available at )