A step towards more LGBTQIA + affirmative medical education does not go far enough

On October 13, the National Medical Commission (NMC), the body responsible for regulating medical education in India, released an advisory regarding the LGBTQIA + community and the necessary changes in the skills of its human-based medical education curriculum. skills (CBME). The opinion, released under pressure from the Madras High Court, notes that there is non-scientific information regarding the queer community and the subject of virginity in medical textbooks – particularly in the areas of psychiatry and forensic medicine. While this is a welcome initiative and a step in the right direction, it is not enough.

Medical education in India has focused only on male and female binary, heterosexuality and cis-gender lives, while excluding homosexuality and non-binary and transgender gender issues. This results in exclusion from the LGBTQIA + community. There is also queerphobic content that has often been denounced. Even with the publication of the competency-based medical curriculum in August 2019, the curriculum continues to include a queerphobic agenda.

Such a rampant queer phobia traumatizes LGBTQIA + students in medical schools, many are reluctant to openly share their queer identities, and many face abuse when they do. Similar experiences are also shared by queer faculty members who also face discrimination in the workplace. Such queerphobic teaching rules out the possibility of future healthcare professionals practicing queer-affirmative medicine which, in turn, affects queer patients who are reluctant to come to them. Our ongoing work in the TransCare Covid-19 and TransCare MedEd projects reveals exactly that.

The NMC notification comes against the backdrop of several recent developments. The Transgender People (Protection of Rights) Act 2019 requires governments to take action to “review medical and research programs for physicians to meet their demands. [transgender] specific health problems ”, but no action has been taken since then. In June 2021, in response to a case filed by a gay couple, the Madras High Court established a set of guidelines and ordered the NMC to ban queerphobic practices such as conversion therapy that aims to force change l sexual orientation of a person. In September, Judge N Anand Venkatesh, referring to a report filed by Dr. Trinetra Haldar Gummaraju, a trans doctor, denounced widespread queerphobia in medical education. A week later, on September 7, the Kerala High Court issued an order requesting the removal of discriminatory and inhumane references to LGBTQIA + people from MBBS textbooks.

In its notification, the NMC advised medical schools to teach gender in a way that is not disparaging to the queer community. Authors of medical textbooks have also been urged to edit the books to remove any harmful content relating to virginity and the queer community. Although the advisory title of the NMC mentions the necessary changes in the skills of its CBME curriculum, there is no specification on what these changes are. At the same time, the CBME program itself mentions queerphobic things that need to be taught to students. For example, being transgender, which is a normal variation, is called a disorder. Sodomy, oral sex and lesbianism are all qualified as sexual offenses even though the Supreme Court has read section 377. In addition, the skills that will make a future Indian doctor respectful and empathetic in the treatment of a homosexual patient are fault. Instead, by putting the burden on medical schools and textbook authors, the NMC is simply shirking responsibility while also shedding any responsibility to make the curriculum queer-affirmative. In addition, the advisory committee set up by the NMC has no queer representation.

The NMC should begin by recognizing the flaws in its own CBME curriculum and explicitly state the changes required. Specific guidelines on how to make health care queer-affirmative are needed. Otherwise, such guidelines will only create confusion and indifference, as was created a few years ago by a similar notice on the inclusion of disability in the medical curriculum. The directive should also specify changes in several areas and not just forensic medicine and psychiatry. For this there must be a participatory consultation of stakeholders towards the development of a queer-affirmative curriculum. Finally, there needs to be clarity on what the NMC plans to do to tackle gay phobia in the current set of healthcare professionals. Without these changes, equitable access to care for queer people will remain a distant dream.

Shaikh is Associate Professor, Community Medicine, HIMSR, Delhi and Raghuram is Project Coordinator, Sangath, Bhopal

Facilitate the return of pundits from Kashmir

As a law-abiding Indian citizen and Indian Muslim, my heart is broken after witnessing the vile killings carried out by the Resistance Force (TRF) in Kashmir, including those of chemist Makhan Lal Bindroo, principal Supinder Kaur and a Kashmiri pundit, Deepak Chand, who had returned from Jammu to his ancestral home, along with thousands of others since 1947. Sadly, the land of Sufi Saints and Sadhus, Syed Bulbul Shah, Mir Sayyed Hamdani, Nund Rishi ( Nooruddin Wali), Utpaladeva, Bhagwan Gopinath, Lal Ded, Rupa Bhawani, Habba Khatoon and many more have become hell

What is more lamentable is that no Muslim group has taken to the streets to condemn the killings. The case became even more heartbreaking when a spokesperson for the National Conference said that of the 30 Kashmiris ruthlessly murdered, 24 are Muslims! This Hindu-Muslim bandwagon that started in 1947 has not wavered to this day.

Police director general Dilbagh Singh said the aim was to attack and undermine the centuries-old tradition of community harmony and brotherhood in Kashmir. And as Srinagar Mayor Junaid Azeem Mattoo said, the attempt was to terrorize the growing number of tourists, as at least 30 to 40 flights had landed in Srinagar.

Such attacks will be a setback for the government’s sincere efforts to rehabilitate displaced Kashmiri pundits. Some time ago, Dattatreya Hosabale, the secretary general of the RSS, rightly said that the displaced Kashmir pundits must now return to their homeland, i.e. the Kashmir valley, with the assurance of their safety and security. Unfortunately, politics in the region has heated up as there is a lobby like JKLF (Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front), APHC (All Party Hurriyat Conference) and others who are against it.

Nevertheless, the idea of ​​Hosabalus is in line with humanity and democratic principles. In addition, he must obtain assurances from the current government, including the NSA, that their resettlement must be peaceful. If the Kashmiri pundits are to be rehabilitated, the primary need of the hour, according to Professor Sushila Bhan, is the cleansing of hearts on both sides. When the pundits return there should be no sense of revenge for the wrongs done to them in the past and as kind-hearted brothers, Muslims in Kashmir must not only welcome but help with their resettlement.

Har chehra yahan chand, har zarrah sitara / Yeh wadi-e-Kashmir, hai Jannat ka nazzara! These lines from Aboo, a duo of Mohammed Rafi and Asha Bhosle in the mid-1970s, actually implored me to tell my parents to take me to Kashmir for my summer vacation. I remember that the peace had just started to deteriorate because of the community atmosphere. But the disaster for Kashmiri Hindus did not begin until 1989 and 1990.

Even today, at least eleven major militant organizations, and perhaps dozens of smaller ones, operate in Kashmir. They are roughly divided between those who support independence and those who support membership in Pakistan. The oldest and best-known militant organization, the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), has spearheaded the movement for an independent Kashmir. Its student wing is the Jammu and Kashmir Student Liberation Front (JKSLF).

Although all groups receive weapons and training from Pakistan, pro-Pakistan groups are deemed to be favored by the ISI. The most powerful of these is the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen. According to press reports, several hundred fighters from Afghanistan and Sudan have also joined some of the militant groups.

The major incident of ethnic cleansing of the Kashmir Pandits began on September 14, 1989 with a Kashmiri Pandit and political activist, Tika Lal Taploo, who was gunned down outside his residence. On November 4, 1989, High Court Judge Neelkanth Ganjoo was killed.

On January 4, 1990, a local Urdu-language newspaper, Aftab, issued a press release issued by the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, asking all pundits to leave the valley immediately. Al-Safa, another local daily, reiterated the warning. On January 9, these warnings were followed by masked jihadists wielding Kalashnikovs who staged militarized marches and openly threatened and killed Kashmiri pundits who opposed them.

As darkness fell, the besieged Pandit community became panicked. A multitude of very provocative, communal and threatening slogans, interspersed with martial songs, urged Muslims to go out into the streets and break the chains of “slavery”.

These slogans were mixed with specific and unambiguous threats against the Pandits. They were presented with three choices: ralive, tsaliv ya galive (convert to Islam, leave the place, or be prepared to perish). Bomb explosions and indiscriminate fire by militants have become daily.

Between 1989 and 1991, over 95% of the valley’s indigenous Hindu population was driven out by a targeted campaign. Since then, around 63,000 families of displaced pandits, Sikhs and some Muslims have been living in camps in Jammu or the RNC region, as well as in other Indian states in India and abroad.

The ruthless ethnic cleansing of the Kashmiri Pandit community 30 years ago remains one of the darkest chapters in modern Indian history. The failure of the central government and the state at the time to officially recognize them as “internally displaced persons” and to allow them to return to their countries of origin with full dignity, security and the civil rights they deserve only amplifies this tragedy.

What is heartbreaking is that for 32 years the Pandits of Kashmir have continued to fight for their return to the Valley. They did not do so because the situation in the valley remains unstable and they fear for their lives. Most of them lost their possessions after the exodus and many are unable to return to sell them. Their status as internally displaced persons hurt them in the field of education, as many Hindu families could not afford to send their children to high-end public schools.

Certainly, what Hosabale wished for was something that should have been done decades ago. But previous governments were weak, lacking in resolve and willpower – unlike the current government, which amicably settled issues like the Ram Temple, Section 370, the triple talaq, and Shaheen Bagh. However, Hosabale should also know that due to the separatist and militant element in Kashmir, the return of the Pandits will not be easy. Nevertheless, if the NSA, the military and the state police decide to offer a harmonious life to these original inhabitants, nothing is impossible. The Kashmiri Pandits don’t have to be faced with a repeat of the ’90s.

The writer is the chancellor of the Maulana Azad Urdu National University, Hyderabad

A one-dimensional view of history

Balbir Punj (‘Cheating on the Past ‘, IE, October 2) essentially opposed the understanding of the history of the leader of the RSS, Mohan Bhagwat – Bhagwat strove to create harmony between Hindus and Muslims. Punj does not believe in forgetting the past and says the role of Islamic invaders cannot be glossed over. I have great respect for Punj’s scholarship, but he ignored my statement that “the true ruling elite of all religions also oppressed the peasants, looting and sometimes for political reasons alone, destroying religious places ”.

There are historical facts that cannot be denied, but history is not one-dimensional. The RSS leader was right to blame the British because Sir Henry M. Elliot in his Bibliographic Index of Historians of India by Muhammedan (1850) deliberately presented Muslim rulers as oppressive to justify the British takeover, which , in his opinion, brought the so-called “full light of European truth, gentleness and fairness”. How the British destroyed our economy and our trade was admitted even by Punj. Who can dispute Dadabhai Naoroji’s thesis on the “flight of wealth”? Unlike the British, the Muslim rulers made India their home.

Let’s talk about temple attacks first – Punj specifically mentioned Somnath. Royal temples were seen as political institutions and an integral part of the king’s sovereignty and, therefore, an attack on them had political and rather than religious motivations. King Chalukya Somesyara III said it in so many words when he himself recorded that the enemy’s capital, including palaces and temples, must be burned down. Three years before the attack on Somnath, King Chola Rajendra I in 1022 ordered his army to travel over 1,500 km to defeat King Pala Mahipala. The bronze image of Siva was removed from the temple and transported to Thanjavur, the capital of the Cholas. Likewise of King Kalinga of Odisha, in addition to the precious stones, the idols of Bhairava, Bhairavi and Kali were taken by force. Several Jain temples were also looted in Gujarat by the kings of Parmara. King Harsha of Kashmir had institutionalized such plunder. Indra III of the Rashtrakuta dynasty had demolished the temples of the Pratiharas.

The Somnath expedition was undertaken in 1025. The presiding deity here too was Siva. Mahmood Ghazni was indeed a ruthless looter who attacked temples to get rich and that is why he spared thousands of temples during his 1,600 km journey to Somnath. Regarding these attacks as routine, no Sanskrit source recorded by the local population has given a detailed account of the highly condemnable and absolutely anti-Islamic attack on Somnath. Life in the neighboring places has remained normal. Sanskrit texts did not mention the religious identity of the invaders but referred to them by their ethnic identity – Turushkas or Turks. The King of Goa who visited Somnath in 1037 said nothing about Mahmood’s attack. In 1216 the temple was fortified to save it from the Hindu kings of Malwa.

The leader of the RSS is right because it was after about eight centuries that the British presented it as an attack on Hinduism with the clear intention of creating animosity between Hindus and Muslims. Of course, a few Persian sources glorified such shameful attacks on temples. But Mahmood also appointed a Hindu military general for his army stationed in Lahore in 1033. Hindus who emigrated from India and settled in Ghazni were allowed to build their temples. The kings of Ghaznavid even issued coins that included the Nandi bull of Siva, although the pictorial representation of living beings is prohibited in Islam.

In addition, ordinary Muslims were really unhappy with the attacks on temples. As a result, when Sultan Masood, the son and successor of Mahmood sent a camel laden with riches to a mystical saint with a letter indicating that this wealth had been acquired by his father during his Indian conquests, the saint returned it saying that ‘he was aware of how these expeditions were made.

Punj should know that Mahmood and Muhammad Ghauri also attacked several Muslim kings. In 1150, the ruler of Ghaur, Bahram Shah, burned the entire city of Ghazni, including the library of Ibn Sina, and even destroyed mosques. True Ghauri destroyed several Hindu temples as they were considered the most visible signs of the rulers’ sovereignty. But then Ghauri also restored Prithviraj Chauhan’s son to Ajmer’s kingship. Likewise, after the defeat in 1196, King Parihara of Gwalior and King Gahadavala of Banaras were restored as tributary kings. King Solanki of Gujarat has also been restored.

Timur, Nadir Shah and Ahmad Shah Abdali were certainly invaders, but they waged wars against the Muslim rulers of India and therefore these wars were territorial and not religious. Even Babur had captured Delhi by defeating Sultan Ibrahim Lodhi. Nadir Shah called Indian Muslims hindooane kalmago – Hindu Muslims. This is what Bhagwat has always said.

The political nature of temple attacks can also be understood by looking at a few examples. As prince Mohammad Bin Tughlaq in 1326 had destroyed the temple of Siva at Warrangal, but after becoming sultan in 1329 he ordered the repair of the temple of Siva at Kalyan as it was now in his kingdom. Even Aurangzeb supported the temples with grants and money. He heavily attacked state officials who harassed the Brahmins of Banaras. But just like Tughlaq, the temples of enemies or those that served as a refuge for state rebels or facilitated Shivaji’s flight were destroyed by him.

Regarding the conversion, Punj has not cited any authentic contemporary sources on his state sponsored large-scale forced conversion claim. Nizamuddin Aulia himself had opposed conversion when a Muslim disciple brought his Hindu brother to Nizamuddin in the hope of achieving conversion. In 1317, Nizamuddin even refused to ask a Hindu to convert to Islam. In fact, Sufi saints had great respect for Hindu religious beliefs. Nizamuddin was walking along the Yamuna bank one day in Delhi with Amir Khusro, they saw Hindu women bathing in the river and offering prayers in the sun, Nizamuddin said, “Khusro, these women also pray to Allah. They have their own way of praying. Shahjahan in 1634 issued a formal decree on the Madan Mohan temple in Brindavan and called the Hindu cult Ibadate Ilahi (divine cult). Akbar and Jahangir also opposed conversions. Thomas Coryat, a Briton who spent two years at Jahangir’s court, says the emperor had an aversion to changing his religion.

Muslims have even adopted several Hindu customs including jauhar. In 1301, Muhammad Shah, a former Mongolian convert to Islam, killed his entire family as Alauddin Khalji was about to seize the fort of Ranthambhor. In 1617, a certain Qasim Khan, who had been governor of Bengal, also preferred jauhar to the capture of women.

Imposition of discrimination jazia was the exception rather than the rule, and it was rarely collected, except in the last decades of Aurangzeb’s reign, primarily to support wars in the south and to please religious fanatics. It was an exemption from military service and was imposed on able-bodied men. Hindus who served in the Imperial Army were exempt. Surprisingly, the tax officials once arrived in Nizamuddin to collect jazia.

Systematic religious persecution in the modern sense has not taken place. Akbar forbade the killing not only of cows but even of peacocks. No one was executed for blasphemy. When a Brahmin is sentenced to death by a kazi, the emperor becomes angry and sends the judge in exile to Mecca. Muslim rulers married Hindu women. Jahangir and Shahjahan’s mothers were Hindus. Syed Ali Nadeem Rizvi says that Hindu and Muslim nobles lived with their havelis near Agra Fort and Holi and Muharram were celebrated together. Even Hindus attended Muslim schools. Thus Balkrishnan Brahman during Shahjahan was sent to the maktab of Abdul Majid in Hisar. Likewise, Muslims attended Hindu schools in Banaras, Thatta and Multan. Hindu and Muslim merchants jointly owned the cargo and ships laden with merchandise in Surat and in 1666 they even jointly protested against the kazis.

Punj disparaged the Hindu representation in Mughal nobility by comparing it to the recruitment of Indians by the British. But he failed to understand that so few Englishmen were available in India, large numbers of Muslims were available to Muslim rulers. Isn’t it surprising that Mughal Emperor Babur was surprised in 1526 to find that all tax officials were Hindus despite 300 years of Muslim rule?

Indeed, the Muslim rulers did a lot of things that by modern standards were absolutely wrong. But should we judge medieval rulers by today’s standards, especially when we refuse to judge today’s democratic governments by the mandate of our Constitution and its liberal and enlightened view?

The author is Vice-Chancellor of NALSAR Law University, Hyderabad. Views are personal

In Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 goals, a chance to deepen partnerships, including with India

Five years ago, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia launched its Vision 2030, aimed at diversifying its economy, modernizing its administration and introducing bold reforms in many sectors. Much has happened since then to mark milestones on the road to implementation while responding to the unanticipated Covid-19 pandemic.

The ongoing transformation of the Kingdom’s economy and society revolves around Vision 2030 and its multiple objectives, including diversification of the economy, improving government efficiency, increasing non-oil public revenues, reduction of unemployment and increase of women’s participation in the labor market, etc.

Various reforms have been introduced in laws, regulations and procedures. In the area of ​​law, the Kingdom has implemented impactful reforms in the area of ​​contract enforcement. More than 197 pieces of legislation have been introduced to improve the regulatory environment.

The Kingdom’s e-government initiative strengthens the capacities of government institutions to become more efficient, transparent and accountable. The Kingdom is supporting a digital industrial revolution for projects in mining, manufacturing, logistics and energy with a $ 453 billion fund. The Line project and the Neom, Red Sea and Qiddiya projects expand the portfolio of innovations.

A strong digital infrastructure has been developed to support the ambitions of Vision 2030. Saudi Arabia’s robust digital infrastructure now ranks 7th in the world in terms of internet speed and 5G quality. With the recently launched national strategy for data and AI, Saudi Arabia will soon be among the top 15 countries for artificial intelligence capacity, attracting a total of Rs 75 billion in investment.

Since 2016, the government has implemented more than 45% of the 500 planned reforms. Thanks to the National License Reform Program (NLRP), more than 60% of the more than 5,500 licenses selected for reform have already been withdrawn or amended. Business licenses are issued within 24 hours.

As HRH the Crown Prince said in a recent interview, in the fourth quarter of 2019, the non-oil economy grew by around 4.5%. The momentum gained since then has helped the Kingdom deal effectively with the economic repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic. FDI inflows increased by 331% to SR 17.625 billion, with a total of 1,278 new foreign firms having obtained licenses in 2020. Saudi Arabia’s investment environment is returning to previous levels. Covid-19 and is on track to increase private sector contribution to 65% of GDP by 2030.

IMF projections paint a positive picture, estimating Saudi Arabia’s real GDP growth at 4.8%, real non-oil GDP growth at 3.6% and real oil GDP growth at 6.8% in 2022.

Public Investment Fund assets were expected to reach SR 7 trillion by 2030. As they are expected to reach SR 4 trillion in 2025, the target has already been readjusted to SR 10,000 billion by 2030. PIF has already launched more than 30 new businesses and created 3,31,000 jobs in Saudi Arabia over the past four years and will invest a further $ 40 billion per year over the next five years to support new sectors such as tourism, sports, industry, agriculture, transport, space, etc.

The Kingdom is poised to become a global hub for renewable energy (RE) and RE technologies over the next 10 years. The recent inauguration of the Sakaka and Sudair solar PV plant is part of the recently launched “Saudi Green” and “Middle East Green” initiatives. The two initiatives aim to collectively plant 50 billion trees, generate 50% of electricity through renewable energy by 2030, and propel the region towards achieving more than 10% of the global targets for reducing emissions. carbon. In its drive to save the planet, Saudi Arabia plans to host the first-ever Saudi Green Initiative Forum and Middle East Green Initiative Summit in Riyadh on October 23, 2021. Recently, Saudi Arabia Arabia has started producing renewable energy from its first wind farm in Dumat Al Jandal. The wind farm is expected to generate green energy for around 70,000 Saudi households and eliminate 9,88,000 tonnes of carbon emissions per year. As part of the green initiatives, the Kingdom is also expected to eliminate more than 130 million tonnes of carbon emissions using clean hydrocarbon technologies.

In our efforts to achieve the strategic goals of Vision 2030, we have created immense opportunities and an attractive business environment for our strategic partners. Indian companies in Saudi Arabia operate in various industries such as management, consulting services, construction projects, telecommunications, information technology, software development, pharmaceuticals, etc. The number of Indian companies investing and operating in the Kingdom has continued to grow. In 2020, 44 new licenses were issued for Indian investments. Saudi Arabia also recorded the largest increase in FDI to India in 2020 with investments worth $ 2.81 billion in renewable energy, petrochemicals, agriculture, health and technology.

As we celebrate Saudi Arabia’s 91st National Day on September 23, we look forward to our continued partnership with India. Saudi Arabia regards India as a close friend and a strategic partner. Our vibrant cultural, socio-economic and political partnership is based on mutual respect and shared interests and values ​​and will continue to thrive for the interests of our two friendly peoples and the people of the region.

The writer is Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to India

Kidnapping, distraught government and long wait for trial

The astonishing kidnapping of the daughter of Union Home Secretary Mufti Mohammad Sayeed Rubaiya Sayeed in 1989 was a turning point in the history of terrorism in Kashmir. Yet, thanks to our belated criminal justice system and lack of political will, the terrorists involved have yet to be brought to justice. After three decades, the TADA special court indicted 10 of the 24 defendants – two were later killed, 12 were never arrested – in January this year; their cross-examination began on September 4.

Rubaiya, a medical intern, was on her way home on December 8, 1989, when her minibus was stopped by four armed co-passengers in Nowgam, near Mufti’s private residence. The men were from the growing Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF). Rubaiya not only used public transport, which was unusual for the daughter of the country’s interior minister, but also had no security.

The valley was teeming at the time with stories of young people heading to Pakistan to take up arms, although the State Department of Public Information did its best to project that the situation was “well under control”.

The kidnapping revealed the void of the security, administrative and political apparatus. Rubaiya was taken in a car to Sopore, about 50 km from Srinagar, and to Natipora, transferred to another car with JKLF co-founder Yasin Malik and two others.

Hours later, the kidnappers called a newspaper to let the world know that the JKLF had the daughter of the Indian Minister of the Interior in their care. In return, they demanded the release of five high-ranking JKLF men – Gulam Nabi Bhat, Mohd Altaf, Noor Mohd Kalwal, Javid Zargar and Abdul Hamid Sheikh. The next day Zargar was replaced by Abdul Ahad Waza who, along with Bhat, reportedly held a meeting with JKLF chief Amanullah Khan and Pakistani army officers at PoK in 1987, to escalate the armed insurgency in Kashmir. Hamid Sheikh was among the first group from Kashmir to receive armed training in early 1988 at PoK, and was instrumental in creating an engaged JKLF core in Kashmir. At the time, he was being treated for a gunshot wound.

With Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah in London and Chief Secretary Moosa Raza in Delhi, the state cabinet, sitting in the winter capital of Jammu, completely lacking in political sense, passed a resolution accepting the demands kidnappers. It is another matter that there has been no official record of this resolution.

It was later discovered that Rubaiya was being held first in the house of a junior engineer, and then in the house of an industrialist, as police and intelligence agencies groped in the dark.

The Center set up a Crisis Management Committee (CMG) to mount a possible rescue, pressing the Secretary General; Ved Marwah, then Managing Director, National Security Guards; and J&K IB chief AS Dulat in Srinagar.

Reports released later by senior officials revealed an interesting scenario in Delhi and Srinagar. The CMG was inconsistent, while Sayeed relied more on his contacts for his daughter’s release. In his book Uncivil Wars: Pathology of Terrorism in India, Marwah wrote that with Arun Nehru, TN Seshan and MK Nararyanan (then director, IB) waited an entire day for Sayeed at his Delhi residence, eventually leaving at midnight without meet him . “No one was in command in New Delhi or J&K,” he wrote.

From the Sayeed family, a well-known journalist and friend, Zaffar Miraj, was the main negotiating channel. Other intermediaries included Dr AA Guru, a well-known JKLF sympathizer who was treating Hamid Sheikh; Maulvi Abbas Ansari (later president of the Hurriyat conference); MP Mir Mustafa; and Judge ML Bhat, who had just been transferred from the J&K High Court to Allahabad.

Chief Secretary Raza, the official negotiator, wrote in his memoir Kashmir: Land of Regrets about his daring visit to the militant lair in downtown Srinagar with Dulat for direct talks with the JKLF leadership. The activist outfit accused the government of picking up polling agents and beating them to rig the 1987 assembly polls – seen as the immediate trigger for the rise of activism in Kashmir.

An agreement was reached and, as a result, Raza announced a review of the political harassment cases in return for Rubaiya’s release.

But that was torpedoed by parallel negotiations led by Judge Bhat, who reached a deal with JKLF mediators, as agreed by the state government. Farooq Abdullah being opposed to such an exchange, Prime Minister VP Singh rushed his ministers IK Gujral and Arif Mohd Khan to persuade the CM. Raza walked to Judge Bhat’s official residence. The five activists were eventually freed there, even as the others spent agonizing moments with the kidnappers delaying Rubaiya’s release by 75 minutes beyond the agreed three-hour interval.

No debriefing session was allowed and Rubaiya immediately flew to Delhi. The liberated militants disappeared in the air, the officers still at a loss.

The arrested JKLF activists later confessed that, together with their Pakistani collaborators, they viewed the kidnapping of the daughter of the Indian Prime Minister of Kashmir as the best strategy to boost activism. Between 1990 and 1996, Kashmir experienced a surge in kidnappings, from 169 to 666. According to police records, there have been nearly 5,700 kidnappings since the Sayeed incident. Most of those abducted were killed, including Professor Mushir-ul-Haq, VC of the University of Kashmir.

The government stopped releasing activists arrested in the kidnapping cases, until the hijacking of Kandahar exactly 10 years later. The three released activists then included Azhar Masood of Jaish-e-Mohammed, who was to organize the attack on Parliament in December 2001.

The author is a retired J&K executive IAS officer. He was co-director of the State Department of Information at the time of the kidnapping

“The Covid pandemic has forced us to rethink the link between air quality and the spread of infectious diseases”

Air pollution is a major threat to human health. The recent World Health Organization and Global Burden of Disease report, including the Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health, also links air pollution to more than 7 million premature deaths in the world.

A recent report also points out that many heavily polluted cities around the world are in India, raising public health concerns. September 7 is celebrated as “International Clean Air Day for Blue Skies” to raise awareness among communities and various stakeholders for sustainable action. The theme for 2021 is “Clean Air, Healthy Planet”, to highlight the health effects of air pollution, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The pandemic is one of the biggest public health emergencies which has also placed an emphasis on protecting the environment and lockdowns have allowed scientists to examine air pollution, its sources and mechanism of reduction to develop future policies and evidence-based suggestions to strengthen action under the National Clean Air Program. The main observations of scientific studies include:

There is clear evidence that the closures have dramatically improved air quality
The reduction in air pollution was directly proportional to urban size and population density
Natural emissions such as forest fires have also contributed to local and regional pollution

Covid also placed emphasis on indoor air quality and the need for proper ventilation to limit the spread of emerging infectious disease threats

Containment is not a solution to air pollution or environmental pollution. But, the current pandemic has forced us to rethink how the quality of the air, the climate are linked to the spread of infectious diseases such as Covid-19.

The Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) of the United Nations (UN) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) pointed out that we could exceed 1.5 ° C by mid-century due to of human influence.

The impacts of both climate and air pollution will weigh on the healthcare delivery system, mainly affecting vulnerable and marginalized populations as during the pandemic. There is no apparent epidemiological evidence, but it is established that the route of exposure to air pollution and transmission / infection to Covid is through the lungs.

If a person has compromised lung function due to air pollution, they may be at a higher risk for complications associated with Covid-19 disease.

We need to harness existing knowledge to develop evidence-based policies to develop harm reduction strategies. In addition, it is necessary to focus on the physical environment, including the social and behavioral aspects of the population, in order to ensure public participation for the protection and sustainability of the environment.

This will help restore ecosystems and reduce the burden of environmental morbidity and mortality.

(The author is Additional Professor of Environmental Health, Department of Community Medicine and School of Public Health, PGIMER)