Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

All Politics is Local - Exchange With Mr. Omar Abdullah (NC) on Lack of Degree Colleges in the Budgam District

Hon. Omar Abdullah
J&K National Conference

I am writing to you about a very serious matter. Even though I am currently based in Washington (USA), I have a special place is my heart for the Budgam district, the land of Sheikh Nooruddin. I have watched with keen interest the human development in the district that mostly relies on agricultural economy, when everyone sitting in Srinagar/Jammu talks about investing in tourism and export promotions. I have always felt that among the three original Tehsils in the district, Chandura got the short thrift. One of my concerns has been that while both Budgam and Beerwah have degree colleges, none exists in Chandura.

I am sad to say that this situation has only worsened since the State government implemented the Bilorea Commission recommendations last summer. Suddenly, what was once just an Assembly constituency, Khansahib, has been propelled as a sub-divisional headquarters pushing the Chandura Tehsil into further irrelevance. May be I am not smart enough to know why Khansahib, which is much smaller in size than Chandura and some other towns in the district, would get a higher preference over Chandura. But the recent agitation by usually peaceful people in Magam, Chrar, Chandura and elsewhere only points to a sense of injustice that local people feel about decisions being made by the State government unmindful of public reaction by showering favors on a less deserving town. Rightly or wrongly, it conveys images of Machiavellian politics.

I am not saying that Khansahib should not receive development funds. Budgam district has the dubious distinction of being Jammu and Kashmir’s most backward district in education. So had the government gifted even 2 or 3 degree colleges (out of the 18 announced recently) to the district, it would not have been inappropriate. But when the district is assigned only one new college, I believe politicians of your caliber would know that it will provoke violent reaction from constituents because of ill-advised decision to favor a less deserving town over more deserving towns. In Magam, one is faced with an added complexity of dealing with religious sensitivities that further complicate an already tenuous situation.

Both Chandura and Chrar have substantially larger high school population than Khansahib. In the broader context of locating the new degree college in the Budgam district, it would have been much wiser if decision makers had looked at the map to select a geographically central location, considering that degree colleges already exist in Budgam, Beerwah and Bemina. At least such a decision would have been convenient for college going students. If indeed such a decision is made, there is no question in my mind that the choice would be Chandura.

I appeal to the J&K government through the largest political entity in the State Assembly to re-examine the decision to locate the new degree college in the district at Khansahib. I strongly believe that district constituents will be best served if the college is located in Chandura, though I would hope that because of district’s utterly pathetic literacy rate, the State government makes a wise decision to locate two new degree colleges in the Budgam district – one in Chandura and one in Magam.

With my best regards,

Vijay Sazawal

Dear Dr Sazawal,

Many thanks for your email regarding your concerns about the location of degree colleges in Budgam district.

You make a strong case and I am inclined to agree with most if not all that you have said except that unfortunately logic seldom plays a part in decisions like this. Khan Sahib assembly has the only MLA as a Minister and that too one close to the Chief Minister (as opposed to a Minister of State from Chadoora belonging to PDP). This is the ONLY reason for selecting the location of the degree college.

All I can assure you is that should the National Conference be returned to power in the elections this year we will take a fresh look at locations of all the new degree colleges and rationalise the same.

Thank you once again for your feedback.

Best wishes

Omar Abdullah
Sent from BlackBerry® on Airtel

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