Introduction to KashmirForum.org 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.
www.kashmirforum.org

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Rotten System: a timely discourse by Firdous Syed

Rotten system: Can you remove the rot is the question of curiosity?

WORDS WITHIN BY FIRDOUS SAYED

(Mr. Firdous Syed, 41, was born in Bhaderwah, Doda, and had his schooling in Jammu. He is currently the Chairman of the "Kashmir Foundation for Peace and Development Studies," and associated with the J&K National Conference. Between 1989 and 1991, he led the Moslem Janbaaz Force, a militant group, and was jailed from 1991 through 1994. In 1996, he publicly renounced the gun culture, and has since joined mainstream politics and is an active member of the Kashmir civil society.)


This being last budget session of the current assembly, Opposition National Conference would have tried to corner Treasury benches on routine issues of governance, employment and human rights. But MLA Sangrama, Shoaib Lone’s serious charges of corruption against Peerzada Mohammed Sayed proved a God-sent opportunity for the Opposition to put coalition government on mat. Even though Ghulam Nabi Azad’s government acted with great alacrity in controlling the damage by removing Peerzada both as minister and as PCC president, besides asking Vigilance organization to probe allegations against him, but if public mood is taken as indicator, the damage has already been done.

Notwithstanding Azad’s loud-mouthed rhetoric about fighting corruption, nobody believes his anti-corruption drive any more after his ministers have been “caught” red-handed, neck-deep in corruption and other malpractices. Whatever was said on the floor of assembly about the levels of corruption in higher-echelons of government is largely known to the general-public, for they have to face it on daily basis. Shoiab Lone just removed the lid from a stinking cesspool of corruption and politico-bureaucratic nexus, which is ever busy in loot and plunder here. Reeking of the gutter might be a reason for the discomfort of present ruling elite, but its foul smell has become unbearable for hapless the common people.

Deputy Chief Minister Muzaffar Hussain Baig has confessed that he is “feeling suffocated” and “wants to quit”. Whether his inner voice is strong enough to prompt him to resign, or that he will eventually hush-up the feeble murmur of his conscience remains to be seen, but there cannot be any disagreement when he says “corruption has become ‘Nasoor’ (wound that refuses to heal) and is knee-deep in our society”. He also acknowledged it was very difficult to do away with corruption when the entire system was “rotten”.

In the good old days, political leaders were seen as guides and role models, and were honoured and respected by all. But over the years, with the erosion of values, the politics has evolved into a stinking gutter of immorality. Needless to say that entry of morally, materially and ethically corrupt and low people into the public arena has turned a highly respectable ‘social service’ (politics) into a money minting enterprise.

Both moral and material corruptions, which are rampant here, reflect the decay of mind. If it were not so, perhaps an MLA would not have thought of greasing the palms of a minister’s wife through her chauffeur, for his own petty financial gain! Then the MLA whines about the whole transition as a “great injustice”, and complains about the “fishy deal” without even blinking his eyes for a second, as if it were his divine right.

And Minister’s wife allegedly threatens mother of the “wronged” MLA, and Minister, who had to resign, complains as though he was deliberately “targeted” and there was a “political conspiracy” against him. And he has guts to say “if I open my mouth many skeletons will tumble out — ‘Eis Hamam Main Sab Nangey Hain!” Isn’t he driving home the point that he is not the only one who is corrupt – that nobody here is saner than thou! A livid theatrics of political tragedy and black humor cannot get more bizarre than this.

Over the years the political system has been rendered totally ineffective by the entry of the unscrupulous in the government and the legislature. “Don’t open this Pandora’s Box for the time being” — no less than a person of Chief Minister’s stature is on record to have said this on the floor of the Upper House while trying to brush away the scandal under the carpet even after wily-nily accepting “It has come to my notice that legislators and members while spending their Constituency Development Funds (CDF) have a certain percentage of it.” With such fraudulent antics of the present-day rulers coming to fore, a political turmoil and upheaval would have gripped the entire state if government had even an iota of credibility among the people.

The electoral politics is a money-spinning dynastic and family profession here. People inherit from their parents their present positions as a matter of right and legacy. If one looks around the ‘who is who’ of politics today, there are four prominent dynasties of Sheikh’s, Mufti’s, Shah’s and erstwhile Maharaja’s family engaged in politics here. Then there are political families of Lone’s from Lolab and Sangrama, Mian’s from Kangan, Aga’s of Budgam, Itoo’s from Noorabad, Beg’s from Islamabad, Narboo’s from Leh, Kitchloo’s from Kishtawar, Bhim Singh and Harshdev from Udhampur, Khan’s of Gool Gulabgarh, Lal Singh and his wife from Kathua — all well-represented in the present legislature. And many more political heirs are eagerly waiting in wings to jump into the fray.

Apart from ill-equipped and poorly qualified (in terms of ethics and mannerism) people entering the system, there is an inherent problem with the system itself. No man-made system can be prefect, and obviously the democracy is far from being perfect. The ills of democracy are too many. In an adult franchise of ‘one vote one person’, even the lunatics, clowns, sycophants, mass-murderers, thieves, criminals, and people of doubtful integrity can elect and can get elected. Moreover, in the sub-continent people do not vote to elect someone for merit, suitability or uprightness; people simply vote on the basis of kinship, caste or regional preferences, which make it possible for the people with dubious credentials to be the masters of masses’ destiny.

When Gulam Nabi Azad became the Chief Minister, he made some tall claims about eradicating corruption. However, today it is clear that whatever he said was just political rhetoric and shrill cry even though it attracted a lot of public attention. People were ready to give him benefit of doubt – “may be he genuinely believes what he professes”. However, with the experience of hindsight now after more than two years of his rule, one can safely assume — either he was na├»ve and did not know the dynamics of the problem fully or he was simply bluffing. In Congress culture, the chief minister of a state is simply at the mercy of the whimsical high command. No chief minister is free to nick-pick his team; high command always plays a game of one-upmanship. Perhaps Congress doesn’t want chief ministers to become too strong to challenge the authority of party high command, which is far removed from ground realties. Congress chief ministers, even if they are well meaning, are simply constrained by this fact to wage any meaningful campaign for public good. They are always too busy to keep high command in good humor and factional leaders under check.

Had Azad really meant business, just a cursory look around his cabinet colleagues, would have made him understand that barring few, most of them do not justify their position in his cabinet. But the fact that he is putting up with the tainted, infers that he too is either part of the rotten system and lure of the high office has a great gravitational pull for him, or he is too weak a person to usher in any structural change. A rotten and malignant establishment cannot produce a benign system. There is dire need for a complete restructuring. Where a revolution is the answer a quick fix or band-aid will not do.

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