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, March 8, 2008

Apex Kashmiri Pandit Organization Demands Immediuate Action to Save Kashmiri Ethos in the Valley

Shiban Dudha, General Secretary of the All India Kashmiri Samaj (AIKS), reports on a recent visit to the valley. AIKS blames successive Governments for failure to protect temples and shrines of Pandits from desecration, encroachments, closure and sales.

(Mr. Shiban Dudha, 47, was born in Srinagar. He went to government schools in Chandilora (Tangmarg) and Srinagar, and matriculated from the D.A.V. High School in Srinagar. He attended the S.P. College, Srinagar (1980 batch), and completed the Chartered Accountancy course from the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India. He runs his own Chartered Accountancy firm with offices in Srinagar and New Delhi, and divides his professional and personal time between the two cities. He is a well known social activist and a community volunteer. He is also a strong proponent of Kashmir's pluralistic culture.)

Srinagar, 18.2.2008: Concluding its three days emergency visit of valley arising in wake of large scale sales of temple properties in the recent past perpetrated by Land mafia operating in valley, AIKS General Secretary Shiban Dudha squarely blamed the present and past Governments of Jammu & Kashmir in protecting these properties. He said the community is practically left with no major temple in absolute form where KPs’ can worship. He also ridiculed some of the trustees and caretakers of these properties who have been a party to such sales.

Shiban Dudha said in many cases transactions have taken place through non state subjects supposedly acting as caretakers and legitimate parties to transact the deals in collusion with local land mafia. It was here that the Government had failed to act, in holding proper enquiries to verify the genuineness of transactions and thereby prevent the sales. The passage of pending shrines bill in entirety except Bhagwan Gopinath, Ishwar Swaroop Laxmanjoo and Swami Ramakrishna Ashrams is of paramount importance and Government is dilly dallying on this bill only to reportedly accommodate some trustees and individuals having control over major temples of Kashmiri Pandits. AIKS demands that till the Bill is passed as an act, there should be a Government order for blanket ban on transfers of all properties of shrines and temples belonging to Kashmiri Pandits.

“Restoring back of their sold/encroached temples, shrines and properties thereof to Kashmiri Pandits is a primary demand of AIKS from the Government and majority community has to come forward suo moto in this regard as it will go a long way in building confidence amongst Kashmiri Pandits and enable them to eventually return to their homes.” He said Kashmir has a long and recorded history of inter community mutual respect and KPs’ hope this gesture would forthcome from majority community.

The delegation led by Shiban Dudha and accompanied by Shri Sanjay Tikoo, Rattan Chaku, R,L.Kaul, Vijay Sas of KPSS, Shri Baljee, Bushanlal Shah, Makhan Lal Raina of HWSK a local affiliate of AIKS and various intellectuals and district wise coordinators of AIKS visited various temples and shrines, both sold and existing, in Budgam, Srinagar, Anantnag districts and downtown Srinagar. It also called on the Pandit families living in these districts and deliberated with them on various issues of their survival. AIKS puts on record the care and support that muslim majority community extends to these families in their hour of distress.

AIKS demands the immediate clearance of proposals pending with the Chief Minister for shifting of 51 extended KP families living in Pandit camps at Budgam to Sheikhpora and 15 families living in Mattan to cluster of flats constructed at Mattan. AIKS considers the keeping of flats on one hand vacant and making the displaced people to suffer as a glaring example of indifference of Government towards KPs. The construction of these flats for KPs was at one time highly hyped to draw mileage by the then Political Government in Power. AIKS hopes that the new JKPCC chief who has been apprised of this and other matters at New Delhi by AIKS will intervene in all the matters personally since present Chief Minister is totally inaccessible for the KPs despite seeking advance appointments through proper channel. AIKS urges the newly appointed JKPCC President to personally visit various camps of KPs in the valley and see to himself the hardships and inhuman living conditions of these people as none amongst the Government or the civil administration has ever bothered to visit them.

AIKS demands and reiterates proper social and economic rehabilitation of valley based Kashmiri Pandits as its primary demand and an acid test before the Government before it invites displaced Kashmiri Pandits living outside valley to return to their homes.We demand that local administration of Kashmir valley and CM when he is in valley, should invite HWSK and KPSS the two vibrant organizations of KPs’ living in valley and hold discussions with them and act timely to redress their grievances.

AIKS also wants Government to inveontorize all left out properties of KPs’ as was decided by previous Government in February 2004 meeting of apex committee. Also, the matter of issuance of State Subject certificates to Kashmiri Pandits living in valley and outside should be made simpler and hassles free.

AIKS demands that 1,995 graduate and 10+2 cases of KPs’ living in valley must be provided jobs immediately otherwise they will also have no recourse left other that to leave valley.

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