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.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

A Dedicated Social Activist and a Physician Living in Srinagar Shares His Vision for Preserving the Kashmiri Ethos

Dr. Surrander Dhar, a physician living in Srinagar, shares his thoughts on the Way Forward with the Kashmiri Pandit Diaspora.
(Dr. Surrander Dhar, 69, was born and raised in Srinagar. He matriculated from Tyndale Biscoe Memorial High School and attended the S. P. College. He graduated from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) with a MBBS degree in 1963. He joined the Government Medical College, rising through the ranks from Assistant Professor in Medicine to Associated Professor, and eventually a Professor in 1971. He served on the faculty until 1991. He has published several papers in national and international publications, including articles on Kashmiri culture and heritage, and on environmetal issues. He has conducted numerous seminars and published a book on his experience about living in the valley at the peak of the turmoil and is about to release his second book. He continue to practice medicine in Srinagar today.)

The way forward as I see it
January 23, 2008

The amount of literature in the form of poetry, essays and historical
write-ups that have come up after the exodus of kashmiri Pandits is
remarkable considering the terribly bad circumstances the community had
to pass through. Much has been written about the causes and
circumstances of this mass migration. I would not go into that at present though I
believe a proper scientific study by any one of us is mandatory. To be
authentic the study should be done soon as there will be enough
eyewitnesses. This would put all other theories and hearsay to rest. Otherwise
those theories like “Jagmohan did it!” will be put forward at sometime
in future by the vested interests. In any case this would be important
even from our own point of view for future reference and lessons we
might derive from the study.

I think one of the foremost things that have to be borne in our
minds is that our KP identity must be kept alive as long as it is possible.
This basic identity is required and is something that most human
beings require for social and psychological well-being. Fortunately there is
only a small minority of our people who have doubts about the
desirability of clinging too much to this identity. World is changing fast and
the social effects of globalization are such that every persons
identity is under threat. The mindbogling socioeconomic changes in India and
the meltdown of cultures in America are examples with which we are
familiar with. With such upheavals occurring mainly due to fast changes in
technology it is impossible to predict what the world will be like ten
years from now. So the doubts too have a basis. But retaining our
identity has advantages. Apart from giving us a sense of security and
strength it also gives a feeling of belonging—some thing important for
ones evolution in all spheres. If we agree with this then we can

Foremost is the realization that we can take genuine pride in
belonging to a community with great achievements in the past. Every body knows
that we are the only people in the subcontinent who had the tradition
of writing history right from 10th century onwards [even much earlier
perhaps]. Kalhans Rajtarangni is fairly authentic from 6th century
onwards. Many scholars have acknowledged the vast contribution of Kashmiri
scholars to the Sanskrit literature that has a pride of place in the
great Indian heritage of culture and religion. But something happened
after the 13th century that our contribution dwindled and diminished. We
were involved in a heroic struggle for existence and we all know how and
why—but even after this some priceless gems of poetry and prose did
surface. I am not going into the details of all this wonderful past but
would emphasize that we have a genuine case of feeling proud of our
heritage for us to build on this edifice a great future!

There is a strong feeling in the community for “unity”. I appreciate
it and I too was a strong votary for it. But I am no more obsessed by
it. It is not in our blood to follow. We all have creativity and ideas
and that nullifies all herd mentality. After the exodus there were 18
thousand people still living in the valley but slowly over the years
[which includes three ghastly massacres in-between] only 6 to 7 thousand
are left who are the diehards. Nothing worse could have happened and yet
unity was all along elusive. Seeing this I was quite sad and
disheartened but did not give up.

There was however a ray of hope. I saw there was a consensus for
doing certain things. Every group and leader wanted to do the same thing –
only they did it differently. It is this ‘consensus’ that has to be
stressed not unity. In this way every body could contribute individually
under a loose framework. The leader can be called a coordinator! After
all the great exodus in our history could not have happened without a
consensus—most people had their individual assessment of the situation
and took the plunge individually sometimes not informing even one’s
brother! I would now call unity, as connectivity -this is important for a
sense of belonging and brotherhood. If we remain connected the effects
of our dispersal could be almost nullified. Our connectivity is a boon
of modern era and we must thank God for this great favour. Think of
exodus at the time of Sikander Butshikanan et al, people would not know
anything about each other or even what is happening back home for
months or perhaps even years. The news of Bolshevik revolution reached
Srinagar after eight months! And that was 1917! In the present case we
can remain ‘united’ yet operate from any part of the world!!

There is a lot of talk of our return. “Return “ where? I feel much
of this is rhetoric’ nostalgia and politically motivated. Todays Kashmir
is different - the environment is gone, rivers are dry, jungles have
been finished, the greenery and the meadows are dwindling, there is
construction everywhere and the monsters are jarring. Still there is time
to salvage things but where is the will .The society has changed and
crass materialism has taken over and in this free for all atmosphere where
can there be opportunity for our youngsters. Yes there will be people
who will still come who find some interest or an opportunity. Some
individuals have already come. Nobody notices them and they get absorbed.
Having come back their experience is great – a sense of belonging! It is
possible - infact likely that in future some entrepreneur KPs will
come and set up shop there and generate employment ! It will happen
sooner than we think but not at political behest but as an
individual effort. And that will ensure the presence of a centrality
of ours in the place of our origin. Right now the number of KPs living
in Kashmir is statistically insignificant but extremely important to
represent our centrality. I do however regret that not a single KP forum
talks about us anywhere let alone recognize us as an important presence.

Please do not misunderstand me – we KPs are quite happy there though
we have our share of problems peculiar to us. This presence gives us
connectivity with our past heritage and also our spiritual selves.
Wherever I have gone I have seen a yearning in most KPs for our sacred
shrines, our local Gods, symbols and whatever connects us spiritually with
that place. This is how it ought to be notwithstanding however the
presence of various Parbats, Tulmuls and the likes that have come up at
various places. All of us have been told in our childhood that every inch
of our land is sacred. I may not vouch for that but who amongst us can
deny that feeling of a spiritual presence – that ecstasy of a spring
breeze, the awe inspiring sight of Harmukh and mahadev , the abode of
Gods – the shining and shimmering Gangabal - all this and more in our
Kashmir. This physical / spiritual presence cannot be washed away from
our conscience. There is some amount of truism in the fact that our
Kashmir was called as Resh- vaer and the number of saints Faqeers and
sadhus at any time was legend. Many of them not only preached but also
lived the teachings of Upanishads!! My own faith in the presence of
divinity [‘divath’] in Kashmir was strengthened by observing the ordinary
man on the street in the hey days of violence and mayhem. He had become
insensitive but the soul though bruised was intact. This is not to
suggest even for a minute that the ghory tales that emanated from there
were incorrect. There was much truth in all of them .

Most of the time for any possibility of our return to our homeland we
look up to Govt of India or the Govt of Jand k. None of them is
interested in us because we don’t have the requisite votes and the clout. For
the latter we are just expendable. They work that way – apathy and
indifference to anything that does not affect them directly. So having a
coherent policy for the return of Kashmiri Pandits would be asking for
moon. For GOI our total absence should have been a great concern of
security but, no, they don’t care. They work on adhoc basis for short-term
effects only. They have given some sops and the matter has ended there.
Now anything we ask from them them is ‘unreasonable’!! We should have
known it long ago but it is never too late. In our future actions we
have to factor in such realizations.

In short what have we to do to achieve our past glory and contribute
to the welfare of our society and the world that is our primary
dharma as

· Be proud of being a KP. This identity while being
important for our inner strength should not be worn on ones sleeve . We now
belong to world at large.

· Stay connected wherever you are. Excel in your work
whatever it is. That is our dharma. It is personally important to you but you
are also helping the community by this. If you are following the
Bhagvat Geeta and doing’nishkam karma’ then you are already an evolved person
and the community feels proud of you. Your rise and excellence is the
greatest asset of the biradari and it is this and this alone which will
give the community the requisite clout to be effective and counted.
This has to be our answer to’ their’ indifference.

· Do not hate. It is a negative force, which saps energy. We
have to be objective in our judgments and conclusions. There was and
still is an element of population inimical to us in the valley and that
has dwindled considerably and hopefully continues to shrink as time
passes. But the other side of the coin is also true—a significant number
think the same way as you and me think, their hearts beating the same
way for a better peaceful Kashmir as ours. Whatever be the future
equation we have to live with them and they in turn have to learn to live
with us with dignity and honour.I see no alternative considering the
present and the future social, political and economic scenerios in the
subcontinent and the world .

· We have to stop criticizing each and every other person.
This was our habit and also came from a necessity in the valley! With
limited opportunities and avenues there, people who were left behind in
the race inadvertently and in a “nishkam” manner criticized and
denigrated all and sundry--- to satisfy their ego! But that became a habit
latter. It takes a couple of generations for such a habit to go but we could
make a conscious attempt to do away with this bad habit. Difficult
but possible. I am convinced if we do this much only, 50% of our problems
will get solved.

· Praise wherever it is deserved. It has to be genuine and
coming from the heart. The boost that it will give to all of us is
unimaginable. It is heartening to see that this habit has caught on!

· Is it possible to keep alive our language with such a thin
dispersal of the community? Yes and no. ‘ No’, because in India it will
be Hindi and outside it will be English whose weight our language can
hardly bear. ‘Yes’, if we have the will. It takes almost no effort. I
am pleasantly surprised that my grand daughter who has entered into
teens refuses to talk to me in any other language but Kashmiri! She is born
and brought up in America. The big question is can we do it. If we can
do it, all what I have said above becomes relevant and implementable.

· We have to develop the habit of charity. There are hundreds
of causes and I believe people are ready to contribute. If only it
could become universal, think of the magnitude of collection. What can we
not do with that corpus? This however is a tricky problem as it has
been so with us always. For flimsy reasons and very small amounts many a
reputations have fallen by wayside in the past and that is the reason
people shirk any monetary responsibility. We have to devise a way of
contributing only to a single corpus which of necessity has to be
professionally managed. There are lots of ways this could be achieved and
younger generation has to come up with suggestions. This effort can easily
be institutionalized so that its effects are lasting and enduring.

· The value of the contribution will enhance manifold if it
is given as “gupt”—but that will require sacrifice of ego. Can that

I represent the proverbial “eleven families” and I can assure you
that among’ them’ are brave people who waged a heroic struggle of
defiance and endurance and steadfastness in the midst of danger and
mayhem—all for an ideal ! The ideal of asserting a right and a sacred right at
Their only problem is the absence of large numbers of their
relatives and cohorts who otherwise would make a dynamic , vibrant and a
happy society. The important thing now is to accept our positions as they
are and move on.

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