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.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Human Rights 101: Justice Delayed is Justice Denied

Syed Basharat speaks to a victim who has been ignored by the system.

(Mr. Syed Basharat, 27, was born in Kreeri, Baramulla, and did his schooling in Kreeri, and later in Uri and Sopore. He graduated from the Degree College in Baramulla and completed his Master's degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from the Kashmir University in 2005. He has been a reporter for Kashmir Images, a Srinagar based daily, London based website Gaashonline.Com, and a Srinagar based journal, Globe. Currently, he is working as a special correspondent with Jammu based daily newspaper, The Kashmir Times.)

SRINAGAR, Feb 28: Fatima Bano, 45, epitomises the indescribable ordeal, she and women like her, have undergone all along this turmoil. Living along with her four daughters in a mosque's single rent-free-room at Bohri Kadal Srinagar, today, pinning hope that her plea would be highlighted, she participated in a sit-in convened by S.A.R Geelani's committee for release of political prisoners, here at press enclave near Pratap Park.

It was only in 2007, when Fatima met her husband after a gap of ten years of his solitary confinement at Tihar Jail's high risk cell. Her husband, Mehmood Ahmad Khan, 50, alias Topiwala—a cleric, at Sheikh-ul-Islam mosque Bohri Kadal Srinagar, was arrested by troopers of Border Secuirty Force (BSF) on November 20, 1996, when he was on his way to home in Kangan from Srinagar.

Disembarked from the passenger bus, Khan was arrested near his home and lodged at BSF camp Kangan for about 15 days. He was shifted to Sharifabad camp where he was kept for another 20 days. Finally he landed at Tihar Jail in Delhi, where it is his 12 year of detention. Reason—'land dispute' with his step-brothers.

Fatima alleges that somebody in his close relations misled the BSF troopers at Kangan camp that Khan is involved in some subversive activities, which led to his arrest. When asked about her impression about Tihar Jail, Fatima—the helpless woman sighed deeply, paused, and then said, that she was separated from her husband by thick iron grills.

"Our ears strained listening to each other. There was a significant distance between us," Fatima said, adding that the Kashmiri detainees are the special targets of the jail authorities. Many of Kashmiri detainees have been under trials for many years without even a hope of getting a trial at all, she added.

"In addition to the physical abuse is the verbal humiliation heaped on the detainees and prisoners in the high-risk cells. The majority of the men are Muslims and the jail authorities vent their prejudices and hatred without any hesitation. The atrocities of the jail authorities is best seen when they do not allow the detainees to offer Namaz. They seem to derive infinite pleasure from preventing the detainees from praying," quoting her husband Fatima narrated.

It is pertinent to mention that so far nobody has approached Fatima for any kind of help. There is no private counsel for Khan at Delhi and Fatima was not in a position to offer any help to her frail, ailing, and helpless husband. "Once I approached an advocate in Srinagar. He demanded Rs 50,000 for filing a petition in the court," said Fatima, who runs her family on charity and alms.

12 years down the line, letter from both sides have been a communication link between Khan and his family. "Since my husband faces backache, once he wrote that jail authorities are denying any medical help, saying that there was no provision for medical facility for Kahsmiri militants. Khan was also told to pay Rs 5000 if he wanted to see any doctor. I begged and collected Rs 5,000 and send it to him, which facilitated his medical check up," Fatima, the resident of Delhi said.

She added that she had never thought that one day she would have to face such ordeal that too immediately after her marriage with Khan in Delhi. "I can not describe my husband. He is very gently, honest and upright. This is why my father liked him and arranged our marriage," Fatima, whose father has died a few years back, added.

When asked that had she met any of the political leaders in valley for her husband's release, Fatima said, that once she tried to approach former chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, but it could not materialize instead she met his secretary who showed his helplessness in helping her out.

"This secretary told me that he could not help her out as there was no place left in central jail Srinagar where her husband could be lodged," she said. "Since I have no money and my husband is ill for many days now I appeal to state government to bring him back from Tihar jail. I have no money to follow his case in Delhi,"she appealed. Like Fatima, there were about a dozen women displaying pictures of their loved ones who are languishing in different jails of the country.

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