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 9, 2008

Snapshots of the International Women's Day in Kashmir: The Highs and the Lows

Two different reports - one regarding a function in an elite college in Srinagar, and the other a study of Gujjar women in Baramulla and other districts - capture the canvass of triumphs and challenges in emancipation of women in J&K today.

International Women’s Day observed at Women’s College


Srinagar, Mar 9: A function was organized at Government College for Women, M.A.Road, Sriangar, under the aegis of its Women’s Studies Centre (WSC), to mark the International Women’s Day. The district and sessions judge, Gous-u-Nisa, the commandant of 25th battalion, CRPF, Neetu Bhattacharya, and Sara of 92.7 F.M Radio, were specially invited for the programme to interact with the staff and students of the college.

The principal of the college, Prof.(Dr) Zeenat Ara, presided over the function. Prof Yasmeen Ashai, coordinator of the WSC in her welcome address apprised the guests of the work being done by the Centre in the advocacy of women and their empowerment.

Gous-u-Nisa talked about rights of women, enshrined in the constitution in general and in Muslim personal law in particular. She interacted with the audience.

Neetu Bhattacharya, talked about the “Role of CRPF in women empowerment in J&K”. She highlighted the issued confronting the female CRPF troopers in the Valley, and pledged her batallion’s support in the uplift of women in the Valley, particularly to prevent crimes against them.

Dr.Zeenat Ara, in her concluding remarks glorified the role played by the women of Kashmir in different phases of history and underlined the need for an collective effort to work for welfare and prosperity of women.

Nomadic JK tribal women living a medieval life: Study

Srinagar, Mar 9: Early marriages, illiteracy and abject poverty have made the life of hundreds of the nomadic Gujjar women miserable as compared with their urban counterparts, a study by the Tribal Research and Cultural Foundation says.

On the eve of the International Women’s day, Dr. Javaid Rahi, the national secretary of the NGO which works on Indian tribes, said that the survey is based on the study of over 1000 Gujjar and Bakerwal households in Poonch, Rajouri, Varmul and Kupwara districts.

The survey points out that a shocking 89 per cent of the women, between the age group of 10 and 65 years, were illiterate and were subjected to the practices dating back to the medieval period such as superstition.

Early marriage practice prevalent in the community coupled with other social bindings has deprived the womenfolk of their share in the education and healthcare. A meagre 12 per cent of the girls who are able to get admissions at the primary level abandon schools for one or the other reason; lack of resources and poverty being the prime ones. Despite their excessive work they don’t get due respect and position in their society.

According to the study, the worst sufferers are the nomadic children of the Gujjar (Shepherd) and Manjhii Gujjar (Buffalo keepers), 88 per cent of whom have yet to see the door of a school.

The three Gujjar hostels in Jammu, Srinagar and Doda were insufficient to accommodate hundreds of thousands of women, the study points out. The centrally-sponsored schemes, such as, Balika Simridhi Yojna, Sawastiki and Indira Mahila Yojna have failed to bring any relief to the community, the survey alleges. The study says that Beda, Bot, Balti, Garra, Mon, Brokpa, Purigipa, Gaddi and Sippis tribes of the state were better placed. The mobile schools which number in hundreds have failed to bring about any change in the quality of their life, despite many UNICEF and central government programs.

The fact that only three Gujjar women served at the state administrative positions indicate the extent of negligence towards the women of the community. None served at the central administration level. Only three women have done their Ph.D.

Dr Rahi urged the state and the central governments to provide legal safe-guards to Gujjar women and adopt schemes for their education and social transformation.

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