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.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A Civil Society That Fritters its Passion Obsessively on Politics is Hardly in a Position to Safeguard Cultural and Social Assets

To quote the author: "Not disconnecting the international politics of Kashmir from local politics is our greatest blunder. If our human and natural resources are being abused it is not about the faults in our political and administrative set up as it is about the powerlessness of our civil society"

An all out plunder of a people

Mehmood-ur-Rashid (Rising Kashmir)

If power does not belong to people it becomes their direct enemy. The structure of this power –turned-enemy-politics is such that it can not stand people’s expression in any way. This is the long and short of, what is usually known as occupational politics.

From last some weeks we have been receiving the news of artefacts from Kashmir being smuggled out into international market. Those who are supposed to take care of this aspect of Kashmir’s history have simply expressed their helplessness in safeguarding this collective wealth of the people Kashmir.

Latest in the same line of loot is the Kashmir Students Union moving the court as they have learnt that numerous relics and artefacts of medieval Kashmir are being misappropriated. This group of students from Kashmir University want intervention from judiciary to ensure the preservation of unattended heritage sites and retrieve the rare artefacts stolen from the official museum or shifted outside Kashmir.

On the face of it all this looks so remotely connected with the people of Kashmir who are besieged by life threatening problems. Even some might argue that giving too much importance to such ‘trivial’ issues is likely to take the attention off more severe and immediate problems. An impromptu response can make us yield to the argument, but a calm pondering over the issue sets the disturbance in. It is not a just a material object that we are being deprived of. These material objects actually are the symbols of our history. It may in no way affect out economy but it will render the presentation of our collective self poor.

History, in any form, is considered to be the collective possession of any people. The reason that conscious people attach value to whatever represents their history is to make history real and easily available to the future generations. Archives are preserved to connect the future with past and save the people from getting detached from any part of their collective heritage.

Like any other people, we too have a history. This too gets reflected in heritage sites, sculpture, archaeological sites, and coins of the past periods, a rare manuscript and many such artefacts. Although our resources, the level of consciousness towards preserving history and above all the fact that our life is besieged by political uncertainty does not permit that too much progress be expected in this regard, but still it can not be completely ignored. This way the initiative taken by the students is in no way wrong, to say the least.

The issue of how people are plundered of their wealth demands great insight. It needs an in depth research into the topic to make it commonly understandable as to how alien state power weakens people by attacking their tangible and intangible assets.

If we just look at some of the recent happenings in Kashmir we add tangibility to the concern and thus make it look real and gettable for an empirical grip.

Not long back we were hit by a shameful expose. The organised moral pillage conducted by the nexus of various parts of the power structure in this state made it abundantly clear that how vulnerable our society is. There was a great cry in the wake of that expose, but then every thing returned back to ‘normal’. This one was the plunder of the most precious possession any people. We were systematically robbed off it and more tragic is the fact that we ultimately proved so helpless before the power that did it to us.

Come next. Remember Kundal Report. It is the loot of our natural resources. Although the impact of the report, and the political ripples that it generated, has died down, but keeping in mind that the elections are only some months away, it is going to appear again on the scene in the battlefield. On both sides of the battle lines the girdles must be tightened up. Who punches down whom and in the process how many trees in the political forest fall with a great crash remains to be seen. No surprises if the ‘battle’ ends up without even damaging a leaf, not to speak of a tree. Because in this political paradise everybody is guilty of having tasted the forbidden fruit. All this may see the mainstream politics full of atmosphere in the days of elections but it will conclude with no good coming out of it.

For the people of this state, whose wealth is being squandered away by the people in power, there is no reason to feel elated on the appearance of this report. It is not the first of its kind and the kind of politics that is being allowed to flourish in our state ensures that many more surfaces up in the coming times. It is naïve to expect that such probes and enquiries will deter the powerful from abusing our social and physical wealth. The process of plundering our assets, both human and material, will go on unhindered till the time people attain the necessary power to confront the political and administrative structure that is in place.

Just recently the name of Siraj Bagh was changed to Indira Gandhi Memorial Tulip Garden. This one is another backhander aimed at us as a people. All this is happening and we just watch it happen.

If our forests are being looted it is not for the political parties to fight it out between themselves. If our society in being inflicted fatally, it is not an inter-party affair. If our economy is being emaciated, we need to question authorities. If our history is being stolen from us, it is not for some one else to look into the matter. Here the rot gets bigger and the crises deepen. In a vibrant society political parties can not afford taking people for a ride. They are answerable to them.

But here people and political power make two different entities with no meaningful connect. This has ensured that people remain powerless and politicians in power continue exploiting them. All this was made abundantly clear by the exposure of the scandal that caught many faces in the hall of shame. The scandal of organised moral corruption shook the entire valley. Public anger was visibly present in the streets. Did all that yield any results? The accused are back to their seats and quite flow the Jehlum.

The conscious minds of the state need to do a rethinking on how the civil society can be empowered to safeguard the social and physical assets? How the political and administrative power can be made accountable to the people? Actually how the international politics of Kashmir can be differentiated from the local politics, if not disconnected altogether? Not doing so is committing a great blunder.

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