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.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

A case for creating reading culture in Kashmir

Let’s create a reading culture in Kashmir and we must be serious to make that happen, writes Prof. Hamid Naseem Rafiabadi

Let’s read books

A seminar on the world book day was held at the SPS Museum library on 23 rd of April. Scholars discussed various issues related to book reading and book writing apart from the reasons why the habit of book reading is on its decline in Kashmir I had also the occasion to say something on the occasion. Following are the views in revised form which were presented at the occasion.

First of all let us see some instructive sayings about book and reading. John Milton while highlighting the reading of books cautions that we must have a holistic knowledge: “Beware the man of one book”. Martin Tupper says that: “A good book the best friend, the same today and forever”. Well known saying about reading is: “Reading is to mind what exercise is to the body.”

I think we have not developed the reading culture in our valley as a result our libraries are not being visited by our teachers preachers and leaders what to say of the younger generations. I had the fortune of studying at the prestigious Aligarh Muslim University, Jawaharlal Nehru University and Hamdard Universities and have found that in the libraries of these universities after 9 AM it was very difficult to find a vacant seat by a late comer who would like to consult these libraries. Even during late hours you could see students reading books in these universities.

Not only the university libraries I have seen old and retired people thronging to Teen Murti Library Delhi and the India International Centre library spending whole days reading and writing and making thus the best use of their time. I have observed that if a stranger happened to visit these libraries and his shoes made noise all the readers would raise their heads to notice this uncommon experience they were not accustomed to and thus their notice used to caution the defaulter resulting in his instantaneous restraint.

This is called the book reading culture which has yet to take its roots in Kashmir society despite our great claims and boastful gestures at presenting our achievements in exaggerated manner on this account. When I pondered on the problem seriously I found that we don’t have role models in teachers politicians, preachers and public figures who could inspire young generations by their precepts so far as the reading of books is concerned.

We don’t have a scholar like Shibli who inspired generations of Aligarians after he created the reading and research culture in Aligarh during his stay there for about the long 14 years. We don’t have statesman like Abul Kalam Azad who could scribe his scholarly thoughts in the wee hours in the solitary confines of his imprisonment and provided us with a book like Ghubar-i-Khatir. We do not have a religious scholar like Abul Ala Moududi who wrote 6 volumes Tafsir of the Qur’an in lengthy 30 years span most part of which was spent in jails.

We have however created a culture of oratory and public debates on almost all issues and have provided our youth the only attraction in form of fluent speeches which may earn for them some awards and appreciation at times. However there may be exceptions here and there but so far creating book reading culture in the society we have yet to go along way.

The need today is thoughtful integration of book reading with technology. This will become a new object in tune with the times. It will also reverse the decline in book reading among children. An example can be found in pop fiction which integrates reading with multimedia activities such as photography, painting and drawing, sewing and crafts.

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