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.

Friday, May 2, 2008

An Irony of Life: The Peace Dividend in Kashmir is Reducing Demand for Some Professions

Epitaph writers lose job as peace stays

Srinagar: While the ongoing peace process has been able to bring solace to people in the Kashmir Valley, the sharp decline in deaths has affected the income of Epitaphists. Epitaph writing has been in demand in Kashmir. It is about personal details about the deceased are carved on tombstones. The frequent deaths due to routine clashes between militants and the Indian Armed forces during 19 years of turbulence in the State kept Epitaphists busy. But these days due to peace in the Valley, it's tough time for these writers.

"During 1990-95 when militancy was at its peak we had enough work. But with the decline in militancy during the last two years, we are also facing a severe crunch in our profession," said Farooq Ahmad, an Epitaphist. The practice of writing epitaphs gained currency, as it helps in identification of graves. "In earlier days, epitaph writing was not much in vogue. But now it is almost mandatory, as it is convenient for people to submit information to the government officials looking for identification of the dead," said Mushtaq Ahmad, one Epitaphist.

It normally takes two days of hard work to chisel and engrave a marble epitaph and five days to prepare a 'Peur' or, a tombstone. Usually, apart from holy verses from the Quran and relevant Urdu couplets, it is the name of the dead, his or her lineage and the day and date of death, which are inscribed on the epitaphs.

People feel that the government should take serious steps to keep the art and the livelihood of artists alive. "As a local resident, I feel that the government should take some steps to keep the art alive so that their (epitaph writers') families can be provided with enough livelihood," said Niyaz Ahmad, a resident. Hundreds of families have been associated with the trade for over a century in the Valley. Their ancestors used to carve idols and statues but now their job is limited to etching epitaphs.

Kashmir Valley has been under the shadow of militancy since 1980s. There are about a dozen militant groups operating here. Officials say violence has declined in Kashmir since India and Pakistan, who have gone to war twice over the region, launched a peace process in 2004.

(as reported in Kashmir Monitor)

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