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, May 13, 2008

Product of Feudal Mentality: In Kashmir, only the well-connected get attention

Afsana and Farhat share stories with a common theme - an undeclared and unwritten diktat from officials who are determined to deny even a miniscule dignity to the poor

(Ms. Afsana Rashid, 29, was born and raised in Srinagar and attended the Minto Circle High School. She graduated from the Government College for Women with a Bachelor's degree in science, and completed her post-graduation degree from the University of Kashmir, obtaining her Master's Degree in Mass Communication and Journalism. Ms. Rashid works as a senior journalist in the Daily Etalaat. She has received numerous world-wide recognition and awards for covering economic depravation and gender sensitive issues in Kashmiri journals, which include Sanjoy Ghose Humanitarian Award, Bhorukha Trust Media Award 2007, and the 2006-07 UNFPA-Ladli Media Award. Her work on "Impact of conflict on subsistence livelihood of marginalised communities in Kashmir and Alternatives", was recognized by Action Aid India in 2005-06. She has travelled abroad attending a workshop on "conflict Reporting" by Thomson Foundation, Cardiff, UK, and a seminar for women in conflict areas by IKV Pax Christi, Netherlands. In February 2008, she compiled a book, "Waiting for Justice: Widows and Half-widows.")

Ignored by society, this mother fights a lonely battle

Afsana Rashid

Srinagar: Caught up in the vicious circle of poverty, illiteracy and helplessness, it is the story of a widow who many a times doesn’t get the bare necessities of life and has a heart-rending tale to narrate. Living in the old Srinagar city (Fateh Kadal), Khurshi does not have any source of steady income neither she receives any proper assistance from any quarter of the society. With tears rolling down her cheeks, Khurshi says, “Kaense cha itkan poisan ratne siet khushi milan… (Who feels happy in accepting charity?).”

She adds, “I go hungry number of times, take a cup of tea and meal just once in a day. At times I take water only.”

In her late eighties, Khurshi says that since her husband’s death 12 years ago, life has been “cruel” for her and she has been struggling hard to sustain herself. Khurshi recalls, many years ago, she and her husband, Habibullah Matahanji, lived in a small boat at Fateh Kadal ghat (Narayan Das ghat) that capsized and the couple lost everything. They decided to live in a rented accommodation till one day Habibullah passed away, leaving his wife to struggle hard to survive.

“When my husband died, the house-owner forced me out as I had no source to pay the house-rent,” says Khurshi. Although Khurshi was blessed with three sons and a daughter, but all of them died when they were young. “I have no issue or near relatives. I don’t even have any source of livelihood. Now I have grown too old to work,” she says.

“My husband tried hard for a plot of land but failed. The papers are still pending in the office at Land Revenue department, Bemina. I have appealed to the government, in my application, to provide me a room till I am alive. They can take that back after my death,” Khurshi adds.

Pleased by the fact that somebody has come to see the suffering and agony she was going through, Khurshi says, “Ye chapena akhbaar manz? Kaise lag na pata be kitkan chaes rouzan.” (I hope it would get published so that somebody would take note of it).”

She says that she was living in a rented room and used to pay Rs 300 as house-rent. She managed the amount from peoples’ contributions.

“A couple of days back, the owner of the house asked me to vacate the room as I could not pay the amount in due time. Now she demands Rs 1000 as rent, which I can not afford. Since then I wander on roads. How long will anyone provide me shelter?,” she asks. She adds, “I have no financial source to pay the rent. Consequently, I have no place to live. I simply want to commit suicide.”

Khurshi says that for the last four days she had nothing to eat. I even went to the Wakf Board but they too did not offer any valuable assistance. “Once they simply gave me few coins, it was indeed disheartening. What could I do with these coins?,” Khurshi says.

She adds that if she dies, no one will come to know about her death.

“Concerned officials at the local police station have assured me that after my death they will bury me since I have no issue or relative to perform the last rites,” she adds. Khurshi suffers from certain health problem and says that the doctor has prescribed her injections costing Rs 500 per injection. “How can I afford that?,” she asks.

Khurshi says that she approached Social Welfare Department for widow fund but the authorities there demanded death certificate of her husband. “Where from shall I get the certificate? It has been a long time now,” she says. “Does the society and government have no responsibility towards me,” she questions.

Sad ordeal of a poor orphan who was tossed for two years for RBA certificate, and then told file is lost, apply afresh

Farhat Ali (Kashmir Images)

Tangmarg: As much the official circles would want to disagree with it but fact of the matter remains that there is a sort of unwritten and undeclared diktat in vogue here – “don’t allow the poor rise above the ordinary stations of life”.

And obviously this policy of denying their share of progress and development to the poor and ordinary is widespread everywhere - be it the selection for jobs or for that matter facilitating ordinary mortals with what is their due as per rules and laws in other sphere of life, since they lack resources of money and clout, they can’t have the right to get what they deserve.

This is exactly the ordeal suffered by a poor orphan Javaid Hussain Rather, son of late Mohammed Maqbool rather of Khaipora Tangmarg. Javiad applied for a Resident of Backward Area (RBA) certificate way back in January 2006 at Tehsil office Tangmarg.

Actually coming from a backward area, normally it shouldn’t have taken long for him to get the requisite certificate. But since the poor fellow lacked in terms of both political push as well as financial back-up to grease the palms of the concerned clerks and other officials, he couldn’t get the certificate he had sought. Even though he had already completed all formalities, for two long years Javaid was made to run from proverbial pillar to post on one or the other pretext. And finally having handed over his file to the concerned Tehsildar himself in person, he was finally told on May 08, 2008 that his file was missing.

Without any regret or remorse, the officials at the Tehsil Office Tangmarg had the cheek to suggest to this poor boy to apply afresh for the RBA certificate. Having had the taste of being tossed from one table to another and from one office to another in past two years, Javaid is not sure whether he could afford to restart his quest for RBA certificate one again. So he is desperately looking for someone to guide him what to do and how to go about it.

And for this he puts a simple question to the state Chief Minister: “Mr. CM, kindly tell me what to do now; if I apply afresh, could you guarantee that my file won’t be lost yet again after another two years?”

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