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, June 8, 2008

Hurriyat Gasping for its Last Breath?

The Editorial in the Rising Kashmir asks a provocative question: Are we not better off with the mainstream politicians who have been better negotiators and fairly good strategists? (But what about corruption, lack of ethics and feudalistic character which is the hallmark of all politicians in Kashmir?)

Hurriyat in limbo: Both moderates and hardliners should stand up on their own rather than looking to Pakistan for their ideological victory in Kashmir

Influencing a political situation and getting consumed by the existing one are two different genres of the contemporary leadership practices. Keeping this model in view, is it difficult to evaluate the separatist coalition Hurriyat Conference’s 15-year performance – a decade as united forum and past five years as contending factions.

When this multi-party amalgam came into existence in 1993 to pursue its political ideals, Kashmir politics was literally in a shambles. The key pro-India players were living in virtual exile along with their past baggage of guilt and penitence. The political kids, Omar Abdullah and Mahbooba Mufti, were enjoying their familial privileges and their fathers would not even think of pulling crowds in Valley’s villages let alone dreaming a role in the resolution of Kashmir dispute. In fact the 1989 revolution had crowded out the mainstream politics and the resistance politics had an eventful time to thrive on the vacuum.

But 2008 depicts a different story. The same exiled politicians have staged a comeback and we see dozens of individuals with separatist past jumping into mainstream fray. And above all we have been hearing reconciliatory voices from Hurriyat stating that the ‘sins’ of the mainstream politicians could be forgiven but not forgotten. The separatist leadership cannot hide behind the excuses. The argument that Pakistan policy on Kashmir has of late floundered is sheer street logic. After all the insurgency may bring a political problem into the global limelight, it cannot resolve it. The resolution is a multi-track political process, which requires efficient advocates.

After five rounds of talks with two successive prime ministers in India and several sessions with Pakistani President General (Rtd) Musharraf, the moderate Hurriyat should have grown wise enough to state its stand on various issues confronting people. But it is so much confused and disoriented that it has once again resorted to Pakistan’s help. While the Geelani faction seeks Islamabad’s intervention to enforce the boycott campaign it wants to sponsor against the ensuing polls the Mirwiaz faction wants a Pakistani stamp over its latest political ideology. This state of affairs is enough to disappoint the beleaguered people vis-à-vis Hurriyat leadership.

As the assembly elections are approaching and the separatist discourse is getting even more abstract, it is high time that the Hurriyat leadership sat down to retrospect and take trouble to forge a real indigenous thinking among its ranks rather than parroting the jargon fed by track-II specialists from New Delhi and Islamabad. Militancy may have become weaker in Kahsmir due to certain reasons yet the problem in Kashmir is so dynamic in nature that even the complete end of militancy does not guarantee the transition of Kashmir’s collective thought process.

Hurriyat Conference did win some sort of acceptance among policy circles of New Delhi or Islamabad due to militancy yet its long-term constituency has been the popular sentiment. The civil society reserves the right to question Hurriyat leaders as to why they failed to channel this strength for the greater good of the people. If the “changed circumstances” require a change in strategy so that negotiations are held fruitfully, aren’t we better off with the mainstream politicians who have been better negotiators and fairly good strategists? Is a sizeable faction of Hurriyat losing its way or does it want to reposition itself as a semi-separatist force and enjoy the indirect incentives of power?

These are important questions but an even more important one is this: Is there any space left?

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