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

The Power of Expression is the True Weapon of the Times

Afshana demonstrates in her own unique way why the pen is mightier than a sword

(Ms. Syeda Afshana, 34, was born in Srinagar. She attended the Vishwa Bharti High School in Rainawari, Srinagar, and the Government Women's College in Srinagar where she received a B.Sc. degree. She completed her Master's degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from the Kashmir University in 1999 and was the Gold Medallist (first position holder) in her graduating class. She is currently a Lecturer in the Media Education Research Centre (MERC) of the Kashmir University and pursuing her doctorate on the role of internet after 9/11.)

‘Writing is also a bomb’


Write without thinking
of the result
in terms of a result,
but think of the writing
in terms of discovery,
which is to say that
creation must take place
between the pen
and the paper,
not before in a thought
or afterwards
in a recasting…
It will come
if it is there
and if you will
let it come. (Gertrude Stein)

Words articulate. Both the calm and the fury. The marriage of the pen and the paper can prove blissful as well as bad. Creativity can re-order dissonance within or either disarray exterior ambience. So powerful is the prowess of words!

And if words come from women, things mean altogether different. There is a discernible distinction between the writings of women and men. The writings from women somehow carry a touch of emotion that sharpens their poignancy. There is more concern for life and adoring willingness to meet its challenges.

They say ‘the woman’s mission is not to enhance the masculine spirit, but to express the feminine; hers is not to preserve a man-made world, but to create a human world by the infusion of the feminine element into all of its activities’.

However, the same does not hold true for many of the contemporary women writers who make use of words so sloppily. The recent news about Malika El Aroud, a 48-year-old Belgian woman, as one of the most prominent Internet ‘jihadists’ in Europe has a lot food for thought. A prolific writer in French, her pseudonym is Oum Obeyda, and she claims to be a female holy warrior for Al-Qaeda. In a news story carried by The New York Times (28 May, 2008), she ‘browbeats Muslim men to go and fight, and rallies women to join the cause’.

In a rare interview to NY Times, Malika said-”It’s not my role to set off bombs—that’s ridiculous. I have a weapon. It’s to write. It’s to speak out. That’s my jihad. You can do many things with words. Writing is also a bomb”.

Malika runs various Websites and Internet forums to disseminate what she thinks is ‘right’. She is blowing up the bombs of her ideology by her hate speech, without knowing the grave casualties incurred in the process. Her strategy smacks of the nastiest perversion about the cogency of the women’s speech. Her freedom of expression has paradoxically empowered her to yoke the perspectives of so many others.

Leave Malika. Talk Maureen. The 1999 Pulitzer Prize winner for her commentary on the Clinton impeachment, the NY Times columnist Maureen Dowd has a distinction of ‘upsetting perceptions or stereotypes’ by her cutting writing style. Her book Bushworld was well received for the scathing criticism of Bush’s Presidential antics.

Nonetheless, her coffee-table book ‘Are Men Necessary?’ exposes a typical feminist mind that stinks over the antiquated battle of sexes. The review in The Guardian rated the book as “terrible”, summing it up in a one-liner: “some books are bad and others are just plain crappy. This, sadly, is one of the crappy ones”.

CNN reported that ‘if Maureen Dowd was trying to cause controversy, she’s done a good job’. Starting with a question of genetics, the book is a mishmash of con politics and empty sexuality. Maureen puckishly revealed to CNN—”we need you (men) in the way we need ice cream, you’ll be more ornamental” (Nov, 2005).

Without going into the stupidly rebellious and ritual tone of feminism, it remains a fact that pen wields enormous power to mould and distort that which is clear and unambiguous. It goes without saying that it was indiscreet and reckless use of pen that made Rushdie and Taslima Nasreen from non-descript individuals. Perhaps, Malika and Maureen are striving for the same!

The recklessness of pen can doom generations and land communities in to anarchy. The havoc of injudicious use of pen can be seen through out the pages of history. From Augustine’s Confessions to James Joyce’s Ulysses to Hitler’s Mein Kampf, words have raised a perceptible ruckus.

The approbation of violence and glorification of anything that is a matter of debate and controversy before the audiences, with an average mind, is bound to give sensational results, which is clear from the present world scenario. Beyond the analysis of hollowness, writings need to be reflective and insightful, fearless in confronting the sacred cows of society and dripping with timeless wisdom.

A wordsmith is supposed to be sober and intellectually mature to be pondering and alive to his or her world. Serious thought and sincerity of projection ought to be the valued attributes. The aim should be to use words for awakening people to realities around, rather than hooking them to a kind of debasing intellectual cabaret, diverting from and distorting the real issues.

Emily Dickinson wrote:
‘This is my letter to the world
That never wrote to me’.

Let the writers directly write to the world conveying the voices of sense and sensibility. There is no need to bamboozle people with word-bombs or bawdy ideas, let them bring forth deep feeling and enriching experience.

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