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, July 6, 2008

Harnessing Women Power for Societal Good

Afshana hopes that women empowernment goes beyond mob dynamics and contributes to betterment of the society as a whole in the future

(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.)

She is on street

What will the
superwoman be,
of whom we sing - She who is coming
over the dim border Of Far To-morrow,
after earth’s disorder Is tidied up by Time?
What will she bring To make life better on tempestuous earth?
How will her worth Be greater than her forbears?
What new power Within her being will burst into flower?...
She will bring virtue;
but it will not be The pale, white blossom
of cold chastity Which hides a barren heart.
She will be human - Not saint or angel,
but the superwoman - Mother and mate
and friend of superman...
She will bring strength
to aid the larger Plan, Wisdom
and strength and sweetness all combined, Drawn from the Cosmic Mind - Wisdom to act,
strength to attain, And sweetness that
finds growth in joy or pain.
She will be formed to guide,
but not to lead - Leaders are ever lonely –
and her sphere Will be that of the
comrade and the mate, Loved, loving, and
with insight fine and clear, Which casts its searchlight
on the course of fate, And to the leaders says,
‘Proceed’ or ‘Wait.’
And best of all,
she will bring holy faith To penetrate the
shadowy world of death, And show the road beyond it,
bright and broad, That leads straight up to God.
(E. W. Wilcox)

The recent protests in the valley have sent many messages across. From fervent political overtones to stanch posturing of public, events have really opened up an interesting mosaic.

The most appealing, from the female viewpoint, was the breaking of certain old socio-political modes. Women in Kashmir vehemently participated in the political activism, breaking away from the tradition. Out on street, they made their angry minds felt. It was a path-breaking moment. A very rare sight. Pelting stones and running to the pace, they were fairly expressive of their collective concern.

Was it just a knee-jerk reaction or blazing trails for women in the future? The answers can be many based on speckled interpretations. This behaviour, the first of its kind in the political history of Kashmir , can be viewed as a slice of allied response to a particular situation. Given the mob dynamics, it can be an upshot of frenzy that overtook all and sundry. It was interesting to see involvement of woman as a whole in the field of public affairs.

Secondly, it may be an indication of the level of discomfort and distress that woman here has reached to. The two decade turmoil has brought her on the front line of clash. Over these years, a kind of support system has been created naturally, where old problems are analyzed in new ways, new possibilities have opened up, and individual change has got transformed into collective change.

There has been a change in her self-image. She is perhaps liberated from her existing perception of herself as a ‘weak’ and ‘limited’ being. She has realized that no amount of external interventions, whether in the form of resource access or economic power, will enable her to challenge existing power equations in society.

Woman of Kashmir have started to analyze and critique independently. She has exercised an ‘ informed choice’ within a diminishing framework of options available. Within the menu of known or experienced possibilities of previous years of tumult, she has discovered a new leeway or option to express herself. Her ability to assert, speaking out and acting on oppressive practices and injustices have burst in the street. Perhaps the agony and affliction she borne out as a central member of society, has made her move in the centrestage of political arena.

However, for certain quarters it seemed that women in Kashmir are unintentionally developing and emerging as a group of “lawbreakers”, though many of the analysts of public-thought justify the aggressive behaviour, adding that breaking a ‘law’ which does not represent the will of the majority is warranted.

The other argument purported in this regard is the ‘letdown’ of men who have been the worst targets of political resistance. But the same does not hold much water given the brutal magnitude of collective brunt faced by the people over here.

The belligerent behaviour can even be interpreted as a consequence of betrayal wreaked by incessant political gimmickry. There is a flashpoint in every situation that goes chronic, and maybe woman of Kashmir has reached up to it as an added politically conscious being.

No doubt, generalizations don’t move beyond a limit in abnormal circumstances. Thing and events continuously morph the public perception and opinion. In five or ten year’s time to come, woman of Kashmir may locate herself in an entirely different paradigm. Her role in political activism will socially legitimize her leverage to claim a seat as a stakeholder in any kind of political process.

This seems to suggest that the course of actual empowerment is gradually chipping in. The progression that begins in the mind, from woman’s consciousness: from her very beliefs about herself and her rights, capacities, and potential; from her self-image and awareness of how gender as well as other socio-economic and political forces are acting on her; from her breaking free of the stereotypes; from recognizing her strengths, her knowledge, intelligence and skills; above all, from believing in her innate right to dignity and justice , and realizing that it is she , along with her sisters, who must assert that right, for no one who holds power will give it away easily and willingly.

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