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.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Public ambivalence towards Gun Culture harms Kashmiris physically, financially, and emotionally

There is no such thing as a "good terrorist attack." Kashmiris have to abandon the selective manner in which they condemn one act of violence and glorify another - case in point: Gulmarg attack is widely condemned, and not a word about attack on Amarnath pilgrims in Handwara and Gandherbal - 3 reports below

Protests in Tangmarg, Gulmarg

Srinagar: All shops and business establishments in the Gulmarg and nearby Tangmarg township of Jammu and Kashmir today remained closed in protest against the yesterday's grenade attack, which left two persons dead. Traffic was off the roads and thousands of people poured on streets to mark their anguish, official sources said. The protesters said such attacks were harming the tourism industry which directly affected the livelihood of thousands of locals including tourist guides, shopkeepers, ponywallas, transporters and hoteliers. Two persons - a tourist from the Uttar Pradesh and an eight-year-old local boy -- were killed and five others were injured in a grenade explosion near the bus stop at Gulmarg.

With the sudden spurt in violence related incidents in the valley and particularly after the grenade attack at Sumo stand in the world famous tourist place Gulmarg that killed a tourist and civilian, there are reports that a large number of tourists are fleeing the valley. The renewed incidents of violence after a lull have given rise to a sense of insecurity among visitors. The hoteliers of Gulmarg and Srinagar said the visitors were busy packing their bags to leave the valley. "Majority of tourists have left Gulmarg after yesterday's violent incident," said a local hotelier of Gulmarg. The hoteliers said that the incident occurred at a time when large number of tourists had arrived in the valley. But after the incident, these tourists cut short their respective programmes and left from the state. The threat of cancellation of advance booking is also looming large after the violent incident at Gulmarg. A tourist official at Gulmarg said," We were expecting that atleast three to four lakh tourists will arrive at Gulmarg within couple of months time. The hopes are dashed as fear has created a situation where no tourist is in a position to stay at Gulmarg," the tourist official said.

Attempt to disrupt Yatra foiled; Two LeT ultras, HM commander killed

Srinagar: A Battalion Commander of Hizbul Muhajideen (HM) and two Lashkar-e-Toibia (LeT) terrorists have been killed in separate encounters in Srinagar. The Lashkar terrorists had a plot to target Shri Amarnath pilgrims. Handwara police and Army in a joint operation killed Battalion Commander of HM outfit while Ganderbal Police eliminated two militants of LeT outfit thereby foiling their attempts to disturb the yatra. Police cordoned off village Nagabal Derand of district Ganderbal on a tip off about the presence of militants who were planning to attack the Yatra convoy bound for Srinagar. Upon this a cordon and search operation was launched which led to the killing of two LeT cadre militants, identified as Syed Abid Ahmad alias Akasha, son of Mukhtar Ahmad, resident of Narowal Punjab Pakistan and Sageer Shah alias Garian, son of Hassan Shah, resident of Iptabad Suba, Sarah Pakistan. Both these Pakistani militants were operative in Ganderbal area and were involved in many civilian killings in the area. Recoveries made from the encounter side include two AK-47 assault rifles, 10 AK magazines, two grenades and 96 rounds. In another similar operation, the joint party of police and army killed Battalion Commander of HM militant outfit in Peth Waddar Bala area. The slain militant was identified as Abdul Ahad alias Haroon, son of Mohammad Maqbool Mir, resident of Path Waddar Rajwar. One AK 47 assault rifle, three AK magazines, two grenades and 15 AK rounds have been recovered from his possession.

Editorial in Kashmir Images

Blasting Tourism

The grenade blast at Gulmarg on Sunday evening has not only killed two humans and injured several others but has given a severe blow to the tourism industry that was earlier marred by land row agitations in Valley and Jammu.

Before the land row, tourism had started picking up on an enviable pace and people affiliated with the trade – from big hoteliers and travel agents to poor pony wallas and shikara pullers – had started making good money. Hotels had wonderful occupancy rates and almost all tourists resorts of the Valley were brimming with hoards of tourists. The controversy surrounding around the land that was diverted to Shree Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB) in Pahalgam area saw people on the roads and the life here coming to a grinding halt. As the life was putout of gear because of continuous shut-downs, the tourists who got stuck here just managed to leave the ghost Valley and those who had planned their visits and made advance bookings cancelled their proposed trips. The aftermath of the revocation of the controversial land transfer order saw Jammu boiling and ensured further drop in the proposed visitors here.

Now that life had started limping back to normalcy, the attack at world famous tourist resort that left one tourist and a local youth dead and several others injured, has come as the deadliest blow to the prospectus of tourism here. It is the most unfortunate thing that could have happened to Kashmir and interesting thing is that such incidents do occur when tourism industry shows some signs of improvement. Out of all places why the grenade was exploded at Gulmarg only speaks volumes about the perpetrators of violence. The target was clear – tourism industry – an industry that feeds hundreds and thousands of Kashmiri inhabitants.

It is heartening to note that the people of Tangmarg have not taken the attack lying low. They have agitated and made their worried voice audible. As rightly pointed out by poor shopkeepers, pony wallas, tourist guides, coolies and others affiliated with the trade, some 40, 000 people of the catchments areas of Gulmarg depend on this tourist resort for their survival. They feel that the attack may have killed just two people but its impact is going to make the lives of 40, 000 souls miserable. A deserted Gulmarg may soothe the so called naturalists who don’t want to see crowds at ‘serene places’ but it would leave thousands of family without food. Agitated over the attack, these poor traders took to streets appealing all to ensure the safety of the tourists, who may come here just for picnicking but their very presence is the sources of income for thousands of locals.

While the agitation should be appreciated, it has put a big question mark over the credentials of industry’s ‘big guns’. The people who in fact milk the industry have no guts to come forward condemning such incidents and sending a message – to whosoever are behind such filthy acts – loud and clear that Kashmiris are not going to tolerate such anti-people incidents. Kashmiris, as a society, have to rise against such violent acts and discourage the perpetrators of such attacks. Otherwise, shut down the industry and forget!

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