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 20, 2008

When Gun Culture Morphs into Crime Culture

Afshana lists usual suspects for growing crime and violence in the valley, but neglects to cap it with the moral that one reaps what one sows

(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.)

High Alert
At the bar of justice
Innocence is
no bar to
to the junkyard of lost souls.
After the fall
we brand criminals,
demons one and all
once and for all.
Innocent? Too late,
Too good to be true
A technicality,
not fate
Not the real you.
We swallow our mistakes,
keep them
safe and warm
in the belly
of the beast
where they belong.
(Robert Johnson)

We live in crime. And now this is a reality. It has started enmeshing us badly. The gruesome murder of a young girl in a posh area; the abduction of a small kid Mehran; the cases of rape and slaying; the incidents of eve teasing; the reports of theft and robbery; Kashmir is fast catching up a moral turpitude.

It is an alarming situation. It wasn’t like this before. The unthinkable is turning fact. The unimaginable is becoming actual. As such, sense of security is waning among populace and fear is gripping us gradually. Kashmir is at a crossroad of rotting realities. Digging deep, the reasons for this moral cataclysm can be many. From easy bank loans, to fake currency, tax evasion and of course, growing corruption in public/private domains, the influx of money has created a class of its own. Urge to become much and much richer is being satiated by going crook all the way. This has widened the gap between haves and have-nots.

The neo-rich class of society, that suddenly made its appearance and shored up its roots since last two decades, has cheesed off the sanity of social fabric. The ostentatious lifestyles and pretentiously conceited traditions have frustrated the rest of the people. This ‘social tension’ at times props up in a criminal response to the state of affairs. The lined up luxury cars in the compound of a lush bungalow next door fiddles the logic of the person who slogs honestly to live a noble and decent life. The huge dowry, fulsome golden jewellery and ornate trousseau of a young bride hack off the one who lacks all this just to linger as a spinster.

In fact, crime takes roots when all other rational institutions of any society fail to deliver. Our homes—the best and ideal units—are already broken. The moral and religious bodies are fractured. The responsible citizenry is silent and shattered. The intellectuals are knocking around the wrong way. And the critical question arises as to what makes this so? Why are institutions losing their importance and fizzling out miserably?

Maybe the answer lies in the yesteryears of gore that went down as a saga of anarchy on the social front. With no answerability or accountability, the things just slipped off to an extreme where crime slowly became just an offshoot of the turmoil. The presence of alien people in a land that had its own mores and civilization can be other factor that added to a sort of moral contagion. Even the small symbols of aliens seem to have contaminated the accepted wisdom of natives. The empty whisky bottles’ dangling around the security bunkers is just a passing instance. Moving beyond symbols, the acts and behaviors too can be said to have altered the moral meanings of the place.

Though the influence of media can be universal to Kashmir as well, but the deliberate introduction of certain technology can also be blamed for this moral decadence. The mobile telephony has wreaked havoc with the set norms and boundaries of any moral discourse. Mobile mania is swiftly emerging as the ‘acceptable’ dialogue. The teenagers and young are enticed to land in a dangerous world where identities and characters are masked. And if at all they appear visible, it has been giving birth to a many moral maladies.

Again, the role of home, the subject of watchdog, the matter of right parenting turns up. With no genuine role-models or mentors in the surroundings, our youth is easily falling prey to depraved concepts and unscrupulous ways of life.

Equally vital reason for this whole mishmash is the increasing unemployment among a sizeable portion of our youth. The mounting anxieties and angst due to this wicked phenomenon has pushed them to the wall, causing a kind of rebel and outrage. The base alternatives become their only options. Disgusted and fretful, morals start losing sense to them. Again, this can be something that is wheedled to be like that, for the angry young mind is the most explosive element to rip off the foundations of any community.

Picasso said that ‘it takes a long time to grow young.’ Have our young grown in real sense, with their deck of “learning” too full, shuffling slower now to a state where difference between good and bad is diminishing unpleasantly? The honest answers may fidget all of us. This is the High Alert!

Before righteousness and decency is dumped in the junkyard of lost souls, and senses and sensibilities go down the bellies of beasts, let us wake up.

And lets sign off recalling the words of Joseph Conrad —“I remember my youth and the feeling that will never come back any more --the feeling that I could last for ever, outlast the sea, the earth, and all men; the deceitful feeling that lures us on to joys, to perils, to love, to vain effort--to death; the triumphant conviction of strength, the heat of life in the handful of dust, the glow in the heart that with every year grows dim, grows cold, grows small, and expires --and expires, too soon, too soon --before life itself.”

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