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, August 3, 2008

Exhibitionism or Extravagance: Sadly it is a Common Denominator Among Pillars of our Society

Firdous speaks of feasts for beasts that Kashmiri societies relish whether in the valley or outside

(Mr. Firdous Syed, 42, was born in Bhaderwah, Doda, and had his schooling in Jammu. He is currently the Chairman of the "Kashmir Foundation for Peace and Development Studies," and associated with the J&K National Conference. Between 1989 and 1991, he led the Moslem Janbaaz Force, a militant group, and was jailed from 1991 through 1994. In 1996, he publicly renounced the gun culture, and has since joined mainstream politics and is an active member of the Kashmir civil society.)

Marriage extravagance or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Every year with the onset of marriage season, news papers abound with the column and write-ups, debating penchant for excessive spending and social evils related with the marriages here. And after each year passing by, with great horror we witness the menace of dowry and extravagance growing unabated.

Mirwaiz Umar Farooq as an influential religious head is duty bound to make us aware— “thousands of corers are spent on the marriages here.” The figure quoted by him might be a bit inflated, but message is well conveyed. As the entire society has gone crazy, some one has to bell the cat and take initiative against the social evils. But mere sermonizing will not help; only a proactive approach will do.

Mirwaiz as a religious head enjoys a sizeable area of influence, if he takes his responsibility as a social reformer more seriously things on ground are for sure to improve. How many marriages he solemnizes (Nikahkhawani) and also attends as a guest of honor, during a marriage season? May be in dozens if not in hundreds. If he just makes it a point not to solemnize a marriage or attend as a guest, wherein the limits of modesty have been ruthlessly transgressed, people will take his tirades seriously. Every social evil has to be deprived social sanctity first, before effectively getting rid of the evil itself.

This is not an exaggeration but a hard fact; our marriages have turned out to be more than an evil, they have become a devilish affair. A simple criticism will not be able to arrest the wicked phenomenon. It requires a strong shock therapy; people who really believe that enough is enough will have to muster courage to call a spade a spade. Time has come for the people with some sense of social responsibility to publicly not only censure but also actively disassociate with the wicked behavior. Participation of the people with some standing in the evil affairs only provides the evil a social sanctity.

A blustering speech from the pulpit against the evil during the day and relishing wazwan in the very evening, only gives an inkling of hypocritical behavior. Even if people of high-standing does not personally eat a little morsel, but gracing the occasion any way provides social legitimacy to a sinful act. We may criticize the magnitude of the wazwan but the moment it is served we relish the sumptuous meal with great flavor.

Even madness has a method, but the kind of idiotic behavior we display during our marriages defies all logic of common sense. By and large society has been gripped by a mania of slavish imitation. Obsession for reckless copycat act is an infectious disease; “there is no disease (so destructive) as lust; no enemy like infatuation, (Chankya).” Pomp and show mania drives, otherwise a reasonable person wild. We not only have gone crazy but have lost the limits of all civilized behavior. We have almost lost sense of proportion.

In a feast four people around a Trami are served what normally can be consumed only in couple of days. On a heap of rice is served 4/5 kg meats, along with beverages salad, chutnies, pulaw, curd etc. Fifteen to twenty servings with other add-ons makes the meal more than ten-twelve kg affair. How can one savor so much at a one go? For beasts it might be possible for ordinary mortals to eat so much at a stretch is next to impossible. Does the host who serves mound of food expect the guests to eat all what is served to them? Certainly not! Then why so much of the food is served, seventy per cent of which we all know even before serving will go waste. How can one describe such a lunatic behavior? Is it simple habit of overdoing hospitality, peer group pressure or some thing else? Societal pressure to imitate has turned us into big squanderers, irrespective of the fact whether our legitimate means allow us to do so or not. Whether humans consume the food or canines the day after, Kashmiri will sell his honor and self-respect to be able to prepare and serve what is normally beyond his means. Spendthrift is brother of Satan as goes the Qur’an.

Judging by the strange behavior we exhibit, while conducting and celebrating marriages and at other social occasions, can we say that we as society on the whole are diseased by Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OSD)? According to American Academy of Family Physicians, “OSD is an illness that causes people to have unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and to repeat certain behaviors (compulsions) over and over again…most people with OCD know that their obsessions and compulsions make no sense, but they can’t ignore or stop them.” The OSD is malfunctioning of individual human psychology; broader conclusions cannot be drawn about societal disorders on the basis of individual traits. But the kind of obsessions and compulsions we undergo during our marriages should be a cue for social scientists and clinical-psychologists to study this social disorder also as psychological disorder.

Regrettably, the way we manage our social and family obligations, simple issues have been turned into complex, cumbersome and costly affairs. This kind of exuberance cannot be sustained for long and society is almost at the brink of disaster. We may not agree but our spendthrift behavior has impacted all aspects of our life. It is but natural for corruption both moral and materiel to get ingrained in the collective psyche of the society, if we have become habitual to live beyond our legitimate means. The lines between moral and immoral, lawful and unlawful stands completely blurred, there is no distinction left between evil and good.

Wayward behaviors have increased social tensions; consequently, crime rate in the society is on the rise. Had we heard kidnapping of children, rape of adolescent girls, and murder of young women in Kashmir even few years before. Who would have imagined just a decade ago—Son killing his father for lure of money— brother (first-cousin) driven by lust robbing the chastity of his eight year old sister, afterwards also killing the innocent child in most horrendous way with a brick to hide the dastardly act. Furthermore, do we have time and inclination to mull-over, where we are headed as a society? Hasn’t numbness and collusion with the crime, made us oblivious to any sense of loss? Collusion with crime? Yes, remaining mute spectator to crime is as bad as complicity with the crime itself.

Not to speak of agony, even a cursory sense of loss is entirely missing in the society; otherwise without any further delay, we would have set into motion corrective and remedial measures. Busy in merry making, we are completely unaware of the disasters looming large. For this situation only Iqbal has said Vaay! Nakami Mataye Karwan Jata Raha; Karwan Key Dil Sey Ahsahs-E-Zian Jata Raha. Absence of sense of loss is a greater tragedy than the loss itself.

Are we waiting for a messiah, for an awakening? Or else can some body don the mantle of a true reformer amongst the vast pool of self-styled leaders. Free nations have learned the lesson hard way— true revolution without renaissance is hard to come—”The Renaissance did trigger the French Revolution”. Seeking revolution? We will have to undertake a movement of reform first. Sooner we learn our lessons right, closer we will be to our cherished Goal. Alas, there is no other way out.

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