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.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

APHC needs wisdom more than crowd

A thought provoking commentary, but in all honesty can these leaders escape from their own spin!

(Shuhab Hashmi, 38, was born in Baramulla, and graduated from the Degree College in Sopore, and completed his M.A. from the University of Kashmir. He is a Columnist, and in his spare time enjoys reading, discussions and traveling.)

APHC needs wisdom more than crowd

The latest phase of uprising in Kashmir has thrown up challenges for many quarters. They need to ponder over nuances of this uprising and explain what it means to them. But the biggest challenge is for those representing the resistance movement under the two umbrellas of All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC).

Recent squabble over the programme given by Jammu and Kashmir Co-ordination Committee has once again brought to the fore the fact that egoistic stands are still playing an important role in lives of these politicians. Though the senior leader Syed Ali Geelani, who heads one faction of Hurriyat tried to settle the dust by endorsing the programme but the dangers the whole issue conveyed were louder.

At this juncture when the people rallied behind the leaders, rather forced them to lead them in a bid to decide their future, each and every step they take is being watched very cautiously. At the time when people broke all the barriers of ideology or what the conflict has brought to them in last 20 years, the leaders have a responsibility to give them a direction. But if they are themselves directionless and do not rise above the petty politics and their egos, they will be rejected once for all. The ongoing struggle for future had once been buried under the thick layers of electoral processes and development, but the land issue broke all the myths and tore the impression apart that Kashmir was resting on the status quo. The message in the recent uprising which took shape in the form of long ending processions comprising lakhs of people was loud and clear. It is the disputed nature of the state which has nurtured a sentiment over many decades and is cementing force for the people of all hues. In the past 10 years we have seen thousands of people attending the rallies of mainstream political parties whose goal has been the development and prosperity, of course with a demand to resolve the Kashmir issue whether under the autonomy title or the self rule smokescreen; but in the procession for "Azadi' same crowd can be seen indicating that there is no change in people's minds vis-a-vis the basic issue.

The separatist camp, of which Hurriyat is the "Naqeeb", besides Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) and others, is merely representing the sentiment. Not more than two or three leaders of this camp are the real politicians who have a mass base and if put to electoral test cannot win more than two or three seats. But the biggest cushion they have in the present time is the strong will of the people to get their future decided. Geelani's "slip of tongue" at the rally in Tourist Reception Centre (TRC) ground was enough indicator of how people believe in the leaders. Notwithstanding the fact that he has stood like a rock in last 20 years and did not compromise on his stand of Kashmir to become "atoot ang of Pakistan", but when he spoke of himself being the only leader of Kashmir's resistance movement it took him no time to feel the heat. Consequently he had to call a press conference and apologise to the nation. This time the sacrifices of people are of much higher magnitude than that of leaders, and that is why their dictating power is more ruthless.

This time people are closely watching what this leadership is doing. It was after lot of bloodletting in initial years from 1990 onwards, that a platform called APHC came into existence. It was the force called people which had pushed this arrangement ahead. For many political analysts it was a pure imagination to see likes of Mirwaiz Umar Farooq to Syed Ali Geelani, to Abdul Gani Bhat and Moulvi Abbas Ansari heading this form. This goes without doubt that New Delhi felt scared of this platform till September 2003, when its leaders themselves decided to fell apart. There might have been genuine reasons for those who played a role in that split but now there is a God send opportunity for them to be united as apparently no differences have crept on the basic issue of resolving Kashmir. Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who paid a heavy price of his uncle and 100 years old Islamia School has since turned into a hard-liner and does not talk anything but the final resolution. So is the Sajjad Lone, chairman of People's Conference who became bone of contention in September 2003 for his alleged involvement in fielding proxy candidates. It is not the election time for them to look for the fortunes and work for electoral adjustments to eye for plum cabinet berth. There is a long road ahead to that process if they have resolved to take this movement to logical end.

It is still a conflict situation where the Hurriyat leaders have to work for hammering out a solution. For all of them there is no dispute on the basic issue and its resolution. Then why this Co-ordination Committee cannot take them back to September 2003 position and give them a jerk to dismantle the factions and be one for the cause. They will be relieved of these contemptuous sub titles like moderates and hard-liners and people will like this gesture. Let all of them form a common ground and move forward, engage themselves in a meaningful dialogue with New Delhi (in case there is an offer without conditions) and show to the world that they are for resolution of the issue through peaceful means. They should also pick up the threads from Sajjad Lone's "Achievable Nationhood" and start working towards a blueprint on which they can start talking. This will be the real test for them as well New Delhi and it will lend credibility to the peaceful agitation in Kashmir. In absence of any concrete programme, it becomes convenient for New Delhi to refuse entering into a meaningful dialogue with Hurriyat Conference. Once they have a practicable programme they will rid themselves of the perennial criticism that since they don’t have any concrete suggestions or plans, New Delhi finds no point talking to them. To make any gains from the current phase of public mobilisation and to compel New Delhi for starting a meaningful dialogue, Hurriyat Conference needs to work hard on the details of their programme and make it possible on ground that some healthy changes occur in Kashmir that can give this people a sense of achievement and lay foundations for the ultimate resolution of the Kashmir dispute.

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