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.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Bringing Knowledge to People Obsessed With Politics is not Easy

Forget books, even free internet does not overcome public indifference towards libraries

Trove Of Knowledge Lies Shunned, Ignored

Srinagar: A rare collection of almost 80,000 books has failed to evoke any interest from the book lover. The treasure trove of rare books in piled up in one of the oldest libraries in the valley but most of the books have remained unread.

The Sri Pratap Singh (SPS) Central library at Lal Mandi Srinagar is the oldest library in Srinagar. Armed with 80,000 books on a wide range of subjects the library has now turned high tech with the introduction of internet facilities also.

"Most of the times I have come to the library I have found it deserted as people in the city and elsewhere lack awareness about the literary assistance they can get from this library," Bashir Ahmad, a retired teacher said. Bashir Ahmad blamed the present curriculum for this state of affairs. "Students in most of the schools have been put under tremendous pressure and stress to devote most of their time in academic studies," he added.

The Sri Pratap Singh library was established in 1898. It is a free, government-run facility with just a few hundred registered members. The assets of this library range from pre-historical to modern times, from newspapers to philosophical texts and from modern studies to religious manuscripts.

Most people who visit this library prefer to read current affairs besides books on general studies. The visitors by and large belong to student community and engage themselves with material other than their academic subjects. Subject related books are either not available or are obsolete. "I mostly read newspapers and magazines. Books related to my subject are not available here", says Irfan Bashir, a B.Sc student and a regular member of SPS Library.

The administrators of this library feel that books related to the academic syllabus are available in School and College libraries, so their prime focus is on books of general significance. "The syllabus oriented books are available in academic institutions so we prefer to procure books of wider scope and greater interest", says Kuldeep Singh, Deputy Director, Book purchasing committee, SPS library.

In April 2006, internet was introduced in the library and a separate membership, almost free of cost, was started. But even this facility failed to generate interest among the visitors of the library. During their visit to the internet parlor of the library, reporters found that all computers were turned off and there was not even a single user browsing the net.

"Due to lack of awareness, such a facility goes waste. The administration did try to popularize this library but at the same time the reading habits of the people became an impediment for us," Kuldeep Singh said. "People lack awareness, and media can be used to publicize this library. But I think that our city has a low number of readers, and people prefer TV to books," he said.

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