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 1, 2008

Can our Civil Society Ever March to a Different Beat Than the Wishes of the Majority?

Zahid Mohammad underlines the freedom of thought in the Indian Civil Society

(Mr. Z. G. Mohammad, 59, was born and raised in Srinagar. He earned his Master's degree in English literature from the Kashmir University and has completed a course in Mass Communication from Indian Institute of Mass Communication. He is a writer and a journalist who has written for many newspapers, including the Statesman, the Sunday, and the Kashmir Times. He currently works for the Greater Kashmir.)

“Leave Past Behind Embrace Future”

It has been belied- belied in stronger words that the ‘sentiment’ is dead. More than often we were told during past couple of years that the ‘sentiment that sustained Kashmir movement for past six decades was dead.’ It were not only people in power who cried this from the rooftops that political narrative of the state had changed and the ‘people’s focus was development and not freedom’ but even some “leaders” that espoused the cause of freedom for many years believed so. Articulating their fatigue they even suggested to those having faith in their political beliefs to take the hemlock and forget the ‘cause’.

It is always lack of fidelity with the cause- whatever the cause that sets in fatigue in leadership or the people. History bears testimony that people of Kashmir have always had unflinching and resolute faith in their ‘cause’. They not only professed it with full vigor under difficult situations but offered innumerable sacrifices for not allowing it getting relegated to the pages of history. It in fact has been leadership that either because of lack of political foresight or lack of ability to understand the nuances of various political developments within the state or the sub-continent not only reversed the gains of various political movements launched in the past but also defeated the very ‘cause’ by either taking hurried or wrong decisions at right moments. The cases in point are 1947, 1964, 1975 and 1990. It in fact has been this syndrome that by and large has been responsible both for what Aliaster Lamb called as birth of a tragedy or its continuation for past sixty years.

Now people have once again shown their faith in their cause- the cause that they have been nursing for past seventy six years. It is unprecedented in Kashmir history. In my view there is no instance more when more than a million people converged on the streets of Srinagar for presenting a memorandum to the United Nation’s for implementing the international agreement on Kashmir signed by India, Pakistan and endorsed by the international community for allowing people of entire state as it stood on August 15, 1947 their right to self-determination. It was no less than a referendum.
True, the global community is yet to endorse the verdict of people of Kashmir but some silver linings have started appearing on India’s intellectual firmament. The most important achievement of the ‘ongoing great peoples march’ has been in the words of Barkha Dutt, has been, “cry for ‘azaadi’ in the volatile valley of Kashmir has suddenly found a chorus among some of Delhi’s sharpest thinkers.” This time it is not only people like Gautam Navlkahi, Prof. Angana Chaterjee and Arundhati Roy let may not call them ‘the ultra liberal faction’ but people with conscience and qualms and a strong sense of right and wrong that have always seen ‘India as oppressor and Kashmir people as throttled victims.’ And have supported the ‘cause of right to self-determination for the people of the state but ‘this time the advocates for Kashmir’s freedom come from another extreme position.

It is a great achievement of this ‘people’s movement for liberty’ that very that only brought the ‘reluctant Kashmir leadership’ but changed Kashmir narrative of Indian intelligentsia. If one analysis dispassionately just two articles published on the same day in two leading Indian Newspapers one by Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar and another by Vir Sanghvi they sufficiently indicate that the mindset of Indian Intelligentsia is fast changing and they have started looking at Kashmir beyond official handouts. Those who have been watching Indian media since 1990, when the movement for ‘right to self-determination was reborn in the state would vouch for me that it is for the first time when a powerful section of Indian intelligentsia is strongly advocating for what in general terms is described as Azadi for Kashmir. It is no less than a confession statement when Swaminathan writes, “I was once hopeful of Kashmir’s integration, but after six decades of effort, Kashmiri alienation looks greater than ever. India seeks to integrate with Kashmir, not rule it colonially. Yet, the parallels between British rule in India and Indian rule in Kashmir have become too close for my comfort”. The arguments that he has advanced against the theory of accession of the state with India are not only sufficient to make Kashmir intelligentsia wiser but should make the pro-India leadership that has been taking pride in their fathers and grandfathers for having endorsed the accession with India humble. He has a strong point when he writes about the accession, “Many Indians say that Kashmir legally became an integral part of India when the maharaja of the state signed the instrument of accession. Alas, such legalisms become irrelevant when ground realities change. Indian kings and princes, including the Mughals, acceded to the British Raj. The documents they signed became irrelevant when Indians launched an independence movement. The British insisted for a long time that India was an integral part of their Empire, the Jewel in its crown, and would never be given up. Imperialist Blimps remained in denial for decades. I fear we are in similar denial on Kashmir” Or when he states, “The politically correct story of the maharaja’s accession ignores a devastating parallel event. Just as Kashmir had a Hindu maharaja ruling over a Muslim majority, Junagadh had a Muslim nawab ruling over a Hindu majority? The Hindu maharaja acceded to India, and the Muslim nawab to Pakistan.

But while India claimed that the Kashmiri accession to India was sacred, it did not accept Junagadh’s accession to Pakistan. India sent troops into Junagadh, just as Pakistan sent troops into Kashmir. The difference was that Pakistan lacked the military means to intervene in Junagadh, while India was able to send troops into Srinagar. The Junagadh nawab fled to Pakistan, whereas the Kashmir maharaja sat tight. India’s double standard on Junagadh and Kashmir was breathtak”. As a patriot wedded to betterment of India Vir Sanghvi making an in-depth cost analysis of Kashmir dispute concludes, “I reckon we should hold a referendum in the Valley. Let the Kashmiris determine their own destiny. If they want to stay in India, they are welcome. But if they don’t, then we have no moral right to force them to remain. If they vote for integration with Pakistan, all this will mean is that Azad Kashmir will gain a little more territory. If they opt for independence, they will last for about 15 minutes without the billions that India has showered on them. But it will be their decision.” What has was said by Ambassador Yusuf Buch about Dr. Anagana Chateerji, let me repeat that for all those Indians who have been looking at Kashmir dispute dispassionately that they remind us of ‘the freedom from bigotry, the luster and lucidity of India of C.R.Das and Gokhale and Sarojini Nadiu. The most genuine patriots are those who help to purge their motherland of the wrongs committed in her name’.

The real conscience keepers of a nation are its writers; here I am reminded of two American poets Robert Bly and David Ray who in 1965 created an organization American Writers against the Vietnam War that organized readings, meetings, rallies and demonstration against Vietnam War. It were these writers that shook President Lyndon Johnson with their cries, “LBJ, LBJ, how many did you kill today’? Outside White House ‘that he no longer had the stomach for the option of continuing the war’. It is intellectuals like Swaminathan and Vir Sangvi who need to join people like Arundhati and Gautam in changing mind set of Indian political leadership, giving them the courage to face the realities about Kashmir and endorse people’s verdict- whatever that is.

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