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, September 14, 2008

A Question of Character

Afshana's idealism meets ground reality upon opening a baby cereal box, but in the process she exposes the greatest weakness among our gene

(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.)

Let’s be free from malice towards each other

Last frozen night
When gloom hung in the air
like a pestilent cloud,
not a whiff of air
not a branch stirred.
But the wings of a dream
fluttered over the dreamscape
in mine part of mouthful sky....
The Phoenix had come!
To divulge that
dreams slip in,
as life flows on anyhow.
What if dead babies are
fished out of drains,
sisters have gone astray,
brothers are loitering....
the wolves go on living,
fatter and merrier
they grow endlessly.
What if orphans become criminals,
widows start begging,
bullets boomerang.....
the black hearted black men
with bagfuls of black money
continue to dabble in sins,
the blackest ever.
Adversity withers, prosperity blooms.
What if I kill you
and you kill everybody;
what if drones and moths
sting the innocence;
what if you worship the rising sun
and chase the fugitive sunshine;
what if rivers are stagnated
and hills stand naked
because of foul deeds?
Any moment now, any day now
you’ll be taken in for repairs
the Phoenix told me.
Morbid brains, malicious hearts
would be overhauled.
And a small band of animals
will stride out upon the earth,
upright, firm and strong,
avid to weave a dream.....
to see a stream of consciousness
awaking conscience from
waking slumber
making you humans humane.

Nations get what they deserve. From rulers to leaders, things are ordained as per the moral fiber of the community. Besides the weather seasons, even the triumphs and tragedies shape up in accordance with the societal character.

The recent disturbances over here brought many a lesson to the fore. Certain things got vindicated by the very nature of this agitation. And the most painful, and equally pitiful, was the exposition of our character. Perhaps the typical Kashmiri thinking that has not amended its disposition, inspite of the harrowing experiences it got through during the past two decades of gory mayhem, was revealed.

Various incidents narrated our miserable makeup. A phone call from a friend during curfew days, provided an eye-opener. She talked about the milkman who fetches milk to her home. Despite severe restrictions on mobility, he somehow managed to reach the locality almost every day. As the curfew got more stringent, he hiked the price of each litre of milk by four rupees. Taking advantage of the situation, he threatened to stop the milk supply to those who objected his disgustingly opportunistic behaviour. My friend had no option but to agree. Even then, the quality of milk degenerated with each passing day. Most probably, he adulterated it with more amount of water to meet the demand of his helpless consumers.

A personal experience was also upsetting. Due to “shortage” of baby food, there was hardly anything available in the market prior to curfew. I had managed to get few infant cereal packets which got consumed during the curfew days. The moment there was relaxation in the curfew, I asked my hubby to arrange something for the baby. He got just one packet of cereal food from the local shopkeeper. That was all what the shopkeeper was left with, as claimed by him. In the rush of the hour, my hubby had only checked the expiry date of the packet, which was still intact. The moment I opened it up, I saw a transparent tape on the outer pack, and the interior air-tight foil containing the content was torn. The whole mixture was scattered in the outer pack, making me suspicious. I emptied the contents on a sheet of paper, and discovered rodent excreta in it. It was shocking to observe that people don’t spare even baby food to be tampered with!

Yet another incident in my locality was quite surprising. A mobile relief carrier containing vegetables had arrived. As the people jostled around the vehicle to take the relief, the driver of the carrier was threatened by the local vegetable vendor to vacate the place since it was affecting his sales. The locals objected and there was a noisy brawl. The frightened driver fled from the scene and the vendor rejoiced seeing sapping customers coming back to purchase veggies from his shop at a high price.

There are scores of episodes and events that occurred amidst us recently, and that make us re-think on our collective character. Apart from hoarding of goods to skyrocketing of prices, we have shown that we are the ones who feel happy in taking fat salary pack every month but are highly reluctant to recompense the same through our work.

Undoubtedly, we have offered so many sacrifices for so long. We have lost things that are irreparable. The magnitude of sufferings is so colossal that it will take aeons to wipe the scalding tears from the miffed eyes. Nonetheless, the unwavering and unrelenting spirit has unpredictably not been able to salvage some of our values. It sounds quite paradoxical. Usually, adversity brings up the best of values in humans. That too, when they are involved in a bloody battle for a cause.

Perhaps, the privation here has hardened us to extreme. We yell slogans as well as selfishness. We offer sacrifices as well as offenses. We retrieve as well as retreat. We the people have proven to be a blend of disproportionate matter beyond belief. And that’s what is suicidal for any nation. The character building is more critical in framing of its identity and destiny.

Yes, let’s desire to be free. Free from malice towards each other. Free from self-centeredness. Free from failings of collective morality. And of course, free from political subjugation as well. But let’s first make ourselves deserving for the same. That’s the Herculean Task!

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