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.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A Story of Grit, Resilience and Hope

Afsana reports on a mother that is determined to see justice done even when she has to do it alone

(Ms. Afsana Rashid, 29, was born and raised in Srinagar and attended the Minto Circle High School. She graduated from the Government College for Women with a Bachelor's degree in science, and completed her post-graduation degree from the University of Kashmir, obtaining her Master's Degree in Mass Communication and Journalism. She has received numerous world-wide recognition and awards for covering economic depravation and gender sensitive issues in Kashmiri journals, which include Sanjoy Ghose Humanitarian Award, Bhorukha Trust Media Award 2007, and the 2006-07 UNFPA-Ladli Media Award. Her work on "Impact of conflict on subsistence livelihood of marginalised communities in Kashmir and Alternatives", was recognized by Action Aid India in 2005-06. She has travelled abroad attending a workshop on "conflict Reporting" by Thomson Foundation, Cardiff, UK, and a seminar for women in conflict areas by IKV Pax Christi, Netherlands. In February 2008, she compiled a book, "Waiting for Justice: Widows and Half-widows.")

After losing four sons, Hajra fights for Survival

Srinagar: After losing four sons during the ongoing conflict, Hajra Bano, a resident of Wanigam village of Bandipora district finds it very difficult to carry on with the daily chores of life.
It also becomes difficult for her to take part in the monthly sit in carried out by Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP).

Three sons of Hajra were martyred while as the fourth one was made to disappear.
Aged Hajra lived with her ailing husband till he passed away last winter. With great difficulty the couple eked their living. Now, left to fend on her own, Hajra hardly finds any to share her agonies and trauma.

With sobbing eyes, she feels guilty as she could not repay her husband's couple of debts. "I would love to repay them even if I have to go hungry for days together but it is not manageable," says Hajra adding, "There is no one with whom I could share my pains and sufferings."
Hajra says she lived with her younger son till recently "but he abandoned her, two months ago." She added that her daughters are married and they seldom visit her. "I don't regret that, after all they can't help me much," said Hajra.

After her son abandoned her, Hajra herself has to look for her necessities. "When I last time left for Srinagar to join the protest, I simply had black nun-chai (tea without milk) as I can't afford milk. I take meals once a day. It was one of my neighbours, who donated a sack of raw rice to me. But my son hardly cares…," says the aged-mother.

"Be aasis shaheedain hinz mouj, mya kya gow (I was a mother of martyrs, what happened to me)," said Hajra, who was operated upon few months back owing to certain health ailments. "Doctor had advised me to take medicines. Sometimes, I miss them out due to non-affordability," she said.

"Often" Hajra continues, "My pains turn unbearable but death is beyond your control. Though number of times, I wish to dig a grave for myself at least that would relieve me of my anxieties, but …" laments Hajra.

An apt case for widow-fund, Hajra says she is not its beneficiary. "It involves cumbersome procedure and who will take all those cudgels to get it sanctioned in my favour. Many people approached me with one or other reason promising to help but nothing is visible in the real sense," said Hajra in a fragile voice.

Hajra, a symbol of courage, has not succumbed. Despite all this she continues her fight. She has filed a case in State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) though she is not satisfied with its progress and doubts that she would get a verdict in her favour.

"For the last so many years I am approaching SHRC to seek justice but till date my efforts have borne no fruits. There is no one except Almighty who will help me. I will fight till my last breath," vows Hajra.

Last time when APDP staged the monthly sit in Hajra had few bucks in her pocket. Boarding the first (Bandipora-Batamaloo) bus of the day, Hajra covered a distance of three kilometers on foot (Batamaloo–Lal Chowk) to reach the spot where protest is to be held.

Narrating her woeful tale Hajra says, "Since I had not a penny in my pocket, I sold hen for Rs. 50 to my neighbour and insisted her to pay more keeping into consideration bird's weight. But she refused and I had no other option. Finally, I made it to the spot (where protest was staged by the Association)," said Hajra, while talking to this newspaper.

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