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

Without Self-Sufficiency Independence is Only a Dream

The author presents a strong argument why Kashmiris must earn the respect of the world before anyone takes them seriously



In The Dance of Wounded Souls, Robert Burney says that a dysfunctional civilization predisposes us to look outside for reaffirmation and emotional sustenance. In depending on a particular relationship for a sense of self worth, we give another person the absolute power to make us feel good about ourselves, to feel worthy and lovable. That person then very easily becomes the villain who can abuse and oppress us. This codependent, toxic variety of relationship gives the other person absolute power over our self-esteem and continued existence. In a healthy interrelationship, we make a choice to be with another being - and voluntarily abdicate some power over our lives – but we do not give him or her the power to fully determine our self worth or all other aspects of our survival. Burney’s analysis of codependent behavior is the perfect analogy for Kashmir’s dysfunctional relationships, past or present, which have always been abusive, oppressive, and never allowed the empowerment of our people either emotionally or economically.

Our Kashmiri nation, and rightfully so, has always been consumed by the wish to legitimize its claim for independence and special status vis-à-vis its partners and the rest of the world. However, while shouting our throats hoarse for freedom from our oppressors, we have dismally failed to introspect and never mustered the moral courage to realistically look beyond our struggle for independence to make it sustainable if achieved. As the old adage goes, the road to hell — or in our case to freedom — is often paved with the best of intentions. However, while it comes as great relief that the need for economic self sufficiency has finally made its way into the subtext of our rallying cries, truth is we have always only paid lip service to this most crucial of issues and remained firmly locked in our codependent mindsets. In the most recent context, we must tell ourselves that economic blockages go well beyond obstructions erected on highways. We must be prepared to not only demand the free flow of goods along current or future trade routes, but also make every human effort that the goods carried along these routes are indigenously produced, fully utilizing our own natural and intellectual properties. Some immediate steps we can take are as follows:

As has already been pointed out by others, during our latest period of struggle and as a result of the shortages of commodities we have been facing, truckloads of vegetables and other foods have poured from villages into our city and towns. We must turn these temporary and voluntary emergency measures into a model for developing our own and permanent rural-urban market linkages, and begin an immediate “Grow and Buy Local” campaign. This could include fruits, vegetables, dairy and poultry products, and also meats. Many of these items are currently imported into Kashmir, even though we have more than adequate capacity to develop our own community based food industries throughout the state.·

As part of that campaign, we must urge our people to desist from buying pre-packaged, processed foods that have been produced outside Kashmir and are sold at our markets at much higher prices than those fetched by local goods. We must make it clear to outside manufacturers that we are ready to boycott their goods if they can be produced indigenously and until they agree to create production facilities in Kashmir, offering employment opportunities for locals. While this was the presumed intent of tax holidays promulgated through industrial policies aimed at encouraging private investment into Kashmir, it should be mandatory for all manufacturer peddling their goods in our nation, not only for those planning to come here for the sole purpose of enjoying certain income and excise tax exemptions. ·

We must more aggressively encourage the right kind of direct international private investment into Kashmir, provided that investors agree to negotiate and enter into partnerships with a broad range of locals, and consider the setting up of infrastructure not only near the city but also in less developed areas to assure equitable development. In many parts of the world, factory, office building and hotel owners, among others, are required to fund and construct their own access roads and attendant infrastructure. It is a requirement we should explore as well. ·

While I am stating the obvious, we must make every effort to become more self-sufficient in the power sector. Our grievances regarding India’s exploitative policies towards Kashmir, especially in the hydel sector, are well known. However, in the absence of any immediate relief, we must look towards the development of alternative sources of energy that can be generated on a community level. China, as an example, is making great strides in switching to the generation of electricity through bio-gasification, small-scale hydel projects, wind power, and increased use of advanced solar energy, especially in its rural areas. We must look at international best practices to find fitting models for Kashmir.·

As we will always depend on a vibrant tourism sector, we must encourage the development of community-based tourism throughout the state so that our people can benefit directly. We should not focus on outside investment for large-scale tourism infrastructure, but concentrate on highlighting what we already have and aim to either preserve or upgrade it. ·

Most importantly, we will have to immediately create local private employment opportunities through community run large or small-scale enterprises in all sectors, but especially in horticulture and agriculture. Lakhs of unemployed youth are impatiently waiting in line for government jobs financed through India sponsored schemes and are mostly promised to garner votes from desperate populations without any choice. While the desire for this type of employment is understandable in the current absence of viable alternatives, we must find ways to break free from that codependence by convincing our youth that private employment opportunities are inherently more rewarding than those provided by outside governmental agencies. ·

To that end, our own successful industrialists must be pressurized to help create these opportunities through expansion of their existing units to other areas of the nation. Across the board, they must also be urged to perform their social responsibility in sectors such as education, social service, power and other community development by working together more closely with the people. Employment of outsiders should be avoided at all costs and all levels unless the necessary expertise cannot be allocated amongst us. ·

Along the same lines, we also must urge our well-to-do non-resident Kashmiri friends and relatives to immediately invest in social sectors of Kashmir. Too many seem only interested in talking about the fate of our nation and upgrading their vacation homes in the Valley instead of actively becoming part of the solution. They must put their money where their mouth is.·

To facilitate that type of social investment from legitimate sources here and abroad, let us immediately set up a “Greater Kashmir Social Development Foundation,” as an umbrella extra-governmental, non-profit body to receive and appropriate funding for the relief of the most marginalized of us during times of severe distress, and also with a view to improving certain critical areas of their lives promptly without having to request formal government or international aid agency intervention. The organization should be non-political and chaired by one member of each of the groups representing the true aspirations of our nation’s people.·

In our increasingly water-starved areas, we must aid residents to begin practicing both rain and snow water harvesting for irrigation and/ or drinking water purposes. Our nation’s water shortage has reached crisis proportions. ·

We must commit to arresting the unconscionable destruction of our heritage sites and natural environment, both hallmarks of Kashmir’s cultural and geographical legacy. Years of unrest and greed of timber mafias have allowed the irresponsible plunder of our forests to go unchecked for too long. Moreover, the rampant conversion of our traditional neighborhoods and countryside into concrete jungles, becoming a permanent blot on our landscape and an additional drain on our energy efficiency, must be curbed. Both not only bring us closer to environmental disaster, but also seriously dilute important aspects of our Kashmiri ethnic identity.

Clearly, these are only a few practical suggestions for the road ahead. Much or all of it will require some tough choices and also sacrifices from those of us who have directly or indirectly benefited from the economic codependencies we have developed over the years as a result of continuous upheaval and internal divisions. Yet, for once we must put all our efforts into developing a greater sense of common purpose beyond freedom, and immediately embark on a path to greater economic, not only political and emotional, independence as a prerequisite for the permanent absence of outside interference we so desperately crave. This will mean not only fighting our external oppressors, but also battling the enemy within, which has undoubtedly been contributing to our inability to effectively stand on our own feet and either forced us to remain in toxic relationships or predisposed us to develop new dysfunctional ones.

Only after seriously focusing on achieving greater economic self-reliance will we be able to navigate our future relationships with confidence and a true sense of self-worth, and be enabled to negotiate our own terms from a true position of strength. The best relationships are those based on respect for a partner’s individuality and full equality. Mutual codependence, emotionally or economically, can never be the basis for a sustainable match, as it will always seriously inhibit continued growth and independent thinking. It is in this context that we now must begin to immediately implement homegrown and lasting solutions that will make it possible for Kashmir to enter into healthier relationships in the future.

Most importantly, we must remember that to throw off the shackles of a dysfunctional marriage, we have to stop standing with a begging bowl outside the bedroom of the abusive spouse we wish to divorce. Planning a life after marriage may not be what many of us would like to discuss caught up as we are in the fervor of the moment. However, the rightful demand by our leading intellectuals to adequately prepare for a life without partner needs to be addressed without delay.

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