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

Work is worship, but why not in Kashmir?

Is it our culture that manifests in delay and denial about everthing unpleasant?

Why isn't a healthy work culture evolving in the valley?

Javaid Malik (Greater Kashmir)

Srinagar: "Work is worship," thus goes the old adage. But in Kashmir it seems to have lost its significance, as people are never tired of manufacturing excuses to shirk their work.

"It's strange that people wait for strike calls to while away their precious time in idle gossip or for remaining glued to their television sets. At times, I fail to understand why they have become lethargic and lazy. If we don't change ourselves, it will have far reaching consequences," says Ghulam Ahmad,70.

Recalling the days when he was young, Ahmad says, "When I was young, there were not many government or private jobs and most Kashmiris used to make both their ends meet by farming, trading and other chores. Our elders always used to tell us that the more we work the more we will earn."

Ahmed believes that times have changed and people with fixed salaries think no matter whether they work or not they would get their pay packets on due date.

Not many decades ago, even after doing their day's work, many people would follow gainful pursuits like growing vegetables in kitchen gardens, spinning, and embroidering. This would not only boost their earnings, it would more importantly keep them active.

Not long ago, the former chief minister, Ghulam Nabi Azad, had gone whole hog to introduce what he called "work culture." For engineering disciplines, in particular, he went for double and triple shifts of working. "Despite claims, however, most government institutions function in the same leisurely manner and the work in most cases goes on at a snails pace. But, he tried at least," says Mushtaq Zahid.

Interestingly, in Kashmir the work shirkers seek refuge even in religion. A large number of Muslims abstain from work for better part of Fridays on the plea they have to offer prayer or attend a fourth day ceremony. Indeed, an hour's break is officially allowed on the day for Friday prayers. With the passage of time, many people have development some kind of inertia on such days.

The 80-year old Muhammad Yousuf Banday is upset particularly with the younger generation for staying away from work on Fridays. "Friday is an auspicious day and we just have to take one or two hours off for prayers. It's unfortunate that most people these days don't do anything on Fridays," Banday says.

An advocate who wished not to be named narrated his recent experience: "I was in my friend's office on Thursday night, and he called up one of his colleagues to assign him some important task for Friday. My friend was astonished at the response: How can I do it? It's Friday tomorrow."

Visibly concerned at the negative trend, the Grand Mufti of Kashmir, Mufti Bashiruddin says, "Shirking work is dishonesty. Almighty Allah knows our necessities and priorities. No one can shirk work in the name of Allah," he said, adding that in the holy Qur'an, Allah ordains, "The moment yee are free from Salat, spread in the land and get busy in the quest for Allah's blessings (making the livelihood)." In other words, getting busy in making a livelihood is next in importance to Salat (prayers).

Eminent sociologist of the Valley, Dr Bashir Ahmed Dabla, says that shirking work has become one of the intrinsic parts of our cultural life. "We don't value time. We can afford to waste hours together in gossip and the same reflects in our offices and homes," Dabla says, and adds, "History stands testimony to the fact that our kings used to listen to music for hours together without worrying about people. Our culture is luxurious."

The result of growing lethargy and inertia is not far to seek. From a people who used to produce many of their daily necessities, they are turning into mere consumers, and bad ones for that. The situation has degenerated to the extent that people across the valley have to import most necessities from outside and have, lately, become quite vulnerable to exploitation, political as well as economic. The recent economic blockade was just a manifestation and an eye-opener.

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