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, October 12, 2008

What if creating upheaval is the end game rather than a means to the end?

Happymon Jacob performs an autopsy of the latest uprising in the valley

(Happymon Jacob, 33, is the Assistant Professor at the Department of Strategic and Regional Studies, University of Jammu, Jammu and Kashmir. He is also a Visiting Fellow at the Nelson Mandela Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution, Jamia Millia Islamia University, New Delhi, and was a Guest Faculty at the School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. His previous appointments include research positions at the Observer Research Foundation, Centre for Air Power Studies, and Delhi Policy Group, all based in New Delhi. Jacob specializes in Indian Foreign Policy, Kashmir Politics, Geopolitics in Southern Asia, and Security studies. He is the coordinator of the Pugwash Track-Two Initiative on Jammu and Kashmir and is a columnist with the Greater Kashmir daily, published from Srinagar. Born in the southern Indian state of Kerala, Jacob studied at the Panjab University, Mahatma Gandhi University and Jawaharlal Nehru University.)

What next and how? We need to answer

Now that there seems to be developing, for the first time, a no-holds-barred discussion by the Kashmiri intellectuals on their pro-azadi leaders, I wish to ask a set of questions to the people of Kashmir. Before I do so, I would like to clarify that I ask these questions as an Indian with left liberal political leanings and sympathies for the Kashmiri 'cause'. Even as the Kashmiri cause is itself disputed and that there are indeed many meanings of azadi in the valley, let's assume that Kashmiris' demand for self-respect, dignity and their inalienable democratic rights constitute the basis of such a cause. While my questions themselves may in fact be biased given the socio-political context that I come from, I am hopeful that you will find these questions worth reflecting upon.

A cursory glance at the events of the last three months in Kashmir would reveal that the movement in Kashmir had all the right ingredients for success: mass participation, willingness to defy state crackdown, ability to stand up to economic blockades by Jammu, crafty political moves, emotive slogans striking the right Kashmiri chords, timely political alliances and the ever-green romanticism of azadi etc. etc. In the past few months, you have lost many precious lives, lost out economically, your youngsters have missed their classes, and many of you are still in the hospitals and some in jails. Even as hundreds of thousands of people were on the streets protesting against the Indian state, the armed militants kept away from the scene not wanting to vitiate a people's struggle for their rights. Indeed, there were many sympathetic voices from the Indian intelligentsia in support of the Kashmiri cause, even as their sympathy would not mean accepting independence for Kashmir (as many of us do not think that azadi means independence), and there was semblance of a mainstream political willingness within India to look at what went wrong in Kashmir, and not blame Kashmiris for everything that is going wrong in Kashmir. And all this, do bear in mind, was unprecedented, unexpected and, of course, welcome. You managed to resurrect a dead cause from the burial ground. But despite all this, my question is, what have you achieved in the last three months?

Despite all the favourable factors, the recent uprising seems to have run out of steam despite the continuing claims by the dissident leadership that the struggle is still on and in full swing and that it will succeed, come what may. Notwithstanding their claims, the uprising seems to have failed to reach any logical conclusion.

The jury is still out, many might argue, as to whether the latest uprising is over or not. Whether it is to be termed a lost rebellion, dead cause, failed uprising or a temporary setback awaiting a revival, one can argue, is something only time can tell. Agreed, but the question remains unanswered: why did the last three months, in the final analysis, not achieve anything concrete? Why wouldn't the last three months go down in Kashmir's history as nothing but a lot of shouting about and venting out political frustrations?

Why did this happen? Why did your biggest ever uprising fail to achieve anything concrete? Is it because of the successful handling of the situation by the government? Is it because the Indian state has, after all, learned to contain dissidence in its frontiers without relenting even a bit? I am convinced that these are not the reasons for that.

I have no definite answer to these questions either. This is for the Kashmiri mind to ponder on. I am not a Kashmiri and I, therefore, cannot think like one. A political introspection is warranted at this juncture just because any movement that is not guided by critical self-reflection and objective introspection about its goals, trajectory, strategies, leadership etc. is bound to doom. Today you are leading your leaders - who seem not only reluctant participants in this movement but also ill-equipped to lead - and that is precisely why there is still life in it; tomorrow you will go back to your daily chores, what will happen to your movement then? Does it have the strength to sustain itself and to win once the streets of Srinagar are empty and when dust settles in Lal Chowk? If not, this movement is on its way towards failure. Hate me for saying this, but that's the anatomy of popular movements. Politics, after all, is determined by forces that are historically contingent.

Kashmiri leadership behaves like the proverbial frog in the well: they think that the rest of the world has the patience to be continually worried about their struggle, their politics, and their timelines. They behave as if they and their protests can exist independent of whatever happens in the rest of the world – and so much is happening in the wider world and in the neighborhood - and that their people will always be out on the streets at their beck and call irrespective of whether they do their homework or not.

The ongoing movement is overwhelmingly participated by a new crop of people among you who do not belong to the generation of the 1980s. The concerns, issues and dreams of this new generation are different from the earlier generation. The leadership has largely remained stagnant while the followers are mostly different. Those new ones among you should ask whether your leadership knows what lies ahead in this struggle. Do they know what their endgame is? Have they told you how they are going to achieve it, if they have one? Or are they using this unexpected outpouring of popular emotions to settle their petty scores, strengthen their leadership positions, rise to prominence, and take on the mainstream politicians without any vision or mission? Does the coordination committee or do the leaders therein have a futuristic blueprint of what a future Kashmir would look like? What an "azad" Kashmir would look like? Do you see this as a secular nationalist struggle or do you want to build an Islamised Kashmir? How are the dissident leaders different from the mainstream politicians and politics of Kashmir which they so fiercely fight to resist?

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