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, November 16, 2008

Life After Elections

Shuhab shares his perspective of a game called "Back to the Future"

(Shuhab Hashmi, 38, was born in Baramulla, and graduated from the Degree College in Sopore, and completed his M.A. from the University of Kashmir. He is a Columnist, and in his spare time enjoys reading, discussions and traveling.)

Confused, and confusing the others

Kashmir's political spectrum is, nowadays, witnessing a high voltage drama in the name of elections, with both mainstream and separatist political parties locking horns. The real showdown will begin on Monday with the first phase of polling starting from north Kashmir's Bandipore district. The fight over claiming supremacy over the people's trust and confidence is confined to Kashmir valley; Ladakh and Jammu regions are witnessing routine election process.

The election becoming a theme suspected, and subjected to diametrically opposite pulls, to be contested or to be boycotted, applies only to Kashmir and Muslim majority areas of Jammu region. So the meaning and impact of elections on Kashmir valley and Muslim majority areas of Jammu are essentially different than on the non Muslim majority areas of Jammu and Ladakh.

Even as the efforts to outwit each other are on, but presumably both have failed to cement an argument on their claims. It is an admitted and acknowledged fact that the separatist camp was dead till Amarnath agitation, and had almost surrendered to New Delhi's "power". Syed Ali Geelani was perhaps the lone voice who refused to reconcile with any sense of defeat. He took on even Pakistan, the only place he envies after Kashmir, and termed former Pakistan President General Parvez Musharraf as the "traitor". There was apparently no roadmap with separatists, neither do they have it even after swarming support in the shape of June-Uprising, and as a consequence the heightened tempers of people in Kashmir, particularly of youth.

Similarly, the mainstream parties are under tremendous pressure to sing the "azadi" tune, though in a subtle manner. People's Democratic Party is armed with its Self Rule Framework and is concentrating on only those issues connected with the turmoil. It has walked a mile extra by identifying itself with the Muslim community, though only across the state. National Conference's story is interesting. Omar Abdullah is openly saying that elections are only for governance and Hurriyat is relevant till Kashmir issue is resolved. But as usual his diamond cutter is none else but charismatic father Farooq Abdulah, who sings a different tune.

For both these camps of "Azadi" and "Hindustan", it is a difficult path to tread upon. They are both confused, and are in turn confusing the public at large. The elections, scheduled to begin from Monday, are thus a battlefield for achieving supremacy, at ideational and ground level as well. One, by achieving the power, and other, by support to sustain the much abused "struggle". What could have been the programme of separatists in the absence of God send opportunity called "Amarnath agitation". Most of the leaders of this camp had disliked the election boycott in past. But this time even the leaders of likes of Sajjad Lone are in the forefront. All are relevant because of New Delhi's follies, otherwise they were fully in their basket. Many people believe that the young generation of politicians is struggling to become relevant, but is thisthe way to discover relevance, is debatable; because when people will dance to the tune of aging and ailing Geelani where is the space left for those who are "annoyed" with New Delhi for one or other reason. Amarnaths may not help them to sustain for long.

Writing on the wall is also for mainstreams who are harping on the "azadi" agenda. Will government of India oblige them by conceding even an iota of what separatists demand. They were not ready to release even a handful of prisoners on the demand of so called moderate Mirwaiz Umar Farooq.

The fight to claim the people will continue for years to come but will the assembly election throw up the genuine representatives is the big question. While the separatists have a valid point to oppose the elections but what is the alternative they are suggesting for Kashmiri masses who are becoming subservient to Jammu's political hegemony day in and day out. Past few years have seen gross discrimination with Kashmir on account of representation in services and other policy matters. This resulted because of weak and fragile political set up on this side. Elections in Jammu and Ladakh give them political strength which ultimately is translated in dictating to Kashmir. Absence of any such discourse in Kashmir has almost separated Leh from the state apparatus. In Leh district the "Azadi from Kashmir" has since been declared with no signs of Kashmir's administrative control.

Hurriyat's or JKLF's are in no position to give timeframe for complete "azadi" but they shall have to think on dealing with administrative matters as well if they claim to be representatives of the people in a holistic view. Congress and Muslim League had participated in elections before India achieved freedom. Drawing parallels may not be possible but who is going to safeguard the interests of Kashmiris in an administrative set up. An Ikhwani or a genuine Kashmiri. Or we should be contended with Jagmohans, Saexenas, Krisha Raos Sinhas and Vohras. Answer has to be found

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