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, November 13, 2008

Playing the Extremist Game

Shuhab believes that by playing the Islamic card, PDP has plunged into a whole new ocean of problems and prospects

(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.)

And PDP goes green

Party manifestos make an important constituent of any meaningful electoral process. Whether the parties adhere to such a document which they release with great fanfare following the announcement of elections or not, but this is a customary practice meant to reach out to the voters and to tell them what the party is upto. Elsewhere the manifestos are only about how a particular party will deal with the issues of development, economy, administration and some odd social issues; in Kashmir, however, the manifestos are not confined to development, employment and taxes but they mainly revolve round the political programs aimed at negotiating with the overall uncertain and inflammable political condition of Kashmir. The need for this approach has been reinforced by the resurgence of mass movement in recent months, forcing the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), a young regional party, to think on the lines which earlier seemed unthinkable. It has departed from the traditional policy of emphasizing on the secular character of India and has rather targeted its archrival National Conference for trumpeting secularism which according to the party should not mean trampling the interests of majority community.

Is there an interesting turn of events that the Kashmir has off late been witnessing on political front! The PDP, in other words, has started gravitating towards identifying itself with the Muslims character of the state. Going through the Self Rule Framework released by the party ahead of its party manifesto there are clear indications on how the party wants to draw the battle lines. It is looking more towards the integration with Pakistan Administered Kashmir and talking about measures to alleviate the “sufferings” of Muslims in the Jammu region. The manifesto is no different from the Self Rule Framework and is rather dominated with its contents though some pages have been given to issues like development and employment. Going by the selection of candidates, particularly in the Jammu region, it is clear that party has kept in mind the sentiment of a particular community. Taking for example the Poonch-Haveli constituency; PDP had received a shot in the arm with the joining of Yashpal Sharma who finished second in last bye-elections and had emerged as a popular leader in the area. But to identify itself with the majority Muslim community, particularly in the wake of complete polarization in Jammu region, the party decided to give the ticket to Imtiaz Bandey. Similarly the options have been weighed in other areas as well, keeping this factor always present before mind.

The party president Mehbooba Mufti was vocal in saying that PDP was being targeted for taking up the projects like Mughal Road, Baba Ghulam Shah Badshah University, and Islamic University which are apprarently for the interests of Muslims. The Mughal Road seen as bridging the Muslims of Rajouri-Poonch and Kashmir has been an irritant among a section of establishment from New Delhi to Srinagar. The R & B Minister, Madan Lal Sharma in Mufti led coalition had openly recorded his reservations about its construction.

What has come to us in the shape Self Rule Framework or the PDP manifesto is exactly in line with the party’s posturing pre and post Amarnath land row. Notwithstanding the fact that the land row emerged from the follies of its own two senior ministers, the subsequent developments suggested a radical change in the mindset of party’s leadership. Mehbooba was the lone mainstream political leader who vehemently opposed the agreement with Sangarsh Samiti saying that the people of Kashmir were not taken into confidence before inking it down. Her statements against New Delhi’s policies also indicated a shift in the party posturing. Latest was the opposition to the holding of elections for the assembly at this juncture. By doing all this, party had already tread on a path to identify itself with the majority community.

Many questions strike while breaking ones brain on this changed direction of PDP. Many analysts would believe that it is part of a gimmick any political party would adopt to attain a comfortable pace on the road to power. But the real issue is that PDP in any case cannot replace Hurriyat Conference in projecting a particular sentiment. And at the same time cannot afford to distance itself from New Delhi to an extent that getting back to the original position becomes impossible. The PDP founder Mufti Muhammad Sayeed is considered to be the shrewdest politician in Jammu and Kashmir, and has had long association with India’s national politics by being directly associated with Congress, Janta Dal and other parties. Why is he opting for a politics that does not match with the India’s national politics, of which he has been an intimate part up till now? If the change in Mufti’s mind is real, and could sustain, it needs a detailed analysis. How a staunch secularist and a firm believer of Indian politics has transformed himself into a politician who talks about a particular community only. Here those who blame India for not being sincere towards Kashmir can score a point and Mufti’s changed stance can give them a feeling of being vindicated.

While the Muftis’ have played a very sensitive card in this election it remains to be seen as to what extent it can work in the state which has all the potential to drift in a dangerous divisive direction. …PDP has chosen a risky path by departing from traditional menifestos and jumped into a larger ideological ring. It must be aware of the fact that Hindus in this state only constitute 30 percent of the population and a significant number of seats which can push a party to the power come only through the Muslim votes in the state. But the calculation in that game can also take a different turn as all the votes of a community cannot be the lot of a particular party or ideology. By all accounts PDP must have calculated its risks by giving a challenge to National Conference which has presence in all the three regions of state and does also have a Muslim tinge in its presentation. There are other areas and sections which are in one way or the other tied to the leaders of other parties, and necessarily cannot buy the PDP theory.

The up short of the matter is that the party has now taken a completely different course by talking about solution to the larger issue and merging it with the electoral politics. Will this synthesis work, only the time will tell.

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