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.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Tragedy Called Srinagar - Part 2

Afshana thinks Srinagar is becoming more like Mumbai. The irony is that most outsiders drawn to the city see it as their local Dubai

(Ms. Syeda Afshana, 34, was born in Srinagar. She attended the Vishwa Bharti High School in Rainawari, Srinagar, and the Government Women's College in Srinagar where she received a B.Sc. degree. She completed her Master's degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from the Kashmir University in 1999 and was the Gold Medallist (first position holder) in her graduating class. She is currently a Lecturer in the Media Education Research Centre (MERC) of the Kashmir University and pursuing her doctorate on the role of internet after 9/11.)

And here is another unreal city of Eliot

Unreal City,
under the brown fog
of a winter dawn,
A crowd flowed
over London Bridge,
so many,
I had not thought
death had undone so many.
Sighs, short and infrequent,
were exhaled,
And each man
fixed his eyes
before his feet.

A drive back home every evening makes me think edgily. The congestion and conundrum around is maddening. The jostling crowd and jammed roads winds one up.

Why this pandemonium? Is this a city or a chaos? The Srinagar of yore is fading out in the smog. The miasma of pollution, of both soul and substance, seems to have afflicted the city.

There is no denying the fact that the unrestrained migration of a segment of population has robbed the city of its sheen. The permanent settlements, over a period of time, have sparked off a phenomenon that is influencing each and every aspect of life in the city. The native Srinagararians are witness to the declining series of the city's grand ethos.

Starting from a migration that ensues for the search of work, and also for tagging along different quotas and categories, which is due because of the size of population, the transition from rural to urban setting occurs in a way that spoils the core of both of the lifestyles. From the simplicity of the village to the complexity of the city, the minds, meanings and morals undergo a change. The exposure gets addictive to the extent of forgetting the countryside, managing to get a productive employment and a permanent shelter in the city. As far as the quotas and categories, they become an ancient history, only to be revived when the progeny reaches to the point of chipping in the competition. And the cycle continues.

The migration that starts with a single individual ends up rooting in all kith and kin in the city. The influx continues. The job is secured, the land is seized, the house is sized, and the dynasty is here to stay. Srinagar becomes their Mumbai.

The cost of living in the city has amplified. The real estate prices are shooting up. The congestion is choking. The pollution is petrifying.

Most importantly, the social trends emerging because of this migration have not been beneficial. The mishmash of rustic and city culture has mugged the exotic nature of Srinagar life. The hybrid culture is not compatible with the composure of Srinagar. From language to dress to plain daily habits, the inner-city traditions and customs have lost their uniqueness. There is a break-down of an historical, social and cultural order battered by certain forces that are operating under the name of modernity. A stroll in the Habba Kadal area today presents the bucolic face with numerous families renting in the locality.

There is no point of harbouring malice against a population that swarms itself into the city due to various difficult forces. However, when the intrusion gets uncontainable and unmanageable, combing out the quintessence of the 'invaded' place, any sensitive soul in the city has a genuine right to grouse a grudge.

And, there is also no gain saying that the corruption in the public life in Srinagar owes its genesis to the majority population working out here. The story is no different for an immigrant politician, to Minister to any MLA, or for that matter any official head in administration or academics. Even the sad saga of various Kashmiri historical U-turns has a close connection with the country people, who have a distinction of equally participating in pro-freedom as well as pro-election rallies.

The issue of 'development', which in rural parlance means availability of good roads, drinking water, power transformers, govt. employment, schools and colleges, is an overriding demand for them. And, if all these things and comforts come to them, their crawling influence on city can stop somewhere, possibly.

However, the irony is that it won't. The lost love for their roots, the spirit to serve their impoverished people in far-flung areas, and the mounting desire for life of ease and coziness will continue to plague the bloated Srinagar.

As a Srinagararian, one is at a loss to understand as to what it can be that makes a certain section of population to disclaim and deny their identity with their roots. If it is so easy, why don't the Srinagararians display same traits? The answer tells us about what cannot be negated, come what may: It's the innate ethos, the influence of the place you belong to.

Of course, in this era of sham and superficiality, no body is a sacrosanct. But then, what matters is the kind and level of degradation that a group of people or an individual can stoop to. Further, this discourse has a definite cultural dimension. What we think of Bihari people swamping over in Kashmir, can provide an analogy to the cultural/social backgrounds within, besides.

Those who argue on the existence of melting-pot societies in the world, too admit of differences and divergences between the groups of people. Nonetheless, the corollary of such population mergers has a substantial reason(s) to be critical and disapproving.

And the way the universal problem of urbanization is being sniped and sneered all over the world, Srinagar appearing Mumbai to a group of population is but justified. Moreover, the downslide of serenity of Srinagar into an "Unreal City", a noisy and jarring metropolitan, nearer ala Mumbai, is becoming an uncomplimentary reality.
Like it or lick it, the fact remains so.

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