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.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Political Dichotomy: Mature Public Led by Immature Leadership

Shafi addresses intricacies of the Kashmir elections while questioning the maturity and wisdom of so-called leaders who have closed their eyes and ears to events taking place in their neighborhood and beyond

(Mr. Shafi A Athar, 54, was born in Khrew and completed his high school education at the Government High School in Khrew. He graduated from the Sri Pratap College Srinagar, and received a Post Graduate Diploma in Journalism and Mass Communication from the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU). He was formerly the editor of the Urdu News Magazine, "Takbeer", and a columnist for the Greater Kashmir. He currently writes for the Rising Kashmir daily newspaper. He enjoys developing scripts for radio and TV programs.)

We, the People - Who first cry for azadi and then rush to vote

The polling has been done in most parts of the state and the complete turn around by the electorate should serve as an eye opener. The same people who thronged the streets in hundreds of thousands and were instrumental to take out separatist leaders from their hibernation cells braved the inclement weather to exercise their franchise. Be it Amar Nath shrine controversy or the LoC march, people forced the napping leadership to lead them their way. But same people have not given them a heed in respect of a proposed boycott of the elections to show the world, in their own words, that Kashmir is a vibrant dispute and needed an immediate solution.

The turnout in the elections threw a surprise to the mainstream politicians and a chance to separatists to go for introspection. Introspection on the issue whether Kashmiris are unpredictable and need not be believed for their outbursts here and there. They may throw their lot behind one group on one day and the other on other day. But what is more intriguing is the way they don't understand the essence of such issues or the repercussions attached to such things.

The million dollar question is whether leadership that asked its people to boycott elections has not understood the psyche of its own people. And whether they are the people about whom former Prime Minister G M Bakshi was candid enough to say that they rally behind every leader or more conveniently support the powerful. Abdullah, Bakshi, National Conference, MUF, Militant, Ikhwani, Coordination Committee and now the Government of India, all have got support when they wielded power. Or the issues that are correlated may not be glued to each other in any way and the leadership itself has committed a mistake by keeping the issues on one side of the table. State run television Doordarshan (DD) , whose news division spends all its energies to give a brighter picture of all decisions government takes, has repeatedly tried to expose separatists. This time around DD is in a better position to ask us "Zara Socheiey To"(Let us think over).

Kashmir, as a dispute, has been accepted number of times both by India, Pakistan, UN and the various other international fora. Then how could an election undermine its authenticity. There are number of communications between governments in India and Pakistan when the elections have been confirmed as a means of local administration and not the step towards resolution of Kashmir imbroglio. Elections in the past have not resolved the issue till date and neither undermined its importance. Barring, of course, the political outbursts by some Indian leaders or the Coffee House intellectuals that Kahmiris have thrown their lot with India, as shown by their participation in the elections from time to time, there aren’t many who believe that participation in elections undermines the importance of Kashmir problem for Kashmiri people. Additionally, political minnows like Peerzada Sayeed have repeatedly asked Hurriyat to prove its representative character by participating in the elections.

Out of this exercise two important questions arise. One, whether people are fed up with the separatist leadership who have in the common opinion failed to evolve a workable approach to the issue. (They don't want to follow their programmes like Hartals and the like, for which they have constantly come under severe criticism.) Two, whether people have reconciled with the futility of pursuing the issue which seems making no headway.

If India is ignoring the separatist leadership on the one hand, Pakistani leadership has made the dent in the shrapnel. The man who made to the top slot by chance, first asked the Kashmir issue be sidelined for the time being and then threw a bomb shell to declare 'freedom fighters' in Kashmir as terrorists. With such outbursts by the Pakistan President the light at the end of the tunnel in the form of Pakistan support dwindled.

Kashmiris, I believe, can't be brushed aside as naïve who don't understand the intricacies of their own problem. They take cognizance of Indian strength and Pakistan's weaknesses. They have understood that India can't be made to vacate through force of the gun and weak Pakistan President's remarks have made them even weaker in their resolve. Pakistan itself is on a sticky wicket with world pressure mounting, post Mumbai terror strike. The world opinion is all rallied behind and international pressure is gaining strength in favour of India.

Kashmiris have voted in large numbers and only Srinagar city is yet to vote. Srinagar is expected to support separatist call for poll boycott and Lal Chowk Chalo. In such circumstances will it be presumed that separatists have a say in Srinagar city alone, or Srinagarites ignore appeals for development in support to call for resolution of Kashmir issue. Separatists shall have to devise a strategy to continue calling the shots on the resolution of Kashmir issue whatever the outcome of the Kashmir elections. They have to differentiate between an election for local administration and a mandate for permanent resolution of Kashmir issue.

An analysis needs to be done. Tomorrow when time comes Kashmiris will again forget the people sitting as MLAs and come out in hundreds of thousands to demonstrate their resolve for a permanent solution to the Kashmir issue but then again separatist leadership shall have to think whether elections and Kashmir issue can be glued together. And more importantly whether Dhamal to the tune of Ragda Ragda Hindustan and Hartals can win freedom.

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