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.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Politics by Deception

Firdous says that public participation in the State elections negates the politics of Hurriyat

(Mr. Firdous Syed, 42, was born in Bhaderwah, Doda, and had his schooling in Jammu. He is currently the Chairman of the "Kashmir Foundation for Peace and Development Studies," and associated with the J&K National Conference. Between 1989 and 1991, he led the Moslem Janbaaz Force, a militant group, and was jailed from 1991 through 1994. In 1996, he publicly renounced the gun culture, and has since joined mainstream politics and is an active member of the Kashmir civil society.)

Sheer deception: Are they running with the hare and hunting with the hound?

It is always difficult to confess error of judgment. But it is better to confess, than to lose credibility with readers for the good. To predict outcome/conduct of an election is usually a tough and complex job. It takes expertise, spread over several years for the qualified people whom we all know as psephologists to foresee the shape of things to come. Even then as witnessed lately, these well-trained professionals are by and large found to be off the mark. In case of Kashmir, a highly unstable and unpredictable place, to make predictions is full of professional hazards. Here to forecast people’s behavior, is equivalent to dig one’s own grave of credibility. Anyhow, one learns from own mistakes.

On 22nd of August, people from all corners of Kashmir converged at Eid-gah Srinagar. Looking at the show of a million strong rally, vociferously chanting Azadi slogans, who could have anticipated, apparently determined Ragra crying crowd would come out in droves to vote, hardly after two months. Not only people waited in serpentine queues for hours, but also endured biting cold, to cast their vote. Contrary to conventional wisdom, still feeling the heat of August, though two months later, in 25th of October column, I stick my neck out—“Whether election will be as bad as 89, or as marginally better in 96 is any body’s guess but it is foregone conclusion that they will not be as good as held in 2002.” But turnout in 2008, to everybody’s utter surprise has surpassed the participation of 2002 elections.

Is it not perplexing? Just weeks apart not months and years Kashmiri made a spectacle, of two divergently opposite and extreme emotions. In August entire Kashmir was seething with anger; defying curfews, braving bullets. Dozens died and thousands are still nursing their injuries, few lost limbs and some, vital organs. And thousands bid tearful adieu to young martyrs. Important business, mundane chores; every thing came to standstill. Task of day-to-day life got suspended in pursuit of higher goal. How come the same flock, now standing in never ending lines, justified their vote, for water, electricity, roads and good employment avenues? What is factual and to be believed? Raw passions or cold calculations!

Is this massive participation, vote for Indian democracy? Yes, if one believes thesis Mr. Soz puts forward—“Such a high percentage of polling and overwhelming response by the people especially in Kashmir, rejecting negative politics and poll boycott calls from certain quarters, indicates that people of J&K voted for Indian democracy.” No doubt Kashmiri [unconsciously] voting en masse will strengthen Indian hold on Kashmir, but to call the high percentage of voter turn out, an affirmation of Indian democracy, is simply hyperbole and self-appeasing idea. Did any body vote say, he voted for Indian democracy and thus rejected the idea of Azadi. Right from the go, except some sycophants, everybody contesting the elections took pains to elaborate; this is not the vote for rejection or resolution. Voting was meant for electing a government for governance alone.

Prof Soz is not alone to credit Indian democracy for such a dramatic turn of events. For that matter, New Delhi all along has held a belief; elections will ultimately help to ease out conflict in Jammu and Kashmir. But history invalidates this idea. New Delhi has repeatedly tried, and has always failed. This is not the first election; Jammu and Kashmir has been made to undergo such exercises for umpteenth times. Since the eruption of militancy in 1989, this is the third straight Assembly Election; other two were held in 1996 and 2002. From New Delhi’s point-of-view elections in 2002 were thought to be fair and most participatory, yet these elections too failed to resolve the complex problem of Kashmir. Democracy without elections is unconceivable. And perhaps not many can dare to undermine the virtues of democracy as being the only viable and available governing system in 21st century. However, a pertinent question here is: what comes first – elections (i.e. democracy) or conflict resolution?

Contrary to all calculations and projections, it is fact that people voted in huge number this time. After the Amarnath land row, an unprecedented mass mobilization gripped entire Kashmir. Political commentators of all hues and colors were in great rush to call it upsurge or popular uprising. More enthusiasts (including this writer) concluded that this is the revival of mass movement of 89--- even birth of peaceful resistance.

July/August agitation is (more or less) just hundred days old, soil over martyrs grave is yet loose and smells fresh. Wounds have not turned scars, newly picked injuries still ooze blood. Tombstones are not erected and poet still struggle with words to pen down suitable obituaries. Perhaps, people’s mobilization had a potential to become a movement, why that strong undercurrent of people’s emotions was allowed to die down, prematurely. Who is responsible for the miscarriage and on whose hands we search the blood of the fallen. Who collaborated with the tyranny, unwittingly and wittingly also?

No doubt, all-powerful and pervasive state machinery was on full grind. It muzzled freedom of expression and did not allow mobilization of masses. Government of the day suppressed with very heavy hands any dissenting voice. Rumor mill was working overtime, busy in spreading canards and creating divisions within the ranks of Hurrayat. State with massive resources at its back and call was able to outwit the separatist fold. But this should not be surprise for any body. This is what a powerful state apparatus does to quell people’s movement. They did what they were suppose to do, and did their job well.

If any body failed to live up to the expectations, it was the Hurriyat leadership. Separatists true to their old habits faltered miserably this time again. It not only lacked sense of purpose and commitment, but innovative ideas also. The fresh addition to milieu of overcrowded organizations, Coordination committee has become butt of jokes. Other than here Chalo to there Chalo, it could not offer any substantial or meaningful program of action. Fifty plus paper tiger organizations of Hurriyat amalgam cannot match the block level organizational capacity of a new party like PDP. People necessarily does not heed to the call merely through press notes, it needs active canvassing on the ground also. Particularly when the credibility of the leadership is at the lowest ebb and opponents are firing on all the cylinders to carry the day.

Besides the lackadaisical approach, it seems that the boycott call was a fixed match in favor of the government. The manner, in which Huriryat dealt with the entire boycott campaign, clearly indicates that an influential section of Huriryat was hand in glove with New Delhi. If not actively collaborating personally, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq’s uninspiring leadership provided ample indications that he is clearly in a double mind. Is this the case of running with the hare and hunting with the hounds? Furthermore battered nation could have expected a spirited and all encompassing leadership from veteran Syed Ali Geelani, but he has proved an absolute disappointment. He is ever busy with petty squabbles. He resembles a bad master busy fighting with his tools.

In the column mentioned above, I had written, “if more than 50% of the electorate cast their vote (willfully) in a constituency, people for boycott should genuinely accept it as negation of their kind of politics.” People have voted it is time to accept defeat gracefully. Huriryat leadership needs to pack-up and go home. Only grace in defeat is that people have rejected the leadership and politicking in the name of Azadi but not Azadi sentiment.

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