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 17, 2008

The Quality of Leadership - Is it the Case of Getting What we Deserve?

An article in the Kashmir Times exposes the "imperfect side" of the Kashmiri character

I am a Kashmiri

Humans can be, and are enigmatic, individually and collectively, anywhere in the world. But one wonders whether we Kashmiris would have many equals in this particular peculiarity of human character.

This question has been coming up often in the minds of many people here and elsewhere, especially in the context of some recent developments, like the wave of 'chalos', marches and 'bandhs', closely followed by the Assembly elections, with all the accompanying buzz and bustle.

The culture of marches and 'chalos' was chiefly initiated and introduced in the muddle and bewildering politics of Kashmir by the hard-line, separatist and pro-Pakistan leader, Syed Ali Shah Geelani. The other separatist leaders toed the line after watching the enthusiastic response that Mr. Geelani received from the people. In fact at one stage Mr. Geelani was so thrilled by the grounds well of public support to his initiative that he started seeing himself, through momentarily, as the sole leader of the 'liberation' movement.

When I read about the "sea of humanity", as we often say in journalistic, jargon, in front of Mr. Geelani at the TRC grounds in Srinagar, that fleetingly swept him into the fantasy of 'sole leadership", I was reminded of many such multitudinous "seas of humanity", that the people of Kashmir had been witnessing over the past six decades. The difference, however, is that the leaders, their political ideologies, their orations and their political goals, were diametrically opposed to those of Mr. Geelani.

The "seas of humanity", of course, consisted of us Kashmiris, and the vehemence of our response in either case was the same.

When the slogans, like "Hum Pakistani hain, pakistan harara hai", at Mr. Geelani's gathering, rent through the air, one's mind travelled back to the epoch-making times of 1947. The memory of a particular historic day came racing back when a "sea of humanity" at Lal Chowk, comprising us Kashmiris had ecstatically applauded as the unchallenged leader of us Kashmiris, Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah, shook the hand of the Prime Minister of India, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, and recited a line or two in Persian language, appropriate to the spirit and purpose of Kashmir's association, and accession with India. "Man tu shudam, Tu man shudi; Man tanshudam, Tu jaan shudi", were the opening lines of what great Sheikh recited.

The marches of here 'chalo' and their 'chalo', bring back the memories of the numberless processions of 1947, when the Marauding tribals from Waziristan, incited, organised and backed by the newly-born Pakistan, were rampaging their way to Srinagar to "conquer" Kashmir for the new country. Every other road, a big or small, would be crowded, with processionists raising slogans like, "Hamla awar khabardar, Hum Kashmiri hain tayyar", "Sher-i-Kashmir ka kya irshad, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh itehad," and so on. The marches, 'chalos' and processions have remained unchanged, the participation of us Kashmiris remains unchanged too. Only the generation has changed, and so also, the leaders who mesmerise the crowds, and slogans that send the crowds into raptures.

In 1975, when Indira Abdullah Accord was signed in Delhi, paying the way for Sheikh Abdullah's return to mainstream politics and political power, a call was given by Islamabad for a protest strike against the accord. The response was simply astounding, life in Kashmir came to a dead stop and nothing seemed to move.

Less than a week later, Skeikh Abdullah returned from Delhi, to a tumultuous welcome, the likes of which are rarely seen, and not at all these days. From Pantachok, at the outskirts of Srinagar, Sheikh Abdullah proceeded to Lal Chowk, at the head of an uproarious procession, that took more than two hours to reach the venue of the public meeting he later addressed. The gathering was so huge that one got the impression that whole city was out their at the Lal Chowk.

In his speech, Sheikh Abdullah gave the reasons that had made him to sign the Accord to "save the boat of Kashmir, which had been caught in a whirlpool, from sinking". In response he received constant chants of "Long live, Abdullah".

One recalls that a foreign journalist who had only three or four days earlier sent a report to his principals about the total success of the Islamabad strike call, now sent another report about the grand reception to Sheikh Abdullah and the massive public meeting he addressed to get the approval of the people for the accord. Pat came the rejoinder, "Have you gone nuts? Aren't you contradicting yourself?" Actually he had neither gone nuts, now was he contradicting himself. It was we Kashmiris who were doing it.

Sheikh Abdullah died in 1982. The entire valley plunged into grief, transforming the city of Srinagar and the rest of Kashmir into a doleful spectacle, with every man and woman stricken by gloom. Later in his funeral cortege, the tail end could be seen at Nawapora-Khanyar, while the head of the cortage was already at Hazratbal, where the great leader was given a ceremonial burial, amidst loud wailing by the people he had left behind.

That day, even the bitterest critics of Sheikh Abdullah had to confesss that the great Sheikh was in true sense the darling of Kashmiris, that every word of his was gospel to them, and his loss an unrectifiable loss of Kashmir.

Less than a decade later, when the alien cult of militancy made it violent and threatening appearance in Kashmir, the resting place of Sheikh Abdullah on the banks of Dal lake at Hazratbal had to be protected against turned into iconoclasts of the leader whom they had mythlogised in his life, and on whose death, only ten years earlier, they had shed inconsolable and scalding tears.

For a month and a half now, Jammu and Kashmir has been, so to say, completely taken over by election fervour. The unusually high voter turnout in the face of vociferous boycott calls by the separatist leaders has come as a stunning surprise to all. It is indeed an exasperating dismay, a mystifying picture for the boycott zealots, but a thrilling spectacle for the lovers of democracy and democratic processes in action.

It was amusing to go through some newspaper reports from Srinagar saying that many people who pelted stones on election rallies, or joined anti-election demonstrations, were also standing in long queues, waiting for their turn to cast their vote.

A friend from Sonawari constituency, when contacted after the completion of the first phase of elections, said that he had observed boycott on the polling day. However, he added, "I did so after casting my vote the first thing early in the morning." That indeed is like us Kashmiris.

It is not that we Kashmiris are not aware of this enigmatic peculiarity and idiosyncrasy of ours. We certainly are. We often gossip about it, laughts over ourselves and over it, hear and enjoy jokes at our cost, feel funnily intrigued about it, but yet cannot and do not come out of it. It seems we enjoy doing contraries and incompatibles with equal gusto. It is a natural trait with us and we seem to subconsciouly thrive on it.

Foreign travellers and writers who have been visiting Kashmir frequently down the ages have written profusely on the nature and character of Kashmiris, through many have been uncharitable in their appraisals.

William Moorcroft calls us 'selfish, superstitious, ignorant, supple, intriguing, dishonest, false." Perhaps he then ran out of derogatives. Fredric Drew found us "falsetongued, ready with a lie and given to various forms of deceit." Even the Mughals, our rulers for centuries, saw us "crafty and wicked."

Baron Charles Hugel wrote, Kashmirian is trained in art of concealment which naturally leads to falsehood on every occasion." Francis Younghusband says, Kashmiris "set such value on the truth that they seldom use it."

These last two comments provoke some thoughts when viewed in present day conditions. Are we truly "trained in the art of concealment", and hence do not speak out our mind, as often becomes evident in our actions, reactions and responses to varying issues and situations?

Tale of tailpiece. An anecdote heard in Kashmir. It is a practice in Kashmir that a few days before Eid-ul-Zuha every year traders in sheep and goats put on display small flocks for sale to customers.

A Khwaja Saheb went to buy a ram at Budshah Chowk. He started examining each animal, but his way of doing so was queer and it intrigued the seller. The Khwaja lifted the tale of each animal and examined its hunkers closely, and finally made his choice.
The seller told the Khwaja that he had indeed selected the best ram from the flock, and then asked him," Please tell me how you did it." The Khwaja declined to oblige saying that it was a "secret" which he could not reveal. "In that case," said the curious seller, downing his baggy trousers, "Please have a look at my hunkers also and tell me whether I, a simple Kashmiri, am a Hindustani, a Pakistani, or an Azadi fellow."

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