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.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Looking to a Bright Future

Sajjad speaks with optimism but neglects to address responsibilies - of people who want an end to misery while keeping anarchy alive, and of neighbors who refuse to shut down terrorist infrastructure

(Mr. Sajjad Bazaz, 44, was born in Srinagar. He attended the Khalsa high school and the Sri Pratap College in Srinagar. He received his bachelor's degree in Media and his master's degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from the University of Kashmir. Mr. Bazaz has over two decades of experience in journalism (both print & electronic), and he is author of the book "Bankwatch" which is about a financial scenario with particular reference to the J&K state. He is currently incharge of corporate communications department in a leaduing financial instution in J&K. Mr. Bazaz likes to spend leisure time watching movies and enjoying company of his friends.)

What next?

Even as a short-lived renewed mass uprising against Indian rule in August –September this year jolted one and all, the record-breaking turnout of voters in all the 7 phases of the assembly elections, except in Srinagar constituencies, was also equally surprising. We all know that amid all conditions, elections have been held in Kashmir and New Delhi has crafted a long history of political mismanagement to hurt the Kashmiri psyche.

However, there are a few major things, which surfaced during the course of Elections 2008. Even as Kashmiris feel like a battered and brutalized society, the percentage of voter turnout has left developmental challenges for those assuming power. There is no doubt that the economic factor has played a great role in pulling people out of their homes to vote for development of roads, eradication of unemployment, better schools and sufficient health infrastructure.

Before going into the details of developmental challenges put forth by the voters for the next government, handholding of the situation by the governor N. N. Vohra cannot be overlooked. He has proved himself as an effective change agent for New Delhi. When there was a consensus among the Indian think tank to defer the assembly elections in the state, he went against the wind and successfully ensured the conclusion of elections with minimum possible violence. So, one should not deny that the credit for holding elections amid all odds goes to the governor.
In this context, recently, P. Chidambram, Indian Defence Minister, at function in New Delhi called the election process in the state as a journey of change. "Holding elections in a peaceful manner is no small achievement. It tells a story which deserves to be retold and which perhaps not many have quite acknowledged or noticed" – are a few remarks which reflects the excitement of New Delhi vis-à-vis just concluded election 2008. The defence minister was all praise for Vohra. While describing him a change agent he said that in Governor Vohra New Delhi has found a man who has risen to the challenges of the situation.

Vohra's experience in political dealings, especially with Kashmir affairs proved a shot in the arm of Indian interests in Kashmir. He is considered as a perfect man to be knowing everything about Kashmir, as he is very well introduced among the separatist cadres in Kashmir. He has once again succeeded to add weight to the Indian stand on Kashmir and who can forget that he, as a mediator, had earlier succeeded in persuading the separatists to hold talks with New Delhi.

Vohra is considered to be a credible person who has studied the case of Kashmiris and understands the issue. He, definitely, should be knowing how to address the issue and restore dignity of the people. Holding of elections have won him laurels all over the country and can even win him some prestigious national award, but for the people of the state, Vohra will be a man to be watched.

Meanwhile, at developmental front, almost all voters dished out that in order to see an end to the problems like poor roads, inadequate health infrastructure, unemployment, power shortage etc. forced them to participate in the polls. Here it has to be understood that the Kashmir issue has its political and social aspects, economic intervention has to take a lead for the imbroglio to be solved. Economic intervention will have to take a lead and a development policy is needed that ensures peace, prosperity and economic returns.

Notably, C. Rangarajan, who was Chairman of the working group for economic development of Jammu and Kashmir, has listed six guiding objectives and goals to meet the developmental challenges of J-K: reconstruction and maintenance of existing physical assets, investment in physical and social infrastructure, conducive environment for private investment, balanced regional development and comprehensive fiscal adjustment.

Here it is important to note that whosoever assumes power in the state, should prioritize bringing an end to the miseries of common people, otherwise they will have the same fate as their predecessors met. In the context of core Kashmir issue, these groups should force the Government of India to do something tangible on the ground.

So, a lot depends on how these people adjust themselves to the emerging situation. Let us hope that things move from bad to good, if not the best. At the same time, they should remember that forming a government in the conflict zone like Kashmir is not the only solution of the vexed problem. Let them not be complacent that the sentiment of secession in Kashmir has died down. The recent mass uprising should remain a constant reminder to the groups which assume power in the state that the secessionist movement is still there and waiting for its turn. Will that turn come or not? Only time will tell.

Voters have not mixed the election process with separatist movement. They called it two different tracks. Basically we have witnessed many ups and downs during the conflict period and such situations still continue. Events like division of separatist organisations, formation of Hurriyat Conference, surrender of some prominent separatists, human rights violations, Indo-Pak relations and peace process have kept the Kashmir issue boiling, with one common factor that a common Kashmiri has been the victim and caught between the devil and deep sea. Most of the time we have a situation where false optimism loomed large.

Meanwhile, all groups, whether separatists or pro-India, have a responsibility to ensure that Kashmir does not remain as the battleground between India and Pakistan. At their own levels that have to stop playing double game with double talk. Let them work to take benefit of global village, as globalization gives the opportunity to break the barriers, unite the people and move forward towards socio-economic development by freedom, democracy and modernism supported by reforms so as to achieve social justice and security in the world. And above all, violence should end. Let us hope that the year 2009 does not bring a sense of terror and persecution in the Kashmiri psyche.

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