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.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

"You Don't Get What You Deserve, You Get What You Negotiate"

Sajjad discusses challenges facing the new Administration in Kashmir. One challenge overlooked is how to successfully negotiate with Resistance Movement leaders who emerged out the gun culture

(Mr. Sajjad Bazaz, 45, 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.)

And now the realism?

Finally, against all odds J&K elections 2008 were held and the youngest designate chief minister of the State so far, Omar Abdullah, is taking oath. Even as the most of the political analysts and their opponents had written off the National Conference and were expecting 'last nail in their coffin', it again staged a comeback with a brigade of young minds. However, more challenges galore for the new brigade in the context of development and the core Kashmir issue.

Basically, many people turned out for the elections with local development issues in mind, which surprised the political analysts. For the first time in the history of Kashmir, people categorized their aspirations into the long-term political goal and the immediate, day-to-day problems of roads, electricity, education and employment.

No doubt, we should not turn a blind eye to the fact that those who voted in the elections were the same people who took to streets demanding 'freedom', but at the same time, the response of the people to the election call should be taken that the time has come when both the issues- that of good governance and to find a solution to Kashmir's imbroglio – have to be addressed simultaneously. So the biggest challenge for the new government headed by Omar Abdullah is to avoid making these two issues hostage to each other. If the new regime feels acceptability and respectability of the voters, then it has to ensure the genuine aspirations of Kashmir people are respected and accommodated with dignity.

One of the unique features of the current coalition partners is that now Omar Abdullah at the centre of power has the next six years at his disposal. This is an opportunity for him to resurrect his party's reputation, obviously through pro-people deeds. He has to see that the state administration supports good governance practices. Apart from delivering on the administration front, his government will need to call up political imagination in dealing with the autonomy issue. How skillful Omar Abdullah proves in political management would be a thing to watch and the keenest watchers would be both the People's Democratic Party (PDP) and the separatist conglomerate.

One of the greatest challenges also lies here would be to listen respectfully to the opposition. In other words, Omar has to change the culture here, as the opposition has to be involved in major decisions where governance or core issue is touched. Let him allow his opponents in the government to board the bus for a large transformation in the state at all fronts – be it political or developmental.

Recently, LoC trade got underway. In this context, new regime has a responsibility to strengthen such measures so that the political leadership of the two divided parts of the Kashmir remains at disposal for each other at least economically, I mean on the economic front. A slight rewind of the events reminds of some important statements, which Omar Abdullah dished out in the context of Kashmir issue. At Pugwash conference, last year, he opposed the suggestions that the Kashmir issue should be 'deep frozen'. Now, at the helm of affairs, Omar has an opportunity to address to the core Kashmir issue on the lines he has spoken in the past. At least he should have no problems in working with other forces in finding a solution to the Kashmir issue.

When we talk of challenges, we cannot ignore the separatist conglomerate. Now the challenging times are ahead of them also in the sense that the election 2008 has shown them the power of peoples' leadership. In reality, revival of the dead Kashmir issue in 1988 had brought it back to the fore, for international attention. Even as the launch of armed separatist movement in 1988 gave a new turn to the Kashmir issue by forcing the international community to focus on the Kashmir affairs, the separatist politics (unarmed separatists) has failed to fulfill the aspirations of the people.

In May 2008, the separatist conglomerate assembled at a seminar and talked about realism and a strategy to carry forward the 'struggle'. Before they face the wrath of masses, it is high time for them to evolve a definite strategy and work on the lines where the ground situation is taken into account. They should not aspire for things, which are impractical. Now is the time for them to carry forward their goal of 'realism'.

If the separatist conglomerate discourages this, even inadvertently, it will only distance itself from the people for whom they claim to be fighting a 'freedom war'. So, one would expect them to do so with wisdom, reasonableness and farsightedness. The separatist conglomerate has to board the bus for the peace, prosperity and welfare of the people. If they miss it, they shall be exposing the state subjects to further dangers.

The honest and frank assertion of Mirwaiz Umar Farooq during a conference in Srinagar last year that 'you don't get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate' should be basis of a renewed approach in modern times. They have to move from traditional stand of bashing pro-India politicians and at least seek a constructive engagement with regional parties like National Conference and People's Democratic Party.

Most of the separatists have been calling for the international community to prepare a road map to resolve the issue. But the third party intervention, in the coming times, can turn out to be a redundant idea if the Kashmiris living across the Line of Control (LoC) are allowed to meet at frequent intervals. Here the onus lies on the new regime, as occasions should be carved out so that such an Kashmiris across the LoC are given an opportunity to sit together in a family atmosphere and chalk-out the best possible solution to the dispute. Ultimately, it is the people of both parts of Kashmir, India and Pakistan, who by virtue of good relations and understanding among each other can ensure peace and prosperity of the beleaguered J&K State.

There is a lot at stake. Will National Conference re-establish itself now under its young leader Omar Abdullah as the messiah of the interests of the people of Kashmir? Only time will tell.

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