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, February 11, 2009

Musings from Mumbai

To the envy of his colleagues shivering in the deep freeze, Bashir heads south to catch the "Bombay fever" turning him (heavens forbid!) into a sage

(Mr. Bashir Manzar, 50, was born in Chack Ferozpora, near Tangmarg in Baramulla district. He matriculated from the Government High School in Chandilora, Tangmarg, and received his Master's degree in English from the Kashmir University. He is publisher of the English daily newspaper, Kashmir Images, Kashmir's only multi-edition daily newspaper. Mr. Manzar is a poet and has published a collection of poems in Urdu - gazals and nazams - 1n 1996 under the title, "Daire Ka Safar." His interests are reading, writing, poetry, music, travel, and of course, politics.)

Let’s be what we are

Elections were over. New government was in the office. New hopes were in the air and I decided to take a break. Friends wondered why I should be leaving the place when new government was just in. Owners of the newspapers are normally expected to be around at such junctures. But…

Phir Bahar Aaye Tou Sehra Ki Taraf Chal Nikla
(As the Spring came, he again left for deserts)

But I didn’t go to any desert. My destination was the city that I love. The city which is my second home – Mumbai. I like to call it Bombay and Bombay alone. This word Mumbai – its Mum sounds obnoxious, may be has something to do with Kashmiri lingo.

Anyway, had a long holiday in the city of my dreams – my Bombay. It was so long that on 20th day I got a one-liner email from my Editor – “Sorry to disturb but I think I have a right to know your programmes and schedules.”

Sounds very casual, but knowing the Editor, I could smell the frustration, anger and helplessness that lied beneath this otherwise polite one-liner. And I started packing and am back in freezing Kashmir.

I remember my first visit to Bombay. It was in 1994. I landed at Kandeveli railway station where a friend was expected to be waiting for me. I couldn’t find her and as she was the only contact, was wondering where to go.

And suddenly the public address system of the railway station started airing my name. “Attention Mr. Bashir Manzar. Wherever you are please report at customer care counter, somebody is waiting for you.” Wow! My first visit and my name was being announced all over – a sea of people watching me rushing towards the announced destination and there she was waiting for me.

So my entry to this city of dreams was as dramatic as the city itself is. I just fall in love with this city. That day and this day, whenever I get a chance, my destination is always Bombay.

This time it was pure holiday but still I had some lectures in few colleges and earned some bucks (I needed, was really short of cash). Rest of the time I read and watched movies. Slumdog Millionaire, that is making waves all over, was, undoubtedly, my first choice. I loved the movie but couldn’t find anything great about it. Still it is all over, having nearly a dozen Oscar nominations. I think international audience loves to see ‘poor and hungry India’ and that is why the movie is doing so well in international fora.

But as far as Rehman goes, he is as superb as ever. Honestly speaking, if I have to vote for Rehman and Gulzar, my first and only choice would be Chal Chainia Chainia. That was ultimate. Jai Ho is great – but Chainia - no match.

I watched Dasvidaniya, A Wednesday, Desh Drohi, Ramchand Pakistani, Luck By Chance, Ghajni, Rab Ne Banadi Jodi and lots more. While in Bombay if you don’t watch movies, why are you there?

But what I pat myself for is reading two superb books - Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns. I think these books should be included in the syllabus of graduate level students of Kashmir. And if I have any authority, I will do that right now.

Both the books revolve around Afghanistan. Shah’s regime; his ouster; USSR invasion; Pak-US-Afghan Mujahideen nexus; USSR defeat; group clashes and death and destruction; emergence of Taliban and their horrible, unimaginable rule of terror and Hamid Karzai’s entry. The books are spine chilling. You can’t leave these books without finishing them and if you are a Kashmiri, you will identify yourself with lots of things in these books. I suggest the two books a must read for all Kashmiris and particularly our separatist leadership including Syed Ali Geelani and Asiya Andrabi.

I may be less religious; I may be less ritualistic; I may not be a traditional practicing one but I have strong beliefs in the basics of my religion and what most of the Taliban had been doing in Afghanistan sound religious from no angel.

But Europeans will love to call all the sick activities of Taliban as “Islamic”. They need a stick to beat Muslims and Taliban is very handy. Their long beards; their prayer rugs; their rhetorical sermons – all make them ideal sticks with which Muslims of the world could easily be beaten.

The Islam of Taliban revolves around oppressing women as much as possible; hating every sign of progress and prosperity; killing everyone who, in their scheme of things, is not Islamic. It is savagery in the name of Islam. God save us!

But who created this demon? Not Muslims, but Americans in association with a country that found its place on the globe in the name of Islam and then did every thing to trouble Muslims all over.

Today the same Taliban are up in arms against both Americans and that country – Pakistan. They killed Pakistan’s tallest leader Benazir and are dictating foreign and domestic policies of both US and Pakistan.

Sometimes I think, let it be. One who feeds the serpent is to get bitten. But then I think of the millions of innocent people residing in these two countries. They never knew what monster (Taliban) was being created by the governments of these two countries. Why should they suffer?

And here in Kashmir, some people want us to be part of this global nonsense. They want Kashmiri children to follow Mullah Omar, the one-eyed Taliban chief and Osama bin Laden, the multi-millionaire Arab who was politically and militarily fathered by America. God save us!

Why only he, Taliban too were fathered by America and mothered by Pakistan and strangely some voices in Kashmir want our children embrace the same illegitimate parenthood. Pity! Let’s be what we are. We don’t need new fathers and mothers, we love ours.

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