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.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Finding the Space for Accountability in a System Where Politics is Stuffed by Money

Mehmood raises some interesting questions. But in a state where oligarchy has survived by harnessing public emotion on the singular issue of politics, where is the space to seek accountability?

(Mr. Mehmood-ur-Rashid, mid-30's, lives and works in Srinagar. His commentary is published by the Rising Kashmir.)

Economy of politics or vice versa

Sad part of our politics in and around the slogans of Self-Determination, Autonomy and Self-Rule is that they set turbidity in the minds of people by emotional stirrings only. Although the economic part of the Self-Determination politics is too lean to be present in any manner, but the later two are afflicted with the malaise of talking Srinagar in the streets and doing Delhi in the seats. If all the three take some time off and stop their overindulgence in politics (the way it is commonly understood), concentrating more meaningfully on economic side of Kashmir, they can not only keep the foxes from Delhi at bay, but can also discover some common ground to strengthen the politics in Kashmir per se.

By being present on economic front, political leadership, on both sides of the divide, can come in the way of those who want to dig our earth and fill their holes. This fine art of loot is the deadliest weapon in the arms depo of any occupying force. No political party, that has its roots in the land, can afford to ignore the devastation caused by this weapon.

At a theoretical level independent intellectuals and the think tanks associated with political parties can theorise things and lay bare the basics and details of the economy that pertains us as a people, but it must be accompanied by the efforts to make business easier and profitable for people of Kashmir. From a road side vendor, a wholesaler, a small scale industrial unit holder to high level entrepreneurship every single business activity matters. Not just this, the money that flows into the state in the shape of different centrally sponsored schemes, routine government funding, commercial taxes, and the corporate business ventures, all needs to be watched. The huge projects like the ones carried in the power sector or laying of railway line, must not escape the eye of any political leadership that is meaningful.

Unfortunately it hasn’t happened till date. We have always been rocked into believing that had it not been for assistance from Delhi we would be facing the ignominy of poverty. While more money travels from valley than comes in, why should we not stand up and ask for a balance sheet.

If outsiders are stealthily allowed to set their bases in Kashmir to do business why are not we being allowed the same degree of easy-access to start a business venture? If we are paying enough taxes why are we disallowed information about where does all this money go? If our resources and services are made use of to generate power why we are denied its ownership? Why the money issued to government departments is not fully utilised and major portion of it gets lapsed at the end of the year? Why centrally sponsored schemes don’t benefit us the way they are statistically supposed to? Recent example of this is the report that poured in this week about the PMGSY, where out of more than 50 roads only 6 have been worked on. And lastly how the corporate sector does its business in the valley and who do they benefit primarily? All these question are conspicuous by their presence and only a blind leadership can ignore them.

Raising these questions has nothing to do with cynicism. These are the queries that people in Kashmir can throw at Omar Abdullah, Mufti Sayeed, Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Umar Farooq, all at once. Those who are in the position of raising the question should raise it full pitch and those who are positioned to answer it should prepare an answer to it. The question is: why huge government projects and big business ventures, involving material and human resources from Kashmir, are undertaken, worked on and completed beyond public gaze? If it is related to people’s economy why should people be disallowed access to information about it. And the harshest part of it all is that our politicians project all these things as a favour done to Kashmir.

Fact of the matter is that it is all about money and business. It relates to the crass realm of money and matter. Here the size of heart may have some value but not the emotions and subtle beats that reside inside.

Present day economy is about politics and present day politics is about economy. The twain cannot be separated. So while doing any politics economy cannot, and must not be ignored. By questioning about the economy we cannot always act as rejectionists and isolationists. Intelligence demands that we engage with state backed economy in ways that strengthens us as a people against state. That is where the role of political parties is sought. It is ultimately how Politics are operated and Power made use of in any Economy that makes it good or bad. And it is by being present in the world that one can know its good and bad. Isolationist, radical and extreme approach of our Resistance politics cannot prove of any help. They need to participate in the economy of this state to make their politics result oriented. Similarly PDP can save some energy as an opposition party and contribute to the economy of valley by talking about it amidst people. National Conference too can prove its loyalty to its people by disallowing outsiders to pounce over the resources of valley, as they stay in power right now.

Tailpiece: Many months back our Geelani Sahib talked about millions. That was probably the first time when he sounded like a real politician. Geelani was to get those millions or billions only after Kashmir was independent. It would be better if he invests it right now, by the time political conditions changed drastically in any manner, it would only have grown. So better if real investments are made now than later.

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