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, March 22, 2009

Camping for Peace

Nadia writes about her unique experiences at a camp in Abu Dhabi

(Ms. Nida Rafiq Shiekh, 22, was born in Srinagar. She passed her Matriculation from the Presentation Convent High School and completed her 12th grade from the Mallinson Girls High School, both with distinction. She graduated from the Women's College, Srinagar, in 2007 and is currently pursuing a Master's degree in mass communications from the Media Education Research Centre (MERC) of the University of Kashmir. She is a free lance writer who likes writing about the Kashmir issue and other topics like communal violence that have torn apart the Kashmiri society with tragic consequences. She loves writing and reading, and hopes to become a serious journalist and a documentary film maker some day.)


"I like to believe that people in the long run are going to do more to promote peace than our governments. Indeed, I think that people want peace so much that one of these days governments had better get out of the way and let them have it." (Dwight D. Eisenhower)

There were people with different faiths, different colors, different accents, different languages and different cultures yet there was a commonality and that was that we had all assembled there to work for peace. It was at times difficult to understand each other, but we managed to communicate in different forms. Sometimes singing, sometimes playing and sometimes by just some words. We shared our ideologies, our stories, our sufferings and our experiences.

Generations for Peace launched by HRH Prince Feisal of Jordan in 2007, organized its camp in Abu Dhabi this year and I was selected for it as a delegate.

The program brings together leaders of youth from divided communities and trains them in sport to unite the young. This year sixty delegates from 10 countries attended this peace camp. And I chose to be a part of this camp because who better than Kashmiris can understand the value of peace.

HRH Prince Feisal in his inaugural speech said, "We owe a huge debt of gratitude to our great humanitarian, founding partner, His Highness Sheikh Hamdan for his invitation to hold our third camp in Abu Dhabi. As a result of our previous two camps nearly 150 graduates have returned to 16 countries to cascade their new knowledge and skills to thousands of young people. We are looking forward to these numbers accelerating further and into new territories after this first camp of 2009 and have HH Sheikh Hamdan for making this possible".

This camp was a great learning experience because it gave me the opportunity to meet people from different conflict zones. We tried to understand each others conflicts. Delegates from Nigeria, Iraq, Palestine and Lebanon have taken part in the earlier program also, but for the first time there were delegates from India, Yemen, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Somalia, as well as the host country. This camp widened my outlook about not only the political affairs across the world but also about the diversity of different cultures.

The camp started on 1st March, 2009 and in the first classroom session delegates were supposed to tell their stories. It was a very emotional session and the heart- wrenching tales of the sufferings of people from different conflict zones made the atmosphere of the conference hall very grave. Hearing the stories from the horses’ mouth for the first time, I realized that there is a lot of suffering across the world and it’s high time that the young people from across the globe should come together and have one voice in promoting peace.

The entire concept of bringing together people of such diverse backgrounds together was very pioneering. The contemporary world is changing at a fast pace. Rapid technological innovations and industrialization have ushered in an age of materialism and consumerism whose primary objective is money and profit-making. While a part of the world is experiencing rapid development, the major part of the world is still striving to acquire its basic necessities of life.

While we talk of globalization and global citizenship, we cannot overcome the narrow limits of national, regional and cultural differences. We talk of the necessity of peace when we allot a substantial part of our national budget for acquiring arms and ammunition. We talk of secularism, liberty and fraternity yet we fail to respect the religious feelings of others. These contradictory pulls and pressures have made the world and its residents increasingly violent and arrogant. The generation that is coming up to take the responsibility of the future world is a generation with dwindling values and emotions. In such a situation, scholars have increasingly stressed on the necessity of spreading the culture of peace among the younger generation so that this world becomes a better place to live in. And this is what Generations for Peace is working for.

We had interactive classroom sessions combined with practical sports covering rules and skills in four sports - basketball, football, softball and volleyball. The curriculum stressed on peace building, focusing on the need to build tolerance and understanding so that youth from communities in conflict can find common grounds rather than be divided by differences.

We also had a full fledged session on dealing with Media in the conflict zones because the organizers believed that the key to spreading the global message of Generations for Peace is to build strong relationships with the media. And the intensive classroom sessions to address conflict resolution were combined with practical sporting sessions conducted by professional coaches; we learned the value of the media in spreading the seeds of peace. We were taught by media professionals how to work with the media and to better understand the journalists’ needs, no matter which type of media they may represent.

We had to prepare presentations in groups comprising of people from different regions and this helped us to understand each other better. All this bond us into new friendships and we pledged to work collectively for World Peace to the best of our capabilities.

The National Basketball Association (NBA) also supported the Peace Camp 09 by providing coaching and curriculum support. NBA All-Star Rolando Blackman and Olympic Gold Medallist Jennifer Azzi were there lending basketball instruction to the camp delegates. We also had world class Football coaches like Jacob Naish and Charlie Oatway, basketball coach Greg McGraw and volleyball coach Zohair.

Generations for Peace works for bringing together like-minded individuals and partners who believe that commonalities outweigh differences and that planting the seeds of peace is a shared responsibility for all. The cascade programme has resulted in growing numbers of Generations for Peace projects being instigated in the countries to where graduates have returned after their training. The Camp also taught participants how to train other trainers, who can then plan and implement sporting programmes with children through a series of workshops, interactive seminars, presentations, debates, role-play and sporting sessions.

Topics cover leadership, teamwork, building dialogue, tolerance and respect, anger management, conflict transformation, peace education, working with children and youth, self confidence, sport, religion and politics. Peace Pioneers are expected to train at least 20 trainers every year; work with at least 100-200 children annually; be an advocate for peace and to promote Generations for Peace; and to support other Peace Pioneers.

It was an experience of a lifetime and I hope I can make a difference for the people of my place with what I have learned there and in the words of Generations for Peace slogan am able to “Pass it on”.

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