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, March 25, 2009

Can This "Patient" be Revived?

An editorial in the Greater Kashmir restates what should be the number one challenge in the valley but always gets second billing

Calling Civil Society

The most vexed problem after the “Kashmir issue” the state is confronted with is preserving the Dal Lake. Is talking about its preservation whipping a dead horse? Reams and reams of newsprint might have been consumed during the past three decades for highlighting the threats of extinction that most of our bodies have been facing. Scores of NGO’s might have been formed and funded by various ministries during the period for launching campaigns for the protection of Dal, Nageen and other lakes in and around Srinagar city but nothing seems to be working for initiating a peoples movement for the protection of water bodies. The government undoubtedly created an authority for protection of the lakes and the water bodies and pumped billions of the rupees in these projects but seen in right perspective the authority as well as other organizations have so far failed in protecting them. A couple of years back the Jammu and Kashmir High Court intervened in a big way and made the government to take some drastic measures for ensuring preservation and protection of the Dal Lake. There can be no denying that initially the government launched a massive drive for removing the illegal structures around and inside the lake but as time ticked on the drive not only lost its inertia but slowed down to a naught. And in the wake of agitation over the allotment of land to Amarnath Shrine Board reconstruction of unauthorized and illegal structures was started and it continued till it came under media gaze. Had the state administration shown will and determination of launching a ‘willing-campaign’ after being fully empowered by the court there would have been no further encroachments inside and around the lake and by now some portion of the encroached lake would have been restored.

The Jammu and Kashmir High Court on Monday broadened the scope of the Dal Lake case and passed a series of orders directing the government to come up with detailed reports about four lakes of Srinagar city that include Dal, Nageen, Anchar and Khushalsar. What speaks volumes about the nonchalance of the organization and authorities that they have not so far provided the basic data about these water bodies to the court and whatever information has been provided is archival? It is astonishing that the state government is relying on a survey conducted in 1986 which states that there are 6000 families and 2500 structures inside the lake. The Dal Development Authority in routine should have computed the latest figures and placed before the court the existing position. As is indicative from the elaborate court directions the court intends to take a comprehensive view not only of the Dal Lake but all other water bodies in the city. Truth, while Dal and Nageen lake are gasping for breaths the Anchar, Khushalsar and Barinambal are as good as dead. While the court ‘has not issued any fresh directions on the encroachments but has directed that any officer would be directed sternly if found permitting people to raise any construction in breach of court direction’ what is required is the pro-active role by the civil society for preserving and protecting the water bodies. It cannot be denied that the corruption in the administration has played a devastating role in the destruction of the lakes but lack of civic sense has also contributed to the problem in a big way. The print and electronic media has been playing a substantive role in the spread of environmental consciousness in people but in our society the pulpit continues to influence the society. Both the civil society and the pulpit will have to play a role in saving the water bodies of the state.

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