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.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Catching up With the Times

Javaid's brilliant discourse exposes the disharmony between our Social Spaces and the world beyond

(Professor Javaid Iqbal Bhat, 30, was born in Anantnag. He completed his Bachelor's degree from the Amar Singh College, Srinagar, and his M.A. and M. Phil. from the Centre for English Studies in the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He was nominated for the President of India Gold Medal for the highest Final Grade Point Average (FGPA) in the Masters Programme, and got Distinction for his M. Phil. dissertation on Salman Rushdie's "Shalimar the Clown." He currently teaches as a permanent faculty in the Post Graduate Department of English at the South Campus of the University of Kashmir.)

Restructuring the Social Space

The idea is stale. Ideally, it should not require re-statement. But the way its importance and implications have been ignored it would not be out of place to repeat it once again. And it goes somewhat like this: There is a clear and direct connection between the way members of the political class think, and the way masses in a given geographical area carry on their routine thinking mechanism. In other words the Mind of Politics must be positively studied in relation to the Mind of the Society. The connection is intimate and permanent. If fragmentation and incoherence is noticed, as it is in our case-no doubt about that, on one side the imprint is surely cast on the other.

And this mutual exchange of incoherence and fragmentation has congealed in the form of a symbiotic association. Incoherent behavior lacking any logical explanation on one side feeds on the same emerging from the other end. When and how it was created here and from which end did it begin first is a question covering many dimensions, not all of which would be taken for fear of losing focus. For a start it is easier to analyze the problem through the prism of the social space.

The Social Space is mixed, “impure” and heterogeneous. As the name indicates it belongs to the society. Here the individual members move out of their private sphere and interact with each other. They no longer retain their individual reserve. This Space gives rise to a sort of concourse of diverse voices. It is here that little circles of conversation are made possible; opinions are formed, modified and challenged. The reigning ideas of the state are articulated and sought to be clarified for comprehension. The typical Social Space of a certain geographical area can serve as a clearer mirror of the Social Mind. Through the bits of variegated conversation an image of the larger social processes and institutions can be conveniently sketched out.

Kashmir is no different in terms of the nature and constitution of the Social Spaces. There are many of them where people across age, color and gender meet and converse. One of the most common is the interior of a local bus. The thought of a bus might put off many people but it is never to be forgotten that it is in the buses that the largest movement of Kashmiris takes place from one area to another. A cross regional interaction of dialects, concerns and pre occupations occurs inside these modern marvels. The tone, color and content of these exchanges have undergone many changes and dramatic modifications. Not long ago the content was predominated by ethical and religious elements. Rather God consciousness was uppermost in the minds of the participants in the Social Space. Link by link the Social Spaces connected together gave birth to a discourse that was heavily oriented towards some sacred and irrevocable values. It was also the time when the Space was out of bounds for the females. The function was still limited to the domestic space. Today when they have entered the Social Space, and are negotiating the delicate bend between domesticity and “publicity” the language and character of the social discourse has transformed far away from the point for recognition. To the shock of many and relief of few. Between this shock and relief takes birth a Mind which is high on incoherence, low on coherence and stark on fragmentation, dim in unity and wholesomeness.

But where exactly is the source of this fragmentation and incoherence? There may be many reasons with people. Mine has to do with the very structure of the Social Space. Its structure is not compatible with the nature of the Age. There is a basic mismatch between the matrix and orientation of the social conversation and the structure of the place in which it takes place. For an example return to the local bus. The structure, for the most part, was introduced on the roads of the valley in the middle of the twentieth century, the character and constitution of this has remained as it was some sixty years before. Today the verbal interaction in the interior may veer round the overnight twenty -twenty match and the cheer girls yet exactly there where this happens you are struggling to share space with a member of the opposite sex. Nearly like the proverbial square peg in a round hole. Or to rephrase, a more flexible linguistic discourse in an inflexible metallic box. The content and the container do not harmonize. They create tense opposing poles. From this polarity and opposition springs an inchoate and disorderly discourse. The inside of the bus only goes on to symbolize the conservative Social Space and the far more advanced general aura. Unlike other places like Delhi, Bangalore and Kolkata where the writer had a privilege to pay a visit, our Social Spaces are far behind the spirit of the Time. The spacious roads there find spacious commercial vehicles moving on them. The interior is suitably distributed amongst the different passengers. For the handicapped, senior citizens, men and women seats are reserved. No one feels it decent to encroach upon someone else’s area. The common community spaces have been thoroughly overhauled to match with the changing environs. All this fosters climate for a clear and refined social discourse. And it is necessary to keep them in sync with the ruling ideas of the day. Not here though does it apply. Only if by some divine intervention all the members of the ruling class travelling in ambassador cars and private jets, spending days and nights in specially designed air conditioned chambers are lifted for a day and put in the local bus like social spaces, would they realize the urgency of updating and reconstituting their structure. Such a rearrangement would sure be recipe for a social revolution. And for the moment our purpose would be served; the social content would get a suitable container for a fine and clear articulation.

The point therefore is very simple. A direct relationship exists from one end to the other. A circular chain is formed. Structure of the Social Spaces. Social Discourse. Finally the Political Mind. And then back to the first point. A local bus is merely an example. The kind of which can be discovered everywhere around us. They are all crying for attention. Unfortunately the gap between the ruling class and the ruled has increased so much that the very idea of diverting their attention to these problems sounds plain stupid and ridiculous. But then someone has to raise the “stupid” problems and help create a good atmosphere where in people do not feel forced to limit their imagination to the resolution of the pestering menace of overload and seat fabrication but frame creative ideas about the state, society and the world. An innovative social engineering is needed. One which would alter the orthodox character and construction of our Social Spaces. Not just remove and adjust some peripheral nuts and bolts but a basic reconfiguration that would bring the structure in tune with the new ideas and influences which shape the social mind. That would, importantly, require a heart filled with the feelings of masses, and a conscience alive to the “ridiculous” thoughts of the ruled. Is that available?

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