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 20, 2009

Even a Small Disruption is Sometimes Too Large to Overcome

Javaid believes wrong policies of the government towards fishermen have brought havoc to social fabric of this community

Uprooting a Community

Javaid Rashid

Pygmalion, a Greek mythologist, was so enticed by a self-made woman-statute's beauty that he wished she could speak and be alive. And myth has it that she did so. It incited in the people's minds the concept of the power of a person's expectations. This self-fulfilling wish of Pygmalion gets reminded in the present times too. In our valley, where mysticism is its heritage, the Pygmalion effect finds its dominant place when we talk of the relation of power-corridors and general masses. The people at power mould so masterly their political behaviour, bureaucratic policy and social responsibility that their sway induces and creates 'expected expectations' in the people who are ruled. Thus, the people at power regulate the behaviour of the people governed.

Epitomizing the above sway of power, a community known as the Fisherman Colony, has people who are lost in their own world of complacencies. When one enters there one could see older-men stitching old fishing-nets, as if stitching the future of their children; one could see children playing with worn-out tyres, as if driving their present into an unknown future; one could see the young and adolescent girls busy with Pashmina work , as if designing and decorating their lives with self-created luxuries; one could see young and middle-aged men sitting idle at the corners of the community, as if regretting their past, present and future. But what one won't see are the married and older women who by that time would be busy in the markets motivating their customers! Yes, it is the fisherman community. A journey of 3km from Hazratbal mosque, along the banks of Dal-lake, will take you into the fishermen colony. In 2000 the community was resettled in this area of Dughh Mohalla, after their enforced migration from the interiors of Dal. The move was a part of the Dal Conservation Project initiated by Lakes and Waterways Development Authority (LAWDA). A plot of 32'/47' was given per household at the cost of Rs. 4500. Besides, a sum of Rs. 35,000 was given to each household in return to the land from which they were forced to migrate. The community is small, with well defined boundaries. Only fishermen inhabit the colony, with 46 households and total population of about 350.

The 'enforced migration' of a culturally, economically and socially sensitive community like the fishermen is not as simple as the authorities 'want' and 'expect' it to be! The transfer of the Fisherman Community only added threats, and vulnerabilities to their cultural, occupational and social fitness. Though their access to the basic facilities of life, like water, electricity, health care and education enhanced, but the multiple damages done to their originality, occupational security and psychological identity is irreparable.

Migration and disintegration:

When we focus on any community, contradiction pops out to eye. In any community, occupation and status, class and caste, cultural and traditional identity, are seen as the binding and integrating forces. They reinforce the integrity and coherence within a group. But all these theories prove faulty here. In spite of having the same occupation, same income, same cultural and traditional fabric, same value and norm based social life, same class and caste, the community is still disintegrated. These divisions and differences dampen any developmental initiative. For instance, the community some years back had registered a co-operative--- a Fish Co-operative. A local teacher, the only graduate of the community had initiated the process. Consequently, the community had proposed to the Department of Fisheries, J&K Governemnt to convert the settling basin into a multi-purpose project. Settling Basin--- a sedimentation unit, is just a kilometre away from the colony. The proposal emphasized the establishing of a fish production unit in Settlig Basin. Unfortunately, due to some intra-community conflict and rivalries, the proposal was ultimately rejected by the Department of Fisheries.

When the proposal was discussed with the community-teacher, he masterly deliberated on it. Had the production unit been set-up, it could have empowered the population. But some members from the same community created hurdles and the proposal was shelved. This gives the idea of the magnitude of divisions in the community. In spite of having same problems, issues and interests, the community is still diseased with disempowering rivalries and divisions, both socially and politically. The 'incoherence in the homogeneity' and the 'diversity in unity' make it a community of contradictions and controversies.

The prevailing disintegration and incoherence in the community was not present earlier. When it lived in the interiors of Dal, its original habitat. It was a closely-knit community strengthened within by cooperation, coherence and altruism. The community was known for its we-feeling and unity. But when it was forced to migrate from the Dal to the present location, it became a socially disorganized community, where-in incoherence, dysfunctional relationships and rivalries prevail. The transformation of a 'closely-knit' community into a disintegrated one was catastrophic for the community. The so called 'rehabilitation' became the deadly means of their' social destruction'. Every social aspect got so diseased that it lost its pristine characteristics; its unity and organization. Social relationships and interactional got shattered to the extent that individuals and families lived to themselves and contributed nothing to the cause of the community. Instead, the rivalries and divisions within the community changed the scenario from bad to worse.

When this hard reality was discussed with one of the oldest members of the community, he regarded 'enforced migration' and 'dysfunctional rehabilitation policy' of Government as the major cause of worsening their plight. He opined that government gives them land, house, water, electricity, but it doesn't give them that environment and culture with which they had shared their childhood and youth, which had become an integral part of their lives. The fishermen community was uprooted from original setting and placed in quagmire.

Interestingly, one of the dysfunctions of the illogical rehabilitation policy is reflected by the fact that the elderly ones hate the housing pattern in their new colony. In their original locality, they had random housing-design. A strong social interaction was inbuilt in that sound neighbourhood. Now they have houses in a 'definite order and pattern', much to the dislike of the elderly people. The regularity and pattern of housing minimized their occupational and household interaction, which proved detrimental to its integration and unity. The shift from originality to artificiality disturbed the whole scheme of life for this community.

In reality the Government lacks any comprehensive rehabilitation policy for the Dal-dwellers. The victims of this state-sponsored catastrophe have got exposed to diverse pathologies and vulnerabilities, endangering their occupational, cultural and social identities. Once a community of integrity and coherence has got transformed into a community of disintegration, altruism changed to self-centrism; cooperation to conflict; unity to divisions. Thus, the wrong rehabilitation policy of Government needs a fresh assessment and consequent redrawing. Due regard to the paramountcy of social scientists in planning and policy is indispensable, particularly when the 'world-forces' talk of social development goals and sustainable development. Hence, an anthropocentric approach must be adopted at all levels of policy formulation and policy implementation, keeping in view all the dimensions of social empowerment and development.

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