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

Meaning of Azadi in a Land of Indulgence

Firdous examines the empty half of the glass

(Mr. Firdous Syed, 43, was born in Bhaderwah, Doda, and had his schooling in Jammu. He is currently the Chairman of the "Kashmir Foundation for Peace and Development Studies," and associated with the J&K National Conference. Between 1989 and 1991, he led the Moslem Janbaaz Force, a militant group, and was jailed from 1991 through 1994. In 1996, he publicly renounced the gun culture, and has since joined mainstream politics and is an active member of the Kashmir civil society.)

What does Azadi mean?

The idea of Azadi, irrespective of age, gender and political belief, has an electrifying effect on the psychology of Kashmiri masses. In this conflict ridden, deeply divided society, if any thing has the potential to unite the Kashmiri people around one goal, it is their deep desire for Azadi. Idea of Azadi has been pursued vigorously by generation after generation here, in the process incurring enormous costs. The blood-soaked Kashmir bears testimony to the profound desire of the Kashmiri people for Azadi. However even after a prolonged spell of great hardships and sacrifices, Azadi still eludes Kashmir. Why Azadi remains a distant dream?

Although word Azadi stimulates the fading spirits, what does Azadi ultimately mean is yet to be fully defined? Is Azadi an idea of change or simply a struggle for the end of Indian rule in Kashmir? Idea of Azadi excites us, but are we aware of ideals of Azadi also? It seems to be the worst irony that three generations have sacrificed tens of thousands of lives in pursuit of Azadi, we are yet to fully embrace the ideals of Azadi.

Is it freedom from India alone, we seek? Or freedom also means end of, inequality, injustice, hunger and poverty. Will Azadi also harbinger a social revolution bringing to end evils like dishonesty, deceit, hypocrisy, untruthfulness, corruption, egoism, sluggish attitudes and sinful extravagance. Is freedom for us means to end or an end in itself?

Suppose, one fine morning we wake-up and find that all Indian forces have left Kashmir, literally marking the end of Indian rule. Apart from a psychological sense of achievement, what qualitatively would have changed on the ground? Restoration of political rights is itself a huge achievement. But political empowerment alone does not feed empty stomachs; insure speedy justice and above all bring peace and tranquility in the society. For this to happen, society needs institutions and foremost a culture to be able to sustain the processes of change in the society. What comes first, Azadi or institutions? It seems to be a typical egg and hen situation.

Agreed, suppressed cannot create institutions while they struggle for their political rights. But it is also true that, struggling masses imbibe into them the very ideals of change, based upon their ideology. Freedom struggle is a way of life; true revolution is not possible without honest, truthful, sincere and committed cadres. Selflessness, cooperation, fraternity and above all sense of belonging with the people and land are some of the ingrained characteristics of freedom fighters.

But an avowed supporter of Azadi may term this entire discussion about the prospects of change, a bit premature. His counter argument could be-- we will also undergo a process of change. First things come first; let there be Azadi, change will follow, subsequently. Accepted, but provided we believe in an idea of Azadi and have also truly adopted ideals of Azadi.

But critics may again (rightly) point out--- completely peaceful, harmonious society free from all vices, injustice, hunger and violence is notion of a prefect society. No human society has ever been a prefect society. Day drowns in night and dawn breaks from darkness. Struggle between good and evil is unending, good may prevail, however evil can never be destroyed eternally. Every single human being in a society cannot be truthful, committed, sincere and driven by a cause. Every society has its high and lows; it’s a package consisting of good and bad people. Furthermore degeneration of ethics and erosion of value systems is a universal phenomenon; this is not only exceptional to our society.

True every society has its share of heroes and villains but why our society is unique. Why we have very few heroes and many, many villains around? Despite diminishing trend of value systems, societies still are able to maintain a certain degree of sanity and adherers some core values. What are our core values? We may practice lot of lip service, but do we really believe in some values? We have turned-out to be a sick society.

Leave aside lofty ideals. Even in practical issues, our responses are quiet inadequate, even belying the conventional wisdom. Freedom movement cannot be visualized without unity, cooperation and sense of belonging with the cause, people and the land. But separatist leaders here have invariably failed to rise above their self at every critical juncture. Due to ego clashes and personal vested interests, none of the separatist organization is free from factionalism. Hurrayat conference is divided into two, Peoples League into seven or eight, JKLF three or four and Jamat Islami supposedly cadre based disciplined organization is also not free from internal wrangling. We are not divided in politics alone; we are averse to share even grief collectively---Association of Parents of Disappeared has two factions.

There are scores of separatist organizations and dozens of smalltime leaders masquerading as freedom fighters. All these proclaim to be engaged in a freedom struggle. But why there is scarcely any body among them, whom we can emulate and follow with closed eyes. Can we trust any of these leaders?

Why blame political activists, they are also part and parcel of this society. While we do not miss any opportunity to criticize politicians, but our behavior also has been far from satisfactory, on the contrary disastrous. We may spend millions on marriages and construction of new houses, but widows and orphans of the martyrs continue to suffer, because of our callous attitude. While we are being killed--- a doctor, engineer, teacher clerk and trader continue to fleece people. Who are they and who are we, all Kashmiri’s. Who is dying—a Kashmiri and who is cheating, a fellow Kashmiri. It is like cutting off our nose to spite our face.

We may take pride for being inhabitant of this beautiful place, but who has destroyed paddy fields, cut forests indiscriminately, and polluted water bodies. A Dull dweller knows, polluting Dull ultimately threatens his very existence; still Dull has been converted into a cesspool. Who is responsible government or our antipathy? Madness has a method, but our greed is totally illogical. We are best at spoiling and destroying our own habitat and heritage without any remorse or sense of responsibility towards coming generations. We are preparing ourselves for a slow death and collectively digging our graves. This is all sham that we love Kashmir; we do not have any sense of belonging with this place. This may sound to be harsh, but this is an irrefutable fact; we have proved to be morally a bankrupt society.

In the end, we pretend to believe that since occupation is ugly, resistance can’t be beautiful. We go on hitting the bechara (helpless) Lamppost endlessly. Beating lamppost will not give us Azadi, putting a searchlight within will. Sooner we understand the better—our iniquitous social behaviors are the main impediments towards the goal of Azadi, not the Indian forces alone.

Whosoever loves Azadi, obviously will struggle for Azadi. At the same time he will have to be truthful. And continue to strive for the eradication of social evils, moral and materiel corruption. He will also have to preserve ecology, environment, protect water bodies and forests. Quest for Azadi should also mean a goal to attain self-reliance. Let us excel in education, attain scientific know how and learn cutting edge technologies. Our endeavor should be to become a knowledge based society. While doing so we should also guard our paddy fields, orchards, handicrafts and heritage. Orphans and widows are our responsibility, if we are not sincere towards the fallen in the cause; we cannot be committed with the cause itself.

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