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.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Observing the "International Any Day" Charade in Kashmir

Zahid was both an observer and a speaker at the International Women's Day symposium held recently at the Kashmir University.

(Mr. Zahid G. Mohammad, 60, was born and raised in Srinagar. He earned his Master's degree in English literature from the Kashmir University and has completed a course in Mass Communication from Indian Institute of Mass Communication. He is a writer and a journalist who has written for many newspapers, including the Statesman, the Sunday, and the Kashmir Times. He currently works for the Greater Kashmir.)

I am Spartacus

It was a day of bitter tears. The mood was somber, sullen and surly. Many men and women from different walks of life had gathered in one of the glittering halls of the Kashmir University to mark the international women’s day. Paradox is that while the day was observed with festivity all over the world it was marked by sobs and tears in the “Happy Valley”.

To mark the day a seminar on the “Problems of Women” had been organized by the Centre for Social and Development Studies in collaboration with the Kashmir University. A whole battery of academics, scholars, researchers, journalists, columnists and women activists had gathered to hear the scholars and academicians on a wide variety of subjects. The proceedings of the seminar read like Shakespearean tragedy with hallucinogenic comic relief. The seminar was a very serious effort at identifying the problems confronting the women of Kashmir. Many valuable presentations were made by people from diverse fields- the work done by some women volunteers in the remotest areas about women caught up in the conflict situation was commendable- hats off to them. The studies by some young women scholars about the rape victims outside the media gaze in the far-flung could shudder down the spine even the stone-hearted. The stories of rape victims surviving with social stigma as Zinda-Murda in many of our remote village were awesome.

The misty-eyed girls with deathly pale faces in the audience, listening the woeful stories about their sisters in the remote and far-flung areas set an impassive person like me with all idealism introspecting. I started looking back dispassionately at the past twenty two years strife and struggle- I tried to draw the parallels between various phases of our struggle, 1925- 1931, 1931- 1938, 1938- 1947, 1947- 1953, 1953-1975, 1977- 1989, and 1989- 2009. 1925-1931, to my understanding was the incubation period, 1931- 1938, world came to know about the a tiny nation being treated as a chattel, 1938-1947, we were considered as ‘laboratory’ by Indian Communists ideologues like B.P.L. Bedi and others to test their ideology, 1947-1953, we witnessed neo-fascisms raising its head in Kashmir and communalism gaining ground in Jammu, 1953-1975, we see carrot and stick policy in full bloom, we also see the resilience of the have-not and fatigue in leaders.

The 1989 was seen by many as reassertion of Kashmir patriotism. A Spartacus was born in every Mohalla, every village and hamlet. There were louder than loudest from roof tops, tree tops, mosque minarets –I am the Spartacus, I am the Spartacus, I am the Spartacus – there were many a Spartacus’s around. On the rise of Spartacus’s a friend, who at certain point of time in his life had cast a role of Ahmed Bin Bila, and Che Guevra for himself and landed in jail for many years on the rise of Spartacus’s after Spartacus’s remarked that ‘Kashmiris were now wielding real power after a period of two hundred years’ little knowing that many of them would degenerate into Shylocks sooner than later.

I don’t know how the future historians will look at the 1989-2009, phase of history. I don’t know if they will also count it as period when Kashmir produced record number of ‘intellectual thugs’, looters in the name of leaders, land mafia barons and crooks called clerics or one of the most scarlet periods of our history. I do not know if the countless cemeteries turn into place of pilgrimages or would be forgotten. I don’t know if mausoleums are erected on thousands of unmarked graves spreading all over the valley.

The phase (1989- 1990) undoubtedly was the bloodiest of all the phases from 1865 when our struggle started. This struggle has produced highest number of orphans and widows. Though no proper census has been conducted either by the government or by any of the political organization it is difficult to say what is the definite number of orphans and widows in Kashmir. The number of orphans in Kashmir varies between fifty to sixty thousands. The number of widows (war widows) is between eight to nine thousands and the number of half-widows is between two to three thousands.

The seminar in the Kashmir University unlike many other seminars did not turn up to be ritualistic as became evident in the post lunch session it set the intelligentsia and the youth- especially the girl students rethinking what could be done to cope up with the problems of the thousands of orphans and widows. The number of orphanages has multiplied during the past few decades. Some of these orphanages are being supported by the philanthropists in the state and some NGO especially of the elite women are receiving liberal funding from various ministries in GoI- but each and every one of these orphanages is doing good job but there so far there has been no organized movement for the rehabilitation of the women.

The state government at the behest of some of the Western diplomats established the Rehabilitation Council. It is registered as a society for rehabilitating the victims of ‘militant violence’ but there is no provision for rehabilitating the children and widows of militants. In that sense the Council is racist because it has drawn up a line between an orphan and orphans, a widow and widow and a victim and victim – the council in more than one ways discriminates between one state subject and another. I am in dilemma should I plead before the government to amend its bylaws and bring within the ambit of its welfare the widows and orphans- Mujahedeen or militants or beseech our disarrayed, fragmented and divided leadership to set up a rehabilitation centre for widows of the Mujahedeen or thousands of others who lost their husbands during past nineteen years and have no source of income.

I don’t why I am sceptical that our “leadership” cannot do it. Is my scepticism about competence of our leaders out of my bias against them or it is grounded in twenty two history - where I feel that they have made our clear goals - hazy and hazy but for their incompetence and driven us from verdant open space into dark tunnels with no light visible at its other end. Did we not create Hilal-e-Ahmar in nineties- is it not true that people supported this movement fully. The movement in past twenty two years could have grown into as great as the Edie foundation. Let the civil society come forwards and address the problem of the widows and orphans of Kashmir and look at orphans as orphans and widows and widows.

It is not only question of rehabilitating widows and orphans where we have failed- there is need to introspect why all our movements for past hundred and fifty years met its waterloo.. True, one of our leaders cried full throat that I am Spartacus- but a Spartacus is yet to be born.

No comments: