Introduction to KashmirForum.org 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.
www.kashmirforum.org

Monday, April 6, 2009

Delinking Azadi and Self-Empowerment

Abid notes that "excuses" that were made to justify unexpectedly high voter turnover during the previous State election do not apply to the Parliamentary election and hence a repeat performance would be bad news for Separatists

(Mr. Abid Bashir Wani, 27, was born in Srinagar. He attended the National School, Srinagar, and went for college studies to the Government Degree College, Srinagar. He completed his Bachelor's degree in Commerce from the University of Kashmir and then finished his Post Graduation in Mass Communication and Journalism from the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), Kashmir branch. Mr. Wani was trained in journalism by his uncle (mother's brother) who is the head of the Jammu and Kashmir bureau of a national weekly magazine and was writing for a Pune based paper for some time. His own break came at the Rising Kashmir, where he joined as a staff reporter in 2008. In his leisure time he likes to read books and listen to music.)

One More Election

Remember last summer, when everybody – young and old, men and women - even the toddlers, joined the chorus of Azadi. People flooded streets, and millions gathered in the grounds, demanding freedom. Such was the intensity of the sentiment that youth, especially teenagers, climbed the 500 meter tall cellular network phone towers. The sight of and Lal Chowk’s Clock Tower, with young boys unfurling the green flags is an enduring memory in the public mind. That was really an expression of deep anger against India.

At that point in time political observers named it resurgence of freedom movement. Hurriyat Conference-backed Coordination Committee called the shots all around the Valley and it seemed that the State administration had lost control over people. It seemed that they had almost surrendered, not before the pro-freedom leadership, but surely before the people’s power. Slogans echoed from every corner of the valley. The entire space reverberated with the slogans depicting pain, anguish, and an intense desire to the the political condition of the valley. More than sixty people received bullets on their chests. And above 1500 were left injured; some of them still being treated for their injuries.

It was followed by undeclared curfews, aimed at scuttling the chance of people gathering at any place to carry a freedom procession. Here, State administration succeeded in getting the control back over the situation. People were confined to their houses. When the renewed sentiment of freedom and undeclared curfew were playing hide and seek, Election Commission of India (ECI) was thinking of conducting election in the state. ECI was in a fix, unable to decide whether to hold elections or not. It was for the first time in the history of strife-torn State that ECI held more than 10 rounds of talks with the political parties, State Administration and the State Police Chief to gauge the mood, and assess the situation in totality before taking any decision.

The amount of anger that people had displayed indicated that Kashmir would hardly witness 5 to 10 per cent voting, and the election boycott call given by the CC would prove more than successful. Political parties, especially National Conference and Congress expressed their willingness to participate in the elections and anxiously impressed upon ECI to announce the elections. People’s Democratic Party was the exception. This party was reluctant, and wanted ECI to postpone the elections. PDP emphasised that there was an acute sense of alienation among the people following economic blockade enforced on Kashmir by right-wing forces in Jammu. PDP also wanted ECI to take into account the situation where Kashmir was still wailing over the 60 deaths, making an exercise like election a cruel cut inflicted on the minds of people. However, ECI gravitated towards NC and Congress, satisfying itself by the fool-proof security cover promised by the security agencies. Finally ECI announced seven-phase poll schedule placing Srinagar in the 7th phase as it was the hub of protests. Bandipore district of north Kashmir was the first to go for the polls. All eyes were set on Bandipore, gossip lounges in Srinagar predicted that no polling would take place. Just weeks before truckloads of fruit, rice and vegetables had arrived from this district to Srinagar in a bid to help people fight the effects of economic blockade.

But reverse happened. Bandipore registered 70 per cent voting. This deflated the balloon of boycott call given by pro-freedom leadership. Though boycott was not altogether absent but voting overpowered it. Same happened in the subsequent phases. Srinagar witnessed 21 per cent voting, highest ever after armed rebellion erupted in 1990.

The point to be noted is that those who voted were the same people who were part of freedom marches, especially youngsters; and after exercising their franchise, they maintained: “We stand very much for the freedom of Kashmir. We voted for jobs, better road connectivity, electricity and other issues that pertain daily life.”
Chief Minister Omar Abdullah made this point as his poll plank. In his all election rallies, he stated that Kashmir issue and elections should be delinked. “These are two different things,” he emphasised. J&K witnessed historic turn out and zero violence. PDP won 21, NC 28 and Congress 17 seats. BJP won 11 owing to the radicalization of public opinion in Jammu in the wake of Amarnath land row. Rest of the seats was pocketed by independent candidates. PDP tried its every effort to persuade Congress for marriage but to no avail. Had it not withdrawn its support from the Congress earlier, there was no problem for Congress to enter into alliance with PDP once again. But memories of “last minute ditch” by PDP were very much afresh in the Congress mind. Since NC emerged as the largest seat wining party, talks of forming NC-Congress government gained pitch and New Delhi finally consented for forming NC-Congress coalition, but with the condition that NC’s chief ministerial candidate should be Omar Abdullah and not his father, Farooq Abdullah.

The senior Abdullah accepted the demand and the deal was done.

After more than 100 days behind us Kashmir can better judge how the politicians, who made tall promises, have performed. The same people who flooded the streets and voted for the resolution of their basic problems have to face another election. This time it is for the Indian Parliament. For voting in the State Assembly elections, they had some kind of reason, but what reason do they have voting for a person who wants to become a Member of Parliament. People should think over it and evolve a consensus about how to deal with elections, after all sacrifices, sentiment and accepting the Indian constitution by casting votes can’t go together.

2 comments:

abid said...

the write has written the article beautifully to a convey a message based on logic. He should be appreciated in all ways

aasiya said...

I must congratulate the blogger for publishing such informative pieces.These issues potray the real feelings of a kashmiri who has always remained voiceless.I am looking forward to such heart thrombing pieces in order to show the real kashmir behind the bars.