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.

Monday, April 27, 2009

How People in Denial Make "Soft Ethnic Cleansing" Work

Two related reports on dwindling Pandit Minority in Kashmir

Valley Based Pandits Face Economic Insecurity

Many mulling migration due to official apathy

Rashid Paul (Rising Kashmir)

Srinagar: Official apathy and lack of economic avenues has forced 29,035 Kashmiri Pandits to migrate to different parts of India over the last few years, claims a survey conducted by Kashmiri Pandit Sangarash Samiti (KPSS). According to the survey carried during 2008-2009, out of 32,000 members of the community that stayed put in Kashmir after the armed resistance broke out in early nineties, only 2965 Pandits are now left in the valley.

“Neglect of the community by the government and lack of economic avenues has forced 29035 members of the community to migrate to India since 1992,” said Rattan Chakoo, a member of the survey team.

The study states that the community is comprised of 611 families residing in 187 places across Kashmir. More than one-third of the population is in the productive age group of 19 to 40 while as 700 souls are aged between 40 to 60 years. Rest of the population comprises children and elderly persons. Males comprise 45 per cent of the population.

“The boys are on the run as getting a job is an impossible feat in Kashmir,” said Sanjay K Tickoo, KPSS president. “Joblessness among youth compels the families to look for prospective grooms amongst Kashmir Pandits settled outside Kashmir,” he added.

Citing a government survey of 1992, Tickoo said that 32,000 Kashmiri Pandits had opted to stay in Kashmir, and lived freely with the majority Muslim community.

“Killings of non-migrants at Sangrahama, Vandhama, Telvani, and Nadimarg from 1997 to 2003 (all executed in the months of March) and rejection of an impartial probe by the government added to the fear psychosis and accelerated their exodus,” Tickoo said.

Master Avtar Krishan of Budgam while castigating the pro Hindutva Panun Kashmir, (a group of migrant Kashmiri Pandits demanding a separate homeland for the community) said, “New Delhi last year had announced an employment package of 6000 government jobs to those migrants who wished to return to Kashmir. But the hardliner Panun Kashmir opposed it. The programme could have helped stopping further migration and at least accommodated our 500 youth.”

Sociologist, Khurshidul Islam termed the unabated exodus as an unfortunate trend.

“The bulk of the community has assimilated in the alien culture of urban India. The leaders of the community need to give up radical politics and instead work for reconciliation with the majority community,” he said.

“They need to make themselves relevant to the current socio-political dynamics of Kashmir,” he said, adding, “The resistance leadership and intelligentsia here too have to be magnanimous in adopting the estranged sons of their soil.”

KPSS claims to be working for the welfare of Kashmiri Pandits who preferred to stay in Kashmir despite the political unrest.

Pandits Mysteriously Disappear from Voter Lists in J&K

Seema Sharma (Tribune)

Jammu: BJP state secretary and in charge Kashmir province S Charanjit Singh Khalsa and BJP Migrant Cell convener Hira Lal Chatta charged the Election Commission of India (ECI) and the Chief Electoral Officer, Jammu and Kashmir, for deleting the names of thousands of voters of Kashmiri migrants from the voter lists of the valley and introducing M Form and Postal Form, which has turned the migrant voters as second class voters in their own country. They said the commission provides the voter lists to the candidates after filing the M forms just 24 hours before the polling starts, which is violation of the fundamental right of the contesting candidate.

The BJP leaders questioned the ECI as to why no action has been taken despite repeated representations to the CEO, Jammu, and the Chief Election Commission at Delhi, regarding irregularities in voter lists of Kashmiri migrants from the valley.

Elaborating further, BJP leaders informed that in the 1996 Assembly election, out of 1.47 lakh, 97,000 voted, whereas in 2002 the number came down to 1.17 lakh due to the death factor. Despite the boycott call of the Hurriyat Conference, 40,000 Kashmiri Pandits voted. In 2008, the number again decreased up to 71,000 out of which 17,000 votes had been polled.

Citing an example, Chatta said during the 2008 Assembly polls, there were 400 Kashmiri Pandit voters in Chanam village of Baramulla, but in the list prepared for the 2009 parliamentary election only 16 names are there in the voter lists which reflects that names of the Kashmiri Pandits voters have been deleted deliberately, a blunder ECI and state government is responsible as they both have failed to check the same.

Alleging that the NC and the Congress too was responsible of militancy and exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits from the valley, Chatta said now the NC and the Congress were again curbing the right of the Kashmiri Pandits by getting their names deleted from the voter lists.

They further appealed the Kashmiri Hindu migrants from the valley to vote in favour of party candidates Avtar Krishan Pandita and Mohd Sadiq Khan, who were contesting the parliamentary election from the Srinagar and Anantnag constituencies, respectively.

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