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 13, 2009

Meaning of Azadi in a Land of Indulgence: Is Azadi possible without a movement of reform?

Firdous does a follow-up to an earlier story posted on the Blog on March 22, 2009

(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.)

Pessimism of Intellect, Optimism of Will

After the publication of Column “What does Azadi means”, a journalist friend disapprovingly commented: why do you juxtapose movement for Azadi with issues related to reformation, in your columns? The friend may have deduced; I am following a sinister agenda to confuse the ongoing movement with some obscure ideas. At the spur of that moment I had no readymade answer. Nonetheless a great sense of dejection engulfed me; even well educated and supposedly intellectual class in Kashmir considers reform and Azadi as two different spheres. Not able to place the two together--part of one common running thread. For this class, merely end of occupation connotes Azadi and a movement of reform has nothing to do with the quest for Azadi. Some even may go to the extent: talk of reform at this juncture while Kashmir is engaged in a freedom struggle is to confuse the movement, which solely serves the interests of colonial masters. However, whatever the mindset, question remains; is Azadi possible without a movement of reform? And whether Hindustan is bigger enemy or Sheatan (Devil)

Before putting things in a perspective, let us have a reality check. How many in Jammu and Kashmir dream of Azadi? Without any doubt or exaggeration, 95 per cent of the Muslim population. And given a chance, how many will seek or strive for Azadi? Difficult proposition to answer, but if Ragada phase of summer 2008 provides any clue, 80 percent of the population believing in Azadi is ready to sacrifice in one way or other. Provided right kind of conditions prevail. And the most pertinent question, how many in Kashmir believe Azadi is possible? It may sound outrageous, nonetheless a hard fact; 99 percent of the people who dream Azadi in their heart of heart believe achieving Azadi is not possible, at least in their lifespan.

The reason for such a profound pessimism is lingering impression widespread in Kashmir; India is invincible. Strengths of the occupation cast a bleak scenario; we are unable to judge our ideological underpinnings or self-esteem. Majority of us only see the struggle through occupational lens. We have developed strange habit of victim mentality. We completely undermine our strengths, from one to ten we think India as foe that too insurmountable. India is formidable and unshakable hence no Azadi is possible. We do not consider our tepid and wicked behavior reason for our failings.

Victim mentality syndrome means putting onus of our all ills plaguing our society on Indian presence here. We are driven by hate against our external enemy and see him source of all our ills and are unable or not ready to locate enemy within. We may be justified to loath our oppressor because of the oppression, psychological and physical we undergo consistently. However this enmity, hatred or repulsion is relative and transitory---linked with the presence of India here. Once we are able to settle our pending issues with India, there will be no justification for any hard feelings against it. This we learn from the facts of history.

India was colony of British. Once Britain left India, both the countries were able to forge a respectable relationship as sovereign entities. This is not true in case of India and Britain alone. More than half of the world at one time was under British yoke. But after attaining independence all these countries are part of Commonwealth now. Most recently Bangladesh fought a bitter war of Independence, but today Pakistan and Bangladesh are good friends, both engaged in their own ways in nation building efforts.

Struggle against bad and evil, is perpetual. Whether India is enemy or friend, value systems have to be safeguarded. Free may cherish values but oppressed cannot sustain their resistance bereft of values. Movement of reform is prerequisite for the successful culmination of the freedom movement. Without reformation freedom is difficult to attain. Bigger evil is not the occupation but degradation of value systems, suppression is not permanent, fight against vices is.

To understand this better, it is required to deconstruct the idea of occupation. Primarily India maintains its position in Kashmir on the basis of its military power not goodwill of the people in Kashmir. People in Jammu and Kashmir keen to get rid of the bondage of slavery have been struggling for a long time now. Despite enormous sacrifices rendered, we have failed again and again. Reasons for the failures are so many. India is a mighty power and it matters, but it is not the predominate reason. The important reasons for our failures are internal contradictions and moral turpitude.

What strengthens the oppression here? Since 1931, Kashmir has witnessed many mass uprisings. However, 1989/90 phase of the movement was most widespread and unique. It was first time that entire Kashmir was up in arms, passion driven and hopeful. People, who remember 1990-92 period, will vouch that entire Indian administrative system had collapsed then. Only Indian soldier fighting against armed struggle was the remaining symbol of India in Kashmir. Indian political leadership was wondering in anxiety: is there any way it can maintain even a nominal/symbolic presence in Kashmir. It was the time, when mandarins in Delhi were mulling over the Bhutan sort of relationship with Kashmir. ‘Sky is the limit’ was offered much later in 1996. In Srinagar rumors were afloat; Rajbhavan working on a contingency plan, how to evacuate!

India retrieved Kashmir from the jaws of defeat. How it happened? The knowledgeable may argue: due to Indian military might; Pakistan’s wavering stand and international geo-politics favoring India. True, but partially. Let’s cast a different scenario. If we had one leader, like Mandela, Jinah, Gandhi or Che Guevara; one organization like, ANC, INC or Muslim League, with one program and one people solidly supporting the idea of Azadi, up till now, we would have reached our destiny. And if not yet, hopes would have been hovering over the horizon of an imminent victory. At least we would not have lost the hopes and battle as well, so meekly.

Again the pseudo-intellectuals taking false pride will contemplate and blame the machinations of the sovereign powers-- conspiring and collaborating to break the will of the people. Agreed, but there is another side of the story also. State apparatuses did their job well, what about us?

Oppression always plays the dirty games to destroy the freedom movement. And they were supposed to fragment us, but why we allowed ourselves to be fractured in hundreds of pieces. It severed colonial interest to create chasms and prop dozen’s of leaders. Why we played in their hands; every Sulla, Gulla, and Subhana started dreaming to become leader of the uprising. Who failed, we, and who won, they. They wanted to exploit, and we allowed them to get exploited. Who do, we blame? Him, who did his job well, or we, who failed to rise up to the occasion? Where does the blame rest-- in our wicked nature, or their sense of purpose?

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