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 6, 2009

Paranoia Runs Deep in Kashmir, Especially When it Comes to Dealing with the Success of a Miniscule Minority

It is unfortunate that some Kashmiris display characteristic insecurity in coming to grips with the success of a handful of minority Pandits, forgetting conveniently that significantly higher proportion of the majority community - intellectual or otherwise - work for the Indian State, including many Separatists

(Mr. Riyaz Masroor, 37, was born and raised in Srinagar. He is a Srinagar based journalist who writes in English, Urdu and kashmiri. Besides working in the local press, his articles have appeared on BBC Radio online, Himal Southasia and the Journal of International Federation of Journalists.)

Kabul, Kandhar and Kashmir

Mohan Lal (1812-1877) was an ethnic Kashmiri Pandit who pursued a career in British intelligence during first Afghan war; it was the time when the East India Company was relieved from managing India and the country was taken (or enslaved) into the direct domain of the RAJ. Mohan Lal was less likely to go with the freedom struggle because his father, a high-caste Brahmin, had also participated in a British mission to Afghanistan in 1808. He, therefore, went with the family tradition.

Credible historians have recorded that in early nineteenth century Mohan Lal was the first Kashmiri to speak fluent English as he had graduated with first-class degree from Delhi English College that was founded by Charles Travelyan. It was Travelyan who had spotted Mohan Lal and sensed a spark of 'coercive diplomacy' in this dynamic Kashmiri young man. He had so impressed Sir Alexander Burnes that when Burnes was appointed British Resident in Kabul he invited Mohan Lal to become his partner in the mission.

Mohan Lal assumed the charge of Mir Munshi in 1831 amidst the Afghan resistance against the installation of Shah Shuja, a British prop. "In Kabul, he (Mohan Lal) was the Resident's ears and eyes, his silent partner and agile fixer, capable of becoming a fly on the wall, or a figure in the carpet," writes Karl Meyer and Shareen Brysac, who have jointly authored an exhaustive account of South and Central Asian conflicts. Pandit Mohan Lal's knack for counterintelligence was superb. He had engineered defection within Afghan warriors during the famous British siege of Ghazni. Historical accounts suggest he had long before recruited a defector at Ghazni who would later tip the British troops about a less walled up gate (other two gates were impregnable) that could be easily stormed.

When Kandhar fell and things were calm under Shah Shuja, Mohan Lal got reports about a clan chief Abdullah Khan having vowed to slay Burnes. The Kashmiri spy informed his mentor in advance but Burnes ignored the warning and stayed put in his Kabul mansion; two mornings later the British officer and his visiting younger brother Charles were hacked to death in the Resident House. Later, Mohan Lal would organize a sort of “operation clean-up” at the behest of Sir William Macnagten to eliminate the resisting Afghan chiefs. He would distribute Rs 10000 for the head of each of the “rebel Afghan chief”. Two chiefs including Abdullah Khan, who had slain Burnes, were assassinated during this “operation”. This too did not work to the Empire’s advantage and Mohan Lal could only ensure his own safety; he survived the disaster of British retreat that saw many bigwigs dead including Macnagten, returned to Delhi where he died almost unnoticed in 1877.

More than 170 years after Mohan Lal believed he could facilitate a British victory in Kabul, another bright Kashmiri Professor Amitabh Mattoo visited the war-ravaged Afghanistan in the spring of 2008. Mattoo, then Vice Chancellor of Jammu University, was received in Kabul by Afghan President Hamid Karzai with official protocol on 16 April 2008, two weeks after Professor Mattoo had been nominated as Government of India’s nominee on the Board of Directors of India-Afghanistan Foundation (IAF) for two years.

Besides Karzai, Professor Mattoo had a long chat with the Afghan government’s National Security Advisor, Dr Zalmay Rasool whose great grandfather was the last Afghan governor in Jammu and Kashmir. It is interesting to note that in 1831 a Kashmiri academic reached Kabul with a mission and earned a significant if short-lived victory for the Empire and in 2008 another Kashmiri academic landed in Kabul to bolster India’s policy toehold in Afghanistan. Though known in the annals of history as a spymaster, Mohan Lal was a ‘principled intriguer’ who would advise his mentors to the best of his knowledge about Afghan resistance to British occupation.
Burnes ignored his advice and lost his life; Macnagten put down his word of caution against a withdrawal pact with Akbar Khan, son of the deposed ruler Dost Mohammad, and was shot dead with the pistol he had gifted Akbar sometime back; Macnagten’s body was dismembered, his head borne like a trophy and his corpse impaled on a meat hook. Not just this, in all around 12000 British troops and agents died in the much quoted “Death March”, which Mohan Lal had opposed. British did not listen to Mohan Lal and the war went wrong; we don’t know if Professor Mattoo will follow Mohan Lal’s principle, of being honest and accurate while assessing Afghan situation for the mentors, during his tenure as India nominee in India-Afghan Foundation.

Indeed Professor Mattoo and Mohan Lal represent two different eras of Kashmiri disempowerment. While Mohan Lal earned Kashmir a broader mention in the elite war history of British Empire, the community is keenly watching Professor Mattoo. Will he forge a grand reconciliation between Muslim and Pandit sections of the same ethnic stock of Kashmiri society or allow himself to become just an extension of Mohan Lal’s nineteenth century network of secret agents, more politely called as diplomats.


Speaking in a seminar about Pandit heritage on 31 March 2009, Muhammad Yasin Malik, Chairman of JKLF, advised Kashmiri Pandits against collaboration with the government. “As a student of history I should say it is dangerous for minorities in conflict societies to be affiliated with the government.” Unlike their Muslim natives Pandits don’t lack intellectual capital but in order to stage a social comeback they should listen to this vital piece of advice from a non-intellectual Kashmiri liberal.

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