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.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A Pillar of Civil Society

Nazir says that a good and conscientious journalist has no borders

(Dr. Syed Nazir Gilani, 59, is a jurist. He was born in Naranthal (Jalshree) village near Baramulla and was a student at the Government Degree College in Baramulla. Subsequently, he studied English Literature and Politics at the University of Kashmir, Law at the Sindh Muslim Law College in the Karachi-Pakistan, Islamic Law at the University of London School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), International Law at the Queen Mary University London, Victimology at Inter-University Centre Dubrovnik - former Yugoslavia, Peace Keeping/Humanitarian Operations & Election Monitoring from Scuola Superiore di Studi Universitari e di Perfezionamento S. Anna - Pisa Italy, and has a Ph.D. in the Jurisprudence of UN Resolutions and Kashmir Case. He successfully argued a constitutional writ petition in the High Court of Azad Kashmir from December 1992 to April 1999 on the question of self determination and duties of AJK Government. As a lead human rights advocate he has faced a sentence of 5 years imprisonment and 15 lashes and a death sentence during the Martial Law of General Zia in Pakistan. Dr. Gilani has introduced awareness around the title of the people of Jammu and Kashmir to a Rights Movement since 1877 and the respective sovereign claims of India and Pakistan since 1948.)

Blind Folded Wisdom

A free press is important to engineer a social change and disturb the hard protected taboos. Press, like any other discipline in public life, has to be able to look into tomorrow and charter the nation into a prosperous and fairer tomorrow. And there are many tomorrows.

Press has to act as a lead catalyst to cause a social engineering. Recent example is the media of Pakistan which decided to remain on the side of its people, in their just struggle for supremacy of constitution, rule of law and a sovereign parliament. The new generation of media persons and writers changed the semblance of Pakistan and earned it respect of all other communities around the world for the first time since 1947.

Press owes its freedom and reach to people like late Babu Raheem of Glasgow, Great Britain, who used to be labelled as Indian agent, just for his innocent practice of annually subscribing to the Urdu Daily Sach published from Jammu. In fact Master Roshan Lal, the editor of Daily Sach was a distinguished son of the State and had suffered a forced migration from Mir Pur, Azad Kashmir. The two had been childhood friends as well. The Hindu Mir Puris in Jammu have continued to conserve their identity as a special group and continue to ascribe their attachment with Mirpur and Pahari language.

There are 56 Dailies, 57 Weeklies, 3 Monthlies and 11 News Agencies in the Valley alone. Jammu has its own strong contingent of Urdu and English press. Majority of this service is available on the internet. Babu Raheem would be turning in his grave in utter disbelief to find that the Newspaper that he paid for annually and many others are now available free on the internet. Technology has defeated the enemies of good understanding and Babu Raheem has won, though posthumously.

I have a journalist seated in the deep recesses of my heart. He was identified by my teacher Mr. Ganjoo at Higher Secondary School, Baramulla, way back in 1960s. He was true in his prophesy and I edited the school magazine ‘Uqab’, College magazine ‘The Varmul’, University magazine, S M Law College Magazine in Karachi, Pakistan ‘The Collegiate’, first monthly of Ministry of Information, Azad Kashmir ‘The Jaiza’, leading daily of Pakistan ‘Nawa-i-Waqt’ and a few other titles.

To be a good journalist and a fair journalist has its price. I paid it in the manner of facing a charge of preaching revolt against the military regime of General Zia. The regime booked me under Martial Law Regulation 13 prescribing 5 years imprisonment and 15 lashes and incremented it with a death sentence under Martial Law Regulation 53. Zia regime was angered by my article on the last meeting of Nusrat Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto with Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in Rawalpindi jail before he was hanged. The article was published in weekly ‘Alfatah’, Karachi.

I defended the rightful place of Kashmiri language in Pakistan and Azad Kashmir. Editor Weekly Kasheer Rawalpindi, late Khawaja Samad Wani, a thorough gentleman of Kashmiri origin tendered an apology for publishing my article. The three people, who did not apologise to the Government of Punjab, were the editor of ‘Alfatah’ Karachi, the publisher and myself. M/S S T Printers in Rawalpindi chose to pay a heavy fine instead for a sin which they had committed on behalf of a Kashmiri writer. Irshad Rao editor weekly Alfatah, who later became advisor to Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto closed ranks with me and remained on the side of the freedom of expression.

It has discouraged me as an experience during my visits to Valley since 1996 and by a mail received from JKCHR office in Srinagar today to find that a section of Valley press has decided to remain blind folded and offer itself for channeling the mischief of State, non State actors and other vested interests. “The Day After” claiming to be an international illustrated news magazine, has quoted a news item from two Srinagar based newspapers, Daily Srinagar News and Srinagar Mail attributing to me as a speech made at the 61st Session of UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva in April 2005. The style, diction and the wisdom carried in the text is alien to my style and person. In fact there are a few words which have never found any space in my written or spoken work.

It is, however, true that I addressed under agenda items 5 and 9 the sixty-first-session of UN Commission on Human Rights, 14 March-22 April 2005. India, Pakistan and others who remain in attendance at the UN Sessions are fully familiar with the substantive merits and the quality of the phrase used in my written statements and oral presentations. It has a notoriety of arrogant secrecy until it is delivered.

Daily Srinagar News and Srinagar Mail may have been made to err in ignorance but a similarity of fabrication in three titles can’t be a simple error. One thing remains for sure that none of these newspapers has an accredited correspondent at the UN in Geneva. JKCHR too has never released any press advice to any one of these three news papers. I would not at this point argue that it is a sponsored mischief but would like to educate my fellow Kashmiris in-charge of the two titles and responsible for the first offering for doing a fake story and attributing to me that as a practice 25 copies of each speech are made available to the UN Secretariat for distribution among the Commission Members (now the Human Rights Council) and the interpreters before the delivery. And after the delivery other Government, Inter Governmental and NGO delegates also approach for the copies. Copies are available with the UN and UN would have done a press release about the two speeches.

We have a new generation of very able journalists in Kashmir. Post 1990 many others have mushroomed as wolves in lambs clothing. The latter are a cancer for any civil society and to encourage this crop of daily wagers is a crime against ‘good conscience’. It is important that rather than being dragged to face criminal liability for their misdemeanour they need to delve deep into the recesses of their good conscience and apportion a decent and noble role for themselves. It does not matter who sponsors who and which title. However what matters most is the substantive merit of the editorial content and the strength of a column. As long as it is a fair comment and a well researched piece, it remains in its noble spirit to enhance the common constituency of freedom of expression. We live in the year 2009 and it entails due accountability and transparency. Let our intellectual class resist to be a part of Blind Folded Wisdom. It is never too late to revise ones approach and resolve to make a difference in the best interests of our people.

A good and conscientious Kashmiri journalist has no borders. He belongs to all geographies and all nationalities. He is noble as long as he discharges his duty to fairness. He has the capacity and reach to connect Kashmiri nobility with rest of the world.

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