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.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Death of Innocence

Shuhab sees in young and innocent Romana's death a falling apart of the Kashmiri social fabric aggrevated by stunning silence among so-called moralists

(Shuhab Hashmi, 39, was born in Baramulla, and graduated from the Degree College in Sopore, and completed his M.A. from the University of Kashmir. He is a Columnist, and in his spare time enjoys reading, discussions and traveling.)

Murder of Kashmiri Society

The tragic death of an 18- year old girl student, Romana, at the hands of two delinquent brats in the outskirts of Srinagar early this week has been overshadowed by the mist of politics as has been the case with Kashmir all the time. Prima facie she was knocked to death by the duo following her, apparently to hand over a “love letter”.

Although killings have become a permanent feature of Kashmir’s life during last 20 years’ turmoil but the way Romana life was snatched away raises some vital questions about the way this society is going. Barring a few routine statements from separatist organizations there was no serious response over this horrifying and nerve wrecking incident. Top leadership in both mainstream and separatist camps maintained criminal silence and as usual remained busy in scoring points over each other in their cherished contest of the electoral and boycott politics respectively. So was the case with the so called champions of human rights, so lovingly called as the Civil Society. This tragedy has passed off as just another incident, and will be investigated by the police as a matter of routine; and who knows when the challan will be produced. And no wonder if the accused finally get bailed out of this.

In Romana’s death one can easily discern the murder of our cultural and moral values; these are the same values that we so tirelessly boast about. In any civilized society such an incident represents a deep seated rot and if these things go unchecked it will soon lead us to disaster. Getting emotionally gravitated towards a particular person is all too human but the way our younger lot has started behaving doesn’t auger well for our collective being. Our cultural values and traditions teach us to behave in a particular way and it is for the good of our society that we follow the same. To go the extent of rolling the speeding car over an innocent girl that she gets killed is unheard of in Kashmir. Hardly any right thinking and civilized society can allow such things to happen. While we immediately tend to dismiss the worry by explaining these new ways of life with the in the backdrop of technological advancement and affluence which has come to us, thanks to easy money, one thing that we miss is that the upbringing of our children has changed to a drastic extent. To think about knocking down a girl in a cowboy fashion amply makes it clear that which way the society is going.

This is not an isolated case. Last year a young girl, teaching at a private school was killed almost in a similar way in Peerbagh area. She was stabbed to death by same kind of perverted youth who had perhaps failed to ‘convince’ her for agreeing to their proposal. That also was registered as a murder in police records and the investigations were started. But did the Civil Society react to that, the way it showed its response to Sex scandal, forcing the authorities to take appropriate course of action. Such things don’t bother us anymore; we only feel disturbed temporarily when it comes to the extent of a speedy Alto car taking a young girl’s life.

We did show our response to Tabinda Gani’s rape and subsequent murder at Handwara in 2007. A collective effort from Handwara to Srinagar did bring some initial results but still the justice is far away. In that agitation also we changed the recourse and shifted focus on non state labourers commonly known as Biharis. No doubt some of them were involved but the ground work was done by their Kashmiri counterparts. We gave an impression that whatever vice was existing in Kashmir was because of the non state labourers and a whole campaign was then initiated to throw them out. Without asking ourselves that why we have become so dependent on Bihari labourers the issue attained political overtones and was immediately turned into a battle for “Azadi” and struggle against India.

By being selective on the issues of criminality we are not helping our society to build, based on rich cultural and moral values. Instead, this is encouraging the waywardness in the society which ultimately leads to the incidents like that of Bagh-e-Mehtab. The media trial is not a solution to the problem as it invites criticism for influencing the investigations in such cases as was seen in the case of Arushi Talwar murder case in Gurgaon. The fact of the matter is that unless the society wakes up to these challenges the criminals will go scot-free and the real concern will remain hidden under the smokescreen of this false cry. Investigations through proper mechanism of police and courts is the only course of action one can think of but the trial has to be speedy so that the police investigation is not punctured by influence and finally falls in the court of law. Srinagar Police under the stewardship of SSP Syed Ahfadul Mujtaba is expected to be fair and truthful in its investigation but pressure from conscious members of civil society will not only help in ensuring a fair trial but will help to reach out to the society at large which in turn will put a brake on such horrendous and shameful acts.

Justice in the cases of Priyadarshani Mattoo was possible only after intense campaign by the civil society which overturned the tables on prosecution and finally led to justice to the victim. Same was the result of the campaign in the Tandoor case in which high profile politicians were involved.

In Kashmir we have seen lot of campaigning against the waywardness and Dukhtaran-e-Millat has been attacking parlours and restaurants to impose a moral code of conduct. It focuses its activity on Valentine Day and other such occasions. But in case of Romana’s death no such organization has come forward to pursue the case and take society into confidence as to how this menace can be dealt with. At this stage the Civil Society should wake up to mobilize public opinion against such a vice.

Unless that is done we will continue to see such tragic deaths which leave the families suffocated given the social stigma attached to these incidents. Who will come to their rescue, the society has to decide? For these criminals there will be high paid lawyers to defend but for victims who will bring justice; this is the main question.

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