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

Silence of the Lambs

Afshana laments on eerie silence in a culture that traditionally feasts on loud demonstrations

(Ms. Syeda Afshana, 35, was born in Srinagar. She attended the Vishwa Bharti High School in Rainawari, Srinagar, and the Government Women's College in Srinagar where she received a B.Sc. degree. She completed her Master's degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from the Kashmir University in 1999 and was the Gold Medallist (first position holder) in her graduating class. She is currently a Lecturer in the Media Education Research Centre (MERC) of the Kashmir University and pursuing her doctorate on the role of internet after 9/11.)

Shame on us!

Today another woman died….
The target was a life
that had lived its
own dear wildness,
had been loved and not loved,
had danced and not danced….
A life like yours or mine,
that had stumbled up
from a beginning and
had learned to walk,
sing and sigh….
She was the same girl
her mother used to kiss;
the same child you dreamed
besides in school.
The same baby whom
her parents cajoled
in the night and
listened for her cries
even while they slept.
But today, someone has played
his arrogance
with this woman’s only life….

Romana, a teenage girl, was put to death by a delinquent youth who went completely gaga with a hidden beast in him and crushed down Romana lethally. This time the accused are behind the bars, but the reports insinuate that the scuffle for getting bail is already in.

The violence against women in Kashmir is now reaching to a disgusting point, something which was quite unthinkable some years a ago. The debilitating experience of physical, psychological, and/or sexual abuse is getting rampant. The crime record is displaying an alarming rise.

Every female in Kashmir has no immunity against this dastard violence. The victims have been illiterate village girls to educated urban daughters who are strangulated to death. From the mysterious murder in posh Hyderpora last year to the recent downtown killing of Farzana, there is a chilling shame for all of us.

There is nothing private about our shamelessness. Though many of us, as a part of dead civil society are witness to lot of such happenings around, we are too cowardly to react and register our annoyance. For bogus cultural reasons, we tend to accept the idea that it’s socially odd for to raise our voice against crime towards women. For many of men here, woman is still no more than a piece of property. Absurd!

In the upper and middle classes, where privacy of both emotions and acts is maintained, family members quite conveniently feign ignorance of the violence their womenfolk face within and without. The usual reaction is that it’s a “personal” problem. Consequently, when it becomes a daily problem, it’s ignored.

Equally astonishing is the attitude of the families of the victims who express meek helplessness. Though their reticence does not justify the violence, they nonetheless silently endure it for other reasons. Fear of social stigma being the one. It seals their expression.

The efforts of Police in busting such incidents are commendable, but there is much more to do beyond just cracking the murders in a Hitchcock style. The follow-up of cases in a just manner, without succumbing to any influence, is an immediate requirement. Money, high contacts and hush up mentality should not lure them. Moral policing, of course, cannot be their domain, especially when the State is in a conflict mode.

The government in Kashmir is not noticeable anywhere. Its anarchy all around! Our rulers and ministers are invisible maharajas, least concerned about their praja. Stunningly, when even morally tainted ones are also our masters, it would be naïve to anticipate any meaningful intervention from them.

The role of Imams in creating deep sensitization about moral values and respect for dignity of women is dismal. By the same token, the proper guidance and counseling of women is also missing. There is no alarm around to venture on moral crusade even as more killings result from moral waywardness and social aberrations. The warranted moral panic is absent. The strange nonchalance is turning criminal. The pulpits are mute about the whole scenario.

The religious institutions and leaders of our society are meshed up in the network of amassing power and money to expand and propagate their organizational/individual versions of religion. The mushroom growth of palatial mosques, darsgahs and darul-alooms has been their priority. It hasn’t stopped there, they are ‘dedicated’ to construct global universities and mega institutions, least bothered about the moral rot set in the society. The dabbling in politics is far imperative to them than dabbling in moral affairs of this misguided society. Shocking!

In fact, politics has overshadowed everything in Kashmir. Obsession with politics is becoming our manna. We are putting everything at altar, even our morality for recompense in politics. We don’t seem to be concerned with the rape of our womenfolk; we are concerned with rape being used as a war weapon. We don’t shy away to reap political mileage out of crime against our women: human rights violations are a pliable way out. Our men—whether leaders, politicians, officials, teachers, husbands, fathers or brothers—have failed miserably to salvage women from any kind of menace. Even as Azaadi is so critical to this diseased society, the women of this nation are increasingly getting fettered by aggression from all quarters and sources.

We are yet to recognize that woman is a God’s gift: A fragile soul with strong resilience to wade through thin and thick, and make mankind forget the wretchedness of survival by lending a hand to saunter through the dark alleyways of life smilingly.

Doesn’t such a hand need to be cared, protected and not annihilated with impudence?! Let woman of this nation be not another woman who died yesterday at the hands of any man; let she be the hope that survives for all our tomorrows, even amidst worst moral catastrophe.

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