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, May 6, 2009

Taking the Kashmiri Voter on a Ride

Shuhab notes that the two major political parties in the valley have made a mockery of the electorate and themselves by making pivotal references to BJP

(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.)

Kashmir’s murky poll politics

“Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment." Thus goes Benjamin Franklin.

For the past few weeks a heightened campaign has been going on for the Parliamentary elections; the discourse adopted by political parties is disappointing. Unlike the Assembly elections, held in December last year, only the ruling National Conference (NC) and opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) are in the direct contest. So the war of words is also confined to these two parties.

Of late it is being referred to as “Red-Green” war. Notwithstanding the claims by both parties that they are very much concerned about the Kashmir issue and it will be the highlight of their agenda in the Parliament, the course of rhetoric has completely taken a different turn; a bizarre one really. Both the premier parties, led by two families have crossed the limit of decency in debating the issues and putting forth the arguments to substantiate their positions. If Kashmir issue would have been so close to their heart most of the time in their campaign would have been devoted to discussing the Autonomy and Self Rule, the political doctrines of these two parties. First of all one has to understand that how much time an MP or two can get to discuss the proposals like Autonomy or Self Rule in the Parliament, even if no other issue is to be tabled there! Very little. So the electoral campaigning was the opportune time to talk about the niceties of these two vital proposals ostensibly meant to solve the vexed Kashmir issue. Though Autonomy has been discussed threadbare during a special session in 2000 in the Assembly, but the resolution passed was rejected by the Centre. Self Rule, figured in the Round Table Conferences chaired by the Prime Minister and was one of the issues talked about during Assembly elections, December last.

Parliament elections, according to both Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti are about larger issues. So they had the larger issue as for as people’s aspirations are concerned. But what has been seen is that the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) has become the larger issue for both the parties. BJP in its essence is not connected with Kashmir politics, obviously because of its right wing Hindu and anti Muslim political discourse. It is only after the eruption of militancy in Kashmir that one could see BJP’s presence in the valley, and that too was negligible. Its “cadres” mostly comprise people who have been first part of militancy and then the infamous counter insurgency platform, and had to take shelter under the political canvas where they could go scot-free. This marginalized political assemblage is ideologically bereft and has no political understanding. But the way both NC and PDP have made BJP the central debate of their campaign, it has dominated the Kashmir’s mainstream political rhetoric from last few weeks. Only yesterday a statement of NC read “PDP is BJP’s extended arm” and the PDP’s was like this; “Omar grew up in the lap of Advani and Modi”.

To what galleries both these parties are playing by exhausting themselves on the issue which concerns people the least. It is quite understandable that by projecting PDP as BJP’s wing NC is trying to paint it as a party close to Hindu extremism, and PDP by referring to the Omar Abdullah’s association with the NDA regime want to prove that he was groomed in this camp. But are people’s minds so blank that they cannot judge by themselves who is right and who is not. In fact both the parties are engaged in petty politics; the politics of exploiting the Muslim sentiment in Kashmir. This they are doing while they have been swearing of being against religious exploitation.

This brand of politics, particularly in the Mainstream camp has been further eroding its position in Kashmir. With new generation taking over the political landscape of Kashmir, it was expected that new values would be infused into the politics which was otherwise devoid of any standards. In Kashmir generally any wrongdoing is justified under the pretext of political uncertainty which has been prevailing since 1947. Kashmir has never been allowed to grow as a place where politics could get grounded in principles and values. Character assassination, both of individuals and parties, has remained the salient feature of Kashmiri politicians.

With the new vistas opening up at the global level, education becoming common and world coming closer to the ordinary citizens, it was expected that the change will come here as well. But as they say political uncertainty has again promoted the mediocre. Sitting in the Assembly gallery the picture that one catches is disappointing. Those who have been occupying benches for many terms are yet to learn the difference between “Tum” and “Aap”. Their ability to become good parliamentarians is pathetic. Their behaviour besmirches the radiant cultural values, Kashmir has been nourishing and nurturing.

The fact remains that the top rung leadership of these parties does not want to come out of this web. They continue to take people far granted and exploit them to the hilt. This time it looks that mainstream political set up is in real sense part of Indian politics as the two main parties, Congress and BJP, have also been wasting time in cajoling the voters over these trivial issues. In a big and diverse country like India, the Health and Education are the biggest issues for political parties to concentrate on, but both are missing. It is only the person of Manmohan Singh and L K Advani which merit discussion in poll politics! So we are really an ‘integral part’ of India in that sense!

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