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 Non-Voter on a Ride

Sajjad wonders when Hurriyat's doublespeak will end

(Mr. Sajjad Bazaz, 45, was born in Srinagar. He attended the Khalsa high school and the Sri Pratap College in Srinagar. He received his bachelor's degree in Media and his master's degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from the University of Kashmir. Mr. Bazaz has over two decades of experience in journalism (both print & electronic), and he is author of the book "Bankwatch" which is about a financial scenario with particular reference to the J&K state. He is currently incharge of corporate communications department in a leaduing financial instution in J&K. Mr. Bazaz likes to spend leisure time watching movies and enjoying company of his friends.)

Are Kashmiris born to suffer?

All is not well in Kashmir. Lull before storm is a common phenomenon here. But these storms have always made common people to suffer. This geographically remote location continues to remain economically depressed despite huge treasures of natural resources enough to make this beleaguered state self reliant and prosperous. Political uncertainty has given it a status of one of the most deadly conflict zones in the world. Precisely, both, economic depression and the political uncertainty have consumed prosperity and have left the state subjects to suffer. Ultimately, the future prospects continue to be marred.

Last few months have been dominated by election fever in the state. First it was assembly election 2008 which surprised one and all especially the separatist conglomerate - Hurriyat Conference. In fact, it was ‘boycott the election-boycott’ which led to record breaking voter turnout in the valley. Now it is the Lok Sabha election which has engaged everyone whosoever matters in Kashmir scene. This parliamentary election too is not without surprises.

The fissures in separatist cadres despite fighting for a common cause yet again surfaced. First it was within the moderate Hurriyat camp. This faction announced that it would not issue a poll boycott call, a statement which witnessed perhaps first ever open altercation between the Hurriyat and the United Jehad Council, an amalgam of 13 armed separatist groups. For the first time, angry mob shouted slogans against the moderate conglomerate and burnt the effigy of Abas Ansari. However most notable development was that the protests sparked in the areas which enjoys stronghold of moderate Hurriyat faction and the protesters raised slogans in favour of Sayed Ali Shah Geelani who runs hardliner Hurriyat faction. Amid threats and protests, the moderate faction took yet another U turn and announced poll boycott.
Even as poll boycott call is in force, the Hurriyat factions still have left many questions unanswered. It is not clear whether they are fighting for separate nationhood for Kashmir or for the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir which also includes Jammu and Ladakh regions. Usually we have come across statements from these factions about annexing the state from the union of India. But the ground situation is otherwise and time and again they have proved it. Lok Sabha election were first held in Jammu region. Where was the Hurriyat leadership? The boycott call didn’t flow from their headquarters. When it comes to Kashmir, they all get their acts together to make the hapless Kashmiris to dance to their tunes.

Let them understand this that every Kashmiris’ mind probes this aspect. Shut down calls on Indian Independence day, Indian Republic day, October 27 (when Indian armed forces first landed in Kashmir to fight out tribal raiders in 1947) etc have been witnessed only in Kashmir. Why? While focussing entirely on Kashmir region, these separatists have allowed other regions to prosper at the cost of a common Kashmiris economic comfort and peace of mind.

I am reminded of 1996 Lok Sabha election. Before the elections were held, V. P. Singh visited Kashmir and held several face to face meetings with mainstream as well as separatist cadres. V. P. Singh’s visit didn’t go waste, as it was their (Janata Dal) candidate Maqbool Dar who won the South Kashmir parliamentary seat and nearly won the Baramulla seat. Surprisingly, one of the frontline separatist leaders at that time who had met V. P. Singh during his visit to the valley lost no time to call him immediately claiming credit of Maqbool Dar’s win in the election. The point is that election has been an attraction for some of the separatist cadres even during those times when anti-India fever was at its high pitch.

Analysis of some developments in the recent past reveals that a large section of separatist cadres were in negotiating mood at various stages. But circumstances were created to neutralise their efforts. Last year, various factions of separatists assembled at a seminar “Kashmir sentiment, sacrifices and realism – A synthesis” and preached that sacrifices aren’t guarantee for freedom and rigidity is not productivity. They talked about future strategy containing some compromises to move forward. Even as it was a launching pad for new strategy, the Amarnath land row emerged on the scene and pushed it to the wall. Yet again a move was set to gauge the public mood when the moderate separatist conglomerate announced not to give poll boycott call during the Lok Sabha elections. They immediately back tracked when protest and threats emanated from public and some separatist cadres. Today it has become a game of hardliner versus moderate separatists.

So what we observe that different voices with different approaches coming within the separatist ranks have left Kashmiris frustrated. Of course Kashmiris want freedom. But as on date freedom is no solution to the circumstances prevalent here. The conflict situation has enveloped the Kashmir Valley alone. There are families in abundance in Kashmir whose bread earners have been consumed during the conflict. We have alarmingly increasing number of orphan children who have lost their parents (either killed or missing) during the turmoil and most of them are wandering for support to live and grow. We have old aged parents who have no one at home to support him or her at the fag end of their lives, because they sacrificed their sons for the sake of ‘freedom’. And there are ‘half-widows’, as their husbands disappeared after they were picked up either by military, paramilitary and police personnel or by the unidentified gunmen. This is a situation which is even present in the heart of Srinagar city.

In simpler terms, who is going to pull the battered and brutalised Kashmiri society out of the miseries? Kashmiris desperately look for a future where there are no human rights violations, no bullets and no bomb blasts. They want to live with honour and dignity. All groups, whether separatists or pro-India, at their own levels have to stop playing double game with double talk. They have a responsibility to remove the sense of terror and persecution in the Kashmiri psyche.

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