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.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Kashmir - The Land of Hartals

Zulfikar wonders why people fail to realize that there can be no nation building if people are not productive. He is not alone, an editorial in a competing daily in Srinagar says the same. Two related stories

(Mr. Zulfikar Majid, 31, was born in Srinagar. He matriculated from the Sri Pratap School and completed his Bachelor's degree from the Sri Pratap College, Srinagar. He is currently pursuing Master's degree in English Literature from the Maulana Azad National Urdu University through its open university system. Mr. Majid is a senior correspondent for the Greater Kashmir, covering socio-economic and political issues and has written several features regarding the impact of violence on youth, drug abuse and mental health in Kashmir. He is a member of the Muslim Leaders of Tomorrow network, and writes for the American journal, Counterpunch. Mr. Majid is associated with the U.K. based charity, Save the Children, Kashmir chapter. He was awarded by the Home Minister of India for his work in earthquake-affected areas of North Kashmir.)

Hartal yesterday, Hartal today, Hartal tomorrow

We are complicating the problem for ourselves. A weak nation goes weaker as there are no days to work in. It’s paramount duty of separatists to devise a new way to protest. This one has damaged a lot, comments Zulfikar Majid.

While the recent rape and murder of two innocent girls in Shopian (south Kashmir) has sent shock waves across the Valley and beyond, subsequent strikes called by separatists against the incident have multiplied the woes of the already suffering Kashmiris.

The Shopian incident is so grave that no sane person can close his eyes. It happened with innocent Aasiya and Nelofar today, it can happen with anybody tomorrow. But can we save honor and dignity of our women by calling strikes? Or we need to do something beyond strikes. Is strike only weapon with us? Whom we are punishing by calling strikes on every small and big issue?

Incidentally there is no evidence of strikes in Muslim history. Neither is there any significant correlation between strikes and successful liberation movements across the world. Striking work emerged mainly as a communist concept where the daily waged worker wants to inflict economic costs on the capitalist owners.

But whom we are punishing here and how does India get affected if we boycott economic activity and work. Indian state must be feeling elated when Kashmiri children do not go to school, the sick can’t go to doctor, the daily waged lose their daily wages.

I don’t subscribe Hurriyat Conference (G) chairman, Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s theory that a nation which aspires for independence has to give some sacrifices like strikes. History is witness that no country or nation has achieved freedom by abstaining from the work. I ask Geelani Sahib what a person, who earns his livelihood on daily basis and has to feed his family, will do when you call strikes for weeks together. The families of street vendors and daily wagers might be starving during strike days. Is anybody bothered about those poor souls? How hapless patients feel when they aren’t able to visit a doctor.

Is'nt Geelani punishing the victims (read Kashmiris) who are already at the receiving end of Indian establishment? The unending era of strikes started right from 1990 when armed insurgency broke in Kashmir. From an arrest of a militant commander to the killing of civilians, everything was followed by days or at times weeks of strikes. This crippled the economy of Kashmir. Students of that generation were the worst sufferers as their studies got severely affected by the strikes. Separatists groups never gave rethink or debated the hartal strategy. Infact, at times different separatists groups to show their presence call unnecessary strikes.
Hundreds of days of work has been lost in the past two decades due to the strikes. If we could have achieved freedom by continuously abstaining from work for a year, still it wouldn’t have been a bad bargain. But I want to ask Geelani Sahib and other separatist leaders would India leave Kashmir, because of strikes.

No nation can achieve freedom when it is feeble and strikes makes Kashmiri nation even feebler. Our students had started to compete at national and international level from the past few years. Starting from last years Amarnath land row agitation till this time, there was complete or partial strike almost 50 percent of the days.

Nations aspiring freedom have to be economically self-reliant. By calling unnecessary strikes our economic dependence on India increases every day. These illogical strike calls would scuttle any move by Kashmiris to achieve economic self-reliance. Not only on local issues, at times strikes are enforced on Kashmiris on death anniversary of any leader of Muslim world.

Nobody can deny that troops commit human rights violations in Kashmir. An alternative strategy needs to be evolved to protest and counter the HR violations. If we would provide conducive atmosphere to our students for studies, they would thrive at national and international level where they can project the plight of Kashmiris at bigger forums. This is the age of Internet and modern means of communications can be used to protest the HR violations. When last year whole Kashmir was under siege and media was gagged, Kashmiri students outside the state used youtube to highlight the HR violations.

Blackout in the night, pen down strikes in offices for an hour and other ways can be devised to protest against the atrocities committed by the troops. Students, lawyers, doctors wearing black badges during work is a better way to protest and can be sustained for long.

Strikes have never been able to attract international attention towards Kashmir. How many times due to strikes international human rights organizations have taken cognizance of any HR violation and pressurized New Delhi to be cautious? Strikes remain localized to a few localities of Srinagar and other towns. They miserably fail to achieve their objective which is to internationalize HR violations in Kashmir.

If one tries to introspect what went wrong with last year’s uprising when lakhs of people were on streets demanding freedom, frequent strikes was one of the main reason for its failure. People were fatigued which was even acknowledged by Geelani Sahib himself when on October 6, 2008 strike call was taken back. Geelani that time agreed that children have to go to schools, farmers have to reap the harvest and marriages had to be solemnized.

From November 2008 to March or April 2009, it seemed separatist leadership was in deep slumber. They were in shock and awe after massive participation of people in the Assembly elections immediately after massive uprising against Indian state. Massive participation of people in Assembly elections wasn’t vote in favour of India, but anger against wrong policies of separatists. Kashmiris are politically mature enough now and they can’t be fed with hollow slogans. Beware Geelani Sahib, calling a press conference and announcing strikes won’t be acceptable to the people for long now.

Leadership in Kashmir is in desperate need of strategy. Hartals, protests, sacrifices are means to an end. They cannot be an end in themselves. We need a mission statement, a clear demarcation of short term, medium term and long-term objectives.

One hartal or two hartals in a year, is understandable. If we don’t allow our children to go to the schools, where will be the human resources to make it a great nation which we dream of? It is a self-inflicted wound, which desperately needs a re-think.

Stuck in the strike (Editorial in Rising Kashmir)

Failure of extended agitations leads to loss of belief in Resistance politics

Last summer Kashmir witnessed an extended call for shutdown and protest. When the point of exhaustion reached because of the breakdown of routine activities of life and its disastrous consequences on economy and education, Hurriyat Conference called off the strike and a detailed chart for protest was handed down to this people. Except making the mockery of things nothing came out; neither did the strike materialize into any concrete gain nor did the yielding in favour of public concerns fetch anything positive.

On the contrary the lasting impression was that by calling off the strike midway the purpose of entire agitation was defeated. So in the end we had loads of disappointment and nothing else. We lost dozens of lives; we lost a prominent political leader; and we lost billions. On the other side no land was returned back to us, no changes were made in the conduct of Yatra, no alternative roads were opened up, and even those who were arrested during that agitation were not released when the agitation ended. So it was all loss against no gain.

This year we replicated the blunder. The first thing that went wrong was that instead of pushing for concrete demands that were strictly about doing justice to the victims’ family, we talked in terms of larger political demands. If summer 2008 agitation would have revolved round just one demand; make changes in the conduct of Yatra so that the popular apprehensions are addressed, we might have made some political gain. But the agitation that started for reclaiming the 40 hectares of land ended up with losing months of business and dozens of lives. Similarly if the present agitation is strictly narrowed down to Shopian incident there is a chance of breaking the layers of arrogance and obduracy that have settled on government’s mind. But by talking in terms of absolute political demands we will neither get justice for the Shopian victims nor will leave any scope for future protest. If we press for demands that this government can never fulfill, we will be left with only two choices; either continue with the strikes indefinitely or concede defeat.

Continuing strikes is not practically possible, and conceding defeat has huge psychological effects. Consequently it all ends up in detailed charts for protest that try to accommodate conflicting assertions from people, and give birth to suspicion and weaken the belief in Resistance politics. People first ask for the logic of making the strikes endless, and when called off without any breakthrough in the situation they question the wisdom of calling it off. So before any thoughts of calling for a strike this question should strike the Hurriyat mind.

No comments: