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 Through the Eyes of a Young Expatriate

Noor shares her views about Kashmir which she visits with increasing frequency. She can be excused for getting her politics mixed-up, but there are no two ways about her feelings towards Kashmir

(Ms. Noor Shah Mubarak, 20, comes from a family who lived in Srinagar, Kashmir. She was born in Hong Kong, and raised in Hong Kong, and London. She studied at the Brighton University in Hopitality and Event Management, and recently transfered to a university in London to study journalism. In her leisure time she leads an active life of enjoying outdoors, reading poetry, watching movies, and spending time with her friends.)

My Kashmir!

To me Kashmir was a magical place that I would visit every summer, a place where the whole family would come together. Where I would spend my mornings and afternoons playing in the garden with all my cousins and brothers, visiting relatives at their homes and eating all the delicious pastries and meat dishes they’d offer us - chicken patties, mutton patties, kantee, black forest cake, pineapple cake, washing it down with either Kahwa or Nun chai (Kashmiri tea). A land in my perspective filled with happiness, love, colour and life; where the grass was emerald green, the lakes were sapphire blue and the sky was crystal clear, but that was until I grew up and opened my eyes.

During these yearly visits up to the age of 9, I wasn’t aware of the Kashmir conflict, the militancy, shooting and bombings that took place within the valley. I couldn’t even recall the summer of 1991 when my father’s sister’s wedding took place during the high peak of militancy. Till date my mother tells me about certain incidents that occurred during the wedding. How at night, rocket attacks and firings would take place, and how we would all be rushed into the corridor to be protected from the bullets that could break through any of the windows in our house. As a child I had never even realized that most of our time was spent indoors because of the cross firing that would take place on the streets between groups. And those who dared to go out would easily end up getting caught in the middle of it. I guess I was never aware of these surroundings because I was too engaged in playing with my cousins, who I’d only see once or twice a year, after all I was only a child.

In Summer 2004 we made a trip to Srinagar, Kashmir after 7 years. At that time I was 16, my eldest brother was 20 and the younger two were 13 and 7. As we arrived and were escorted to our home, I had noticed a change in the streets of Srinagar. It wasn’t the Srinagar I knew from my childhood. This one was dark, gloomy, depressing and lifeless. A place filled with police, soldiers, guns, tear gas, bombs, explosions, shootings, firings and so on. What happened to my Kashmir? The land filled with happiness, love, colour and life? Did that land ever exist? Did I imagine this magical Kashmir as a child to protect myself from the hideous truth? Was I blinded by my love for Kashmir? I wish I knew the answers to my own questions, but sadly I didn,t.

In September 2008 I had decided to visit Srinagar to spend time with my maternal grandfather. This visit took place during the huge anti-India protests, where lacs of Kashmiris came to the streets to protest against the transfer of land to SASB (shrine board) which was an outside state organization as it was a direct violation of article 370 of the Indian constitution. The whole city was under government curfew during these times, no one was allowed to leave their homes without a ‘curfew pass’ and if they did, then they would either end up getting shot at or beaten up by the Indian army who were patrolling the streets. In some areas people couldn’t even open their windows without getting fired at; the 1990’s were back. Kashmir was once again drowning in the blood of its own people.

In the past 20 years over 80’000 civilians have been killed. Many girls/women between the ages of 8-80 have been gang-raped/molested, 8-10,000 disappearances, about 7’000 killed in custody, 23’00 widowed, 1,10,000 plus orphans, an approximated 50-1,00,000 Kashmiri Muslims and up to 3,00,000 Kashmiri Pandits have been internally displaced. Where 330 people have died in police custody and 110 have disappeared from cells without a trace. A state that is known to be the highest militarized zone in the world, 7,00,000 armed forces within the Jammu and Kashmir state, but approximately 75% of the above statistics are within the Kashmir Valley and it’s a population of 5 million.

This is my Kashmir, a dying land that was once alive, a terrorized state once secured, a disputed region once in peace, a paradise turned into hell. This is the Kashmir of the people, its people, to whom it has always belonged to. This is our Kashmir. The Kashmir of the Kashmiri’s: the forgotten people.

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