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.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Tragedy of Living in Today's Kashmir

Sajjad says destruction of the social order due to incessant strikes is very visible and totally unacceptable

(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.)

Rebuild Kashmir

After eight days of continuous strike, life jumped to normal in Kashmir. However, intermittent strikes continued till date in different parts of the valley. A government employee in mid thirties, instead of going to office first came to his bank to withdraw his salary. After waiting for more than an hour in a long queue, he was told by the bank official at the counter that his salary was yet to be disbursed. In a state of confusion, he rushed to the branch manager’s cabin and pleaded him that he wants money urgently. The branch head expressed his helplessness, as his department had not sent his salary amount.

“Sir, I have no ration at my home and I have to feed my three children. What will I do now?” said the anguished employee to the branch manager.

Even as the branch manager asked him to wait for a day or so till his salary is credited to his account, the annoyed employee in a state of frustration which was visible on his face, requested the branch manager to borrow him Rs.500/- so that he could buy ration for his family. The branch manager paid Rs.500/- from his own pocket and the person left hurriedly.

Next was a lady employee of Srinagar Municipal Corporation. Her salary too was not credited to her account, as the Corporation was yet to forward her salary to the branch. Her eyes were wet, as she was not having any money to buy medicines for her ailing husband. The branch manager gave her Rs.100/- and she left somewhat contended.

These small but significant incidents have become order of the day and are off shoots of frequent strikes observed in the valley. Everybody is expressing concern over the frequent strikes, which have adversely affected the livelihood of the people here. During the past two decades, in spite of cost of living having increased many times and apparently income being the same, the living standard is rapidly increasing.

Amid these crises, a common man is in a dilemma as to how to manage this rising cost of living when his earning opportunities have been curbed because of frequent shut downs and undeclared curfews. These frequent shut downs have badly affected every sector of economy. On education front, academics in the valley are in total mess. The students have lost the curiosity for learning. Teachers are incapable to insist on their lessons and in fact, teaching is not less than a burden for the teachers. Precisely, in the current atmosphere, which is engulfed by panic and violence, destruction of our social order is visible. In fact, a ferocious atmosphere exists in every nook and corner of the Valley.

Meanwhile, there is a group that maintains that stone throwing and hartals are very important means of indulgence to remain sane to a reasonable degree. They even argue that at one point these activities help the youth to manage their anger and at the other the activity gives a meaning of usefulness to their ‘process of life’. By indulging into some kind of physical expression, in this case stone pelting and a hartal, when there are no jobs, educated are either not geared for the job market, are piling up as unemployable generation, alongside with another army of uneducated unemployable, these youth at least return to their homes or localities as still ‘valid’ members of a civil society.

But one thing is important. Things have to change. Stone pelting and frequent hartals have no bearing on the nature of Kashmir case. No number of stone pelting or hartals is going to pull Kashmiris out of the current mess prevailing here in the name of Kashmir cause.

Kashmir is a place where anytime is trouble time. It is said that fortune turns like a wheel. Here this fortune wheel turns at a greater speed, leading to uncertainty. That is why, for most of the time uncertainty looms large here. This element of uncertainty is not something new, but exists since 1947.

For India, Kashmir is an ‘integral part’ of the country. For Pakistan it is not less than a ‘jugular vein’. Between these claims, it is the Kashmiris who suffer suffocation for all these decades in one-way or the other. Both the countries became nuclear powers because of Kashmir issue. Both give any consideration to Kashmir more for their personal sake and certainly not because Kashmiris are suffering. We have seen that every time when Kashmir comes for discussion, the atmosphere of anticipation all of a sudden turns into anguish and both the nations fail to reach a consensus over the issue.

Under these circumstances, the state government has a huge responsibility to help out its citizens of suffocation and sufferings. There is urgent need to realise the responsibility of helping the youth to come out of disillusionment, worthlessness and idleness through genuine and unending endeavours so that permanent opportunities of dignified employment and enjoyment of all the rights are ensured to him not only here but anywhere in the world. Let concrete measures be taken to prevent the people from sending their children to prematurely to grave. In fact, those who matter in the Kashmir case need to realise to tackle the growing menace of unemployment in Kashmir. Precisely, under all circumstances the the government led by youngest chief minister has to remain on the side of the people, especially the Kashmiri youth. And above all, Kashmir should not remain as a battlefield for India and Pakistan.

The government can take new initiatives for the prosperity of its citizens. There is no harm to appeal various international forums or organizations like the Organisation of Islamic Conference, the United Nations, the European Union, etc to carve out ways and means so that Kashmiri youth get jobs. Even pursuing these organizations for taking economic measures in Kashmir will help the Kashmiri civil society to bring economic revolution in the state.

How long Kashmiris have to suffer? What is the solution of the problem? Who are the real representatives of Kashmir? These are a few commonly asked questions, which have remained unanswered for decades. Now a point to ponder. Can’t there be a mechanism put in place where everybody, be it from mainstream camp or separatist camp, board the bus for reconstruction and rehabilitation of the Kashmiri civil society?

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