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.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Either as Vyeth or Hydaspes, Jhelum is Eternal

An editorial in the Greater Kashmir ponders about the future of a great river that sustains a shallow minded society

National Shame

Jhelum is not just a water body that needs attention of environmentalists. It is the repository of our history and ethos, emotions and imaginations, gossips and folktales; the popular culture of Kashmir is written over the drops of water that make Jhelum. Not only our nostalgia, but the harsh realities of life are all floating on the surface of this river. It is a part of our civilization as is Nile to Egypt and Indus to Sub-Continent.

Our apathy towards river Jhelum reflects the absence of consciousness at collective level. It is not like a slogan for any NGO, but a bitter truth that stares us all in the face. It speaks of the kind of people we have become. It is a grim reminder that unless we stand up for the things that are real, ambitious political goals, on both sides of the political divide, are far from doing any good to us. If the bounties of nature bestowed to us stand mercilessly spoiled at our hands, do we deserve respect and authority in the land; we don’t. Never. The photograph of river Jhelum that appeared on the front page of this newspaper on 22 July was enough to tell us in the face that as a people we have committed a grave crime against our own self. The repelling scene of the filth amassed around the pillars of a bridge on Jhelum hit like a deadly arrow in the bosom. And it is not the deliberate selection of the spot to earn attention. Take any patch of this long river body, the level of pollution is the same. Wherever the river passes through a populous area it is ‘gifted’ with polythene bags filled with domestic refuse, sewage, and all kinds of pollutants that we produce in the daily course of life. In our estimation we try to keep our compounds clean but we forget that our lifeline is getting choked.

The benign way to describe this attitude is to call such a people as uncivilized. There is no need to get angry over being called as uncivilized. It is not the cynicism of judgment but the expression of pain that is inflicted on seeing Jhelum as the dumping basin of the waste that Kashmiris produce. Before nature announces its final verdict and Jhelum becomes a thing of past the conscious amongst us must stand up to recompense the injustice inflicted on the river of Kashmir.

People irrespective of the divisions of politics, economy and ideology must join hands to save Jhelum. It is quite unfortunate that whenever we talk of environmental degradation only Dal lake becomes the centre of attraction. Jhelum rarely occupies the centre stage. The river in the backyard is crying for help and our indifference towards this dying water body has disastrous consequences. The government of the day has a huge role to play as the resources to clean up Jhelum can only be mustered by them. People, without politicizing the matter, can impress upon the government that thus far no further. The scheme of beautification of this river taken up by the previous government some years back must continue, with aggressive inputs, to give a sight soothing to eyes and not painfully repelling. For this purpose two things need to be ensured; one the term beautification needs to be replaced by revival, as it goes beyond the shallow and misleading politics. Second, the work on different patches of the river must involve the population of the respective areas.

Unless people get involved the desired level of results is not going to be achieved. From being some government scheme to prettify some selected portions of the embankments, government should think of converting it into a huge task of reviving a river that belongs to a people. This needs to be done before it is just water under the bridge.

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