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.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Exasperated Kashmir

Shujaat draws from experience to give some friendly advice. But are "vested interests" listening?

(Syed Rafiuddin Bukhari, 72, was born in Kreri in Baramulla District. He is the Editor-in-Chief of the Kashmir Media Group that publishes the English daily, Rising Kashmir, and soon-to-be launched Urdu daily, Bulund Kashmir. He had his early education in Sopore, Beerwah and then in Srinagar where from he got his post-graduate degree in English from the University of Jammu and Kashmir, and took up job as a teacher in higher education department. He taught English in various colleges in Kashmir took voluntary retirement in 1995 as Professor. Even though not a professional journalist by training, he has been extremely successful in the field, launching SANGARMAL, the first ever multi-coloured Kashmiri newspaper from Srinagar which is now in its fourth year. Later in 2008, he created the Kashmir Media Group. His interests are reading and writing and building value based institutions.)

Fragile Kashmir

Is Kashmir really fragile or has it been made to behave like that; Does this question boggling the minds of those who cover, analyze and interpret the political perceptions! This week’s incidents in Baramulla have shown that no one controls Kashmir but only those who want to keep the pot boiling. In this game of losing the control both the government as well as the mainstream political parties and the separatist camp have major lessons to learn.

Chairman of moderate Hurriyat Conference, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq did pass an oblique reference to this situation on Thursday when he talked about having a consensus before chalking out a protest programme. He even used the word “anarchy” but stopped short of taking on those who have virtually taken over the “separatist movement” and the likes of Mirwaiz either had to follow them or be silent. There has been lot of debate over stone pelting and frequent strikes during the past few months. No consensus, though, has emerged but one thing is clear; strikes are the only weapon to resist and protest the atrocities since we have transformed from violent to non-violent mode. This is, notwithstanding the fact that many of those who have been strong advocates of strikes (hartals) are the columnists who are well paid as government employees. Nevertheless, people also pay heed to a strike call to register the protest against the oppression in the “times of normalcy”.

Leaving the debate there, the situation which unfolded in Baramulla was painful in many ways and it reflected how we as Kashmiris only go by perceptions, as the discontent and disillusionment on the ground has touched the level where any small wrongdoing has the potential to take shape of a fully fledged agitation. Same thing happened in Baramulla where the Police was handling a simple case of kidnapping of a 15- year old girl from Binner. The accused in the case was identified and one of the accomplices was rounded up. His wife went to police station to seek his release but was not obliged. She came out and alleged that she was misbehaved and police passed indecent remarks at her. This worked like a jungle fire and the whole town was up in flames consuming four innocent lives - all of them young boys who had a long road ahead to traverse. The first part of the story, meaning the cause of agitation which we saw in following days was then overshadowed by the dance of death and destruction in the town. As rightly pointed out by Union Home Minister P Chidambaram that Kashmir is fragile, the perception again played a part here. Those who took to streets see the establishment as anti-people and are ready to take any allegation which is subject to scrutiny as Gospel truth. Whether the woman was right or not, no one bothered to cross check, but the seeds of alienations are sown so deep that people in Kashmir, in the language of Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, have lost faith in the state institutions. It should have been vice versa; people staging a protest against abduction of young girl but that did not happen. Why? The question can be answered by rulers who have been voted to power with record percentage of voter turnout in the state.

Before moving to the response of the administration, it needs an explanation as to why the young Kashmiris should fall prey to such a situation in which four young boys give their blood for something which is not part of the struggle. The elders in the town as well as the leaders of separatist movement cannot shirk the responsibility. It is their duty to guide the youth in the right direction so that the number of widows and orphans does not go up in the situations like this. If there is a vested interest working in Baramulla, both the separatist camp as well as the district administration should pin point that, otherwise the anarchy as mentioned by Mirwaiz will take a heavy toll.

The response of the government to this situation was simply barbaric. It could not handle the protest of a few hundred people and opened direct fire upon the youth who were in the fore front. The way it was handled only leads us to the conclusion that the administration, particularly the Police set up is leaderless. Reacting to stone pelting in such a harsh manner cannot be condoned and those responsible for the crime should be booked. If it was the CRPF which fired where was the Police top brass and in one case it was Police, why this license to kill? These are the questions which Chief Minister should answer. From Shopian to Baramulla now it is clear that Chief Minister is not being guided properly by his top aides in civil and police administration. It is time to overhaul the Police set up and brings radical changes, by showing door to complacent officials who are busy in obliging all, in wholesale, from an ordinary block level party worker to a minister, to protect their plump positions. The state cannot be left at the mercy of such non serious officials who have no concern for the lives of the people. It is time for the youngest Chief Minister to pick up a new team of officers and start afresh; at least to get us rid off the bloodbath.

It is obligatory upon the separatists as well to redefine the strategy and do not allow unscrupulous elements to put everything in the “Azadi basket” and take heavy toll of lives. Resistance movements are run through strategies and not by calling for a three days strike in a huff and bring everything to standstill. To protest the killing of innocents in Baramulla is but natural, but such a step should be taken after a collective decision and it should not be given to understand that only one or a particular section has the right to do so. People here have no option but to follow. But that following needs a direction. In Baramulla the mourning is far more genuine but there also the local leaders have responsibility to counsel the youth in right direction and not allow any vested interest to misuse the slogan of “Azadi” under the cover of perceptions. While the erring CRPF and Police personnel responsible for killings should be brought to book forthwith, the allegations of women should also be investigated through an impartial inquiry.

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