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, August 27, 2009

Cause and Effect

When religious opportunists politicize morality, social freedom is the first victim. Two inter-related events that happened in Srinagar and Sopore on August 24, 2009, followed by a thought provoking editrial in the Kashmir Observer

Mirwaiz Paints Alarming Picture Of Society

Srinagar: The chairman of the Hurriyat (M), Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, today said that vice, immorality, waywardness and drugs were being promoted in the valley in the name of culture under the patronage of the government, and that there was no time to sit with folded hands as society appeared to be heading fast towards disaster.

In a statement issued today, the Mirwaiz said that Islamic, moral and human values were being sought to be defaced throughout the valley under a considered conspiracy, and that various agencies were active on a large scale to hollow out Kashmir’s national identity in the garb of education and culture.

“It is a strong demand of the times to launch an awareness drive against this alarming trend,” the statement said.

“The society is on the brink of disaster. The tide of social evils has engulfed us all, and emerging out of this quagmire appears very difficult if not impossible,” it said.

Holding moral transgressions responsible for the worsening state of the society, the Mirwaiz said that a people condoning depravity could not move forward on real progress and success.

“Shameful and deplorable acts are taking place in rapid succession, and the valley that was famous for righteousness today appears to be devoid of religion, morals, character, and social values, and an abode of all sorts of evils,” he said.

“Vice and immorality are being spawned under government patronage in the name of culture,” he said.

“The shameful exploitation of innocent girls under the garb of recreational tours is a challenge to our pride and self-respect, and needs to be combated vigourously,” he said.

The Mirwaiz appealed to teachers in schools, colleges and universities not to confine themselves to academics but to impart moral guidance and character-building to the new generation,” the Mirwaiz said, adding that including Islamic and moral curriculum was essential for this.

He said that intellectuals, writers, religious scholars and parents would have to strive hard to save the sinking boat of the society from moral decline.
“This is not the time to sit with folded hands as society is speeding towards disaster. Long and short term, consistent and positive action is needed to save society from this lethal pandemic,” he said. (Kashmir Observer)

College principal beaten up

Sopore: Two unidentified gunmen today beat up the principal of Government Degree College, Dr. Peer Muhammad Ashraf, when he was on way to the college.

Peer was traveling along with his son from Dangiwacha to Sopore in his car, when they were intercepted by two gunmen near Watergam and beaten severely. The assailants set the car (No JK05A-0958) ablaze and threatened him to enforce the rule of wearing veils by girl students in his college and to also inform other colleges. He said, they had given him three days to enforce the dress code. (Greater Kashmir)

State Of Society (Editorial in Kashmir Observer)

It could not have been merely for rhetorical effect that Mirwaiz Umer Farooq came out with a harsh verdict of the state of Kashmiri society last week – nor could the Jama’at-e-Islami’s copycat act have been an exercise in competitive alarmism aimed mainly at doing one better than the Mirwaiz. Both are supposed to be responsible institutions, and their estimations of the society deserve more than a cursory look. Though couched in vague generalities, they have given an acutely disturbing impression of the state of our society, with the Mirwaiz going so far as to say that it (society) appeared to be ‘devoid of religion, morals, character and social values.’ Strong words indeed. But with little in them to indicate that they are, in fact, warranted. The temptation to dismiss this diatribe as a routine fire-and-brimstone denunciation from the pulpit meant to put the fear of God into the hearts of mortals must be put aside for some serious questions.

There is little call for anyone holding the office of the Mirwaiz to incriminate society in such strong and sweeping terms - going to the extent of issuing a formal statement – unless there are urgent underlying reasons demanding immediate attention. The Mirwaiz and the Jama’at both have a vast network of sources embedded in society, and they must be privy to particulars unknown or unrecognized at the general level.

If indeed Kashmiri society has degenerated to such a level, its rightly concerned leaders have a duty to eschew banal pronouncements and put the hard, indisputable evidence before the public. Bey hayaiee, bey pardagi, uryaaniyat make for impressive elements in a sermon, but society cannot be cured by thundering denunciations against intangibles. Nor can turning on the government as a handy scapegoat, as the Mirwaiz has done, serve the purpose of corrective measures. Both the Mirwaiz and the Jama’at owe it to the society to spell out in stark and concrete terms the specifics of its ills. If their approximation of the society is correct, the time for diplomatic constructions and circumlocution is over. These institutions, which have assumed the mantle of the guardians of morality, must make the society confront the unpalatable truth about itself publicly and openly.

The state of the society as formulated by the Mirwaiz and the Jama’at is also a telling commentary on the role, or rather the lack of it, of both these institutions and the plethora of religious organizations engaged in so-called moral uplift of the masses for decades. If society is, in fact, on a declining trajectory, one can raise legitimate questions about the efficacy of the pulpit which has proliferated to an unwieldy level over the past two decades in particular.

With at least half-a-dozen mosques armed with highly vocal imams blaring the supremacy of our deen in every mohalla, one would have though that deviant behaviour was restricted to an unfortunate few outside the pale of the ministrations of the custodians of faith.

But taking the Mirwaiz and the Jama’at at their word leads to the inescapable conclusion that the past two decades of high-decibel moralizing have been an absolute failure. Had the phenomenon that began as far back as the early 80s, peaked in the 90s, and persists in several guises even today, been truly devoted to character-building, its impact could not have evaporated with such ease. Individual and collective morality appears to have been only an alibi, or at best a small, expedient component, of a wider design of wielding political power under the guise of faith.

Global experience, particularly in the immediate neighbourhood, has discredited this model, and the time has come for religious institutions in Kashmir to emerge out of its debris and acknowledge the enormity of their error. For, their obsession with the past, and somewhat questionable, glories of the Muslims of yore, seems to have blinded them to contemporary challenges.

Whether they like it or not, Muslims of today have to live in a deeply interconnected world, and not as secluded, ghettoized societies. Nor were they meant to be an insular entity with no impact on people outside their sphere. Today’s Muslims are subject to outside influences, healthy or unhealthy, like never before. The task before them is to sift and discriminate in what others have to offer. If we in Kashmir have been lagging on this count, it is because our leading lights have chosen indoctrination over real education. The tragedy is that many so-called thinkers in the Muslim world advocate a domination over the rest of the world without ever giving a thought to the basic essential – that in order for a society to have a positive influence on others, it must offer itself as an attractive, workable alternative.

One tangible, glaring and quantified trait of Kashmiri society comes readily to mind on reading the concerns of the Mirwaiz and the Jama’at – widespread financial corruption. Having had an unparalleled sway over the society for twenty years and more, these institutions have made no move, or utterly failed, to wean the masses away from what has eaten into the very vitals of society. How can they be relied upon to chart a course out of more intricate problems?

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