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, August 22, 2009

Kashmir's Tryst With its Own Brand of Madness

Mehmood lays out a compelling argument for reforming certain elements of a mostly rude and ill-behaved Kashmiri society once you get past his incredulous argument relating Kashmir's history and culture to a country that did not even exist a few decades back!

(Mr. Mehmood-ur-Rashid, 36, was born in Srinagar. He graduated from the Amar Singh College, Srinagar. He has been active in journalism for over ten years, and currently works at the Greater Kashmir, having worked in the past at the Rising Kashmir as the Features Editor.)

Shepherd This Herd

For three days Pahalgam was all about a people mad and Government absent. But before we talk about that madness and absence, certain other things need a paramount reminder. It’ll help in building up a perspective to evaluate things and save the comment from being an irate response to all the discomfort that fell ones lot while being in the Shepherds’ Valley for three days of absolute chaos.

Two nations flanking us on either side had their days of independence; 14th for Pakistan and 15thIndia. Both the nations are confronted with their own set of problems, as states and as a collectivity of people as well. Still they have a reason to celebrate their days of independence. But what should Kashmir do while both unfurl the flags and play the anthems. During the heydays of armed struggle 14th of August would see Pakistan being celebrated in Kashmir also. But 15th was always a black day. The day that reminds us of the loss of independence. Entire Kashmir would, more or less, understand and act out these two days the same way for many years. But after having experienced the deadly face of Indian state, people gradually stepped back from undertaking any activities on the 14th of August. This was exacerbated by the kind of obnoxious politics played out by Pakistan over Kashmir. People no more found any point in celebrating a day that practically belonged to someone else. Needless to say that Kashmir shares a positive relationship with Pakistan, the idea and its people. But over these years the lesson was driven home that we cannot afford to be considered as an appellate body of the state of Pakistan. Our political struggle cannot always be the reflection of Pakistan’s foreign and defense policy. (Here we must remember that we share a permanent relationship with the people of Pakistan and as a geographical and cultural continuity we cannot conduct a mutiny of realities just because the Establishment in Pakistan behaves a particular way. Our relation with Pakistan should be guided by larger realities of history and culture than immediate politics. Of course we need to be mindful of what is going on in Pakistan. We can re-engineer the outward structure of relationship with Pakistan, but any thoughts of severing the ties are bound to have disastrous impact on us.)

About the 15th of August, people still reject it and going on strike is almost a national ritual in Kashmir. But here too a change has set in; except that perfunctory hartal the content of resistance that would flow into this day is almost entireluy absent. Now what people usually do on these days is to push off early morning towards some health resort and enjoy a few moments with family and friends. Although this is just being human and in a dithered and protracted struggle the banalities of life cannot be held hostage to the rhetorical politics; this finer dimension of life needs fuller acknowledgement so that national struggle is not needlessly burdened.

And this is what people did on 14, 15 and 16th of August. Three holidays in a row, scorching heat and Ramadhan being days away, people set out in different directions to hang out. Pahalgam was one such place. Thousands of vehicles speeded up towards Pahalgam, all packed. Though the hamlet was full on the 14th morning, but the ceaseless flow of cars and bikes ensured that Pahalgam burst at its seams. What followed was complete pandemonium. This beautiful valley witnessed some of the ugliest things from its visitors during these three days. When thousands of vehicles honked horns all at once, hordes after hordes jostled into each other; agitated young boys craned necks out of the windows like wild creatures and yelled at each other; when abuses were hurled randomly at whosoever came ones way and all the none sense was displayed; when dust was sold at the price of gold and people paid thousands to find a place in a barn, one was reminded of that comment made by Rudyard Kipling that once every year Indians turn mad, a reference to the celebrations of Holi.

Is this the people that cry for high end political goals and heavenly morality! One wondered was it all the force of situation that made people behave in a particular way or was this the seamy side of our collective being. Generalizations definitely don’t work but what got displayed by us at Pahalgam deserves serious reflection. When millions gather in Europe and America, not even a particle is disturbed, and when thousands of us descend on a place, turbidity sets into the depths of that land. The peaks, pines and parks of Pahalgam can vouch for that. For three days the beauty of this valley silently watched the chaotic crowds, expressing itself in most frenzied way; as if all else had fallen down and Pahalgam was the last post conquered.

Before we consider it as an exaggerated and misplaced reading of things, as a people, we need to think that if left to ourselves to take care of our resources, both human and physical, what will we do! We will pour the contaminated water in a bottle and sell it as purified mineral water. We will make thousands suffer by displaying machismo on a bike or by making a nasty attempt to overtake other vehicles, making hundreds others strand.

About the government; less said the better. If a VIP cavalcade has to pass by a particular area entire administration is made to stand on toes. But here none bothered even to make an announcement that Pahalgam cannot afford any more visitors and people are advised not to go there.

The conclusions that one can draw from this experience are that the rhetoric of ‘mainstream’ political parties about development is all false. The talk of tourism is nothing but a hoax. The governments in Srinagar are midwives of Delhi. Whatever nasty has to be delivered here is assisted by them. They can manage lakhs of Yatris over some months but not some thousands of their own people over just three days.

On the other side, we need to understand that unless the quality of people is made a basic theme of national movement, even if our aspirations are met, things will stay the way they are. We will have some ardent and passionate supporter of Kashmir’s national movement depressingly jotting down his impressions about the failure of a huge enterprise and the ugly characters coming to the fore to rule the lands after independence. Like Mukhtar Masood of Pakistan; or that Jammu boy Qudratullah Shuhab. Geelani Sahib may please take note of this as he is deeply rooted in reformative politics. Dropping the shutters down doesn’t serve the purpose, lifting the blinkers does!

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