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.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Arshi's Dream

Arshi shares her innocent views in a world full of bigotry. Will Kashmir be an abode of tolerance once again?

(Ms. Arshi Javid, 20, was born in the Lal Chowk area of Srinagar. She completed her schooling from the Tiny Harts School. Ms. Javid is pursuing a graduate degree in Humanities at the Government College for Women, Maulana Azad Road, Srinagar. She has been actively writing in newspapers from last three years and was awarded budding journalist award by the Rotary Club of Kashmir. As a socially concerned Kashmiri youngster, she wants to contribute on local issues emanating from the turmoil.)

Tryst With Chaos

I opened my eyes to mayhem, bullets and bombs. Political uncertainty had gripped my native city-Kashmir. I was born in 1988 when armed insurgency broke out in valley. During the formative years life meant firings, cross firings, crackdowns and curfews. A long day of 24 hours was squeezed to 6 or 7 hours for us. Markets and schools would open at 10 in the morning only to close down at 4 in the afternoon. My canvas of life never brimmed with joy, it will always grim, blood oozed out of it. One left home without the surety of returning back to their homes without any confirmation of seeing their loved ones again.

I don’t remember playing with dolls or watching cartoons. My favorite toy was gun and my mother says that I always threw tantrums for buying a Kalashnikov. Conflict always takes a toll on the psyche of children. I perhaps realized the meaning of life first time when I moved out of valley for touring other states of India. Unlike me, my peers outside the valley were fearless, confident and their day extended much beyond 5 in the afternoon. I couldn’t relate to them because no political conflict pulled the strings of their life.

As soon as I realized and understood the realities around me, the conflict outside traversed in and forced me to think a bit differently. Out of sufferings emerge the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars. The changing social definitions perturbed me. The syncretism that integrated all the religions, castes and creeds was reduced to books Mistrust had crept in, friends had become foes, and politics ruled supreme, above emotions and values. Kashmiri Hindus had taken a flight to other states of India leaving their home and hearths behind. The secular social fabric which was a pride of Kashmir had been torn down. Conflict gave us a legacy of widows and orphans and they mushroomed across all the corners of valley. Women have become the worst sufferers of all and continue to reel under the fear. Some were raped, molested, made to live as half-widows-a term coined for women whose husbands disappeared mysteriously in the years of militancy. Some turned bereaved mothers and sisters. Their Hindu counterparts who left the valley during mass exodus suffocate and bear insults in the relief camps across India. Be it a traitor, a government loyalist or a militant, he belonged to a family. And, the pain of losing your kin remains the same regardless of the social tags. Recent medical research’s conducted in valley suggest that over the last 20 years women have been target victims of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Growing up in a conflict zone like Kashmir, that has become a bone of contention between two nuclear giants India and Pakistan, I have figured out that there is an immense need of addressing the grassroots issues other than he big issues that will be solved with the help of international actors. I am a BA final year student and wish to apply for social policy and social work at Oxford.

My conviction in upholding the human dignity and human rights, freedom of individual made me to participate in a number of debates, seminars, elocution competitions at my school level. My endeavor was never about getting the first prize but it was withholding the principles I believed in. I participated in a number of debates and group discussions- few of them organized by Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, directorate of ecology (Kashmir division), ANHAD- an Non government organisation.

At some stage in my high school realized a media interaction is essential for promoting the libertarian, egalitarian and secular set of ideas I believe in. I began writing on various social issues and luckily my writings were placed in renowned newspapers. While in college I began my journey as a feature writer in a widely read local daily Greater Kashmir. The earliest feature I jotted down was about Shivratri - a revered festival of Kashmiri Hindus which is believed to be a day when Lord Shiva married Godess Parvati. It was my idea of letting the new generation know that some other festival besides Eid was celebrated in Kashmir valley and how Muslims celebrated this festival along with their Hindu neighbours and friends. Besides, a tribute to the religious diversity which Kashmir enjoyed once.

I wrote on issues ranging from disability concerns, domestic violence and its effect on children, old aged men deserted by their children tracing life of minorities-like Tibetan Buddhists who are living a life of exile in Kashmir. I did a series of stories with orphans of conflict living in the various orphanages of the valley. I was awarded the best budding writer title in by the Rotary Club of Kashmir. One of my writing over disability communication has been awarded a first prize by Ali Yavar Jung Institute for the hearing handicapped. I have also worked as a volunteer for various non government organizations. I assisted relief operations during 2005 when the deadly earthquake stuck Kashmir.

If given a chance, I would like to enter the reputable university with an aim of acquiring an in-depth knowledge, using the university as a platform to share my ideas and experiences with myriad fellows. It would provide me a space for interacting, associating and trying to find a middle ground for resolving the conflicts and uplifting the sufferers. Being a woman myself and having seen women suffering around, I understand their pain and anguish. I would love to get involved in programmes that aim at emancipating the women. I will bring forth issues that woman confront, provide them knowledge about laws and legal safeguards, empower them socially, involve them in decision making and assess their role in decision making at family, work and nation.

Later in my life, I have a dream of starting a magazine which will deal with the issues of women and having a publishing house of own which will promote women writers in particular. I aim to use my energy in helping woman entrepreneurs throughout the Kashmir valley -micro-financing them, promoting them and their products. I would like to be instrumental in restoring Kashmir to its earlier position of being in the vanguard of the advancement of human civilization and helping in the restoration of its pluralistic culture. My ability will be synergized in a direction of establishing gender and gender perspectives as important themes in academic disciplines and its raising consciousness about gender issues in private life. I promise to work with utmost dedication. Most of all I will make sure that I will return to my roots and contribute towards the development of my people. Moreover, being a part of the big, positive social change.

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