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

The Ghost of Rural Kashmir

While Urban Kashmir is philosophising on Azadi, Rural Kashmir prays for the good life that city folks have

We are Born to Protest!

Asem Mohiuddin (Rising Kashmir)

Few days ago, my boss called up and told me to cover the Bandh in Kupwara the call for which was given by “Kupwara Save Committee”, a local committee which is constituted to raise the voice against the inter-district recruitment policy by government. The call was given in protest against the discrimination in recruitment process. People alleged that the people in Jammu are getting the “lions share” in government jobs whereas the Kashmir is ignored and discriminated.

It was my first visit to the place so I asked my younger brother to accompany me as he is familiar with the terrain.

As soon we reached Sopore where we saw a huge crowd roaming around the taxi stand. I knew they all are for Kupwara. The traffic was off the roads and drivers refused to leave the stand as all the roads heading to Kupwara were blocked. “People have burnt tyres on the roads holding lathis in their hands and aren’t allowing any vehicle to ply on road,” said a worried passenger.

But somehow we persuaded a driver and as soon as he opened the windows of his taxi, it was jam packed. I could hardly breathe. A seat which can accommodate only three passengers has to bear the weight of five people and two kids. One can imagine the plight of, both, the seat and the passengers.

I told driver to move and soon we were on road. Before leaving the driver asked us to pay the fair first plus twenty rupees extra. There was a verbal brawl but finally we settle down and left for the destination. On my right side there was a middle aged lady with her two young daughters who were sitting on front seat. The lady seemed disappointed and justifies the strike. She said, ‘there is every reason to hold such protests the other day I heard that for the posts of SI (Sub inspector), a price tag of six lakh rupees has been fixed. How can a common person afford it?’

As we were talking our vehicles came to a grinding halt. I saw with a sign board, it was Wahipora, a village. There was a diminutive group of children led by some elder people protesting on the road. They had set on fire the tyre to stop the movement of traffic.

We requested them to pave the way for us but they refused. Meanwhile another vehicle was also stopped. A man came out of the vehicle holding camera in his hand. He repeated the same question but the answer was again ‘No’. He told them he is from press. His vehicle was allowed but on the condition that protesting children will be pictured and the picture will be published in newspaper.

It was now my turn to prove my identity. I produce by identity card and told them that I also belong to the press and has come to cover the protest. But they disagreed as I had no camera. We have some argument finally they were conceived and allow us to move.

By the time we reached Handwara, the protest has already begun and it was led by none other than Er Rashid himself.

There were people and people everywhere, they were pouring from everywhere, from every corner and all of the sudden a sea of people gathered around. Among this crowd I sighted a visibly frustrated old man holding a lathi in his hand. He said, “I am here to stop the vehicles. We will make this strike a success. I have worked very hard to get my three sons educated. All of them are graduates now but see their condition, they ran from pillar to post in search of job and always returned disappointed as they find no job. Government is cheating upon us. We can’t tolerate this injustice.”

I heard a scream from behind I turned my head and saw a middle-aged man pointing fingers towards me. He said, ‘Who are you? I replied that I am a reporter working with a local newspaper. The man seemed unimpressed and before I can say anything he came up with volleys of questions. He commended me to right only whatever says. He said, ‘write in your newspaper that Kashmiris have been discriminated in every sphere.’ Kashmiris are not once but also exploited by none other than their own people.’ ‘Write down that to be born in Kashmir is a sin and it becomes a big sin when you happened to be born in rural Kashmir’ this isn’t the first time that we call for bandh and it won’t be last either. We are born to protest and will protest’

The man speaks with a force and that force was divine. I was shattered with his speech, I left the place in disdain, and he has done something to me. He has awakened something in me. For a moment I turn my head to right and man was nowhere. He disappeared like a ghost. I ask many who he was but no knows. Can any answer me who he was?

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