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.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Preserving Heritage

An Editorial in the Greater Kashmir bats for preserving our heritage and suggests some organizational changes

Preserving Culture

It is not an exaggeration. The mere mention of Kashmir culture annoys the state top bureaucracy. It is manifest in their apathy towards its promotion. Notwithstanding many of them having served in the state administration for over past two and a half decades, they are yet to realize the importance of preserving culture of a nation, sub-nation or an ethnic group in strengthening integrity of a state with diverse cultures, numerous languages and people professing different faiths.

They are yet to understand the fact that culture is the link between people and their value system. It has been but for their indifference that many institutions even of the feudal times meant for the promotion of culture, language and literature of the state have crumbled one after another.

It looked like a silver lining across the firmament cast with thick dark clouds when one of the advisors of the Chief Minister announced that a sum of Rs. 1.5 crores would be spent on the renovation of the Tagore Hall, in Srinagar. The Tagore Hall that was built in 1958 by the then Prime Minister of State is the only theatre in the capital of Srinagar for the performing arts. The hall was built at a time when the city of Srinagar was spread over eight square kilometers and was sparsely populated.

During the past fifty years there has been ten times increase in the population and the city is no more confined to six bridges on the river Jhelum. It sounded sonorous when he said that the government was committed to preserve the cultural heritage of the state and an internationally reputed heritage conservation consultant had been roped in for the purpose. It is an admitted fact that besides about half a dozen full-fledged government department meant for persevering heritage, culture, art, architecture, language and literature, both the state and the centre government has been funding many non-governmental organizations.

But a coordinated effort for promoting culture of the state more particularly of Kashmir has been missing. In keeping with persistent demand made by writers, poets, artists, sculptors and cultural activists the government under Ghulam Nabi Azad had created an independent department of culture in the government but the state bureaucracy was quick in abolishing the department after the new government took over. In the very first cabinet meeting memo was introduced to abolish the newly created department of culture and merge it with the tourism department without even allowing the Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah to realize the spirit behind creating of this department. This decision disappointed men of letters and lovers of culture and art.

The department of culture in the government had been created with an aim bringing under one canopy all the departments and organization dedicated to the promotion of culture and preservation of the rich heritage of the state. The creation of separate department under a senior minister had been seen as a step towards bringing in greater coordination in the activities of various departments and organization for promotion of culture. The departments that were brought within the ambit of the Department of Culture included the Jammu and Kashmir Academy of Art, Culture, Languages and literature, the Department of Archives, Archeology and Museums, Department of Libraries and Research. These department before creation of the department of culture had been appended to the department of education and putting them under the department of tourism after its winding up sounds ironical.

Seen in the right perspective the departments that were putting under the umbrella of the Department of culture were a collage of the departments that for better performance deserved to be made an independent unit. The government had long mooted the idea of creating three separate academies for Art, Culture and Languages. It also had contemplated of creating an independent department of history, research and publication as existed during the autocratic rule. The department was expected to translate the great literary treasure of Kashmir in modern languages.

The Chief Minister, not only needs to relook at the decision of abolishing the department of culture but also to explore the possibilities of creating three different academies for promotion of culture and taking steps for making great literary treasure of Kashmir available to new generation.

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