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, February 19, 2010

It is About Time

J&K Domestic Violence Bill is long overdue. While such an announcement has been made, there are concerns about effectivess of the Bill because the process is not transparent enough. A women's group, "Athwaas" protests.

Law on Violence Against Women in Offing

Srinagar: Government will introduce a bill in the budget session of the state legislature for the protection of women against domestic violence. The decision was taken at the state's winter capital at a meeting chaired by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah late Monday night.

The decision was taken in the backdrop of several cases of mysterious deaths of women in Jammu and Kashmir, attributed to a demand for dowry or harassment of women by in-laws.

Omar Abdullah had promised that the government would act fast in such matters, and in Monday night's Cabinet meeting it was decided that the Law Ministry in consultation with the Social Welfare Ministry will introduce a bill in the Budget session, which will commence Feb 22.

It is pertinent to mention here that the Cabinet has approved five Bills for introduction in the Legislative Assembly, including the one for fixing the term of Mayor of Jammu and Srinagar Municipal Corporations at two-and-a-half years instead of present one year.

Jammu and Kashmir Arbitration and Cancellation Amendment Bill 2010 is the other prominent Bill which would be submitted in the ensuing Assembly session. (Kashmir Images)

Make Domestic Violence Bill Public: Women’s body to Govt

Srinagar: Welcoming the government’s decision to introduce the Domestic Violence Bill in the forthcoming assembly session, Athwaas, an alliance of women from Ladakh, Kashmir and Jammu, has underlined the importance to put up the bill on General Administrative Department’s official website for public comments.

“It is only fair that women’s groups and those who had been actively engaging with the issue to personally read the government’s proposed domestic violence bill so as to suggest recommendations. Moreover, for democratizing the various processes unfolding in the state it is important that people are involved so as to evolve a participatory and transparent approach for governance,” a statement issued by the organization reads.

Athwaas members had pursued the matter by first approaching the Social Welfare department where they were told that all procedures have been completed and the Law department has already vetted the bill and that amendments could be made later.

“This was not acceptable to us. We then wrote to the Chief Minister Omar Abdullah about our demand on January 16. He personally responded on January 18 and assured us that he will forward our demand to General Administrative Department to be examined by them. We are still awaiting their response,” the Athwaas statement reads.

Pertinently, last year Right to Information bill was put up on the GAD website for public scrutiny.

Meanwhile, Athwaas has urged media and members of legislatures to help make this important legislation public so that women can make comments on the same.

Since 2002, Athwaas has been engaging with women at the grassroots through Samanbal Centres located in all the three regions of the State on issues related to their emotional, social and economic security. The women who come to these centres are further in touch with their local communities and reach out to them with information, solidarity and collective action.

According to Athwaas statement, major issue which the Samanbal members were particularly concerned was violence within the private space of home.

“Initially it was a challenge to open discourse in this area as it was being perceived that any law which addresses this would break families. There continued to be denial within the society that domestic violence exists in Jammu and Kashmir. However figures and facts told us a different story. Every region’s gender narrative revealed that while social communities in all the three regions proscribed violence against women, violations of women’s rights were being sanctioned under the garb of cultural practices,” the statement reads.

To bring this to the foreground Athwaas organized several workshops within the Samanbals. The workshops were designed to highlight the intersectionality of private, public and political violence within the framework of the human rights discourse. Athwaas also organized joint Samanbal workshops wherein grassroots women from the three regions for the first time came together to discuss domestic violence and draft recommendations for draft bill to be made into an Act as the state of Jammu and Kashmir unlike the rest of India does not have Domestic Violence Act.

The members were also trained as trainers to further take the idea to local communities. Myths about the Act that it would punish men and break families were also dispersed. The Act it was told would essentially protect women.

(Rising Kashmir)

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