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.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Is "Irrelevance of Borders" an Innovative Concept?

Rekha says that if you love Kashmir, please do not waste your time arguing about the real estate

(Prof. Rekha Chowdhary, 55, was born in Jammu and has been a university teacher for the past 30 years. She is currently the Professor of Political Science, University of Jammu. During her distinguished teaching career, she was the visiting Fellow under a Ford Foundation grant at the Queen Elizabeth House, Oxford, in 1992-1993; winner of the Commonwealth Award availed at the University of Oxford, 1997-1998; and the Fulbright Fellow availed at the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) at the Johns Hopkins University, Washington DC, in 2005.)

The Boundaries and the People

Interestingly, this is the place where the ‘reality’ of humanity and human relations is officially asserted by the State and the ‘constructed’ divide is rejected. Whether that divide is created in the name of the religion or the nation – it is seen to be artificial. Most important of all, the ‘boundary’ is seen as artificial and unnatural.

The message that boundaries cannot divide the hearts is the most appropriate message. If there is any doubt about that one can see the emotional scenes at the Zero point when people come from the Rawlakot side or when they leave. For one person who is coming or going, there are many more who are there to welcome or to see off. These are the divided families who are now part of two different nations. There is a story after story about the brothers and sisters having not met each other for as many as sixty years, about an aunt or uncle not seeing the young nephews and nieces, about a grandfather or grandmother not having got the opportunity to be close to their grandchildren.... These are the close relatives, the blood relations who have now become the citizens of two different nations - divided by boundary and distanced not merely by the miles between them but by mutual hostility of the two nations - India and Pakistan. Living just few miles apart, they would not be able to see each other, and if they did meet, they would have to take circuitous route facing all the difficulties and obstacles. Many died without meeting their close ones....

Not only those who have their relatives but many more who have roots in their ancestral lands, want to cross the LoC. They see in the opening of the routes and the bus service between Uri and Muzafarabad and between Poonch and Rawlakot - a hope and for them the slogan - Sarhaden zameen baant sakti hain par dil nahin - is not a slogan but a reality! They are nostalgic about the places they have left behind and a mere mention of their ancestral place makes them emotional. Their emotions for these places persist even when they carry with them the memories of painful time of their displacement – not only the loss of the land but also the loss of their close ones; the bloodshed and the hatred that accompanied the partition of the State.

For these people who have been living with the reality of the LoC for last six decades, the opening of the borders, since 2005, has been the most crucial development. They are the ones who can understand as to why the border needs to dissolved and why the boundaries need to crossed. For them, it is not difficult at tall to understand the concept of ‘irrelevance of borders’.

The concept of ‘irrelevance of borders’ remains as the most innovative and the most practical response to the complex issues which underlie the protracted conflict in and over Jammu and Kashmir. It not only makes it possible for the people to meet across the LoC but also provides a way forward to the conflict resolution. It actually makes a paradigm shift to the understanding of conflict and conflict resolution process. The conflict has so far remained complex and intractable due to its location in ‘nationalistic’ paradigm which automatically creates non-negotiable and competitive claims. This paradigm also places premium on ‘territory’, ‘borders’, ‘boundary’ and ‘sovereignty’. ‘People’, in this paradigm are totally invisible and do not count at all.

The concept of ‘irrelevance of borders’ without touching on these ‘sensitive’ issues like ‘territory’, ‘boundary’ and ‘sovereignty’ , shifts the conflict to a new paradigm in which people not only become visible but also take a central place in the conflict resolution process. Standing at the LoC and reading all these slogans officially posted by the State, actually makes one understand as to what is this model of conflict resolution. ‘Aao Ham Dil Milayen’! It is an appeal from the state to people – to come forward, to do what the state cannot do – to unite and do away with the hostilities. It is invoking ‘humanity’ as the most important value. It calls for friendship between people, communities and nations. ‘Dosti, Yeh Dil Mange More’!!

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