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.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Is Kashmir Heading to Civil War?

Fayyaz sees Kashmir caught between uninspiring leaders each with an axe to grind

(Mr. Ahmed Ali Fayyaz, 48, was born in Bodina, Budgam, and received his primary and secondary education in Budgam and later at Amar Singh College, Srinagar. He completed his Master's degree in Kashmiri language and literature from the University of Kashmir in 1987. After working with Rashtriya Sahara and Kashmir Times in 1993-94, and later for 13 years as Srinagar Bureau Chief of Daily Excelsior, he is woking as Resident Editor/ Srinagar Bureau Chief of Jammu-based English daily Early Times ( since April 2009. He is also a filmmaker whose forte in audio-visual media is Kashmir's composite culture, heritage, ecology and social issues. Since February 2008, he has been regularly anchoring Take One Television's bi-weekly hard talk show "Face To Face With Ahmed Ali Fayyaz" which is watched by more than three million viewers in Srinagar, Jammu and other urban areas of Jammu & Kashmir.)

Is Kashmir heading to civil war ?

· Sectarian clash in Pattan runs into third month

· Stone pelting unabated in Valley in third consecutive year

· Geelani supporters attack JKLF relief delegation in Sopore

· Jamiatul Mujahideen threatens Mufti Azam over Fatwa against stone pelting

· Jamiat-e-Ahl-e-Hadith calls its own Chief as ‘agency man’

This is what Kashmir has reluctantly and painfully witnessed in the first three months of the year 2010. These ‘anti-movement’ headlines may have found little room on front pages of the vernacular press in Srinagar but the space occupied by an overstretching chain of anarchical events on the landscape of closed-door political debate in the Valley appears to be alarming. Hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s volte face, from audaciously supporting the culture of stone pelting in 2009 to taking the youngsters’ oath against the same in 2010, is perhaps a stark admission of the fact that the leaderless, directionless separatist movement was turning into a civil war in the 21st year of its existence.

Kashmir’s problem is that Geelani alone has the capacity of sailing against the wind. All others, mainstream as well as separatist politicians, have either abdicated their responsibility or forfeited their authority by expediently strengthening Geelani’s constituency. Even as the PDP supremo Mufti Mohammad Sayeed realized the dangers of playing the politics of camouflage during the litmus test of his space and strength in the wake of Amarnath shrine land row in 2008, New Delhi’s recognition of this brand of politics has been emphatic enough to lure the state’s only no-nonsense Chief Minister Omar Abdullah.

For his passion of stealing “Hurriyat’s space”---without realizing that Hurriyat was simply a postal address of the armed insurgency--- Mufti had left no stone unturned in his policy of the appeasement of the Kashmiri separatists. He failed in his mission of demilitarization and revocation of Armed Forces Special Powers Act but succeeded in grabbing erstwhile Muslim United Front’s election symbol, releasing most of the Hurriyat detainees, extending the benefits of ex gratia relief to the slain militants’ families and opening surface communication links between J&K and Pakistan-administered Kashmir. Whatever the reasons, Director General of Police, A K Suri, was removed and got replaced by the dove Gopal Sharma in days of the custodial killing of Hizbul Mujahideen’s “Chief Commander of Operations” Saiful Islam.

And when the litmus test came in August 2008, Geelani was the hero and Mufti a villain, no different from the hawkish Farooq Abdullah and the counter-insurgent Kukka Parray.

Weighing the options between the lessons Kashmir taught to PDP in 2008 and the high value of the politics of camouflage in New Delhi’s South Block, Omar Abdullah decided in favour of the latter. This is what seems to have prevented him from asserting over the massive mandate he got against the masters of anarchy in the Assembly elections of November-December 2009. Good governance does not remain relevant in this kind of a culture which does have a little room for political and administrative accountability but none for the intellectual accountability that has been the corner stone of the idea of India. Demonisation of terror, violence and anarchy are obviously no priorities in this culture.

The free-for-all has been a no-holds-barred phenomenon in the last 15 months of the NC-led coalition Government. Finding the government at a receiving end of all miseries, everybody has found it easy to target the establishment with brickbats. Much more than fighting for their lawful rights, trade union leaders have been publicly abusing head of the government for the “killing” of Zahid Farooq and Wamiq Farooq. If CBI investigation in the Shopian tragedy is to be believed, even the government’s Public Prosecutors have conspired with “anti-national elements” in creating a hostile atmosphere for Police and security forces.

Why would the stone pelting stop if nobody in government or any mainstream political party has the spine to dismiss the menace as an anarchy unacceptable to the government and civil society ? Geelani deserves credit for audaciously asserting against the stone pelting even as he alone had pioneered supporting it in recent past and it had, subsequently, generated more and more admiration everywhere from Kashmir University to Bar to militants.

Significantly, Geelani has now begun to occupy the space that has been left vacant by the government and mainstream politicians in Pattan, which has been a flashpoint of sectarian strife in the last three months. While addressing a well-attended rally, Geelani boldly praised Ayatullah Khomeini and Islamic poet-philosopher Iqbal in his most audacious attempt of joining the warring factions in Magam area.

Courtesy an extension of the healing touch era, Geelani’s constituency is expanding but he too may not be competent enough to douse the flames of internecine feud in Jamiat-e-Ahl-e-Hadith and prevent the radicals from attacking the institution of Mufti Azam. Absence of a leader of Sheikh Abdullah’s stature in Kashmir’s politics today is bound to drift the Valley into a civil war---if not today, definitely tomorrow.

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