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, March 28, 2010

Neutralizing Duplicity

Rekha looks at empowerment of Kashmiri women's as part of the empowerment of the Kashmiri society as a whole

(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.)

PR Bill: Debate it Further

This article is another intervention in the debate on the recently introduced Permanent Resident (Disqualification) Bill in the state legislature. The two articles published in the Rising Kashmir: Sadaf Munshi’s ‘Revisiting the PR Bill: Why only Women’ and Abdul Majid Zargar’s ‘Permanent Resident (disqualification) Bill’ have already given us an idea about the range of responses that the Bill has generated. The debate has been interestingly carried on the pages of Facebook, especially in response to Sadaf Munshi’s article which has raised lot of emotions. As against her argument that the Bill is discriminatory against women and deprives them of their basic right to live a life of dignity and equal treatment along with men, there are all kinds of arguments being made in its favour, some of these reflected in Zargar’s article as well.

The basic logic underlying all these arguments is that the Bill is necessitated by the need to preserve the ‘Kashmiri identity’ and to maintain its ‘special status’. Like Zargar many see in the Bill a ‘conspiracy’ at the behest of the ‘Centre’ or ‘the Indian State’ to encroach into the ‘rights of Kashmiris’ and to change the demography of Kashmir. The way the arguments are made, the issue of women’s rights is either considered unnecessary or subordinated to the ‘larger political cause’. In the first category fall those who, like Zargar, argue that the secondary status of women is a ‘social reality’, perpetuated by the existing customs of marriage as well as the existing law of citizenship which continue to place women in a secondary and subordinated position. Unapologetic as they are about the existing practice, they see nothing wrong if the proposed disqualification Bill reinforces the secondary position of women and ‘disempowers’ them further. For many of them women just form a number-hence many who are disqualified by being ‘married out of the state’ are balanced by those who are ‘married in the state’ and become entitled to be the Permanent Residents. Blissfully ignorant of the desire of the modern woman to be seen as a ‘person’ in her own right, to be counted as a ‘right bearing citizen’ and to be claiming a life of ‘dignity’, they continue to see the status of women as derivative of their relationship with men. It is difficult to engage this mindset on the question of women’s rights. However, it may be more fruitful to engage those who are familiar with the language of women’s rights but are favouring the Bill since they consider that issue of women’s rights is of lesser significance as compared to the larger issue of ‘rights of Kashmiris’.

As per this argument, the disqualification of women is required due to the onslaught that the Kashmiri identity is facing from exterior sources. The protection of this identity from any wilful design, specifically that of changing the demography, necessitates the Bill. The argument then goes into two different but related streams. First, that the issue of women’s rights is an unnecessary diversions from the major cause (and also the attempts to fragment the movement) and that all energies should be focused on the ‘larger cause’. Second, that women are entitled to equal rights as men and hence their claim is legitimate but it needs ‘ideal’ conditions which will be attained only after Kashmiri identity is fully redeemed.

Engagement with this perspective needs a debate on three major issues. The first of these relates to the relationship between the ‘Kashmiri identity’ and ‘gender identity’. Somewhere the presumption is that there is either a contradiction between the two identities or that the two identities are hierarchically placed (the Kashmiri identity being superior to the gender identity). It needs to be seriously probed as to how empowering Kashmiri women with equal rights along with men endangers the rights of Kashmiris as a whole. The fact that only women and not the men marrying outside the state are considered to be dangerous for the Kashmiri identity, smacks of the patriarchal mindset, especially when one considers the fact that women marrying outside the state, with the exception of few, generally exit from the state but men marrying outside the state bring women from outside. While the woman marrying an outsider does not pass on the privileges of either holding the property or taking up employment or even the right to vote or be elected to the state legislature to her husband or even children, the man actually passes on that right to his wife and children.

The second issue that needs to be debated is about the very concept of Kashmiri identity and women’s relationship with that. Certainly, the Kashmiri identity is inclusive and not only the men have the privilege of forming the Kashmiri collective but also the women. A woman is as much a part of the Kashmiri identity as a man is. And if any act of man, including that of his marrying outside the state does not endanger the Kashmiri identity, how does that of a woman marrying outside would endanger it. Unless, one thinks again from a patriarchal mindset which would privilege the Kashmiri identity to men and women becoming part of it only as secondary members, via their relationship with men.

Third and the most crucial issue that needs to be debated is about the relationship between the rights of Kashmiris and the rights of women. How can one visualise a contradiction between the two? Can there be a full empowerment of Kashmiri ‘people’ without the empowerment of women? And most importantly, how can the Kashmiris as ‘people in movement’ deny women their movement for their rights. Isn’t the empowerment of Kashmiri women very much the part of the ‘greater cause’ of ‘empowerment of Kashmiris’?

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