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.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Roads Paved With Not-so-Good Intentions

Nayer describes the misery of torn up roads in the valley

Devilish Development

Nayer Mohammad

I heard the sound of the door being closed announcing the arrival of my husband. I was waiting for him to fetch hot roti’s from baker to have morning tea. The moment he entered, I was aghast at the pale pallor of his face, all kinds of untoward thoughts raced through my mind, the dogs had been howling all night I should have sensed then that something ominous was about to happen. With trembling hands I took the bag of roti’s from him, my eyes refusing to leave his ashen face, my lips formed the question but no voice escaped my mouth as my parched tongue deserted me. I waited with abated breath as he sat down and let out a deep sigh, in a halting voice that was so unusual for his normal self he said, ‘can you believe what I saw as I left home for the market?’ ‘What?’ I heard myself ask with quivering lips and a pounding heart, ‘drainage pipes have been dumped on the roadside during the night’. For a second, my heart seemed to have missed a beat, icy fingers gripped it as I tried to come to terms with the catastrophe .What had our neighbourhood done to deserve such a fate? Most of the people I knew were good and regulars at the local mosque as would be vouched by our masjid loudspeakers.

Scenes of Nigeen, Lal Bazaar and Hawal swim in front of my eyes.These places have assumed epic dimensions, for laying drainage pipes in the city of Srinagar is a Herculean task something like the ‘Trojan war’ where time takes a backseat as days turn into months and months roll into years. How could we brace ourselves to meet the impending eventuality? I kept asking myself over and over again. No wonder the dogs had been howling all night.

I remembered how my friend who resided in ill fated Lal Bazaar had to struggle to take his father to the hospital after he suffered a heart attack at home. Tears rolled down his face as he recounted that he lost his father on the way to the hospital as precious time was lost manoeuvring the trenches, the huge mounds of earth that lay every where on the road and the ensuing traffic jam. He seemed convinced that had he made it to the hospital in time his father would have survived. The killer public works department had deprived him of his most cherished asset. ‘We want to move elsewhere’, he said, ‘as the very sight of the muck and heaps of dug up earth lying in front of our house keep on reminding us of a tragedy that could have been averted. We have also contacted brokers in this regard but there are no takers even though we are quoting rock bottom prices’’.

I secretly appreciated people for not falling into this trap as I got reminded of last eid when I got caught up in a traffic jam around the same area. I left home immediately after lunch to meet my parents, afternoon changed into evening and the azaan from the nearby mosque announcing magrib but I was still nowhere near my parents place which in normal conditions is a mere twenty five minutes drive from where I live. There was no way I could do a backtrack. Tempers were rising, cranky kids were letting out the most pitiable wails and elders who had alighted from their respective vehicles were seen stretching their cramped limbs. A dozen people had taken upon themselves to man the traffic and restore some semblance to the chaos but lack of co-ordination made matters worse as cars rammed into each other, hot words got exchanged and a few scuffles surfaced. The kindly neighbours living on either side of the road, seeing the plight of the people who had now been with them for nearly four hours and were almost like new neighbours, came to their rescue. Steaming samovars appeared piping hot qahwa along with bakirkhani were served, being eid there was no dearth of these delicacies in any home. Namazi’s who came out after offering magrib prayers, disclosed that they had prayed for the traffic jam to lift, and praise be to Allah their prayers were answered and within a few minutes the engines throttled back to life and the vehicles started inching forward.

Memories can haunt and on this particular morning they were playing up, hell bent upon traumatizing me. I had recently read about the tragic death of a 22 year old youth hailing from Sehpora Ganderbal, who was buried alive while engaged in the digging of roads for the laying of sewage pipes at Umerhair, Buchpora. For want of proper disposal of the dug up earth, Amin came under a huge mass, he was still gasping for breath when the team of fire and emergency services removed the debris atop him, but the poor soul breathed his last at SKIMS where doctors tried all they could to revive him but to no avail.

The government as usual doled out the only medicine they keep in reserve for emergency use, which is time tested and carries no side effects—the launching of an investigation into the accident. What if Amin had been the son of a minister or a top bureaucrat would they still be complacent by just having an investigation ordered? But Amin was the son of a poor mother, the one’s that are seen knocking at the doors of power and returned empty handed. What were the last thoughts that crossed Amin’s mind before his life ebbed away? No, one will ever know.

A cold sweat broke all over me, bullets and tear gas shells not enough that they had to be augmented with the killer dug up drains? My mind was working overtime and seeking a way out of all the chaos and mayhem that has become sad fate of every Kashmiri. I closed my eyes as if by doing so I could shut my mind but no, I found no respite instead Amin whom I have never seen seemed to take a concrete shape. Donning a pheran, arms outstretched, he was looking at me as if imploring that I seek justice on his behalf.

Amin, I am sorry there’s nothing I can do, helplessness is the tragic tale of every Kashmiri, forgive me, forgive us all, for we are sinking deeper into this quagmire of dark, uncertainty, we don’t know how many more Amin’s will be murdered in broad daylight? How many more mothers will lose their sons? How many families lost their dear ones? For can anything be cheaper than Kashmiri blood? I got up, pushed the tea away, the roti’s had turned stone cold and my appetite had vanished.

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