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.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Betraying the Culture of Sycophancy in Kashmir

Bashir reflects on his noble profession which somehow works differently in his beloved Kashmir

(Mr. Bashir Manzar, 51, was born in Chack Ferozpora, near Tangmarg in Baramulla district. He matriculated from the Government High School in Chandilora, Tangmarg, and received his Master's degree in English from the Kashmir University. He is publisher of the English daily newspaper, Kashmir Images, Kashmir's only multi-edition daily newspaper. Mr. Manzar is a poet and has published a collection of poems in Urdu - gazals and nazams - 1n 1996 under the title, "Daire Ka Safar." His interests are reading, writing, poetry, music, travel, and of course, politics.)

I Confess – I am a Traitor!

Srinagar: All over the world, May 03 is observed as World Press Freedom Day – an occasion when media people talk about themselves and inform the public of violations of the right to freedom of expression.

Cheer up! Here in Kashmir, media is free to express whatever it wants. Don’t believe? Just have a look at the day’s developments in the Valley.

A function was held at Ganderbal, 22 KMs from Srinagar to “celebrate the day”. And guess who were there to grace the occasion ‘besides galaxy of media persons’:

Ali Mohammad Sagar, Minister for Rural Development, Parliamentary Affairs and Law, and Mian Altaf, Minister for Forests, Environment and Ecology.

Both the ministers vouched for press freedom and also awarded three journalists affiliated with two local English dailies.

Irony - government awarding journalists on “Freedom of Press Day?’
And more ironical – Chairman of his faction of Hurriyat Conference, Syed Ali Geelani issued a statement saying media in Kashmir was not being allowed to ‘perform freely.’
Lauding the role of local media, Geelani said that Press in Kashmir has been doing ‘great’ despite government ‘restrictions.’

And if the reporters of two local newspapers were awarded by the Ministers despite Geelani’s assertions, what is the truth?

Geelani praising the media and Government awarding media persons – sounds music to ears.

Normally we have two kinds of media – anti or pro establishment. But in Kashmir we have two establishments – one led by the government and the other led by leaders like Geelani.

So you are either pro one establishment or pro the other. Shocked by the statement?

Cool for a while!

Both have their people on call with guns – one with men in uniform, the other without uniform. And both are vouching for freedom of press!

So, if both are hurling praises on us, where do we stand?

“It means we are on the right track as both the sides are siding with us,” said a local journalist.

I don’t want to argue with him but let us stop for a while, shut our eyes and introspect – are we really using the freedom “if at all granted to us by both government and the separatists” for peoples’ real concerns?

It becomes too much personal. But on this day, which is my day, I want to talk some bitter truth which may annoy lots and appease none.

In December 1996, I launched Kashmir Images as a Weekly. Most of the big names in the local, national and international media, whom I don’t want to name, were working with me.

After fourth issue hit the stands, Shora-i-Jehad, that time amalgam of militant groups, banned my publication.

The young team working with me rushed to Geelani, though I never wanted, and were told by one Qazi Ahdullah, who then was Geelani’s right hand man, that we had sought permission to bring out the newspaper from Registrar of Newspapers of India (RNI) but not from them (Geelani’s Group).

And after two months, Special Operations Group of Kashmir Police raided my office (that time at Jawahar Nagar) and picked up my “then” associate editor.

Reason – we had tried to expose some bad things in JK Bank.

Interestingly, then JK Bank Chairman was a close buddy of then Chief Minister. My colleagues rushed to then Minister of State for Home, who is sadly no more alive now, and he said – just mend your ways with JK Bank Chairman.

My newspaper was banned by militants; my associate editor was arrested and tortured by police! What was the message, CONFUSING!

And then after a few yeas, I decided to change the periodicity of my newspaper and made it DAILY. After some time a colleague of mine was shot at our new office at Residency Road.

He survived, miraculously, and is now working with a national TV network.
This all happened within a span of six years. But none of the journalists, backing either of the establishment – State Government or Geelani – ever uttered a word.

America introduces a concept of embedded journalists. Same is here in Kashmir – both the establishments (headed by the government or Geelani like people) do the same.

I decline to bow. And when I do that, where do I stand? Nowhere!


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