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

The Blame Game

Javid dissects a recent civilian death which is the only fact acceptable to various constitutencies deriving political mileage out of the unfortunate accident; even family members are not immune

(Dr. Javid Iqbal, 63, was born in Srinagar. He attended the D.A.V. School, Srinagar, and graduated in Medicine from the Government Medical College (GMC). His professional service in medicine includes work in the Middle East for three decades. During his days at the GMC, he captained the cricket team. He enjoys writing and staying close to his children in far away lands.)

Spiral of Violence in Kashmir!

Spiral means twisted, curved, coiled or corkscrew; we may say something tied in knots, difficult to untie. It can’t be described better. Violence in J&K is turning out to be an unending spiral and has been justified not only in J&K, but in other conflict zones, also. The votaries might have their arguments, even takers of that argument. However, a stage comes, where it enters the zone of ‘Diminishing Returns’ and the day dawns, when its damaging potential is much greater than the imaginary beneficial estimates of its most ardent supporters.

The unfortunate spiral of violence has claimed Shafiq Ahmad Sheikh, aged 45, son of Ghulam Nabi of Natipora. So it is another life lost, life of one who had on the face of it nothing to do with the rights and wrongs of the situation, one who was in fact an innocent bystander as borne by the facts revealed, one of the many obviously getting on with the routine of life! The spiral does not however make a distinction between who is in it or out of it, a perpetrator or innocent victim. Shafiq was allegedly hit on the head by a stone when stone pelters threw a stone at a minibus. Taken to SMHS and later SKIMS, he was pronounced as ‘brought dead’.

While as in the preceding years ‘collateral damage’ was taken as an accepted fact in encounters between security forces and militants, the same term or the same level of acceptance should be resisted by the civil society. Stoning a civil bus plying on the city roads is an act of vandalism, which may not be branded as ‘collateral damage’ and hence accepted. Earlier the death of an infant took place in Baramulla in a similar incident of stone throwing. This led to an investigation, the results of which were revealed by the government. As usual official version was contested. In the present incidence too, investigations would follow, so would the allegations and counter allegations, arguments and counter arguments.

The argument in fact has commenced, the family of the innocent victim have revealed to pressmen, it was not certain to them if he died of stone or a bullet injury. Informing the immediate family members in an incident of this nature is a medico-legal requirement. Overlooking such requirements results in misgivings. A certain degree of police-public liaison is highly desirable to erase misgivings and spread of false rumours. The lack of such a liaison led to protests in Natipora when his body was taken to his residence with a rumour being spread that he died in police firing. It could be attributed to motives of disturbing peace, whenever a chance comes handy; however a certain degree of liaison might help in curbing the undesirable outfall. The argument that it would happen anyway might not be wholly right. It might, however police have to go by forensic manual, which entails informing the family.

The incident happened on a day, when separatists had given a call for renewed protests on Fridays, starting from Friday falling on 30th April. Widespread sporadic violence was reported from Srinagar and major town centres like Baramulla, Islamabad and other places. The protests continued sporadically on Saturday, mostly in the areas where the innocent victim of spiralling violence lived and the protesters blocked the Natipora-Nowgam road, continuing with stone pelting, what has become a norm now. As if the incident of the day before wasn’t enough to provide a reminder that we might be on a path of a spiralling violence claiming innocent lives, another incident was reported from the same area that is Batamaloo. Some young men, as per the police pelted stones near a government high school, as a result of which the school peon named Rafiq, a resident of same locality sustained head injuries and was shifted to SMHS hospital and later to SK Institute of Medical Sciences for treatment. Later the Station House Officer Batamaloo, Zahoor Ahmad denied stone pelting in the area.

“But the school employee has claimed that he was hit by a stone in the school premises. There is no conformation about it,” the officer was quoted as saying. It amounts to denial or may we say non-confirmation of what was earlier reported.

Given that police have a difficult job to handle; conflicting projection of events with an inherent element of contradiction exhibits a lacuna in maintaining police-media and overall police-public liaison. The city police have always had a pleasing demeanour. Same could be said of the head of district administration, the ‘Deputy Commissioner’ of Srinagar district. They are handling tough assignments with the deft touch, their offices demand and combining admirably. It is not easy to handle an office dealing with law and order in places, where conflict in one form or other keeps on erupting. However the obvious lacunas in handling media and maintaining public relations needs to be looked into, conflicting official projections could turn out to be an added handicap, in a situation where handicaps abound, which might be beyond the pale of an administrative function. That is the realm of politics, political situations resulting from confrontations borne of differing perceptions; natural corollary of a conflict zone.

Differing perceptions are already on display, the blame game is already on, in full view of the galleries. The chief minister has put the ball in the separatist court, with precision of course; in the court of Syed Ali Geelani for giving the call. Separatist continue to call it fallout of an unresolved political question, now in its sixth decade. Mirwaiz Umar while rightly tapping other sources for conflict resolution cannot afford to be seen lagging behind in demanding self determination. Achievable self determination could have variable nomenclature and tracts other than the beaten one. One hopes Mirwaiz has realised that. Mahbooba Mufti cannot see any good in whatever Omar does or does not do. ‘Total lack of control’ is her plank and case against Omar, while she hardly fails to relate the flow of milk and honey, when the elder Mufti occupied the space, that Omar occupies today; the exalted office of chief ministership! It could have been hers had Azad not been so eager to embrace it or had not Omar cut a deal behind the back of the Dad with Rahul. Omar is inching closer to Azad, after honeymooning with Soz for a while. Soz is the vernacular of melancholy in English, which anti Azad factions want to turn into a melody; English for Saaz!

“They are not playing ball”! John Foster Dulles, Secretary of State of United States in fifties would report to Eisenhower on American adversaries of cold war era. Eisenhower’s answer to his ‘Secretary of State’ would be “Do it your way John”! The analogy lies in everyone in Kashmir doing it his own way, while the situation is showing a dangerous drift.

On a political level, instead of indulging in blame game, a certain level of understanding, may be unspoken, needs to emerge to attempt putting an end to unfortunate fallout. This may be easier said than done given the absolute lack of consensus on vital issues between political formations in the state. The voices may be multiple, but they may convey the same message, that deaths of innocents cannot be acceptable!

Yaar Zinda, Sohbat Baqi

[Reunion is subordinate to survival]

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