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.

Monday, May 3, 2010

An Outpost for Foreigners in Srinagar has Turned Into a Beacon of Hope

Long before it became a UN post, it was a symbol of British Residency

80 Years on, UNO Building is Still Kashmir’s Political Shrine

Srinagar: The history of submitting memorandums demanding redress of issues at the building housing headquarters of United Nations Military Observers Group for India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) is 80-years-old.

People of Kashmir presented memorandums before the officials of British Residency in Kashmir much before the partition during the oppressive Dogra rule in late 1920s at the same house where UNMOGIP office is located presently.

The headquarters have off late turned into “political shrine” for people of Kashmir and exemplify the faith of people in international institutions.

“People used to go to residence of British officials much before 1947 complaining about the atrocities committed by the Dogra rulers. Many a time Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah too was part of the delegations," says a historian and National Conference member Muhammad Yousuf Taing.

According to Taing, the area then was thinly populated and had open spaces where people could stage demonstrations and protest against the atrocities committed by the establishment.

About the house, presently headquarter of UNMOGIP at Sonawar and earlier residence of British officials, veteran educationist Agha Ashraf Ali says: "It was the house of a famous carpet dealer of Kashmir Jaffar Khan. He had seven houses at Gupkar but his son lost all the property and the house was taken by the then government before 1947."

Ali says people used to present memorandums much before 1947 to British officials demanding redress of grievances and issues. “The place always remained busy with political demonstrations.”

The UNMOGIP set up its office in Kashmir in January 1949 and has headquarters in Srinagar in Jammu and Kashmir and Rawalpindi in Pakistan.

The organisation supervises the ceasefire line between India and Pakistan.

At the end of oppressive Dogra rule in 1947 and emergence of Kashmir dispute between two contemporary nuclear powers - India and Pakistan, UNMOGIP officials arrived in the Valley and the place became more important.

"People again showed their faith in international institutions and protested before the UNMOGIP office," says keen Kashmir observor Dr Mubarik Ahmad.

“Politicians who were against the successive regimes after 1947 used to visit UNMOGIP office and submit memorandums there,” says Dr Mubarik. “It was seen as an effective platform to raise voice at the international level."

A septuagenarian shopkeeper Abdur Rehman has same memories. "Since my childhood, I’ve seen people coming to this place and protesting. I sometimes wonder how political faith percolates from generation to generation."

National Conference veteran leader Sheikh Nazir says Kashmiris time and again tried to avail the benefit of the office in Kashmir. "Political leaders demanding rights and resolution of Kashmir issue in 1960s, 70s and afterward used to highlight that the presence of UNMOGIP office in Kashmir nullifies claims that Kashmir is not disputed. People used to protest before UNMOGIP to present their point of view and their aspirations."

Javed Ahmed Mir, who was among the first few youth to cross over to the other Kashmir for getting arms training and start an armed rebellion, has personally submitted over 80 resolutions at UNMOGIP office.

"People must have submitted thousands of memorandums and resolutions at this office. Along with Ishfaq Majeed, Yasin Malik, Shakeel Bakshi I and several others used to protest at UNMOGIP office in 1980s,” said Mir, the senior leader of Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (R).

Mir said people submitted resolutions before UNMOGIP even before armed rebellion. “In 1960s and 70s, people presented memorandums regarding different issues while right to self-determination used to be the centre point of every memorandum after 1947."

UN has passed 18 resolutions acknowledging the right to self-determination of people of Jammu and Kashmir.

Former Prime Minister of India, Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru also promised Kashmiris of right to self-determination in his historical address at Lal Chowk.

After 1990, the office got more weightage in Kashmir’s political scenario. Time and again, separatists gave calls for presenting memorandum before UNMOGIP to which government responded with restrictions.

(Rising Kashmir)

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