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.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Kashmir at Crossroads - 2

Rumana wonders how long the society will be imprisoned by separatist-led hartals and civil authority-led curfews

Shutdowns - To What End?


A teenager lost his life, we felt sad, another succumbed to his wounds, we lost our sleep – three more were mercilessly murdered, our hearts bled. One death may be a mistake, two a blunder and three at a time including that of a nine year old is a massacre. We reacted. We took to streets, demonstrated our anger, displayed our disgust and protested everywhere – on the streets, on the social networking sites, in schools and colleges – in Delhi and Pune.

Our protests went loud, but our masters in Delhi and Srinagar were unmoved, the killings continued, the sufferings persisted and sermons to discipline us were issued from Centre and State – nothing great happened, the spiral became a circle and continued to gulp us viciously.

We are told we live in a democratic set up – so, protest should come naturally to us. No reminders are needed for us to protest, we protest as and when the situation demands. They come about spontaneously, the methodology may be crude, but the anger is genuine. We settle after an outburst or a series of outbursts and try living a life – though miserably! Life we have to live, the uncertainty makes it more challenging, the threat makes it more practical. But our lives are not our own, we are gagged by curfews and chained by “Hartals”. Though curfew is the official torture and is a tool to break our spirits, render us helpless, disable our potential and kill our intellect, hunger and poverty being the add on burdens that fall on us as a consequence. If curfew is doing all this to us, do we need another demon to swallow us?

We protested and we were punished. But why are we interested to punish ourselves more? Why do we add the mite of “HARTAL” to our already flea bitten bodies? No shops, no offices, no vehicles on the roads, no schools and no colleges. If hospitals limp through this turmoil – shut them too. A roadside vendor – should sleep at home, a hawker should take some rest – little do we realize that hunger causes insomnia – sleep is for those whose earnings are fat, anxious minds with large families and meager earnings hardly sleep! Our children do not go to schools – most of them have fun with TV and computer. How long do we deprive them of their education? As Muslims should we have any confusion about the importance of education? Do we need to remind ourselves that Prophet’s journey into Prophethood started with ‘Iqra’. Young college going minds too are gathering dust – why do we stun their intellectual development? And about the poor miserable people who earn during the day for a two square meal – I did not see any help from any corner reaching them. What have we thought about them?

Makers of our time tables – have not discussed their short term and long term plans with the people. Have they put any demands before the people in power? How long will the shutdown remain? Will it continue till the killers of teenagers are brought to book, will it continue till human rights violations are stopped, will it continue till AFSPA is revoked or will it continue till ‘Kashmir issue’ is resolved? It is the time to ask, will a shutdown alter things for us? We would go ahead with it if it were to solve a sixty year complex issue like Kashmir, practically speaking that hardly seems to be on the cards. So, why a shutdown?

If we endorse or enforce ‘‘Hartal’’ to impress the governments in J&K and Delhi – then we are foolishly mistaken. As a national newspaper columnist puts it, our masters ‘live in Delhi and reside in Kashmir’. People at the helm are comfortable in Pahalgam and Gulmarg, some are busy buying villas in Dubai. For whom are we shutting down? For whom are we making our people starve and suffer? We shutdown and paralyze ourselves in homes. Does anybody take a notice, is anybody moved?

When “Hartals” become a norm and “Curfews” a routine – what sets in is stagnation, leading to putrification ultimately breeding worms of poverty and misery which engulf us all over. When a small child, slightly bigger than my own stops me, argues with me and asks me why I should go to a hospital – I am rendered speechless. What do I tell him, how do I explain my work to him – what do I do? Does this child know why he wants a “Hartal”?

It is true, when a young life is lost every day and authorities are unapologetic – darkness overshadows us, anger conquers the senses, routine seems a burden and shutdown a solace. Our tales of misery will make rocks weep! Protest in such a situation is the only tool in our hands. But can’t we alter our strategy? If shutdown is the remedy, can’t a day’s shut down every week do? If we need to protest every day can’t one hour a day suffice? Why do we actually need a continuous shutdown to display our anger?

I have affection for that “angry young man” displaying his anger on the streets of Downtown. He is the one who will go an extra mile to help you, he is the one who will leave his seat for you in the bus. Smart looks, anger in eyes and compassion in heart – let us respect his blood. If our own children are glued to our own chests, why is his blood cheap? If a protest is needed, let a leader lead it! That will at least ensure discipline and prevent loss of life! What about the poets and intellectuals, where are they?

Today, I gather courage to protest – against the continuous imprisonment I am in – the curfew shuts me on one day and “Hartal” imprisons me the other day. I may not be able to stop authorities from imposing the curfew, it is beyond me…But, I need freedom – freedom to move about, freedom to work, freedom to earn and my children need freedom to learn. We are not animals but quality human beings, educated and intelligent and our only fault is that we live in a disputed territory. Set us free – O you at the helm!

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