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 23, 2010

Summer of Anarchy - 2

Mr. Bukhari makes a pitch for restoration of normalcy

(Syed Rafiuddin Bukhari, 72, was born in Kreri in Baramulla District. He is the Editor-in-Chief of the Kashmir Media Group that publishes the English daily, Rising Kashmir, and soon-to-be launched Urdu daily, Bulund Kashmir. He had his early education in Sopore, Beerwah and then in Srinagar where from he got his post-graduate degree in English from the University of Jammu and Kashmir, and took up job as a teacher in higher education department. He taught English in various colleges in Kashmir took voluntary retirement in 1995 as Professor. Even though not a professional journalist by training, he has been extremely successful in the field, launching SANGARMAL, the first ever multi-coloured Kashmiri newspaper from Srinagar which is now in its fourth year. Later in 2008, he created the Kashmir Media Group. His interests are reading and writing and building value based institutions.)

The Challenges of 2010

For more than three weeks now Kashmir is locked in a new situation, which refuses to move forward or backward.

Everything has come to a grinding halt with people engaging security forces and police whenever they get a chance out of the official curfews and restrictions. What is happening on streets of Kashmir is akin to 2008 Armanath land agitation and to an extent to unrest following alleged rape and murder of two women in Shopian in 2009.

But the situation in past week or so is forcing us to look at it in isolation and not in the backdrop of the two summers which in one or other way had a target. This summer the agitation began with the fake encounter in Machil sector and finally kick-started with the killing of 17 year old boy Tufail Ahmad Mattoo in Srinagar. Since then 15 more innocent lives have fallen to the bullets of Police and CRPF consolidating the anger on the streets. This anger is more forceful and intense and refuses to die down even after the most of Srinagar city was under siege for two weeks. All theories, which were used to bring the life back to normal miserably, failed on the ground. Many in the establishment had the idea that people will finally tire out and give up since a sizeable chunk of population lives on daily earnings. There may be a percentage, which is fed up with the violence, but when siege was finally lifted on Thursday people again locked horns with forces knowing that it would give birth to a new spell of confrontation.

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah who is facing the worst crisis of his career tried every method of reaching out to people. He held meeting with purportedly “Civil Society” members in Srinagar, Baramulla and Islamabad made some administrative change and ultimately came up with Crisis Management Committees. But on ground the effect is missing and all these decisions have become irrelevant with what is happening in politically turbulent Kashmir.

Now that a handful of middle rung hard-line separatists (who are out of jail) have made it clear that what they perceive as “big mistake” (of calling of agitation) in 2008 will not be repeated, the unrest is set for a long time and is beyond any leaders’ control. Kashmir’s lingering on problem, which eludes any solution, is manifested in the anger of youth on the streets. Absence of a political initiative at India-Pakistan and New Delhi-Srinagar level as also the mishandling of situation by the state government have consolidated the anti-India forces and their ownership now lies with the separatist camp headed by Syed Ali Geelani. It is beyond doubt that the moderate separatists notably Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik cannot cut the ice. The only test for them wielding any influence over these youth who in other words now rule the streets, would be in case they ask people to resume the normal life and that is honoured. Going by the developments, which took place in Civil Lines of Srinagar on Thursday, nothing suggests that any such leader would be able to confront these youth who forced shutdown and took on everyone who dared to violate the call given by Hurriyat (G).

Here the question becomes clear. Who is going to lead this phase of movement, which people believe should culminate in “Azadi”? If at all the youth who are calling the shots are to handle the baton that may be too immature to think. Now the challenge lies with the separatist leadership and gives a direction to whatever the new spell of agitation is demanding. A situation of anarchy in which the consequences are of no concern cannot become the order of the day. It is very important to ponder over the fact that freedom struggles are not fought in an anarchic situation. What we hear from the ground is that those spearheading the agitation have been counselling people to be ready for the “worst”. One cannot think of much worse situation in terms of human losses Kashmir has gone through. But this “worst” would perhaps mean that “normal life” should be forgotten. Here it is the duty of both Separatist leadership and Civil Society to chip in and unravel the fact that this may be more harmful than what we think. Education has been the worst hit and the students are going through a real trauma. Where will they land no one knows. Economy in any case is important even for the struggles, may not that flourishing as taken even by the leaders who have been championing the cause of “azadi”.

Likewise the health sector is also important. In a situation of crisis those holding streets should not stop ambulances ferrying the required staff to treat the patient. How does it gel with the demand of Azadi that ambulances are targeted, civilian vehicles are damaged and a “safe passage” is accorded to armoured vehicles? This is a serious situation, which needs immediate attention. A direction to any movement is imperative and this fresh spell cannot be devoid of that. Whether the separatists and civil society can brave that challenge is worth seeing.

Similarly the mainstream parties NC, PDP and Congress too are facing the real test. They have literally left the ground for Separatists. If they claim to be elected representatives of people they should be amongst them. There is not a single MLA particularly in Srinagar city who has gone to the “people” who elected them. In the heart of hearts they also send signals that they are with “Azadi” apprehending that 1990 may be repeated and they will face the “wrath” of a new force. The real challenge before the elected MLA’s and MP’s is to reach out to people and convince them for restoration of normalcy. This they shall have to do with shattered confidence with which people are living. While they in power (occupying positions in government and as also being the MLA’s) they do not muster the courage and call a spade a spade. This may ultimately fail as they are not owned by the people at large but only those who have vested interest in being on the sides of rulers but to show that their election was legitimate they cannot shy away from going to “their people”.

The chaos and disorder on streets of Kashmir needs an initiative from all sides but with a solid assurance that the larger problem will be addressed. For the time being an administrative mechanism needs to be in place to restore normalcy. Has this government that capacity, is difficult to answer.

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