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.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Boiling Pot Called Kashmir - 3

Religious fatwas cut both sides - the result is obvious

Valley of Suicides

Kashmir Valley has been witnessing an alarming increase in the incidents of suicides from past few years. Not a single day passes without the reports of suicides or attempts of suicide making it to newspapers from different parts of the Valley. Those who end their lives or attempt to do so are from different age groups – from teenagers to middle-aged house-wives. The seriousness of the issue could be gauged by the very fact that despite religious scholars (Ulema) having issued a religious edict (Fatwa) against suicides, there has not been much decline in the practice. Instead, unmindful of the social, moral and even legal consequences, an ever-increasing number of people have been and is falling prey to the dreadful practice. And what is really appalling is that despite the increased incidence of suicides, not much has actually been done by the government or the society to arrest the trend. Indeed it won’t be an exaggeration to say that there is no institutional help at all available to the emotionally ragged and psychologically stressed population. No wonder ending life seems the only and the easiest option available to the people who are unable to handle the emotional overload of life.

Although there has been increase in the incidents of suicides all over the state, including in Jammu, however, the worst is happening in Kashmir Valley. Unfortunately we, as a society, are not waking up to see and asses why such negative behaviour is creeping into our society. We have switched ourselves into a denial mode and don’t want to look inwards. Instead are always there with denials. Public ‘Fatwa’ notwithstanding, the civil society members are not coming forward to speak about the issue publicly, perhaps for the fear that doing so may expose some bad things within ‘us’ and that is what we don’t want. Despite all ills, we don’t want to go for any introspection. We may make emotional speeches on human rights but will never talk about domestic violence. We may speak for hours, lecturing on morals but would never admit that girls in Kashmir are committing suicide because they don’t have dowry to “buy” husbands. Or, that they are ragged by other terrible forms of structural violence which despite being there woven into the very structures of our social life have thus far failed to attract the kind of attention and correction it deserves. We may accuse all and sundry for polluting Kashmir culture but will never confess that females at work-places are being sexually harassed forcing them to take extreme steps of committing suicide.

Instead of shutting eyes to the harsh realities need is that the civil society wakes up and looks at the issue with realism. Past almost two decades of violence have torn apart the social fabric of Kashmir besides sort of overstretching people’s limits of patience and overburdened their emotional shock-absorbers. The continued trouble has turned people mentally sick. Cases of depression are too common and the only psychiatric hospital of the Valley is witnessing unprecedented rush of such patients. The trend is to be arrested and in this case one can’t look towards the government. It is a social issue and needs participation of the society. This war is to be fought from every household. The civil society has to depoliticize itself for a while and concentrate on this social crisis. A full-fledged awareness campaign is to be launched and besides the teachers in schools and colleges, Imams of mosques have to involve themselves in awareness as well as counseling operations. Counseling is what is needed the most. The campaign must be started today as tomorrow may be too late.

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