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 - 7

Two differing perspectives of the problem and expectations. Fida's views conflict with those from the South of valley. Is it a bridge too far and guess who is paying for the divide?

(Mr. Fida Iqbal, 47, was born in Sopore. He attended the D.A.V. School in Nayadyaar, Rainawari, and the Government Higher Secondary School in Sopore. He obtained his Bachelor's degree in Agriculture/Floriculture and Landscaping from Chowdhry Chottu Ram College at Muzaffarabad Nagar in Uttar Pradesh. Mr. Iqbal works with the Jammu & Kashmir Tourism Department as a landscape architect. He enjoys kitchen gardening, reading writing, and is very a passionate and dedicated golf player.)

Point: Steer the Boat Well

Almost for last three months life has come to halt in Kashmir. Writ of government does not run beyond the corridors of civil secretariat and a population of millions is holed up because of unending trail of curfew and endless hartals. This situation of turmoil which started as an agitation against killing of young Kashmiris turned chaotic. Occasionally, violence gripped the valley so severely that blood of innocent people got splashed on every street and lane of Kashmir. More than sixty people have got killed since young innocent Tufail Matoo was killed brutally. Hundreds got injured by the brute force of security agencies maiming and disfiguring many with lethal weapons. Situation in Kashmir has reached a flashpoint where it can be termed as unpredictable. A situation of ‘stalemate’ has gripped the valley particularly for the last more than a fortnight. This position of status quo has arrived as both administration and leadership of agitators are watching each other’s moves very closely and any fault is exploited and explored by the either side. This situation of stalemate is pushing more young people into the furnace of death and destruction without making any substantial development on human rights front and the basic vital issue of empowering and emancipation of people of Kashmir.

No authority in the world order can deny the implications of Kashmir issue on regional and international political scenario. Security aspect in the sub-continent is completely influenced by Kashmir problem which ultimately adversely effects the economic development and social harmony in the region. For the last more than six decades this vexed issue of many dimensions and facades had experienced multi-pronged approaches of settlement without any progress. Stake holders of this issue except Kashmiris desire to resolve it to their satisfaction and benefit without giving any due consideration to the aspirations of people of Kashmir. From 1947 onwards Kashmir political stage hosted much political drama. Starting with Pakistan’s military interference and subsequent Indian intervention leading to a situation where not less than the Prime Minister of India made a promise with people of Kashmir—promise of self-determination. Issue was even dragged to United Nations for intervention by one of the hostile countries. Beyond promise of self-determination and U.N intervention something else was in store for the desperate Kashmiris—historic blunder of 1953 when Sheikh Abdullah was deposed and jailed for treason.

Later on many experiments to destabilize writ and authority of Kashmiri people were put in motion. In the year 1974 by reinstalling miniaturized Sheik Abdullah under `Kashmir accord’ the intentions of Indian establishment were loud and clear. Now, the strings of Kashmir were firmly held by Indian authorities in Delhi. In between all these developments many other steps were taken to discredit people of Kashmir, Delhi agreement, erosion and ultimately abolition of autonomy of the state, change of nomenclature of head of government and head of the state and getting Kashmir under the purview of several legislations passed by the Indian parliament were enacted finely and with political precision.

These unprincipled efforts ensuring complete but illegitimate integration of Kashmir with Indian union created a state of mistrust between Indian establishment and the people of Kashmir. All political dispensations and authorities in India made cosmetic planning of economic packages, and doled out many other sops and amenities to woe the people of Kashmir from time to time. 1953’s political coup is the best example of sedating Kashmiris with developmental opium and other economic benefits. During this period corruption was deliberately injected into the otherwise pure psyche of Kashmiri people. This mistrust exploded many times and led to confrontation during last six decades but got brushed under the carpet with active support of many local political hypocrites and sycophants. But, no package of any sort and magnitude could completely put out the glimmer of hope for emancipation lying within each and every Kashmiri.

Kashmiris have suffered for centuries but the last six decades of mistrust and deception are more painful as it is being inflicted by a class who where companions of our elders during moment of independence in the region, who claim to be the champions of freedom and democracy. This painful suppression inflicted on Kashmiris for the last more than six decades has effected almost three generations of Kashmir. The people who are on the streets of Kashmir now, leading and vociferously asking for their legitimate rights were born during last two decades under the shadow of gun, rattling sounds of bombs and mines. They have seen and experienced their elders being subjected to torture, killing, pillage, and destruction. They have witnessed women being molested and people of their age subjected to disappearance. They are angry for many years now but the recent gruesome killing made them fuming. Yes, factors of alienation, exploitation, corruption and nepotism over the period of time leading to huge unemployment and deprivation played as catalyst in raging the present fire of anger but the ultimate reason is fraud played with people of Kashmir since 1947.

Young Kashmiris who at the moment are embracing death as against humiliation are being not really lead but steered by a bunch of leaders who otherwise are embroiled in a vortex of conflict and ego, unable to draw their own collective strategy regarding the present resistance. Words of ‘civil disobedience’ and ‘quit Kashmir’ are doing the rounds but ultimately it is the energy and resolution of this energetic younger generation on streets that sustains the present struggle for just and genuine demand of honorable solution of Kashmir imbroglio. Young people in command on the streets are devoid of any significant leadership of their own and thus their struggle at the moment is completely dependent on traditional separatist leadership.

Mainstream political system existing in Kashmir are either trivializing this situation or trying to exploit it and encourage a situation of stalemate for their petty considerations. Majority of these mainstream political groups are either implementing their parroted agenda or work as ‘his masters voice’. Certain mainstream politicians resort to carrot and stick approach and are waiting for the opportune occasion to open their cards.

Presently people of Kashmir irrespective of social and economic class and status have invested much in the present state of resistance and civil-disobedience; younger generation has given. Any deviation or faulty strategy leading to situation of long lasting stalemate will have its far reaching consequences with regard to the indisputable desire of emancipation. Present leadership that is not leading this struggle by choice but by compulsion should understand the mood and temper of younger generation. They should respect the sentiments, aspirations and wishes of this younger lot who work as fuel for this engine of resistance. They should chalk out a strategy which is not only practical but sustainable as well. Unless a multi-pronged strategy of resistance and necessitated negotiation will not be in place the confrontation will take over and overpower our saner efforts making the struggle of empowerment much difficult. We should fight for our legitimate rights in every peaceful manner and on every front. Present leadership should not make this movement personality centric but principle oriented. Multi-pronged strategy demands constitution of pressure groups, literary forums, economic policy groups, and further demand active involvement of social scientist and intellectuals. These saner sections of society will take care of education, economy, society and other measures of sustenance during these testing times. Just issuing programs of hartal and protest will not do. We cannot afford to proceeds on indefinite strike without keeping the doors of reconciliation and prospective negotiations ajar. Not reconciliation at the cost of martyrs blood and our honor but after due consideration and deliberation in the context of our just demand of emancipation. Our leaders have to unite and shift from position of stalemate to strategy of steering preset resistance movement towards dignified resolution of Kashmir issue without making any compromise with the basic principles and the philosophy of justice.

What ails Kashmir? The Sunni idea of ‘azadi’

Link -

The discomfort Kashmiris feel is about which laws self-rule must be under, and Hurriyat rejects a secular constitution

We know what Hurriyat Conference wants: azadi, freedom. But freedom from what? Freedom from Indian rule. Doesn’t an elected Kashmiri, Omar Abdullah, rule from Srinagar?

Yes, but Hurriyat rejects elections. Why? Because ballots have no azadi option. But why can’t the azadi demand be made by democratically elected leaders? Because elections are rigged through the Indian Army. Why is the Indian Army out in Srinagar and not in Surat? Because Kashmiris want azadi.

Let’s try that again.

What do Kashmiris want freedom from? India’s Constitution.

What is offensive about India’s Constitution? It is not Islamic. This is the issue, let us be clear.

The violence in Srinagar isn’t for democratic self-rule because Kashmiris have that. The discomfort Kashmiris feel is about which laws self-rule must be under, and Hurriyat rejects a secular constitution.

Hurriyat deceives the world by using a universal word, azadi, to push a narrow, religious demand. Kashmiris have no confusion about what azadi means: It means Shariah. Friday holidays, amputating thieves’ hands, abolishing interest, prohibiting alcohol (and kite-flying), stoning adulterers, lynching apostates and all the rest of it that comprises the ideal Sunni state.

Not one Shia gang terrorizes India; terrorism on the subcontinent is a Sunni monopoly.

There is a token Shia among the Hurriyat’s bearded warriors, but it is essentially a Sunni group pursuing Sunni Shariah. Its most important figure is Umar Farooq. He’s called mirwaiz, meaning head of preachers (waiz), but he inherited his title at 17 and actually is no Islamic scholar. He is English-educated, but his base is Srinagar’s sullen neighbourhood of Maisuma, at the front of the stone-pelting. His following is conservative and, since he has little scholarship, he is unable to bend his constituents to his view.

Hurriyat’s modernists are led by Sopore’s 80-year-old Ali Geelani of Jamaat-e-Islami. Jamaat was founded in 1941 by a brilliant man from Maharashtra called Maududi, who invented the structure of the modern Islamic state along the lines of a Communist one. Maududi opposed Jinnah’s tribal raid in Kashmir, which led to the Line of Control, saying jihad could only be prosecuted formally by a Muslim state, and not informally by militias. This wisdom was discarded later, and Hizb al-Mujahideen, starring Syed Salahuddin of cap and beard fame, is a Jamaat unit. Maududi was ecumenical, meaning that he unified the four Sunni groups of thought. He always excluded Shias, as heretics.

The Kashmiri separatist movement is actually inseparable from Sunni fundamentalism. Those on the Hurriyat’s fringes who say they are Gandhians, like Yasin Malik, are carried along by the others in the group so long as the immediate task of resisting India is in common. But the Hurriyat and its aims are ultimately poisonous, even for Muslims.

The Hurriyat Conference’s idea of freedom unfolds from a religious instinct, not a secular sentiment. This instinct is sectarian, and all the pro-azadi groups are Shia-killers. In promoting their hatred, the groups plead for the support of other Muslims by leaning on the name of the Prophet Muhammad.

Hafiz is a title and means memorizer of the Quran. Mohammed Saeed’s Lashkar Tayyaba means army of Tyeb (“the good”), one of the Prophet’s names. This is incorrectly spelled and pronounced by our journalists as “Taiba” or “Toiba”, but Muslims can place the name. Lashkar rejects all law from sources other than the recorded sayings and actions of Muhammad. This is called being Wahhabi, and Wahhabis detest the Shia.

Jaish Muhammad (Muhammad’s army) was founded in a Karachi mosque, and it is linked to the Shia-killing Sipah Sahaba (Army of Muhammad’s First Followers) in Pakistan’s Seraiki-speaking southern Punjab. The group follows a narrow, anti-Shia doctrine developed in Deoband.

Decades of non-interference by the Pakistani state in the business of Kashmiri separatism has led to a loss of internal sovereignty in Pakistan. The state is no longer able to convince its citizens that it should act against these groups. Though their own Shia are regularly butchered, a poll shows that a quarter of Pakistanis think Lashkar Tayyaba does good work. We think Indian Muslims are different from Pakistanis and less susceptible to fanaticism. It is interesting that within Pakistan, the only group openly and violently opposed to Taliban and terrorism are UP and Bihar migrants who form Karachi’s secular Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) party.

So what do the separatist groups want? It is wrong to see them as being only terrorist groups. They operate in an intellectual framework, and there is a higher idea that drives the violence. This is a perfect state with an executive who is pious, male and Sunni. Such a state, where all is done according to the book, will get God to shower his blessings on the citizens, who will all be Sunnis.

There are three types of Sunnis in Kashmir. Unionists, separatists, and neutrals. Unionists, like Omar Abdullah, are secular and likely to be repelled by separatism because they have seen the damage caused by political Islam in Pakistan. They might not be in love with Indians, but they see the beauty of the Indian Constitution. Neutrals, like Mehbooba Mufti, are pragmatic and will accept the Indian Constitution when in power, though they show defiance when out of it. This is fine, because they respond to a Muslim constituency that is uncertain, but isn’t totally alienated. The longer these two groups participate in democracy in Kashmir, the weaker the separatists become. The current violence is a result of this. Given their boycott of politics, the Hurriyat must rally its base by urging them to violence and most of it happens in Maisuma and Sopore. The violence should also clarify the problem in the minds of neutrals: If Kashmiri rule does not solve the azadi problem, what will?

India’s liberals are defensive when debating Kashmir because of our unfulfilled promise on plebiscite. But they shouldn’t be. There is really no option to secular democracy, whether one chooses it through a plebiscite or whether it is imposed. It is a universal idea and there is no second form of government in any culture or religion that works. The Islamic state is utopian and it never arrives. Since it is driven by belief, however, the search becomes quite desperate.

India has a constitution; Pakistan has editions. These are the various Pakistani constitutions: 1935 (secular), 1956 (federal), 1962 (dictatorial), 1973 (parliamentary), 1979 (Islamic), 1999 (presidential), 2008 (parliamentary). Why do they keep changing and searching? Muslims keep trying to hammer in Islamic bits into a set of laws that is actually quite complete. This is the Government of India Act of 1935, gifted to us by the British.

Kashmiris have it, and perhaps at some point they will learn to appreciate its beauty.

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