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, October 22, 2010

Kashmir's Destiny

Razdan asks does it matter whether Kashmir acceded to and not merged with India?

(Mr. Pran Nath Razdan, 71, was born and raised in Srinagar. He completed his master's degree in Statistics from the Patna university and joined the J&K state service. He rose through the ranks to the post of Special Secretary, Department of Planning and Development, Government of Jammu and Kashmir. After his retirement in 1997, he was appointed as Advisor, Planning and Development. He currently lives in the National Capital Region. In his leisure time, Mr. Razdan stays engaged by doing consulting and social work, and by writing occasional commentaries on Kashmir for various newspapers.)

Much Ado About Accession

Omar Abdullah's emotional outburst on Kashmir's accession to India made in the State Legislative Assembly on 6th October 2010 has been a matter of national debate. Various commentaries have been made on Chief Minister's statement much to the liking of separatists and outrage of nationalists. While LK Advani has publicly asked for his resignation through his blog, the Foreign Minister and the Home Minister do not find anything abnormal in his speech when read in totality.

The issue is however trivial and of no concern to a common Kashmiri. What difference does it make whether Kashmir has acceded or merged to India? For all practical purposes it is part of India, under its physical possession and governed by its constitution, judiciary, currency etc. Kashmiris are well aware of the political brinkmanship of its leaders. Not only Abdullah family but even other leaders of the state have resorted to this political bargaining quite often in the past.

It doesn't cut ice even with the separatists. Regardless of their initial elation and resultant taunts to central leaders, they realize their fight is for the substance and not for the trivialities. It makes no difference to them whether the link is accession or merger; they want the entire link itself to be annulled. So in this entire flop show there has been no gainer. If any, there has been a loser in Omar Abdullah. Having raised himself to the crest of an Indian and a Muslim with no contradiction, he has allowed his self to be seen closer to separatists, a view that in all fairness;, is wholly inaccurate for a secular, upright and intelligent young son of the first family of Kashmir.

While the semantics of the two words in the outpourings of Omar Abdullah may be inconsequential, at least in spirit we must accept that he is nearer the truth. Whatever merger may mean legally or politically, in English language it means absorption and if this has to do anything with two hearts, then the expression amply suits Kashmir-India relationship. A majority of Kashmiri Muslims has never merged with India emotionally. They have never seen India as their home, a place where they command love, respect and rights of a citizen. This may not be factually correct, but this is the perception that most Kashmiris hold to-day even after 63 years of its accession to India. For a large number of Kashmiri Muslims, integration with India has remained incomplete. They are alienated from India whatever the reasons. And if this is what Omar meant, he had a bang on assessment.

And if we delve into history, a situation like this was called for by all the parties. Kashmir was designed to be a separate entity even as part of India. Article 370 was inserted into the Indian constitution to encourage an identity exclusive to Jammu & Kashmir. And if today Kashmiris are alienated from India, it is the direct result of the policies followed by either party to maintain the special status in pursuance to Article 370. If the leaders of yore inserted this special article to preserve the historical, cultural and ethnic identity of Kashmiris, did they take into account the apathy; insensitivity and indifference that the mainstream society at large in the country would develop in return for this state that chose to isolate itself? Kashmir may have had a mammoth transfer of funds from the country in history, but what it has suffered is the lack of resource development, entrepreneurship, technology transfer, job prospects, relationship with Indian Muslims and above all an uncaring attitude of a mainstream society of which it was supposed to be a part. More importantly this special relationship spawned the evil designs of our unfriendly neighbors to grasp this piece of territory that had a loose relationship with India. In the case of Pakistan, there was an added excuse i.e. the religious resemblance. Kashmir has therefore not seen stability in the real sense ever since its freedom in 1947. Kashmir has paid very dearly for maintaining its special status in the country.

It is now realized by all concerned that money is not the healer medicine. What is important is to capture hearts and evolve social cohesion. Unfortunately Indian society has fallen through on this score. Despite laws, reservations and targeted programs we have not been able to absorb the downtrodden as equals into our society. Social discrimination is rampant in Indian society between states, regions and at times religions. Happily age is steering clear of these dogmas. Young generation of India including Kashmir is free from these shackles and is forming up a futuristic society that sees each other as human beings free of labels and tags. Well wishers in the country in general and governments in particular therefore need to nurture the youth of Kashmir, assess their problems and aspirations and work towards their fulfillment. Kashmiri youth have already demonstrated their potential rising above narrow political, social and religious beliefs.

We therefore need to provide them with suitable infrastructure to flourish in this great country of diverse faiths, colors and affiliations. Real integration of Kashmir with India depends on the blending of the Kashmiri youth into Indian society.

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