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.

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Retrospect on the Kashmir's Premier Political Dynasty

Javid looks at the luster of the Abdullah family under a political glow of the new "maximum leader" of Kashmiri resistance

(Dr. Javid Iqbal, 64, was born in Srinagar. He attended the D.A.V. School, Srinagar, and graduated in Medicine from the Government Medical College (GMC). His professional service in medicine includes work in the Middle East for three decades. During his days at the GMC, he captained the cricket team. He enjoys writing and staying close to his children in far away lands.)

Abdullahs in Sunlight & Shade!

Abdullahs - once the premier political family of Kashmir has been in sunshine and shade, ever since Master Abdullah of MP School Srinagar strode on to the politico-religious stage in Jamia Masjid-the Grand Mosque in downtown Srinagar in early thirties of 20th century.

Eight decades have passed since that mega appearance and a gradual fall is apparent in political operation from the initial mega to macro and finally to micro level and with it the impact translating into a progressive shrinkage of political space.

As long as the patriarch of Abdullah’s lived, it was almost totally sunshine, irrespective of the fact whether he wielded State power or was a prisoner of those, who wielded power by proxy. He was politically too tall for anyone to aspire being even remotely related to the station he held. He was the focus, the nucleus, the very centre and whosoever made an attempt to get anywhere near got squeezed in some peripheral corner straining to breathe. Whenever or wherever he put a foot wrong, he was give the benefit of doubt by the people, whom he held in the palm of his hand. The benefit of doubt sprang from a genuine belief that it might be the leader’s tactic to carry forward the popular sentiment through a different channel. There might be room to agree with the sceptics who assign such mass adulation to ignorance and illiteracy, but then the patriarch’s spell was cast even on scores, who were literate. Barring a few isolated pockets, prominently Mirwaiz’s downtown constituency, the sway he held was almost total.

Patriarch of Abdullahs assumed the reins of leadership in colonial and authoritarian times. Autocracy in the Indian subcontinent became readily a tool of colonialism practiced worldwide.

Sheikh Abdullah emerged in an era of mass illiteracy, ignorance and tolerance for injustice. The Dogras of Jammu Durbar had taken over from Khalsa Durbar of Lahore [1819-1846] by virtue of 16th March 1846 infamous ‘Amritsar Treaty’. Khalsa Durbar had eased out the Afghans (1750-1819). Afghans came after a long spell of Mughal rule (1586-1750).

Kashmir’s tolerance for injustice, argue analyst was the result of oppression. Muslim majority area was systematically worn down in spirit, by rulers-Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

Sheikh Abdullah projected himself as the saviour of the people and won followers in droves. That he had heavy odds to counter is accepted by all and sundry and that he took on the adversaries head on stands accepted too; however with every passing year there is a growing tribe of sceptics who have started questioning his attempted resolve to provide a solution and meaningfully address pain and problem of Kashmir. There is alongside a group of analyst who still give him the benefit of doubt, their main argument in his defence being the power of forces he was arrayed against and the magnitude of the problems confronting him defying a solution in a single generation. As he passed on the baton to the generation next, calling upon his eldest son-a practising general practitioner in England to take over the reins of leadership, the people generally accepted that decision too, being used to follow his lead.

Farooq Abdullah presents an interesting analogy. Basher Asad, the Syrian president-London based practising ophthalmologist got a similar call from his father Hafiz Asad following the death in a car crash of first choice successor, the other son-Rauf Asad (analogous to Rajiv’s Taj-pooshi (crowning) following Sanjay’s air crash). Analogies multiply-life long associate and confidant-brother Riffat Asad, security chief-the guardian of the regime was overlooked on ‘son-rise’ a la Ghulam Mohammad Shah (patriarch’s son-in-law). Basher in West Asia and Farooq in South of the continent-practising doctors, abiding by a political family call denotes a phenomenon that should interest a historian, a political analyst, as also an expert in mass psychology to understand the impact on a polity in profession democratic, in practice authoritarian, yet acceptable.

Did Farooq honour the test reposed in him by the patriarch honoured by people in a voice vote, even popular endorsement in the first election following the death of his father? While as nearly a million people bid tearful adieu to the departed leader, they voted for his son, even while he defied a leader as powerful and vindictive as Indira Gandhi. He was ousted by none too desirable means and immediately was foisted on shoulders by the masses, believing that spirit of resistance to intrusion on Kashmir’s honour and integrity was up and alive. Alas! That was not to be, he started getting into alliances that he believed he could sell to masses. After all, he might have reasoned if the patriarch could change course and make the change sink and stick, so could he! He was mistaken, the patriarch had invested for decades in the trust he had developed with his people. As his son in early sixties, Farooq in his formative years as doctor in SMHS hospital tested the political turf of Abdullah’s and found it to be one; he could bat on with impunity. Those were the days when many of us had just joined GMC Srinagar and the new star of Abdullah’s cast a spell over us, as he got into midst of movement for recovery of ‘Relic of Holy Prophet’ lifted from its sanctum sanctorum in Hazratbal. Farooq eventually left for England, returning to take the family call-attributed often to be the national call-an abiding South Asian phenomenon, fast picking in West Asian-Basher Asad and Saif Qadafi being examples.

Power taken to be an instrument constituting means to an end translates popular aspiration into institutionalized mechanism of meaningful action, evolving into public welfare. Sheikh Abdullah might have been tempted by its trappings, even leaned towards forces not wholly desirable in popular perception, in the belief that in taking a contrary course, he might not be allowed to exercise it in the manner he desired. There are those who argue that his feeling of insecurity might have been misplaced, give his massive political investment-difficult to ignore even by forces perceived by him to be inimical to his own or his people’s interests. He was prone to equate the two and given the trust of his people, who dare say he was wrong! Whatever the take of it, when he did exercise unbridled power, he came up with innovative ideas-land to tiller being a masterstroke, which stuck to popular imagination. Land to tiller added to the popular perception of representing a sentiment, described endearingly as Kashmiriyat-the cultural ethos of Kashmir earned him the love and respect of his people.

It lasted to an extent-as long as the designated successor was perceived to toeing the line. The movement exercise of power became an end in itself by the ones who followed the patriarch and the errors of omission and commission piled up, there was a gradual change in public perception. Particularly so when chinks in the political armour of Abdullah’s left the popular sentiment easy to hijack by others, sunshine turned to shade. The giant stride of Abdullah’s on Kashmir’s political panorama turned into fits and starts. Attainment of power through means questionable in public perception and continuation through tailored democratic practices is fast putting in shade the ‘House of Abdullahs’. The very fact of ‘third generation Abdullah’ asking for a vote to simply run an administration and not for resolution of the six decades old ‘K’ issue speaks volumes. Doesn’t it amount to an admission that ‘while others may represent the sentiment, restricted municipal powers of running a state may be entrusted to our kind care’?! It is a difficult take for greying generation who have grown in times when the sun shone on ‘House of Abdullahs’ a fact nevertheless as Kashmir gets galvanized to what is increasingly being termed as ‘Geelanisation’ a new phenomenon in Kashmir!

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