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, December 27, 2010

Jammu Region's Cultural Diversity

Rekha provides a report of a seminar held recently in Jammu Tawi

(Prof. Rekha Chowdhary, 55, was born in Jammu and has been a university teacher for the past 30 years. She is currently the Professor of Political Science, University of Jammu. During her distinguished teaching career, she was the visiting Fellow under a Ford Foundation grant at the Queen Elizabeth House, Oxford, in 1992-1993; winner of the Commonwealth Award availed at the University of Oxford, 1997-1998; and the Fulbright Fellow availed at the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) at the Johns Hopkins University, Washington DC, in 2005.)

‘Jammu: Past, Present and Future’

In the situation in which every serious debate about Jammu has ‘Kashmir’ as its reference point and ends up being debated in the binary context of Jammu versus Kashmir, an interesting seminar was organised on 11th December 2010, in the Amar Mahal Mueseum and Library (AMML). The focus of the seminar remained inward and Jammu was debated without much reference to its political divergence vis-a-vis Kashmir. As the title of the Seminar 'Jammu: Past, Present and Future' reflected the theme, important issues related to the region were debated in intense manner, however, without being chauvinistic. There was lot of critical introspection about the way Jammu was in the past; the direction that it is taking in the present and; the future that everyone envisages about it. With focus on 'education', 'environment' and 'society and culture' - the three major themes and sessions - the intellectuals, academicians, social activists, artists, media persons and students from the region were engaged. While educational concerns and environmental challenges were specifically debated in the concerned sessions, the 'society and culture' remained the concurrent matter of debate throughout the day. The way it was emphasised by speaker after speaker, the seminar ended up being a reiteration of Jammu's rich tradition of plurality, its inclusive culture and its character of accommodation and tolerance. Its high point being the multi-religious society with Hindus and Muslims living side by side in its villages and towns.

Mixed society is the way of in Jammu region. Shared and common spaces are therefore taken for granted and not spoken about. In the context of increasing intolerance between the communities at the global level, this fact of life was acknowledged as the starting point of the discussion. The religious co-existence as the way of life in Jammu was appreciated as the base of society on which any kind of superstructure - be it economic, political, educational, ecological, social or cultural - had to be established. This was also seen as the most crucial social and cultural resource for the sustenance and progress of the region.

However, it is not only the religious diversity that marks the plurality of the region. Frequent references therefore were made to the linguistic, cultural and social mosaic of the region. While celebrating the linguistic plurality of the region, concern was shown to the lack of the official patronage and policy, especially in the context of recognition of some of these languages as the official languages and their formal introduction in school curricula. The need for popular initiative and intervention in the direction of preservation of languages and dialects was also recognised. In this context, the role of the middle class was also critically assessed and its abdication of the use of local languages was lamented.

What came to focus in the discussion not only of language but also other matters, was the rich folk traditions of the region - be it the music or literature or history. Due emphasis was placed on recapturing the folk as the most important source for writing the history of Jammu as well as for understanding the fundamentals of society. Also emphasised were the folk heroes with whom people identify and who represent the mass rather than elite-ways of life.

But more than anything else, reference was made again and again to the fundamentals of the society based on positive inter-community relations, tradition of accommodation and secular ethos of the region. The challenge to this tradition coming from the forces of modernisation as well as politicisation was debated – more specifically the impact of the divisive politics on these traditions was discussed. However, in the light of the fundamentals of the regional society and the compulsions of the mixed society, it was generally felt that there is a need to have a positive approach towards the future of the region. Despite all the challenges, the region has the potential of overcoming the divisive forces. It was highlighted that multiplicity of identities, their fluidity and overlapping nature help people overcome the boundaries of narrow identities and also make them bond with each other despite the religious or community divide.

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