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, January 28, 2011

Facing the Whole Truth

Nayeema narrates her personal experiences in exposing dubious political leaders surrounded by unethical followers claiming to be part of the civil society

(Ms. Nayeema Ahmad Mahjoor, 53, was born in Srinagar, Kashmir. She completed her B.Sc, B.Ed, LL.B (Hons) and Diploma in Jounalism, and Masters in Education and Urdu from the University of Kashmir. Ms. Mahjoor has also completed a Masters degree in government and politics of South Asian Governments from the University of London. She is presently the Desk Editor, BBC World service (Urdu) based in London (UK). Among various awards, she has been a recepient of the Best Journalist of the year 2005 by ECO India, Best women Journalist by American Biographer and Best Journalist for highlighting environmental issues by Peshawar Environmental organisation.)

No More Petty Politics

In a society passing through constant turbulence, a phase comes when the politics of blame pits different sections of the society against each other, the intentions of the leadership become suspicious and people get caught up in more chaos and confusion.

Kashmir is passing through this phase at the moment. The leaders are blaming each other, intellectuals are cursing leaders and vice versa, people are accusing authorities and authorities in return are blaming unknown ‘others’. The recent accusations and counter accusations may turn into a never ending process and it will expose many skeletons in the closed cabinets of Kashmiri leadership. But it is very difficult for an ordinary man to identify the saint and the sinner among the whole gamut of leadership. The blame game has the potential to ruin one and all. At least in Kashmir, people are so fed up that nobody seems confident to vouch for the saintliness of the leadership.

The most astonishing fact is the same leadership glorified the gun, embraced the armed movement and made everybody hostage to it. Ordinary people had no access to gunmen but it was the leadership that came to the forefront to make them heroes and people followed them loyally. Instead of stopping them from taking the gun, the leadership encouraged and even used them for personal security. The gunmen were no strangers. They were eighty thousand dear sons of our mothers, ten thousand missing brothers to sisters and fathers to many more thousand orphans.

Many leaders were at the mercy of their masters who are still pulling their strings by remote control. The masters keep changing and as a result of this change in loyalty, the people have lost faith in them. Contrary to this, the blame game politics has made leadership thrive on people’s miseries. We may be the only unfortunate nation in the world that has inherited a legacy of betrayal, deceit and overbearing leadership.

Since independence of India and Pakistan, Kashmir has become used to many terrible experiments with leadership. As has rightly been said, ‘a Nation has no future whose leadership is dishonest, corrupt and self-centred'. Kashmir has lost faith in a single leadership. Intentionally or unintentionally, when a new leadership was emerging on the landscape of Kashmir especially after the late 1980s' elections the people started to trust them and were comfortable to have many instead of one so that each could be a check and balance on the others. What made it messy and chaotic was when armed struggle erupted in the early '90s. The mushroom growth of organisations stormed the streets of Kashmir and people had lost count of leaders emerging overnight. Many leaders who had earlier enjoyed mainstream politics jumped into the fray and became godfathers of powerful organisations. At one time, Kashmir seemed to be divided among them like it was among the warlords in Afghanistan. The situation has not changed much since. According to one source in Pakistan, during the armed struggle the ‘Azad Kashmir’ government had more than sixty million annual budgets for this adventure. It was during the '90s when Kashmir was bleeding every moment that the flow of money gave birth to new modern dwellings in posh colonies of the troubled valley.

I was doing a documentary series on human rights violations in Kashmir during the early 1990s when I met a self-proclaimed leader and asked him about the amount I was told he had received for the rehabilitation of the families of some slain militants. He promised to show me the list of recipients but it never happened.

The irony is that both countries' investments in Kashmir have gone down the drain and the people have not given up their demand of freedom even if their leadership has always let them down. Former military dictator Gen Pervez Musharraf realized Pakistan’s dilemma and put a halt to militancy and locked his coffers. It was he who preferred to welcome Omar Abdullah in Pakistan instead of the separatist leadership.

This is just the tip of the iceberg of the whole militancy saga because there are layers upon layers before one reaches the bottom. Only historians have to find enough courage to peel the layers off and document the authentic account of the turbulent times. It is not only important to find out the truth of all killings of leaders but also to find out the role played by every leader, prominent or otherwise.

The time comes in conflict-affected territories when everything should be brought in the open forum and leaders are to be subjected to the accountability process, although it usually happens after the goal of the movement has been won. It is different for Kashmir which has lost everything from life to trade, education to employment and shelter to movement. And leaders hardly talk of that now. Even they keep on changing their enemy, is it India, or Pakistan or they themselves? What they are involved in is only mud-slinging because they cannot bear to tolerate each other’s prominence or relevance.

Instead of fighting for a common goal or guiding people towards a certain direction, the leaders have started to settle scores among themselves. Everybody dreads the consequences. According to political analysts the current leadership is worse than the past: at least people knew the political leanings and loyalties of mainstream politicians.

People who are going through the hell should demand truth from the leadership about their political parleys here and there and what deliberations have been held and with whom. Truth might be hard to take in but it is much worse to mislead the people by raising their false hopes and involving them in mud-slinging politics. The reality of the Kashmir issue is that it is very complex partly because it has no honest leadership. It is hard to get anywhere when the leadership is interested only in achieving their personal political gains. And, people have right to reject them once for all if they are bent upon to create chaos to satisfy their ego.

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