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, January 17, 2011

Introspection by Intellectuals

Dr. Kawosa highlights contribution by intellectuals without addressing the "core responsibility" of intellectuals - should they endorse specific political viewpoints or bring clarity to political options for path forward and let the public decide?

Role of Intellectuals

Dr. M. A. Kawosa

The role of intellectuals in our society in the present socio-political scenario of Jammu and Kashmir has come under a scanner after the seminar titled ’Role of intellectuals in the Kashmir movement'. The meet was organized by JKLF to commemorate Prof Wani's death anniversary. It is justifiably argued that the intellectuals of the State that would include writers, poets, journalists, lawyers, musicians, artists, philosophers, social scientists, clergymen and the likes have not contributed positively to the struggle movement and in fact have been on the oppressor’s side or at best neutral. This has forced many intellectuals to the defensive. Anyone I met during the week seemed to defend himself as if the comments were directed to him. Sajjad Lone, the politician, Firdous Syed, the columnist, and Vijay Sazawal, the policy analyst, all have tried to address the conscience of the Kashmiri intellectuals through the columns of Greater Kashmir to see their point of view. It has, therefore, become necessary to find out the people who qualify as intellectuals and if they have really failed to fulfill their obligations towards the society.

Intellectuals are people who are given to activities or pursuits that require exercise of the intellect. Such people are involved in the production and dissemination of ideas. They are the moral conscience of their age, their task being to observe the political and social situation of the moment and to speak out freely in accordance with their consciences. Their influence on the course of social and political evolution of a society can be enormous as it shapes the public attitudes and beliefs.

The bureaucrats, technocrats, administrators or whosoever may be in charge of carrying out the orders of the policy makers in power are not categorized in the core concept of intellectuals. The intellectual output and activity of these civil servants is merely involved in ‘deliverance’ which could be collection of taxes, administering the developmental and security apparatuses of the state and assisting their political bosses in implementing a political commitment and strategy. These civil servants are expected to do nothing else in life except spend their working hours and leisure moments in appeasing administrative and political masters for their positional and material gains. They are certainly not capable of pursuing any intellectual activity or idea that demands exercise of free speech in accordance with conscience. This lot is erroneously considered as enlightened and progressive, when in reality they are hypocrites living in antiseptic vacuum, far removed from the people and the realities on the ground.

So all the employees that are on the pay roll of the government are not in the category of intellectuals, howsoever intelligent they may be and they should not be expected to play any role in dissemination of free and fair ideas in any dispensation as long as they are in the establishment. This group will also include such of the poets, writers, actors, journalists who are financially supported by the establishment.

Real intellectuals are those people who accept no authority but question it in order to alleviate human sufferings. They influence and shape public attitudes and beliefs through their ideas, expert knowledge and exceptional capacity of critical reflection. They contribute in different ways and to varying degrees to the production and development of cultural goods, in the form of speech, books, music, paintings or sculptures. Intellectuals see themselves not as elites in the society but people with a mission to lead others in a way or other to better their lives. These include writers, musicians, academics, artists, philosophers, social scientists, and the likes. Such intellectuals throw up ideas through their deeds and works that may or may not be directly known to people who are influenced by such ideas. Books with biggest impact were written by Karl Marx , Sigmund Freud , Darwin and Einstein but they were seldom read and understood by general public. These writings inspired large number of intellectuals throughout the world and through them the general public. The ideas of Lenin, Hitler and Mao had enormous impact on millions of people, though lethal. History is replete with examples of people with great intellect in Kashmir as well. Kashmir has been the abode of eminent scholars, savants, historians and poets and politicians. Our saints and poets used their own Kashmiri dialect for conveying their messages and thoughts. These included both men and women. In the present times also, we are not without our share of intellectuals. We have eminent poets, writers, musicians, artists, naturalists, environmentalists and the likes. But whenever these people tried to speak out, their mouths were gagged.

90’s had a dampening influence on the morale of the intellectuals of the State. The common man, let alone the intellectual, was caught among many opposing forces with mercy from none. Men of great eminence and courage were murdered in cold blood for their views. Others were humiliated in full public view. The entire movement had degenerated into a class conflict. The tensions existed due to conflicting interests from different socio-economic positions and dispositions. Coercion, harassment, extortion, repression, assault, restriction of civil liberties, and murderous violence was a commonplace affair in the entire decade of 90s. Those faces that marauded all across the territory day and night are still haunting the common man. That most of these men had the support of the rank and file of their leadership is hidden to none.

For any movement to survive and succeed, it is important that both, the means and the objectives are pious. A pious objective can never be achieved through wrong and unethical means nor can an unethical objective be justified through the use of pious means. The way the intellectuals and the common men were harassed and disrespected in the name of achieving a noble objective was neither just nor justifiable. An intellectual is nobody’s property and can not be hired like a cricket player in a county to make runs for its team. He is neither on this side nor on the other side. He is impartial dictated by his conscience. He is a watch dog and barks (if you like the word) on anyone who crosses the limits of accepted universal truth, whichever side of the divide he may be. It is in such an environment that an intellectual thrives. Therefore, while appealing to the conscience of the intellectuals, we must understand our role in respecting intellectualism and allow its progressive evolution in the state.

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