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

Political Co-Existence

Ashraf champions for a change in the Indian subcontinent that would make it look like a global village where neighbors live in peace. Article followed by a review of Dr. Beg's latest book

(Dr. Mirza Ashraf Beg, 70, was born in Sarnal, Anantnag. He did his primary schooling at the Primary Hanfia School in Anantnag and completed his F. Sc. from the Government Degree College in Anantnag. He completed his medical degree (MBBS) from the Government Medical College Srinagar, University of Kashmir, in 1967, and a Postgraduate Diploma in Clinical Pathology from the Government Medical College Jammu, University of Jammu, in 1981. He served as the Medical Director of the Civil Hospital, Pahalgam, until 1983 and subsequently held senior administrative positions in the health service system of Saudi Arabia, including participation in a joint program with the Johns Hopkins University and the University of South Florida for a United Nations project related to environmental and ecological impact of the 1991 Gulf War. He is an Executive Member of the Jammu and Kashmir Red Cross (nominated by the Governor of Jammu and Kashmir), Member of General Medical Council, Jammu and Kashmir, Medical Council of India, Saudi Medical Council, and General Medical Council, London. He is proficient in Kashmiri, Urdu, Hindi, English, Arabic.)

Distance Must Not Matter

Distance between milestones is fixed and does not alter with the passage of time. Despite that though the apparent distance between Kashmir and New Delhi is 867 kilometers. while Kashmir and Islamabad are separated by 563 kilometers. These distances have frequently changed with the turbulent political tides in the subcontinent. After the partition of India a part of J&K landed in the lap of the new born state called Pakistan and the rest rested on top of India making the two neighboring countries restless till date. Having a look retrospectively on the events that followed the tragic partition, both India and Pakistan have bled a lot and continue to bleed because both ignored the wounds inflicted on J&K. It has also been observed that the distances between these milestones are directly proportional to the domestic events in India and Pakistan. The tragic events of Malaygaon and barbarian acts of the demolition of Babri Masjid or the plight of underprivileged minorities in India and violent disturbances in Pakistan are the events not to be forgotten.

There is no doubt that the nonstop turbulence in J&K was born out of the UN resolutions of 1947 — whatever we say. Thus sixty years of uncertainty can be divided in different phases—sometimes it was invisible while at times the graph was at its highest such as the recent stone pelting or the gun culture of the last twenty years. This ambiguity gave birth to different shades of political leadership with different godfathers. The leadership that was born out of the freedom struggle against the autocratic rule was destabilized on frivolous charges and charge sheeted through Kashmir conspiracy case. With the result the distance between the political leadership of New Delhi and Kashmir increased manifolds. In this melee Kashmir drifted in to a state of uncertainty. The peaceful struggle for the implementation of UN resolutions culminated in to armed resistance in 1989 resulting in to widespread death and destruction. The turmoil also led to the painful exodus of KPs from the valley a tragedy credited to a conspiracy between security forces and some Jagmohan in the state. (Editor's comment: "Jagmohan conspiracy" has no legs and primarily serves to obfuscate majority community's silence and/or acquiescence in the exodus of the minority.)

Hoping against the hope, the distance between New Delhi and Srinagar by and large was standstill till 1953 because people of the state thought that sooner or later they will be given a chance to decide their future and the events of August 1953 proved that the promises made were just a mirage. The gulf thus created could not be bridged till date. In the mean time the distance between ‘Azad Kashmir’ and Islamabad did not alter despite the fact its developments did not match this side of the state. Moreover for paucity of space and lack of first hand information it will not be feasible for this writer to delve deep on the status of that part of the state.

The armed rebellion of 1989 devastated all the bridges between New Delhi and Kashmir. Fake encounters, forced disappearances, unidentified graves and unnecessary demonstration of force resulting in to innumerable widows, half widows and orphans added fuel to the fire and increased the already existing distances manifolds.

Lots of efforts through interlocutors, good governance or back channel diplomacy are on way to reduce the distance between New Delhi and Kashmir or to overcome the trust deficit between the two. We need to understand that there is no shortcut for building a firm human relationship. It has never been one way traffic. With the type of injuries inflicted during the last twenty years on the people of the state it will be childish to think that Rooti Kapda Makan or Bijli Sadak Pani will serve as a healing touch to wounds. If we mean business the only way to shorten the distances is to build the bridges between India and Pakistan and open as many road links between Azad Kashmir and J&K as possible on way to a long term plan to make the cease fire line irrelevant. Encourage people to people communications and make to and fro business a visible success. It is immature to say that transaction of Hawala money has increased through Muzafarabad Srinagar road. We need to realize that it has taken people of the state sixty years of hard research to rediscover this life line. Money these days is not transported through trucks or Lorries. Bank cards and electronic transactions have solved that problem long ago. Moreover there is a lot of tittle-tattle that people have installed currency printing machines in connivance with the law enforcing agencies! So it is detrimental to let administrative or security agencies to spoil the sensitive atmosphere by their loose talk or unwarranted statements.

Our politicians too need to understand that it is not fair to confuse the gullible through vague statements such as K-currency, double currency or interpreting the accession as merger or amalgamation. There is no doubt that J&K is the only state where its interests are safeguarded through Article 370 of the constitution. The elected members only need to gather the guts to safeguard this provision of the constitution besides they need to search if this Article has been deprived of its colors and its fragrance. If so, as a first step for a permanent solution through a people’s verdict we need to find ways and means to rectify the damages done. The state also needs to demonstrate properly its official flag that is safeguarded by the constitution. At the same time with the concept of globalization the borders become irrelevant-- we need to learn to live in a global village-- of course without elbowing out our neighbors. That is how milestones disappear and nations come closer.

Kashmir in Search of Peace - Book review

Book : Kashmir in search of peace.
Author: Dr. Mirza Ashraf Beg
Pages = 422.
Prize: Rs 400/-
Year of publication: 2010
Publisher: Mirza Publications Sarnal Islamabad (Anantnag) Kashmir

Dr. Mirza Ashraf Beg - a voice in desert (incidentally, he has a 20-years long experience in a desert turned paradise). Shall it go unattended? But who will stop him calling a spade a spade? He wrote continuously he talked consistently and now he gives a written word to stamp in the process which he calls “peace”. A collection of more than hundred articles spread over 422 pages in a book form is really a literary treasure. But for the author it is a thematic combine on peace search in Kashmir. Prof. Agha Ashraf Ali blesses the collection by saying:

“In these truly illuminating pages; Dr. Beg urges us to join him and pray for what we are craving for in the entire world today:

Peace and goodwill. That is the very theme and crowning glory of this book”.
To me the collection is a context – specific informative narration. It has a potential to enrich us with some silent bits of history without journeying through its corridors.

The silence of these bits has been intermittently voiced by the Kashmiri leadership or masses. In quest of the peace for the ill-fated Kashmir, Mirza Ashraf surveys the first rank political leadership of India with a pledge to resolve the Kashmir imbroglio quoting PT Jawaharlal Nehu; he notes;

“We have decided to accept this accession and to send tropes by air, but we made a condition that the accession would have to be considered by the people of Kashmir later when peace and order were established. We were anxious not to finalize anything in a moment of crisis and without the fullest opportunity to the people of Kashmir to have their say. It was for them ultimately to decide.”

But all said and done the paradise could not be freed from distress. The “historical handshakes” turned into the “missiles of peace”. And the practice continued but the hope didn’t die. Dr. Ashraf is yet not disappointed with the Indo-Pak leadership and expects some thing dramatic, exciting and surprising and finally solving the quandary.

Let me point out that the solutions and settlements of chronic problems like the one we are talking about need open mindedness, freedom from bias humility and sincere desire and then a firm will with catholic and democratic approach. Unless the two countries together with the victimized Kashmiries have a commitment to the principles of justice and co-existence in the backdrop of the concept of globalization the problem can not be solved. Having realized that all the methods of force and coercion have proved abortive peaceful negotiations seems to be the only way forward ………….”

The changed world scenario arousal of positive public response and the stake holder’s will to negotiate may provide an immediate road map to the final resolution of the problem:

“Political analysts should agree with the opening of additional access points between India and Pakistan our borders have definitely softened. Let us accept the facts that with the flattening of the world the priorities have shifted from egotism and Jingoism to the economic sector. That is why India has responded to the suggestion of a phase wise withdrawal of the armed forces………..”

Throughout his book Mirza Ashraf has been extra ordinary careful to not side with extremism in any form. A balanced approach a win-win strategy and a peace-oriented programme is what he craves for. An extensive free lancing is also seen as punctuating between the thematic write-ups and temporal urgencies. So topic like, “urbanization in J & K”, ‘After Iraq what?’, A lovely landscape’ ‘sex trafficking in J & K’, ‘dying fruit industry’, fighting inflation and many others are to be taken as the participant observations with the core problem at the central stage.

Dr. Ashraf himself observes;

“Some of the articles may have a flavor other than the title of the book, but delving a little deeper, the reader will find a relevance of such topics in the general title frame work of the book”.

After traveling through whole expanse, one may ask why Dr. Ashraf alienated himself from the mainstream politics when he had both opportunity and potential to get involved in active politics. The answer is perhaps, the same as my response to an offer from Mirza Muhammad Afzal Beg. In late sixties Dr. Muhammad Ashraf Beg came to my hilltop residence at Sarnal Islamabad (Anantnag) inviting me to fight Parliamentary Election from district Islamabad (Anantnag) as an NC-Candidate where as Late Shamim Ahmed Shamim had to fight it from Srinagar district. I had declined this kind and generous offer on the plea that I want to take a role in education because it too needs a committed leadership. Dr. Beg did more or less the same thing by taking a formidable role in public health sector. However, there is a great difference Dr. Ashraf having a spiritually ordained mind, a catalyst’s, eye, a positivist’s wit and above all scientists vision leaving me far behind.

To close, I recommended this book for a wider reading and enjoyment, and wish that the ‘search of peace’ ends with peace, prosperity and happiness.


No comments: