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.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Public-Leadership "Trust Deficit"

Junaid says Hurriyat has put itself under the microscope

(Mr. Junaid Azim Mattu, 25, was born in Srinagar. He partly completed his schooling at the Burn Hall School, Srinagar, and partly at the Bishop Cotton School, Shimla. He attended college in America and graduated with a degree in Business and Finance from the Eli Broad School of Business at Michigan State University. He is a consulting financial analyst and telecom-IT entrepreneur based in Srinagar. A seeded national varsity debater throughout his school and college career (his grandfather - Khwaja Ghulam Ahmed Ashai - was one of the founding fathers of the Muslim/National Conference), Mr. Mattu also played under-19 cricket at national level for J&K. He is a founder of the World Kashmiri Students Association (WKSA), a global youth association for Kashmiris based in Srinagar, Kashmir, working on social, economic and political issues through constructive and informed activism. WKSA, as of today has 1,700+ registered members in Kashmir. He is also a nominated alumnus of the Global Young Leaders Conference. In his leisure time, Junaid likes to engage in reading, gardening, watching movies and listening to music.)

Forget “Intellectuals”! What About “Leaders”?

“One mustn't criticize other people on grounds where he can't stand perpendicular himself” – Mark Twain

At a seminar on the “Role of Intellectuals In Freedom Struggle” held in Srinagar recently, a few voices – driven by a chronic and repulsive habit - engaged in verbal clashes with sanity, mercilessly bludgeoning it to death. Certain leaders occasionally indulge in a ritualistic stone pelting on “intellectuals” as if “intellectuals” were the directionless lot, not the leaders – all apparently based on this self-imposed premise that being a “leader” and being an “intellectual” were two mutually exclusive things. First, dare I ask – is the horror of being both sacrilegious? Should we presume that our leaders are not “intellectuals”? Taking from this self-highlighted distinction, are our leaders, by their own admission, “intellectually bankrupt”? Second, how can a vision-blind leadership and a redundant, static group of “intellectuals” – which comes out of the woodwork for seminars and stage-shows, engage in a back and forth discourse on roles, positions and contributions in a “freedom struggle” that remains inherently mystified, directionless and embarrassingly leaderless? A six-decade long freedom struggle that, to this very day escapes any form of visible institutionalization.

Why does an “intellectual” need to stand the scrutiny of a leadership that is a rhetorical blend of slogans and antics? A leadership that has – to start with - failed at drafting a sustainable and acceptable strategy, not to talk of the near blasphemous hope that such a strategy would eventually be implemented, operated, maintained and – from time to time – optimized. A leadership that sadly takes more directions than it gives and then, every few months at a seminar about the “role” of “intellectuals” – bashes and blames everyone but stops short at critical self introspection. A leadership that is castigated into political paralysis by the hegemony of one single man – a man they still allude to as vaguely as they could.

A couple of separatist leaders though went against the dead beaten convention of blaming all and sundry for what is primarily the inherent failure of their own reactionary politics of fear and stature. Courageous statements were made questioning the moral chins of those holier-than-thou leaders who question the masses and intellectuals before putting their own contributions into perspective – contributions that go beyond jail services, gimmickry, funeral attendances, mile long rallies and chaharum visits. Contributions that could have taken the sentiment of nationalism towards institutionalization, but such contributions ask for an unwavering courage – courage of more often than not risking life, credibility and the safety of conformity.

Three consecutive mass agitations were hijacked by our leaders to seek their own political relevance, and in the process of seeking that relevance – all three agitations failed. This year’s agitation – perhaps the strongest in terms of moral shocks, resonance and media coverage – failed primarily due to this unrealistic calendarization – something that eventually made this agitation controllable and unsustainable – at the greatest benefit to the Indian State. If I were New Delhi, I would pay in rubies and pearls for such rampant, mindless calendarization – for the chaste Urdu statements that we saw being made – ridiculing the feasibility of an independent Kashmir. Pray then, I ask – why were our teenagers cheered forth to their graves? For Khilafat, I ask? For Pakistan? In issuing calendars and YouTube speeches, we found an absurd, retro-culture alternative to wise, sensitized politics – at a detriment to nobody but the people of Kashmir – their psyche, their livelihood and their patience.

The leaders who attended this seminar – and, calling a spade a spade – most of whom made courageous statements – might excuse themselves from this ominous guilt by stating their lack of endorsement for this year’s leadership irrationality – if one can call it leadership at all. Respecting their dignified silence in not being a part of this political tide of polemics and rhetoric, I would like to question their relevance as intelligent voices of moderation when they choose to wear a muzzle when the storm is wreaking havoc. Once the storm flies past, it’s easy for such leaders to exude such statesmanship and scream “I told you so” after “I told you so”.

This trend of convenience runs deeper past this summer into our recent political history. Statements of courage and statesmanship were galore at this seminar as the assassinations of Abdul Gani Lone Sahib and Mirwaiz Molvi Farooq Sahib were alluded to – questioning our hypocrisy in not pointing fingers at their murderers – incidentally at murders that Kashmiri and Pakistani perpetrators carried out at the behest of Pakistani elements. Where was this courage and statesmanship in 2002 when Sajad Gani Lone – a devastated son was deserted for his courageous statement – that his beloved father was killed by ISI and that one of his father’s colleagues had consciously abetted the gruesome political murder through his rhetoric? Which moderate Hurriyat leader had the courage and spine to stand by a mourning son whose only fault was pointing an unshaken finger at the murderers of his father? Did the same moderate; brave voices not implore Sajad Lone to retract his statement at that point in time? Conscience is a terrible thing to have – it haunts you for not standing up for truth when you should have – against all odds, against all threats of life and relevance. If what Sajad Lone said the day his father was assassinated is now statesmanship, why was it taboo in 2002? Why did Sajad Lone face stigmatization to no end for having the cheek and audacity of not giving such Pakistani elements the privilege of getting away with political assassinations in Kashmir?

We have now, as it appears, taken moral cognizance of these bloody blots on our conscience – leaves of travesty in our history that cannot be attributed solely to external forces. Why then are we vague about such admissions? Why doesn’t Mirwaiz Umar Farooq clearly and unambiguously state as to who killed his father? Why this rhetorical vagueness in pointing half a finger – choosing not to wake up a snake – a snake that has and will continue to strangulate our voices and devour independent Kashmiri leaders ONLY till Kashmiri leaders give it the luxury of holding them hostage to fear and intimidation?

I earnestly hope that this signifies the saturation of our appetite for cowardice, half-truths and lies. Truth has been the biggest casualty in Kashmir – on both sides of the conflict – a conflict that has been wrapped into a suffocating cocoon of sensationalism, a conflict mired by egos and judgments – by the divisiveness of one holy man and the reluctance of all others in countering his counterproductive, obnoxious and murderous influence in prolonging the status quo by sitting in judgment when others chose dialog over insanity – yet sanctifying the very institution of dialog when he chose to negotiate with a State-level political advisor. Let truth come out from all molehills and caves of self-righteousness – without compulsions and concerns of timing, controversy and the collateral political damage it might bring along. Let’s open this blood-soaked Pandora’s box once for all and shed our own garbs, guilt and baggage before we seek a “way forward”.

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