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, February 11, 2011

The Sopore Incident

Two editorials in two leading dailies in the valley (on the same day) convey the sense of duplicity that is a hallmark of the resistance leadership in Kashmir

Monster, called ‘Unidentified’
(Greater Kashmir)

Sopore incident stares us frighteningly into our face. The statements of condemnation, from all quarters, have flown in already. Syed Ali Shah Geelani has gone some half step more by giving a call for Hartal, albeit restricting it to Sopore town. It is, by all means, a grudging response to something immensely terrifying. Till now the response from Resistance camp, as we all here know it by the name of, has been a chilling reminder that the dichotomies and contradictions in this movement are far from over. The immediate, and the most intense comparison that comes to mind is the Shopian incident in 2009. There also it was a tragedy indescribable. Here also it defeats our description. Two sisters, too young to die.

Two sister of a family absolutely poor to be fed to the uncertainties and vulnerabilities of the conflict. Two respects and two lives snatched from their family. The level and the kind of response that we saw in case of Shopian is unmistakably missing in this case. The moment we saw Shopian turning its sting towards the State entire Kashmir shot up into protests. This matter is still raw and bleeds occasionally. Why did Sopore not go the Shopian way! This is a huge question that grindingly stations itself on the collective conscience of Kashmir. It doesn’t mean that separatists, militant organization, and the human rights activists should exactly repeat Shopian 2009. After all we had many acerbic rejections of extended hartals and endless protests coming from within our own society. The exterior of protest can not be the same always. And this too is a fact of our times that we had a months long protest, that brought Kashmir to a grinding halt in every possible way, just recently. People are not like an electronic gadget that you switch it over to the desired mode all the time. The point here is not this. The point is not even bringing the credibility of one particular political movement into question. If the government or the ruling party digs at separatists on their tepid response to Sopore incident, they have their own reasons and motives. The question that the larger society of Kashmir is whispering right now is that why we are not impartial in our responses to human tragedies. If a teenager is killed in a police action and it develops into an unprecedented public mobilization why can’t a killing by ‘unidentified’ gunmen evoke the same response! If Shopian pointed towards men in uniform we witnessed a dam burst, but when Sopore alludes towards ‘unidentified’, we barely come across a splash. This is a question that we all ask in our private chambers. The tragedy with us is that we have gravitated heavily towards the belief that if some questions are uncomfortable, asking them would bring about even more uncomfortable answers. So we end up terminating our questions midway. Sopore, if separatists are really serious about the future of our society, should be a point of change. The discourse often triggered by the State on all such occasions is a definite problem, but that has to be negotiated somehow. One way of doing this is to unequivocally register our protest against whosoever has done this dastardly act.

Second would be to follow it with the same vehemence and relentless action that was seen after Shopian. Third, and the most important, is to bring all the gun-holders to question. After all what is it that is not identifiable in Kashmir. Guns are carried either by State or the armed groups that have definite names and defined leadership. We, as people, can bring sufficient amount of pressure on both to throw light on the dark patches. If the security agencies and the intelligence apparatus associated with that, can dig out minutest details when it comes to cracking down on separatists and militants, why can’t they make public the details of this ‘unidentified’. And if the militant organizations are fighting a people’s war they are even more expected to contribute to the element of responsibility. About the human rights groups it is time to use their influence in developing a mechanism so that both state and non state actors get registered in the public domain through some graspable institutions and leadership. If that happens it would not be easy for anyone to hide in an ‘unidentified’ corner. Sopore is a time of test for all; government, separatists, militants and human rights activists. Of course, media too. No body can, and should, shirk the responsibility.

Hidden Hands
(Rising Kashmir)

What do people think when the embattled actors in a conflict condemn, with equal vehemence, the murder of laypersons? The brutal killing of two sisters from North Kashmir’s Sopore town should prompt an answer to this crucial question from the society, political rivals included. According to police records three militants believed to be the local cadres of Laskhar-e-Toiba abducted on Monday night two teenage daughters of one abjectly poor Ghulam Nabi Dar who lives in a one-room house at Mulsim Peer in the apple-rich town Sopore. Both were shot dead in neighboring Arampora when Fareeza, the ill-fated mother, was struggling with formalities at the nearby Police Station where she had gone along with her husband’s brother to lodge a report. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah was quick to not just condemn the incident but also pinch his separatist rivals, saying that their silence on such incidents was unfortunate. It was only after two days that the separatist Hurriyat factions, PaK-based militant leader Syed Salahudin and Lashkar-e-Toiba, which Police blames for the murder, condemned the killings with equal disdain for violence, repression and the acts of putting unarmed people to death. Although the fact that two blood sisters were gunned down at once makes Sopore incident more gruesome, killing of non-combatants especially women in the same manner has been intermittently going on ever since 1990.

Shopian is a case in point. On the sidelines of a roaring agitation against the alleged murder of two women in 2009, few more women fell to the bullets on the upper reaches of the town’s Keller area. Examples could be aplenty but the common concern among all hues of social quarters is how to go about it, how to deal with all this. What makes Omar Abdullah’s ‘regret’ look more real is the reluctance of Hurriyat factions or militant groups while responding to such incidents. Their stance on KILLINGS, it seems, is yet to assume the shape of a concrete political stand, a solid policy.

Hurriyat leaders and leading militant groups often distance themselves from ‘political murders’ or other mysterious assassinations. They have been stating frequently that killing anybody for his or her political affiliations does not fit their code book – Then why delay condemning a plain murder. Omar Abdullah’s assertion may ring true given the ‘politically correct’ stance Hurriyat always chooses to cling to, but he too carries some dark spots around his stance on killings. The same assembly wherefrom Omar derives legitimate powers has several times debated the issue of private militias and arms provided to them. Irregular militias can go crazy even in the most ideal conditions. People remember when Omar as opposition leader advocated the decommissioning of all the ‘private militias’. If both Omar Abdullah and Hurriyat, including militant leadership, have even a speck of concern for the masses, they should set aside their respective ideas about Kashmir and its solution in order to at least forge a ‘working unity’ against those hidden hands that are always on the prowl. No point-scoring please!

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