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, March 4, 2011

Coming of Age

From environment to politics - editorials in the Rising Kashmir show a new and exciting level of maturity

Kashmir’s Plunder

In a bid to check the encroachment in Pahalgam, the High Court Monday directed the state fovernment to file an affidavit giving full particulars of people who have violated the Master Plan and municipal regulations in the area. The Court also ordered that the inquiry into the First Investigation Report filed by Vigilance Department should not be conducted by an officer below SP rank.

In the last twenty years of conflict, Kashmir’s environment has been at the receiving end of vested interests. Under the garb of unrest, massive encroachments have plagued all major tourist destinations in Kashmir. Dal, Nageen, Anchar lakes have been reduced to pounds by encroachers and places like Gulmarg and Pahalgam have also seen massive infringement in the last two decades. During the last summer unrest encroachers took full advantage of the situation as many new constructions propped up in the greenbelt areas. This could not have been possible without the help of government officials who turned blind eye to the violations. In those days one could easily see trucks carrying soil for filling large tracts of state land near Hokersar, at a time when not even milkmen were being allowed to move. Pahalgam has also witnessed construction of new hotels during these months.

When the unrest first broke in Kashmir in late 80s, Dal and Nageen lakes not only saw unprecedented illegal constructions but also large scale encroachment. The problem goes deeper when it comes to deforestation. It seems forest department has joined hands with the smuggling mafia to denude the forests. In Rafiabad, timber smugglers used ambulances to smuggle wood during the summer unrest. It was impossible for them to do so without the patronage of forest department and help of the local residents. In the upper reaches of Budgam, smugglers ally with the locals as they pay them Rs 3000 per-night to cut the expensive timber from the local forests. The government as well the people should shoulder the responsibility of conserving our natural resources. It should not take High Court to deliver orders for protection of Kashmir’s rich resources. While the conscientious sections of our society could set off a debate around the survival of the state amid such random loot, the state authorities could review the laws and make them more stringent so that the violators or officials willing to collaborate with the violators don’t escape punishment for harming the future of future generations.

Hurriyat and Hartal

Kashmir’s separatist leadership would do well by charting a new course but it still seems fixated to the overused formula of hartal. While JKLF wasted a good opportunity to highlight its leader Maqbool Bhat and his landmark sacrifice in the young social mainstream on February 11, Hurriyat (G) on February 22 chose to repeat its old mantra of shutdown.

Trigger for recent lockdown was virtual detention in Delhi of Syed Ali Geelani who according to Delhi Police would be questioned in connection with a recent recovery of Rs 21 lakh cash that was allegedly being couriered by one Ghulam Muhammad Bhat, a close aide of Geelani. The news sparked sporadic protests and mild clashes in some parts of Valley on Sunday. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah was quick to dispel the detention theory, saying Geelani was being questioned and not held in custody. Geelani’s colleagues in Srinagar failed to display wit and wisdom to tackle the issue of police curbs on Geelani. Hurriyat (G) instead of taking on the state on a democratic turf called for a shutdown the reason of which was lost on many. For his repeated emphasis on discipline during demonstrations, adherence to nonviolence and his frequent denials of Second-Round theory, Geelani seems willing to do some peaceful politics rather than a street fight. Sadly, Tuesday’s call for strike, which affected businesses though public movement did not freeze, looked out of sync with Geelani’s latest rulebook for resistance. For one, being detained or questioned by police is not something that had happened to Geelani for the first time – in past he has survived several attacks on his life; heckled by BJP activists; prevented from public appearances in Jammu; kept confined to home for weeks together; his participation in a seminar on 21 Oct evoked a huge political controversy and led to filing of sedition charges against him and some of the academics.

Just because Delhi Police wanted to question Geelani in connection with an investigation does not make it a ‘national issue’ of Jammu and Kashmir. Secondly, the best course against police curbs on Geelani would have been a blend of social and legal initiatives. Geelani is not an unfamiliar face in India. Of late he was seen beside noted pro-democracy leaders in New Delhi. The members of genuine social groups within India, especially Swami Agnivesh, have been carrying on well with Geelani. While Hurriyat (G) could challenge the alleged detention in Delhi court, it could have rallied support against the state curbs from within India’s civil society, which of late has grown sympathetic to its cause of democratic rights and justice for people of J&K. On the contrary, Hurriyat (G) rather than hurling a social and legal challenge to Delhi Police repeated the old tack and asked people to stay home. A statement of gratitude, thanking people for their ‘sacrifices’ will follow this largely indiscernible strike; the muted questions will remain unanswered. Is strike the cure of all ills?

No comments: