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.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

If You Want Nationhood, You Better Preserve History

The editorial in the Greater Kashmir points to another reason why Kashmir is not ready yet. More than the government, it is indifferent public that should take most of the blame

Preserve for Posterity

The report that the Kashmir Repository, located inside the Archives Department’s dilapidated building at Old Secretariat, Srinagar is in a shambles. That the prized possession of the state, Kashmir’s archival material, is adorned by bird droppings and dust reflects our collective mindset. While the custodian of the important, unique, and rare documents and manuscripts, the state government, is indifferent and insensitive towards the issue of preservation heritage lying in its custody, those in academics, scholars of history, activists claiming to be involved in promotion of culture and others too appear to be unconcerned and grossly insensitive to this wastage of the part of our rich heritage. This is the reason that government could afford such a neglect. That is how they could give the prized cache of historical documents to the care of nonprofessionals who do not know as to what to do with it.

It is not that the department of archives has not the services of trained people available with it; unfortunately they appear to have been sidelined. Normal archival activities involve processing, organizing each accession following the principles of arrangement, then packing, labeling, and storing the records so that they are under physical control. Here the situation is one of total chaos; the custodians do not know what lies where and a visitor to these archives is appalled to see its miserable fate. Academics and even ordinary students of history, art and culture know that archival materials are the basis for organizational knowledge, legal evidence, historical research, as well as personal and collective memory. The most common terms in the English language that are used for archival materials include historical documents, archives, or records. It is often said that “People must know the past to understand the present and face the future”. But here it appears a sinister design in allowing the prized collection of these archival materials to go waste lest the people know their past.

There is more to the situation of these archives than meets the eye. There are people who have been accusing the state and central governments of removing some important documents from the archives in a sly manner. Curiously these accusations have never been contradicted and if an attempt was made to refute the charges it was done without any supporting evidence. While the world is busy in finding ways and means to preserve the heritage and has come up with materials like acid-free paper, buffered paper made from wood based pulp also called Conservation Grade Paper; museum-grade-cotton rag paper made from cotton pulp, also known as Archival Grade Paper; yet another form of "archival paper" is being made from recycled plastic in the form of Durabook and are using modern digital technology to preserve and conserve the archival materials including documents; here the custodians of our heritage appear wittingly and unwittingly turning a blind eye to the deterioration of these archives.

With this kind of indifferent and callous attitude the state government is not only doing injustice to the present generation but also to the coming generations. History will not forgive this lapse on the part of the state government. The least the state government can do to save the archives from becoming a moth-meal is to have the documents scanned and digitized for posterity so that it does not pass in to history as a reckless, indifferent, and insensitive government that allowed the heritage to go waste. It is strange that the government that claims to be democratic in nature stands nowhere when compared to the self-appointed Rajas, Maharajas, monarchs and other rulers of the past who are viewed as autocrats and despots, as far as preserving and conserving archives is concerned. Let the state government respond to the situation and step in to set the things right in the Archives Department and have an advisory committee in place comprising academics, historians, archeologists and NGOs pursuing conservation of heritage to advise it on conservation and associated matters.

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