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

Ostrich Mentality

Javaid sees absolutely no change in India's policy towards Kashmir. In fact, the approach has not deviated from the day the State of Jammu and Kashmir acceded to India. So are separatist politicians taking Kashmiris for a ride?

(Mr. Javaid Malik, 37, was born in Srinagar. He did his schooling from the Burn Hall High School, and completed his 11th and 12th grades from the Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. After his graduation from the Madras University, he completed his Master's degree in Mass Communication from the Manipal University. Javaid has worked for various Srinagar based English language dailies since 2001. He joined the Greater Kashmir staff in 2005, and is now the Editor of the on-line edition.)

PM’s Hard Talk

The recent visit of the Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh to Jammu proved to be a damp squib for most Kashmiri leaders, including mainstream and separatist. Dr Singh had nothing new to offer.

Dr Singh during his one-day Jammu visit stuck to New Delhi’s traditional Kashmir policy. He asked separatists to come forward for talks but he was quick to add that Kashmir solution had to be found within the ambit of Indian constitution. Dr Singh did acknowledge that people of Kashmir had genuine “political grievances” which need to be addressed. He also condemned the arbitrary arrests. But there was no mention of aspirations of Kashmiris in his speech nor was there any mention of any possible Kashmir solution.

He did make a mention of India resuming a composite dialogue with Pakistan despite the neighbouring country not taking any action against perpetrators of Mumbai attacks.

Dr Singh announced a few financial packages but most were meant for Jammu and Ladakh divisions. There was no Kashmir specific economic package. He did not even offer any political package to Kashmiri leaders. Him ignoring Kashmir did disappoint many people. Some “wise men” were of the opinion that Dr Singh announcing Jammu and Ladakh specific measures in the winter capital indicates that trifurcation of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh is on cards.

Prime Minister’s statements and his posture indicated that New Delhi has done its homework on Kashmir and one thing is clear that dissent would not be tolerated. The voices which would try to preach dissent would be silenced and no one would be allowed to disturb “peace and tranquility.”

Prior to his Jammu visit the Prime Minister had made it amply clear that separatists would not be given any space. He had even stated that centre had kept its fingers crossed ahead of summers.

The year 2011 so far has not witnessed any major incident except the killing of the youth Manzoor Ahmed Magray, February this year, at Chogal Handwara in north Kashmir. Army had later stated that it was a case of “mistaken identity.” On the contrary the year 2010 had started on a bloody note with the killing of a teenager Wamiq Farooq, who was allegedly hit by a tearsmoke canister in old city. A few days after his killing, another teenage boy Zahid Farooq fell to the bullets of paramilitary BSF men near Nishat on city outskirts.

Many of us do ask what we got by observing shutdown for nearly 5-months in 2010? It seems 2011 has answered this question. If we look back, 2010 unrest was triggered due to unabated killings. People staging protests and striking work did build an immense pressure on the government. Forces so far have exercised restraint. Many people believe that had people not expressed resentment against the killings situation this year could have been worse.

It seems forces have been asked to exercise restraint. If that happens Dr Singh can easily tell the world that “All is Well” in Kashmir. Anyway these are early days and its better for all of us to keep our fingers crossed.

As the days are passing New Delhi’s Kashmir policy is becoming clearer. One thing is for sure that New Delhi is no mood to even compromise on single inch of Kashmir. The concessions offered by Delhi have to fall within the ambit of the constitution. The three interlocutors can only suggest a few measures like releasing political prisoners and dismantling a few bunkers. Apparently it seems that they (interlocutors) too cannot also go beyond it.

After putting all these points together one comes to a conclusion that there is no place for separatists in the political arena of Kashmir at this point of time. Only those leaders will have a say in coming days who would follow the “diktats” of Delhi and “behave properly.”

Dr Singh’s Jammu visit has made all these points very clear. His unrelenting attitude seems to prove a point that New Delhi’s stand on Kashmir has hardened after 2010 unrest. Instead of Delhi talking about giving some concessions it is talking about taking more stern measures to deal with the elements who talk about secession and the resolutions passed by United Nations in 1947. New Delhi seems to project Kashmir as a law and order problem rather than it being a political issue.

The first concern for New Delhi and the state government seems to ensure that peace prevails and there is no repetition of what happened in 2008, 2009 and 2010. The centre and state governments want this summer to pass off peacefully.

At this given point of time no one seems to be talking about troop reduction or reducing the number of paramilitary men. The only focus seems to be on coming summers. To ensure that summer of 2011 passes off peacefully no stone is being left unturned.

The separatist leaders during the past few months have been ensuring that their statements do appear prominently in newspapers so that they remain in news. The common perception after 2010 unrest was that the New Delhi would take some steps to fulfill a few demands of Kashmiri people, but nothing of that sort has happened. It seems 2010 unrest has made New Delhi more “stubborn” and “rigid.” None of its leaders want to talk about Kashmir resolution. They do talk about taking a few Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) but no one wants to talks about Kashmir solution.

The notion about 2010 unrest highlighting the Kashmir cause seems to be turning out to be an illusion. Had not that been the case then the Prime Minister would have definitely made some major political announcements vis-à-vis Kashmir.

It is interesting to note that within a span of a few months we have witnessed two extreme situations. When “Quit Kashmir Movement” was at its peak, separatists were projecting it as “Now or Never” for Kashmiris and Indian leaders, including the Prime Minister, were desperate to talk to anyone to diffuse the tension.

After the “Quit Kashmir Movement” faded away in October- November last year it made New Delhi complacent. The people who were desperate to talk to anyone just a few months before seem least interested to hold parleys with any section of the Kashmiri leaders today. They are projecting Kashmir as a beautiful tourist destination.

It is amazing to note that equations in the Kashmir Valley change very fast. We as Kashmiris are an unpredictable lot and go to any extent for proving our point.

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s assertion on the floor of the House about New Delhi not fulfilling the political promises made to Kashmiris seems to have no takers in Delhi. Even Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh seems to have made up his mind on Kashmir. No one is in mood to fulfill either political promises or go for any reconciliation. The only agenda seems to ensure that this summer passes of peacefully and separatists don’t get any space. The common Kashmiri seems to be caught in a tug-off war, with influential and rich Kashmiris having sent their children outside Jammu and Kashmir to pursue their careers and studies.

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