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

To Hosni Mubaraks, Ben Alis and Gaddafis in Kashmir

Junaid says that both separatist and mainstream politicians in Kashmir have enjoyed an atmosphere of mass impunity and lack of accountability by exploiting public

(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.)

Sinecures & Benefactors of Conflict

The obduracy of the conflict in Kashmir is all too visible. Albeit the sinecures that sustain and prolong it, are often less visible – merging and dovetailing into the rhetorical séances of a status-quo-ist discourse. Our radical-by-convenience leaders tell us that an amicable, acceptable and pragmatic resolution means a ‘sell-out’. Nothing short of a plebiscite ‘come what may’ are the charming proclamations that resound from safe houses and pulpits of righteousness. They speak of morals and integrity as they unabashedly bask in an accountability-free atmosphere of sensationalism and polemics, feeling little or no need to answer questions – where are we headed and how? Desperate cries for realism are subdued by invoking the imagery of blood and gore, belittling our numerous sacrifices by reducing them into bargaining chips and discounting equations.

If there are no holy-cows in conventional politics, there can’t be any in conflict politics either. No single leader is above scrutiny and introspection, lest he declares himself to be God-sent. Brushing aside geo-political realities in living rooms, wrapped in the warmth of ideologically reinforced delusions is hunky dory. However, the teenagers in our graves, the splattered blood on our pavements – the voluntarily self-imposed economic sanctions – that’s the other side – a side seen by a different demographic, a demographic that is voiceless, jobless and without hope. A demographic that experiences the conflict as opposed to those who talk about the conflict, issues calendars in the summers and vacations in Delhi in the winters. The poor man’s demographic. The same poor man whose bullet-riddled young son is our martyr and the same poor man who becomes our ‘collaborator’ and ‘traitor’ the moment he goes out to cast his vote.

The inherent contradictions between what the ‘sailors’ of the Kashmir movement preach in seminars and what they selectively experience and endure is, if nothing else, contemptuous to the very concept of Kashmir’s collective national dignity. As we present our children as gun-fodder for their political longetivity and notoriety, our own aspirations become dangerously malleable in their hands. We waddle around in the mundane gloom of a conflict-zone life, to be ordered to trot here one day and shutter our shops the other day – all in the blind faith that kicking our own bosoms and sacrificing our kids for the self anointed right honorable dictators of this movement will give us deliverance from oppression. And in this whole circle of blind faith begetting a vision-blind leadership, we have ceased to ponder – how do the sinecures and benefactors of conflict juice us like fructuous pulp, our miseries their sweet succor?

And it’s not the separatist leadership alone that is guilty of benefiting from this conflict. Mainstream politics in Kashmir has enjoyed an atmosphere of mass impunity and lack of accountability primarily due to this conflict. Delhi continues to treat Kashmir as a business vertical outsourced to a select few to ‘heal’ our wounds. Ironically the same faces that have inflicted some of the deepest darkest wounds on the face of Kashmir’s scarred history have, with Delhi’s occasional blessings, ordained themselves to be the faces of reconciliation and redemption. Delhi has consistently stifled and ‘managed’ democracy in Kashmir due to this self-imposed paranoia, an erroneous belief in the indispensability of some at the cost of others. Most past elections in Kashmir were strategically rigged so that the control panel stayed in Delhi, not entirely with the people of Kashmir – all in the name of ‘national interest’.

Election boycotts in Kashmir have voluntarily disempowered the people, benefiting power brokers and traders of religious vote-banks – benefactors of conflict in their own right. There are religious institutions that vote en-block to claim their pound of flesh in Kashmir’s power politics. Then there is this enormously disempowering, exploitative existence of religious constituencies in some of our most impoverished and backward areas. Religious constituencies that breed on conflict and the deafening invective of a people’s indifference in their own governance. Vote-banks in Kashmir, unlike most states in India, aren’t as much based on caste politics as they are on this marriage of profit between religious constituencies and conflict politics – and all the opportunism and chicanery that comes with it.

What happened last summer was most unfortunate, barbaric and suppressive and I personally spoke and wrote unequivocally against the atrocities and killings by the State and the security apparatus. But does our commitment to our nation have to stop at mere condemnations, annual chest thumping and slogans? A quick, superficial analysis of the summer fatalities discloses a bitter fact – most people who died in Kashmir were young children and teenagers from modest backgrounds and most often than not, with very grim career prospects. Since it’s fashionable to compare even egg hatchings with the uprising in Egypt – let us draw a fair comparison there as well. In Egypt, those who lost their lives included Doctoral Fellows, Researchers, Teachers, Business Executives and individuals from sound professional and economic backgrounds. Back here in Kashmir, our educated lot chooses to sit wrapped in shawls and quilts to watch the revolution on TV – analyzing it to threads and knots, claiming it with shrill living-room and seminar patriotism. Their own children are not allowed to so much so look at a stone with the intention of hurling it – but the poor man’s son is a glorified soldier of resistance and dissent – his death a mere statistic for their post-dinner darbars.

Then there are conflict benefactors spread across the globe – perhaps one of the biggest chain of retail stores and sinecures in the world – selling the sentiment and sacrifices on glossy brochures of statistics and sonnets. The number of expatriate ‘think-tanks’ and four-men ‘councils’ in Western lands ironically far exceeds the number of political parties and groups within Kashmir. I have lived in the West for enough years to notice the absolutely comical nature of clueless interactions – both actual and perceived – that take place between these self-anointed ambassadors of our movement. The role played by diaspora and expatriate communities in the Cuban movement, the Kosovar movement or for that matter my interactions with French-Algerian Muslims is absolutely inspiring. So my grouse is not with those who choose a better life for their families and still have an urge to support a political movement back home. My grouse is with those individuals who pontificate from afar, assume the right to judge, demean and disparage those in Kashmir they disagree with and morbidly draw argumentative succor out of gruesome miseries in Kashmir – miseries that they can read about on weekends and weeknights – miseries their own children are safely protected from. Flipside - Any leader in Kashmir who feels the need to seek suggestions from across oceans and continents from a motley crew of understandably disconnected gentlemen should relinquish the privilege to lead even a Mohalla, not to speak of a nation in quest of dignity.

There is a joke that goes around in Kashmir – that Pakistan will fight till the last Kashmiri. Our misplaced and misinformed romanticism of a socio-religious affinity with Pakistan – a nation perpetually struggling to be a State - has given wanton freedom to conflict benefactors who sell their souls at the drop of a dime, issue statements of Azadi in Kashmir and statements of merger with Pakistan while in Islamabad – or while talking to Pakistani publications. Our ignorance and malleability as a people has made us vulnerable to be juiced and minced for personal political gains and agendas.

Our Conflict Economy has burgeoned into a black-money sector without any parallels in recent global history. Business Empires have sprung up from nowhere – irrigated by an apparently never-drying stream of conflict-remunerations. More journalists find employment in Kashmir than any other State in India as new newspapers and magazines hit the stands every other week. Police suppliers revel and prosper in conflict. Tax evasion continues unabated and unrestricted. On the graves and miseries of our people, we have built our lives – dreamt of safe and prosperous futures for our own children. Our conflict benefactors are in plain sight – exploiting every drop of warm blood in our veins – feeding on our emotions and sensitivities. If there are Hosni Mubaraks, Ben Alis and Gaddafis in Kashmir – it is them, it is them, it is them.

No comments: