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.

Monday, April 11, 2011

From Self-Centered to Community Centric

Maroof shows how little one has to do to make a big difference in the lives of less fortunate. But will that happen?

(Dr. Muhammad Maroof Shah, 32, was born in Kunan, Bandipore. He has pursued a career in veterinary medicine and animal husbandry, completing Bachelors's degree in veterinary sciences (BVSc) at the Faculty of Veterinary Sciences and Animal Husbandry (FVSc & AH), Shuhama campus of the Sher-i-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology, Kashmir (SKUAST-K), and MA English through the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU). He is presently posted as a Veterinary Assistant Surgeon (VAS) at the Government Sheep Breeding Farm in Dachigam. Dr. Shah is the author of two books, and has lectured as a visiting fellow at the Jaipur University on Western Philosophy. In his leisure time he pursues studies in comparative religion, philosophy and literature.)

Can We Change It?

People protest in all ways when some innocents are killed but how insensitive are they to the coldblooded murders connected every hour. Imagine if you find a child denied food or good nutrition and he dies because of starvation or disease caused by malnutrition in front of you. Imagine denying a person the facilities of electricity and cooling when temperature is in 40 degree Celsius and he dies of heat stroke.

There are more ghastly and absolutely inhuman ways of killing also to which we have become accustomed. A young person is denied job for no fault of his own but because the system can’t adjust him as it is based on fundamental of injustice and denies jobs to millions. A person who is denied a job suffers from veritable hell and dies every moment – a far more cruel way of murdering than by shooting. Not being able to find a job or feeling alienation in one’s job is a cancer of the soul. This cancer afflicts countless millions across the world and many amongst the readers or someone in their families and we are accustomed to it. Impunity’s most shameless face! Denying a person treatment because he can’t afford is murdering him. Denying a person shelter because he can’t afford to purchase land or build a house is denying him the status of a human being. Countless thousands of couples suffer from slow poisoning of the soul due to it. Mistreated for being jobless or for some other reason a person wants to live alone, to weep without anybody around to notice it – that hurts his self respect. He was industrious youth working even up to late midnight to cram his lessons he never understood perhaps because he lacked verbal skills or knowledge of English. He fails in examination and fails again in the next year. His dignity and self respect goes as he is reviled by family members and ignored by friends. He becomes a criminal, an addict or suffers from neurosis of life long depression. This is the death of soul. He can’t afford education in a good school and his parents are eaten by guilt and the child grows to be a mediocre or at best an average student. All students can’t go to good schools because of limited seats.

Don’t forget that the system which makes it possible for me to build multi-storied house and that too on agricultural land with all the modern comforts condemns the labourer with whose skill and sweat that was constructed to penury, to agonizingly wait for daily bread if he gets the job for the day. The same system which makes it possible to overfeed some and then treat their obesity or diseases resulting from too much weight and fat at public expense has no money for universal public distribution system. The system has a mechanism – interest based banking – that ensures that the rich become richer and the more rich one is the richer he can become at the cost of the poor who are literally squeezed to death by bankruptcy or difficulty of repaying loans. The system protects the property of the rich by employing the poor in police force to fire protestors and “criminals.” If you happen to own some big business or bank or hotel or industrial plant or shopping complex you hardly need to do anything and still enjoy all the comforts because the labourers can work to create wealth for you to enjoy. The students condemned to study or take examination in the city or the attendants of patients from Bandipora or Kupwara who have indoor patient at SKIIMS have nowhere to go as the night draws nearer though at the same time the system protects my neighbour’s 18 room house on which only one or two rooms are normally used by his small family. More food is wasted every night or in one big function every day than is needed to feed all the people in neighbourhood.

If we can’t fight the system head on we can still make significant difference nonetheless if we want. A few ifs – which are all easily manageable – and we can be a welfare state. No poor person will need to hire sumo or auto if we used to give lift – I will not beg for free lift but will gladly pay some money to car owner. Our jam problem will go tomorrow if were conscious citizens and shared our car with 4 others on the way. Our State will save crores daily on the whole if people had a little compassion or fellow feeling or even had economic sense – collecting say Rs 10 or 20 from 5 persons to whom they give lift they will cover their petrol expenses, travel efficiently as jam will be less. In many advanced countries there is hardly anyone who is denied lift in contrast to situation here. Cooperative farming will give all of us almost free milk, free meet, free vegetables and even free rice or roti. Community kitchen will end buhu-sas tussle, strengthen extended family system and relationships while allowing our sisters and mothers enjoy life without being condemned to work thanklessly day in and day out. Job crisis will be over the next day if needs are provided for which are balanced nutrition, two or three rooms for a small family, a community hall in the area where all the expenses of functions such as marriages could be covered for less than Rs 150/plate in buffy system with many dishes of wazwan without any need of shamyanas, generators, and other paraphernalia.

If civil society decides and goes for change we will have significantly reduced crisis in jobs, in health care. If every doctor gives only 2 hours free service in a week, all the poor in our State will be treated. The same should apply to other service providers. We can create nonmarket alternatives to supply us most of the commodities and services and reduce cost of living to a few thousand rupee per month and less than Rs.10,000 salary for average family will suffice. Young people who had been inadequately loved or trusted in individualist market driven competitive system are despising everyone or resigned to their state as now trust no one or see themselves as unlovable. Everywhere we see hostility, mistrust, ingratitude, non-compliance. If we build a mahmaan khana with every new mosque we can accommodate all stray people and students whom government can’t accommodate in hostels as it has other priorities. In it we can keep space for two or three people for sleep and meals. We can solve problem of all those who come to hospitals and find no place at night or students/labourers/employees in need of accommodation by making waqf accountable. We have enough money with most mosque committees to do a lot of welfare activity. How many people know that Islam, as especially emphasized by Javid Gamdhi, requires 10-20% of income from productive units/rent every month to be given as ushr. If we gave ushr for only one year we can make big hostels that will accommodate students and road-farers. We could open beggar houses and make beggars work on different projects there – say vegetable cultivation. If imams of mosques want beggary to end, they need to register all poor in the community and provide some minimum support system from organized zakat/ushr system and then outlaw beggary in their localities. All unregistered beggars who come from nowhere and exploit us would be gone. All retirees should be asked to join some NGO or engage is various welfare activities. We have mosque committees, mohalla committees for the dead but none for the living. Let us make one for them.

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