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.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

A Funny Thing Happened on Way to the Panchayat Election ....

Mrs. Asha Bhat, wife of Mr. Radha Krishan Bhat, mother of two grown-ups, Suresh and Ashok, and resident of Wussan village, once a "liberated zone" in Kashmir, is elected by her peers as their new Panch. (A Pandit women candidate in a neighboring village was defeated.)

Victory of Aasha, Hope for Harmony

Tejinder Singh Sodhi
(Tribune News Service)

Srinagar: In what was a closely contested election, a 52-year-old Kashmiri Pandit housewife Aasha Ji Bhat defeated her closest rival, a Muslim woman Sarwah Begum, with a margin of 11 votes in the seventh phase of panchayat elections held on Sunday. She became the first non-Muslim to be elected as a sarpanch.

Aasha, the first Kashmiri Pandit woman to win the panchayat elections to become the sarpanch of Muslim-dominated Wussan village in the Kunzar block of Baramulla district, defeated her lone rival Sarwah Begum by a margin of 11 votes. During the onset of turmoil in the Kashmir valley two decades ago, Aasha and her family, along with three other Kashmiri Pandit families in the village, decided against migration and stayed put in the village.

“We saw the worst days of turmoil in the Valley, but decided against migration and stood shoulder to shoulder with our Muslim brethren and now they showed their faith in me by electing me,” she told The Tribune.

She is all praise for the Muslim nambardar of the village Abdul Hamid Wani who encouraged her to contest the elections. “He supported me and encouraged me to contest the elections. He bestowed his faith in me so that I can do some development work for my village,” she said. On his part, Wani says while there was no deliberate intention of making a statement through Aasha’s election, it should remind people that “humanity is still the best virtue.”

Aasha, who lives in the village with her husband Radha Krishan and two sons, said that her victory would send a positive signal to the Kashmiri Pandits who had migrated from the Valley.

“It is a message to the Kashmiri Pandit families living in exile that camaraderie still prevails in Kashmir and that they should return to their roots as things have turned normal here,” she said.

Soon after she was declared the winner, Muslims garlanded her and took her to her house in a big procession, shouting slogans in her praise.

“We voted for her as we knew that she is an energetic lady and would work for the development of our village. We never considered that she was a non-Muslim and we should not vote for her. Our aim was to elect a representative who could help us to focus on development in our village where we face problems like damaged roads, scarcity of potable water and electricity,” said Khursheed Ahmed, a resident of the village.

The villagers in the block said that the four Pandit families who did not migrate from the Kashmir valley had stood with the majority community during the hour of need and now it was their duty to do something in return for them.

Aisha’s elder son Suresh Kumar is a police constable and her younger son helps his father at his grocery shop in the village.

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