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 1, 2011

Syed Ali Shah Geelani Quotes Mahabharat

Bhushan highlights a point in Geelani's meeting with Pandits that was conveniently "white washed" by every valley newspaper

(Mr. Bhushan Lal Saraf, 66, was born in Batapora, Shopian. He finished his schooling from the Government Higher Secondary School in Shopian, and completed his professional degrees in B.Sc. (Hons.), Diploma L.L.B., and KCS (Judicial) from the University of Jammu and Kashmir, and from the University of Lucknow. Mr. Saraf retired as a Principal District & Sessions Judge. He is presently an Honorary Member of the J&K State Consumer Commission. He has authored a book, "New Lexicon for the Kashmiris," published by UPS in New Delhi. In his leisure time, Judge Saraf, provides complimentary legal counselling, campaigns for legal awareness, and enjoys reading and writing.)

Geelani Sahib’s Welcome to Kashmiri Pandits

It is a statement of the fact that of all the separatist leaders, the politics and the public posturing of Syed Ali Shah Geelani has been an anathema to the Kashmiri Pandits. In fact there is no love lost between him and the Pandit community. There are obvious reasons for that. Some of them have held Geelani Sahib back and quite a few have turned Pandits away from him. We are, though, told that the venerated leader has a good personal equation with a fair number of the Kashmiri Pandits, living here or in Delhi. We are also informed that Syed Sahib has a tremendous faith in the professional capabilities of the Pandit medical practitioners that he prefers to be treated by them, wherever they are, for his numerous ailments. That, indeed, sounds a welcome thought.

Syed Ali Shah Geelani is as usual in the news. This time for the different reason and probably a pleasant one. He has assured protection to the Kashmiri Pandits who are living in the Valley and those who intend to live there. As a welcome gesture the octogenarian politico-religious leader visited the camp at Vesu Qazigund, where hundreds of the Pandit youth have taken a transitory abode on account of their public employment in the Valley, ordered recently. His notable refrain was, “On behalf of the Muslim majority of the valley I assure you that your temples, lives, property and honour will be protected by us when you return to their original homes here.” While addressing the inhabitants of the camp Geelani Sahib told them to explore the possibilities of return to their original places in the villages, towns and cities. He emphasized the centuries old traditions of sharing the inter-community joys and sorrows. He sought to restore and re-establish those traditions. This is indeed a significant move ; coming as it does from a person who, hitherto, was perceived to be lukewarm to the return of the Pandits. When we view it on the face, it does not raise questions which the Pandit community should feel uncomfortable to answer or live with. The matter though needs to be examined coolly. Ali Shah Geelani has not given up his intention to fight against India, whom he blames for nor having kept the promises made. Some may not without a reason, take this statement as a caveat to the Pandit’s unconditional return and living in the Valley.

There is a good deal of political vagueness attached to the phrases ‘ promises made ‘ and ‘promises not kept.’ His reference to the Mahabarat where Arjun is counseled to take on his relatives in the battle based on the principles, though flattering, is couched in the context that may attach many meanings to it. A reference or a phrase which is susceptible to various interpretations –some at cross with one another - tends to evoke the confusing thoughts, particularly, in the prevailing fluid situation. It may, therefore, defeat the very purpose in support of which it is made.

We have been stressing the point that it will be for the ultimate good of the Kashmiri Pandits to live in the familiar environs—wherefrom they were expelled by the circumstances. Nevertheless, a heavy duty is cast on the Kashmiri Muslims to take an initiative in this regard. Thereafter, the effort has been a mutual one, not minimising the role of the government in making the environment conducive for both the communities to live there as they had been living for the centuries. Now that the initiative has come from the majority community in the valley the Pandits must at individual and organizational levels seize the moment. Pandits have a right to return to the place as being the aborigines and live there as on their own terms, subject of course to the general societal constraints. Like in the past, the Pandits should make themselves indispensable for the Kashmir society. For that, they will have to hone the skills they are known for and put them in to the practice sincerely. That would restore a bond of healthy societal inter –dependence, which has been a positive hall- mark of the Kashmir society.

The signals which emanate from the civil society and the separatist camps, in the Valley, reveal a pleasant trend that Kashmiri Pandits have come in the focus. The interlocutors appointed by the central government to solve the Kashmir tangle have also started taking cognizance of the relevance of the Kashmiri Pandits to solve the vexed Kashmir problem. That they are the stake holders in the process is being appreciated. In this connection, they have entered into a dialogue of sorts, among others, with a few Kashmiri Pandits at their individual levels. We appreciate the move: but it would have been better if the interlocutors had broadened their interaction with the Kashmiri Pandits, belonging to the every strata of the society and not restricted the exercise to only those flown directly from Delhi.

While recognising that the onus is on majority community in the Valley to initiate the process of their return to valley, Pandits, on their part, do also need to respond in the true spirit, after due deliberations on the issue. The developments are positively shaping in Kashmir. They call for a mature response from the exiled community. The onus keeps on shifting. Once a person on whom it initially rests has discharged it then it shifts to the other side. The Kashmiri Pandits are on the other side in this case. Let them rise to the occasion. It does not pay to be always in a rage and in denial mode. The Pandits have, at their individual levels, by and large re-established their links with the Valley and the frequency of their visits to the holy places has, substantially, increased. However, care should be taken not to ignore the mischief potential of the vested interests, who are in abundance in both the communities and in the government circles; for whom the inter-community divide, thus far, has been a matter of bread and butter. The tribe is already set on the job. They deride the Geelani call as a belated one. We say; “ Better late than never.”

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