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.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Valley of Beauty and Bliss

Javaid hopes that peace prevails and tourists enjoy their stay in the valley this summer

(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.)

Welcome to Paradise

This year Kashmir Valley is witnessing a huge tourist flow. People associated with the tourism sector seem to be heaving a sigh of relief with the hope that this year they would make up the loss they suffered during the three consecutive preceding seasons. Most of them believe that it’s too early to rejoice and be happy as the summer has just begun. There is no doubt about the fact that situation this year is much better than the previous years. Till date law enforcing agencies have exercised restraint and state government also doesn’t seem to be in any mood of giving any reason to separatists to start any kind of agitation.

Many people have started believing that this year would be different from the last three years so stage seems to be set for a good tourism season which government claims is the back bone of the state’s economy.

However, the propaganda launched by some people with vested interest about Kashmir being an “unsafe tourist destination” can definitely hit the tourism sector. Recently Chairman of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) Muhammad Yasin Malik had issued a statement assuring the tourists that Kashmir is the “safest tourist destination” and they are welcome. He termed rumors about Kashmir being unsafe as baseless. He had assured the tourists about their safety. Interestingly the Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Minister Nawang Rigzin Jora had seconded Malik and had appreciated him for giving such a bold statement. It was a rare occasion, a Minister praising a separatist.

Anyway those who are propagating that “Kashmir is not safe” seem to have forgotten that not a single tourist was harmed when Kashmir was simmering last year. People were angry but despite that they exercised restraint to prove it to the world that they are not violence mongers and they respect their guests even during the worst times.

A few tourists who visited Kashmir in 2008, 2009 and 2010 publicly announced that people of Kashmir are not to be blamed for the violence. Despite 112 youth falling to bullets of government forces last year not a single member of minority community was touched. The annual Amarnath Yatra passed off peacefully with thousands of devotees visiting the cave shrine in South Kashmir. One wonders how anyone can ignore such glaring facts.

New Delhi based news channels in 2010 aired many debates on Kashmir but all these channels made violence a focal point. None of these channels bothered to highlight how tolerant and hospitable Kashmiris are. Ironically these channels claim that they are unbiased and believe in objectivity. It seems objectivity for them is only to report violence. One needs to ask them why they don’t report what Kashmiris are facing and how they treat their guests?

Scores of parliamentarians, social activists and others during all these years have frequently visited the residence of the Chairman of Hurriyat Conference (G) Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who is considered to be the hardliner, but till date he has never said `no' to meeting anyone who has visited him. He has welcomed everyone with open arms. Unfortunately such events do not get reported in national dailies or channels, but whenever Geelani calls for a strike or asks people to stage a protest it makes headlines and national media leaves no stone unturned to prove that he is “out to disturb peace and ruin the economy” of Kashmir.

One fails to understand why everyone wants to see Kashmir burning. It seems peace and calm in Kashmir doesn’t suit some people even in New Delhi. Why some people want Kashmir to simmer during the peak season is a million dollar question which only they can answer.

Kashmiris have time and again proved that they are peace loving people and don’t believe in violence but situation at times compels them to give vent to their anger.
Many national and international organizations in their reports have put it on record that Kashmir is one of the heaviest militarized zones in the world and people are living under the shadow of gun.

Despite thousands of force personnel being deployed across the length and breadth of the Valley some people still claim that Kashmir is an “unsafe place” for tourists. One needs to ask how can be one of the heaviest militarized zones be unsafe for tourists. Is Kashmir unsafe because thousands of force personnel are deployed here? Anyway government claims that force personnel are in the Valley for the security of people. If it is true then why this propaganda?

It seems this tirade against Kashmir has been launched to hit its economy as some people don’t want Kashmir to prosper. Tourism sector directly or indirectly helps business and economy to flourish and everyone gets benefited in some or other way. Had Kashmir not been dependent on Srinagar-Jammu highway, only road link connecting Kashmir Valley with the rest of the world, situation could have been different. Prior to 1947 Kashmir was not dependent on this highway. People from Central Asia and other parts of the world used to visit Kashmir through different routes. Kashmir was a commercial hub and a junction but after 1947 Kashmir has been cut off from the rest of the world. How unfortunate it is that when entire world is progressing and it has been turned into a global village, people of Kashmir have only one road which connects them with rest of the world.

History stands testimony to the fact that Kashmiris are the most hospitable people and they give lot of respect to their guests. Some people are of the opinion that once tourists get over the fear psychosis Kashmir has got the potential of becoming a top tourist destination. Many people don’t want that to happen. Some believe that it can make Kashmiris economically stronger. They fear that if Kashmiris become financially strong they can pose a bigger threat and can turn the tables. Poor Kashmir can never be threat as for any poor nation hand to mouth survival is the first priority. No one can predict the future but one thing is for sure that no Kashmiri would ever harm a tourist or an outsider. Had that not been a fact hundreds of non local labourers would not have stayed put in Kashmir despite adverse conditions. Kashmir separatists leaders have quite often reiterated that people of Kashmir are not against any religion or the people of India and anyone can come here without any fear.

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