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, September 4, 2011

Anna and the Dal

Irfan does not know it, but even Americans think that Kashmir politics is filthy as the Dal Lake. First the extract from the WikiLeaks, followed by Irfan's commentary on corruption

Kashmir Politics as Filthy as Dal Lake: WikiLeaks

Srinagar: As the WikiLeaks exposé has already rattled the political leadership here, further disclosures are more shocking with Kashmir politics being described as ‘filthy as Dal lake.’ In a cable titled “Kashmiri politics as filthy as Dal lake”, US diplomats said corruption in the Valley cuts across party lines. “Most Kashmiris take it as an article of faith that politically-connected Kashmiris take money from both India and Pakistan,” says the cable. “Nor is the administration exempt from corruption. Rumour has it that some security force officers bribe their way into Kashmir assignments that give access to lucrative civil affairs and logistics contracts”.

Needed: An Anna Hazare of sorts

Irfan Naveed (Kashmir Images)

The politics of the politics is all that counts in Kashmir while as politics of economy has, seemingly, taken a back seat allowing free hand to a corrupt lot who sneak in and torment the poor and the middle-class people. Corruption, therefore, is a monster at the door and the need is to defeat it for a better tomorrow. Irfan Naveed writes…

Anna Hazare has emerged as the voice of the middle and the lower middle class in India and his campaign against corruption has seen tremendous support among the masses. Hazare, as such, has no towering charisma or political background which could have been a reason for his success as a campaigner. Instead it is the relevance of the issue - ‘CORRUPTION’ that made Anna famous. Whether he succeeds, and to what level, in a system which is partially run by corruption, it remains to be seen but one is tempted to think whether we too need an Anna Hazare of sorts.

The rampant corruption and soaring inflation has made the life of a common middle class Kashmiri person miserable. The conditions here for a common man are absolutely similar, in many ways, to any ordinary common person in any state of India or Pakistan. Here also, people demand bribe for almost everything. Be it the matter of seeking certificate, Ration Card, Pension documents, retirement papers or even a death certificate people will have to pay bribe. No job, particularly in a government office, is done without bribe while as the corrupt employees do not hesitate to be arrogant at the same time. They, thus, declare that Corruption has acquired a legal status, though informally.

The common middle-class people, without any influence, are badly trapped and caged into these practices of corruption while the rich have both influence and money to get their job done. In such a scenario people without the power of influence and money have to wait for months together for their works and, many a times, return frustrated.

There is also no such easy mechanism available to them to register their complaint against the defaulter officer (s). They, therefore, often end up dejected and lose hope in the system. The irony is that the Anti-Corruption wings of the government too have corrupt officials to taunt the poor and their complaints against the rich government officials.

People are compelled to bribe the concerned official, the only way to get something done. Average Kashmiri consumer is ill- treated everywhere, may he be in secretariat lawns or in any other government office, he has to first pay the concerned officer under the table, than only he can get his work done. The same malpractices are followed in almost all the state offices.

Influence, either political, bureaucratic or financial, help the rich to make quick deals and get their work done in every office while as the poor who lack the same have to struggle and loose all such battles. Besides this, the status of an individual or his/her family also matters when it comes to dealing with such a public work. Hard cash, by and large, is at the top when it comes to getting things done and unfortunately the thickest class of people, here, doesn’t have that and their works, therefore, remain unattended.

An ordinary gentleman is left with fewer options at hand and in such a scenario he loses hope and faith in such an administration and governance. He vows for a change but every time he faces similar situations, the same setup where influence, status and money matters above all other things. Finally he chooses to either be able to do what others are doing or becomes merely a common spectator of these ugly events.

Angered by such practices when rich afford to get their things done while as poor suffer the brunts of corruption, people often tend to come out onto the streets and raise slogans against corruption. They are, in rare cases, assured action by the governments and administrative officials. But most of the times, they would be cane-charged and dispersed painfully. They are taken as usual routine protestors and no serious measures are taken to look into their plight. This indicates, to them, the government’s dual stands vis-a-via eradicating corruption.

Ultimately neither poor man’s patience, nor his individual unrest are going to help him in such a situation and it seems that the magnitude of this evil practice demands a revolution and Anna Hazare has created a sort of a revolution in India. He has awakened the common man to stand for himself and fight corruption. People discuss the Jan Lokpal Bill and hope for a change.

In fact the poor Kashmiries are already trapped in worst ever political and administrative crises. Besides this rampant corruption, unaccountability and frequent price hikes have worsened his life with more challenges for survival at every juncture visible while as chances for success entirely bleak.

There is a common saying that whenever a misery strikes, it first knocks at the door of the poor. It is true in almost every situation and poor people have to suffer all sorts of ills. Corruption, as such, may appear to be a short-cut for those who are financially well off, but for those who struggle to earn their living it is a malignant disease that needs to be cured before it infects the whole body.

Now that we know that our state ranks among the top corrupt states, we must initiate and trigger a movement and search for people who would be ready to fight corruption. Someone who can keep fast for making his voice heard, someone like Anna Hazare of sorts.

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