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.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Green Warrior

The heart warming story of Sonaullah Parray

Green Warrior Protects Deodar Forests

Khag: Sonaullah Parray, 50, keeps vigil through the night in the the Khag-Tangmarg region of Kashmir protecting the forests from timber smugglers. Gangs of brutal armed timber smugglers run through the Deodar forestline without any officials manning the area.

Parray keeps vigil, watching out for furtive smugglers who drive logs out on horseback. Part-force, and part-motivation, Parray and his team of a dozen youth, have successfully kept the jungle thieves at bay.

Sonaullah Parray said, "30 youth and I have ensured that felling has stopped. We have seized timber worth crores and confiscated hundreds of horses and handed it over to the government."

Parray turned an eco-warrior 20 years back, when he saw a man-made nursery disappearing overnight in Rajasthan. He then swore that there won't be a repeat in his village - where wanton tree-felling and and organised smuggling cartels were happening under the garb of militancy.

"People don't know how big the losses can get. We are losing wildlife and we barely get any snowfall here now," he said.

In an area where massive tree felling has been taking place and where timber smugglers in nexus with forest officials have dug deep roots, Parray and his team's vigilantism has been able to defeat the eco-terrorists.

Parray operates not just in the dangerous Khag-Tangmarg rim but further down to Arizal and Khan Sahib of the mighty Pir Panjal where smugglers have hacked three whistleblowers to death. He, however, is unfazed. In fact, the state has encouraged him to form a village forest committee to patrol some sensitive areas not in government control.

Tangmarg Divisional Forest Officer Saleem Geelani said, "We have already booked 10 persons under the PSA and identified 161 forest smugglers. We will bring all culprits to book."

The forest vigilante-cum-good Samaritan, Parray, is trying to promote tourism in the area to wean the illiterate villagers away from smuggling.

Mohideen Bhat, a villager, said, "Our youngsters need options. If tourists come to this area, we will earn some money to support our families."

In a place where standing between forests and timber smugglers can get risky, Parray is willing to live on the edge even if it means saving a single tree.


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