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, November 20, 2011

The Hope of Kashmir

A feel good story featuring a rising social activist Qurat-ul-ain Masoodi

Qurat to launch, ‘Aash – The Hope of Kashmir'

Srinagar: She walked briskly into the newspaper office and in a jiffy said, “Shall we start the interview.” Qurat-ul-ain-Masoodi is full of raw energy and enthusiasm to do well for the most deprived of her community.

Masoodi (26) left her lucrative engineering field in 2009 and is gearing up for a business, which is often considered murky in a State where everything is viewed with skepticism.

“Working with these children brings a smile on my face. I am satisfied with what I am doing,” says Masoodi, who currently works for a Non Governmental Organization (NGO), which deals in protection of child rights.

Twenty-year-long conflict has given Kashmir many orphanages and plenty of inmates to keep them busy.

Child right protection among these orphanages has often been a subject of discussion, but the matter has largely remained under carpet. The rights violations in these homes could trigger a debate for which Kashmir has no answers yet. Masoodi believes that the matter has to come up and debated among the intellectuals and common masses, so that the vulnerable section of the society is protected. “My aim is to take their case to public and make people aware about children who live in these institutions,” she says.

What happens inside the orphanages of Kashmir has largely remained an unstudied part of conflict and the general thrust has been on their shelter and food.

But this young uptown Srinagar girl wants to make the orphanage caretakers accountable and believes that systematic studies on psychological and behavioral patterns of these children are must. “I don’t care how much money they get. I want to see children living in these institutions being treated well and there is no abuse in any form rendered to them,” she says.

“A wealthy businessman who pays money to an orphanage has to see how it is working. His responsibility doesn’t end with cutting cheque,” says Masoodi as she describes the hygiene condition of few institutions she has visited in her three-month long job with Koshish(NGO).

During her limited work exposure with these institutions, Masoodi has found some orphanages, whose name she did not reveal because it is against her job protocol, in absolute wretchedness. “The sewerage pipe inside the house had a leak and nobody from the governing body was bothered to fix it and children were living in such dismal conditions that I cried,” says Masoodi.

Her greater fear is not of hygiene however, but physical exploitation of these children and their rehabilitation into the society.

“Girls are the most vulnerable among these children and many of them are in their teens. As of now their future and rehabilitation is very uncertain,” she believes.

Masoodi aims to rope intellectuals, bureaucrats and powerful executives to join her mission of rehabilitation. For that, she is going to organize a seminar where all the big names of Kashmir will be participating to discuss mechanisms of rehabilitation of these children.

Most of her family is settled in USA and she was initially asked by her parents to move to States for a better career. She chose to stay in Kashmir to help thousands of orphans living under the shelter of donation and government grants. “It is my childhood dream to help the most deprived of society,” she says being fully aware about the taboos that are associated with social service and NGO business in Kashmir.

“I know people have used and abused NGOs names for their pity gains. Social activism is no longer an easy field to create respect, but there are good people working in this sector who inspire me,” says Masoodi as she talks the phenomenon of mushroom growth of NGOs in Kashmir where many are being viewed with suspicion.

In Jammu and Kashmir, there are over 3500 NGOs and dozens of orphanages registered with government. “Many people here are doing an amazing job at these institutions, though some are under scanner. Orientation and broad analysis will help us to integrate children back into the system, and build an atmosphere of trust among masses for social activists,” says Masoodi as she left the newspaper office with a smile before heading to meet sponsors for her first event that will be held on 2nd of December and will also mark the launch of her NGO, Aash – The hope of Kashmir.

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