(Mr. Mohammad Shafi Ayaz, 47, was born in Anantnag, and continues to live in the same town. He studied in various state schools, colleges and universities. He has completed his MBA, and is a Certified Associate of the Indian Institute of Bankers(CAIIB), and is working on a doctorate thesis on “Non Performing Assets in Indian Banks." He is a banker and presently associated with the Jammu & Kashmir Bank as Senior Executive. Mr. Ayaz has three publications - two in Urdu, one comprising of fictions/short stories titled as “Dard-i-Pinhan” (Hidden Pain), and the third comprising of poetry titled as “Talash-i-Sahar”(In Search of Dawn). He has also published another short book in “Interest Free Banking.” He writes on various topics in the Daily Kashmir Images, Weekly Shuhab and Weekly Sabzar. Earlier he contributed articles to two leading Urdu dailies of the Valley - ‘Aftab’ and ‘Srinagar Times’.)
The civil society in Kashmir is emerging in an organized way for the obvious reasons to project various demands and issues of the masses or, in other words, the civil society. The concept might appear new to many but it is not alien to us. We have had many iconic persons who stood for the issues of the society and tried to rectify wrongs in whatever way they could.
The civil society activism is something that runs across the borders and over the boundaries. In almost every country, we see civil society standing up for the issues concerning the masses. When the respective rulers or administration fails to redress the genuine grievances and demands of the people, the civil society automatically emerges as a united forum and advocates the cause of people. No government or administration or even society is perfect and the imperfection (s) give rise to civil society which tries to set right what has gone wrong. Every issue, therefore, falls into its domain.
With the contemporary societies pitched against all odds, Civil Society is, nowadays, emerging as more powerful than the Government, media or even judiciary. That is probably why it is termed as ‘Third Force’ in present day world.
Every society comprises of individuals who live, interact, share and suffer in their own respective societies. When people chose their representatives, in democracies, to the echelons of power, there exists a gap between the powerful and the powerless or, in Karl Marx’s diction, Have’s and Have not’s. The gap is sometimes fulfilled and eradicated by excellent governance and administration. But most of the times the have not’s are at the receiving end and are dictated upon. In this process many issues are born and numerous problems take birth. It is here that a few of the society members join hands and come forward to fight for what is rightfully theirs and are ready to make great sacrifices. When people of such motivation and dedication join hands, it is a civil society and represents the whole lot of the people.
The people of Kashmir, caught in a conflict, have suffered on all fronts as the place has remained a constant flash point in South Asia for more than 60 years. This perplexing situation has left the masses in a quagmire of sorts while as issues relating to life have risen abnormally. The situation, thus demands a proactive and vibrant civil society which would look into the issues faced by the masses and try to echo them in the higher echelons of power. Though difficult it might appear in the backdrop of a constant turmoil and lack of security, the real testing time is only now.
We do have civil society groups working for the issues faced by the masses, no doubt about that, but the ambit of the activities has, unfortunately remained confined to politics and issues of politics alone. There are certain activities on the human rights front as well. But seems completely neglected is the environment of the valley. Let the civil society or activists, here, know that environment too falls int ehri domain and to fight for the masses in this regard is also their job.
The continuing conflict has, perhaps, never allowed the people to think beyond politics and other issues of life and security. I appreciate that since it is the biggest concern for all. But at the same time, nobody seems bothered to think about other dimensions which may appear feeble now but, in the future, would result in great destruction.
Our natural resources, for instance, were either looted or ill presented in a considerably well- thought- over scheme to arrive at a picture to suggest that, even after having so much, we still depend upon external aid. We could have easily exploited our natural resources including water for our own benefit and self reliance. But things are never too easy for people who, at the very first place, do not know their own potential.
Having said this I do not, neither will any conscious people, blame the masses. But the lack of a sound civil society is what could be one among the possible reasons for this mess besides government and the administration which are not taken as people-friendly any more.
Imagine, Rajasthan has more tourists than Kashmir even when we believe and keep repeating the famous line that we are ‘The paradise on earth’. It is not just Rajasthan but many other parts of India which receive more tourists than us. It is definitely not because we are not a match, we are even better in many cases, but the projection has never been to the levels of excellence. This is an issue nobody would be interested to deal with. But the civil society must rise up to the occasion and see that a huge chunk of our population is entirely dependent upon tourism and its better presentation would result in better economic benefits to the masses.
Besides, the scope and significance of civil society in Kashmir is immense as it can play a vital role to serve the distressed people of the state who have numerous issues and problems. Its role becomes much more important in our state keeping in view its peculiar political, geographical and cultural status, besides other issues that are a result of the immense flow of mediated life that is creeping in at a rapid pace.
The highly debated issue relating to water resources of state and its exploitation by NHPC has been a blessing in disguise for the people of the state as it has made the people as well as rulers of the state to think about the natural assets and their proper utilization. It is in the backdrop of this issue that the civil society has tremendous scope to come to the forefront in a big way. This is not the only issue which is to be dealt with, there are a number of varying issues related to basic needs of people including water, electricity, road connectivity, health, education and other issues of preservation of natural resources. Issues of drug abuse, social abuse, corruption invasion, cultural degeneration etc.
Our civil society has a lot to do and needs strenuous, continuous and dedicated efforts at all levels. The first thing, I guess, should be informing and educating the people about their rights and duties and also about their natural resources. The approach must be corrective and not punitive.
Though civil society has no administrative or judicial powers or authority to punish anybody for a crime committed but it has somewhat different role and approach. It can take suggestive measures for eradicating the evil by reporting and highlighting the faults and faulty and bring them to the notice of the agencies meant to deal with them.
It is a good beginning as people from different walks of life are joining the civil society and standing for the issues confronting the masses. It is the question of survival, respect and honor of the people of the state and every step aimed for economic independence of the state, preservation of cultural standards and heritage, upholding moral standards and safeguarding interests of the people of the state should be appreciated and supported by one and all.