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, March 11, 2012

The Culture of Gender Inequality

In recognition of the International Women's Day (on March 8), Adfar's moving commentary on the state of women after marriage is both heart rendering and a sad reflection on society that wishes to remain passive on this issue

(Mr. Syed Adfar Rashid Shah, 28, was born in Watlar, Ganderbal. He did his basic schooling at the Government High School in Watlar, and then went to the Government Higher Secondary School, Ganderbal, for 11th and 12th grades. He completed a diploma in computers through The Industrial Training Institute (ITI) Ganderbal, followed by a diploma in the urdu language through the National Council for Promotion of Urdu Language in India (NCPUL). Mr. Shah completed B.Ed in 2009, his Masters in sociology from the University of Kashmir, and enrolled in M.Phil at the Center of Central Asian Studies (CCAS), University of Kashmir when he accepted admission to the Ph.D. program in social sciences at the Jamia Millia Islamia Central University in New Delhi, where he is currently enrolled. He is interested in diaspora studies, and sociology of religion, change and development. He loves interactions with people of all religions and creeds, and enjoys writing.)

The Culture of Violence Against Women

Zamrooda,33 (name changed) has two little boys. She got married to Sajad (name changed) in what could be termed as a love-cum-arranged marriage, the most common trend in Kashmir, nowadays. She insisted to marry him despite serious questions raised by the family members regarding caste, social and financial status of the guy who, they saw as no match to her. She remained firm to ultimately see the marriage solemnized with great show.

The first eight months of married life went good but things started changing passively. She was now asked for things and articles by her in-laws who began avoiding and neglecting the poor girl and never cared for her health, expenses, etc. To her utter astonishment, her husband too changed color and kept mum at the atrocities inflicted on her.

It was the dawning of difficult times for this poor lady who would see her husband sitting idle and demanding money from her every day-a torturous way to frustrate her when she could not afford offering money each day.

Out of humility, Zamrooda brought this complain to her father who, sensing the urgency of the situation and out of the sheer love for his daughter, provided her everything including the cooking gas cylinder and also food to cook over it. Things continued this way for several months.

When she gave birth to her second baby, the situation was worsened to the lowest levels and none from her in-laws’ would bother to attend her. Her husband had turned totally indifferent for the mere reason that he was not gifted a house by her parents. On the other hand, her in-laws were hell-bent upon torturing the girl to suicide. They didn’t want that the gold and other articles of value she had brought along should be returned and that is why they never thought of divorce as, in such a case, they were required to return the things.

Zamrooda, squeezed and shrunk, awaits her husband to wake up from the slumber and shun the greed for material gains while he, on the other hand, is desperate to see her hanging or consuming poison so that he can grab everything she has! Tragic!

The fact is, there are numerous Zamroodas’ out there facing the same brutality and violence while we observe, celebrate and brag about women’s’ day and other such events. Many of our reputed academicians extend a great lip service to the cause of women when reading papers in seminars and symposia. Our leaders talk big about setting things right and our Moulvi’s (religious preachers) deliver sermons to this effect. But Eve continues to burn in the flames of lust, greed and voracity of masses!

Instead of speeches, we should have been busy educating people about the man-women equality and warn them of dire consequences against crimes committed against women. One must not neglect to highlight the achievements of women and their participatory approach in the overall socio-economic and cultural aspects of a society. We are there, we must know, when they are there, we are because of our mothers.

We should desist from talking about women in ivory towers and instead form and apply stringent laws to curb the gross exploitation and injustice meted with them in every second house. Let us help, encourage and assist them in accomplishing their dreams.

A deeply patriarchal society, Kashmir has ultimately ensured a different and ill-treatment of the girl child in comparison with the male child. The practice of female feticide is now so rampant that, over a period of just a few years in holistic India, there has been a greater urge for male child while the extent of sex determination tests are frequently conducted.

We act overburdened, overnight, when a girl child is born considering the responsibility of growing her in a good way as cumbersome and tedious. But when it is a male child, our celebration has no limits and the festivity is shared by relatives and neighbors besides the family members.

A girl child is welcomes in a mournful atmosphere to suggest that some sort of catastrophe has hit the family. This time, neighbors, relatives and even the family members seem sharing the mourning while forgetting that many among them are women and welcoming a gril child should have been a pride in itself. It is estimated that six million abortions are performed every year outside the ambit of the pregnancy termination act.

Today’s girl child is tomorrow’s woman and future mother. Instead of feeling happy on her birth, we try to get rid of her in the womb, which reflects in the adverse sex ratio leading to the increase in crimes against women. Crime against women had risen to catastrophic levels as she appears no better than an endangered entity, a drudge who is deliberately kept illiterate, fed inadequately, and married off as earlier as possible to shun the burden.

A girl child is, at the very first instance, identified in the womb and killed. Those who survive for one or the other reason and see the light of the day, 80 per cent of her time is spent helping mothers in daily chores while boys enjoy parental services. Mere contemplation of government to earmark an amount of Rs.5000 in the name of a new born girl child for BPL families is, seemingly, not enough and will never do the needful. But the government is liable to make those involved in violations of her human, social and gender rights, accountable.

Here we have an urgent need for better documentation, monitoring and reporting of the extreme sufferings caused by armed conflict or turmoil inflicted on girls. We have to see their killing and maiming; we have to see the cases of rape and sexual violence against them, sexual exploitation, abduction, forced marriages, increasing girls exposure to HIV/AIDS etc.

Organisations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have reportedly documented cases of shooting, stabbing, mutilating, carving, amputating and burning girls alive.

Not to talk of the world, we have many cases of dowry deaths in India and honour killings are increasing like anything. We have to equip boys with respect towards girls and women. We have to equip girls with skills so that they can take care of themselves and become independent and self reliant.

Focus should on girl child programmes, the government should start campaigns against domestic violence, discrimination and girl child neglect. All the schemes meant for their progress and advancement must be assessed and evaluated and the need of the hour is to introduce more such programmes instead of observance of a day dedicated to them which is mere cliché.

We have to treat them as humans and be affectionate to them right from their childhood. Let us learn the art of parenting, art of being good husbands, good brothers and let us listen to their heart; let us guide them without oppression to make them familiar with religious ethos. Let us give them their due and safeguard them in every respect. We have to be respectful towards them and guard their identity and individuality. After all, we are all born to our mothers!!!

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