"Kashmir First" for Kashmiris
By Mohammad Ashraf
26 August, 2015
The proposed talks between India and Pakistan have been cancelled because of Kashmir. Pakistan has insisted on "Kashmir First". India on the other hand is saying "Terrorism First" even though it is internationally accepted that the main cause of the conflict between these two neighbours giving rise to "Terrorism" is Kashmir. One cannot overlook the fact, that for every Kashmiri, the most important thing at the moment is the "Kashmir First". It is Kashmir which gives him his identity. Here, one recalls a saying about a blade of grass growing on a piece of land. It has been said that every blade of grass in the world has a piece of land in which it has its roots. It is from this piece of land that the blade of grass draws its nourishment and has an identity. Without that it becomes meaningless. Similarly, we too have our roots in the soil of Kashmir and draw our nourishment from it. Without Kashmir we will become just dried blades of grass tossed by winds from place to place!
At the present moment, the slogan "Kashmir First" has assumed tremendous importance in view of the onslaughts on Kashmir's every aspect. For last 68 years Kashmir has faced onslaught culturally including slow and steady erosion of Kashmiri language. Kashmir's environment has been vandalised under the garb of Tourism which is deliberately projected as the back bone of Kashmir's economy even though it is not true. Traditionally and historically, Kashmir has an agriculture based economy. The greatest resource of Kashmir, the free flowing water has been virtually stolen by what the people are calling the new "East India Company"! These waters have been virtually divided as spoils of war by our two neighbours. That too with international backing!
All these years, money, material and blackmail have been used to subdue Kashmiris. Kashmir itself has been converted into a prison with almost one armed soldier looking after every five Kashmiris. Outwardly Kashmiris seem to have been subdued or appear helpless because of an army of collaborators from every section of the society. However, internally people are extremely alienated. Especially the youth, the new generation brought up in the turmoil of nineties. They are totally uncompromising and Kashmir's only hope. As regards the leaders, the so called mainstream ones have been materially and morally corrupted through and through. The so called "popular" ones seem to have been paralysed by an endless internal bickering.
The Kashmiris have somehow managed to live on in spite of being made economically totally dependent on dole and subjected to repeated cultural and social assaults. However, now a physical assault is being unleashed to demographically displace them from the land where they been living from the earliest times. It started with the feelers for setting up of Panun Kashmir, a Kashmiri Pandit homeland in Pahalgam-Sonamarg area around the famous Amarnath pilgrimage. The first backlash was the Amarnath land transfer agitation of 2008 following which government had to hurriedly give up the idea. Next planned assault was the composite townships on the Israeli pattern. Again there was hue and cry which made the proposal go into limbo. Then suggestions were floated for settling ex-Army men in a Sainik Colony near Srinagar Airport. The latest attack has been mounted on Article 35-A to somehow allow outsiders to own land and property in Kashmir. Article 370 has already been under bombardment since its very introduction in the Indian constitution to guard special status of Kashmir. It has been used in practice as a tunnel to push in every Indian law to take away Kashmir's special status which it was supposed to guard. The latest in this regard is the Central Statistical Law to allow gathering of information about state subjects by the Central Government directly. At the present moment only a hollow shell of 370 remains. In spite of that it is a psychological assurance that Kashmir has not been fully merged into the Indian Union.
Incidentally, within the state, the Jammu is always for "Jammu First"! It has grown to be a metropolis. This is because of its politicians, because of its bureaucrats and because of its people. In contrast, Kashmir has virtually sunk in every respect to the lowest depths because of its politicians, because of its bureaucrats and because of its people! If Kashmir is to be redeemed and saved, then every Kashmiri must adopt the maxim, "Kashmir First" in every aspect of life. Otherwise Kashmiris as a nation are doomed to oblivion.
Mohammad Ashraf I.A.S. (Retired),Former Director General Tourism, Jammu & Kashmir