KASHMIR: WINDS OF CHANGE

An informal interaction at different levels in Jammu and Kashmir state reveal that fresh winds of change have started blowing around particularly in the Valley. This change is reflected in the reorientation of local vernacular press including English medium papers. Ironically, the existential realities including functioning of the system and its institutions, performance of the state structures, education, trade and business, agricultural and horticultural activities, to mention a few, earlier obfuscated by one dimensional media projections-local as well as national, had blurred the perceptions relating to actual state of affairs. These projections depicted mayhem, disorder and massacres as order of the day. A smokescreen of religiosity was created and permeated which suited the vested interest in which human as well as social issues were relegated to background. It was a well laid out strategy which appears to be falling apart.

 

The Existential Concerns :

 

The concerns are being expressed on the dwindling fauna and flora, extinguishing of water bodies which were great tourist attractions, vandalizing of forest wealth and change of land use illegally creating an ecological imbalance. People have started expressing anguish even anger on these vital matters of their existence. The common man points out that according to the pronouncements of state as well as Union governments millions of rupees have been pumped into mission of cleansing the world famous Dal lake with no tangible and visible results. It is a constant theme in the personal and public discourses particularly in the capital city of Srinagar. It equally raises the issue of accountability and transparency, two important elements of governance which appear to be missing in case of Kashmir. The public distrust may not be restored unless these issues are addressed on priority basis. Moreover, a feeling has been created that J&K, as as privileged state, receives grants generously from the Centre. However, the common man is aghast awaiting the fruits of these generous grants. In order to project the visibility of process of accountability,the mere transfer of government officials from one department to the other is not enough. The exercise of holding appropriate functionaries accountable for their actions has the potential to ensure the confidence of general public in the system. Amassing fortunes by improper means and through illegal practices has not been the forte of government functionaries alone. The recent investigations of National Investigation Agency (NIA), Government of India, have revealed the cases of money laundering to the tune of millions of rupees on the part of separatist political figures or their collaborators which has caused tremors in the social and political landscape of the state. Their sprawling dwelling houses provide illustration to the point.

 

Status of Education :

 

The disruptions caused in the educational institutions due to frequent shut down calls is causing great consternation among students who are anxious about their future prospects in life. The families who may afford to send their children out of Kashmir for studies do so discreetly, and most of them prefer to settle outside although their belongingness constantly haunts them.  However, a majority of aspirants who are not in a position to afford this option are bewildered since they are well aware that the children or kith and kin ofpoliticians spare heading the separatism and turmoil are safely and comfortably studying in the institutions in foreign lands. Some of them are comfortably engaged in government jobs in the state. In this age of information and communication era, technology is available to bring this information in the public domain. These details are already well known. The aspirations, urges and dreams of a vast majority of young generation may not be kept in a frozen state under coercion, threat and fear for long. A frank discourse with the young people particularly in rural areas brings forth their growing frustration and consequent discontent. Moreover, the distorted and misinterpreted versions of religion, which are being used as a convenient ploy to sidetrack the social realities, may not help in putting this discontentunder the carpet for long. The young aspiringgeneration is raising questions and seeking the answers. The disturbing new phenomenon of use of anti-depressant drugs and narcotic substances among people particularly those belonging to younger age groups isa big social challenge. The data provided by doctors and specialists in Kashmir and frequently carried by local media provides a dreadful rising trend in this regard. We need to ponder over the concern on what kind of a society we are building for ourselves? And who is pushing us in this direction?

 

(Dr.) ABDUL RASHID PAREY

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