We’ve been searching the internet for blog and newsletter activity on Kashmir to see what conversation, blogging, and chat is like regarding an intractable conflict.
I visited Indian-administered Kashmir in 2003, and worked in Pakistani-administered Kashmir in 2005, after the earthquake. In both places, media were highly biased and polarized, and journalists felt isolated and under threat of violence from all sides, and pressured to either stay silent or to align themselves with dominant positions. My overwhelming impression was that media as a tool for informing citizenry was subverted; instead it was used as a tool for promoting policy, and became an accelerator of conflict.
Even powerful media had little ability to affect change in the face of violent conflict. Those individuals who took on the responsibility of playing the role of impartial reporters were isolated, with little institutional support.
More recently, while there’s been little movement in the peace process beyond confidence-building measures, there’s also a marked diminishing of violence in Indian-administered Kashmir. A recent story on ABC’s website states that killings in Kashmir now average two per day, down from a high of 10 per day in 2001.
ICG says that “progress [on Kashmir] has been limited to peripheral issues. While both sides have reiterated commitments to sustain the dialogue, it is unrealistic to expect radical change in the near term.”
In our search, we’ve found little new for the last two years, either locally or internationally. ICG’s last report was in June 2006. Amnesty International wrote more recently about unmarked graves in Kashmir; an important issue, but not one that directly addresses the conflict. Specialized organizations focused on the conflict have produced some reporting, but mostly on peripheral issues.
While news outlets report statements by key political figures on Kashmir, the tone is nearly resigned. Recent statements by Pakistani prime minister Gillani signal a return to pre-Musharraf rhetoric regarding Kashmir, specifically on the need for self-determination, but this is likely posturing for Pakistani domestic politics.
Online news sites focused on Kashmir – the Kashmir Herald and Greater Kashmir, both pro-Indian, and the Kashmir Media Service, an anti-Indian site, continue to cover issues from their perspectives. The Kashmir Observer may be the most neutral online news site available at present; it is the online version of a paper by the same name.
Kashland is a new site that focuses on Kashmiri culture, history, and dialogue, and uses neutral language with regard to political issues. Its authors claim that
there has been enough written and enough said by all kinds of commentators on the “vexed Kashmir problem”. We want to instead provide a forum where Kashmiris and Kashmir-lovers can let down their hair and focus on our common history, cultural heritage and what creative responses can be made to the contemporary world.
Kashmir the blog in a February 2008 post analyzes insurgency numbers in Kashmir, quoting an Indian police source, who says there are no more than 250 trained militants in Indian Kashmir, and asks why hundreds of thousands of Indian troops are required to managed such a small number of insurgents.
A roundup of other Kashmiri bloggers in English shows little activity focused on the conflict, including several formerly active sites, now dormant. The blogging community maybe most easily accessed through the campkashit site – a barcamp movement for Kashmiri bloggers.
Our short answer – in the absence of either progress on the peace process, or overt violence, the the blogging community is largely dormant on core political issues. In other words, its instincts have been similar to the mainstream media – seeking conflict and change, and inconsistent in covering processes, especially over a period of years. That may change with a more organized community, and it’s a positive sign that campkashit is taking place, and looks set to continue.