A decade-long public discovery from citizen > forum > institution > agency
Upon arrival in 2005, I used whatever I could of personal resources and when they were exhausted by 2008, I relied totally on my family to support me to 2010, since when a combination of public support (financial and in kind), regular support from my family and limited teaching, editing, writing, translating and consulting assignments have indisputably helped in creating Jammu & Kashmir's first genuine public agency > institution > forum, arguably since the beginning of mass-organised public formation of 'assertion of rights by subjects as aspiring citizens', during the autocratic Dogra regime’s rule in 1931.
As for mainstreaming the word ‘agency’ into public thinking, whereby ‘public’ linguistically refers to, “of, relating to, or concerning the people as a whole”, agency acts as a publicly funded delivery mechanism which avoids interference from external sources and holds public interest supreme at the cost of personal benefit. Its use is all the more important considering how external agencies have consistently denied the supremacy of public interest in AJK, exhausting all political avenues for delivery.
I agree with various other ‘public interest practitioners’ across the globe that ‘awareness builds through action. Not the other way around’. Rarely does the average citizen wake up in the morning planning to contribute to public interest, thus I have adopted direct interaction techniques with the public to successfully receive over 500,000 (units of Pakistani rupees) in public donations since 2010 - from around 2,000 citizens of AJK (at home and abroad) - all logged and available for public scrutiny. Whilst achievements, activities and recognition (public, diplomatic and academic) have been listed in previous annual public documents, the increasing intensity of my engagement with the public makes me feel increasingly accountable and ever more conscious of my need to develop an indigenous public process through which our common struggle for basic rights can come to fruition. Some citizens have made the very valid point about expansion of public interest activity through other citizen members and it must be re-iterated that I have tried various methods to expand from ‘I’ to ‘we’ with mixed success, as commitment to public interest for local citizens has its own challenges. Nevertheless, efforts to realise this necessary condition continues through the current concept of identifying 32 public agents throughout AJK, each representing one tehsil (sub-division). See sub-heading 3) below:
While getting to learn much about the behaviour, opinion and history of each region through the national survey (1 above); I was astounded as to the level of co-operation, hospitality and usually very frank opinion on the state of public affairs in AJK. However, amongst the very few reservations on the utility of trying to create a representative sample of public opinion in AJK was the assertion that the 'West' (sometimes also generalised as the 'International Community') know only too well as to the opinion of the public of Kashmir. While this may be true of the ‘West’, they also know that the public of Kashmir have not conclusively laid out an implementable road-map for acquiring their aspired goal of determining their future, which some may choose to describe as independence in short. In other words, they've never taken the initiative to conduct an exercise of self-determination, they've only sought it (mainly verbally without clear reference to public opinion or organised, representative character) and even that with mixed or convoluted aspirations.
An indigenously created political process in AJK - if implemented - could not only settle the above impasse (according to various foreign analysts the issue of Kashmir is not progressing towards a settlement). Indeed, one seasoned British journalist with good working knowledge of the region, exclaimed that he had no idea as to how a solution of Kashmir could be arrived at, in a write-up after a visit to Srinagar last year. An indigenous political process created without external influence with the agreement of the public could also settle the constitutional ambiguity of AJK and perhaps even act as a model political process for the other disparate regions of the State; namely Gilgit Baltistan, Jammu, Ladakh and the Valley of Kashmir (the heart of the dispute between India and Pakistan, the heartbeat of the Dogra constructed erstwhile J & K state and the generic name/idea/concept behind a civilisation possibly older than 7,000 years). Areas under Chinese control would foresee-ably necessitate an alternative mechanism of conflict resolution.
In summary, the essence of this proposal is linking public activity with public interest monitored and financed by the public. Our problem needs to be solved by us through developing a consensual framework that can be presented to the International Community. My role, I have come to envisage, is to help prepare our citizens for this task. Consultation with the public on this ‘process’ is ongoing and will be publicly discussed throughout the 32 sub-divisions of AJK in August/September, once 32 public agents representing each respective sub-division emerge. Please follow my blog @ sahaafi.net to meaningfully participate in this unfolding process.