FIRST PUBLISHED IN THE FRONTLINE ON APRIL 4, 2014
Kashmiris cheering Pakistan Cricket Team
I have read multiple view points emerging about the recent Kashmiris cheering Pakistan episode. Of special mention is the article ‘Of Sedition and Cricket’ by Shujaat Bukhari. It is well written and the writer has brought all aspects of the mindset of Kashmiri youth. However, it fails to make inroads into the mind of other Indians and the reason for discriminatory behavior towards the youth of the valley per se.
My personal view is the government has been unnecessarily harsh on Kashmiri students, with 67 of them booked under seditious charges, who also faced suspension by a Meerut University.
It is hard to dig deep into the heart of any Kashmiri by others in India every time he or they commit a faux pas. Dictionary defines a faux pas as a socially awkward or tactless act, especially one that violates accepted social norms, standard customs, or the rules of etiquette. “People only see the overt face value!” is what the world says. They have little time to spare to dig into your psyche, your history and your compulsions to understand and condone the acts.
Say for example – If, I was to shout at my wife in front of train passengers. Everyone will hold the view that ‘I am a bad tempered man’. They will not dive for reasons why I displayed such behavior publicly no matter how right I may be and how wrong my wife may have been.
Coming back to sports – can an American cheer for a Russian team in a match between the two countries? I don’t think even multicultural Americans, who hold civil liberties and freedom close to their heart and call themselves a civilized nation, can digest that in their country in an open platform against their rivals. It is difficult to explain to the rest of India why Kashmiri students cheer for Pakistan against India. When I queried about this cheering, a Kashmiri youth once told me ‘It is tradition in Kashmir to cheer for Pakistan.’
‘Aap nahi samjhoge’ (you’ll not understand). I asked him an explanation, he had none.
Another significant point, Shujaat’s article raises, and this may find resonance in Kashmir too; he writes, “One interesting thing has come up after the Meerut incident. Some of the students who are studying there have gone under Prime Minister’s Scholarship Scheme, which means that their study is fully funded. But even that has not helped them change their ideology.”
To this, I respectfully ask, “Why do the students accept the largesse if they detest the benefactor of these benevolent schemes. Do they have it in them to reject such schemes or not to apply for them?”
This pattern, reminds me of a recent case of Rachel Canning, an 18-year-old from New Jersey, who sued her parents. The parents said that their daughter Rachel voluntarily left their home after refusing to abide by the house rules. Rachel’s dad Sean told New York’s CBS 2-. “There’s minor chores. There’s curfews. When I say curfew, it’s usually after 11 o’clock at night. She does not want to abide by these rules or pitch in for house chores” In the lawsuit, Rachel asked a court to have her parents pay the outstanding dues for school; pay her future living and transportation expenses, her legal bills etc.
The judge shot down her plea and stated “Do we want to establish a precedent where parents are living in constant fear of establishing basic rules of the house?” Judge Bogaard said in the hearing. “If they set a rule a child doesn’t like, the child can move out, move in with another family, seek child support, cars, cell phone, and a few hundred grand to go to college? Are we going to open the gates for 12-year-olds to sue for an X-box? For 13-year-olds, to sue for an i-Phone?”
In other words, Rachel wanted all rights without any duties or responsibility. In the current scenario, do we as self-respecting individuals need to introspect that duties, responsibilities and rights go hand in hand.
It is my opinion that not only in India but in any country it would be a digression to see any local or others cheering for an arch rival against the home country. And here in India, cheering a country with a long history of enmity and hatred in a public place is hardly becoming.
People visiting Kashmir from other states can be taken aback when they see Kashmiris cheering for Pakistan in Kashmir during sports matches, but if Kashmiris were to repeat this sentiment elsewhere in the country in public, it could hardly be expected to find favours.
Not just India, but in any other developed countries too it would be hard for the local populace to tolerate even a tourist cheering for his own country team in their country or worse if a tourist cheered an enemy country against a home country team in public. One has seen many fights erupting in sports stadiums world over even though groups are cheering their own home teams.
Somewhere cheering for Pakistan is the result of a deep rooted mindset, in Kashmir valley. Even a small scuffle or heated word by security forces or police may raise hackles in Kashmir. The fact that the security forces have been harsh in public dealing in Kashmir cannot be denied. Hence, a mere security check is looked down upon as an affront, with little understanding that it may not be construed as humiliation but as a preventive measure for public safety. And, it is not as if the minor episode is confined to the particular point, the opportunity of weaving stories around it and making it into a full fledged magazine article is never lost. Many conflict zones exhibit this trend.
I have seen this pattern in Pakistan too. There too a minor episode is blown up with a disturbing and bechara aspect thrown in to create an emotive issue.
In the current scenario much of Pakistan’s public, especially, its dominant Punjab is strongly in favor of solving their home problems and moving forward on other issues with India without the Kashmir issue being a of core value. Time and again few Pak politicians raise the Kashmir issue for effect. Even Nawaz Sharif, the current Prime Minister of Pakistan, did it sometime back but it caused more of a flutter in India than in Pakistan, a media person from across the border confided laughingly.
Noted columnist and Editor-in-Chief of ‘The Friday Times’- Najam Sethi, who became a caretaker Chief Minister of Pakistani Punjab during general elections, bluntly states in television interviews that Kashmir has ceased to be a core issue for Pakistan.
Nusrat Javed, a famous Pakistani journalist and anchor for Aaj TV says Kashmir issue is no more an emotive issue that cuts any ice with the Television channel audience and carries very little interest amongst the Pakistani public. The Pak public today is more concerned and perturbed over their own grave problems of daily bombings and killings besides dealing with the Taliban on its western border and frontier provinces with Afghanistan.
Hereby self-respect has become the moot question for Kashmir. There is a country that hardly lays any store about past intimacy and here is one who cheers, holds and harps on about a romance refusing to believe it is lost.
Author can be mailed at email@example.com
FIRST PUBLISHED IN ‘RISING KASHMIR’ 14 MARCH 2014
Will AAP’s Delhi effect be felt in Jammu & Kashmir?
Spectacular victory and occupying the throne of Delhi on their own terms, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) sent ripples across the nation. By challenging the top powers in Delhi, AAP has taken the proverbial bull by its horns and is ready to make forays in other corners of the country. How it functions under Arvind Kejriwal’s leadership is yet to be seen, but in the first instance of a solid solution to a problem, Delhi’s new Chief Minister’s call to the public- ‘to set-up the briber’ ..Call a helpline number, help to catch briber red-handed and also get your work done’- has elevated his score amongst people smothered by corruption in government and public enterprises. Surely, the uprising and eventual victory of AAP has raised the imagination of the public in Jammu & Kashmir too, who face the frostbite of corruption in every nook and corner of daily life .
Towards the tail end of the year past, expectations have risen amongst Kashmiris, as the citadel of Congress – National Conference combine, is shaken to its core, by the AAP’s Delhi effect. It is not so much about which party comes tops in J&K in the forthcoming assembly elections 2014, but about the cleansing that has been necessitated in each party by the rise of the AAP’s popularity and its people friendly agenda. Also, it’s no more about just the roads, water supply, power cuts, human right issues and jobs in Kashmir, the public is now ready to follow the new formula – “If corruption is uprooted, all amenities and other redressals would conveniently and rightfully fall in public domain without begging”. Chiefly, because this is the basic right of the public, which has long been usurped by the ruling MLAs and MPs. It was as if the ruling echelon had turned into Gods and us into ‘lesser beings’, is the take of Kashmiri political leader.
At the time when Kashmir gears up for assembly polls, the mood is upbeat, the public is ready to showdown those who have misused powers, extended false promises, accumulated wealth, accused in various scams and such others, with a renewed vengeance. In other words, the choice would clearly be to root out corruption that eats into the vitals of each beneficiary of the state. Demands about transparency, accountability, good and fair governance, is ready to turn into a shout, if the Delhi-like unity and faith is propounded amongst voters of J&K, is the strongly feeling of the AAP brigade.
Each of the parties is rethinking their strategies, eventhough politics in Kashmir is known to be different from Delhi. It is also true that Delhi has hardly played fair with the Kashmiris- whether Kashmiri Muslims or Kashmiri Pandits and Hindus, the charge has been loud from both communities.
There has never been a better time for general acceptance of a good candidate compared to a more popular name or party, than now. This time the traditional political players may have to either drastically change or make place for new entrants, emboldened by the victory of AAP in Delhi. It is predicted that like Sheila Dixit, many bigwigs may bite dust in the 2014 polls. The “Yes we can” slogan, has come to rule in Indian politics too and the public has found its handles with vast possibilities of actually cleansing the system step by step. Even if 10 percent of change is seen in Delhi, AAP’s Kejriwal would be seen as a valued leader. Kejriwal’s out-of-the-box ideas, solutions and planning are inspiring, imaginative and practical, yet there are vital corners that need drastic cutting, measures and mind-set changes like ‘fake proofs’, ‘fake documentation’ scams wherein computer applications will be tapped to become a mouthpiece for transparency and hearing-aids for public health and discourse.
Similarly, alternatives mentioned already, may find a place in J&K as well. Clearly new entrants would be seen to benefit from this fresh wave. AAP is already tapping the Kashmiri populace through mass sms urging them to innumerate their problems and quote real-time incidents besides goading them to approach the Party. Since these mobile messages are being floated by in-house Kashmiris and Jammu wallas, aware of core issues, there is no reason why they would not find favor with the disgruntled public, who primarily wants to live a life of dignity. In the past many years most promises to the people of the state have fallen flat, stuck in the snows of distrust; it is hoped that year 2014 may bring in cheer. The mood is upbeat and political slogans may be more careful than careless.
It is hoped this time, that the bottled up ‘Yes we can’ may shoot forth into a sky-high fountain and burst into a rainbow, across the frozen mountain peaks of Jammu and Kashmir spreading colors and cheer all around, come election-2014.
FIRST PUBLISHED IN RISING KASHMIR ON January 2, 2014
PACESETTER ABHAY RUSTUM SOPORI
Carrying forward a musical legacy
Heir to a lofty musical inheritance, Abhay Rustum Sopori, who accompanied Zubin Mehta, is the youngest visiting faculty at University of Massachusetts
ABHAY SOPORI, 34, created musical history during Zubin Mehta’s concert in Kashmir where legendary symphonies of Beethoven, Haydn, Tchaikovsky and Strauss played by Germany’s Bavarian State Orchestra matched music based on 19th century Kashmiri poet Rasul Mir’s romantic hit “Rind Poshmal Gindanay Draay Lo Lo”(O! lover of beauty and wine, Poshmal has come to frolic). He laid the musical score for the German orchestra skilfully infusing Kashmir’s folk-Sufi music ensemble with instruments likesantoor, rabab, sarangi, tumbaknari and naut to match mellow and climactic strains of violins, clarinets, bass guitars and flutes.
Abhay’s fusion composition emerged as one of the finest pieces of the concert. He stood undeterred in the midst of controversies raised by separatists. “Being a local Kashmiri, I could have developed cold feet due to the raging controversies but I stood my ground and fulfilled one of my greatest dreams of bringing Kashmiri music on the world platform”, says the shy, soft-spoken Sopori. He feels controversies helped to create more curiosity for the grandest music display Kashmir has ever seen. He desires to replicate Munich’s famed ‘Long Night of Music’ and see an entire city resonate with astonishing genres of music, through his Sopori Academy of Music and Performing Arts. “In 1990, we left Kashmir for Delhi.
The separation from the homeland made me value my culture more,” reminisces Abhay, who was 11 years old then. Flush with prestigious international and national awards, he features in “Asia-Pacific Who’s Who” and “Asia’s Admirable Achievers”. His 35-music albums include, Dancing Dewdrops, Urban Grooves–Kashmir, Tum-Jo-Mile,besides international albums Kashmir-Aalav, Shehjaar, Runjhun. His film-music includes International and National Awardees like – Ziyarat (USA), and Bub, besidesMahatma, the film that marked the first International Non-Violence Day at the UN. “Aao Kadam Badhayain,” a song he composed for Kashmir’s earthquake victims brought youth closer.
He introduced ‘Open String’ and ‘Enhanced Sustain Technique’ on the santoor. He invented the 30-stringed sur santoor and revived ancient Sufiana taranacompositions, adapted these in Indian classical music with new khayaal compositions of Sufi Saints. He recounts, “My father had once told me miracles and revolutions don’t take place in palaces. I have gone to every nook and corner of Kashmir to cull gems of musicians from its picturesque countryside”.
FIRST PUBLISHED IN THE TRIBUNE ON OCTOBER 26, 2013
Stepping across the Radcliff line… beyond the Pappis and Jhappis !
I have dragged my strolley suitcases across the Radcliff Line that divides the two Punjabs and the rest of India and Pakistan. Notwithstanding the number of times, each time emotions overtake me during the crossing, even though I am not of the era when the Indo-Pak partition took place. Surprisingly I’m not alone and neither is this feeling exclusively mine. Anyone who crosses the ‘Sarhad’ Line experiences ditto emotions, and memories thereafter become fevistick locked.
The Pappi-Jhappi Punjabi Ishtyle is a sure-shot formula that has always raised the emotional quotient among Punjabi masses and spread its infection to the entire South Asia region.Although, younger Sharief came to watch the finals of International Kabbadi – a game that emerged from the ‘Akharas’ of both Punjabs- his visit to Jatti Umra, the ancestral village of the Shariefs as an honoured guest took center stage. The government sponsored event saw the village roll out the proverbial red carpet, the traditional flower showers and bugle welcomes, with Gidda- Bhangra for the asal flavor of Punjab. This was matched by the Pakistani CM’s emotional Punjabi speech, that reinforced the high notes felt whilst border crossings.
Of course huge benefits are in place with both countries engaging in large scale trade which by proxy is anyhow going on, through Dubai giving the third party an added benefit. However adversaries in both countries play a sinister role to thwart all attempts at peace.
While the civilian authorities in Pakistan has always played a subservient role to both its army and the ISI given the history that both these stakeholder institutions were aided by America, the government in India is seen to be too mindful of the media wave. Many
diplomatic, administrative, investigative, legislative and political decisions are seen to be taken due to popular sentiment aired by private TV channels or deliberate media hype. At times it feels as if the media is dictating the ruling powers who are kowtowing to its
lines. Media on both sides had already spoiled the broth and quashed all chances for a breakthrough during the Indo-Pak Agra Summit.
Shabaz ShariefShahbaz Sharief is being seen as an emissary of Pakistan PM and his
meeting with Indian PM Dr Manmohan Singh reinforces this, despite being on the invite of state CM Badal. His meeting is being visualized as an overture to formulate something as big as Vajpayee’s Indo-Pak first bus ‘Sada-E-Sarhad’. A formal invitation to the Indian PM to visit his birthplace in village Gah in Chakwal district that falls in the domain of Pak CM’s Punjab, is part of it.
With both Punjabi Prime Ministers heading Pakistan-India and having ancestral cords in each other’s countries, the time may be ripe to make bold decisions and historical beginning with a clean end to hostilities. For long, both countries have tip-toed to each other’s lands with apprehensions and compulsions at the hand of their respective vote banks that played a larger than life role. This time Congress is looking out for something really spectacular to give a turnaround to the anti incumbency trend on a national level, after their poll debacle recently.
The fresh advances by Pakistan are also being seen by experts as something to smoothen frayed furrows after ‘The Dawn’ newspaper’s reported the Pakistan PM Nawaz Shariefs statement in Pak Occupied Kashmir – that ‘Kashmir dispute could trigger a fourth war with
India’. The Indian PM shot back –‘Pakistan could never win a war with India in his lifetime’. The recent elections and Congress’s dismal performance has already closed doors for any third term for the present incumbent to retain the PM’s seat. Pakistan is seeing this as an opportunity, to persuade the Indian PM, who is set to vacate his
two-term seat, to set foot, at last on the Pak soil, as something of a historical gesture and of much significance in global circles for Pakistan to redeem its image.
The PM’s childhood Pak friend Raja Mohammed Ali arrived in India in 2009 and an emotional bond was struck, and an atmosphere of bonhomie and shared history was strongly felt despite year 2008’s horrendous Mumbai attacks. But many provocations thereafter lead to things coming to a naught. Most recent being violations of LoC, beheadings of soldiers, attacks on security forces in Kashmir by militants and the
reaction in India after Indian prisoner Sarabjit’s killing in Pak jail.
Eventhough Congress may have started the first Jhappi –Pappi with Pakistan during Capt Amarinder Singh’s rule, this time, the overture of friendship is being extended by Shiromani Akali Dal, the coalition partner of BJP. Even as BJP’s traditional rhetoric against Pakistan after Kargil remains and the party emerges with Narinder Modi taking
on the Gandhi scion Rahul Gandhi, but strangely in Punjab the BJP’s rhetoric for strong retaliation to Pak does not work. Instead Pakistan is seen as the region’s robust partner for massive trade exchange despite Punjabs being the biggest sufferer of partition and being in
each other’s line of fire.
During my visit early this January to Lahore, Shahbaz Sharief had thrown a sumptuous and tastefully done dinner for members of SAFMA participating from 8-SAARC countries. This was in sharp contrast to one by then PM of Pakistan- Raja Parwez Ashraf in Punjab Governor’s premises where a free for all ensued over –‘dinner plates’. Shahbaz’s
standing is definitely stronger with his brother as Pak’s PM. The brothers-combo has helped bring back Nawaz back in the PM’s seat, despite popularity of cricketer turned politician Imran Khan.
However, it still remains to be seen if Pappis and Jhappis – the Punjabis hugs and kisses- turn into something concrete and consuming or may be just a hummable teasing line of a hit Punjabi number with Bhangra beats in Punjab’s cocktail circles!
FIRST PUBLISHED IN RISING KASHMIR ON DECEMBER 24, 2013
Real story behind the burning of Tydale Biscoe School, Tangmarg, Kashmir
Christian schools have been popular throughout Kashmir since late 1800’s when the first Church Mission Society (CMS) named as Tyndale Biscoe and Mallinson Society, CMS was established first at Drugjan and later at Sheikh Bagh Srinagar. Formal modern schooling with a dynamic spirit of service was introduced for the first time by this school. Despite earlier resistance for Christian Missionary Schools and especially the strong opposition to the education of the girl child, Kashmir emerged as one of foremost regions to adopt, adjust and follow up a holistic pattern of educational ideas alien to its culture by Tyndale Biscoe and come out tops. Even today Christian-run schools are seen to have maximum aspirants seeking admissions in the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir as in other parts of the country.
Then what really took place that led to burning of Tyndale Biscoe’s rural school located in Tangmarg?
Shocking disclosure, of allegations against Tangmarg’s MLA Ghulam Hassan Mir alleged to be in cahoots with army and charged the winds of rebellion to oust the democratically elected government of NC- Congress headed by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, has been an open secret for most Kashmiris. Allegations of the MLA having accepted money, to incite innocent villagers from his constituency and intensifying violence leading to a crazed mob’s torching of rural Tyndale Biscoe school is a stark reminder that there is a surface calm in Kashmir that can be triggered by the tiniest spark. The school’s burning stands as an example of ‘emotions on an edge’ even today.
Tyndale Biscoe School, a rural branch of Srinagar’s main branch, close to Gulmarg–catered to students from nearly 150 villages imparting valued added modern education.
When Omar Abdullah, the young Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, had faced a question from a perturbed Christian delegation in 2010, post the burning of this school – “Does your government want to see Christian schools in Kashmir anymore?” The troubled CM had replied, ‘More than half my secretariat has grown up and studied in the Tyndale-Biscoe and Mallinson School’. ‘Is this a question!’ he had growled.
The CM of one of the most troubled states in India had never forgotten that his father Dr Farooq Abdullah now Union minister in UPA was an alumnus of this august school as also J&K’s respected Prime Minister Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed besides producing some of the best and brightest students who have created a niche for themselves in the country and abroad. Of course Omar’s Grandfather Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah’s deep regret at not being a part of the school during Biscoe’s time was strongly etched in Omar’s memory. The Sheikh, upon the death of Biscoe, declared it as a personal loss besides a terrible loss for the people of Kashmir.
The question to CM was posed in relation to the torching of Tyndale Biscoe School in Tangmarg by a mob in 2010 following a clip by an Islamic TV channel showing a white man in US, burning a book attributed to be the holy Koran on the 10th anniversary of 9/11 attacks. “In the school fire, seven copies of the Holy Koran too were burnt,” contended the Church of North India (CNI) Diocese’s Bishop Rev P K Samantaroy who controls CMS institutions in Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir.
Post this incident of arson, government promised compensation of Rs 8 crore to the Tangmarg school – named after Rev Cecil Canon Tyndale Biscoe and Miss Mallinson- but after a mere preliminary sum of Rs one crore, and some pre-fabricated modular huts to run the school, they hardly took the redressal to its promised conclusion, contended the Amritsar based Bishop and Srinagar based Parvez Samuel Kaul, Director- Principal of Tyndale Biscoe & Mallinson society, Srinagar, who were part of the Christian delegation.
In year 2010, a wave of fierce stone-pelting and retaliatory deaths had botched up the beautiful vale and then came this horrific torching of a rural school by a mob of hundreds in Tangmarg.
BOXReduced to Ashes
On Saturday night, 13th of September 2010, the building of Tyndale Biscoe in Tangmarg was torched.
Hundreds descended to vent their ire on this innocent school building after watching an Iranian channel broadcasting about a white pastor, seen burning a page from a book, purportedly from the Holy Koran, to commemorate the 10th anniversary of 9/11 attacks in New York, by terrorists.
News of this spread like wildfire and the majestic school building, in the lap of wooded greenery where many a village child found his/her education, went up in angry flames. A distraught Principal Rajinder Kaul of Tyndale Biscoe School Tangmarg, who headed the school from the millennium year of 2000 while showing the remnants of destruction at Shajimarg in Tangmarg rued. “This happened two days after the commemoration of 9/11’s 10th anniversary on September 13, 2010”.
“Ferocious flames engulfed and gutted the entire structure in an area of 19 kanals in which the school stood, built with aim of elevating the standard of education amongst rural children. “Even though a CRPF picket was close by, help came too late”, cried Sabina Yasreen a school teacher, who saw the school grow, adding classes, the library, the laboratory for 13-years, and then saw its total destruction. Tears rolled down her cheeks as well as those of some senior students, as they talked to this writer in the school premises amidst ghastly trunks of 40 charred Deodar trees that helplessly watched as humans turned wild in a fury of destruction.
Bishop Samantaroy in Amritsar , said, “On hearing this devastating news, I immediately set off for Tangmarg from Amritsar, keeping no track of time and reached the next morning, despite stringent checks and halts throughout J&K. It was a volatile period of strife in the valley. The security forces had fortified the church building in Gulmarg which was also under grave threat”.
“The news of Koran burning turned the angst against the Christian institutions that had nothing at all to do with the actions of one insane man from America,” commented the Principal-Director of TBM Parwez Samuel Kaul, to this writer in Srinagar, who later sent a detailed report to the government which led to compensation promise to the tune of Rs 8 crore.
“Though the officials were informed prior to the attack of grave possibilities and requested for security they paid scant regard. The mob even stopped the fire brigade from reaching the spot,” revealed the Bishop. “I was heart-broken as I was involved with the Tangmarg School right from the time of land selection to its start in 1996, seeing it grow and flourish. With beaming Kashmiri children, the School was more like a beautiful fairy garden. To see it turn to ashes was killing.”
“The Tangmarg school’s safe status was assumed as students from 150 villages studied here, ensuring its security. That strategic neglect by government and security caused grievous damage as the school turned into a soft target and the fire reduced it to ashes”, a Kashmiri bureaucrat said on conditions of anonymity.
Trees more than 40-70 feet tall surrounding the school, stood witness to the terrible insanity that night that set a place of learning alight and also gutted nine other government buildings including tehsil headquarters.
All records everything was burnt, everywhere were ashes and soot that flew around as the wind blew. However, the arsonists were unaware that seven copies of the Quran kept in the school were also burnt, when they set it afire. Mustaq Ahmed Dar – a teacher for seven years says his copy of Koran was one of the seven that were reduced to ashes. Hardly any pictures other than those that were in the main TBM branch were left as the reminder of what the original school looked like.
Socio-Economic Development Project (SEDP) president Daniel B Das, also a member of the Amritsar Diocese, said they had earlier thought of withdrawing from Tangmarg which is a rural area. However, it would have sent a wrong signal to the forces which were inimical to the pluralistic character of Kashmir.
Children came the following morning, each of them crying and holding hands of their teachers and hugging in that terrible hour of tragedy. Senior students and teachers took turns to douse the remnant ashes that were simmering and causing more damage to ground below.
Undeterred by the tragedy, the school authorities from Srinagar and Amritsar restarted the school the very next day , shifting it to Dobivan village hospital with not even a pencil or eraser, but plain guts and resilience, in a move to save the academic year of 500 girls and boys. Principal Rajinder Kaul proudly tells us that the same year students who appeared in the matric board exams produced a cent percent result with three students making it to the merit list of J &K State Board of Secondary Examination for year 2011.
The school was shifted back to the same site and now carries on in modular or pre-fabricated huts provided by the government for which the school built base plinth foundation from the one crore with the preliminary compensation released by the government.
Director and Principal of Tyndale Biscoe and Mallinson society had written to the Jammu and Kashmir government a detailed note about Rs 8 crore in compensation, but nearly two and half years later only the initial compensation of Rs one crore was released.
On 4th May 2013, the local Tangmarg Tehsildar with a team of officials marched to the school to dismantle 25 pre fabricated by the Divisional commissioner’s office. The officer left after being confronted for a notice or communication by relevant authority.
The school with 500 students had started functioning in 25 modular huts that were released by CM for temporary reconstruction of the school building, till the time permanent structure of the school building was constructed, according to an official communication.
How Tyndale Biscoe changed the character of Kashmir?
In Srinagar you may pass a sign outside a tall gate in the midst of a Sheikh Bagh bazaar, that reads “In all things, be Men” with an emblem of two crossed heart shaped oars. Most would fail to get the import of this motto and emblem that stands to symbolizes ‘Face all challenges with courage and a gentle heart’.
With the first school started under Church Mission School CNI under Diocese of North India (DNI) whose foundation was laid in Lahore, Pakistan, the entire character of Kashmiris took a U-turn. Those who chose to put their wards under the wings of Cecil Canon Tyndale Biscoe felt the drastic change, some opposed it vehemently while few tolerated and fewer were visionaries to appreciate the new calling. Where Patshalas and Maktabs were run by Pandits and Maulavis respectively, the first Christian school established in Kashmir in 1880, to usher in widespread changes in channelizing attitudes, talents and spirits posing a challenge to traditional lifestyles and acceptable dogmatic rituals and superstitions.
If not for Tyndale Biscoe –
The Mighty Pir Panjal range would have stood virgin with no one to show a ‘V’ sign for Victory after the toughest climb.
The bluest waters of Kashmir would have never rejoiced with Aquarian sports and regattas (boating competitions).
No trophies would have been won in competitions of footballs, dancing, boxing, boating, mountaineering, trekking, rock climbing or swimming or possessing the rare “Pluck” to dare.
The Wular Lake would still be in wait for swimmers given the belief about its demon-like qualities and a fiery temper
If not Famine, Floods and Fires; certainly Cholera would have erased the names of many Kashmiri families, which traces its origins to the late 1800s or beyond.
Surely, Kashmir would have been turned into a dump yard with no lessons of –‘Cleanliness is next to godliness’ learnt and girls would have remained illiterate and sodomy would have still ruled as a bullies would roam the streets.
Arrogance and devilish Taboos would have ruined many a woman- the embodiment of life.
Citizens would become stingy and selfish or would have run away in the face of disasters. They would have never learnt the spirit of service or performing civil duties of firefighting, street cleaning, preventing cruelty to animals, rescue operations during floods and epidemic of cholera breakouts.
Modern-day concepts of marathons, Peak treks, camping, excursions, and service above self were a part of school curriculum way back in 1890s in Kashmir. “Secularism was visible when this Christian school houses were named not after some Christian saints but after mountain peaks of Kashmir- Kolohai ,Harmukh, Tattakuti ,Mahadev”, says Mr Rajan Sandhu estate supervisor of Tyndale Biscoe
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEWArtist understands no Boundaries: Pak’s Arif Lohar
By Rashmi Talwar
Pakistan’s folk musical great Arif Lohar’s soft eyes and childish tongue poking is just a tip of his rustic moorings. It gives no glimpse of his immense talent that comes alive just as he takes on the stage, not only as a singer, but as a class performer. His entry in Coke Studio as a folk singer of Pakistan with his ishtyle of ‘Jugni’ catapulted him to the world stage. This one folk music score, endeared him across seven seas, yet his repertory of music has several gems that he unfolds during his performances. Casual and in jet black he arrives, opens his jacket to reveal his richly embellished black kurta, takes off his black ‘turley walli paag’-turban, to unleash his black locks, sings so full throated that his jaw quivers with the loud throw and at the end of it closes all glitter, returns to his original roots, as if the tamasha box has been closed tightly shut. With his rustic humor, innocence and wayward village pranks, and mast chimta he entices, he revolts and establishes his moment in the cosmos with an upbeat energy and holds the audience enthralled and swinging, winning hearts of the elite and the foot-soldier alike found RASHMI TALWAR about Pak’s folk marvel during a recent musical extravaganza ‘Amrit de Sur’ in Amritsar.
Q: Your favorite musical instrument?
Ans: I am the son of Alam Lohar a revered folk singer and I inherited the ‘Chimta’ or tongs from him. Since then the Chimta is my ‘Ishq’ –my Love, and my bread earner and my father is my ‘Zewar’ – my jewel. I have no other wealth worth anything other than my mother’s blessings, my mother-tongue my father’s musical inheritance.
Q: Were you a good student and what were some of the best moments in life?
Ans: (With a coy smile) I was a nalayak – a poor student. And as you know a good son is overlooked but a nalayak one is watched with a hawk’s eye. So I was watched closely by my mother and father besides elders in the family as to what I did. Irrespective of my zilch academic prowess, I took to music like a duck to water from my father and that became my destined path. Whether I sing for a crowd of 25,000 in New York or 100 people in a village, all these are my best moments. Other than that was being awarded the Pride of Performance award by the President of Pakistan in 2005. I grew up amongst folk instruments and flavors of folk rustic singing. Not only did my bearings give me the sound quality so typical of our tribe-kabila it also gave me a taste of earth and soil that held the fragrance of my village Achh in Pakistan.
Q: Where do you get the humor streak in your dialect, gestures and actions?
Ans: Humor is in our blood. As an entertainer, humor comes as part of the Punjabi package. If a performer is unable to involve the audience then he has failed. I love live performances just as my father did and now my son Ali Lohar whom we lovingly call ‘Laddoo Lohar’ who started performing with me from the age of 3 ½ years. “Assi lok geet tey sufi vich bhijey hoye hain. Chimtey tey hor saaz jiven algoza, ek Tara, tumba, dhol hee saadi zindagi hai” (We are soaked in folk and Sufi music. The chimta (tongs) Algoza, Ek Tara (one string) Dhol are our life).
Q: Your style of ‘throw’ is unique and unbeatable?
Ans: ‘Phenkna’- or ‘throw’ is of two types. Throw amongst musicians is the quality of voice, like how loud or far it reaches and Phenkna in the modern world also means ‘bragging’ or ‘false boastings’ (he pokes his tongue). The first one is for me as my voice has a mass throw that I needn’t use a loudspeaker during village gatherings. But what you are talking about is the action-of-throw, as if throwing a dice isn’t it? No I didn’t learn it in a bowling alley to hit nine pins (smiles sheepishly) but this is part of our folk culture and I picked it during my days in street theater and this became my signature style.
Q: Which song brought you into the limelight on the world stage?
Ans: Of course Pakistanis all over the world in more than 50 countries, enjoy folk and Sufi fare that Lohars have presented but it is the ‘Jugni’ created by me in Pakistani Ishtyle that brought me world wide recognition. ‘Jugni’ was also used in Indian film ‘Cocktail’ but was first aired by Coke studio. On the internet site ‘youtube’ the Jugni video went viral with hundreds of hits per day and then came the Bollywood film Cocktail. Following this was the hit Indian film title song of ‘Bhaag Milkha bhaag’ which had an Indo-Pak flavor as it dealt with the burnish of Partition of 1947.
Q: What is your take on hot and cold relations between India and Pakistan? Does it affect artists?
Ans: An artist’s mind is boundless. He understands no boundaries; He has no climate (smiles). His climate is created with his stage and his audience. ‘Fankar layi hawa waken ussda chimta atey tumbi hey, tey Pani Wargey uhde sunnan walley Ne. Eh Hawa-Pani da jor nal uhh rujhiya rehnda hai . Ussda ki lena-dena siyasiyat atey siyasdaan nal’ (For an artist his air is his musical instruments and water is his audience. With this combination of air and water he remains satisfied and replenished. What does an artist have to do with anything political)?
Yes, it affects artists as paths are blocked but just as you cannot block air and water so can’t you block music, more so in modern times, where music wafts through cyber space. Music is unstoppable and will play unhindered. If you have an ear for it, it will be heard in the mundane things of daily life. Music has served only to bond people and so have other arts like dance, theater, poetry. Every time something untoward happens between the two countries, I feel pained.
Q: How did the new Jugni came alive? Were you not scared that it would get a beating from the original, traditional Jugni?
I was not ready to accept that I should only follow and continue my father’s legacy in folk music. I wanted to create something of my own, my own brand -If only one can become a ‘fakir’- lost beggar, that one can become attain the stature of a real ‘fankar’- artist. If I was to follow only what has already been played then what have I added to the music world. Fired with this passion I composed the new Jugni. It became a turning point and it was like- in an ocean of music I filled my own special color. Jugni in Punjab is a mythical figure of a woman who is a rebel while I made the Pakistani Jugni as someone who is a blessing of the Almighty.
I have made my own little world, according to my likes and dislikes, I live in my world where I don’t ever give up, I keep searching. Even while sleeping I remain awake. When alone at night my mind is charged with a fire inside to do something extraordinary. And then I feel the Almighty lays his benevolent hand on such a person. Duniya ke thaperaian toh sikhyan ( I learnt from the slaps from this world) … my mother’s face is visible to me smiling and that urges me on . Her beauteous face is like a Prasad or blessed offering that I partake in blessing before I go and perform on stage.
Q: It is well known that you were a street actor before taking to singing full time. Which do you like more?
I did street plays mostly comical in the entire countryside of our Punjab called nukkar nataks and nautanki. Besides that I used to be mast singing into nights. Village folk used to bring some food that they would eat through the night while listening to me and would go to feed their cattle early morning from this mehfil and I remember it was my guru Master Ismile of theater who taught me the nitty-gritty of theater and catching the audience’s attention. I use those rustic knick-knacks liberally in my performances.
The recognition, the money, the accolades were of no consequence. To please my audience was my goal. My mother told me you have to search your own path and then I shall be proud of you. So I took the fakiri path and sang in trucks and even in village trolleys. People hardly paid and then I started to include antics of theater which turned the tide and established me as a singer-performer along with my father.
Acting added to my performances and then I acted in more than 40 Pakistani films. Syed Noor’s film Jugni (film) was the highest grossing Pakistani film of 2012 with three of my songs. 150 albums and more than 3000 songs have been recorded, mostly in the Punjabi language and I still feel charged to do more.
Q: As a child which was your favorite song? Share something about your childhood
Ans: “Kookla chapaki jumey raat ayi hai, Jera agey pichey dekhe uhdi shamaat ayi hai” was my favourite which was typical Punjabi sung in Punjabs of both India and Pakistan.
Q: Your favorite numbers other than jugni?
Ans: ‘Ankhon toh bhul hoyi, pyar kar beethey hain’ and ‘Ek phul motiye da mar ke jagah soniye!’ both are my own creations.
Q: How do you describe yourself?
Ans: I am a mauji, a faqir as my mother wanted me to be. Yet I follow asool-discipline. My life is tough and rough and I can take the rough and tumble with a pinch of salt.
Q: Who is your favorite singer?
Ans: My Favorite singer is India’s nightingale Lata Mangeshkar Ji. On the Pakistani side other than my father’s melody, I love Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Rahat Fateh, Atif Aslam, and Reshma. I identify with them.