Archive for December, 2013

Carrying forward a musical legacy..ABHAY RUSTUM SOPORI/ Rashmi Talwar


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
Rashmi Talwar

Abhay Rustam Sopori at Ehsas-e-Kashmir Musical Concert in Srinagar with Ace Conductor Zubin Mehta

Abhay Rustam Sopori at Ehsas-e-Kashmir in Srinagar with Ace Conductor Zubin Mehta

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–KashmirTum-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
http://www.tribuneindia.com/2013/20131026/trends.htm#3

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Beyond the Pappis and Jhappis …Stepping across the Radcliff line!../Rashmi Talwar


Pak Punjab CM Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif addressing a gathering in his ancestral village Jati Umra district Tarn Taran, Punjab

Pak Punjab CM Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif addressing gathering in his ancestral village Jati Umra district Tarn Taran, Punjab

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Stepping across the Radcliff line… beyond the Pappis and Jhappis !

Rashmi Talwar

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!
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FIRST PUBLISHED IN RISING KASHMIR ON DECEMBER 24, 2013

URL: http://www.risingkashmir.com/stepping-across-the-radcliffe-line/

Real story behind the burning of Tydale Biscoe School, Tangmarg, Kashmir…/ By Rashmi Talwar


Tyndale Biscoe School Tangmarg, Kashmir after  fire by a Fanatic Mob

Tyndale Biscoe School Tangmarg, Kashmir after fire by a Fanatic Mob

Real story behind the burning of Tydale Biscoe School, Tangmarg, Kashmir

Rashmi Talwar

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.

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Charred trees and modular huts of Tyndale Biscoe school after fire by Fanatics

Charred trees and modular huts of Tyndale Biscoe school after fire by Fanatics

Reduced 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.

Tyndale Biscoe School, Tangmarg, Kashmir before Fanatics set it on fire in 2010

Tyndale Biscoe School, Tangmarg, Kashmir before Fanatics set it on fire in 2010

Compensation for arson

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

Children from villages study in modular huts after Tyndale Biscoe school was gutted in fire by Fanatics

Children from villages study in modular huts after Tyndale Biscoe school was gutted in fire by Fanatics

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