Archive for the ‘AMRITSAR’ Category

Canadian Premier shows why he’s ‘Justin Singh’/ By Rashmi Talwar / Kashmir Images

Canadian Premier shows why he’s ‘Justin Singh’

Rashmi Talwar

Seemingly unmindful of Modi-led government’s half-hearted response to his visit, the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau today visited Amritsar, enthralling the locals in a big way.

It may be recalled that Justin Trudeau’s visit was in a way, downplayed by the Union Government but his Punjab connection undoubtedly made it a memorable one.

If Justin Trudeau is sometimes also referred to as ‘Justin Singh’- it is not without a reason.

The Canadian Prime Minister, who has more Sikhs in his cabinet than his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi, today showed how close he is with the Sikh community when upon arrival in the holy city he straight away drove to the Golden Temple.

Attired in an embroidered Kurta-Pajama with a saffron ‘Patka’ on his head and accompanied by his wirfe Sophie Gregoire Trudeau in lime green Kameez Palazzo, and two of his three children Ella Grace and Xavier in Punjabi ethnic wear, the Premier was received by Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri, and Navjot Singh Sidhu, State Minister for Tourism, at the Amritsar airport. Trudeau was received at the Golden Temple by former Deputy Chief Minister of Punjab and Akali Dal President Sukhbir Badal and taken around the ‘parikarma’ or circumbulation of the holy shrine by the office bearers of Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) including its president Gobind Singh Longowal.

The visiting Premier prayed at the Sanctum Santorum of the temple during an almost hour long visit to the shrine. Trudeau and his family also tried rolling out ‘rotis’ at the Guru Ram Dass Langar Hall, where pilgrims undertake voluntary kitchen chores for feeding other pilgrims. They greeted devotees with folded hands while scores of visitors could be seen holding their mobile phones to take pictures and videos with the Trudeaus.

A thick security blanket was in place in and around the Golden Temple with SGPC task force making a human chain to keep pilgrims at bay at the Temple premises. Trudeau was presented a specially crafted 24-Carat Gold plated portrait of the shrine and a gold plated Siri –Sahib (a small six inch sword) along with a ‘Siropa’- a robe of honour by the SGPC.

In the visitors book Justin Trudeau wrote-“What an honour to be so well received at such a beautiful, meaningful place. We are filled with grace & humility”.



Sikh promises ‘Bhangra’ cheer to Turmoiled Kashmir / By Rashmi Talwar/ Daily Kashmir Images

Screenshot wedding open invite

Sikh promises ‘Bhangra’ cheer to Turmoiled Kashmir

Rashmi Talwar

When I think of October in Kashmir, I visualize the skyline awash with Harud or Autumn hues of reds, oranges and golds. In those Almighty’s favourite tints, Chinars dazzles over most other greens, in majesty and sheer beauty of its wavering shades from ochre to buttery yellows fingers, turning gold and finally crimson. To the famed – Aatish- a-Chinar or a Chinar on fire, as Emperor Jahangir famously exclaimed, describing Chinars incredible beauty in Autumn. Few saw the resplendent blooming tulips, the spring’s exotic European flowers, Badamwari’s almond blossoms, this year, while Mughal gardens of Shalimar, Nishat, Harwan, mesmerized just a few locals with its exquisite blooms.

It was deeply saddening for Kashmir especially this year during peak summer season to host just a trickle of tourists. Merely 5% occupancy in hotels, huts, guest houses, homestays and houseboat were reported from Srinagar from last July to this year too. But, come September end and early October, the horizon may cheer for a change, albeit, for just a few days. The menu is Punjabi Bhangraa and not Wazwan – the Kashmiri favourite platter that shall take centre-stage in a Kashmiri wedding.

It was delightful to read Jatinder Pal Singh’s wedding invitation on social networking site Facebook, on an otherwise languid Sunday, that managed to refresh the brightness of the holiday –It stated –“An OPEN INVITATION for my wedding scheduled for on October 1, 2017 for all known or unknown Facebook friends.”
JP- A Kashmiri Sikh, software engineer, from Tral Kashmir, settled in Gurgaon, has 3932 strong friend-list with 581 followers and the invite went not only to them but as a public profile open to any and every one. JP is a promoter with a start-up- a website ‘making things convenient’ for laboratory tests as also a coordinator for United Sikhs- a Charitable International NGO, that’s on the forefront during disasters. JP did commendable work during Kashmir floods in 2014, collecting a sum of more than Rs 4 lakhs singlehandedly, before the NGO collaborated to push nearly half a Crore, in aid to flood-hit. Hence his popularity is high in the region.

Incidentally, militancy in Kashmir and JP Singh were born the same year. Moreover, the venue of the wedding is Tral- a place ignominiously highlighted as the region of Burhan Wani,- Hizbul Mujjahidin commander, killed on 8th July 2016. Killing of Wani spiralled militancy to an all-time high, last seen in 1990, reminiscent of the mass exodus of Kashmiri Pandits. JP’s house is merely 8 Kms from Burhan Wani’s house in the next village.

Moreover, JP’s dad Kanwal Nain Singh and Wani’s father Muzaffar Ahmed Wani were colleagues till last year when JP’s father was Vice Principal in the village’s Higher Secondary School and senior Wani was the Principal.

In trouble torn Kashmir, Sikhs – a minuscule minority, (less than one percent) amongst the dominant Muslim populace of the state, has a high concentration of the community, in Tral region. On JP’s friend list is a medley of faiths- Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims (Sunnis and Shias), Kashmiri (Muslim and Pandits) and Buddhists. The invitation has drawn 540 likes and 323 comments.

JP who defines himself as – ‘I am Not a player, I’m the Game’ surely knows how to play one- “The idea is to bring people who want to visit or love Kashmir, on an all paid stay, much like a destination wedding . But contrary to downsizing of guest lists, JP is ready to host as many as those who can traverse and dare to come for this ‘cultural -adventure’. Lately, tourists of most hues are mortally fearful of visiting Kashmir, affected by adverse reports in popular media. Given the time of the invitation, in coming days his friend list invitees could swell in numbers.

He has referred to Dharam-Gund in Tral as his ‘beautiful picturesque village’, and announced the happy occasion to be a “Kashmiri Sikh and Punjabi” wedding- a four-day event, of ‘Band Baja Barat’ starting on September 28th.
Allaying fears, he wrote on his Timeline- “If you know-me/have-met-me or NOT, it hardly matters. Please confirm your availability; I and my whole family would be more than happy to host you. Lodging, Boarding and your safety will be our responsibility” Ready to put on display the famed Punjabi-Kashmiri Hospitality, he sweetly urges –“I am telling you, do not miss this. It would be worth it!”

And underlines the convenience for his Baraatis,- wedding guests, outlining the location of the venue and nearest exit and entry points by air, road and travel modes – “ Our Village Dharam-Gund is 46Km’s from Srinagar International Airport and 20Kms from Awantipora (National highway connecting Jammu and Srinagar). If you want, we can pick you from Srinagar Airport or from Awantipora -If you are coming by road”.

With a tongue in cheek emoticon he adds as a Post script.–“PS: This LADIES SANGEET function is 10% of Ladies Sangeet and 90% of BHANGRAA!

The Kashmiri –Sikh wedding rituals are quaint and different from Punjabi Sikh weddings, JP says. The celebration will commence with Gandiaan – a Kashmir Sikh ritual where celebrations formally begins with groom’s family going to the bride’s house to present her precious jewellery , in return the bride’s family presents a Gold Karra – Sikh faith symbol of Bracelet, to the groom, followed by merriment with wedding songs. Sangeet amongst Punjabis isn’t as innocent as it sounds and actually means boisterous Bhangra and dances by both genders.

Another ceremony is of hand impressions on the wall of the house, after dipping them in coloured water- Chapaa. Followed by Mitti Khodna – digging soil near a village Gurdwara, putting walnuts in it and inserting a pinch of the ‘divine’ soil in Mehandi – Henna to be sent to the bride The muh-boli- bhen or the groom’s adopted sister, commences the ceremonies, along with ritual of – Pani Bharna– when water is brought in a Gaagar- earthen pot, from a village Nag or spring and mixed in haldi ubtan – the turmeric mixture with curds, applied to the groom in a pre-wedding ceremony, believed to render a glow to the skin.

The grand finale on October 1, would be the wedding day for morning Baraat – groom party’s arrival at the bride’s house and Anand Karaj pheras – Sikh wedding circumambulation with recitation of holy scriptures and hymns, around the Sikh holy book Guru Granth Sahib, at Aluchabagh Gurdwara of Srinagar, near the bride’s house. “Other than the jewellery that both sides gift to the bride, we don’t accept or give dowry,” JP adds with pride.

“Along with me, as one unknown-never-met baraati, how many had confirmed their attendance”, I ask. “At least 20 unknown people have messaged me, wishing to come for the wedding. They are confirmations from Kashmir, Ladakh, Jammu and Delhi and now I have four from Amritsar including you,” he laughs
“Accommodation and security?” “People in our village hold us in respect. My uncle Rajinder Singh Rajan, is an award winning Punjabi writer of book ‘Taja Bawri’ -about a Kashmiri girl gone insane due to turmoil. He won the national award for his book in 2015 and was felicitated in June last year by Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti. Since few in our family were intellectually gifted, Kavishris- poetry symposiums, were often held in our home, which villagers attended. Today every villager has opened his home to host guests for my wedding.” And added –“A nearby police station has assured us all security for guests.”

Did both sets of parents agree? Both me and my fiancée Vipeen Kaur, a dentist in Noida are from Tral, her family is now based in Srinagar. We could have had the safest wedding in Delhi, but I insisted that I want to marry the girl I love, in the place we both love. The families are more than happy with this decision.

I tried to contact Vipeen Kaur, JP’s fiancee and sent her a message but did not receive a reply.

Since liquor is a typical of Punjabi weddings, would you serve?”- “Mum is the word!” he responds.

The responses to his timeline post have been welcoming, appreciative, longing, assessing and touching. Nidhi calls the invitation a cool idea. JP’s adopted sister Komal Jb Singh is gleefully petulant as her name has not been added in the invite. Shabangi Mushtaq, a Kashmiri based in Zimbabwe, calls him open hearted and broadminded for writing this beautiful post cutting across the barriers of religion, class and caste and promises to try to attend. Akhilesh Khurana comments,- ‘The invite made us part of the celebrations virtually’. Rauf Tramboo, a Kashmiri, adventure travel consultant, called it a chivalrous invitation and confirmed his presence to perform the bhangra after a long time. However a distraught Adventure tour operator Bashir Damna pointed out ‘Till date no visitor or tourist was harmed in valley and locals are good hosts and helpful. Some Indian media men are spreading false rumours about Kashmiris and that is why our brother (JP) has said ‘prime responsibility’ (read security).

Arjimand Hussain Talib termed it the most beautiful invitation that he had ever come across. Raja Farooq teased –“Good to know Rangeela JP is going to marry. Free invitation another of his innovative styles.”

What warmed the cockles of the heart was a desire expressed from across the border by Umar Javid, a resident of Mirpur in Pak Occupied Kashmir –‘Congratulations, I wish I could participate’, to which JP answered ‘Please try to come, it would not be that tough and let me know if you need any documented invitation from India that can help you with the visa. We would love to host you’ To his friend Sudhir S Parihar who Congratulated him, JP Singh responded- “Agar tu na aaya teray chittar peen ge…” that sums up the quintessential Punjabi Ishtyle of
friendship, I have no translations to offer.

Rashmi Talwar is an Amritsar based Independent Writer, can be emailed at:


I am getting MARRIED on 1st, October, 2017. 🙂
Wedding is planned at a beautiful picturesque village in Kashmir and will be a mixture of kashmiri-Sikh and Punjabi rituals/traditions.
It would be a 4 day event {28-Sep(GANDIAAN-A kashmiri Sikh marriage Ritual and ladies Sangeet), 29-Sep(CHAPPA-A kashmiri Sikh marriage Ritual and ladies Sangeet), 30-Sep(Lunch + Mahendi) and 1st-october (Baraat to Srinagar City)}.
It is an open invitation to everyone. Please ping me if you want to attend. If you know-me/have-met-me or NOT, it hardly matters. Please confirm your availability; I and my whole family would be more than happy to host you.
Lodging, Boarding and your safety will be our responsibility. 🙂
PS: I am telling you, do not miss this. It would be worth it. Our Village Dharam-Gund is 46km’s away from Srinagar International Airport and 20kms from Awantipora(National highway connecting Jammu and Srinagar). If you want we can pick you from Srinagar Airport or from Awantipora(If you are coming by road).
PSS: This LADIES SANGEET function is 10% of Ladies Sangeet and 90% of BHANGRAA! 😜 🍻

“Udtaa Punjab” Punjab’s Shame forgotten ? / Rashmi Talwar


Udta Punjab .jpg


rush sopore

Author :Rashmi Talwar

Punjab’s Shame forgotten

Rashmi Talwar

In October 2012, when Rahul Gandhi, then Congress general secretary pointed out that 70% of Punjab’s Youth was into drugs, it was probably one of the few sane statements by the Congress-heir in-waiting that were insanely true. Akali-Dal and BJP tried a cover-up with a vicious Pappu campaign to shield the deadly dark secret of Punjab.

But like Ishq aur Musq chupai nahi chupte (Love and fragrance cannot be hidden), the ill kept secret that leaked in small doses earlier with regular hauls of drugs from Amritsar, Tarn Taran, Indo-Pak border, broke out in the open with – “Udtaa Punjab”- a cine portrayal of the real drug scene of the once robust state.

CBFC’s nonsensical objections besides reports of ruling combine of Akali-BJP trying to stall the release of the movie, turned around to give Udtaa its extra innings!

The political opportunity was grabbed by Amritsar’s MP and Congress head – Capt Amarinder Singh, who had given a sound beating at the hustings to Arun Jaitely (Union Finance Minister). Capt threatened to release uncut CDs of ‘Udtaa’ at Majitha in defiance of CBFC ruling on June 17th. The High Court of course made only a single cut and a few disclaimers to give a green signal to the movie, now embellished with extra hype.

But the fact that the CD were to be released at Majitha – a stronghold of Akali MLA Bikram Singh Majithia, brother of Akali MP Harsimrat Badal and brother in law of deputy CM Sukhbir Badal, an accused in the multi-crore Bhola Drug scam, was a huge pointer in the direction of the ruling party’s leaders alleged involvement in Punjab’s notorious drug trade.

Drugs became an integral part of the Punjab election scenario in late 80’s when Pakistan replaced guns and ammunition with Narco-terrorism post Punjab’s terrorism era. With the attraction of ‘minor-risk-for- big-money’ the political stalwarts of Punjab gave it their tacit support, turning drugs into big business. If the recent arrest of Ramzaan(32) a drug smuggler from Pakistan arrested from Sowana border outpost in Fazilka district on June 13, who confessed waging a ‘drug Jihad’ to ruin young generation of ‘Kafirs’ in border regions of India. Ramzaan is a prized catch as a first Pakistani drug-smuggler to be caught. How is it that BSF has never caught any smuggler before and only muffled them into silence with death?
Any Punjabi will tell you –“Drugs are freely distributed amongst electorate in every nook and corner of Punjab. The election commission having never taken the issue seriously, the trend is fast and furious”.

Hence watching ‘Udtaa Punjab’ felt like a no –holds barred peep, into the drug dens of Punjab that emerge from scene to scene and surprises no one in this stupor state. A timed release with forthcoming elections in Punjab is the film’s bane and benefit. Abhishek Chaubey’s Udtaa gained more curiosity by CBFC hyperbole and reports of film’s piracy than merely by its subject and story.

The movie served to wipe out the carefully crafted media-campaign by ruling combine on All FMs with ‘paid farmers’ of various villages swearing that there was no drug wave as is being made out by opposition parties. One advertisement went –“Our village has 1400 population and none, I swear, is into drugs, be cautious about rumor mongers!” in an old villager’s voice. Punjab is laughing at the advertisements making spoofs of the tailored propaganda that openly smacks of cover- up of Punjab’s lethal cocktails and killing ‘Chitta’ or drug powder. Kashmir too is falling to the taste of drugs percolating from Punjab and across the border into this enchantingly beautiful but vulnerable state with its share of deep troubles.
However with the wave of Terrorism lashing the world, the scourge of drugs is put on the back burner. The FM channels also have riveted to old advertisement lines. Someone told the ruling party –“ The issue of drugs is almost dead, so lets pull down the ad-campaign and latch on to the value status of developments in the state”.

It comes as no surprise that the role of Punjab Police in drug dealing is glaring from a sizable number of Police personnel under treatment for drugs in parts of Tarn Taran and Amritsar including their children in rehabilitation centers here .
The role of BSF is also not a clean slate for the massive quantity of drugs being seized on the border. “The amount of drug seizures shown on media are just half or less than the actual haul”, an officer once revealed jokingly. The movie too includes this episode.
Drugs became an integral part of the Punjab election scenario in late 80’s when Pakistan replaced guns and ammunition with Narco-terrorism post Punjab’s terrorism era. With the attraction of ‘minor-risk-for- big-money’ the political stalwarts of Punjab gave it their tacit support, turning drugs into big business. The recent arrest of Ramzaan(32) a drug smuggler from Pakistan arrested from Sowana border outpost in Fazilka district on June 13, is who confessed waging a ‘drug Jihad’ to ruin young generation of ‘Kafirs’ in border regions of India, clearly points a finger at Pakistan’s covert tactics. Ramzaan is a prized catch as a first Pakistani drug-smuggler to be caught. If it is true that Ramzaan is the first Pakistani smuggler to be caught alive, how is it that BSF has never nabbed any smuggler before despite huge drug hauls, and only muffled them into silence with death?

The matinee show of the film in Amritsar, saw colored characters follow in to the movie hall to watch Punjab’s shame. Along with many police personnel, one loudmouthed one in plainclothes was accompanied by a Police officer. A stout bicep-tricep supporting guy in black clothes with gel-standing hair had menacing tattoos hanging on his arms. Many boys in the audience were with a studded ear. Women were few and had to endure the hootings at the drop of cusswords that fell in a steady drizzle throughout the film. The movie hall was strategically surrounded by Punjab Police personnel, on the opening day.
If truth be told, then ‘Udtaa Punjab’ is a searing flash across Punjab’s blue-smoke horizon of snorts, dragon-trials, capsules and needles. Names of infamous areas along Punjab’s border of village Hawellian, Tarn Taran, Narli, Amritsar are actual hotbed smuggling dens that were skillfully woven in conversations laced with authentic countryside abuses.
The film starts with ‘triply’ on a jittery scooter coping with a ride into lush fields near the unfettered international border, a packet is skillfully flung across the barbed wire fencing by a Shot-Put thrower, his jacket emblazoned with word ‘Pakistan’. Perhaps that is the only hint on the rampant cross-border smuggling. Drug smuggling in border villages is a whole-hearted business that undauntedly runs through a cross country network including smuggling aboard the Samjhauta Express- peddled as ‘a train of emotions’ between India & Pakistan, PVC pipe conduits, lady couriers, messenger pigeons, kites and balloons with Urdu couplets and numbers, courier- buffaloes in swamp areas. Add to it, is the emerging dragon power of Gurudoms and quack racketeers in Punjab.

The film is just the tip of an iceberg with flagrantly flourishing drug mafia in Punjab’s hinterland, supported by local politicians in cahoots with the police. Udtaa’s story runs around operations of the drug cartel, a once bribe-happy-turned-good cop played by Daljit Dosanjh- a versatile actor excelling in slapstick comedy, aptly named ‘Sartaj Singh’ in the film, a name synonymous with benign music of singer Sartaj’s signature ‘Sai’ brand played at Amrit vela or pre-dawn, in Punjabi homes, more like a prayer. Dosanjh as Sartaj plays a corrupt police officer to the hilt till drugs lay their deadly eggs in his own home. Shahid Kapoor playing Tommy Singh the Rockstar singer, is named closely with a namesake popular Punjabi Rockstar who is known to have cut several albums on nasha (intoxicate).
The simple murmurings of Punjab’s stalwart poet Shiv Batalvi -‘Ikk Kudi si’ takes the cake for music, otherwise sounding banal and nonsensical, used for furthering the narration.

Using drugs as talent enhancers by singers is a tragic reality of Punjab. Drug mafias swoop on upcoming singers promising enhanced talents with stimulating drug cocktails simultaneously prompting them to sing popular songs on drugs, nasha, botal (alcohol) and power.
In the thick of drugs sits Kareena Kapoor Khan alias Preet Sahni, a rehab clinic doctor, pout-less and natural, accusing the officer in denial mode with the choicest expletives, to drill the reality of police’s underhand dealings in drug consignments that turnaround to snare and gulp their own homesteads.
Punjabis identify with the colorful language, people, lifestyle and profanities that are common, as the four main characters build up the story. Especially impressive is Aalia Bhatt with her class performance as hockey player turned Bihari migrant. She comes across realistically with her half nail henna smear, a ubiquitous nose-stud and freckled skin with her Bihari abuses. Aalia is fast emerging as one of the finest actress as well as a budding singer. It is seen that migrant laborers in Punjab are emerging as one of the fastest growing drug consumer with drugs like Phukki, Doda, Charas, Ganja growing freely in the countryside.

The narrative of the film felt a little ruffled at times but situations leap outs, run around and close clutches the throat in a gripping portal of Punjab’s robust Punjabis turning into shitpots!

Yesterday, an old woman working in a spinning in a factory in Shaheedaan area of Amritsar related about her 16- year son’s death in a drug overdose, completely tearless, in a monotone sounding more relieved than pained at the loss of her child.
Likewise, Maqboolpura of Amritsar is infamously referred to as the ‘locality of widows’ as most male members became sacrificial offerings to drugs. Once a robust industrial area Chehharta has been ruined with the ‘chitta’, some allege the local MLA‘s drug dealing behind the ruin. The same MLA was booed out from a gathering by Sri Sri Ravi Shanker of ‘Art of living’ for coming drunk on the stage, a few months back.
Harinder Brar, portrayed as a Politician in the film is thus believable. One who is equally at ease, being the largest drug cocktail manufacturer, as he is, with coining a slogan and stretching his vocals cords to a blast, denouncing drugs in public-appearances. That the film director catches the absolute rustic flavor of Punjab and realtime settings have painfully ruffled political feathers.
One character in the film calls the drug trade ‘the Green Revolution –Part II’ of Punjab, the following rough estimate shows the repulsive scenario as Crores go down the drain- “Average spending per day of a heroin user (Rs 1500) opium user (Rs 350) Pharma drugs (Rs 250) , majority of users are heroin addicts. Incidentally, 90% of users are literate while half of them are from rural areas mostly in the age group of 15 to 45 years”.

While Shekhar Gupta founder Editor, The Quint- online news magazine, lashes–“Pahlaj ji deserve the sack for gifting Udtaa Punjab undeserved fame. Compared to Haider, Madras Cafe, Wasseypur, this is clichéd & juvenile.”
I answer -“Agreed, Shekhar! Udtaa is an average cinematic excellence, but it is the reality that hits in its most naked and goriest forms!”
Pappu was right.

Writer can be emailed at –

‘Gulab Gang’ to change destinies !/ Rashmi Talwar/ Rising Kashmir

Central Government Schemes

‘Gulab Gang’ to change destinies !

Rashmi Talwar

250 Indian Journalists at Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi with Maneka Gandhi

250 Indian Journalists at Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi with Maneka Gandhi

 ‘Gulab Gang’ to change destinies !

Rashmi Talwar

New Delhi —Handing over my room key at the reception counter of Ashok Hotel, Delhi, I counted the backpacks lying next to the baggage of each woman at the check-out counter, help desk or the hotel’s impressive lobby. The Ashok is a historic hotel, the first-five star in Delhi built at an approximate cost of Rs.1.5 crore in the year 1955. The backpacks were all the same size, in two different colors, blue and red. Color didn’t matter, what mattered was that 250 women journalists were carrying with them a power-pack to change the destinies of millions of people in nook and corners of the country.

Women journalists had descended in the capital of India from 30 states/ UTs representing 120 media organizations, proficient in 11 languages for a historic moment – ‘First All India Women Journalists Workshop’ on a collaborative invite from Ministry of Women & Child Development(WCD) and Press Information Bureau (PIB). The central government embarked on this novel idea to tap the massive human resource of women journalists for their power and reach via their respective medias to plug loopholes found due to lack of information and proper implementation of schemes, alongside realtime sensitive monitoring.

Maneka Sanjay Gandhi, the minister for Women and Child Development (WCD), addressed women journalists as the Ministry’s ‘secret agents army’, the ‘Gulab Gang’, ‘agents of change’  and ‘information multipliers’ and rolled out various schemes, merely heard on radio or TV with less than satisfactory implementation in the crannies of the nation.

 With recent instances and incidents, the interactive session took on a lively note and in return created a brigade of monitoring agents for various schemes that were otherwise being availed mostly in metro cities.

 “What Ministry wants to focus is on bringing a paradigm shift from welfare schemes to disseminating rights of vital sections —education, health, employment opportunities, safety, protection from violence, trafficking,” Maneka, together with Nirmala Sitharaman, Minister of State for Commerce and Industry, told women journalists at Delhi’s Vigyan Bhavan. Fortunately, Jammu and Kashmir, with its own constitution , having adopted the central government schemes, too was a partner and a beneficiary.

‘Khoya Paya’

Few in India may have any clue about placing a missing child’s report in the ‘Khoya Paya’ Scheme of the government at  <>where the website columns segregate as -‘My child is missing’ or ‘I have sighted a child’ and even ‘Search for a missing child’.

In the past two decades, Kashmir has reported a sizeable number of missing children, runaways, many in illegal detentions, many crossed over the LoC, and others just vanished.

I would hope the government could extend this facility for ‘missing persons’ too.

About 500 families of ‘missing persons’ including ‘Kashmir’s Half–Widows’ have failed to locate their missing husbands, dead or alive.  In two districts of Bandipora and Baramulla in Kashmir more than 100 have gone missing. Alternately, families of missing have demanded DNA tests on unmarked graves to establish identities as a fair process of Justice. Cases of illegal detention too can be curtailed thus in the country as a whole, if the center takes the lead.

‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ (BBBP)—

The center’s ‘BBBP’ scheme comes to the aid of unborn girl child, to eradicate the skewed gender ratio in favor of male child. “Jammu and Kashmir has one of the worst track records of female gender ratio. It could be, as they consider themselves in a war-zone and wouldn’t want girls to be taken hostages,” Maneka stated. However number of families of women having two or three children, were seen seeking ‘sterilization’ in a Kashmir government hospital. The reason was ‘fear that these women may be impregnated by militants or army personnel’. Both have a free run in Kashmir with militants running amok and army protected by AFSPA.

Government is already coming upon heavily against offenders of sex selective abortions under PCPNDT Act, 1994 regulating ultrasound scan centers and doctors, identifying gender critical regions and focusing on 100-districts with abysmal records, besides placing DMs to network with Ultrasound centers to monitor. “Interestingly the new lingo in such centers has become ‘ladoo’ for boy and ‘barfi’ for a girl”, Maneka said. From 1000:976 in 1961, the National gender ratio average has fallen to 1000:918 in 2011.

Panic Button

A new application hardwired into mobile phones to send alerts to 10 people around the affected area in distress situation for women on a press of a button. Digit’5’ and ‘9’ are being contemplated as SOS buttons.


The government has woken up to the fact that the power and talent of nearly half the population of the nation remains untapped and underutilized. Breaking shackles of slavery and becoming self-reliant is one of the biggest dreams of a woman. To market her products that she prepares in the home space like sehras or garlands, buttons, various masalas, warian (salty cookies), Papar (poppadums), chutneys, jams, baskets, sherbets and pickles, growing organic vegetables besides services like mehandi designing, fruit pickers, tiffin box services, flower bouquet, cake or candle business or as in Kashmir, dried vegetables like Tomatoes, Turnips, Brinjal, even fish,  … could unfailingly reach people around or countrywide through a free service of E-Haat with complete marketing facilities as an e-commerce platform. “We are shortly going to connect with online business portals such as Amazon and Flipkart,” revealed Maneka.

One-stop centers -‘Sakhi’

To support women affected by any kind of violence through a range of services-police assistance, medical aid, legal, psycho-social counseling and a short stay shelter home — under one roof.

Tech Anganwadis

Anganwadis, fulfill nutrition, pre-school and other needs of children uptil 5-years of age, are aimed to fight malnutrition, lack of education. With total lack of monitoring the Anganwadi  as providers  have turned into corruption dens. However to garner results for its core activities and to stem corruption government has come up with an idea to make these Tech savvy with tablet recordings, finger print attendance and standardized nutritious food for children. “However CCTV were not cost effective for the huge number and widespread centers”, said Maneka, in answer to a query.

Sukanya Samridhi Yojana

Opening an account in any of the 28 banks or post offices for a girl child upto 10 years of age and maturity at 21 years of her age with a maximum deposit of Rs 1.5 lakh per year in a girl’s account would give benefit of interests rates of 9.2 % plus 100% tax exemption yearly as well as on the amount at maturity to parents. The money could be used for higher education or during the time of marriage.

Juvenile Justice

Kashmir raised a query on Juvenile justice “In the Harwan Juvenile Home in Srinagar, a number of kids are kept without trials for months, why?” Maneka answered –“The children’s plight in Juvenile home, should be immediately brought to notice of Justice Madan B. Lokur, who would be shortly inspecting juvenile homes for justice trespassed.” Special provisions in law have been made in Juvenile Justice law to tackle child offenders committing heinous offences after the infamous Nirbhaya Case of Delhi gang rape in a moving bus.

Jan Dhaan Yojana

Open bank accounts with any bank with zero deposit; get life cover of Rs 30,000 and accidental cover of Rs one lakh besides debit card.

Other Highlights

  • Childline to help children in distress/ track/restore/rehabilitate missing children
  • Posters in Rail bogies to report abandoned child or child in suspicious circumstances
  • Railways alerted on 20 railway stations infamous for child trafficking including – Howrah, Delhi, Chennai, Kolkatta, Varanasi. Recently 56 missing children were recovered thus from Itarasi.
  • 33% reservation of women in police – To make police services more gender sensitive.
  • Adoption & fostering- Easy legal adoption. If you foster a child, government bears expenses.
  • Rastriya Mahila Kosh grants loan at 6 % for women NGOs
  • More ‘Balika Vadhus’ (child marriages) due to rampant eve teasing, stalking, harassment, molestation of adolescent girls.
  • Government contemplating free bus passes for women over 60 years.
  • Maternity leave for women in all work places for six and a half months.
  • For ending discrimination against women during recruitment due to mandatory maternity leave ensured by government, it was suggested to give ‘paternity’ leave to the father, to bring both partners at par in the home and work space.
  • Contemplating declaration of sex of unborn girl child to village would ensure safety and security of female fetuses.
  • A 1000 bedded ‘Swadhar Greh’ at Vrindavan for abandoned widows. Puri and Varanasi recorded largest number in this inhuman practice of abandonment. Vegetable garden, cowshed, skill development centers would be included in it for making abandoned women self-sustaining.
  • As many as 1363 missing children were found through Khoya Paya web portal and mobile app.
  • Crèches in Haryana under Anganwadi programs were adjudged the best.
  • Child rights email
  • All deliveries mandatory in hospitals to keep track of childbirth and gender count.
  • In collaboration with Facebook, Ministry of Women and Child Development is running a contest for the first time to select 100 women achievers
  • Skewed sex ratios are leading to social upheavals including increasing crime against women, besides kidnapping and smuggling of ‘prospective wives’ from places like Uttrakhand for Haryana, Rajasthan grooms.
  • Panipat in Haryana has lowest female sex ratio.
  • Through public nominations and voting on Facebook, women improving their community and making an impact on people shall be felicitated by government.
  • ‘Sabla scheme’ for providing life skills, supplementary nutrition and basic health check-up facilities for adolescent girls, aims at all round development of 11-18 year girls.
  • Contemplating ‘Adopt a Home’ scheme by big companies under corporate social responsibility to avail tax benefits.
  • National Children’s fund for Brilliant children in orphanages scoring above 70% marks to get scholarships till college
  • Sweeping Adoption reforms to make the process easy, transparent and quick.
  • Matrimonial websites regulated to thwart complaints of stalking and harassment of women registered on sites.
  • Mandatory mention of widow’s name in death certificates.
  • Jeevan Jyoti Bima (Insurance scheme – for (18 to 50 years) enrolled in this scheme a holder would pay Rs 330 as premium annually (about a rupee daily) would be covered for life insurance at Rs 2 lakhs.
  • ‘Ujjwala Yojana’ scheme – For smoke free homes in rural India, to provide 5 crore LPG connections to Below Poverty Line (BPL) families in the next three years.

Author can be emailed at –

Published in Rising Kashmir on June 27, 2016 



Of an enflamed horizon, ruddy Earth and the air between/ Rashmi Talwar/ Rising Kashmir

Jammu Lit Fest –

Book Review


Red Maize screenshot RK-1

Of an enflamed horizon, ruddy Earth and the air between

Rashmi Talwar

Danesh Rana’s debut novel – Red Maize, is a shout, an expose, on men, machinery and

machinations. It uncovers a unique cocktail of intrigues to lure, entrap, mutilate and torture. It’s about selling your conscience for plum postings, self-claimed leadership, medals and badges, even a marriage. It’s about bed and betrayal, money and moolah, faith and faithlessness.

‘Red Maize’ is a searing cry of Jammu and Kashmir, of a bloody horizon, the ruddied earth and the air between, that threatens to puncture the water veins and infuse it with blood of innocents, bringing forth a harvest of red maize.

The book is set in a humble hamlet of Morha Madana in Doda district of Jammu, a mountainous region surrounded by snow peaks, its rich soil bearing bountiful maize, life flowing sonorously like the melodic poetry of river Chenab. Then comes a time when the languorously grazing village, being an ideal hiding place for stealth, is quietly invaded by a market of blood shops- selling human flesh and death.

Morha’s insulated location, in the lap of snow peaked mountains and inhospitable jungle terrains, makes it an ideal abode for spreading religious radicalism. The radical wave swiftly turns into virtual reality, giving birth to the meanest, ugliest forms of indoctrination, where stakes are high, contrasting between–Soldier or Militant, between -‘A Heaven on Earth! or ‘A Heaven in Afterlife!’

It is a story of how a venomously planted thought mercilessly snatches youthful sons and pretty daughters and pushes their mutilated bodies into ignoble graves. Where mothers like Kausar Jan or Fauzia’s mother stand trembling, knowing little difference between an unbearable life and a living hell! It sucks your innards as they carry forth their fractured existence, brought by mindless ‘men’ in their lives.

In this death street one of the shops –‘Tanzeem’ – sells its merchandise of Jihad – holy war. The village gives it, its first indigenous militant commander, Shakeel Mujahid, that changes the destiny of the entire village. Shakeel, a loving jobless youth and the love of his widowed mother Kausar Jan. Basking in the sun on green slopes, while his goats grazed, fascinated by cricket matches and antics of militants, Shakeel follows the bloodhounds and falls for their gruesome playground of guns and gore.

Gul Mohammed’s is another such shop, of ‘mukhbirs’, craftily tri-timing at various opportune times – village folk, army and militants alike, sacrificing his daughters in this horrifying game of chess.

His lifestyle reminds one of stashed wealth, grabbed, usurped and stowed away by many such flourishing shops, blessed by political dispensations. The proof of this are mushrooming luxurious bungalows in cities and towns and hundreds of them scattered along remote villages and the countryside in Kashmir and Jammu. The ‘region of turmoil’ surprises many a visitor with some of the finest upcoming and completed bungalows. Not only did such money fund plush homes, it was weaned into high priced education in foreign countries of children of influential families, jet-set politicians, heads of high decibel organizations, radical and separatist associations and religious councils.

While their own wards are ensured to be safe and privileged, street youth are instigated, charmed, compelled and coaxed to pick up the gun or turn into a ‘sangbaaz’, the stone throwers, whiling away their youth and lives in jails or playing hide and seek in dangerous jungles and snow peaks with guns and bullets as toys. Where mothers like Kausar Jan are crushed under the dual extraction of dues from both militants and soldiers, besides becoming pawns in the hands of unscrupulous greed.

The third shop is that of the army- which no doubt kills, blows up, exterminates in the name of the country but is also a beneficiary, with AFSPA and PSA cushioning them from prosecution. Many trophies, medals, badges, promotions, peace postings, besides atrocities, tortures, killings, rapes, fake encounters and unmarked graves have stories with threads connected to the army.

Danesh has woven a story of intrigues sparing none – the army, locals and the militants. Shakeel Mujahid, in the story, is the manifestation of youth lured. His brother Khalid- the payer for his brother’s deeds by helplessly turning into a militant and his youngest brother- an easy dispensation for trophies!

Major Rathore comes across as manipulative, essentially less-ugly in his interaction with Kausar Jan, the mother- but brute, intimidating and cunning in the name of fighting militancy in remote areas. Rathore also has a match – a super ego demon unleashing nameless atrocities and creating killing fields.

How a NTR (nothing to report) is recognizable to villagers as a moment of relief; the rookie ‘kaapi’ (cadet) indoctrination to carry out everything to create Hell for a Promised Heaven, is revealing. Use of words such as ‘Passementerie’ (essentially embroidery on military uniforms) for adornment on the local salwar kameez of a Kashmiri girl gives a clue on the writer, a police officer. A Kashmiri’s typical reaction to situations like singing of Wanwun -the wedding songs on the death of a Mujahid is etched observantly. The reality of children in Kashmir playing ‘Encounter-Encounter’ with cricket bats as Kalashnikovs makes it well researched.

The book seems to be written in the times of early 1990s as Agra’s failed -walk the talk- steps in much later.

The writer’s use of Kausar Jan as a metaphor for Kashmir — the coveted vale of conflict, of lust and love, of mujahids and soldiers, being wooed and humiliated, of millions of blooms strewn with deadly thorns, Jannat and Jahannam, a nuclear flashpoint, a laboratory of death, is truly a wake-up call for the administration, politicians and the armed forces.

‘Red Maize’ calls for the protector to take the first humane step and not turn perpetrator. It calls for vigilance and healing, a touch marinated in much love and compassion. Perhaps AFSPA should be removed or replaced with a less draconian law, much as most of Kashmir believes the militancy is a Fassad and not Jihad (mischief and not a holy war).

Perhaps, the new political dispensation of Mehbooba Mufti develops a vision to erase some of the stains of political, police and public manipulations, and close few of the blood shops, with a touch, albeit, a woman or a mother’s healing touch, that may bring some comfort to Kashmir, is an awaited wish.

Writer can be emailed at:


India-Pak PMs Meet/ And then they came…/ Rashmi Talwar Rising Kashmir

snapshot IndoPak PMs meet jan2016.JPGIndia-Pak Meet

And then they came ….

Rashmi Talwar

India-Pakistan’s bonhomie has always spelt good tidings for Kashmir. It was on Christmas this time. Christmas –a special day just for family, like Diwali and Eid. Yet Christmas of 2015 leaped on to script history, with the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi diverting his sleigh (Air orce One) to neighboring Pakistan and his surprise Santa-isque-halt in Pakistan, on this festive day. Only three other Indian Prime Ministers have visited the perceived belligerent neighbor in the past.

In the spirit of jingle-bells, the PM’s reindeers didn’t mind bypassing the capital city of  Islamabad, instead, cozied up to vibrant Lahore in equal comfort. Modi extended birthday and wedding wishes in the same breath, to a Grandfather-Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif on his birthday and his granddaughter- Mehr-un-Nisa on her wedding day.

Just a week later India faced an attack at Pathankot, allegedly by terrorists deemed to belong to Pak based terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed, controlled by Maulana Masood Azhar, who was released in lieu of hijacked Indian plane IC-814 on Christmas day of 1999.  Many pawns and paws have come under a cloud and an alert has been loudly sounded in Punjab, Jammu & Kashmir and Delhi. This comes as third in the series of attacks with the first in Udhampur, then Dina Nagar in Gurdaspur and now Pathankot.

Only a week back, India and Pakistan were warmed over the Indian PM’s visit and media threw up interesting Santa Clauses between India and Pakistan- Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Mohammed Ali Jinnah and Nawaz Sharif share birthdays on Christmas. Dr Manmohan Singh, former Indian PM’s desire to straddle the three regions of Kabul, Islamabad and New Delhi, all in a day-trip for his three daily meals, was recalled but it was Modi’s unusual step that took the limelight, touted as –‘dreams come true for those who dare’!

Just after inaugurating the new Parliament House in Kabul, initiated by India in 2007, Modi

spoke to Nawaz Sharif and conveyed his greetings on the latter’s birthday. Nawaz responded in typical Punjabi heartiness- ‘Since you would be flying over my country, why don’t you drop by and also bless my granddaughter Mehr-un-Nisa at her wedding’. Modi accepted spontaneously. The Christmas bonhomie lived up to its name and the spontaneity of India-Pak PM meet, appeared to have thawed some snow back home in Kashmir too. Post this visit, Kashmir’s perceived icy -‘Radical-Modi’ gave way to momentary warmth for the PM. Warmth that helped tiny tendrils of a new sapling to emerge from under the sheets of snow in Kashmir, due to thisout-of-the-box approach seen as– path-breaking, unconventional, strong and decisive.

Following the India-Pak Christmas, Pak Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhary briefed the media – “As a part of the comprehensive dialogue, the foreign secretaries of the two countries will meet in mid-January 2016”, he said. Some peace doves on both sides called it “a coup of sorts by the two leaders away from the media glare and the highly polarized domestic politics”.

The impromptu visit of PM also left Kashmiri separatists wide-mouthed. Separatist Syed Ali Shah Geelani shook his head and said ‘we have no issues on better ties between India and Pakistan’. Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Hurriyat Conference’s Chairman took on positive note -“It’s a good development that leaders of two nations have started meeting and talking. We welcome it,” Mirwaiz told a Kashmir based newspaper. “We now hope that the two countries show political will to resolve all pending issues, including the core issue of Kashmir.”

Omar Abdullah, former chief Minister Jammu & Kashmir, posted on a social networking site twitter – “Indo-Pakistan relations have been plagued by knee-jerk reactions and a lack of consistency, looking towards two prime ministers to correct this, this time”, he tweeted.

All this, even as intelligence inputs had already put forces on alert, on a possible terrorist attack with a fresh infiltration from across the border, even before the PMs Meet.

Modi’s Tarzan-visit maybe a cause for cheer and be termed a diplomatic accomplishment in Indo-Pak relations, but has also caused a flutter. ‘Will it be stamped as a walk on haloed steps of predecessor Vajpayee, so popular with Kashmiris and Pakistanis, or will it become just a flash in the pan?’ cynics wondered and waited on both sides.

The cynics were not entirely off mark as the Pathankot attack was aimed to scuttle the nascent goodwill engaged in by both countries. The continuance of hostilities between the two neighbors serves the vested interests of many in both countries including Pakistan Army, the terror groups on one side and the Hindutva brigade on the other.

Political observers opine – ‘The Indian PM’s visit somewhat negated the growing clout of Pakistan army chief -Gen Raheel Sharif, who compelled Pakistani political leadership to change the discussion agenda decided at the Ufa joint conference and forced to make Kashmir the number one agenda point.’ Many however assert the General’s involvement in giving clearance to Indian Prime Minister’s flight in Pakistan, however reluctant it maybe, was tacit, and enclosed the blessings of his recent US hosts. But the slight to the Pak general’s growing clout, with the nation’s political leadership taking its own chances, couldn’t have gone well with the army chief.

Pathankot Attack may thus be listed as captive sketch of recent events. Many feel the attack, though a handiwork of ultras on the forefront has the implicit support of Pak army. Indian involvement in harboring and plotting the attack too cannot be ruled out. When PM visited Pakistan, a lobby in India was silenced, that of Sangh Parivar, who indulged in political rhetoric, communal and anti-Pak statements unmindful of the caustic harm to India’s foreign and domestic policies. But with Pathankot attack the Sangh found another nail to hit.

Modi’s acceptance of Nawaz Sharif’s invitation, greetings, personal reception, the Jhaapis and a Heli-visit to Sharif’s Raiwind house, may have created goodwill for both leaders in Pakistan and India, but had an expected spillover. Precisely for this reason, the impromptu option was exercised. Because, had the visit been announced and then implemented, a terror-attack would have been timed to coincide before the visit. If nothing at all, the visit still stamps the peace overtures of India and puts the ball in the court of Pakistan to respond suitably and with equal vigor.

Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh told ANI: “Pakistan is our neighbour and we want peace, but any terrorist attack on India will get a befitting response.” Indian analysts take this as the Home Minister showing restraint and indicating Delhi’s will to continue talks with Pakistan. Every time a peace process is about to start, the same pattern of attacks are seen. Dr. Ajai Sahni, Executive Director, Institute for Conflict Management, Delhi opines –“It (the attack) may lead to a momentary pause in the peace dialogue and battering from the opposition for not pursuing a harder line with Pakistan, but I don’t think it will have a long- term impact.”

“The moment Modi touched down in Lahore (and probably even before), something like this was doomed to happen,” said Michael Kugelman, a South Asia expert in Washington while confiding to a newspaper. And added “At this point, there’s sufficient goodwill in India-Pakistan relations to weather this attack. Saboteurs won’t win this one.” Given the history, geography, regional and global geopolitics, India and Pakistan have little choice but to remain engaged even in conflict situations, just as during Kargil war when engagement at political and military level continued.
All this, while Kashmir awaits the next move, wondering whether it will have to shiver in icy weather this New Year or will the warm jingle belled Kangri under the pheran ward off the chill between the two nations? It’s still hard to say.

The writer can be reached at


Sartaj Aziz, shouldn’t you have brought PoK representatives? …./ Rashmi Talwar/ Rising Kashmir

snapshot Indo pak  NSA talks cancelled 23aug15

Sartaj Aziz, shouldn’t you have brought PoK representatives?

Rashmi Talwar

While the factories of terror thrive, India and Pakistan are too terrified to talk. The talk tables between the two nations have tumbled, rounded, squared, turned or reversed but no edges have been found. How long will the K-issue be dragged, and peace remain, its captive?

When it suits Pakistan, the core is relegated to the back burner, as during the International Conference of SAFMA in early 2013, held in Lahore, when Nawaz Sharif was a PM-in-waiting. Neither the public nor even the media in Pakistan came in support of the ‘core’ issue of Kashmir in presence of the media representatives from eight countries.

At SAFMA, Nawaz was a mute spectator as speaker after speaker from Pakistan decried the standstill situation between India and Pakistan being hemmed by the issue of Kashmir. They spoke on moving forward on other agreeable issues while keeping Kashmir on the sidelines. A Kashmiri in the delegation even asked the establishment – “one lakh Kashmiris killed and now Kashmir becomes a non-issue?”- He was told dismissively-“Talks can’t become hostage to Kashmir. There is no question of transfer of territory”.

One senior Pakistani television journalist even bluntly told the Kashmiri media at SAFMA– “If my child is crying in Baluchistan, should I run after a Kashmiri child or look after my own?” And continued in the same tone – “Kashmir doesn’t sell in Pakistan anymore! If I announce a TV discussion based on Kashmir in the promos, the Channel’s TRP falls drastically”.

Najam Sethi a prominent Pakistani journalist had noted “People in Pakistan want to carry on with their lives. Only the political compulsion makes Kashmir an issue.” People in Pakistan had seen the gameplay of country’s politicians calling wolf on Kashmir every time internal problems arose, as diversionary tactics.

As soon as Nawaz Sharif became Prime Minister of Pakistan; Hamid Gul- former ISI’s chief (who passed away recently) – decried the new PM’s friendly overtures to India – “What dosti, dosti (friendship, friendship) is Nawaz talking about? He (Nawaz) is denigrating the Quaid-e-Azam’s two nation formula.” Hamid went on to denigrate almost every ruler of prominence in Pakistan, including Gen. Pervez Musharaff, a former army chief, besides Bhutto and his family.

This brings us to the point – How many peace-opposing powerful personalities like Gul would be in the theological state of Pakistan, to pull the strings of Nawaz, anytime he makes a peace overture to India, like attending the swearing in ceremony of Indian PM Narendra Modi? Are the army generals in Pakistan willing to let peace prevail, which in turn will reduce their position of prominence in their country?

How many of those may reside on the Indian side too to hamper any progress on Indo-Pak talks? Apart from that, there would be nations with a vested interest or agenda, to continue the spell of hostility and violence between the warring neighbors. Their interest could range from arms, ammunition supply to matters of faith, power, fear etc.

It has been a tradition that Pakistan has been holding conferences with Kashmiri leaders of Hurriyat in the past. However with the changed government in India, the new incumbency appears to be in no mood to toe the line and continue to allow the practice.

Several vital questions have arisen on the current scenario on various social networking sites. A high level Indian diplomat of Kashmiri origin, wishing to remain anonymous asked – “What is the Pakistani take on Kashmir- does it want Kashmir to accede to Pakistan in toto? Is Pakistan for independence of Kashmir, as demanded by Kashmiris? In that case, independence to Kashmir means Pakistan may have to concede the territory held by it with all stakes withdrawn from it, even the Kashmir territories ceded to China. Is Pakistan willing to do that?”

Moderate elements on both sides feel, “The issue of Kashmir should be solved bilaterally as per the Simla Agreement. Even Washington and London have categorically announced – ‘Both India and Pakistan must resolve their issues bilaterally, including Kashmir,’ ruling out any scope for third party mediation.

A cartoonist in Pakistan asks –“Is Kashmir, more important than pressing domestic issues while insurgency is going on its backyard? Will Kashmir solve that for Pakistan?”

On another tangent –“Is Jammu & Kashmir, as a whole, willing to attach itself with Pakistan and willing to be ruled by it?”

If Kashmir is an issue, then shouldn’t a delegation of leaders of Pakistan occupied Kashmir have ideally accompanied the National Security Advisor of Pakistan Sartaj Aziz for NSA talks? How is it that Aziz wants to talk Kashmir and only one side of Kashmir is invited for the talks? Has Sartaj Aziz allowed PoK to talk to India about its future? If the delegation of PoK comprises of its elected members, would it not be appropriate to include the elected representatives from the Indian side too, i.e. the elected Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and his colleagues in the cabinet, to join the discussion

A 3-point agenda was set up by India and Pakistan in Ufa, Russia as told to the media during a press conference by Pak NSA Sartaj Aziz soon after cancellation of NSA talks, as follows:

• Call for all discussion on issues related to terrorism
• Call for reviewing progress on actual decisions made in Ufa, i.e. prompt release of fishermen, discussions for better arrangements for religious tourism and activation of mechanism for restoring peace across the LoC and the working boundary.
• Intended to explore all ‘outstanding issues’.

In the above agenda there is no mention of any issue specifically- no Kashmir, no Siachin, and no Sir Creek. However, these were mere discussions and Kashmir could be brought into the discussion without needling India with an invite to Hurriyat Conference- a non-representative body, with no representative from either Jammu or the Ladakh regions.

Despite these hiccups, the horizon throws no alternative to talks. “We cannot perpetually remain in the past” like Pakistani TV anchor for popular programme ‘Jirga’, Saleem Safi described former ISI chief Hamid Gul’s obsession.

Dossiers on Intelligence activities pertaining to RAW (India) and alternatively to ISI (Pakistan), need to see the light of wisdom, irrespective of political incumbents. This is vital to formulate a roadmap to revive the stalled peace process and retain the flavor of the nascent goodwill generated by Nawaz Sharif’s visit to India.

Sharp rhetoric, to arouse jingoistic euphoria by both, has only served to blunt and weaken pro-peace lobbies in both countries. A result oriented engagement between the two countries is the key challenge for both Islamabad and Delhi, and let the gesture of peace not be labeled as a weakness but as strength of character and statesmanship.

Rashmi Talwar is an Award winning writer, and can be reached at

India got a little corner in Islamic Heart to make a Hindu Temple ../ Rashmi Talwar / Rising Kashmir

India UAE shake hands  at Dubai in August 2015

India UAE shake hands at Dubai in August 2015

India got a little corner in Islamic Heart to make a Hindu Temple
Rashmi Talwar

Politics is chess. When direct approach fails, the rival can be checkmated by opening another front. Perhaps this is the stratagem used by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi against a belligerent Pakistan, a neighbor who continues to violate ceasefire, needles India on Kashmir, ignites anti nation sentiments, blueprints terrorist strikes in India, and is perpetually in denial mode of any wrongdoing.

By attaining the ‘natural strategic partnership’ with United Arab Emirates and adding counter terrorism as core area of security cooperation, the Indian PM has drafted a new chapter with the gulf country located in a critical region. No wonder the Indian PM laid out his priorities promptly when approached with a prospect of a gulf visit. He became the first Prime Minister to visit UAE in 34 years.

It was an opportune moment. The focus of discussion and political endorsement against terrorism are breakthroughs for Delhi, given Pakistan’s proximity with the Arab nation. The gulf nation always had strained relations with India, owing to its closeness with Pakistan – a country on the same religious tangent. This, despite the large human resource pool of 2.5 million Indians contributing to UAE’s success story and workforce of 7 million, as also commerce ties, geographical proximity, mutual interdependence in trade and travel and endless other common factors. So much so that today, India has already become UAE’s second largest trading partner while UAE is India’s third largest.

By resolving to combat terrorism and broad-basing terrorism’s causes and nurseries, India is hoping UAE has successfully rethought its traditional support to India’s neighbor and would engage a balanced approach towards disputes between India and Pakistan. Apart from this, the talks took in a strong stand against the broad spectrum of sub-continental and Middle East terrorism.

Earlier, UAE’s disinclination towards India’s difficulties in dealing with cross-border terrorism had put their relationship in cold storage. However, the shared bonds in matters of faith with Pakistan, surprisingly, didn’t prove to be any hurdle for forging Delhi’s engagement with UAE leaders. Rather, Pakistan believes, the Indian PM has stepped into the recent breach in relationships between Pakistan and UAE on the former’s refusal to actively join the Yemen war against the Houthi fighters.

Za’abeel Palace, Dubai remained seriously engaged with Delhi before the two Nations arrived at a joint statement denouncing terrorism and a closer cooperation by the Arab nation to deal with it.

Outstanding concerns that had hardly been discussed before were thrashed including issues of disassembling criminal and terrorist networks from money laundering, disallowing religious hues to percolate disputes in the political spectrum, besides bringing perpetrators of vicious terrorism to book.

It is an open secret that Pakistan has been erring on all above factors. These issues found acceptability and entered into an agreement flashed in the joint statement between Emirates and India.

Pakistan is seen to be guilty on many counts including free run to accused of violent terrorist acts in India such as Hafiz Sayeed, ZR Lakhvi; giving jihadi color to disputes between India and Pakistan, especially in Jammu & Kashmir as also money laundering alliances with terrorist groups of ‘Bhai’ culture of Dawood Ibrahim.

Pakistan had enjoyed fraternal relations with UAE, founded on shared religion, traditions, deep-rooted cultural affinities, geographic proximity and economic interests. UAE is a major economic donor to Pakistan and main supporter of Pakistan’s position on Jammu & Kashmir and Afghanistan.

Today, UAE and other Arab nations have woken up to dangers of supporting terrorist networks of Pakistan, Afghanistan and other Islamic or non-Islamic nations. Its fear about being targeted owing to its prosperity or something as absurd as boredom or over excited extremists on a whim to destroy appears real.

India has grabbed the opportune moment to checkmate Pakistan, closing in a deal with rival’s ally and attempt to rid its stratosphere of violent tribulations. The two nations rejected extremism and any link between religion and terrorism. They condemned efforts, including by states, to use religion to justify, support and sponsor terrorism against other countries or inciting hatred besides perpetrating and justifying terrorism.

The agreement incorporates cooperation in counter terrorism operations, intelligence sharing as well as control, regulate and share information on flow of funds that could have a bearing on activities of radicalization including on cyber-sphere. To strengthen cooperation in law enforcement, anti-money laundering, drug trafficking, other trans-national crimes, extradition arrangements, as well as police training.

The hand of support from UAE clearly means the threat perception in the Gulf countries is in the line of fire. India not only got a hand of cooperation for an arch rival’s friend but also a little corner in the Islamic heart to make a Hindu Temple.

However all this may turn out to be hogwash, given the fact that Pakistan continues to be bellicose over any efforts at dialogue. It tacitly impinges on the dialogue route with an invite to Hurriyat leaders, days ahead of National Security Advisors-NSA talks in Delhi on August 23 between Sartaj Aziz of Pakistan and his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval.

It is exactly, the same month a year back, when chances of Foreign Secretary level talks were frittered away due to the same gameplay. The invite to Syed Ali Shah Geelani for talks is scheduled for the same day as the NSA meeting. Other separatist leaders Yasin Mallik, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq too have invites but for reception of Aziz. Sources say they feel slighted by Pakistan with the kind of prominence Geelani is commanding.

With recent brazen attacks in Gurdaspur and Udhampur simmering in India, and diplomatic engagements between the two being hampered, hurdles have arisen between India and Pakistan with near negligible breakthroughs in the near future.

This cold war reflects badly on publics of both countries who are cheery on people to people relationships, but are stalled to meet due to diplomatic and political stand offs. Such stinging calisthenics seem to be puppetry exercises, slowly drawing out the Queens on both sides of the chessboard. It remains to be seen who can ultimately save its King.

Rashmi Talwar is an Award winning writer, and can be reached at


Ammi Jaan’s gold Karas …By Rashmi Talwar/ Rising Kashmir

Real Life Story


Ammi Jaan’s gold Karas 

snapshot Ammi jaan gold karas


Rashmi Talwar

Pakistan’s capital city Islamabad is not too hot or stuffy. Climate that could best be described as Khosh yivun or modur – as sweet in Kashmiri. Zarka Sakina’s flushed pallor is not because of temperate weather, nor her cheeks reddish due to her Kashmiri origin.

Zarka, is indeed glowing, her namesake light-eyes excited. Thrilled, with the dream of Srinagar- her hometown in India, and looking forward, to yellow yolked narcissus, Tulips and Roses and Harud’s reddish Chinars, in just a few months.


Her delight hardly wanes, as her mother-in law admonishes- “Slow down”! She fondly hears it as war war pakh.

This time she may be counted as one, but will not be alone. She’ll be carrying an adorable package- a seven-month old baby in her.  Radiant at the thought of her new born drinking the pure waters of ‘Chashme Shahi’, her stride turns sprightly.

She dreams of her maalyunn or maternal home, where her child will smell the first scents of Zabarwan Mountains, instead of Margalla Hills, of Islamabad. August’s genteel rain-soaked air carrying the burnt leaves dry-stem fragrances from Wazwan cooking of summer weddings.

Zarka, married last year in August, soon announced her pregnancy. Doctors advised, the seventh month, for safest travel. On May 8, her worried engineer husband accompanied her to Lahore, for the cross country marathon via Wagah-Attari Indo-Pak border of Amritsar.

On a whim, her fond mother-in-law, held her delicate wrists, pushed four heirloom gold Karas on her bare wrists and kissed her hands, saying ‘Maike ghar khali haath jayegi?’ and it rings like– “Maalyunn gatchi khi tchaerrivie naa’riev?”

She smiles, but is uncomfortable with the heavy gold and pushes them in the zipped outer pocket of her handbag as soon as she leaves Islamabad.

Zarka alights from Punj-Aab Amritsar-Lahore bus in Attari. Her thrilled demeanor literally falls apart as the gold Karas in her handbag show up in the X-Ray. Zarka pleads, ‘They are personal ornaments’. Shows them wedding pictures, wearing Karas, in her mobile phone. But they refuse, handing Zarka a receipt that permits her to collect the detained Karas herself, or with an authority letter and original receipt by someone within a month of detention. They place value of jewels at more than three Lakh Indian rupees.

Abrar Hussain, Zarka’s father waiting at Attari wonders about India-Pak border formalities. He arrived from Srinagar to welcome his daughter’s  Phirri or first round, after marriage.  Zarka runs into his arms on spotting him, breaking down, telling him about the detention of Ammi Jaan’s gold Karas. It pinches the father. Zarka’s mom-in-law is family, but this could be hard.

Holding the original receipt from Abrar, and authority letters flown in from Srinagar, I wonder if all Punjabis are fools. Of course a sure-shot example was actually me. ‘We often Burr-aaaaah ! Gal hee koi nahi’ – No Prablem Jee.. And jump!

Gathering some of my leftover faculties, I contact a number of exporters of Indo-Pak trade. One advised – “Pay the custom’s duty and reclaim Karas. Hor ki, Saas toh kut puanni hai!” (Or want her mom-in-law to beat her) Another -“Customs, Na ! Na ! They’ll never give back.” One stuck on issue of Kashmir – “Now they will make this like another missile. Maybe the Kashmiri girl was actually bringing the gold for selling, who knows!”

It’s already ten days, with 20 left for expiry of reclaim. I desperately wrack my slumberous grey cells and look once more over the phone list. A last call, I think, and put my fingers into simple Yog asanas. Aashish Raina, a senior custom’s officer picks the call, listens to my rant and asks about Zarka. I tell him they are Kashmiris. ‘Do you have the receipt?’ ‘Yes!’, ‘Wats App me the receipt’! He replies. Calls back; ‘No! Goods have not been detained illegally’, dashing my hopes of a somewhat meek handover, after the presumed ‘illegal’ act was flashed in the media. ‘The gold Karas were found in luggage, if she had been wearing them, they wouldn’t have posed a problem,” he assures.

“We have three choices: First, pay customs duty; second, file a case against the detention; third, find a Pakistani going back and willing to reclaim goods and take with him to Pakistan”. ‘What?’ There is only a month’s for expiry of receipt ! Since Zarka has come for child birth and has a few months to go before the B-Day, no one from her husband’s side in Pakistan is expected to crossover to India for next three months. I plead with Aashish for a fourth option using his good offices to reason with his colleagues. He declines, politely.

Suddenly, a call from a friend from USA, says she is scheduled to go to Lahore from Amritsar for some research work. We pin our divine hopes on her, but she is scheduled a few days later than the deadline.

Aashish suggests for placing a request for an extension period of 6-months to reclaim Karas and advices to use the time to arrange, a person, to carry forward the last option.

Abrar meantime also keeps his eye for anyone likely to cross to Pakistan.

Aashish guides me to talk to Commissioner Customs. It takes me 10-days to see him since he’s out of station. Time, meanwhile is running out. Eventually, Additional commissioner Nitin Saini approves the request and immediately asks to fax application for extension, from Srinagar, without delay.

Having the extension, I approach some exporters but they decline to claim ‘somebody’s’ goods.

Providence intervened and Abrar finds a friend on his way back to Pakistan and we keep my USA friend as a standby for Plan -B.   The Additional Commissioner and AC Amanjit Singh are both surprised that soon after filing for extension, we could arrange for reclaim so swiftly. Anjum Mahmud Mian and his wife Misbah call from Pakistan announcing-“Ammi Jaan de Soney de karreyan ne sarhadaan parr kar laiyaan ne (Ammi’s Gold Karas have crossed the borders)!” The news draws euphoria, relief, jubilance and a million thanks and blessings for the pool of humanity that conspired to get the Karas across the India and Pakistan’s Radcliff Line.

Aashish Raina, loves to assist fellow Kashmiris with little thought about their faith. He smells the scent of his Kashmir from them. He brushes aside my thanks. “What is your interest in Kashmir?” he teases me. “Kashmir is my childhood”, I answer for the hundredth time. He obviously misses the spiritual import of a neighbor’s envy. And I hide behind a sheepish smile, content in the thought –‘A daughter shall not regret this loss throughout life, for the mere reason, that no one tried to bail out her Ammi Jaan’s Gold Karas’.

Zarka’s baby is due in August 2015


The Author can be reached at




‘Media Season’….. Step aside! Tourism…. By Rashmi Talwar/ Rising Kashmir

Media Season  step aside Tourism

Towards the end of December and January’s 40–day ‘Chillai Kalaan’ or the harshest wintry
patch, sliding to a 20-day period of
‘Chillai Khurd’ (smaller chill) and further softening to 10-days of ‘Chilla Bachch’ (Baby Chill), life begins to breathe a baby-green hued air in Kashmir.

The hibernating trees and sleepy Earth shed their white snow duvets and emerge first in earth colors, then a tiny littlu tip of green and then lush deeper emerald tones erupting into blossoms of untold beauty. Squirrels critter, birds shake and shed their leftover icicles to show-off vibrant fluffed feathers while cascading waters turn into glints of sapphire.

The invigorating sunshine of Kashmir’s spring spectrum has few comparisons. A long season of tourism also emerges as water shakes off its last droplets of icy sleet and frolics around joyfully. Certainly no joy could be greater than to visit Kashmir. Umpteen numbers of stunning photos of lush green golf courses, fish aplenty, rolling cotton clouds pecking mountain tips, virgin ski slopes, rural landscapes and water tumble adventures add to the festive sprinkle, drawing tourists in hordes. Tourism is Kashmir’s mainstay and hence each denizen of the region looks forward to visitors and prosperity, like a farmer to a bumper crop.

However, last September ushered in a seemingly slowed down variety of something, which could best be described as the ‘Media Season’ that kicked out most of tourism potential and lofted it over a high tree trunk like long grass in Kashmiri villages dried on trees in summers for winter’s cattle fodder.

September’s devastating floods provided ample flow for the ‘media season’. Not only were there stories on rising waters but also human misery, livestock, ecological imbalance, infrastructure, business, victims, devastation and relief operations. Painful human tragedies kept tourism at bay although many events for tourists had been lined up but had to be hastily cancelled.

Thereafter, stories on compensations, insurances ruled as the ‘Harud’ or autumn quietly slipped into one of the longest and harshest spells of winter. Even winter in Kashmir has its own admirers and an abundance of skiing enthusiasts and snow lovers thump in to see the white carpets. But here too the evil eye had indeed cast its shadow on the paradise that languished in its throes, but the journalist season flourished.

In December itself, elections ruled the roost and media enjoyed super prime-times, throwing in permutations and combinations, who did what and who didn’t do what, character assassinations and analyses, condescending opinions of stakeholders, voter turnout and with an ear to the ground, hear every squeak and squirt to derive Machiavellian pleasure from the adventures of mischief mongers.

The neighboring country’s petulance and nitpicking over elections, throwing in a verbal bombshell here and a border attack there, was the flavor of this period. Blame games of ‘whodunit’? Of course the earlier cancellation of India-Pakistan Secretary level talks over Hurriyat’s feast by Pak Ambassador Abdul Basit loomed large over J&K polls, but didn’t deter the voter from lining the poll queue for the purple spot on the index finger.

Post elections, a hung house threw in more stories of possible alliances. Media turned into match-makers. Watching out for any alliances or dalliances, news studios turned into virtual media-courts, accusing, trying, judging and punishing political parties and politicians of every grain, becoming sorcerers or soothsayers. The gap of nearly two months in government formation kept media on the roll in churning out possibilities, outcomes, matches and mismatches, common minimum programmes and what’s in and what’s out, or as they say
‘what’s cooking?’.

March saw the Tajposhi of the new Chief Minister, PDP’s Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, who lost Jammu and won a sizable chunk of the Kashmir cake. First sword-fighting and then grinding axe with BJP that lost the whole of Kashmir but won Jammu, with none making an inroad into the remote Ladakh region. If they cleared their glaring ideological odds with day-in and night-out clarifications, the media rock-n-rolled over a mere blink or smile to poke about their oddities that appeared in rapid-fire soon after.

Media channels sprayed us with images as battle line-ups started with a thanksgiving by the new CM to the neighboring country, militants and separatist Hurriyat Conference for the smooth sailing of elections. Media somersaulted to PDP chairman Mehbooba Mufti for her takes, the BJP take, and the Indo-Pak watcher’s take. While many on prime time were at pains to clear the air, the bullets had already been shot.

With weather playing truant, media was loaded with hosts of other stories of the snow kind. ‘Snow brings cheer’, ‘Snow woes’, ‘Unseasonal snow’, ‘Snow clearance and road blocks’ as also reports on incessant rains, avalanches and shooting stones, as another scare of September like floods followed. Stories also emerged from the education sector with cancellations and rescheduling of examinations, as also alarming reports over rising numbers afflicted with deadly swine flu.

There can be no two opinions on the fact that media loves Er Rashid. Some say, he belongs to the Togadia ilk. Utterings of Rashid, added more brownie points to media flashes. Soon after government formation, Rashid placed a demand on bringing back the mortal remains of Parliament attack accused and later hanged- Afzal Guru’, this caught the headlines. The family of Afzal Guru issued a statement – they didn’t want any politics to be played on the emotive matter, smothering the topic. But this did not deter media, they followed Er Rashid, anticipating more, who predictably in the next breath gave a provocative statement, demanding ‘Kashmiri
Pandits to apologize to majority Muslim community for leaving Kashmir, during the tumult’, media lapped up and got another shot in the top-notch news space.

A spiral effect of this statement led to more news and added fire to the government announcement of composite settlements for Kashmiri Pandits. Media further stoked the sentiments and Rashid gave the slogan ‘not to make Kashmir another Gaza’. From Gaza, the former CM Omar Abdullah, coined ‘ghettoism’ type settlements for KPs, creating another headline.

Attention seekers rode the media bandwagon and titled the cluster living as the prospective ‘Palestine’. Media fomented public fury by hyping stories and the unconditional welcoming arms of the majority community towards their Pandit brethren turned literally into a pointed finger to the exiled community of Kashmiri Pandits -‘If you come, ‘No’ cluster living’.

This lead PDP head Mehbooba Mufti to do a U-turn and change her tenor, terming ‘composite housing’ to mean housing for all communities. Media had a grand time hyping all hiccups and sneezes. It had it so good that it went overboard, during the release of separatist Musarrat Alam.

Expecting Alam to be the proverbial ‘Goose that lays golden eggs’, Media tracked Alam, eventually laying their hands on the golden egg- via visuals showing Alam raising anti-India slogans and furling the Pakistani flags.

Next came the self styled moral policing outfit Dukhtaran-e-Millat head Asiya Andrabi, out of her hibernation and provided more media fodder, saying-“I will raise Pak flags again”. On Twitter someone noted, ‘Asiya didn’t find closing down beauty parlors, catching amorous couples and tearing posters very lucrative’ and the media took the cue.

Soon after arousing passions over the killing of Khalid Wani, brother of Burhan, a Hizbul Mujahideen commander, and Yousuf Ganai, a militant, by army in Tral, South Kashmir exploded. Even as media readied itself for another tussle between regions of Jammu and Kashmir for location of AIIMS and IIM institutes, the uproar and unrest over killing of Tral youth, and protest over re-arrest of militant Massarat Alam overshot an innocent Suhail Ahmed Sofi in Narbal in CRPF firing. The critical condition of an 8-year old Parvaiz Ahmed Khan of
Pattan, injured while playing with a grenade at home that exploded, just got lost in the race to catch TRPs.

Tourism meantime took a severe hit, “A 70 percent drop in arrival of tourists”, revealed Sajid Farooq, owner of upmarket Hotel Comrade Inn. In this peak tourist season, few can be seen enjoying water sports on the Dal, zooming on water scooters, canoes, kayaking, zorbing, surfing or water skiing. With tourism down to a trickle, the elongated welcoming arms of Chinars pass unnoticed, lounging shikaras sit idle, tub baths in houseboats hardly fill-up and no wild antics of children surface while living on the waters. No long queues at Shankracharya or Chhati Patshahi, isolated remains Martand at its famed hilltop and circumambulating the Charar-e-Sharief or Shah Hamdan, Pathar Masjid or Dastgeer Saheb, are only the locals.

Climbing upto Pari Mahal and feeling the angels setting up the scene of vast lake below; swaying in the wind in a Shikara, as floating shops sell flowers, vegetables, daily needs, precious stones, Pashmina shawls; crossing Nehru Park towards Char Chinari in the Dal Lake or touching the lotus garden in the Nageen Lake, with a fair weather cooing in the ear. All seems lack luster, this spring. Media has certainly grabbed the season and successfully given a free reign to fear psychosis amongst tourists. Instead of enhancing, it played a spoilsport to the tourism rich state.

From last eight months tourism never picked up even once. Hence, this time, unsmiling is the fate of Kashmir’s famed tulips, the hanging wisterias, the scented magnolias, narcissus and daffodils shaking in the sweet breeze, luxuriant rose climbers falling from a height in a heap of peeping reds, whites and pinks, misting the air and apricots, plums, almonds in lush blooms. Each bud passionately blooming with a hope and longing for a fond lover’s gaze, a serenading romance, a kiss or even a stolen hug, but dying unsung, unseen, untouched.

Author can be mailed at

April Fool Cheers ! / By Rashmi Talwar

Caution: Those who do not possess the kidney for Macabre Humor may please turn to the next page on this blog or visit a Toilet ! 

April Fool Cheers ! 

aprilRashmi Talwar

Honestly April 1st has something queer about it or can it be called gay! Provided, we stick to the lingo of just-a-decade  past. Coz, in the present age, gay and queer would both be construed as straight or with same-sex twisted leanings, unlike the gay’s dictionary meaning simply -cherry and queer meaning odd.

Please don’t drag my father’s birthday in this. He was a disciplinarian as also an open minded, adventurer. Much as I would  find it crass to crack an April fool prank by the dawn of the first day of April owing to it being the sacred day of my Papa’s Birthday, but by late afternoon, my resolve would inevitable be crushed as my hibernating talents of a prankster, would emerge out of their forced burial.

This time, though, people on my FaceBook list who profess to be my friends and relatives were tested to attend my mourning ceremony. No I had  not ‘expired’ (like a bank cheque) completely,  just yet, but have supposedly become a  wannabe ‘passed away’.

So here I started to count how many would sincerely appear for myshokh ceremony or bereaving hour or the ‘chautha’ ‘as Hindus call the ‘prayers-for-the-dead’ after immersion of ashes in Haridwar or  Bal-Ganga.

I knew some people would be shocked and reprimand me, but, sincerely, my joke was very serious, so the search could not be abandoned by mere anticipated scowls or scoldings .


The post on Facebook  went like —–“Beauties and Handsomes of FB … Kal (tomorrow) I am leaving hopefully for Heaven ( or Hell !) I don’t know … There’s no Facebooking or Twitter or email or WATS- UPP there..(.wink emoticon). Might be away for the time I enter a new Soul… till then…. Remember me with smiles, giggles, laughter and Happiness And —-Be good !…. I shall be watching you from Above !! … And all those Fakes will be rewarded who think life is a cake walk and there’s nothing wrong with me !! ( smile emoticon)”  .


Believe me there were 68 likes on the subject of my anticipated death. Some of them admonished me on this silliest, stupid, prank and there were others who ventured a reply – ‘April Fool, Hai Na’ . Still others thought I was in a suicidal mood and rang up my daughter – “Is your mom ok? Jao dekho kia hua hai unhe.” My daughter was flabbergasted and asked me rather politely what did I ‘now’ post on my facebook status that four friends of hers had already called and one had inboxed her a message to be with me in this hour of supposed  melancholy.

Now this had turned into a serious research project.

Babita Narang Kochar wrote in my inbox “I hope it was joke or r u in some trouble? Please feel free to share with me . I may help,” and promptly vanished from FB. Ghost ! Ghost ! I practiced soundlessly after her vanishing act. After all there would be much more ghastly mists up there. I presumed she was a fellow friendly ghost, only trying to familiarize and play buddy buddy with  me.

Akhilesh Misra an opinion writer was aghast and indignantly wrote “What is this?” Sharad Tripathi pleaded from Lucknow to call it an April Fool joke and admonished never to play such a joke. Abrar Hussain, a senior officer in the  J&K state Electricity department, asked,  what was wrong with me.(He expected the usual Power failure, that leads to Marr-gaye! Mitt-Gaye! protests in fragile Kashmir!).

MP Singh,  connected with organ donation organization ,  thought he might get a new brain, for my transplant   and wrote –“ It ( post ) cannot be liked! This type of joke is never expected from such a mature person.” and to tone down, added-“Please don’t mind madam.” .

Shamsher B Singh, a former journalistic colleague and friend, softly reprimanded as if to a child “mana aaj April fool day hai par mazak kuchh aur bhi ho sakta tha. Please reconsider ur decision.”  (Admitted that today is April fool’s Day but jokes could be something else too) And added soon after -‘Hume malum hai apke post ki haqueekat lekin, dil ko behlane ke liye khyal achha hai ! ‘ (We know the reality of your post, but to amuse oneself, the idea is good )

By the fourth comment, an hour or two later the post was exposed completely  as an  April Fool joke .

Autar Mota, a fabulous writer on Kashmir’s tangible and intangible heritage who never misses a chance to tag me in each of his brilliant posts, simply wrote – “April Fool”  I am anticipating he must have written this with his fingers crossed .

Suneet Madaan, a class website designer, worryingly posted“ Rashmi, do you need company?”

Bansilal Kuchroo, a longing, veteran soul who feels that after losing ones lands in  Kashmir,  nothing more drastic could befall him,  wrote in sadness “I am a real FOOL so I believe all.” He really jerked the tear glands and succeeded to shame me. To sadden a person, who is already dealing with the separation from his lands for decades and longing to touch ground zero, indeed mortified me. However comments continued to pour in.

Islamabad based Indo Pak fellow peace votary, Zahoor Ahmed announced –‘Aje tohanu jan nain dena’(We won’t let you go, just yet !) Made me wonder whether he will create chicken tikkas or gurdey- Katurey –  a speciality of Lahore – Before he lets a portion of me go to the skies.

Few dainty ones followed the comment strip with Amnah Khalid, of ‘Save daughter, Save nation’ campaign fame . Who used her light flouncy tone to write –“ Are u going to a Spa or China or North Korea?? !!” She must have surely dealt with looneys who raised false alarms and had a wit or two ready  with retorts to gun me.

Sheikh farooq Ahmed – a hotelier whose intention apparently seemed to be  to follow me to the travel journey into space probably looking for tourists clientage, gurglingly wrote  — “Enjoy there,… we will be reaching soon!!” as if I was going to a casino in Los Angeles!

Saeed Ahmed a self- professed lover of ‘mad’ who  enjoys ‘schools of fools and illiterates’, in his cherry tone   cheered me off with –“See you there!”. I could imagine him waving his hand and blowing good wishes for a safe journey.

While Arun Gaur,  a fellow Amritsari, brushed aside my speculations of Heaven and Hell and firmly stated – ‘Wat nonsense ! U will always go 2 heavens’ and added ‘ just try once”.

A fellow journalist Bindu Singh, was effusive –“ Love u n hugs…Rashmi,…. Pl…. Dear….. Do not break my heart  (pierced arrow heart emoticon),  its as delicate as u r…. Sweetie…. Stay blessed…..( a wide smile, a smile, a heart with stars and a whistling heart emoticons ).  I raised my hands in prayer, atleast someone displayed some good etiquettes!

Social worker and activist Shabnam Hashmi rung the alarm with –“ Rashmi Talwar please call if there is a crises and this is not an April 1 prank. Requesting Rashmi’s personal friends who have her number to call her to ensure things are fine.” She must have surely seen a number of such realtime  looney cases.

Neeta Tripathi, an office bearer of  congress party’s grievances cell in Mumbai  could not stand the jest , lest, she said –“Rashmi,  tum bhi na. aisa mazak acha nahi haii”(this is not a good joke ).

A Manager at  ITC Welcome Group of hotels and businessman in Tourism sector of J&K calling himself IIqaa Tours  called out  loud –“There may not be twitter, Whatsapp or other services, but perhaps telepathy…” and made me feel like a crystal ball running after me for the vital tele link.

Yoginder Nath Tikoo, a Peru,  based Kashmiri who once worked in a Spanish company had this advice –“Visit my Tea Shop for a quick, crispy samosa plz.” as if his stall was located at the entry of gates of hell or heaven  and I would need some refreshment,  post the exhausting journey from Earth.

Veenu Kadd, restaurateur and  my good friend in Amritsar … hit it with a simple –“April fool banaya”

Krishna Kumar D Paval – guessed ‘So, Are u going to Srinagar ?’This was promptly picked up by Dr Naresh Chawla , who lost no time in doing a quick post-mortem and concluding  within a span of an hour –“ I think she is visiting Srinagar.. So read her status again… its Heaven..she said, hell- bcoz floods are dere.. its at a height so watching from above!!” I concluded he surely was a good doctor cum  lawyer rolled into one.

My good friend and RTI activist from Delhi Daljeet Singh who has often peered at  my ‘queer’ posts, blurted out -“ Afeem acchhi thi.  Thodhi jyada lai layi lagdee.” (Drug overdose !)

Anoop Lather a lawyer and a political activist from Kurukshetra the land of the great war, seemed to have  put up a board – “Please no such Pranks.” It sounded like Bugle announcing –“No Toilets in sky!”

Roopa Ghosh a quick witted senior school mate snapped –“Talk to us about the weather from there !  ” I guess she knew her school mates well enough.

RK Arora seems to have a fool –proof source there and informed me –“For the first time being there is no vacancy Heaven or Hell .” Guess I should be prepared to languish in the long  ration queue.

Vijendra Rawat showed me  a wine glass seeming to call  a toast  for the onwards journey. Avi whom I know as a fabulous mimic of a Kashmiri wazu and a great cook, all other talents aside, decided to suggest to take my surname ‘Talwar’ everywhere when I go on ‘the’ journey. Yes Avi just like the tools of Mimicry you carry everywhere, I shall take the tool of war with me. Salutes !

Gurmeet Anand, a witty whack himself is strangely annoyed for ‘selecting  ‘them’ to make  fools,’ made me think,  I wish I had a choice to search for the right kind of candidates for my irrational pranks. Canada based Manju Sharma, who is into diamonds business warmly cooed so lovingly “God-Luck !”.

How can PM Modi be missed in any conversation at present, that takes place on the Indian Terra ferma . Jeevan Preet Singh or Jack Kairon promptly asks — “Leaving on Modi’s Bullet train?” after all Kairon  is a lawyer who always is  on a lookout for issues involving litigations –For supposing I fell off the train! .

Mahender Singh cautions me against going to Earth’s paradise Kashmir and says the Heaven there has turned to Hell. ‘Hell or Heaven, Kashmir is Kashmir’! I retort.
Meantime Journalist Narinderpal butts in “We have people in Heaven and Hell with fake IDs”. As if I am gonna expose a trillion dollar scam in a multi sting operation wearing spy cameras in the pockets of my soul. “I don’t want any tehalkas with me for company Mr Narinder Pal Phaajee,” I tell him.


Awww my friends know me too well so Neeta asked –“Haw ! (mouth-open)  Kahan chali ..Srinagar ?” I can imagine her eyes wide and her lower lip pulled-in locked with teeth in a tight grasp, as she tried to wish this deathtrap away. Another good friend Indu Aurora assuming that I was going to Kashmir advised – Rashmi, Heaven has become Hell once again after September. God bless ones who were struck by this calamity . Take care and God be with you all.”

A Pakistan based motor company’s manager Tanvir Ahmed Siddiqui  commented –“Excuse Me…would You… Hang On Please?” As If I was holding a noose around my neck .. and wanted to snap -‘Oh No,  Puleez!  Let me quietly & painlessly  attain die-hood’.

Balvinder Singh, a Heritage conservator and friend couldn’t hold any longer and blurted “Ki ho gaya?” wondering which ancient wall has fallen upon me. While a HC lawyer prayed –“Be with us always” . Am I omniscient, I thought for a minute.

A former bureaucrat with Jammu & Kashmir government Ramesh Mehta checkmated  with a smiley–“ Waiting for your soul to return on April 1st Next”

Amrit Mannan from Amritsar didn’t believe it was the first of April joke or joker.

Kirit Desai a former bureaucrat put is succinctly – “ A day is never enough for such an auspicious journey where the Moon , stars and the mighty Sun aligns for a day to fool everyone. Have a good one ” And Vee Kay Sharma a senior journalist wrote –“ Don’t worry, on earth we have Facebook and Twitter, But up there , there is Fake book and Bleeder and the  Third eye to peep and see what is happening on the Ground floor.”  And DK Sharma just laughed Ha Ha April fool .

What absolutely zapped me was who would share such a innocuous post but someone indeed did. It was Atul Mehra a known artist of the city who  strangely commented –“So True” . Atul is surely gonna be the next one to be crucified like me . Today I went to an exhibition and several of my friends made a face and reminded me of the April fool post and said they hated it. Well, So be it .



Sorry, But I couldn’t resist writing this. Please read it very objectively 

Kashmir’s colors at Jaipur Literature Festival …By Rashmi Talwar

Jaipur Literature Festival 

Jaipur Literature Festival 2015

Jaipur Literature Festival 2015

Kashmir colors Jaipur’s Literature Festival

Rashmi Talwar

If Pink was the color you remembered Jaipur by, January splashed a multi hued rainbow at Diggi Palace, hosting the biggest ever outpouring of youngistan for the Jaipur Literature Festival-2015. Bridal decked in Kaliras (wedding ornament) and birdy-tohrans, ‘Dal-batti-churmas’ were shunned for literary flavors, wafting through

Diggi’s royal halls as also its outdoors. Not a pinch, push or pick-pocket was reported. Not a mike screeched as the schedule went by clockwork precision. Subtle lighting threw flashes of color highlighting every nook, corner
and shadow. At least eighty percent were those who dug in their heels, sat or leaned or stood in silence listening to literary greats in authors, critics, poets, artists, filmmakers and even chefs in rapt attention.

Surely, they could be credited with literary leanings unlike other festivals where ‘mela’ fun rules the roost. Fashionistas too sashayed in catwalks. However, the chill in Jaipur brought out Kashmiri Pashmina shawls in all their glamour.

If ‘Lulu’s’ trumpeted their pizzas and fast food, the official fare was lavish with free flowing wines, liquors and live preparations besides a touch of Rajasthan with lentils and Bajra soups served in earthenware kujjas.

Kashmir hogged the limelight on more than one occasion. It came bright, sprightly and serene with Brigid Keenan’s ‘Travels in Kashmir’ and Sangeeta Gupta’s ‘Ladakh–Knowing the Unknown’.
However, ‘Haider – the Shakespearean Hamlet’ threw it into conflict the umpteenth time much like the stark gashes of rough mountains of the restive state.

The five-day scents of the written word brought yesteryears face of cinema Waheeda Rehman, poised and graceful in her graying years, telling her story. Naseeruddin Shah was candid about his account in his book ‘And Then One Day..’ Salima Hashmi, a noted artist and daughter of famed Pakistani poet Faiz Ahmed ‘Faiz’, spoke passionately on ‘Contemporary Pakistani Art’. She was equally at ease as they discussed their father’s huge repertoire of poetry with Salima and Shabana Azmi on ‘Faiz and Kaifi-A poetic legacy’.

Famed Hindi poet Vinod Kumar Shukla opined about ‘Humare samay ke Shabd’ with Pushpesh Pant and Lata Sharma pitching in. Ahmed Rashid of Pakistan opened the carcasses on Taliban and their indoctrination on ‘Terror and Faith’ in his book ‘Pakistan on the Brink’. Paul Theroux shared his ‘Wanderlust and the Art of
Travel Writing’ and Sonia Gandhi received her share of fame in absentia with Javier Moro’s book “Red Saree” on her. Food and Palette being intrinsic to life and living,

Amritsar’s Vikas Khanna opened his masala box of recipes in ‘Masterchef India’. “The spirit of Indian Painting” by B N Goswamy, an eminent art critic, lovingly explained the color strokes, their forms to a mix of discerning and art loving audience.

Some Excerpts-


  Basharat Peer, Jerry Brotton,Suhel Seth,Vishal Bhardwaj, Tim Supple at Jaipur Literature Festival

Basharat Peer, Jerry Brotton,Suhel Seth,Vishal Bhardwaj, Tim Supple at Jaipur Literature Festival

Haider and Hamlet

Haider – A film based on the Shakespearean Hamlet, set in Kashmir in the turbulent Nineties, loved and loathed, touched most of the bane of Kashmir, from half-widows to mass graves, AFSPA to UN resolutions, elections to collaborators. It came across as a stark, cold and an acid expose on Kashmir, and found echo in outpourings directed at Basharat Peer, the co-script writer and Vishal Bhardwaj, the director, in the session “Hamlet’s Dilemma’ chaired by Suhel Seth a noted columnist and actor at the Festival.

The film makers faced a volley of questions from the audience. Vishal was queried “Tragedy in Kashmir was two fold – one affecting the Kashmiri Muslims and the other the Kashmiri Pandits. Why was only one side of the tragedy shown in the film?” Expecting the question, he ducked under the garb of cinematic timing and his
personal choice as per his story narration, although he admitted that the Pandit tragedy was no lesser a tragedy!

Vishal went on to ask why this question was not raised for ‘Mission Kashmir’ and ended with a concession that mainstream Hindi cinema has been so unfair to Kashmir in the wake of the monumental tragedy that has affected the region. “Hollywood would have churned out 200 stories underlining the state of affairs had such a tragedy
taken place in their region.”

Basharat Peer the co-script writer of Haider too added an answer to the single sided portrayal –“No film can haveeverything for everyone. This is not a history of Kashmir or a political manifesto. It is just a film that tries to tell some stories. I did not bring the story of Kashmir Pandits’ exodus as was not intrinsic to the storyline and I did not want to do tokenism to this aspect by allotting it 10 minutes in the story.”

Another query came from Moneeza Hashmi who asked Vishal –“Why? Why Faiz?” referring to two songs in the film based on the poetry of Faiz . She then surprised everyone by saying she was the daughter of Faiz -the famed Pakistani poet. Vishal in turn recited a few lines of Faiz’s poetry and replied –“Who else but Faiz could have written like this?” that filled the daughter’s eyes in tears as Vishal added –“If Faiz had been alive, he would have written the entire script.”

Yesteryears actress Waheeda Rehman at Jaipur Literature Festival

Yesteryears actress Waheeda Rehman at Jaipur Literature Festival

Waheeda Rehman ‘Mujhe Jeene Do’

In the backdrop of peppy liberating number “Aaj Phir Jeene Ki Tamanna Hai…Aaj Phir Marne Ka Irada Hai ..” Waheeda Rehman (76), a gifted actress, strikingly beautiful, graceful in a grey hair plumped coiffeur, royal postured neck, the signature wave on her hair line, took the stage in a green Saree and a Kashmiri Pashmina Jaal shawl. Nasreen Munni Kabir (writer of her book) and Arshia Sattar led the discussion on her
book “Conversations with Waheeda Rehman” and urged her to revisit her life on stage. Going down memory lane, Waheeda began the story when she was 16-years and landed her first movie, invited by Guru Dutt, who discovered her in Hyderabad, to sign a film contract-“I refused to change my name even as I was urged that my contemporaries Meena Kumari, Dilip Kumar, Madhubala had changed theirs. Despite director Raj Khosla,
snorting, that my name held no glamour, sex appeal and was longish. I stuck on; I was stubborn and didn’t mind being dropped from the movie. I spent three-days nervously in a hotel room to get the final call and finally they relented and I was to keep my name given lovingly by my parents for the rest of my life and successes followed.”

In other words “Stubbornness guided my career”, said Waheeda.

Although Waheeda did several movies with top actors of the time Guru Dutt, Dev Anand, Sunil Dutt, Dilip Kumar-“My chemistry with Dev Anand was special. He used to correct me to call him just ‘Dev’ with no jis or sahibs.” Many other anecdotes poured from her time of hit films- Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam, Guide, Kagaz ke Phool, Mujhe Jeene Do, Teesri Kasam, Pyaasa, Reshma aur Shera . “In ‘Sahib, Bibi…’ Guru Dutt refused to give the lead role to me, although I had by then given major hits as a lead actress. I settled for the second lead because I loved the role, looked the part of the young girl and I was an artist first. The lead role was essayed by Meena Kumari”, Waheeda told a jam-packed eager audience. And added “ Guru Dutt being my mentor and a perfectionist, once took 76 retakes to finally can the scene ” Comparing Guru Dutt and Satyajit Ray the actress said –“Guru Dutt did not get satisfied easily while Satyajit was clear-cut about the scene, timing, with no wastage of stock or budget.”

Alberto Manguel and Chandrahas Choudhury at Jaipur Literature Festival

Alberto Manguel and Chandrahas Choudhury at Jaipur Literature Festival

When popular author Paulo Coelho was ticked off

Alberto Manguel, author of “A History of Reading”, ticked off popular writer Paulo Coelho not once but twice during his stage discussion titled ‘Library at Night’. A personal library offers a portrait of a person, he joked.

“My own library of 35,000 to 40,000 books in rural France is a type of an autobiography. If I go into someone’s house and I see more Plato than Aristotle I see a friend. If I see the works of Paulo Coelho, I have great trouble regarding him as a friend.” Paulo Coelho is a popular author of ‘Alchemist’, ‘Brida’, ‘The winner stands alone’. Shoving the Kindle reading generation aside, Alberto said – “Just in the way I don’t believe in virtual sex, I don’t believe in virtual reading.” Closing the discussion with a profound thought he stated –“A writer writes what he can, but a reader reads what he wants. Therefore, the history of literature is not a history of writers but a history of readers.”

Sir VS Naipaul, lady Nadira holding mike  and Farrukh Dhondy at Jaipur Literature Festival

Sir VS Naipaul, lady Nadira holding mike and Farrukh Dhondy at Jaipur Literature Festival

Nobel Laureate Naipaul

Nobel Laureate VS Naipaul spoke about his life and writings to Farrukh Dhondy, his long-time friend, eminent British novelist and scriptwriter. Naipaul’s wife, Lady Nadira (Pakistani), sat in a chair behind him, taking notes, holding the microphone when he could not hold it, and prompting the words when he forgot mid-sentence and
generally eyeing him lovingly.
Old or ill, Naipaul hadn’t lost his sense of wit. “I don’t like to talk about sunsets,” he told Dhondy who suggested, by way of opening line, that they pretend they were sitting in their homes in England, sipping wine and looking at the birds at sunset. “It can be used against me to infer that I am in the sunset of my life. Unhappy metaphor,” Naipaul replied, much to the amusement of a packed house at the Front Lawns of Diggi Palace.

India, a subject on which Naipaul has written three books – An Area of Darkness (1964), India: A Wounded Civilization (1977) and India: A Million Mutinies Now (1990) also figured prominently in the discussion. The entire Trilogy was controversial. Writing, he claimed, was as “hard for me as it is for most people in the audience”. His writing and success was a “great bit of luck”, he said. For the first book he wrote, he was told by a critic-“to give it up and do something else. The only reason I stuck to writing was my inordinate confidence and faith in my talent. I felt that if I didn’t stay true to my talent that would be the end of me”.

Sain Zahoor thrills audiences at world music stage Zee Jaipur Literature Festival Day 3

• Festival had only two drawbacks — Free spot registration, led to crowd management issues. The second was the venue had one of the worst telecom networks. However most Media persons who availed their personal wifi passwords at the press terrace, posted dozens of selfies on social networking sites promptly.

• Amazon the online giant shopping portal never had it so good. Books ran off the shelves. Javier Moro’s ‘The Red Saree’ (on Sonia Gandhi), ‘Conversations with Waheeda Rehman’, Chetan
Bhagat’s ‘Half Girlfriend’, Sachin Tendulkar’s Autobiography –“Playing it my way”, Naseeruddin Shah’s –“And Then One Day” received a big thumbs up by the book lovers.

• Jaipur Literature Festival was a treat for music lovers with chilly evenings packed with music from different genres and cultures. Rajasthan’s own Chugge Khan and Alum Qasimov (Azerbaijan) fusion metamorphed music, into a feeling of drifting over tumbling water. While Pakistan’s folk singer Sain Zahoor converted soft sways into rigor of Bhangra




J&K Elections – “Twists and Turns” By Rashmi Talwar/ Rising Kashmir

J&K Elections

Jammu & Kashmir Elections TWISTS & TURNS

Jammu & Kashmir Elections

– Twists and Turns

Rashmi Talwar

Jammu and Kashmir is a unique Dasterkhan (cloth used for a big feasty meal). As always, this time too the famed Political Wazwan served on it threw up varied flavours during elections.

Take Hina Bhat, a Muslim woman to contest on a BJP ticket in Kashmir valley, whose interviews in national newspapers and magazines, measured in column centimetres, and primetime television appearances, measured in minutes, far exceeded the total number of votes she polled. The brave lady batted her long eyelashes and used her lashing tongue, threatening to pick up a gun if Article 370, that gives special status to Jammu and Kashmir in Indian Constitution, was scrapped. Her party (BJP) scowled, and she changed her firing gun and insisted she actually meant a ‘political gun’ and went on campaigning minus security, persisting that by joining BJP in Kashmir, she should be considered truly brave by all standards. Well, for her bravery probably meant whacking the cheek of a hapless Presiding Officer at a Polling Station, who was seen clutching his reddened cheeks with tell tale marks of the lady’s fingers! It was a different matter that her political gun appeared rusted firing a mere 1,359 bullets, as against PDP winner Altaf Bukhari’s 11,726.

Kalakote, of Rajouri District in Jammu, threw up a surprise with BJP clinching the assembly seat where Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs unitedly voted for BJP. Breaking line from popular trends, BJP narrowed down on Abdul Gani Kohli, a Gujjar, who pipped two-timer NC MLA, Rashpal Singh-a Hindu. Kohli was handpicked for his welfare streak for downtrodden, and especially for his engineering projects of water supply for Vaishno Devi Shrine. As member of Muslim Coordination Committee and loved by Gujjars and Bakkarwals alike, it was a tough fight and Kohli polled 6,178 votes more than Singh, as his 32 year career as civil engineer stood him in good stead.

While anchors on Headlines Today and many other news channels screeched Omar Abdullah’s political obituary as loser in both Sonawar and Beerwah constituencies, a last minute electronic manna from the heaven saw him emerge victorious by margin of a mere 910 votes in Beerwah. Omar gleefully tweeted “Thank you to all of you gloating over my premature defeat in Beerwah, it’s made the victory even sweeter.” Also he promptly changed his profile photo from plough to his smiling face. It was a rare picture as Omar rarely smiles, only bobs his head on one side and keeps a straight English nose. He went on to tweet “Photo changed because the party logo was only being used till the elections & my bio will change once I’ve called on the Governor tomorrow.” Someone promptly replied, “Yup ! Exams Over ! Ho gaya mera Happy Birday!”

Call him a ‘dark horse’ or a ‘greenhorn’, Sajjad Lone, a separatist turned politician, married to Pakistani Asma Khan, daughter of Amanullah Khan, founder of Jammu &Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), won from Handwara-the transit route of infiltrators and militants sneaking into Kashmir. And his party, the People’s Conference, also held aloft the flag in Kupwara, another militant hotbed. What went for his electoral advantage was Lone’s much publicised ‘lone’ meeting with PM Narendra Modi. Collars-up, Lone went calling Modi his ‘elder brother’ and promised to flush his constituency with moolah from the Centre. It’s another matter that Lone’s elder brother Bilal is an executive member of Hurriyat Conference and his sister Shabnam had virtually disowned him on national television news channels till he finally emerged victorious.

Apple town Sopore chose its own apple-Abdul Rashid Dar of Indian National Congress, who trounced both regional party candidates PDP’s Nazir Ahmed Naikoo and NC’s Mohammed Ashraf Ganie. The apple town was once firmly in the basket of separatist leader and boycott-calendar-architect, Syed Ali Geelani. Geelani had won thrice in 1972, 1977 and 1987 from the same constituency. His boycott call lost its thunder this time, but of course there is always a first time and many more follow the first.

Some say the best way to cobble up the numbers for ruling government would be PDP-BJP combo, with Jawahar tunnel being political and governance boundary line. Intermediaries could always be clubbed later for contentious issues. Of course the King will continue to willfully enjoy the scorching summers in the cool locales of the Valley and winters in warmer Jammu, always ensuring a cool head on his shoulders. But turning a swift spoilesport, reports emerging say that former CM Omar is willing to take a backseat with a tie up with BJP, letting the saffron party in J&K to finally call the vital ..clauses ..Oops Shots !

Interestingly, there are no ‘Paki-Imran Khans’ calling the elections a bogey, sham or rigged. All political parties in the fray are clearcut in their praise of an election that mirrors the true numbers and was transparent to the smallest pebble. Jammu and Kashmir, much like its famed Wazwan, may have many greedy hands itching to gobble up the entire Goshtaba but that’s owing to its aura and aroma which few States can match.


Movie Halls should be opened in Kashmir / By Rashmi Talwar

Hina Bhat:

Movie Halls should be opened in Kashmir

Hina Bhat
Movie Halls should be opened in Kashmir

HIna Bhat
Movie Halls should be opened in Kashmir
There should be either a war or friendship with Pakistan. There is no third way.


Dr Hina Bhat, BJP candidate for Assembly constituency of Amira Kadal, the sole Muslim woman face in Kashmir valley for BJP, appears to have the makings of an astute politician. She even has the chutzpah to admit the youthful pursuits of having fun on geri routes in Chandigarh and shopping sprees in Ludhiana and Amritsar in Punjab. Daughter of two-time legislator and Member of Parliament, Mohammad Shafi Bhat, the 35-year-old single mother of a six-year old son is all set to contest her first election in the constituency from where her father won all his elections as National Conference and Congress candidate. Bhat shares her feelings including the fate of article 370 of the constitution that her party is readying to abrogate.

Surrounded by party workers including Sheikh Abdul Rehman who joined BJP in 2003 and youngsters from Kashmir University at her residence in Rajbagh, Bhat in velvet black phiran embellished with silver tilla embroidery, instructs on putting party buntings and listens to supporters from a plush armchair in a room that was submerged in flood waters for almost a month and is now covered with posters of Prime Minister Narender Modi with a message in Urdu –“BJP ko vote de, chal chaley Modi ke saath, badle Jammu-Kashmir ke halaat …”

Q. Who contacted you from BJP for this seat?

Ans: I do not want to talk about this BJP Party MP and Jammu &Kashmir in charge Avinash Rai Khanna, and Union Minister for Health and family welfare Mr JP Nadda

Q. Your father Mohammed Shafi Bhat was from National Conference & Congress, so why BJP?
Ans: Nothing attracted me in National Conference (NC); the state in charge could bring no growth following the same old guard and archival agenda with no plans on youth development, no augmentation in hospitals and education, the same with Congress. I could however see the spark in BJP’s clear cut development vision and transparent democratic make-up. See, how the ‘swachh bharat abhiyan’ has even forced our CM Omar Abdullah to pick a broom (laughs). Modi has given us a dream, it is for us to follow and implement it in the best and quickest way. The first thing that a leader gives is imagination, then motivation and inspiration and next comes the ways and means to implement them. BJP has caught the imagination of people across the country and that is the first step towards good leadership, which will ultimately culminate into good governance. Where best governance comes, the state is bound to grow.
Jammu and Kashmir is in dire need of growth, youth here desperately needs employment and education needs to be spruced up. Old systems need to change in education, in healthcare, tourism to inspire economic growth for Jammu & Kashmir

Q. What qualified you for the BJP candidate for Amira Kadal?
Ans: My political grooming comes from home. My father helped me and he is my mentor as also a godfather. I am a qualified dentist and was keen to make a difference; all these qualities may have attracted the BJP towards me. Yes and being a Muslim woman face of the BJP also seemed to be a very positive reason for my selection. My father has never lost an election despite that NC sidelined him, his political reputation spelled a boon for me. I accompanied my father for campaigning when he won in 1989/ 1990 parliamentary elections for the 9th Lok Sabha elections almost unopposed. NC has no attraction for me. It has given the worst governance and the party hardly values its workers. If a party worker grows, the party will grow. And Yes! I always had political leanings (with a twinkle).

Q. You face a tough battle from the NC’s sitting legislator, Nasir Aslam Wani, and PDP’s business tycoon, Altaf Bukhari?

Ans: I faced lot of odds to join BJP as a Muslim woman but I have taken the risk for my state, to improve its temper and put it on the path of progress. NC is hardly my competition. Bukhari of PDP does not perturb me. A candidate is the reflection of his/her party and money doesn’t work, it’s the strategy that works, otherwise don’t you think Ambanis would have the prime ministerial berth on their platter. I am in politics for a long haul and I have faith that Mr. Modi’s magic could change the atmosphere and help the lotus bloom in Kashmir in newer shades. My USP is my keen awareness about changes that are in dire need, NC- Congress and PDP could hardly bring anything tangible. PDP is merely banking on anti incumbency, while BJP already has shown its strength in other states and its policies are attracting people from all over the country. “BJP means business, not business as usual”! PM has a visionary approach to development and peace agenda and No! it wasn’t much difficult to make a choice. Kashmiris are basically secular and accommodating in nature. They believe in cohesion and cohabitation. Despite the past many would follow their basic character. They have seen militancy and turmoil, now they want to move forward and return to their basic roots.

Q. BJP is labeled as Hindutva party and you as a Muslim, could you be seen as a turncoat for your community?
Ans Hindutva party is the false term coined by Congress for BJP for political advantage. But all can see that Modi’s policies involve unified and not segregated growth. He has taken the nation in totality. The idea of corporate houses and celebrity figures adopting villages to turn them into model villages is not community based or for only a section of people. It is an open invitation to all those who have earned from the nation, need to share their wealth and prosperity with the lesser privileged in the nation and improve their lot.
My constituency is amongst the largest with 78,000 registered voters. There are nearly 11,000 Kashmiri Pandits and 4000 Kashmiri Sikhs, Khatris and Hindus make up another 3000, but I am considering all of them ‘One people’.

Q. How do you look at Omar Abdullah?
Ans: I sympathize with him, he is high headed, has an old coterie around him and heads a corrupt cabinet, therefore he is suffering today. The state under him has emerged as the Number-1 corrupt state. This time he has no chance. Floods were a major barometer for his popularity or lack of it and he failed miserably. I call the floods a man-made disaster. The administration or the political dispensation drew no topographical pitfalls of vital areas. How could they not have anticipated the drawback of their plans when you landfill the water clearing channels and let haphazard growth go unchecked?

Q. Are there some celebrity faces that could show up for your rallies?
Ans Yes, PM Narender Modi is scheduled along with Avinash Rai, Hema Malini, and Navjot Singh Sidhu

Q What would be your first focus in case you win?
Ans My main focus would be youth – justice and jobs for them! I would like to open lakhs of cases, real or fake against the youth. Each one should be provided with a passport by which they could explore job opportunities in other countries too.

Q How come all should be given passports?
Ans Why? Don’t black-listers have passports? Out of the 100 booked, 99% are not involved in any heinous crimes, so why should they be deprived of passports.

Q. In a way are you saying that general amnesty should be announced for all those booked?
Ans: Yes! Positively and I don’t mean just the youth even those aged beyond that should be given a chance.

Q. And Article 370?
Ans I do not believe that Kashmiri sentiments regarding article 370 should be played with. Already much of the the article has been tampered with by successive governments including NC, PDP and Congress. Let some semblance be maintained as far as certain status is enshrined in the article. The BJP has targeted a vision of 44+ seats in the 87 seat assembly and I am sure Mr. Modi is sensitive to the sentiments of the people and will not take up the contentious issue of article 370.

What if Modi does take up the issue of article 370?
Ans I will oppose it.
What about women issues of female foeticide, dowry and large weddings?
Ans Female foeticide is very little in Kashmir but yes regarding weddings I would turn to empowerment of women, for which I would inspire women to join politics in large numbers and bring about a change. Also I would like to introduce a woman cell that would deal exclusively with problems related to women. Woman are shy to approach MLAs and police, a women’s cell would be more approachable.

How about Anti India feelings?
Ans Those who want to boycott is their choice. The anti India feelings have come as the center invested in political families and not in the people of Jammu and Kashmir. People’s problems lay un-addressed as political incumbencies misappropriated central grant. Thus a distance was created and governments were looked upon as stooges of the center. This feeling would be abandoned when the center uses clean people to address genuine problems. The ignored lot can be weaned only by crossing the bridge of trust deficit

What about Pakistan?
Ans There should either be a war or friendship with Pakistan. There is no third way.

Q Kashmir is starved of entertainment, there are no movie halls and those that were have remained defunct and unusable. Do you think Kashmiri youth should be kept deprived of public places for entertainment while the rest of the country enjoys? and for how long?

Ans Once basic needs are met; I would strongly support the opening of movie halls for Kashmir. I look forward to progress and prosperity for Kashmiris.


When cars opened gates, shoes stepped out and television sets followed.. /By Rashmi Talwar/ RISING KASHMIR

When cars opened gates, shoes stepped out and television sets followed..

Rashmi Talwar

snapshot flood story RK

Trepidation gripped me this time as I hurriedly packed for Kashmir. Every time I had carried a little bit of Amritsar to Kashmir. It would be ‘anardana wali mathhi, dry golgappas, aam-paapar, even wadiis that Kashmir had no taste for. Friends accepted them with love and even asked for recipes. I know hospitality is drubbed in the genes of both Punjabis and Kashmiris and thus the inevitable closeness.
My daughter pointed to a clear cellophane bag in my suitcase. “What is this?” she asked. “These are flower seeds”, I replied. “Why”? “I want to spread some cheer in Kashmir after the floods!” She hugged me and I hugged the thought of these pink and yellow crocus-lilies that would emerge without much care and multiply like rabbits, throwing off their seeds and spreading joy. In the past I had carried so many Chinar, fruiting and flowering saplings every time I came back from Kashmir, shared the saplings with some ardent gardeners, resolved to make a Char-Chinari, the namesake of an island in Dal Lake that once boasted of four massive Chinar trees, in the part of my garden christened as ‘Kashmir’.

My pen feels shaky to write the firsthand account of mass devastation of Kashmir, when all I had written were paeans about its glory, the serene loving waters bobbing with shikaras, saluted by intricately carved houseboats in the backdrop of Pir Panjal range of Himalayas and emerging tall firs, pines, willows, their paths sprinkled with exotic multi-hued, multi-shaped flowers and umpteen fragrances lazing in its winds.

The floods of the intervening night of 6-7 September in Jammu & Kashmir had virtually given me hydrophobia, even as I remained safe hundreds of miles away, in Amritsar. I looked askance at the running tap-water – ‘Oh my cool, mild, serene mannered elixir of life, could you have been in such a rage so as to wreak havoc in your own paradise?’

Creepy creatures, spider-webbed foliage, creaky doors and windows and strange happenings, horror movies often use these symbolisms. Imagine something emerging from reel to real. In the early days of October, nearly a month after the catastrophe, motor pumps were still draining out water from heavily flooded localities of Raj Bagh, Jawahar Nagar, Indira Nagar and Shivpora in Srinagar. As water receded, muddied monstrous bungalows emerged out and the once manicured blooming gardens, now laden with mud hung menacingly.

The typical arch gateways festooned with flowering climbers in gardens, tall pines, rose bushes, all looked lopsided, disfigured and drooping, displaying burnt decay lines to show water levels that rose to nearly 20 feet and more in some of these areas.

If I had ever compared Kashmir to world’s other touristy places and pointed out that boundary walls were jarring and obstructing its scenic beauty, please forgive me. I had meant no harm; least of all wished the terrible vanishing of these walls, which became the first casualty of the ferocious waters. Cars were seen crashed on second floors, television sets hung on walls and tree guards, windows and doors splashed out on overhanging wires.

Abdul Rashid (45) shudders and recalls “We helplessly watched on the morning of September 7, as our car bobbed outside the first floor, boxed open the main gate and our shoe-rack with all slippers and shoes kept in the front veranda tip-toed behind it. Slowly we saw these touching power wires and horror gripped us. In just an hour we hurriedly threw blankets on the upper floors as waters rose speedily with nearly one meter inundated every hour.

Rashid’s wife in tears, talked about the three dark days before their rescue, “We scrimped and scrapped to feed our two young children, as we had very limited stocks and could not retrieve much from the ground floor”. Another couple in Lasjan, who slept on their second storey, found creeping water dodging their beds as if gnarled hands were about to choke their throats, got up in terror and waded through the water to window sills and then to the upper storey.

A senior bank officer dragged himself and his wife to the third floor of their house in Indira Nagar only to notice a huge beehive below the slanting roof. Recalling the terrifying moment, he said -“I thought if somehow we escape drowning, the bees would surely make us their meal.” Both climbed to safety from second floor windows into boats with just the clothes and shoes they were wearing. Sumit Talwar a trader from Amritsar was air lifted by helicopter and then left to fend for himself near the airport. “After three days, aboard the free flight from Srinagar, I ate like I had never seen food before”.

Bharat Bhushan Bhat, president of Zeashta Devi Prabandhak Committee held his head in his hands and told us about 7000 people including 23 newborns and their mothers who took refuge in the ancient Zeashta Devi temple premises on September 7-8 and some on the third day too. “People came from all sections and communities as the temple is high up on the hill on the site of a pure water spring. The new mothers were all Kashmiris from Lal Ded Hospital and some had had caesarean sections. We covered their enclosure with soft thermo-sheets that are laid underneath carpets for insulation in Kashmiri homes. People slept on stairs and begged for a cardboard to keep below their bodies, young children slept on the bellies of their fathers or mothers and we fed them the entire ration that we had stocked.”

Even as loud wailings were heard throughout the Kashmir valley and people gripped and grasped to safety with the civil administration remaining completely paralyzed, partly due to fury touching them too and partly by choice, neighbours helped neighbours and the thieves had a field day, as humanity simultaneously put its best and worst foot forward in face of the colossal calamity.

My so loved, Maharaja Partap Singh Museum, Tourist Reception Center, Government Arts Emporium, housed in a heritage building, lay critically injured and nearly dead. Plastered with sticky silt, most of the city houses, shops, business establishments were awash with mud, algae, fungus and water that hardly discriminated between a tap and a sewer. Toothbrush too needed to be washed with mineral water as also the last rinse after the muddy water bath.

Rafiq snatched two thermo-sheets from floating waters rolled them up, balanced a wooden ladder and used a wooden plank to row it. He took whatever anybody could pay and also took many to safety for free. More innovative ideas with plastic drums helped to rescue several lives. People were pained and aggrieved about rescuer’s selectively choosing tourists over them until it was explained that non-local population is the first to be rescued in such calamities to arrest the number of casualties. “Locals know the topography of the area, have food stocks and a support circle. They can sustain for a few hours more but tourists are vulnerable and completely rudderless.”

Sajid Farooq, MD of Comrade Inn, a luxury hotel in Rajbagh, whose hotel roof top was used to save hundreds by chopper-rescue operations, was probably the lone buoyant soul around the depression debris and deluge. “Two storeys of my hotel were completely submerged in water and are destroyed. But I will remake them better than I made them back then.” I was dumbfounded by this optimism and silently prayed for this spirit to scatter its blooms in the mud, for Kashmiri lotuses to emerge once again.

A young Kashmir University student Hafiz who gave me a ride from Srinagar airport as taxis were not available, sounded me to be careful during distribution of relief material. “In our locality not a drop of flood water entered, yet many neighbours left their houses in the morning and returned in the evening with blankets and dry rations”. Mohammed Amin, the truck driver who carried our relief material for flood victims from the air cargo in Srinagar, not only charged us nominally, refused any tips and refused to accept even a single blanket or a kilo of rice that we offered him –“Please give it to someone needy. By the Grace of Allah, my family is safe.”

Habibullah, a shikarawala, looked up at sunny skies, days after the disaster in thanksgiving, with his hands raised in prayer and mercy. Suddenly he turned vitriolic — “This is just a ‘missed call’ given by Allah!” he boomed, “If Kashmiris do not set right their paths, Allah will give the ‘Assal call’ for the ultimate disaster and teach a bigger lesson”. I was shocked. I have listened when Kashmiris revealed their inner feelings in hush hush tones and hardly took it seriously because inevitably they sang a different tune in company of their own, out of fear or conviction. But little could I imagine a Kashmiri introspecting or even castigating and rapping his own people, that too openly, fearlessly. It was jaw-dropping and hard to digest.

Satisfied over the relief distribution, I saw how locals helped outsiders, neighbours helped neighbours and everyone pooled in resources, yet the terror was such that those who returned to relief camps after visiting their destroyed homes turned nearly dumbstruck with shock. The catastrophe was raw, rough and rotting. I went about like a zombie, looking at half drowned houses, wading through contaminated water, inspecting trees and plants, walking on muck roads till the time came for me to return.

During my departure this time, I smoothly passed through the baggage check, there were no Chinar or  flower or fruit saplings accompanying me this time, to invite ire and objections of airport security , only plastic tulips bought at a store outside the airport that came under no objection and I wondered when the cheer will return to Kashmir again.


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

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”.


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.


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

Tourism Professional Writer’s Award Jammu and Kashmir-2013/ …Rashmi Talwar

Rashmi Talwar bagged the Tourism Professional Writer’s Award Jammu and Kashmir-2013.
Department of Tourism Kashmir honored Rising Kashmir newspaper with two awards for promoting tourism at global level.
Director Tourism Kashmir Talat Parvez gave away the Awards to Rising Kashmir. An Amritsar based journalist Rashmi Talwar who writes for Rising Kashmir on Tourism was given the first award for promoting Kashmir Tourism. She has been writing a series of pieces on tourism after she visited Kashmir this summere. Her write-ups have been published in Rising Kashmir regularly highlighting the potential of tourism in Kashmir . Rashmi Talwar also writes on Indo-Pak relations.

Rashmi Talwar, Journalist from Amritsar bags Kashmir Award -2013

Rashmi Talwar, Journalist from Amritsar bags Kashmir Tourism Award -2013

Here is letter from department of Tourism

Dear Rashmi Talwar,

Good Evening,

Congratulations! Your Series of articles in Rising Kashmir have been found to be qualifying for the number one position in the professional category of Tourism articles published in the newspaper. Consequently, you will be awarded with a cash prize as well as a memento. The ceremony is scheduled to be tomorrow at Pampore (31st October 2013) on the occasion of conclusion of Saffron Festival. The event will be covered in local press as usual. Simultaneously, we will upload the articles onto our Official Website.


Husain Jt Director Tourism
Jammu and Kashmir

AMRITSAR’S PRIDE: BARONESS Sandip Verma:‘In many meetings, I am the only woman’ SAANJH

‘In many meetings, I am the only woman’

KV Prasad talks to Baroness Sandip Verma, UK Minister for Energy and Climate Change

AMRITSAR-born Baroness Sandip Verma of Leicester is a Conservative Life Peer who migrated to the United Kingdom as a child. On a recent visit to India and Punjab as Minister, Department of Energy and Climate Change, in the David Cameroon government, she shared her views on work being done by the UK in the sector and her experiences as a woman who came through the ranks in British politics.

Amritsar born Baroness Sandip Verma

Amritsar born Baroness Sandip Verma

What brought you to India and how do you see your visit?

The purpose was to look at programmes we are supporting here and interact with politicians at the local, national and state level. To see the lot of good work NGOs are doing here on the ground and making sure we are all speaking about the same common goal that has been apparent. I see relations between the UK and India as very important. Prime Minister David Cameroon sees it that way too and that is why he assigned a minister to visit India frequently. He is committed to the UK being one the cleanest and greenest. We are committed to exchanging knowledge on that and India has shown the willingness.

Any impressions on the level of commitment of local leaders in empowering people, since they work at the grassroots level?

The most important is how you translate a wish into delivery. We had fruitful interaction at the roundtable in Chandigarh that was attended by local politicians from various parties. There was consensus that something needs to be done, and to see how we get it implemented without making it a political issue. It has to work for the country and planet. We launched a toolkit and saw good projects in Chandigarh and Ropar, where we saw collaboration between Aston University and IIT-Ropar. The UK is committed to 80 per cent reduction in carbon emissions by 2050.

India has an issue on financing clean technology. Is there a programme to support it?

Britain has committed 4 billion pounds to the Climate Change Fund and we are working closely through the Department for International Development (UK) and engagement with politicians. I am the first minister to visit Chandigarh and hopefully the Deputy High Commission will be able to bring parties together. UK Trade & Investment is another strong partner. We will make sure those who seek knowledge exchange or technical assistance get it.

Any memories of Amritsar? Have you visited the city on an earlier occasion too?

If cannot be in India and not touch Amritsar. The last I came was when my father passed away; there is a tradition of immersing the ashes in the Beas. Being born in Amritsar, there is a strong feeling of connect; I feel Amritsar has something special about it. In fact, when Prime Minister Cameroon visited, he too noticed it was a very special place.

Do you hold any special memories of the city or relate to in your daily life?

I am a typical Punjabi, and I need to have my paranthas every day! I notice how the Golden Temple is adapting a water management system. It is a good example of how tradition can meet technology.

You are said to have chosen politics for a career as you were impressed by a politician who visited your school. What have been your challenges on this path as a woman?

The person who impressed me to join politics now sits opposite me in the House of Lords, Lord [Greville] Jenner. He was a very good MP. Politicians can motivate the young to take to politics and can ignite an energy in them. He told me how important I was for the country. I grew up in the UK at a time when racism was prevalent and no race-related laws to protect you. I was one of the two non-White students in the class and the comment was a life-changing moment.

Since then I have been looking at discrimination and working to ensure opportunity is available to everyone. It was incredibly difficult for me. I knew nobody in the political arena. It is a struggle if you are from a minority, and being a woman it is even harder. All political parties in the UK have a long way to go. But once you are in the system, you have to deliver. I am in a department that is technical, and I end up in meetings where there are few women. That just shows me how much more needs to be done to bring in diversity.

Political parties across the world are working on attracting the youth to politics.

The political process is to go out and engage, have a conversation. I spend a lot of time talking to young people and women’s groups. There have to be role models for the youth and women to follow.

How about the changing political landscape in Britain?

We have a vibrant diaspora in various fields. It will thus shape future governments. In fact, that’s happening already. British-Indians are beginning to look at politics the same way a typical Briton would.

A la ‘Veer Zara’ wedding of Amritsar’s grandson with a Pak girl…. Rashmi Talwar / Rising Kashmir

A la ‘Veer Zara’ wedding of Amritsar’s grandson with a Pak girl

Rashmi Talwar SEPTEMBER 13, 2013—–
Rising Kashmir

It may be a little bewildering but it happened! Of course Yash Chopra’s hit film ‘Veer Zara’ set the track and tone for cross-border, cross-religion marriages but nothing could have prepared the Hoon family- of the Potadhar tribe of Hindus, Sikhs and Punjabi Hindus, when their son Kanav Partap Hoon, lost his heart to Muslim Samiya Siddiq of Lahore, Pakistan. More so as Kanav happens to be the grandson of (retd) Lt general Prem Nath Hoon, a former Indian army commander, settled in Chandigarh.
The innocent interaction by two youngsters Kanav, 27 and Samiya, 26 started over the internet. With strict visa policy and even harsher rival country situation, combined with the fact that it could turn out to be a mere infatuation, they decided to meet in Dubai as friends first. But after Dubai there was no turning back as each had fallen madly in love.

Kanav Partap Hoon (chandiagarh) weds Samiya Siddiqi of Lahore

Kanav Partap Hoon (chandigarh) weds Samiya Siddiqi of Lahore

Kanav, took a strong stand with his family especially his father Ronnie and grandfather that Samiya was the only girl he wanted to marry. “It was not only about the girl being a Muslim but about her being from Pakistan,” commented a family friend.
Even though the situation caused heavy creases on the foreheads of both the father and grandfather of the boy, no amount of cajoling worked for the young boy or the Pakistani girl to give up their relationship. Finally the Indian family had to relent for the sake of the happiness of their only son.

FIRST PUBLISHED IN RISING KASHMIR  Veer Zara- Indo Pak , Hindu Muslim Wedding

Veer Zara- Indo Pak , Hindu Muslim Wedding

Early this year, the pre-wedding, shagun ceremony was held in Lahore, whereby the family from Chandigarh had traveled to Lahore, but till then the father and grandfather had not given in to the desire of Kanav and so did not accompany them. Also, people in services are not given visas to each other’s countries by both neighbors. However, the boy’s mother Radhika @Radhu and maternal grandmother of Kanav, and a few more close relatives chose to do the right thing in the circumstances and the ceremony of consolidation of promise of marriage, was happily entered into at the maternal home of bride-to-be Samiya, in Lahore.
A marriage party of 55 persons came down from Lahore to Chandigarh for the wedding on this Friday in which there were more women than men including young girls. There were four functions for the wedding including a Mehandi raat and a cocktail.
As is the norm in Punjabi weddings these days, family members and friends prepare a cultural programme on bollywood numbers. From the bride Samiya’s side, Pakistani girls danced on latest saucy and raunchy hit Indian bollywood numbers like ‘meri photo ko chipka le saiyaan fevicol se’, ‘loongi dance’ ; ‘firebrigade mangva de tu’ etc. A guest from the Pakistani side later revealed that the Pak girls who danced were not all from the family but professional dancers, who had accompanied the marriage party from Lahore.
Samiya, is the daughter of Shazia Siddiq, as was claimed by her family, who had lost her father Mian Mohammed Siddiq early in life. But speculation ran riot during the wedding that bride Samiya was the daughter of Shahbaz Shrief the Chief Minister of Pakistani Punjab, the brother of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Shrief .
The marriage was first registered in court without any formal religious vows and a grand reception was held in Taj Hotel, Chandigarh. The fact that Shahbaz Sharief’s divorced wife Aaliya Honey and her sister were present during the wedding celebrations, had triggered the rumors. The Tareek E Insaaf party of Imran Khan was quick to grab political mileage out of the situation, and known to have put the news links on their Twitter and Facebook posts, later however they removed it.
The bride’s family had brought a specially designed Doli (palanquin) in the shape of a blooming Lotus for the bride to be carried by four carriers. The trend of Dolis is often seen in big fat Punjabi weddings in India these days.
“The Doli was exquisite, I have never seen a more beautiful designed doli. Matching the doli were miniature lotus flower candle holders that were put in the entire pandal,” said one guest. The bride’s families were wearing Indo-western outfits instead of pure ethnic wear of Lehanga, Shararas, Sarees etc and the designs were out of the world, beamed one guest. The outfits had been designed in Karachi. Incidentally, the groom’s mother is the owner of a high class fashion boutique in Chandigarh and so both sides were going gag over each other’s outfits as Indians and Pakistanis Punjabis are considered to be too fashion conscious.
A guest at the wedding and close family friend told Rising Kashmir that tongues kept wagging about the bride being from Pakistan’s ruling family of Shariefs’. While the bride and groom kept mum over the issue it was grandfather (retd) Lt Gen Hoon who cleared the air and said this was false and angrily stated that people concoct stories out of nowhere. Being unwell, 85- year old Ambar Hoon, grandmother of the bridegroom couldn’t attend the wedding.
A Senior journalist who attended the wedding along with some top politicians of Punjab like Rana Gurjit Singh stated – “Cyber space has given a handle to religious fanaticism in groups but on a personal and singular level it has served to build bridges and reject snobbish ideas of religion. If any wedding has been the cynosure of all eyes after Ashwarya Rai and Abhishekh Bachchan and Sania Mirza and Shoaib, it is this of Pakistani girl marrying the grandson of the former Indian army commander who is known to openly air his views on Indo-Pak relations in the face of violations and provocations at the LoC that has caught the imagination of people as the way forward for better relations between the two warring countries. Even though the Hoons are known to be a martial tribe from central Asia says Autar Mota, a Kashmir who has worked on Huns, Mihirkula being once rulers of Kashmir. However, the Hoon family of Chandigarh traces its origins from Potodhar Plateau and natives of Abottabad- in Pakistan, the infamous hideout of the Osama Bin Laden- the 9/11 mastermind.”
The former commander of Indian army Lt Gen Hoon headed the 15 Corps that had recaptured Siachen glacier in April 13, 1984 in Op Meghdoot.
The author can be mailed at

%d bloggers like this: