Archive for the ‘AMRITSAR’ Category

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.


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