Posts Tagged ‘AMRITSAR’

Don’t trigger a war: Voices from India and Pakistan /Rashmi Talwar @rushrk1 /DailyO


 

 

page 4 IMG_0131.JPG

Don’t trigger a war : Voices from India and Pakistan

Villagers asked to evacuate are enraged at the media hype; their homes are almost empty and crop is being wasted

Rashmi Talwar 

“Hun jang na lava deo!” (Now, don’t trigger a war!) – shouts an enraged villager, Kulwant Singh, at us. He is the caretaker of the local gurdwara of village Daoke on the India-Pakistan border.

We smile awkwardly; the villagers are visibly angry, especially the elderly. “Media nu TRP di payi rendi hai, aasan da koi nai sochda,” (media is concerned about TRPs, nobody thinks of us border villagers!) they say.

Some join the chorus as they see our cameras and notebooks. Villagers are keenly watching the high decibel rhetoric belted out by TV channels, where 80 per cent of news is on the India-Pakistan trajectory, in the heightened tension of the last two weeks.

Villagers in the border belt with Pakistan were ordered to evacuate after Indian armed forces carried out “surgical strikes” on September 29, in retaliation for the September 18 attack in Uri, Jammu & Kashmir, attributed to Pakistan’s terrorist network.

Daoke is situated bang on the border where the international boundary’s barbed wire fence is a mere crow’s flight away. So close to the border that one milkman Bitu’s mobile number shows the country code of +92 (Pakistan).

Even as hectic activity was noticed, as ripe paddy crop is being harvested speedily in villages, due to panic, their anger is not amiss.

Many villagers owning fields beyond the barbed wire fencing on the Indian side of the border are barred from tending to their fields by the Border Security Force. They rue the accrued losses and moan that their loans will remain unpaid, as no one can tend to their standing, ripened crops.

With many of the village’s women and children having left for safer places, much of the responsibility and burden of household chores, livestock and fields has fallen upon the frail shoulders of the elderly, while fields within the barbed area with newly ripened paddy are being managed by sons whose wives and children are staying with relatives in the cities.

Daoke’s Satwant Kaur cries: “In this old age, when I needed rest and comfort, I have been pushed to tend to cooking, cleaning and all house chores alone, as both my daughter-in-laws and their children were sent to their maternal homes. An old woman is expected to deal with everything!”

The reluctance of the villagers to evacuate has reasons. Whenever tensions build up between India and Pakistan, they fall in the first line of evacuation. At places, a mere road separates the defence drain and the fields of villages.

“Besides the cumbersome drill of packing and transporting belongings and requesting city counterparts to help, crops too suffer,” says one Gurmeet. The biggest reason, however, as Gurmeet puts it: “This time it is unlike earlier evacuations, which were serious. This one is merely precautionary and anticipatory.”

They are also loath to evacuate because they know they will get the whiff of any serious preparations for an attack through tip-offs from across the border, where they have contacts.

The contacts are through the ignominious drug trade. Villages Hawellian, Narli, Bharopal and Daoke are well known for their drug links. Incidentally, the controversial film Udta Punjab on the drug menace in Punjab, is peppered with mentions of these villages in conversations.

After evacuation orders by local deputy commissioners (DC), the villagers of Bharopal, similarly poised on the India-Pakistan border, are also restless. Many villagers owning fields beyond the barbed wire fencing on the Indian side of the border are barred from tending to their fields by the Border Security Force. They rue the accrued losses and moan that their loans will remain unpaid, as no one can tend to their standing, ripened crops. The

situation is alike in Kakkar, Rajatal, Neshta, Pandhori, Manj, Kawe, Bachiwind, and Ranian along the border, where very few have left homes.

Punjab’s chief minister Parkash Singh Badal had deputed DCs to supervise evacuation, on the possibility of retaliation by Pakistan, and declared: “These are precautionary steps to prevent civilian loss in case of any misadventure from across the border.”

Badal claimed to have released Rs 1 crore for each border district. When asked about the compensation, the villagers of Bharopal exclaimed: “Not a drop of compensation arrived on our doorstep!”

Amritsar’s DC said 15 camps and a score of buses were spared to ferry people. The villagers of Daoke are ignorant of any such travel arrangements.

Following recent incidents, 11 government school buildings were notified for residents of the border belt. Arrangement at Khasa school for about 500 people has no takers. In Chhabal village of Tarn Taran, about 30 rooms are in readiness to accommodate 250 people. Very few have arrived in relief camps falling in the adjoining district of Tarn Taran along the border.

They preferred to take refuge in gurdwaras nearby where food is assured via langars. All private and government educational institutions within 10km radius of the international border remain shut. Those living near the border have been asked to switch off lights at night.

Many of the villagers have witnessed three wars, including 1965, 1971, Kargil in 1999 and the army stand-off in the aftermath of the Parliament attack in 2001-02.

Jasbir Singh (82), a village elder of Bharopal, had even witnessed the Partition of 1947. Village Neshtha’s Balwant Singh articulates: “We will not move out till the time shots are fired, the artillery is moved in and the defence canal is filled with water. How much baggage can we take? Our livestock, grain and household items were looted when we left the last time following the Parliament attack.”

This journalist saw patrolling by horse-mounted Army personnel, besides police and armoured vehicles of the BSF in border villages. In the stand-off in 2001-02, when villages were evacuated, India and Pakistan’s soldiers stood eye-to-eye.

Fields along the barbed wire fencing and beyond were heavily mined and many casualties of defence personnel and villagers were reported due to accidents during movement of artillery, besides incidents of fire in mined fields.

BSF deputy commandant HS Sidhu confirms: “The evacuation exercise is a precautionary measure. BSF has enhanced vigil and augmented forces along the India-Pakistan border. Media hype and the acrimony between the two nations cannot be ignored.”

Other precautionary measures include sounding hospitals and keeping medicine supply in readiness. Unconfirmed reports are also trickling in of fortifying of ICP (integrated checkpost, Attari-Wagah) and cleaning of bunkers on the border.

Even as anxiety prevails in villages, India-Pakistan trade seemed untouched by any tension. Balwinder Singh, in-charge of the port at Attari-Wagah, revealed that as many as 190 trucks carrying cement, gypsum, rock salt, dry fruit and dry dates arrived from Pakistan and 55 trucks with tomatoes from Maharashtra, cotton and buffalo meat drove to Pakistan.

Passenger count on the international route seemed affected. Four times-weekly Punj-Aab Express, the Amritsar-Lahore bus, didn’t ply as no passenger was booked on it. Passenger flow via the bi-weekly Samjhauta Express train between the two countries remained at about 150 persons on both sides on Thursday. Besides this, only five passengers each crossed from either side via Sada-E-Sarhad Delhi-Lahore bus on Saturday.

Twitter :rushrk1

FIRST PUBLISHED IN DAILYO

URL :http://www.dailyo.in/politics/surgical-strikes-uri-attack-pakistan-daoke-loc-bharopal-evacuation-parkash/story/1/13216.html

 

 

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


 

Udta Punjab .jpg

“UDTAA PUNJAB”

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 –rashmitalwarno1@gmail.com

Peak of militancy didn’t mar Jyoti Arora’s love for Kashmiri Cuisine / ..By Rashmi Talwar


rush sopore

AMRITSAR'S CHEF JYOTI ARORA 'S COOKERY BOOK

AMRITSAR’S CHEF JYOTI ARORA ‘S COOKERY BOOK

Cookery Book

Peak of militancy didn’t mar Jyoti’s love for Kashmiri Cuisine

Forthcoming book “Traditional recipes of Undivided Punjab and Jammu & Kashmir”

Rashmi Talwar

A pinch of February’s last chill or ending of the ‘Chilla Bacha’ of Kashmir, and in trots a glass of ‘Kanji’ in neighboring Punjabi homes. However, the tradition of creating the ruby drink in homes, is slowly dying in nuclear families.

Alternately, traditional drinks that got beaten, by fizz cult of Cokes, like Chhaach or buttermilk, kanji and Raww or sugarcane juice have surprisingly somersaulted to turn winners, from their humble beginnings. Successfully sidelining fizz colas, the delicious nutritious desi concoctions now find a pride of place in the best stemmed globular glasses to circulate amongst the who’s who, of classy weddings and celebrations. Kanji, made with black carrots, of the richest cherry tint, is not only tangy, a fabulous antioxidant, a digestive, but also spells tinkling bells for pseudo-drinkers who pass it for the rich French red wine (Merely hold a glass ). Some say in effect it easily beats firangi red wines and stands tall in bejeweled or even macho hands, crackling crimson, as it comfortably occupies flute glasses.

Likewise cashing in on the ‘down memory lane’ formula, a company- “Paperboatdrinks” scooped up traditional drinks recipes and packaged them into ready to serve tetra packs. Now, UAE, Nepal, Australia and others have already become hooked to age-old liquid concoctions of India like Jamun kala khatta, Aamras, Jaljeera, golgappe ki kanji etc.However, the traditional tipple can be found only in select cities of India.

Of course, nothing could be better in Kashmir to beat the biting icicles hanging from roofs and windows in December snows than the ‘Noon or Sheer Chai’.
A well-known Kashmiri poet Hakeem Manzoor, in his memorable musings wrote —

“Kangri bister mein le kar, khidkiyon ko waa karain
Barf girne ka nazaara, iss tarah dekha karain.”

The Kashmiri poet surely forgot the magic-combination of ‘Kehwa-Kangri’, promising to double the delight, during a spectacle of snowfall. Similarly, summer in plains can be extremely hot and baby mango made aam pana, thandai, sandal/ Khas sherbets and ice Popsicles or golas are fun.

Putting together traditional recipes of undivided Punjab and Jammu & Kashmir, complete with Lahori cuisine, is Jyoti Arora, a popular cookery expert from Amritsar. While assisting renowned Masterchef Vikas Khanna, her mentor, also from Amritsar, Jyoti, a finalist in the Masterchef TV programme, was inspired to pen her own cook book, on traditional lines.

“Despite horrendous turmoil in Kashmir in 90s and early 2000, I learnt Kashmiri cooking. Those times weddings were low-key in Srinagar and around. I sat with wazas to learn Kashmiri Wazwan- Goshtaba, Rista, Haakh, Gogji Meat, Matsz, Rogan Josh, Tabakmaaz”, says Jyoti. “Since I loved to have people over for no specific reason other than the warmth of friendship in those trying times in Kashmir, I introduced and invited them for delectable Punjabi home-made – Samosas, Jalebi, Mathis, Mutton Champ, Tandoori Tikkas, Kabab and Brain Curry. In sweets the Ladoos, Besan Ki Barfi, Chandrakala, Rasgullas, Jalebi, Gulab Jamun, Ras Malai became instant hit with my Kashmiri friends. Those times, Chinese and Italian cuisines had just entered the Indian stratosphere. So, side by side I cooked these novelty items that intervened from foreign shores like noodles, spring-rolls, pizzas. The foreign introductions vanished off from plates in seconds,” she laughs.

Alternately, local Kashmiris too invited us and I learned realtime home food and traditional recipes. Knol-khol Lamb, Baingan (Auburgine) Lamb, Haakh Meat, Potato Lamb, Lauki Meat (bottle gourd), Gogji Meat, Harissa, Mujj Gaad, Nadru Yakhini and others, although in Kashmir, the culinary art is learnt through heredity and is rarely passed outside the blood relations.

“I remember, in 1994, my brother got packets of pasta, Italian spices and instructions to make them from America, which perhaps became the first time Italian food was cooked and served to a select gathering in Kashmir, that too quietly. My mother especially sent me semi cooked mincemeat from Amritsar to Srinagar, from which I cooked Keema Naan, Keema Mutter, Keema Koftas along with loads of authentic Punjabi foodstuff besides tandoori rotis, kathi- kabab, that people relished in Srinagar despite being rice eaters.”
There is popular belief in Kashmir- “If you eat roti, then you must be poor, as rice is un-affordable for you.”

“I am still completing chapters on traditional Lahori cuisine including Nihari, Paayye, Kaleji, Kunna, Korma, Gurdey-Kapurey and Raan” Jyoti inserts.

Jyoti, who organizes high end Food Festivals with hotel-chains like Holiday Inn, Marriott, Sofitel, Swissotel, Novotel in Mumbai, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Bhopal, Delhi contends –“I train staff of the hotels for 15 days and the Festival runs under my signature ‘ Jyoti Arora Food Fest’.

Talking about her tribulations in collecting recipes, the masterchef says- “I had to travel extensively in Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir to find roots of some lost flavors. I talked to the elderly in these locations, but they were extremely guarded about the family’s culinary secrets. It was very tough to get them to share their recipes and sometimes it was all a big rough estimate from a pinch to a fistful. Apart from this, I tried some recipes three times and some with frail outlines, perfecting, cutting out edges and fine-tuning existing ones before including them in the book. Some required pictures from the pre-partition era, and were tough to source.” And adds “Surprisingly, food and delicious flavors strikingly emerge from differences in traditional fire sources like sigdis, tandoors, angithis etc. They are simplified in the book with possible alternatives,” she clarifies.

Talking about her forthcoming book she said, a Mumbai based photographer from New Zealand- Michael Swami, has done the food photography and book is slated for release in December 2015.

Jyoti, is also looking forward to the launch of ‘World’s Biggest Book on Food’ by Masterchef Vikas Khanna, being released by the Indian government at ‘Cannes Film Festival’. “The book is being launched by the Government of India and I too have contributed to it,” she smiles and answers -“I have already carved an outline of my next book which would be a sequel to this with innovations of traditional cuisines”.

Jyoti has been popular on Television too with 26 episodes already completed in the ‘Rasoi Show’ on Fastway TV channel which promotes new culinary talent. Apart from this, she has churned out more than 100 episodes in DD’s ‘Zaika’ show besides becoming a finalist in Masterchef show on Star Plus.

Do you have a best moment? I ask – “The best, was when I made a unique dish called ‘Chicken Halwa’ for a series -‘Dish with a sweet twist’ on ‘Fox Traveller’ an international TV channel”. What would be your comfort zone? I barge in another question. Pat comes the reply- “Cooking after dusk with Jagjit Singh Ghazals playing in the background and using my own herbs- mint, coriander, karri patta, basil, thyme, chives from my little kitchen garden”. “A last tip”, I insist- “Presentation is King!” she smiles, lovingly stroking one of the huge collection of traditional utensils, she has sourced and treasured, Jyoti wraps up her food Zone.

Little known facts ———-

Cake: There was a kind of cake prepared in the earlier times without electric or clay ovens and not given a name. Eggs, sugar and maida and desi ghee were mixed with hand and put in a greased thali covered by another thali and left in the angithi’s warm ambers of wood. In the morning it would be similar to today’s cake. The cake had a matchless smoky woody flavor.

No fire, lamb: Lamb is cooked with no fire, kept buried in a matka with other herbs and a tenderizing herb called chibber sold by select old shops in walled city of Amritsar only. Chibber is also used as a tenderizer in pickles of lamb, fish chicken and even teetar or partridge. The food would be ready in about a week during summers and a little longer in winters.

Lost spices: Spices like Pipli with a peppery tinge, Tukmalanga, Beydaana used in chutney is a thickening agent have been used in recipes in the book. Interesting that Star aniseed or chakri phul has become so popular after its entry in an advertisement cooking palao.

Fire types: Sigdis, Angithis, Tandoor, clay oven, Chula using wood, charcoal or, cow dung cake are being revived to conform to original fire flavors

Chat masala: Pipli, lemon juice, black salt and ajwain not only make a most digestive chat masala but is an energy booster.

Romali roti: When there was a death in the family the Tawa was inverted on the fire as a sign of mourning, an inverted tawa or kadai is used to make Romali Roti.

Cashew Paste and Cream: Are alien ingredients, sourced from Hyderabad cuisine, that were hardly used in cooking in this region.

Butter chicken: Which has come to be associated with Punjabis food is actually an innovation and not originally Punjabi. Butter chicken is an invention of Moti Mahal, Delhi.

Tomatoes and chilies: Tomatoes came into Indian lives much later. The Red chili is a Kashmiri influence and only green chili was the regions hot-maid.

Kaali gajar ka Halwa: Was once as popular as routine Gajarela – sweet dish made with carrots.

Lost sherbets: Jamun sherbet, Falsaa Sherbet (still popular in Lahore) Ginger sherbets,Plum sherbet ( very good for jaundice patients) woodapple -Bel Sherbet (a fruit offered to Lord Shiva)

Dry fruits: Dried apricots, plums, raisins and almonds added to dishes are an Afghaniimpact on our cuisine popularly using ‘Shahi’ before the dish, like – shahi paneer, shahikorma, shahi Kofta etc.

Around: Himachali cuisine includes Kulth ki Dal, Chha meat, Meat chawal with anAvadhi impact and Haryana with bajra as ingredient is influenced by Rajasthani pakwan.

Homemade vinegars: Vinegars of Jamun, sugarcane, apples, and grapes are rarely seen now. It is a lengthy process but amazingly these organic vinegars do not pinch the throat unlike synthetic vinegar.

Banana: Banana was considered a south Indian fruit, but in reality banana was very popular in its raw form in the North. Hence we had raw banana kebabs, Kofta and chips.

Throwaways: Concentrated flavors are in the stems and some roots that most people throw away, use them in cooking and garnish with leaves like mint, coriander, palak etc.

No tamarind: No imli or tamarind was used to make sour chutney; it was originally made with dried plums, sugar, black salt, zeera and water.

Turbulent days in Kashmir

Jyoti was married in Srinagar in a Sikh family in 1993. “It was the most turbulent period in Kashmir. I came from Amritsar, where I had witnessed the complete militancy period of the Khalistani movement in Punjab, aided by Pakistan. Thereafter, I landed in Kashmir as a newly wedded bride and saw a similar or even worse scenario. I felt that I had jumped from the frying pan into the fire,” says Jyoti, recalling those stormy times.

“I was petrified seeing torch bearing youth in the dark, shouting anti India slogans, and much more, firing gunshots, throwing stones at our houses, breaking windows and ordering everyone to arrive in masjids. Alternately they used masjid loudspeaker to threaten non-Muslims. It was scary; I saw them burn some houses while the police and firemen stood mute spectators to wait for the signal from militants to start dousing the fire in abandoned houses left by Kashmiri Pandits.

Militants demanded haftas the weekly contributions from all. The fire scarred buildings looked like ghost houses. Thus, patches of such areas looked like war ravaged zones. We were spared some of the ignominies by militants, mobs and army, since we were of the Sikh community.
Our daughter was studying in Presentation convent when a bomb blast took place, close to our shop ‘Jandiala Hosiery’ near Aftab Newspaper Printing Press, in Lal Chowk. One of our employees was hit by bomb shrapnel and remained critical. There was another blast which I saw at Dalgate. I recall a case of young student firing upon his school mate after having stolen a pistol from his elder brother’s bag, killing the boy on the spot.

Times were terrifying. House gates were locked at 6.30 in the evening. For years we didn’t know if our car headlights worked or not, as vehicles never plied during dark.

Only recreation in those times was to pack a picnic basket and go to Gulmarg. Studies were hardly regular and during winter vacations when the family used to go to Amritsar, no one wanted to come back. Militancy was completely wiped out in Punjab and happy times, late-nights and partying scenes with lavish weddings had restarted.

The comparison between Kashmir of then and Punjab was so odious and stark that children were adamant to stay back in Punjab. Even after nearly eight years of a good marriage with Harpreet Singh my husband a hosiery owner, things failed to soften in Kashmir, and the family decided to migrate to Amritsar where I had a marital home as well.

In 2001 we migrated and my mother-in-law and father-in-law, who had lived their entire lives in Kashmir, followed us with a heavy heart after news of daily killings and destruction nearly drove them insane. My in-laws never went back to Kashmir. They say-“Kashmir means only tears, for them and us too, there is nothing more for us than nostalgia of our happy times. But the shadow of militancy has smothered all feelings for the vale for us.”

The author is a freelance journalist and can be mailed at –rashmitalwarno1@gmail.com

00–00

‘Rockstar’ Kalam / ……….By Rashmi Talwar


President of India APJ Abdul Kalam at Jaipur Literature Festival 2015

President of India APJ Abdul Kalam at Jaipur Literature Festival 2015

rush sopore‘Rockstar’ Kalam
Rashmi Talwar

Did they know he wasn’t going to be back? —Yes/No! Nevertheless, that was hardly a reason for former President APJ Abdul Kalam being nearly mobbed at Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF), in January this year, just seven months before his divine call.

At Diggi Palace, Jaipur, JLF Organizers were ecstatic over the response for the former president. “The numbers outmatched Oprah Winfrey, USA’s top Talk Show Host in session 2012”, said an organizer.

JLF is one time in India, where no one gets pushed, pinched, pounced or poached despite a turnout of nearly 2 lakh people over five days. The Intelligentsia behaves, is refined, courteous and firm too.

As if sensing the euphoria and cheering before Kalam climbed the front stage of JLF, Bibek Debroy- a policy research scientist himself, promptly christened Kalam – a ‘Rockstar!’

The crowd went into raptures cheering him. Kalam’s refusal to take a seat after the host invited him, was lauded; his gesture of a little word exchange with front audiences before sitting was lauded; eventually his seat-taking at his own pace was lauded. The public visibly appeared hungry. Yes, hungry or utterly famished. His every word was cheered. The audience, not only gave ovations but parroted lines whenever Kalam ordered -‘repeat after me!’ like nursery tots. Completely bowled over, Bibek gave the credit of Kalam’s Rockstar credentials not just to Kalam’s crowd pull but to the former Prez’s charged book –‘Ignited Minds’.

This, and stories by Kalam, of how his application for pilot’s license was rejected, early in life. He was ranked 10th and nine above him were selected for pilot training. Thereafter, his meteorical rise to become President of India, thus assuming charge as ‘the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces’, applying for learning and eventually piloting an aircraft. The story grabbed imaginations in multiple hues of the dreamy audience. “You have to dream before your dream can come true,” he repeated.

What really attracted youth and aged alike to this unassuming man, virtually a cartoonist’s delight, with his signature in-turned doggy tail front-locks peppered hair, loose short-sleeved bush-shirt and hanger hung pajamas, resembling pants?
The attire metamorphosis as President was easy. What was not easy; was to ignore Kalam’s purity, his humbleness, his comfortable non-conformist oratory, uncomplicated clean and resounding thoughts, a recounter of religious gems of all faiths and his simple conclusions and formulas of life. He was a lovable teacher who did not hesitate to ask his audience to repeat after him and conclude on an elevating note. These seem to be some classic reasons for Kalam’s universal adulation.
The power of collective sound, like the chirping of a school of sparrows at the prick of dawn; the unified vibrations resonating in the universe’s atmosphere, conspiring to make ‘the impossible’ happen. Kalam, stood as a tallest example of this ‘happening’ in realtime.

Kalam’s missile powered mind also hit on soft targets like me, I promptly became his follower when he took up for underdoggies likes me, -“ The best brains of the nation may be found on the last benches of the classroom”, fitted me just fine. I had continued to sit out of sight, even in press conferences.

Kalam, was the first celebrity I sat next to during a press conference, reining my mind to relax, without shivers, group fright et al, I squeaked – “Should India take the nuclear option in case there is a war with Pakistan?” The missile man spurned the query and instead talked about vision 2020 for India, a book he had penned. Being the first time, I flushed with embarrassment. This was in early 2003, when India –Pakistan soldiers stood eye ball to eye ball after the Indian Parliament attack. Undeterred, I wrote the story about evasion of the query on the nuclear option by Kalam. It hit the limelight. Lameness took time to abandon me but I tried to build on my strengths.

At the first opportunity, Kalam- ‘The missile man of Peace’s’ photo got perched on my cabin wall in The Tribune. A year later, in early September of 2004, Kalam visited Amritsar again during ‘400th year of Installation of the Guru Granth Sahib’ celebrations at Golden Temple at Amritsar.

I was deputed to cover the president at historic Jalliawalla Bagh, the symbol of blood for freedom. I reached rather early for the President’s midafternoon visit hoping to catch some side stories. Never thought, the President’s visit would actually turn bloody for me.

It was one of those days that come every month for a woman. While I patiently waited, the impatience of flow continued. With my garments stained, I sat on an edge and tried to cover my embarrassment, rolling a duppatta. Frospoke and honored the last known survivor of Jalliawalla Bagh Massacre Bapu Shinghara Singh. He urged his aides to help pen down the story of Shinghara, who showed a gunshot wound on his hand from that 1919’s bloody Baisakhi episode.

Having met the President, I still could ill afford to go home, instead went to office, used newspapers on seats everywhere, filed the story and rushed home sometime at night. However, Kalam’s, words—‘A Leader should know how to manage failure’… rang loud throughout that starlit night.
Rashmi Talwar is an Award winning writer, can be reached at rashmitalwarno1@gmail.com

Gun & Warlords, Biggest worry of Pakistan: Ch Ahmed Javed Hassan/ By Rashmi Talwar


EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW

Ahmed Javed Hassan owner Servis shoes in his Palatial home in Lahore

Ahmed Javed Hassan owner Servis shoes in his Palatial home in Lahore, Pakistan

Gun & Warlords, Biggest worry of Pakistan: Ch Ahmed Javed Hassan

Army in Pakistan may have fewer weapons than civilians

RASHMI TALWAR

If any footsteps tiptoed in Pakistan with fancy footwear it was either from Bata or Pakistan’s foremost Servis shoes. While many became paupers due to Indo-Pak partition, Servis Industries never gave up and entered the newly born Pakistan’s market with its brand of shoes that competed with the only other brand existing at the time.
Today into big time, the scion of the Servis Industries has held high the flag of his company. Chaudhary Ahmed Javed Hassan owner of ‘Servis Shoes’ is a popular figure across both partitioned borders of India and Pakistan. His Dahlia flower saplings come in hundreds from India during the planting season, people bring him Amritsaris fish, ladoos and mathees from India and as a grand patriarch, he distributes the goodies among all his friends and relatives. As he talked about their multi-billion dollar company that still rules the local and international markets, he also revealed to RASHMI TALWAR in his palatial home in Lahore, Pakistan, how unlicensed guns were the biggest trauma and challenge of Pakistan.

Q: What is the success story of Servis Industries more popularly known as Service Shoes now?

Ans: The story of ‘Servis’ began with three freshers from college, who set up the Servis Industries before partition in 1941 in Lahore. They were Ch Nazar Muhammad, Chaudhary Muhammad Hussain (my father) – both from Gujarat and Chaudhary Muhammad Saeed from Gujranwala. They flourished and their products of handbags and sports goods became popular all over India.
Then partition happened and only Bata was there in the shoe industry when we entered. Initially we started with military boots for the army as well as canvas beddings and hold-alls in 1948-49, soon after partition. Then came daily shoes and later fancy shoes. The material for footwear was imported from Europe and it used to be very costly. I joined the family business in 1966 by which time Servis shoes had arrived and established.

Q: How do you describe your company’s presence in terms of global status?

Ans: From a single retail footwear outlet, our brand has more than 400 stores in Pakistan. More than 2000 dealer-base, and a growing international footprint in Europe, Middle East, and many other regions of the world. Today, the the company produces world-class shoes, tyres, tubes, and rubber in its units in Gujarat and Muridke. Servis is an exporter of footwear has also developed brand partnerships with international brands like Hush Puppies, Nike, Urban Sole, Pierre Cardin. Our proudest moment was that Servis won FPCCI Trophy for six times for ‘Best Export Performance’.

Q: Your Lahore factory faced closure in Pakistan under President Zia-ul-Haq’s martial law?

Ans: We took on governments during all martial law regimes in Pakistan. We did not abide by any instructions that went contrary to law. One particular incident is when we preferred to close our Lahore unit instead of bowing down to pressure.
This was during the reign of Lt Gen Ghulam Jilani Khan who was then the 14th governor of Punjab province during the military rule of President Gen Zia-ul- Haq, when we defied and eventually declared a shut down of our unit.
Gilani started issuing us instructions about whom to employ and whom to dismiss. When Gilani ordered us to take back 15 employees out of the 200 we had dismissed. We told him we shall re-employ 185 back but would not take back the select 15 he had specified. Eventually we sold off the Lahore unit after the closure and set up at Muridke.

Q: How do you describe the period from Gen Ayub Khan to Bhutto’s times?

Ans: Gen Ayub was the military dictator from 1958 until he was forced to resign in 1969. During Gen Ayub’s times, earlier, things were cheap and rather peaceful.

Post the 1965 war and during 1966, street protests started due to general scarcity following the war. Instead of appeasing the public by some benevolent means, Gen Ayub started making petty money and became unpopular. I too became a student leader then and led a street demonstration in Gujarat.

Then came Yahya Khan in 1969, Yahya dissolved the Ayub government and declared martial law for the second time in Pakistan’s history. Eventhough in 1970 he held the first free elections, that saw Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s political party Awami League party in East Pakistan win the majority but Yahya was pressured by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, whose party had won in West Pakistan but had less votes. Under this pressure, Yahya decided to delay handing over the reins of power to Mujib. Thus, civil unrest erupted all over East Pakistan, Yahya tried to smother the rebellion and also fell into disgrace over the defeat in 1971 war against India and Bhutto came to power and formed the government with his Pakistan’s People’s Party and placed Yahya under house arrest. This is of course history. but on the economic front Bhutto nationalized industries such as Ghee manufacturing, foundaries, banks; healthcare, educational and therefore new entrepreneurs were discouraged to set in new industry or other service facilities. Hence unemployment rose sharply. Bhutto’s aura fell and he was dethroned by Zia-ul –Haq in a bloodless coup by alleging rigging in elections that Bhutto won. Since it was the case of ‘my (Zia’s) neck or his (Bhutto’s) neck’. Zia got Bhutto executed.

Q: Did any emotional wave of sympathy come after Bhutto was hanged?
Ans:
Not much because then as Bhutto had become unpopular and Zia ruled with an iron hand. Later Benazir unleashed the emotional quotient by reminding people of the Bhutto legacy of sacrifices. Later she too was assassinated and that catapulted her husband Asif Ali Zardari to power, as the world knows.

Q: How did you manage during Zia-ul-Haq’s regime?
Ans: Zia was no maulvi. He was a liar and never stood by his words. It was the worst period for Pakistan. He exploited religious sentiments to fight the war against Russian occupation of Afghanistan for America. He created the Punjabi Taliban, exploited youth and made them fanatics by saying ‘Jihad karo, Jannat mein Hurrein hongi tumhare liye’ (Fight the Jihad and you will be treated to beautiful women in the Heavenly Paradise). He deliberately created illiteracy to exploit youth. America used him and then lumped him off in an air crash along with one of their own Ambassadors.
During Zia’s reign came the ‘weaponry’. As America provided arms and ammunition to Pakistan to fight the Russians, the guns found their way into homes of warlords and private armies came into power especially in the rural belts. Every house had guns including automatic or semiautomatic. Obviously these guns went into wrong hands. Even though government can try but these guns will never be surrendered now or ever. They are used freely and the assailants dare and slip away. If police or security comes after them, they give them back in a formidable fight.
Even in villages they have Uzis’, Kalashnikovs, AK series, anti-tank guns and shoulder missiles and launchers. Fighters from Chechnya also joined in the fight. That time ISI too got a free hand. It was not reporting to anyone and was getting back channel support from America.
Zia always had double standards. Today Pakistan faces the biggest challenge of domestic arms and ammunition. In Pakistan, cities have smaller sophisticated weapons and crime is abundant. The availability of arms is not an issue. They are easily available to whosoever has the price to pay for them. The general feeling is if one doesn’t keep arms and ammunition one becomes vulnerable to those who do. This is the vicious circle that Pakistan faces and no solution can be found to it. The arms are hidden, whenever government announces civilians to surrender weapons. These very guns from America were diverted to fight in Kashmir. Interestingly army in Pakistan may have fewer weapons and civilians may have more.

Q: Do you also keep guns? (I ask sheepishly)
Ans: I do not wish to comment on that.

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


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

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

a

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

Rashmi Talwar

I have dragged my strolley suitcases across the Radcliff Line that divides the two Punjabs and the rest of India and Pakistan. Notwithstanding the number of times, each time emotions overtake me during the crossing, even though I am not of the era when the Indo-Pak partition took place. Surprisingly I’m not alone and neither is this feeling exclusively mine. Anyone who crosses the ‘Sarhad’ Line experiences ditto emotions, and memories thereafter become fevistick locked.

The Pappi-Jhappi Punjabi Ishtyle is a sure-shot formula that has always raised the  emotional quotient among Punjabi masses and spread its infection to the entire South Asia region.Although, younger Sharief came to watch the finals of International Kabbadi – a game that emerged from the ‘Akharas’ of both Punjabs- his visit to Jatti Umra, the ancestral village of the Shariefs as an honoured guest took center stage. The government sponsored event saw the village roll out the proverbial red carpet, the traditional flower showers and bugle welcomes, with Gidda- Bhangra for the asal flavor of Punjab. This was matched by the Pakistani CM’s emotional Punjabi speech, that reinforced the high notes felt whilst border crossings.

Of course huge benefits are in place with both countries engaging in large scale trade which by proxy is anyhow going on, through Dubai giving the third party an added benefit. However adversaries in both countries play a sinister role to thwart all attempts at peace.

While the civilian authorities in Pakistan has always played a subservient role to both its army and the ISI given the history that both these stakeholder institutions were aided by America, the government in India is seen to be too mindful of the media wave. Many
diplomatic, administrative, investigative, legislative and political decisions are seen to be taken due to popular sentiment aired by private TV channels or deliberate media hype. At times it feels as if the media is dictating the ruling powers who are kowtowing to its
lines. Media on both sides had already spoiled the broth and quashed all chances for a breakthrough during the Indo-Pak Agra Summit.

Shabaz ShariefShahbaz Sharief is being seen as an emissary of Pakistan PM and his
meeting with Indian PM Dr Manmohan Singh reinforces this, despite being on the invite of state CM Badal. His meeting is being visualized as an overture to formulate something as big as Vajpayee’s Indo-Pak first bus ‘Sada-E-Sarhad’. A formal invitation to the Indian PM to visit his birthplace in village Gah in Chakwal district that falls in the domain of Pak CM’s Punjab, is part of it.

With both Punjabi Prime Ministers heading Pakistan-India and having ancestral cords in each other’s countries, the time may be ripe to make bold decisions and historical beginning with a clean end to hostilities. For long, both countries have tip-toed to each other’s lands with apprehensions and compulsions at the hand of their respective vote banks that played a larger than life role. This time Congress is looking out for something really spectacular to give a turnaround to the anti incumbency trend on a national level, after their poll debacle recently.

The fresh advances by Pakistan are also being seen by experts as something to smoothen frayed furrows after ‘The Dawn’ newspaper’s reported the Pakistan PM Nawaz Shariefs statement in Pak Occupied Kashmir – that ‘Kashmir dispute could trigger a fourth war with
India’. The Indian PM shot back –‘Pakistan could never win a war with India in his lifetime’. The recent elections and Congress’s dismal performance has already closed doors for any third term for the present incumbent to retain the PM’s seat. Pakistan is seeing this as an opportunity, to persuade the Indian PM, who is set to vacate his
two-term seat, to set foot, at last on the Pak soil, as something of a historical gesture and of much significance in global circles for Pakistan to redeem its image.

The PM’s childhood Pak friend Raja Mohammed Ali arrived in India in 2009 and an emotional bond was struck, and an atmosphere of bonhomie and shared history was strongly felt despite year 2008’s horrendous Mumbai attacks. But many provocations thereafter lead to things coming to a naught. Most recent being violations of LoC, beheadings of soldiers, attacks on security forces in Kashmir by militants and the
reaction in India after Indian prisoner Sarabjit’s killing in Pak jail.

Eventhough Congress may have started the first Jhappi –Pappi with Pakistan during Capt Amarinder Singh’s rule, this time, the overture of friendship is being extended by Shiromani Akali Dal, the coalition partner of BJP. Even as BJP’s traditional rhetoric against Pakistan after Kargil remains and the party emerges with Narinder Modi taking
on the Gandhi scion Rahul Gandhi, but strangely in Punjab the BJP’s rhetoric for strong retaliation to Pak does not work. Instead Pakistan is seen as the region’s robust partner for massive trade exchange despite Punjabs being the biggest sufferer of partition and being in
each other’s line of fire.

During my visit early this January to Lahore, Shahbaz Sharief had thrown a sumptuous and tastefully done dinner for members of SAFMA participating from 8-SAARC countries. This was in sharp contrast to one by then PM of Pakistan- Raja Parwez Ashraf in Punjab Governor’s premises where a free for all ensued over –‘dinner plates’. Shahbaz’s
standing is definitely stronger with his brother as Pak’s PM. The brothers-combo has helped bring back Nawaz back in the PM’s seat, despite popularity of cricketer turned politician Imran Khan.
However, it still remains to be seen if Pappis and Jhappis – the Punjabis hugs and kisses- turn into something concrete and consuming or may be just a hummable teasing line of a hit Punjabi number with Bhangra beats in Punjab’s cocktail circles!
00–00

FIRST PUBLISHED IN RISING KASHMIR ON DECEMBER 24, 2013

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

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


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

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

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

Rashmi Talwar

Christian schools have been popular throughout Kashmir since late 1800’s when the first Church Mission Society (CMS) named as Tyndale Biscoe and Mallinson Society, CMS was established first at Drugjan and later at Sheikh Bagh Srinagar. Formal modern schooling with a dynamic spirit of service was introduced for the first time by this school. Despite earlier resistance for Christian Missionary Schools and especially the strong opposition to the education of the girl child, Kashmir emerged as one of foremost regions to adopt, adjust and follow up a holistic pattern of educational ideas alien to its culture by Tyndale Biscoe and come out tops. Even today Christian-run schools are seen to have maximum aspirants seeking admissions in the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir as in other parts of the country.

Then what really took place that led to burning of Tyndale Biscoe’s rural school located in Tangmarg?

Shocking disclosure, of allegations against Tangmarg’s MLA Ghulam Hassan Mir alleged to be in cahoots with army and charged the winds of rebellion to oust the democratically elected government of NC- Congress headed by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, has been an open secret for most Kashmiris. Allegations of the MLA having accepted money, to incite innocent villagers from his constituency and intensifying violence leading to a crazed mob’s torching of rural Tyndale Biscoe school is a stark reminder that there is a surface calm in Kashmir that can be triggered by the tiniest spark. The school’s burning stands as an example of ‘emotions on an edge’ even today.

Tyndale Biscoe School, a rural branch of Srinagar’s main branch, close to Gulmarg–catered to students from nearly 150 villages imparting valued added modern education.

When Omar Abdullah, the young Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, had faced a question from a perturbed Christian delegation in 2010, post the burning of this school – “Does your government want to see Christian schools in Kashmir anymore?” The troubled CM had replied, ‘More than half my secretariat has grown up and studied in the Tyndale-Biscoe and Mallinson School’. ‘Is this a question!’ he had growled.

The CM of one of the most troubled states in India had never forgotten that his father Dr Farooq Abdullah now Union minister in UPA was an alumnus of this august school as also J&K’s respected Prime Minister Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed besides producing some of the best and brightest students who have created a niche for themselves in the country and abroad. Of course Omar’s Grandfather Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah’s deep regret at not being a part of the school during Biscoe’s time was strongly etched in Omar’s memory. The Sheikh, upon the death of Biscoe, declared it as a personal loss besides a terrible loss for the people of Kashmir.

The question to CM was posed in relation to the torching of Tyndale Biscoe School in Tangmarg by a mob in 2010 following a clip by an Islamic TV channel showing a white man in US, burning a book attributed to be the holy Koran on the 10th anniversary of 9/11 attacks. “In the school fire, seven copies of the Holy Koran too were burnt,” contended the Church of North India (CNI) Diocese’s Bishop Rev P K Samantaroy who controls CMS institutions in Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir.

Post this incident of arson, government promised compensation of Rs 8 crore to the Tangmarg school – named after Rev Cecil Canon Tyndale Biscoe and Miss Mallinson- but after a mere preliminary sum of Rs one crore, and some pre-fabricated modular huts to run the school, they hardly took the redressal to its promised conclusion, contended the Amritsar based Bishop and Srinagar based Parvez Samuel Kaul, Director- Principal of Tyndale Biscoe & Mallinson society, Srinagar, who were part of the Christian delegation.

In year 2010, a wave of fierce stone-pelting and retaliatory deaths had botched up the beautiful vale and then came this horrific torching of a rural school by a mob of hundreds in Tangmarg.

BOX

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

%d bloggers like this: