Posts Tagged ‘india’

6th Ministerial Heart of Asia Conf/ Rashmi Talwar/ Daily Kashmir Images


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


snapshot Indo pak  NSA talks cancelled 23aug15

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

Rashmi Talwar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

URL:http://www.risingkashmir.com/article/sartaj-aziz-shouldnt-you-have-brought-pak-representatives/
PUBLISHED ON 26 AUGUST 2015
Rashmi Talwar is an Award winning writer, and can be reached at rashmitalwarno1@gmail.com

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 rashmitalwarno1@gmail.com

URL: http://www.risingkashmir.com/news/india-got-a-little-corner-in-islamic-heart-to-make-a-hindu-temple/

India & Pakistan/ Bonds of Culture / AG Noorani


India &Pakistan

India &Pakistan

FIRST PUBLISHED IN THE FRONTLINE ON APRIL 4, 2014

URL:http://www.frontline.in/world-affairs/bonds-of-culture/article5787758.ece#test

Milkha and me ..Bhagggg ! / By Rashmi Talwar / Rising Kashmir


Milkha and me ..Bhagggg !

By Rashmi Talwar

 

Farhan Aktar as Milkha Singh- The Flying Sikh

Farhan Aktar as Milkha Singh- The Flying Sikh

Why didn’t Punjab villages produce more athletes like Milkha- the flying one? Villagers were well-built, toughened, possessed a soaring spirit, street-smart, breathing the purest village air, fresh food, clearest water, early risers, considered OK to be ‘nalayak’, could take slaps-kicks in their stride, insults, abuses were a part of their lingo and could hardly stifle or cramp their Ishtyle. Because, winning or losing is about mental conditioning.

I cried buckets and trucks, while watching the ordeal of Milkha Singh, and his partitioned past. I laughed and cried in turns, over his antics and emotive moments in this terrific movie ‘Bhag Milkha Bhag’, just as most watchers did, in the country and abroad.

Flowing with my tears were memories – “I too was gifted just like Milkha!”. But I dare not compare myself with the Flying Sikh. Milkha had the grit and grind, he had the ‘pluck’ and I proved to be only a lame-duck. The Ready! Get-Set! Go!-Clap however has never left me. Milkha’s inspiring role played by Farhan Akhtar, once again spilled out my past and unfolded it most painfully.

Rising Kashmir: Milkha and me ..Bhaggg !

Rising Kashmir: Milkha and me ..Bhaggg !

I was uniquely gifted with strong, swift legs, clocking 10-seconds or less in 100mts, great timing in 200mts and a flying jump in the long-jump rivalries. Could climb Kashmir’s mountain races and come tops and nicknamed ‘Pahari Bakri’.  I even had a Milkha-esque PT master- Mr Gill-a retired armyman who laid great store for my talent. Many a ‘daaga’ or drumstick thrashed my legs, arms and back for that perfection Mr Gill demanded. Thus, on Republic and Independence Day parades at Gandhi ground, Amritsar, I was either the Lead Salute or flag-bearer of Sacred heart School, having earned the title of Best athlete for five consecutive years. There too our parade was adjudged the best for many years due to Mr Gill’s efforts.

My first brush with success came  when I was declared as Junior Best Athlete. I am remembered till this date, more for the ‘behooshiepisode’ in the newly introduced 400mts run then, when I fatigued-out just like the cramped Milkha in his early athletic years, but short-distances, I could sprint at high speed.

As athlete, I beat all seniors, but was a back-bencher in academics, always getting day-long punishments followed by home-made reprimands. Finally, school took grave notice of my ‘winnings’ and the British Rowllat Act look-alike –supposedly against revolutionary activities – mine, being too many winnings,  was imposed. In other words- my winnings were viewed as acts to demoralize others. Hence participation for only three events and relay race was permitted, thus successfully curbing and arresting any ‘excess’ wins.

Humility was considered the greatest virtue then and instilling this was a righteous deed. Lest they turned proud, girls in sports were singled out for target practice. Hence, I got the singular honor of being caned, slapped, punished and humiliated the most in all my classes. ‘Afterall, the mind and spirit should be humbled and nothing should become a hurdle in this lesson most noble’, was the refrain of our teachers and was strictly implemented.

Just as Milkha ran for eggs and milk, I ran for a treat of tandoori chicken, whenever I was declared best.  My father clocked my timings and even ordered for me an indigenous pair of spikes from a local cobbler, as they were rarely found in our parts or too expensive. The poorly created pair jumbled my steps and so I returned to my bare-footed sprints, just like the Milkha of the early days. I ran bare-foot even in college, where I won college colors for Athletics, Tennis, Arts-Dramatics and Academics as well.

In school, after clinching the Best Athlete title for the third consecutive year, Mr Gill approached the real-life Milkha Singh, whom he knew personally. He went all the way to Chandigarh to the Great Milkha Ji, for a personalized approval for me to run in the district athletic championships, as convent schools those days were unrecognized and therefore banned from sending participants in government organized events. Mr Gill told me -‘Milkha Singh gladly signed the letter’,  thus opening this grand opportunity for me.

Devoid of any training or preparation, bare-footed, a rag-towel grandly tossed on the shoulder and a silly pajama as a track-pant, with an odd Iodex or Relaxyl ointment tube to soothe cramps, as my companions, I ran. I clocked second and won a silver medal in districts, surpassing an athlete who had won many titles at state level.

Mr Gill had counseled me ‘bhagg bas bhagg Rashmi, torr dena sab ko’ ecstatic and holding up that signed letter by Milkha Singh. The whole ground was abuzz with ‘convent di ik kuri ne heroine nu ‘cut’ kar dita. Koi coaching vi nahi lai’ (A convent girl had ‘cut’ Heroine (a nick name for the good-looking athlete), without any coaching).  All coaches had surrounded Mr Gill and his smiles and eyes had lit up like never before. Perhaps I was his little star.

Although selected for state championship at Kapurthala, the barbs and sarcasm continued ‘khelon ne tujhe kahi nahi le jana, parahi kar, agar parahi mei fail toh no khel’ samajh gayi’.(Sports are not going to take you anywhere, study, if you fail there would be no play, have you understood) was the refrain from all sides. Today I realize, it wasn’t their fault, the environment was such and my father a winner in Inter-varsity swimming and a masters in economics in those times, had given me much liberty,  rarely allowed to girls in convents from respectable families, in those times, and tradition was that academics was supreme. I was torn between these pressures.

In contrast girls from villages were more liberated to go for tournaments. They were street smart, bullies, crass, uncouth and everything that was needed and absent in our ‘O so-lady-like’ environment and unrealistic expectations of academic excellence . They bullied, threw egg and groundnut shells on my carefully laid our bedding, copulated amongst themselves in rajais (quilts) at night, by self-declared bets looted any money I had and broke my spirit in everyway. I cried and missed Mr Gill like anything. And thought ‘He would have surely hit them with his ‘daaga’, and given them punishments to turn into kokers or cocks, for bad behavior!’

Being with them in Kapurthala was a nightmare. I was forced to leave my gift of sprint behind and compromised to become a Tennis player. Although, I won the national bronze medal in Tennis but I never had the mind or sharpness or reflexes needed in Tennis, I only had miracle legs that took me to fetch each ball and thus win.

Running against a hostile environment is an achiever’s ultimate hurdle, and for me too it was the vital one, the one I failed to cross. It is all in the mind, had I stood my ground in athletics then, I could have shone like Milkha Singh one day.

FIRST PUBLISHED IN RISING KASHMIR

URL: http://www.risingkashmir.in/news/milkha-and-me-bhagggg-53157.aspx

Will the peace candles reach Kashmir one day?/ By Rashmi Talwar/ Rising Kashmir


Will the peace candles reach Kashmir one day?

Wednesday, 31 Jul 2013 at 08:44 PM

By Rashmi Talwar

Kashmir peace candles
Keen to harvest the huge expanse of benefits of friendship, the glow of peace candles from Attari- Wagha border in Amritsar-Lahore have carried their radiance to another international venue, this time to be lit on the Rajasthan –Sindh border.The flickers of these innocent candles of peace are ready to touch Pakistan’s Khokhrapar and India’s Munabao rail linked borders in Sindh and Rajasthan respectively for joint celebrations this time, on the midnight of Independence Day between both countries. These little glow lamps are expected to be harbingers of peace and would also beckon the establishment of trade, travel, people to people exchange besides other favorable ties between the two countries after decades.

Preparations are afoot and people from both sides have realized that the route to prosperity is through the path of peace and friendship. The dry or fresh dates from either side have to go through long circuitous routes of Attari and Wagha border in divided Punjabs and perish on the way. Why can’t ‘our’ borders be opened for direct trade or for travel they call out.

Opportunities in this sector also lie in security infrastructure to the proposed pipeline installations through neighboring countries. The proposal and agreements for a joint celebration have emerged from various quarters of People’s SAARC Regional Secretariats.  Netra Prasad Timsina, Coordinator, People’s SAARC Regional Secretariat, Kathmandu is keenly promoting and broadcasting the proposal that would in some ways affect the programmes and agendas of People’s SAARC, from becoming less Indo Pak centric, given the resolving of some outstanding issues. The joint Celebration between India Pakistan is expected to usher in bonhomie and would be a step forward to tone down hostilities and pave the way for new engagements.

India Pakistan issues dominate all SAARC conferences and meetings and thus efforts to solve the affront between the two would ease the way for more meaningful and targeted approach towards other countries that make up the SAARC region and having their own pressing matters to solve. Most of these matters get dissolved in the din created by matters relating to India and Pakistan.  Various organizations from both India and Pakistan are interacting on this new initiative which would also involve cultural programmes from the dusk of Independence Day of Pakistan on Aug 14th   to culminate on the dawn of Independence of India on Aug 15th.

Beena Sarwar a writer and journalist told Rising Kashmir that in her talk with Rana Hameer Singh, head of the Hindu Sodha Thakur Rajput clan in Pakistanhe had commented We in Pakistanwere stuck and unable to move forward. My country had taken the position that Kashmirhad to come first and that no dialogue was possible until that issue was resolved. Then the idea of people to people contacts initially came from the Indian side. Besides better sense has prevailed wherein outstanding issues have not been enslaved to emerge only on the condition of resolving a single issue, which has seen no breakthrough for the past many decades . Rana lives in Umerkot, former capital of Sindh also the birthplace of Mughal Emperor Akbar.

Shaque Soomro of the Pakistan Institute of Labor Education and Research (Piler) contends, the initiative was aimed at encouraging people on both sides of the international border to help reduce tensions between the two nuclear rivals. Members of civil society in Rajasthan and their counterparts in Sindh would be fulfilling all the formalities of this initiative for peace and friendship.

It is Interesting to note that information technology played a major role in bringing rival states closer to each other and turning them into friends. This view was endorsed by many on either sides of this stringent borderline of Rajasthan and Sindh.

Indo Pak partition had torn apart many families on both sides, who have little chance of meeting again as tourist visas are non existent between the two countries. People have close relatives on either sides and are keen to strengthen these bonds. Opening of trade and travel in this sector would be a historical step towards bringing both major countries to make meaningful strides forward.

People’s SAARC Secretariat India’s Rakhi Sehgal expressed the view that serious efforts for peace overtures were missing since the rail link was made operational in February 2006, between Khokhrapar and Munabao after more than three decades. The rail link was snapped following the 1965 Indo Pak war.

Is it possible that one day these little glow lamps of peace may reach the Aman Setu or the ‘peace bridge’ between both sides of Kashmir?

The author can be mailed at rashmitalwarno1@gmail.com

URL: http://www.risingkashmir.in/news/will-the-peace-candles-reach-kashmir-one-day-52473.aspx

Will Kashmir Cheer for India or Boo Rasool ? … By Rashmi Talwar/ Rising Kashmir


Will Kashmir Cheer for India or Boo Rasool ?

 By Rashmi Talwar/ Rising Kashmir ——–Cricketer Parvez Rasool  

Cricketer Parvez Rasool

When Prakash Chand Mehra, a 22-year old Amritsari, hollered ‘India, India’ into the hooter that he had made a night before to cheer the Indian team while watching the finest dribbling the world had ever seen by the Indian hockey wizard Dhyan Chand at 1936 Berlin Olympics, he actually had watched sports history in the making, what more could he have asked for, than the mighty Germans conceding defeat to the powerful Indian Hockey team.
Under the leadership of Dhyan Chand, India’s star player, India drubbed the Germans badly to win the Hockey Gold at 8-0, not even conceding one goal to rival Germans, that too at a time when the so- called ‘Superior Race’ belief for Germans was being brazenly flaunted by none other than Hitler himself to give wind to the hate wave for persecution of Jews, the old, the infirm or the diseased. Olympics were specifically showcased to display the German’s superiority over all other races of the world. Hockey, however, proved to be a spoiler to that belief. It also gave India, still under colonial rule, a new hope and unified its numerous contradictory identities, at least till the time the jubilation of Victory lasted.

Indisputably, ‘sports’ and ‘calamities’ are the biggest unifiers of a community or humanity. The decision to include Parvez Rasool – a Kashmiri, in the Indian squad for the Zimbabwe tour may have nothing to do with politics but among his detractors speculation is rife that the decision has been taken to appease Kashmiris. Whatever be the truth, the fact remains that Rasool’s inclusion in the Indian squad has given a big, proud moment for Kashmiris to rejoice.
The 23-year old Rasool, of humble beginnings from Bijbehara in Anantnag district of Kashmir and the first from the state to bag an IPL contract, has finally made it as the blue-eyed boy of Kashmir. The achievement has its reverberations in quaint narrow lanes of the cities, townships and even in the village gullies, where  Kashmiris are hooked to Cricket as festively and traditionally  as they are to  their ‘Kangris’. After all Kashmir produces the best willow that goes into making of the finest bats in the world.
A familiar sight anywhere in Kashmir is that of a group of boys having innovated some wooden clefts and improvised balls to have a go at a game of cricket even in an undulating spot. Such is the craze for the game that they continue playing indoor cricket during snows and rains. Often, they have their mothers run after them mumbling incoherently and dragging them away to finish their homework. Yet, they soon reappear within minutes, declaring to have finished their home-work, owing to their raging love for cricket. Hence, every household is sure to have a bat, especially a family having a male member. And of course in Kashmir, ignorance about cricket can silently turn you into an outcast.
The only glaring contrast of Kashmir with the rest of the India is that Kashmiris would invariably cheer a team playing opposite India and if it was rivals Pakistan against India then it was seen that most Kashmiris, especially of the majority community of the region, would cheer for Pakistan. “This is tradition! (To cheer for Pakistan). Aap nahi samjhogey!” (You will not understand!)  A young Kashmiri Aijaz Rasool shook his head and told me. Aijaz works as a cameraman for a TV Channel.
A young Kashmiri driver who met me is a real contrast to his compatriots who disliked his own name ‘Ramiz Raja’ kept after the name of a Pakistani cricketer. When asked about his name, he said he hated his name and his first preference would be to be named Amitabh Bachchan or second, Salman Khan. Perhaps he felt free with those who were not of his own state to freely speak his mind and choices.
Kashmir and the rest of India are waiting with bated breath when off-spinner Rasool, the lad from Kashmir bowls his first ball or scores his first run for the national cricket team in the forthcoming tour against Zimbabwe. India would turn all ears for cheers from Kashmir for the Indian team. “Rasool is in a position to inspire a generation,” says hotelier Sajid Farooq. It is not certain how well Rasool will perform in the one –day series that begins by the end of the month, but he has crossed his first hurdle and become the new hero.
In recent years, some Kashmiris have taken leads in various fields. Only a few years ago Shah Faesal became India’s first IAS topper leaving a heavy burdensome past of sufferings far behind and inspiring many Kashmiris to look ahead. Not only this, Faesal as an inspiration became a reality when a record number of Kashmiris were able to crack the IAS after his success. Few allegedly separatist Kashmiris had called Faesal names for appearing for the ‘Indian’ Administrative Services, but most are relegating biased notions of their forefathers against India behind them and trying new ways to move ahead.
I also recently heard of a boy who created an indigenous simple hydro power generator and operated it in the Lidder River that flows through Pahalgam. Yet, above all these formidable achievers, a player comes tops. He is the one who has a matchless aura. And who better than a cricketer from one’s own state, at that.
No matter what some jealous or biased persons may point out about Rasool’s joining the Indian Team, it is true that the 33-wickets that Rasool took in seven matches in the 2012-2013 Ranji Trophy season is an impressive achievement. His 594 runs with two centuries too are no small feat. Harbhajan’s slackness means that India badly needed an off spinner and Rasool has made his mark and is a genuine replacement for him as an off-spinner.
With Rasool’s inclusion it remains to be seen-“Whether youth of Kashmir will also make indigenous hooters and holler -India! India! during the cricket tour or will they resort to using the same hooter to boo Rasool for playing for India?”

The author can be mailed at rashmitalwarno1@gmail.com

FIRST PUBLISHED IN RISING KASHMIR ON 19TH JULY 2013 
URL: http://www.risingkashmir.in/news/will-kashmir-cheer-for-india-or-boo-rasool-51577.aspx

Srinagar’s Heritage of Fallen Stars and Rising Suns!… By Rashmi Talwar/ Rising Kashmir


Heritage & Tourism Series-III

Srinagar’s Heritage of Fallen Stars and Rising Suns!

By Rashmi Talwar

"KASHMIR 'S HERITAGE OF FALLEN STARS AND RISING SUNS !"

“KASHMIR ‘S HERITAGE OF FALLEN STARS AND RISING SUNS !”

No patch of civilization stands as a ghost; behind it are always marvellous tales of strengths and weaknesses, sufferings and challenges, growth and falls, courage and betrayals. Every civilisation has a heritage bubbling with stories of fallen stars and risings suns.

As an ancient city, Srinagar ensconces the source of one of the richest tangible heritages emerging from the footprints of a cross section of the greatest influences of time including Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam. Hindu kingdoms, followed by Muslim rule, culminating with the Mughals and later Sikhs and Dogras, have left many stories in their wake. Stories of grit and grind, translating into fabulous visible heritage, are so varied and spectacular that they have to struggle hard to find a match.

There is urgent need to protect and preserve this tangible heritage. Tourism is the singular and the most potent factor that has the unique power to provide incentive for sustaining this rich but crumbling and decaying heritage.

GARLANDS OF VEGETABLES OUT TO DRY FOR WINTER STORE

GARLANDS OF VEGETABLES OUT TO DRY FOR WINTER STORE


As an audience is to a singer and spectators are to a game of cricket, heritage tourism is to heritage conservation. Attraction amongst tourists can be enhanced when heritage is put to attractive use, like the ‘Food Street in Lahore’ that has used beautiful heritage building facades, lighted up on both sides of a wide street, to showcase the savoury heritage of culinary delights, in an ambience that transforms them to ancient times. Not only do the residents in Lahore prefer to take guests and enchant tourists with a special dinner to this street, instead of fancy restaurants, they actually take great pride in it.
SHAH-I-HAMDAN

SHAH-I-HAMDAN

Delight in heritage can only be realized when its optimum strengths are recognized and used to advantage. Tourism can give a vital push to preservation when it becomes an income generating enterprise. If we consider only one city i.e. Srinagar – it is a veritable storehouse of rich heritage, including floating heritage, open air heritage, heritage in the entwining lanes of its downtown or heritage perched on picturesque hills and more.

Significantly, heritage buildings in developed countries solely bank on tourism for their upkeep with little or no help from government funds. Many private enterprises have taken over such heritage properties for the purpose of creating their private tourism circuit and generate income, thus conserving heritage buildings, artefacts and unique habitations.

Such examples like the Glow Worm Caves of New Zealand, the stalagmite-stalactite formations at famous Luray Caverns in Virginia near Washington DC, USA, are entirely managed by private concerns. Even some heritage churches like London’s St Paul’s Cathedral charges 16 pounds each from sightseers. These heritage properties are thus able to sustain maintenance and repair entirely by tourism along with generating jobs for unlimited tertiary or related units.

History of Srinagar

Srinagar has a rare combination of medieval charm and modernity. Its topography can indeed make anyone fall in love with it at first glance. One theory of the origin of the name Srinagar is that a Pandava King Ashoka (not to be confused with the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka) built the city of Srinagari (Srinagar). Another theory is that Mauryan Emperor Ashoka founded the original city of Srinagar, then situated on the site of the present village of Pandrethan, 5 km to the north of the existing capital. Some say that Srinagar has a history dating back at least to the 3rd century BC and before being known by the name Srinagar, its name was Pravarsenpur as it was founded by the King Pravarasena II.

Pre-historic Sites in Kashmir

Few people know that Srinagar’s habitation dates back to 3000 BC, referred to as the ‘new stone age’, traces of which were first discovered in ‘Burzahom’- the first Neolithic site in Kashmir. Burzahom, located in Srinagar between the banks of the Dal Lake and Zabarvan hills, is just about 5-kms from Shalimar- the world famous Mughal gardens, It is not the only one, more prehistoric sites have been discovered in nooks and corners of Kashmir.

‘Burzahom’- the name translates as ‘place’ (hom) of ‘birch’ (burza) in Kashmiri. Interestingly, it was found with burnt birch remnants during excavations that proved that an abundance of birch trees flourished in the New Stone Age in this area. The unique feature of Burzahom is the discovery of tools manufactured using animal bones and antlers besides which the strangest ritual prevalent at those times of ‘animal burials’ was found that has not been seen at any Neolithic site in any other parts of India.

Plenty of food from forests, abundant water supply and a raised location protected Burzahom plateau from seasonal flooding, thus remaining continuously settled from the New Stone Age onwards to the Early Historical period.

Lifestyle and Crafts

Remnants of the bygone era, through the ancient city’s maze of crisscrossing lanes, could give a glimpse into the dwellers unique lifestyle that carries on undeterred by changing times, not entirely due to stubbornness of people, disallowing change, but the turmoil and survival tactics that naturally came into play dealing with varied circumstances for inhabitants and their families. For many thus, time has stood still, as animal instinct took precedence and time or avenues for outward vision of the changing world were a faraway dream, if they were a dream at all! Many rituals continued for fear of divine wrath or reprisals. Superstitions and ritualistic beliefs gripped the populace and grew deeper roots due to the tumult and disturbances. Yet, many lifestyles continued on the same pattern, unaffected by the vagaries of time.

Even though supplies have become plentiful all year around in recent times, people continue to store, as a way of life. Watch for many an open window, especially facing east, that would hold vegetable garlands in summer. No, this is not a decoration or ritual–it’s a way to dry vegetables for storage and use during the winter chill. Similarly, pickling and drying fruits like apricots, storing nuts and grain were meant to tide over the scarcity of food. Dr. Aneesa, a senior tourism official who accompanied me on a city tour recently, laughs and says –“Wish that, vice-versa, we could also store icicles that hang from the roofs after snow, to use for sherbets in summers, as temperatures in summers have risen steadily in Srinagar as compared to the olden times”.

In the by lanes of Srinagar, however, the beehive of close houses may not entirely dispel the winter chill or fear from hearts but they have surely insulated people from extreme weather conditions, time and again. The ‘dub’ or the frontal balcony, jutting out in Rajasthani ‘Jharokha’ style, of an old Kashmiri house, that is still inhabited, could have tiny little, shy, hazel eyes or shrouded faces of giggling women and children, peeping out on the street.

Art and Kashmiris

Arts and crafts have been an integral part of life in Kashmir since time immemorial. The ruins of Martand and Avantipora bear ample testimony to a great tradition of sculpture that flourished in these parts many centuries ago. Not many people are aware that it was the Kashmiri artists who painted all monasteries in the region of Tibet, Ladakh and Lahul Spiti in Himachal Pradesh. Later the arts and crafts also entered Kashmir when Shah-i-Hamdan came to Kashmir from Persia (now Iran) during the 13th century. Among the seven hundred followers, who accompanied him to Kashmir, were men of arts and crafts who flourished here. They popularized shawl-making, carpet and cloth-weaving, pottery and calligraphy.
In the downtown area in Srinagar where many craftsmen live, if you find a Kashmiri hunched over something, it could either be a hookah or Kangri or better still he could be engaged in tracing a treasure trove of hand paintings of birds, fruits, flowers and tree branches on a Papier-mâché jingle bell, or sewing an intricate pattern of interlocking Chinar leaves with Tulips and Paisley using Sozni embroidery on world famous Pashmina shawls or even Pashmina Sarees that were once prized heirloom as dowry gifts amongst affluent Kashmiris, especially the Kashmiri Pandits. His sharp light eyes could be watching as his hands carve fabulous patterns of daffodils, Chinar leaves and Shikaras or Deers onto soft furniture wood. What do you know! It may be the Kani shawl or the finest silk carpet with Persian designs or his deft fingers could be leading a willow twig’s fascinating journey in a zigzag tumble to create a duck shaped bread-server or a ‘Sarposh’ of woven willow- the royal covering for bridal Shagun or offerings of dainties, or he could be intently filing a willow, to get that perfect angle for a Sachin Tendulkar look-alike bat.

If you are inquisitive about more such handicraft-making clusters then the J&K Government’s Arts Emporium exhibits 11 traditional handicraft demonstrations by Kashmiri artisans including the rare sapphire-ware, crewel embroidery on ‘Namdas’ or mats and tapestry etc. But if one is willing to dart to real time artisans then Kashmir’s fabled silver, copper and other metal-ware craftsmen creating such beauties and workable objects d’art as ‘Samawar’, or the traditional ‘Tashnaer’ are clustered in Zaina Kadal. Papier-mâché items are made in bulk mostly in Magam village near Gulmarg populated by Shia Muslims, the best mortar and pestle comes from Pandrethan near Srinagar close to stone quarries, while units making carpets or Kaleen are clustered near Hazratbal Shrine. The best willow work, as also ornate Kangris or wicker fire pots, can be found in Tsrar Sharif. Most handicrafts making work is carried out in downtown areas in close knit residential colonies. Similarly, Kokker Bazaar is for Kashmiri spices, Hari Singh High Street is hub of gold jewellery. Ghonikhan is a market for home décor and garments.

Best Ways to Explore Heritage

Walking is one of the best ways to catch a glimpse of awe-inspiring architectural marvels of Kashmir’s capital city -Srinagar’s interior or downtown area, which has many a gem veiled away in its crevices.

HERITAGE WATCH IN SHIKARA

HERITAGE WATCH IN SHIKARA

• Taking a shikara boat on River Jhelum is another novel way to see the heritage buildings. You may also observe some that seem to hold secret passages for a clandestine back-door entry!

• Given the nature of the labyrinthine lanes of the ancient city, it would not be amiss for the tourism department to introduce ‘Segways’—a two-wheeled electric upright transporter, for a single person that looks like an overgrown child’s scooter used extensively for tourism in developed countries. “Segway, could be a good option for Kashmir, especially as it is non-obtrusive, non- pollutant, taking minimal space and can afford even the Greying-but-Adventurous (GBA) population of the world an opportunity to visit without tiring themselves by walking”, says a global tourism expert.

Hiring a taxi, though expensive, is of course the most convenient as the driver remains always stationed behind the steering wheel and one needn’t park in touristy venues in narrow winding lanes. The driver can always move the vehicle in case of need. Otherwise, due to space constraints, parking could blow your ears out with Kashmiri shouts, spanking, blowing horns and screams and ‘if looks could kill’ stares –an eye-popping menacing gaze could hold you frozen.

• An audio-device guide used extensively abroad would be a wonderful way to guide the tourists during their visit to the old Srinagar city. It provides a recorded spoken commentary, normally through a handheld device, for an attraction such as a museum or a walk through an old township. These devices could facilitate self-guided tours of outdoor locations or as a part of an organised tour. The headphone audio device guide provides background, as well as information on the things being viewed. Audio guides are in multilingual versions and can be rented on the spot for a small fee and keeping the identity proof of tourist, as security. The vast and sprawling Louvre Museum in Paris has utilised this facility to great advantage and it can also work wonders in Srinagar.

• Another way is a ‘single’ pre-paid ticket that can be used for Shikaras, Taxis and Auto Rickshaws in Srinagar thus facilitating tourists in visiting the places of their choice in the mode of transport of their choosing. This can be purchased by the visitors in the form of a ticket book which can be given to the Shikara, taxi or Auto Rickshaw person in lieu of the services utilised, who in turn can redeem it from the vendor of the service. It will work in a manner similar to pre-paid taxies in rest of the country and the idea of having a single ticket for rail, road and water transport is already working very successfully in Switzerland, London etc.

• Mini coaches run from bus stops in 22 km. range. However wouldn’t a single ticket of 24 hours on ‘Hop-on, Hop-off’, Tourist coaches or open deck tourist coaches be a better idea for the state government? Why, even battery operated vehicles could be best formulated for interior areas.

Heritage Sites

If you have been through the first flush of love with the delightful frolics of Srinagar with Jhelum River, also known as Vitasta, majestically meandering between banks and connected by various kadals or bridges, you may visit the winsome sites that the city offers. The scenery of Zabarwan range of mountains, surrounding shimmering waters, the scene of house boats lining the Lakes, the loud fun-n-frolic of Dal with its colored water fountains is breathtaking. Its floating vegetable market, floating fields or gardens in which vegetables are grown, amidst a sight of lotus blooms or ‘Pamposh’, or savouring the pouch shaped lotus ovary or ‘Pambachch’ for its nut-seeds is a delight that can be enjoyed in a wading shikara ride. Your eyes may just pop out as you notice a ‘floating post office cum museum’ marked small houseboat, with a real time working office.

FLOATING POST OFFICE CUM MUSEUM ON DAL LAKE

FLOATING POST OFFICE CUM MUSEUM ON DAL LAKE

The Nigeen Lake is comparably serene with a Lotus garden for company or the Wullar Lake of changing moods, pregnant with fish and birds declared a protected wetland but known to retort ferociously when winds try their teasing tricks.

The Mughal gardens are charming daytime leisure as Shalimar –(garden of amusement) called Farrah Baksh or ‘the delightful’, built for Noor Jahan by her husband Emperor Jehangir, Nishat Garden- a 12-terraced ‘garden of gladness’ symbolizing 12 zodiac signs, Royal spring or Chashma Shahi, Harwan- outlined by majestic Chinars, through which a quaint rivulet gently flows. Dachigam National Park for wildlife lovers, The Sri Partap Singh museum- a visible treasure trove of stone sculptures and artefacts but a missing curio shop, to take back a memory piece or two of photographic and written history or some souvenir to faraway homes.

Also gardens like the Botanical, the Tulip, the Zabarwan or Government Arts Emporium gardens are worth many, many leisurely strolls. Pari Mahal too is a terraced garden built by Prince Dara Shikoh, the son of Emperor Shah Jahan, who named it after his wife Pari Begum. It is also an observatory from where the entire scenic beauty of Srinagar gets a bird’s eye view. The sunrise and sunsets are unsurpassed when watched from this palace of fairies.

Overlooking the Dal and similar panoramic view of Srinagar is the Shankracharya Mandir, built in the 9th century after Adi Shankracharya is said to have preached here in the 8th century atop a hill- an ancient beauty in Kashmiri stone architecture. Heavily fortified, due to security threats, the view from the topmost terrace is breathtaking. Alas no cameras, cell phones or electronics are allowed here. This oldest Shiv Temple in Kashmir, the Shankracharya mandir is also held sacred by Buddhists who call it ‘Pas-Pahar’ and Muslims among whom the place is known as Takht-e-Sulaiman. According to an inscription etched on the wall the ceiling of this temple was built by Emperor Shah Jahan in 1644.

The Hari Parbat Range

Hari Parbat or Koh-e-Maran- ‘the hill of snakes’ is perhaps the only mountain to host shrines or structures from four different religious influences in Kashmir– Hindu, Muslim, Sikh and Buddhist. Legend has it that it is most revered as the pebble thrown by goddess Parvati- the consort of Lord Shiva, which grew into a mountain and named Hari Parbat, and is said to have become the home for all the gods of the Hindu pantheon.

SHARIKA MATA TEMPLE AND GATE IN BUDDHIST STYLE AT HARI PARBAT

SHARIKA MATA TEMPLE AND GATE IN BUDDHIST STYLE AT HARI PARBAT

sharika mandir buddhist enterance kashmirAlthough the Fort is currently off limits for tourists, it can be seen closest from Sharika Mata Temple occupying the middle part of the western slope of the Parbat or hill. The Hari Parbat hill is considered sacred by the Kashmiri Pandits due to the presence of goddess Sharika – having 18-arms and regarded, the presiding deity (`Isht`-Devi) of Srinagar city. The goddess is represented by a Swayambhu Shrichakra, also called Mahashriyantra, which consists of circular mystic impressions and triangular patterns with a dot or bindu at the center. Goddess Parvati is worshipped as Sharika Devi or Ma Shakti (an emblem of cosmic energy pervading the universe). Strangely, the entrance to the temple is in the Buddhist style of entrance gates found outside Stupas. The gate is inscribed with Sanskrit Shlokas.

• An imposing Kathi Darwaza – Main outer entrance to Fort is visible to tourists. It has Persian commemorative inscriptions on its walls and ceilings. The fort is surrounded by fragrant almond orchards and their blooming is a celebration at Badamwari.

NOTICE THE CARVED 'CORBELS' IN MAKHDOOM SAHIB ON HARI PARBAT

NOTICE THE CARVED ‘CORBELS’ IN MAKHDOOM SAHIB ON HARI PARBAT

Makhdoom Sahib is on the southern side of the Hari Parbat. Nestled in the hillside, this magnificent shrine of Sheikh Hamza Makhdum or Makhdoom Sahib is considered one of the most sacred shrines in Kashmir. Multi-storeyed and pillared, the monument not only exhibits a remarkable architectural style but is thronged by people from all faiths, throughout the year. Inside the shrine is a narrow water channel. The entrance has a dome inside the main structure, reminiscent of a mix of Mughal and Sikh architecture while the ‘ornate corbels’ are something to watch out for along with Khatamband decorated ceiling and marble trellis work.

Gurdwara Chhatti Padshahi is another shrine on this hill, worshipped as one of the most revered Sikh shrines in Kashmir. It is believed that the sixth guru of Sikhs, Guru Hargobind travelled through Kashmir. Situated near Kathi Darwaza, it is built entirely in the Sikh architectural style of Gurdwaras. The story goes that the 6th Guru paid a visit to an ardent blind disciple Bag Bhari who had prepared a garment-Khadar Chola-in wait for the Guru, who granted her wish for a vision of himself with a water fountain, struck from the ground.

The Charming Downtown

In the delightful old bazaars of downtown Srinagar lie the original flavours, sounds and the real pulse of the city, whether you reach them by road or from the water channel of the Jhelum River. Interestingly in a mere two kilometre radius in downtown Srinagar, just a little distance from each other, stand four-varied structural wonders, distinct from each other. Each of them, a diverse architectural marvel and embellished uniquely, is seen to be influenced by varied rulers or are a mix-match of some well known architectural designs that in some ways symbolize Kashmiriyat or a spirit of harmony that Kashmir stands for. The Patthar Masjid, Shah-i-Hamdan Mosque, Jamia Masjid and Budshah’s tomb all are magnificently varied.

Although Buddhist, Persian, Mughal, Sikh influences are discernible but few heritage experts feel that Kashmir has its own style of architecture and has contributed a distinct stream of indigenous wooden architecture. The use of wood and its conversion, stylization in combination with rocks, stones and tiles into elements of building technology as well as craft forms is typical of this style. The ‘shooting flute spires’ on most shrines in Kashmir seem to be similar to Buddhist and other architectural styles in shrines the world over. Although the division of roofs as different from a steady circumambulation flow of the roof around the central structure, as seen in most pagoda style of layering and the exquisite style and use of woodcraft besides Papier-mâché and absence of any inlay work is indeed unique.

ROOF OF PATHAR MASJID

ROOF OF PATHAR MASJID

Pathar Masjid – The Pathar Masjid, a conventional stone mosque built by Mughal empress Noor Jahan in 1623, is unique in Kashmir where other structures use indigenous wood. Its distinctive designs and structural patterns make it as one of the age old Mughal structures known for its nine horizontal arches and 24 pillars with ornate stone carved roof. It is situated on the opposite bank of the River Jhelum in Nowhatta area. According to tourism records, “The Masjid is regarded as desecrated building by high priests of Islam”, presumably owing to its structural style or because of the fact that its building is attributed to a woman.

Jamia Masjid– is one of the most important shrines composed of 370 pillars of pure deodar wood, symbolizing one of the best architectural specimens that have survived the ravages of time and severe weather conditions. This spacious mosque holds a capacity to accommodate more than 33,333 people offering prayer at the same time. Four gateways of this mosque represent the four directions of the Universe.

Shah-i-Hamdan—is like a Kohinoor Diamond in Kashmir, perfection in aesthetics and artistry, truly Kashmiri. If you haven’t seen Shah-i-Hamdan you have missed the real and authentic spirit of beauty of Kashmir. Built for Syed Ali Hamdani- a true sufi by Sultan Qutab-ud-din and Sultan Sikandar in 1395, it was gutted in a fire and rebuilt by Abul Barkat Khan in 1732. After Timur’s rise in Iran, Hamdani was forced to leave and he came to Kashmir with 700 Sayyids or followers. The Hamdani Urs festival is celebrated in Kashmir with much reverence. These Sayyids were skilled craftsmen of the Shia sect of Islam and most of Kashmir’s introduction to current exquisite artistry is attributed to them.

It is then no wonder that Shah-i-Hamdan’s beauty is breathless. The combination of papier mache work and wood carving, the cornices and corbels are matchless. As one circumambulates the entire structure the backside that rests on the shores of Jhelum too is not left untouched either by the artist’s nimble fingers or by the hues of his palette or his mind that conceived the magnificent architecture of this lone structure woven with ornamental cornices, cresting and crockets. Apart from this is a Dome under the layered pagoda style structure. An artful woodwork with fine Papier-mâché workmanship on its walls and ceilings, it is one of the oldest shrines, with five facets, each of which has five arches, symbolizing the offering of five daily prayers.

Budshah’s Tomb – An octagonal dome constructed in 1465 AD over the grave of Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin’s mother. Many greats are buried here as Sultan Sikander, Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin (Budshah) and his mother and reputed nobles of the time. Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin was reputed for being enlightened and for restructuring Kashmir, inviting artists, architects, craftsmen and artisans from Iran, Turan, Hindustan and Turkmenistan to prosper through their skills and settle in Kashmir. He was aptly surnamed –Budshah- The Great King! The tomb has unique blue tiles embedded in the brick masonry that give this domed structure a distinctive look.

Most Prominent

While there are very few surviving Buddhist Viharas, numerous examples of wood work of later periods exist in Srinagar even today. The mosque of Madin Sahib, Zain-ul-Abidin’s mother’s tomb and the shrine of Naqshband Sahib, are all examples of this composite architectural style.

Pir Dastageer shrine—built in 1767, this more than 200 years old ancient shrine was gutted in a devastating fire on June 24, 2012. This place is close to the hearts of Kashmiris of all faiths, so much so, that whenever in distress even a boatman would mumble ‘Ya Pir Dastageer! ‘Pir’ or spiritual Guide, and ‘Dastageer’ or one who holds your hand in distress.

SALVAGED FROM FIRE PIR DASTGEER

SALVAGED FROM FIRE PIR DASTGEER


The shrine is being rebuilt at a feverish pace. People staying in Khanyar area still remember its green color and large windows, ceiling made of Khatamband woodwork and stained glass windows, Chandeliers, magnificent ‘Dubs’ or Jharokas, the trellis work or Pinjarkaari in wood on the windows. To Kashmiris it epitomized Kashmiriyat or composite culture, which is an assimilation of ancient Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, and Central Asian, particularly Uzbek, Tajik, Turkmen and local traditions.
WORK ON 'KHATAMBAND' ROOF OF PIR DASTGEER

WORK ON ‘KHATAMBAND’ ROOF OF PIR DASTGEER

A water dispenser with Persian verses, still in use, and an iron vault were some of the remnants from the 2012 fire. Others salvaged artefacts and sacred testaments are stored in the safe vaults.

• Hazratbal Shrine — On the banks of Dal Lake, the Hazratbal Shrine is as popular as the Ajmer Sharief shrine in Rajasthan. Tourists can hardly give it a miss as its twinkling lights in the evening are bound to attract. Famous for the holy relic – Moi-e-Muqqadas – The most Holy Hair, displayed to the public only on special occasions. Incidentally, barbers make a lot of money from the ritual of Zar Kasai or Mundan — the first hair cut of the new born child, as performing this ritual in this shrine is considered most sacred.

Pandrethan Temple— Founded by Emperor Ashoka, Pandrethan is about 6 Kms from Srinagar and is the former capital of Kashmir. Devastated in a fire, it is survived only by a Shiva temple that stands in a water tank. Known for its unique symmetrical and geometrical design, it was considered by the British as one of the most perfect pieces of ancient architecture that exists in Kashmir.

Aali Masjid — This shrine, like a jinxed beauty, lies in the famous Idgah built by Ali Shah, son of Sultan Sikander in 1415 AD and rebuilt in Aurangzeb’s reign by his governor in 1664-65 . Strangely, this most beautiful structure, almost entirely made of wood and stone, showered with shade from four majestic ancient Chinar trees, was abandoned and no namaz was offered here till 2012, when Namaz has restarted. Its rich interiors made entirely of deodar wood with Pinjarkaari windows is cool inside during the summer heat and mere fastening of thick crewel embroidered curtains to windows in winters ensures warmth in the wood floored Masjid. It lay abandoned in post independence period, notes a former director of Tourism Farooq Ahmed Shah.

On the Water Front

It’s an altogether different experience to wade in the luxury of a shikara and enjoy a puff of hookah while watching the fascinating old cityscape from River front of Jhelum, the rear-view of the Hospital named after famed Kashmiri poetess -Lal Ded.

FASCINATING OLD HOUSES WITH BAY WINDOWS CALLED 'DUB' ON JHELUM OR VITASTA RIVER

FASCINATING OLD HOUSES WITH BAY WINDOWS CALLED ‘DUB’ ON JHELUM OR VITASTA RIVER

Fascinating but crumbling houses, many of them belonging to Kashmiri Pandit families and also to the royalty of the time on either side, sit humbly on the shores.

• A number of Temples, mostly devoted to Shiva, Hanuman and Ganpati, on the ghats of the river on either side dot the shoreline with many bells dangling from the rooftop or on the entry doors that have grown more silent over the years.

• The most fascinating are the private staircases of houses of nobility or royalty leading to the river which obviously would have been constructed either for work or travel purposes, but were known to be used as getaways for romantic rendezvous too.

• An ancient wall runs along one side of the banks presumably built by Maharaja Partap Singh along his Mahal or palace in Colonial style with the Maharani’s residence next door. It has been renamed as Legislative Assembly (old) and Governor’s House (old) respectively.

• On the backside of Shahi-i-Hamdan mosque, down the steps, one is greeted with a padlocked door beyond which is Kali Mata Temple touching the waterfront of Jhelum.

• A tourist may also notice that all important entries from the waterfront to sensitive shrines are blocked with concertina wires and sandbagged as a preventive measure, to avoid any untoward incident.

FIRST PUBLISHED IN RISING KASHMIR
URL: http://risingkashmir.in/news/srinagaracutes-heritage-of-fallen-stars-and-rising-suns-50065.aspx

Sarabjit’s autopsy shows clear motive of murder : Doctors / by Rashmi Talwar /Sify.com


Indian Prisoner Sarabjit Singh killed in Pak Jail

Indian Prisoner Sarabjit Singh killed in Pak Jail

Sarabjit autopsy shows clear motive of murder: Doctors

By Rashmi Talwar

AMRITSAR May 3, 2013———— “Sarabjit was attacked by multiple people, with the clear motive of murder” commented Dr Gurmanjit Rai, HoD Department of Forensic Medicine, Government Civil Hospital, Patti District and heading the five member team to conduct post-mortem, formed on the
instructions of the Punjab government.He commented during a press conference here today, after the team conducted the second post mortem, on Sarabjit Singh- the Indian prisoner attacked in a Lahore jail, who succumbed to his grievous injuries yesterday.

“There were six to seven injuries on Sarabjit’s head caused by heavy blunt objects, hit multiple times by more than one person in multiple attacks and it is being presumed by whatever viscera we could collect that the cause of death could be due to head injury. “Yes the object of attack could be bricks!” the doctor admitted.

“The injuries are 6-7 days old and the time of death 00.45 am May 2, 2013 is correct, but the one-page Death certificate sent by the Jinnah Hospital’s medical board in Lahore, Pakistan is quiet insufficient.” And added, “Sarabjit was a healthy, tall person and it was not possible that the attacker could have been only one!”

Answering a query Dr Rai explained that in medical lingo, the organs of the deceased Sarabjit were considered ‘not present’ and were wrongly mentioned as ‘missing’. “We have found clear cut incisions and roots of the organs of the heart, the stomach, gall bladder and both
kidneys.” This is a routine exercise in the first post mortem, that organs from the body are removed for forensic and other examinations. Since the heart and other organs cannot be cut in parts the whole has to be sent for examinations, he explained.

The post mortem in India was done on other organs -spleen, brain, lungs and overall body. There is also suspicion that severe head injury may have been the cause of death and not a cardio pulmonary
arrest as mentioned in the death certificate, the doctor stated.

Other than the brutal head injury causing skull fractures Sarabjit’s body bore wounds of fractured ribs including ribs number 3,4,5 with fractures in three on the left side and two on the right side, while the central bone to which the ribs are attached was also found fractured, as also the ‘mandible’ or the jaw bone.

There were dark bruises on the back of his shoulders, lips, left ear and left side of the head. Some stitched wounds were also found. In answer to whether the treatment to the deceased was proper the doctor said -“We are awaiting treatment records and want to see what medicines and other treatment was imparted to him”.

India would await the report from Jinnah Hospital Lahore, Pakistan to conclusively arrive at the final answers for Sarabjit’s custodial killing. The reports of the second post mortem would be sent to the Ministry of External Affairs(MEA).

URL: http://www.sify.com/news/sarabjit-autopsy-shows-clear-motive-of-murder-doctors-news-national-nfdsxcdgcfc.html
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sarabjit sify_1
Pak’s Chishty versus India’s Sarabjit

By Rashmi Talwar

AMRITSAR, May 3, 2013 ———-
When Dr Mohammad Khalil Chishty, was discussed at the lunch meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari during the latter’s one-day India visit to pay obeisance at Ajmer Sharief , in early April on a Sunday, a wheelchair bound Prof Chishty’s case was not only expedited but was also released, soon after.

Zardari had urged the Indian PM to follow up the case of Dr Chishty, an 80-year-old Pakistani virologist, accused in a brawl that killed one person while Dr Chishty was on a visit to meet his ailing mother in India. The doctor had pleaded innocence. Chishty was booked in 1991, almost the same time as India’s Sarabjit in Lahore, Pakistan.

Chishty’s trial took 18 years. In year 2010, he was awarded life-imprisonment for murder. An appeal in the High Court was rejected, while he did get bail, his passport was impounded and he was forced to stay in Ajmer for nearly two decades, the 80-year-old Pakistani scientist was allowed to return to Karachi by the Supreme Court of India in May last year after a more than 20-year-long legal battle. For many years Dr Chishty lived alone in his ancestral home near Ajmer in Hatundi growing frail and suffering heart attacks and finally had to be put on a wheelchair. When Chishty was to be released, Hope elevated about Sarabjit’s release in exchange, on the forthcoming Diwali that year.

“But our PM did not do anything to affect that exchange and gave Pakistan its Chishty without any returns or even assurances of release of Sarabjit” cried Dalbir Kaur, sister of Sarabjit who had fought for years to secure her brother’s release from Pak prison and who succumbed to the murderous attack in Pak Jail.

“All hopes were dashed when Chishty’s wheelchair strolled down the Radcliff line separating the two neighbours, to his home country, Pakistan, without any one bringing back Sarabjit” and added –“ The entire Bhikhiwind village was euphoric and hopeful that an exchange would take place . But nothing happened! While Zardari managed to bring back his Pakistani citizen to his country our PM’s voice was too weak to be given any weightage by a minion country like Pakistan.”

“You (government of India) failed to protect your citizen…They (Pakistan) got (Pakistani scientists Dr Chishty freed.” Dalbir accused a mum PM.
http://www.sify.com/news/pak-s-chishty-versus-india-s-sarabjit-news-national-nfdwbHadiig.html?source=sifyhome&slot=c1s2#disqus_thread

Sarabjit was sent to Pak by RAW :Hindustan Times

Hafiz roams free on Twitter, Spews venom against USA, India…By Rashmi Talwar


hafiz twitterHafiz roams free on Twitter
Spews venom against USA, India

Hafiz roams free on Twitter, Spews venom against USA, India
..By Rashmi Talwar

Hafiz Muhammed Saeed, the 26/11 Mumbai attack mastermind, sharing dias with JKLF chief Yasin Malik recently in Pakistan has landed the latter to face some hard questions from the Indian authorities in India, including his passport being confiscated, clamped and stalled for renewal. The term for clamp down on Yasin’s foreign visits may be in place for nearly a year or two according to highly placed Defence ministry sources. Sharing the dais with Yasin on the cause of Afzal Guru’s hanging -(a convict in the Indian Parliament attack-) this, for Hafiz, is not the only passtime that he undertakes these days.

The notorious terror mastermind, remains a free man with a security cover and all his fundamental rights intact despite huge terror related evidence against him. So free, in fact that he has jumped on the ‘Twitter’ band-wagon to sprinkle his poisonous views liberally.For many Kashmiris, Yasin may have looked scowling, maybe even unwilling, to sit beside Hafiz during his protest in Pakistan as seen in the pictures but he would have to explain long and hard about his alleged association with the terror mastermind, who is not only a key figure of the Mumbai attacks but also believed to be strongly linked with the terrorist organization LeT -Lashkar-e-Toiba under the garb of JuD – Jama’t ud Da’wah.

Hafiz is a free man in Pakistan. And why wouldn’t he be, he has been let off for by the apex court of Pakistan citing lack of sufficient evidence about his role in Mumbai attacks. To placate its own publics, Pakistan has thus emboldened an international criminal to freely roam the country, address public rallies as also turned a blind eye, as Hafiz chides, scoffs and heaps anti-US propaganda openly on the super power and Pakistan’s biggest benefactor and ally of many years.

Just so, Pakistan apparently postures to strive for good relations with India, while it gives a free rein to Hafiz, whose conviction may not only restore much of the trust deficit between the two countries, but help to gloss over many past wrongs committed by the errant neighbour. Few know this that Hafiz’s bunch of wiz-kids operates his account on social networking site ‘Twitter ‘on his behalf. This account was started in early November, last year.

~ ~ ~
Mushaal Hussein Mullik, a Pakistani national and wife of Yasin Mullik, had recently posted many pictures of Yasin and Hafiz together during the Guru’s hanging protest in Pakistan, on her Facebook wall, which has been deleted a few days back.
With a tense atmosphere prevailing in Kashmir post Guru’s hanging, the JKLF which had started the armed revolt in 1989 in Kashmir a few years after Maqbool Butt’s hanging may again get a shot in the arm with Afzal’s hanging wherein Yasin may appear like a hero, if not tackled sensibly on his return to India.

Experts from India and Pakistan both feel that there is little possibility of any armed revolt this time around with Pakistan having forsaken the Kashmir issue, but who is to stop the readily available stones and the stone-pelters to flare up Kashmir once again and push into the darkness for decades ahead.
~ ~ ~

Interestingly, to the US’s announcement of a 10 million dollar bounty on Hafiz for his alleged role in 26/11, the terror mastermind retorted that he was living his life in the open and America could contact him whenever they want, as they know where he was and was ready to face any American court to answer charges. “I am not hiding in a cave!”. He tweeted through JuD – “I have written to the UNSC (United States Security Council) saying that these allegations have been charged against me. I am ready to answer any questions”

Surprisingly, on November 3, last the terror mastermind condemned Mumbai attack in a post –“26/11, I condemn this attack and innocent lives that have been lost. No matter which country they are from”.

While India keeps hammering Pakistan about his arrest and trial, given India’s bundles of dossiers pointing a direct finger at Hafiz, he freely flies on cyber space although his Facebook link has been blocked or deleted recently.

Did we hear Union Communication Minister Kapil Sibal once say something in early December last year about filtering internet content on social networking sites? I wonder if Sibal ever thought beyond the morphed pictures of the PM-Dr Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi. He probably conjured ‘objectionable religious content’ for an added effect to escape allegations of being a watchman for the Congress high command. Has he ever raised the issue of ban on cyber activities of terrorist organizations and their members inimical to India, that vociferously?

Hafiz’s twitter account started in November, 2012 last year. It has in a matter of about 5 months, collected 5,342 followers with nearly 500 new followers in just a few days when he posted his first tweets. This means an addition of nearly 50 to 60 followers every day, given the fact that few ‘tweeties’ are aware about his presence on twitter, the compounding effect of having a monumental following would be far greater. Many of them who follow his account are from the media though, following on just a curiosity wave cannot be ruled out.

Hafiz is following only 30 persons out of which one is popular journalist Hamid Mir, Syed Talat Hussain Senior Anchor at Express News affiliated with Sach TV, Former Pakistan Ambassador to the US 2008-2011- Hussain Haqqani’s verified account, Kamran Khan –group director of Geo News, Shehbaz Sharif Chief Minister, Punjab, Pakistan, Declan Walsh of the New York Times Pakistan Bureau Chief. Murtaza Solangi journalist heading Radio Pakistan, Ijaz Ul Haq- a Pakistani Politician and son of Former President of Pakistan General Zia Ul Haq. While among his followers are not many prominent persons.On his wall are also posted pictures of him and Yasin Mallik that caused a stir in India.

Hafiz’s s organization Jama’t ud Da’wah claims to be a Islamic Dawah and a philanthropic organization and claims –“Hafiz ‘Sahab’s account is managed by his media team and RT’s are not endorsements”.

In one of his posts Hafiz Saeed retweeted a October 30 post of JuD offering aid to Hurricane Sandy affected Americans. His organization JuD offered to send volunteers, medicine and food to those on the East Coast who were struggling to cope in the aftermath of the storm. The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad turned down the offer and officially stated: “We respect the Islamic tradition of help to the needy but we can’t take Hafiz Saeed’s offer seriously.” Hafiz on his twitter had posted –“If US allows, JuD will send its doctors, relief and rescue experts, food and medicine on humanitarian grounds. We have differences with US Gov policies, but the American people are only human; we are all human. It’s not their fault”.

A twitteratti viewed this as a blatant taunt to the superpower on whose crumbs Pakistan has been existing and HuD -not even a pin-prick of the US might, notwithstanding its banned organization status.

Just days after offering help to Sandy victims in US, the terror ideologue posted- “The American New World Order will come to an end by the will of ALLAH. This is what they fear, hence their last ditch efforts to save it. On one hand we have the New World Order and on the other we have the Muhammadi World Order – In reality, the war is between these two. It is our responsibility to make sure that the Muslim world stands up properly End differences between each other”

Just 10 days later, he reiterated his venom against India- “India and Israel have hatched conspiracies to spread violence in Pakistan on the basis of religious beliefs”. Regarding the silence of UN following attacks on Palestine he predicts in a post –“Sacrifices by Muslims will result in America’s collapse. America is trying to save itself from being divided into smaller parts, but by the will of ALLAH (SWT) this will not happen. America & its allied forces are now trying to divide Muslims after facing tremendous defeat in Iraq and Afghanistan.” “Hostile Jews, Crusaders and Hindus are trying to divide Muslims and succeed in retaining their capitalist system. They believe that this is the same thing that caused Muslim’s defeat previously, and today, the same thing can weaken the Muslims.”

On December 12, the terror outfit chief had increased his rhetoric against India and also underscored the connivance of Pakistan government in making Kashmir a non issue –“India wants to drive the issues of Kashmir, Samjhota (blast in the train between India- Pakistan) Siachen (Glacier) to oblivion with complete support of our (Pak) government. ”People of Pakistan will never accept these conspiracies tantamount of treachery against our Muslim brothers in Kashmir”.

“Unity is needed to defend Pakistan. India is not a friend, it is worst enemy. We can never allow Kashmir on the back burner and bring trade ahead endorsing a ‘No’ to the MFN status to India. We want to tell India, if few people consider you friend in the (Pak) Govt – whole Pakistan knows you are an enemy. Mr.Rehman Malik if you have presented proofs of Indian involvement in Baluchistan then why MFN??”

Significantly, on December 18, 2012, Hafiz was at Wagah Indo Pak Border just days before beheading of India soldier in Jammu sector that caused a major standoff between the two countries. He had then posted “Pray to ALLAH to accept the hard work of everyone here at Wagah.” On Hafiz’s account are other posts of – “The Era of Freedom has begun, US is returning – India should learn lesson; will not be able to sustain Kashmir.” Sometimes the tone of his posts is self contradictory sample this- “Kashmir does not mean hatred against Indian people – It’s meant to expose the atrocities and violations by Govt. Of India”

In his posts Hafiz writes “We believe Indian govt to be contributing in US regional game. They want to make Kashmir a lost cause, which is not possible at all.” Perhaps, this may have pushed Hafiz to sit with Yasin Mallik who held a protest in Pakistan over the hanging of Afzal Guru.

Interestingly in one post it is written “We serve and respect humanity, we took pride in being able to serve Hindu community at many occasions during natural calamities faced.” And in another –“No Hindu, No Christian should feel threatened in Pakistan. We should enlighten them with message of Islam through character and service.”

Indian Minister for Home Sushil Kumar Shinde seems to be on a hot and cold platter with Hafiz. When Shinde spoke about presence of Hafiz on LOC before the beheading of the Indian soldier, Hafiz wrote on Jan 10- “HuD strongly rejected Shinde’s allegations as spineless and fact less of Hafiz’s involvement in LOC raid” – The very next day a number of posts were shot by Hafiz’s account – “I will accept every Indian allegation if they prove my alleged visit at the LoC”. And more “It is nothing but blatant lies. India is trying to shift focus from its internal problems of Rape, Communal Riots and exploiting the sentiments against Pakistan.” At the time in India, the ‘Damini rape case’ had gathered steam.

Taking the Pak Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani line for a UN probe into the soldier beheading case, Hafiz literally roared on Twitter to call for a UN probe on the LOC violations as also injustice, rapes, mass-graves and abductions in ‘Occupied Kashmir’ – he went on so far to post –“Shinde has blatantly lied against me, if unable to prove evidence then world has the right to question their (India’s) propaganda & lies on 26\11”. His Jan 20, post reads –“Pakistan should raise this (Shinde’s confession of BJP and RSS Terrorist Camps) in UNSC and OIC”.

Hafiz’s war rhetoric with India has also emerged giving a warped view of the situation. On Feb 17 a post stated –“Pakistan will soon become the center of trade of whole world; US, India never want this to happen. Their wishes will turn into dust. India is planning a war on Pakistan in 2013-2014; Make no mistake – India wants to fight for its survival and disintegration due to Kashmir. These are not the days of 1971 – India knows this very well. They are in a rush to engage and intimidate Pakistan, fearing backlash from Afghanistan.”

Simultaneously, Mushaal Hussein Mullik, a Pakistani national and wife of Yasin Mullik, had recently posted many pictures of Yasin and Hafiz together during the Guru’s hanging protest in Pakistan, on her Facebook wall, which has been deleted a few days back. With a tense atmosphere prevailing in Kashmir post Guru’s hanging, the JKLF which had started the armed revolt in 1989 in Kashmir a few years after Maqbool Butt’s hanging may again get a shot in the arm with Afzal’s hanging wherein Yasin may appear like a hero, if not tackled sensibly on his return to India.

Experts from India and Pakistan both feel that there is little possibility of any armed revolt this time around with Pakistan having forsaken the Kashmir issue, but who is to stop the readily available stones and the stone-pelters to flare up Kashmir once again and push into the darkness for decades ahead.

FIRST PUBLISHED IN https://saanjh.wordpress.com

Has Pakistan ditched the Kashmiris? ….By Rashmi Talwar / www.sify.com


Has Pakistan ditched the Kashmiris ?

Has Pakistan ditched the Kashmiris ?


Has Pakistan ditched the Kashmiris? ..
..By Rashmi Talwar / http://www.sify.com

At the 8th Regional Conference of SAFMA (South Asian Free Media Association) held at Lahore, comprising media persons from eight South Asian SAARC countries, Kashmir issue appeared to have dimmed and become almost a non-issue.
SAFMA-2013 held its concluding session at Lahore, following its inaugural session in Amritsar wherein India’s external affairs minister Salman Khurshid floated the idea of ‘breakfast in one country, lunch in another and dinner in yet another’ pushing forward for peace between the two neighbours.
However, in one of the most important panel discussions on the theme of ‘South Asian vision for an Economic Union’ in the presence of former Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif, noted columnist and Editor-in-Chief of The Friday Times Najam Sethi,, Nusrat Javed, a famous Pakistani journalist and anchor for Aaj TV, besides Dr Ijaz Nabi Country Director, International Growth Centre, Pakistan, Kashmir issue took a back seat. It seemed that Kashmir was being clearly ditched by Pakistan!
For Kashmiris from India it came as big jolt to hear a Pak speaker say -“The totality of Indo-Pak relations cannot be linked to the single issue of Kashmir.” And further, to make their positions clearer, the speaker said–“We would like to see the welfare of Kashmiris by way of engaging in more trade between both Kashmirs, easing of visas for travel to each other’s places. However, at present, Pakistan has more pressing issues i.e. Indo-Pak trade, water and power generation, which we are greatly hopeful that peace between India and Pakistan is bound to bring in.” And all this time, Nawaz Sharif remained mum, clearly endorsing what was being said-and-missed, about Kashmir.
How would Kashmiris, who suffered for more than two decades aided by Pakistan to revolt against India, feel about this, I wondered. All this time, I had met many Indian Kashmiris, who came to Amritsar and looked longingly at Lahore, from the Indian side of the Attari-Wagha Indo-Pak border, during the beating retreat ceremony. Some, who sat glum during the retreat ceremony came close to grieving over being separated from Pakistan, lamenting that Kashmir on the Indian side, should have been a part of Pakistan.
One, who I met in Amritsar a few years ago, called the border an ‘unnatural divide’ and scoffed disgustedly –“if it were possible, India would station an army man in each Kashmiri kitchen”.
Numberless gullible Kashmiris, who ran the marathon to training camps across the border, were promised a glorious goal of Independence. They returned to fight, flush with money, arms and above all dreams of ‘holy war’ that would ensure a royal place in heavenly paradise for them in case they were ‘martyred’.
Many felt it was easy money and brain washed others to run their outfits in Kashmir with support from across the border. The more vitriolic ones became apples of the eyes of their masters as they fitted in their sinister plans.
There were others who fiercely wrote in newspapers about the atrocities on Kashmiris by security forces while ignoring or soft pedalling the atrocities by the militants. There were those who, while conversing with their counterparts in rest of the country, referred to anything Indian as ‘yours’ and anything Kashmiri as ‘ours’ .
All this while, they were filled with feeling of abhorrence for their present state. The army’s strong arm tactics aggravated the situation. Daily dirges and insults at the hands of the security forces had left them cold and concerned over their future and those of their children. Kashmiris found themselves on a cliff-hanger not knowing whether the militant or the army bullet would kill them.
When the initial itch over being freedom fighters faded and turned sore, the fallout of their actions spilled over. For some hardliners, a bleak future awaited so they tried to continue in their chosen destructive path, sure that their end would come painfully from either of the sides i.e. militants or army. It was a proverbial choice ‘from the frying pan into the fire’.
Others on the sidelines gave only lip service to their bravado and went on with their lives, availing all Indian government sponsored benefits and schemes while leaving them to struggle. Still, they hung on to their ally –Pakistan. Drawing strength and succor from the fact that Pakistan was still their well wisher.
Countless K-agendas raised at International forums by Pakistan had little impact although it endeared Pakistan to Kashmiris. However, Pakistan’s recent position on Kashmiris was shared with Rising Kashmir by a senior Pak bureaucrat who said – ‘Kashmiris had played a double game with them’.
He contended that while Pakistani side had lost more lives than Kashmiris, even as they had pumped in money, men and material as also feted and felicitated them, Kashmiris in turn joined the election process held by India, elected their leaders and lifted them on their shoulders. They availed all Indian government and army schemes.
‘They told us they are unable to offer Namaz in Indian side of Kashmir, but we have seen them freely doing so. They tell us their women are not safe, but their women are freely moving about, getting educated and showing no traces of fear’.
The Kargil misadventure in 1999, after nearly 10-years of turmoil in Kashmir, seemed like a shot in the arm for militants in Kashmir, who saw Pakistan as the saviour. Of course, the battle-end saw Pakistan faced with rebuke and reprimand, as also a royal ignore and the ultimate shaming by US – its funding ally that ultimately punctured its stature in global eyes. Alternately, under the leadership and statesmanship of Indian PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Kargil won India kudos for its restraint in the face of a sly enemy.
Pakistan used Kashmir to save the multitude of high profile chairs, raising the bogey of Kashmir, every time a crisis on home ground erupted. Kashmir served as a diversionary tactics, to gloss over faults of omission and neglect in Pakistan.
US too saw it being used by Pakistan who was trying to fulfil its Kashmir agenda on the pretext of Afghanistan’s occupation by USSR. Therefore, in time, USA too pulled itself out of the mire of Pak mechanizations, cut down its funding and ditched Pakistan partially as the Frankenstein monster of terrorism that it had created sought to feed onto its creator –Pakistan.
Having lost its financial conduit and faced with rebellion and insurgency in its troubled corners, as well as from insurgents it had created, Pakistan today is left with a choice to either save its own or that of Kashmir.
Perturbed over this stand of Pakistan to shelve the Kashmir issue, Shujaat Bukhari Editor-in-Chief of English daily, ‘Rising Kashmir’ raised a query to Pakistan panel and especially to Nawaz Sharif –as one of Kashmiri origin, asking – “If Kashmir issue was to be sidelined thus, why were 23-years and lakhs of lives lost for this cause?” To which he got a reply that welfare of Kashmiris could be in softening of the LoC (line of control) and “not in transfer of territory”.
The sidelining of Kashmir was complete when even in his personal address Nawaz Sharif gave a miss to the Kashmir issue and stated “If voted to power as next President of Pakistan I would bring the same relationship of bonhomie between India and Pakistan as I and PM Vajpayee had brought in February of 1999 by starting the Sada-e-Sarhad, Indo –Pak bus service.”
The present scenario in Kashmir is that Kashmiri households that drilled anti- India venom are left with an educated new generation, many of whom have flown the nest, to seek wider horizons to further their aspirations of a good life, while those who remain are left alone to tend to their festering wounds. Those who supported them from the neighbouring country have now their own hands-full, fighting internal battles, dousing the monster of terrorism that they had created.
Nusrat Javed, the panelist when questioned on the sidelines of SAFMA to clarify the Pakistani stand on Kashmir, counter questioned –“I have a child in Baluchistan crying in pain, should I tend to ‘my’ child or a Kashmiri child?” As a host for a popular programme ‘Bolta Pakistan’ of Aaj TV, Nusrat said people in Pakistanis are least interested in Kashmir issue and his programme’s TRPs drop every time a topic related to Kashmir issue is aired.
It is a fact that Kashmir is fast losing out in terms of media interest in India too. Many foreign media organizations have bid goodbye to Kashmir- a hotbed of news, for past two decades. Reuters, BBC radio and TV, German owned Deutsche Welle , AFP have wound up from Kashmir. Others like The New York Times, Al Jazeera, Time, and Guardian are granting fewer slots to news from Kashmir. It has therefore come as no surprise that Pakistan media too turned its face away to news emerging from Kashmir, which is being relegated to inner obscure corners of leading newspapers.
Mehmal Sarfarz a senior member of SAFMA said in clear terms that ‘Pakistan had decided to drop the issue of Kashmir long ago. If in 60 years, four wars could not solve it, what is the point in pursuing a lame dream, is what Pakistan has slowly realized. With internal problems becoming hard to handle who has the time or the money to fund Kashmir or Kashmiris?’
However there was one such who had the guts to say –“Only those who have been failures or those who set up shops on the ‘tears’ of Kashmir or accrued advantage from the Indo-Pak standoff on Kashmir are banking on continued enmity between both countries. The army in Pakistan is the major beneficiary of Indo-Pak rivalry, he said, because it is only because of the enmity between the two countries that it can retain its hold on the politics and administration of the country. The terrorist outfits in Pakistan are the other beneficiaries who would lose their raison d’etre in case both countries come closer to each other. “They are the ones desperate to sabotage the peace process and stoke the fires of hostility”, he said.
I know Indo-Pak peace would soon be a reality. This statement is not merely a conjecture or hope or guess but based on study of wider spectrum of world affairs, in which US seeks to strengthen and embolden the south Asian region against the growing power of China. China, which is fast emerging, as a bigger threat to US any other country in the world.
The border clash, inhuman torture and beheading of an Indian army jawan and retaliatory killing of Pakistan army man, has come as the most recent example of covert mechanizations. The killing of Kashmiri sarpanches, including shooting a lady sarpanch, are such incidents, which may slow down the peace process, but will not be able to derail it.
FIRST PUBLISHED IN ‘RISING KASHMIR’ ON JANUARY 15, 2013
http://www.risingkashmir.in/news/kashmir-issue-relegated-to-the-back-burner-40044.aspx

SECOND PUBLICATION IN http://www.sify.com URL- http://www.sify.com/news/has-pakistan-ditched-the-kashmiris-news-columns-nbvcIXefhcf.html

Kashmir issue relegated to the back burner?—-By Rashmi Talwar, Amritsar & Lahore


KASHMIR DITCHED !

KASHMIR DITCHED !

Kashmir issue relegated to the back burner?

By Rashmi Talwar,
Amritsar & Lahore

At the 8th Regional Conference of SAFMA (South Asian Free Media Association) held at Lahore, comprising media persons from eight South Asian SAARC countries, Kashmir issue appeared to have dimmed and become almost a non-issue.

SAFMA-2013 held its concluding session at Lahore, following its inaugural session in Amritsar wherein India’s external affairs minister Salman Khurshid floated the idea of ‘breakfast in one country, lunch in another and dinner in yet another’ pushing forward for peace between the two neighbours.

However, in one of the most important panel discussions on the theme of ‘South Asian vision for an Economic Union’ in the presence of former Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif, noted columnist and Editor-in-Chief of The Friday Times Najam Sethi,, Nusrat Javed, a famous Pakistani journalist and anchor for Aaj TV, besides Dr Ijaz Nabi Country Director, International Growth Centre, Pakistan, Kashmir issue took a back seat. It seemed that Kashmir was being clearly ditched by Pakistan!

For Kashmiris from India it came as big jolt to hear a Pak speaker say -“The totality of Indo-Pak relations cannot be linked to the single issue of Kashmir.” And further, to make their positions clearer, the speaker said–“We would like to see the welfare of Kashmiris by way of engaging in more trade between both Kashmirs, easing of visas for travel to each other’s places. However, at present, Pakistan has more pressing issues i.e. Indo-Pak trade, water and power generation, which we are greatly hopeful that peace between India and Pakistan is bound to bring in.” And all this time, Nawaz Sharif remained mum, clearly endorsing what was being said-and-missed, about Kashmir.

How would Kashmiris, who suffered for more than two decades aided by Pakistan to revolt against India, feel about this, I wondered. All this time, I had met many Indian Kashmiris, who came to Amritsar and looked longingly at Lahore, from the Indian side of the Attari-Wagha Indo-Pak border, during the beating retreat ceremony. Some, who sat glum during the retreat ceremony came close to grieving over being separated from Pakistan, lamenting that Kashmir on the Indian side, should have been a part of Pakistan.

One, who I met in Amritsar a few years ago, called the border an ‘unnatural divide’ and scoffed disgustedly –“if it were possible, India would station an army man in each Kashmiri kitchen”.

Numberless gullible Kashmiris, who ran the marathon to training camps across the border, were promised a glorious goal of Independence. They returned to fight, flush with money, arms and above all dreams of ‘holy war’ that would ensure a royal place in heavenly paradise for them in case they were ‘martyred’.

Many felt it was easy money and brain washed others to run their outfits in Kashmir with support from across the border. The more vitriolic ones became apples of the eyes of their masters as they fitted in their sinister plans.

There were others who fiercely wrote in newspapers about the atrocities on Kashmiris by security forces while ignoring or soft pedalling the atrocities by the militants. There were those who, while conversing with their counterparts in rest of the country, referred to anything Indian as ‘yours’ and anything Kashmiri as ‘ours’ .

All this while, they were filled with feeling of abhorrence for their present state. The army’s strong arm tactics aggravated the situation. Daily dirges and insults at the hands of the security forces had left them cold and concerned over their future and those of their children. Kashmiris found themselves on a cliff-hanger not knowing whether the militant or the army bullet would kill them.

When the initial itch over being freedom fighters faded and turned sore, the fallout of their actions spilled over. For some hardliners, a bleak future awaited so they tried to continue in their chosen destructive path, sure that their end would come painfully from either of the sides i.e. militants or army. It was a proverbial choice ‘from the frying pan into the fire’.

Others on the sidelines gave only lip service to their bravado and went on with their lives, availing all Indian government sponsored benefits and schemes while leaving them to struggle. Still, they hung on to their ally –Pakistan. Drawing strength and succor from the fact that Pakistan was still their well wisher.

Countless K-agendas raised at International forums by Pakistan had little impact although it endeared Pakistan to Kashmiris. However, Pakistan’s recent position on Kashmiris was shared with Rising Kashmir by a senior Pak bureaucrat who said – ‘Kashmiris had played a double game with them’.

He contended that while Pakistani side had lost more lives than Kashmiris, even as they had pumped in money, men and material as also feted and felicitated them, Kashmiris in turn joined the election process held by India, elected their leaders and lifted them on their shoulders. They availed all Indian government and army schemes.

‘They told us they are unable to offer Namaz in Indian side of Kashmir, but we have seen them freely doing so. They tell us their women are not safe, but their women are freely moving about, getting educated and showing no traces of fear’.

The Kargil misadventure in 1999, after nearly 10-years of turmoil in Kashmir, seemed like a shot in the arm for militants in Kashmir, who saw Pakistan as the saviour. Of course, the battle-end saw Pakistan faced with rebuke and reprimand, as also a royal ignore and the ultimate shaming by US – its funding ally that ultimately punctured its stature in global eyes. Alternately, under the leadership and statesmanship of Indian PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Kargil won India kudos for its restraint in the face of a sly enemy.

Pakistan used Kashmir to save the multitude of high profile chairs, raising the bogey of Kashmir, every time a crisis on home ground erupted. Kashmir served as a diversionary tactics, to gloss over faults of omission and neglect in Pakistan.

US too saw it being used by Pakistan who was trying to fulfil its Kashmir agenda on the pretext of Afghanistan’s occupation by USSR. Therefore, in time, USA too pulled itself out of the mire of Pak mechanizations, cut down its funding and ditched Pakistan partially as the Frankenstein monster of terrorism that it had created sought to feed onto its creator –Pakistan.

Having lost its financial conduit and faced with rebellion and insurgency in its troubled corners, as well as from insurgents it had created, Pakistan today is left with a choice to either save its own or that of Kashmir.

Perturbed over this stand of Pakistan to shelve the Kashmir issue, Shujaat Bukhari Editor-in-Chief of English daily, ‘Rising Kashmir’ raised a query to Pakistan panel and especially to Nawaz Sharif –as one of Kashmiri origin, asking – “If Kashmir issue was to be sidelined thus, why were 23-years and lakhs of lives lost for this cause?” To which he got a reply that welfare of Kashmiris could be in softening of the LoC (line of control) and “not in transfer of territory”.

The sidelining of Kashmir was complete when even in his personal address Nawaz Sharif gave a miss to the Kashmir issue and stated “If voted to power as next President of Pakistan I would bring the same relationship of bonhomie between India and Pakistan as I and PM Vajpayee had brought in February of 1999 by starting the Sada-e-Sarhad, Indo –Pak bus service.”

The present scenario in Kashmir is that Kashmiri households that drilled anti- India venom are left with an educated new generation, many of whom have flown the nest, to seek wider horizons to further their aspirations of a good life, while those who remain are left alone to tend to their festering wounds. Those who supported them from the neighbouring country have now their own hands-full, fighting internal battles, dousing the monster of terrorism that they had created.

Nusrat Javed, the panelist when questioned on the sidelines of SAFMA to clarify the Pakistani stand on Kashmir, counter questioned –“I have a child in Baluchistan crying in pain, should I tend to ‘my’ child or a Kashmiri child?” As a host for a popular programme ‘Bolta Pakistan’ of Aaj TV, Nusrat said people in Pakistanis are least interested in Kashmir issue and his programme’s TRPs drop every time a topic related to Kashmir issue is aired.

It is a fact that Kashmir is fast losing out in terms of media interest in India too. Many foreign media organizations have bid goodbye to Kashmir- a hotbed of news, for past two decades. Reuters, BBC radio and TV, German owned Deutsche Welle , AFP have wound up from Kashmir. Others like The New York Times, Al Jazeera, Time, and Guardian are granting fewer slots to news from Kashmir. It has therefore come as no surprise that Pakistan media too turned its face away to news emerging from Kashmir, which is being relegated to inner obscure corners of leading newspapers.

Mehmal Sarfarz a senior member of SAFMA said in clear terms that ‘Pakistan had decided to drop the issue of Kashmir long ago. If in 60 years, four wars could not solve it, what is the point in pursuing a lame dream, is what Pakistan has slowly realized. With internal problems becoming hard to handle who has the time or the money to fund Kashmir or Kashmiris?’

However there was one such who had the guts to say –“Only those who have been failures or those who set up shops on the ‘tears’ of Kashmir or accrued advantage from the Indo-Pak standoff on Kashmir are banking on continued enmity between both countries. The army in Pakistan is the major beneficiary of Indo-Pak rivalry, he said, because it is only because of the enmity between the two countries that it can retain its hold on the politics and administration of the country. The terrorist outfits in Pakistan are the other beneficiaries who would lose their raison d’etre in case both countries come closer to each other. “They are the ones desperate to sabotage the peace process and stoke the fires of hostility”, he said.

I know Indo-Pak peace would soon be a reality. This statement is not merely a conjecture or hope or guess but based on study of wider spectrum of world affairs, in which US seeks to strengthen and embolden the south Asian region against the growing power of China. China, which is fast emerging, as a bigger threat to US any other country in the world.

The border clash, inhuman torture and beheading of an Indian army jawan and retaliatory killing of Pakistan army man, has come as the most recent example of covert mechanizations. The killing of Kashmiri sarpanches, including shooting a lady sarpanch, are such incidents, which may slow down the peace process, but will not be able to derail it.
FIRST PUBLISHED IN ‘RISING KASHMIR’ ON JANUARY 15, 2013
http://www.risingkashmir.in/news/kashmir-issue-relegated-to-the-back-burner-40044.aspx

My experience about Newtown, Connecticut …. By RASHMI TALWAR


US KILLING: NEWTON CONNECTICUT DEC 15,2012

US KILLING: NEWTON CONNECTICUT DEC 15,2012

US SCHOOL SHOOTING

My experience about Newtown, Connecticut ……….

By RASHMI TALWAR

In my first look at this quaint town of Newtown, Connecticut, USA, I was swept away by its charm. It was the month of May in 2007 and Maple trees were beginning to sprout their greens after their snowy caps had melted, much like the Chinars (same family) that I love of Kashmir. On the first landing, we had a learning session with my aunt, wherein she gave us vital clues of the town to ward off any ‘gregarious Indian-Ishytle traits’ of lunging-to-help-out or ‘chalta hai’ attitude in India, once things go wrong.

This is the same town that has seen the most dastardly killing of 20 children and six adults in a School by a 20- year old, on December 15, 2012.

During our visit, the instructions were –‘Don’t look too long into the neighbor’s house; don’t stand or stare at a school building; don’t click photos without permission; don’t sit anywhere near a building, only near ponds or parks; don’t use a vehicle, not even a bicycle since it is right hand driving here and the Police will nab you the moment it notices your confusion at road crossings and there would be a hefty fine and explanations, besides an admonition to the host family. These all were precautionary, helpful and kept us in check. They were also not misplaced or deliberately fear-inducing because barely a month before our visit, in mid April of 2007, 32 people at Virginia Tech USA, had been killed by a gunman.

The unobtrusive view of this cute township of Newtown, without front or side dividing walls, tree-lined with the best kept gardens, was a feast for the eyes. The dogs or pets were electronically leashed; sensor spot lights at night, timed lighting in houses were some of its security measures. I noticed the way people strictly obeyed instructions, when a hurricane befell during our stay. The town spread out in about 160 sq. kms. had a robust infrastructure, far more than its meagre population of about 27,000.

When news of killing of 26, including 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown broke on December 15, I was completely shocked and deeply saddened, having spent two months in that quiet peaceful place, considered one of the safest in America. To visualize the splattered ‘color of blood’ in Newtown, where people came from world-over in autumns, to watch the trees turn auburn, gold and reddish radiant, was particularly ironic.

Everyone in Newtown had a car and public transport was nonexistent, it being a non-tourist place. Thumbing a lift was strange and if someone stopped, they would consider you a local who had a problem and then move over all the buying paraphernalia from their loaded car, which they perhaps didn’t have time to download, to make space for you to sit in the passenger seat. Indeed things were beautiful, but not so simple, yet there was an air of being organized, being cautious, being thoughtful and being obedient. It was different and I loved it all.

However, despite the well organized township, there were things that didn’t quite feel normal, for instance there were huge spread out properties with signs of ‘No trespass allowed’ where a ‘single’ person was known to occupy the house. Police kept a vigil on them, but it was wholly abnormal to stay cut-off from the rest of humanity. “If one has no fear of being seen, one can act in unimaginable ways” say psychologists.

In another instance during a flight to Florida, a fellow co-passenger’s statement had got me thinking. “Why doesn’t America do more for people who are going insane, instead of having a liberal gun license policy? Could you imagine the havoc an insane person can unleash with an easy access to guns?” he contended. Perhaps the Virginia Tech 2007 killing was still fresh in his mind.

Another jolting experience was when I happened to ask an American of Indian origin about education in USA, she answered – “Education is very good but it is scary that children bring guns to school.” I was shocked.

Learning of the recent killing in Sandy Hook and its details, it shook me more that Nancy Lanza mother of 20-year old gunman Adam Lanza, possessed ‘three’ licensed weapons, including an automatic gun. I cannot quite understand this ‘gun freedom’ or liberalization.

I only laud the spirit of the people of this place who, after the massive tragedy, came together in support of the grieving families, taking to prayer.

There was no screaming, no irresponsible reporting in media, no chest beating, no arson, no strikes, no blaming the government, no wild-run destroying public property, stone-pelting or any violent means. They just stood locked in a human chain lighting candles in grief, giving solace and support to those who lost their little ‘tulips’ (5 to10 year olds) and steady trees (six adults).

It felt like a healing touch that television channels there aired programmes on how to detect trauma or deal with a traumatized child who had seen or heard the shootout. I hope US introspects its liberalized policy on guns, before it is too late.

FIRST PUBLISHED IN ‘RISING KASHMIR’ ON DECEMBER 20, 2012
URL: http://epaper.risingkashmir.com/20122012/default.asp

Death of Amritsar’s short story writer ………..by N. S. Tasneem


shravan kumar urdu

ON November 28, Shravan Kumar Varma breathed his last in Amritsar. His passing away at the age of 85 has suddenly brought to the mind that Amritsar can no more boast of having nurtured Urdu short story writers. During the early 1930s, Saadat Hasan Manto made his mark in Urdu fiction with his debut short story, ‘Tamasha’, that centred around a victim of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. On the footsteps of Manto, some writers contributed fictional works and poetic creations to Urdu literature in the decades to come.

It so happened that in the mid-1940s, some students wedded to Urdu literature got admission in Hindu College, Amritsar. Shravan Kumar Varma was among those. His first Urdu short story titled ‘Pardesi’ was published in the college magazine, ‘Shivala’. Incidentally, I was the student editor of the Urdu section of that magazine. Both of us, along with some other like-minded lovers of Urdu, such as Mohinder Bawa, Inder Kumar Sagar, Gopal Krishan and K.K. Razdan, were under the influence of Prof M.M. Mathur, who had also taught Urdu and Persian to Saadat Hasan Manto years ago.

In the days to come most of us left Amritsar, in search of new pastures, but Varma stuck to his guns. He settled permanently in Amritsar as a lawyer. During the course of six decades, he published some collections of short stories and a few novels. He was popular in the entire subcontinent, as his fiction had attracted readers both in India and Pakistan. Some of his works had been translated into Hindi and Punjabi, besides English. One of his short stories found place in ‘Select Urdu Best Stories’, published by Penguin.

He had been bestowed with the Shiromani Urdu Sahitkar Puraskar in 1993 by the Languages Department, Punjab. Thereafter some other awards sponsored by the literary organisations and Urdu academies followed, but he remained unmindful of all these honours. He was fully absorbed in creative literature, even while neglecting the duties of his profession. He was well versed in Urdu and Hindi, but he had a special niche in his heart for Punjabi. He had been the President of the Sahit Vichar Kendra for many years. Some of his Punjabi short stories were published in Punjabi monthly ‘Lau’ and Punjabi quarterly ‘Akhkhar’, brought out from Amritsar. The Editor, Parminderjit, a Punjabi poet in his own right, was instrumental in getting his Urdu short stories rendered into Punjabi.

Unluckily he remained confined to his bed for a long time due to one ailment or the other. He was hard up in those days but he considered it below his dignity to approach the authorities concerned for financial help. Still there is a feeling of grudge in the litterateurs that the Languages Department, Punjab did not come to his help suo moto while his plight had been mentioned in newspaper columns many times.

Some time ago I visited him at his place and found him, in the words of T.S. Eliot, ‘like a patient etherised upon a table’. Earlier I had found him composing short stories and poems while lying in his bed. He had in himself a reservoir of patience and confidence, full to the brim. Even now when the last Urdu story-teller in Amritsar has bidden us goodbye, something can be done to make life easy for his wife and two daughters. Unluckily, his young son had died a year ago, leaving the ailing father in dismay. He stifled his cry in the throat, and that prompted his death.

FIRST PUBLISHED IN THE TRIBUNE

In 70s, Amritsar’s Khanna families named their sons Rajesh, after Superstar! ..By Rashmi Talwar


Lowered Goggles --Rajesh Khanna
In 70s, Amritsar’s Khanna families named their sons Rajesh, after Superstar!

By Rashmi Talwar

The lowered goggles, the twinkling ‘come-hither’ eyes, nod of the head and girls swooned!

This was the charisma of Rajesh Khanna- the first superstar born to India.
After Rajesh’s sad demise from a mysterious ailment, for many teenagers then of 1970’s in Amritsar –the Hathi Mere Saathi – star’s stardom is remembered longingly, especially amongst his female fans.

His lip sync in songs was so perfect , it raised the equation of the singer –Kishore Kumar with the actor.
The languid –‘Pushpa, I hate tears !’ drove girls teary eyed. Many slept with pictures of the Rajesh Khanna under their pillow, spoke to him, offered sweets on his birthday, to his pictures! Many were known to have written letters in blood. His co-star of many films Sharmila Tagore Pataudi –his –‘Sapno ki Rani–, had aptly contended that she was wonder-struck by ‘Kaka’s’ hysterical fan following .

Rajesh Khanna

But the 69-year old star born on December 29, 1942 never came back to Amritsar, his birthplace in ‘Gali Tiwariaan’ after his stardom. On his death though, in the narrow Gali, gloom has set in amongst the actor’s die-hard fans, relatives and friends who mourned the death of India’s first superstar, that took romance to new heights.

“Who would have thought that this pimply –faced boy would one day rule the hearts of women for more than a decade.” recalls Faquir Chand his childhood friend in the gathering outside his ancestral house.

Jatin Khanna , as he was named in childhood was lovingly called ‘kaka’ as were most boys in those days in Amritsari mohallas. Rajesh’s father a railway contractor in Lahore, moved to Amritsar after partition. Rajesh was adopted by Nand Lal Khanna his father Chunni Lal Khanna’s brother . Later shifting to Bombay wherein before entering the glittering glare of tinsel town, he was renamed Rajesh Khanna.

So popular and endearing was he to Amritsaris during his stardom, that many boys in the Khanna families of Amritsar were named Rajesh after him. I remember one such Rajesh Khanna, who was nicknamed ‘Babu Moshia’ the name Rajesh Khanna used for Amitabh in film “Anand” – the dialogue “Babu Moshia, zindagi aur maut upar wale ke haath hai… hum sab toh rang manch ke katputhliyaan hain jinki dor upar wale ki ungli pe bandhi hain kab kaun kaisa uthega yeh koi nahin bataa sakta hain !!” Well, true turned out this dialogue for Rajesh and true is it for all. .

“It is a sad moment. even though he did not come back to this area after becoming superstar but still he took the name of the family to dizzying heights’’, says Duni Chand Khanna, cousin of the actor. “The family had migrated from Lahore and after a brief stay in Amritsar left for Bombay. “Rajesh Khanna, regularly visited here to spend vacations as a child. He even came when he was going to college in Mumbai. But after becoming a superstar in films, he never came back.” Duni added

However, pride can be painful for dear ones at times. When Rajesh’s name cropped up for Amritsar’s MP elections , Rajesh refused- he probably felt that he had snapped his connect with the city of his birthplace.
Other events in his life like his sudden marriage to a 16 year old Dimple Kapadia less than half his age and ditching long standing girl friend Anju Mahendru did not deter his fan following that mounted more due to the fairy-tale Mills and Boons type of romance.
Now much-married to Reliance scion Anil Ambani , Tina Munim another actress and that phase of ‘toothbrush’ sharing with Rajesh, made headlines. Politics however was never his cup of coffee. Many including his most noted co-star Sharmila Tagore says ‘Kaka’s brush with politics could be much avoided, though he won against fellow actor Shatrugan Sinha in delhi’ .
.
The ancestral house of the superstar jointly held by three brothers including Rajesh’s father , his foster father and uncle besides another uncle Munni Lal Khanna was donated to a Shiva temple and serves as an attached property of the temple .
Faqir his friend recalls about Rajesh’s vacation visits to the mohalla . “In the Mohalla too , Rajesh as -Bumbai ka Babu- , as he was called could get away with anything owing to his innocent smile.

Between the years 1969 and 1972 almost everything he touched turned to gold — 15 consecutive hits of various degrees. No wonder producers chanted: ‘Upar aaka, neeche Kaka !’(God above and Kaka, Khanna’s pet name, on earth below). Unable to find a phrase that captured the phenomenon, the hypnotic and the media industry finally coined a new term: the Superstar for Rajesh Khanna. He was not without flaws but in the backdrop of a train journey, a number revisits my mind for this trend blazer– ‘Zindagi ke safar se Juzaar jatey hain jo Maqaam …woh fir nahi atey …” of film Aap ki Kasam .. ‘Umar bhar unka pukarey koi naam, ..woh fir nahi atey ….”

BOX Item — Kuch toh log kahenge…. Pak town claims ‘Superstar’ as its own ?

A sleepy township of Burewala in Faisalabad, Pakistan claims that Rajesh Khanna was born here in 1942 and the gathering there is planning a remembrance session in memory of the departed Indian superstar.

Old-timers of Burewala say the Indian actor was not only born there but also stayed until he was 5 years old in a double storey house that is still intact and probably built around 1934-35 . They claim that the actor studied in MC Model High School. Some claim that records in school mentions admission of one Jatin Khanna (a name that was later changed to Rajesh when he joined Bollywood) to substantiate their claim.

They also claim that Khanna’s father was not only one of the founder members of this school but also remained its headmaster for many years till the Indo pak Partition after which the Khanna family left for Amritsar.

The house attributed as birthplace of Rajesh Khanna is said to be located on Multan Road and according to some , has ‘Jatin Bhawan’ engraved in Hindi on its elevation besides lines from the “Gayatri mantra”, to which the new owner has made no changes .
The claim by the township could be true, as Rajesh is said to be born before partition in year 1942 and their family was living on the Pakistani side. Only family members of superstar Rajesh Khanna can put the controversy to rest.

Hit Songs :
1. Yeh Jo Mohabbat Hai – (Kati Patang)
2. Zindagi Ek Safar Hai Suhana – (Andaz)
3. Kahi Door Jab Dil Dhal Jaaye – (Anand)
4. Mere Sapno Ki Rani – (Aradhana)
5. Kuch Toh Log Kahenge – (Amar Prem)
6. O Mere Dil Ke Chain – (Mere Jeevan Saathi)
7. Kora Kagaz – (Aradhana) [1969]
8. Jai Jai Shiv Shankar – (Aap Ki Kasam)
9. Maine Tere Liye Hi Saat Rang Ke – (Anand)
10. Yeh Kya Hua – (Amar Prem)
11. Roop Tera Mastana – (Aradhana)
12. Hume Aur Jeene Ki Chahat Na Hoti – Agar Tum Na Hote
13. Chingari Koi Bhadke – (Amar Prem)
14. Yeh Shaam Mastani – (Kati Patang)
15. Pyar Deewana Hota Hai – (Kati Patang)

FIRST PUBLISHED IN RISING KASHMIR

Two Mothers Reunite Lost Son to a Pakistani Mother …By Rashmi Talwar


District & Sessions Judge, Faridkot Archana Puri (India) Human Rights activist and Director of Ajoka Theatre, Madeeha Gohar (Pakistan).

Two Mothers Reunite Lost Son to a Pakistani Mother …By Rashmi Talwar

(WAGAH-ATTARI)October 11,2012——– It is perhaps for the first time that two women of India and Pakistan have stepped in conscientiously and brought speedy justice to a juvenile Pak prisoner. These were no ordinary women. From the Indian side was the District and Sessions Judge, Faridkot and Chairperson of the District Legal Services Authority (DLSA)Archana Puri and from the Pak side was a Human Rights activist and Director of Ajoka Theatre, Madeeha Gohar.
It is also the first, perhaps when a Judge accompanied a Pak prisoner all the way from Faridkot and handed him over to his country right uptil the zero line.

Two Mothers reunite a son to a Pakistani Mother


On a celebratory note and day of Holy Gurpurab of Guru Ram Dass, the founder of the city of Amritsar, a beaming Kasif Ali’s (12 1/2 years) parting words to Ms Puri, before leaving for his home country Pakistan, were – “I will tell my Ammi, I have another Ammi like you, in India,” as tears rolled down his cheeks in happiness and he hugged her.
Kasif was wearing a new white T-shirt and jeans and holding tight the gifts of books, including a book on Baba Farid (Who is worshipped on both sides of the border) color books, sketch pens and crayons gifted to him by the Indian Judiciary.
Talking to Rising Kashmir, Ms Puri related the entire sequence of events about Kasif’s release, when she joined as District &Sessions judge in Faridkot on 16th July this year. “On a routine inspection of the Juvenile Observation Home in Faridkot along with Administrative Judge (AJ) Justice Rameshwar S Malik, we saw a lonesome pre-teen boy and took up his case on priority. My maternal instincts were so strong about this lonely boy, but as a judge, protocol deterred me to pursue his case. However as a Chairperson of the DSLA and with significant support of
A J Justice Malik and Executive Chairperson of State legal Services Authority Justice Jasbir Singh, we were able to extend help to this boy.” And added ‘When things have to happen, they will and all the world works towards its completion’ said she as she thanked the Almighty, to have brought this three weeks long and 500 telephone calls, endeavor, to fruitation .
Kasif’s eyes lit up when Madeeha Gohar declared that she would be writing a play on his story and invited him to act in it, as its leading character.
Relating his story Kasif standing at the zero line on the Indo-Pak border between the two women Ms Puri and Ms Gauhar, said he had lost his father and was admitted in a Madrassa as the youngest son of five other siblings. “I did not like it there and one fine day I ran away. Loitering in border villages, one day I boarded a boat in the Satluj river and when I reached the other bank, I was caught days later by the BSF”.
Kasif was remanded to custody on 19 September 2011. He was absolved of all charges on April 6th the same year, with an appeal period of 3-months, following which; he was to be released in early August.

Puri who had worked relentlessly on this case on humanitarian grounds as a mother, says “When I met Kasif, his case was decided but was still detained and no repatriation proceedings were initiated”. It was there that Administrative judge Mr Mallik and I, decided to take this case as a primary project by the judiciary, which otherwise are handled by the executive.”
“As luck would have it, at the time, Baba Farid Mela –the soul of Faridkot, was in full swing and I had gone to attend it watching the theatre performance of ‘Bulla’ a play by Ajoka Theatre of Pakistan. Thereafter I contacted Madeeha Gauhar the theatre’s director accompanying her troupe and arranged a live telephonic interview with her and Kasif besides providing her photos, video clips and other details. Subsequently, consular access was provided and Madeeha then broadcast this to the media in Pakistan and got a response from the Kulsum Bibi, the widowed mother of Kasif. “Following which a talk was arranged between the mother from Pakistan with her son in India, whom she had presumed dead,” said Gohar

Kasif son of Mohammed Zafar is a resident of Peera Hayaat Village PS Mandi district Okara in Pakistan according to judicial records, but it turned out that he belonged to Dipalpur village of the same district which is about a 3-hours drive from Lahore. When asked if he was fan of Ajay Devgan and was that the reason he crossed over to India, he denied it. Media in Pakistan had presented his case as an ardent admirer of the Bollywood actor as presumed by his family and elder brother, as the reason for his crossover.

Puri’s daughter Mehak commented that following Kasif’s reunion with his mother; “I too have found my mother, who was continuously engrossed in his case”.

FIRST PUBLISHED IN RISING KASHMIR

Manto’s Daughters explore their roots… By Rashmi Talwar


Manto’s Daughters warmly welcomed in India

Manto’s Daughters explore their roots

BY Rashmi Talwar

AMRITSAR SEPTEMBER 8, 2012–They were garlanded and warmly welcomed as they crossed the Wagah –Attari Indo Pak border. Even the BSF laid out a welcome fare for them. Village Paproundi was dancing, and gaily bedecked for the ‘pag feras’- the first visit of daughter to her father’s home, after the village’s son left it long ago.

Saadat Hassan Manto–One of the greatest short story writers during Partition of 1047

They arrived in an open jeep waving to the crowds and motorbike and scooter borne public in a grand procession, from Samrala in Ludhiana district, to the ancestral village of their father. As their cavalcade progressed Nighat Patel Manto, Nusrat Jalal Manto and Nuzhat Arshad Manto, daughters of acclaimed son of the soil Saadat Hasan Manto, belonging to this quiet little hamlet of Paproundi, felt the tangent ‘power of pen’ of their writer father, whose poignant stories on partition brought him accolades as well as brickbats during his lifetime. It was the 100th birthday celebrations of this Kashmiri, born in village Paproundi .

Ladoos and sherbet were pressed onto the eager entourage, a village Gurdwara priest decked the daughters with siropas while ‘bhangra’ was in full bloom to the beat of dhols and the village belles laid out a tangy flavour of ‘gidda’

Saadat Hasan Manto, a Kashmiri and a prolific writer had chronicled the freedom struggle and the aftermath of partition and churned such blatant writings as ‘Bu’ (odour), ‘Khol do’ (open it ) ‘Thanda Gosht’ (cold flesh) and ‘Toba Tek Singh’ -a story of mental asylum, a telling insight into the conditions prevailing during the tragic days of partition,. Unfairly berated, loved and loathed in equal measure during his lifetime, today Manto’s spirit loomed large in his gaily festooned village.

Castigated and tried for ‘obscenity’ for his writings that had unravelled the lives of prostitutes , besides which came tales of shocking inhumanity behind a curtain of religious fervour and multitude social issues, more tumbled out of dark closets in the form of ironies with surprise endings, in his stories.

Even after a hundred years of his birth, he is seen more as courageous man who told all, took all and remains untamed, without any apologies and thereby caught the imagination of the readers and fans like no other.

Manto was born in 1912 and celebrating the centennial of Manto’s birthday this year, his village sees a joyous procession welcoming his three daughters. Moving at a snail’s pace, a target of a young girl hit bulls-eye and the rolled petals she threw at the open jeep, opened mid-air in a petal shower over the heads of the daughters.

Here was born a man who had soothed his wife Safiya’s worried brow during his last alcoholic poverty ridden days with –“Safu jee, tuhanu kadi wi koi masla neyi huey ga” (you will never suffer any financial crisis) perhaps Manto knew that the world ahead would appreciate his lifetime’s toil in writing.

He was also the man who wrote his own epitaph-“Here lies buried Saadat Hasan Manto in whose bosom are enshrined all the secrets and art of short story writing. Buried under mounds of earth, even now he is contemplating whether he is a greater short story writer or God.”

But all the words are not seen on it anymore, said Nighat to Rising Kashmir –“My phuphoo (paternal aunt) replaced it, thinking that it could have serious consequences if left un-tampered”. So the epitaph today reads: “Here lies buried Manto who still believes that he was not the final word on the face of the earth.”

Manto, a writer ahead of his times, came to the state of Jammu &Kashmir only to recuperate and visited Doda, Kishtwar and Batote but could never visit the Kashmir valley as he later wrote in an open letter to Pt Jawaharlal Nehru.
His writings about injustices, social issues and harsh realities became a stark mirror to society about tabooed topics and these were challenged in courts in India and Pakistan, but he escaped conviction. Once he shot back to the judge, “A writer picks up his pen only when his sensibility is hurt.” His fears about America’s domination of Pakistan in his Uncle Sam series of letters proved, prophetic.

Born to a Kashmiri Muslim family, Manto had his early childhood in Amritsar. His father being a disciplinarian, Manto dreaded him and fared badly in studies. “Formal study was not his temperament” says his daughter Nusrat, who was barely 7-years when her father died but gathered the tit bits on her father from his friends. Nusrat is also working with Manto’s niece and noted historian Ayesha Jalal, who is writing a biography of Manto.

Ismat Chugtai, Manto’s contemporary writer and friend who too faced flak for her stories once quoted Manto as saying – “The future looks beautiful in Pakistan. As now Muslim migrants would get the houses of those who fled from here.” She adds “He was inconsolable and could not disassociate India from Pakistan or Bombay from his heart till his end.”

During the almost royalist procession the sisters looked up and in thanksgiving raised their hands in dua for peace, Nighat (67) who was born in India said ‘Indeed it feels like a true homecoming’ as if the heavens too were showering their blessings. By all means I would love to come to India and in the same breath, urged for easing of visas’.

Abdul Rehman, Trustee of the Aalmi Urdu Trust, Delhi aired his views that India and Pakistan‘s exchange in fields of literature, art and culture are the true bonding avenues that would erase the trust deficit between the two countries to a large extent.

Dr Mallik Raj Kumar a kathakaar and story writer, editor of Abhinav Imroz, a Hindi magazine who co-hosted the trio along with three other Urdu story writers including two women amongst them, queried if they would like to come every Sunday to India? To which they laughed ‘We can’t be so greedy, if we are allowed to come once a year, which would be sufficient’, they said as they laid the foundation of Manto Memorial Gate in the village. A primary school to be upgraded to Middle and named Manto Memorial School and a library in his name was broadcast to people of the village from the stage. To my query, if any of the sisters possessed Manto’s famed Schaeffer pens or the ‘khussa’ juttis he so loved or any such nishanian – Nuzhat retorted amusingly – “We are his three nishanian”

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BOX –A

Manto’s daughters from Pakistan

Faiz Ahmed Faiz

Faiz Ahmed Faiz wrote to his wife Alys upon Manto’s death “I was very sad to hear of Manto’s death. Inspite of all his shortcomings, he was very dear to me and I am proud that he was my student in Amritsar…”
He defended Manto against the charges levelled against him by the Progressives, not necessarily because he admired Manto’s art and his convictions (which he did, to some extent) but because he believed that freedom of speech and expression was a basic human right and should be defended at all costs. Faiz, one of the greatest poets of the sub continent, taught English in the Muslim Anglo Oriental (MAO) College at Amritsar before partition.
Manto for Punjabis is the common treasure of both India and Pakistan just as Amrita Pritam, Faiz Ahmed Faiz and others. While Pakistan government issued a commemorative stamp on Manto on his 50th Death anniversary, Indian officialdom did not bother for the celebrated writer, born as he was in India.
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BOX- B

Manto’s hometown Amritsar

Kucha Vakilan in Amritsar where Manto stayed

The daughters would visit the house occupied by Manto and their grandparents in Gali Kucha Vakilaan where shops have been constructed in place of Manto’s house, as also the ‘Hindu Sabha College’ at Dhab Khatikaan, in Amritsar before leaving for Lahore.
This college and the city of Amritsar holds a unique distinction as Manto- a Muslim, the present Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh- a Sikh and also the Hero of 1971 Indo Pak War that freed Bangladesh-First Field Marshal of India Sam Manekshaw –a Parsi had made Amritsar their home and studied in this college . Vijay Kapur (65) who had bought Manto’s place here and converted into a shop while talking to Rising Kashmir, said that his parents did talk about a writer staying here and loads of books were found in the house.
Manto was seven years old when in 1919 the Jallianwala Massacre took place that intensified the ouster of British and spelled freedom for India. Amritsar was the hub of revolutionary activities and as a young he is known to have gone on a spree of pasting anti British posters by night, which many revolutionary boys at the time freely indulged in.

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BOX-C
Point of view

Hindu Sabha College in Amritsar where Manto and many greats studied including Sam Manekshaw, PM Dr Manmohan Singh

Kuhu Tanvir on his impressions about Manto in Pakistan said, till five years ago it did not seem that Manto was actually celebrated in Pakistan. His books were impossible to find in shops in Lahore and his daughter confirmed for us that there was indeed some amount of suspicion around him as a figure and his works were definitely treated like ‘ticking bombs’ (which they are!).
Secondly, I went to Manto’s grave in Lahore (his daughter took us) and it was as plain and unadorned. Forget the epitaph, even his name was not on it. Like most Islamic graves, it was difficult to identify. They have redone it only in the last few years.

FIRST PUBLISHED IN RISING KASHMIR

Equal – Inequal ? By Rashmi Talwar


Rising Kashmir

Rising Kashmir



Equal – Inequal ?

By Rashmi Talwar

Apropos the article “Mr President: All is not well in Kashmir” written by Mr Shujaat Bukhari dated – 2nd Oct 2012, is timely and well thought. The writer has talked about ‘inequality’ in terms of the address made by President Pranab Mukerjee during his recent visit to Kashmir presiding over the convocation of Kashmir University espousing ‘equal rights and opportunities for Kashmir’. The writer’s demand for equality comes as a welcome shift in the focus of Kashmiris, from separatism to demanding rights as citizens of this country without indulging in stone pelting or other violent means, that has been the norm in Kashmir, not so long ago.
As Mr Shujaat points out about the ‘ the trust deficit between the people and the state’, which exists. But this cannot be wished away in a day or even months. Significant time is required besides the willingness of both parties to erase this deficit, which still lingers on and as stated in the article “embers of ‘Azadi’ have still not died” .

This sudden bursts of rebellion, became starkly clear during the Indo-Pak cricket match recently in which Pakistan lost to India. It was so strange to see that those few Kashmiris I knew, who had voiced their anger towards Pakistan and were openly castigating the fruitless support by Pakistan, calling it a failed country on crutches of US, were cheering for Pakistan! When asked about it, one of them replied –“We know all that, put that aside for the time being, but the general ‘Jazbaa’ is for Pakistan to win.” In other words ‘it has become more like a tradition’!

On one side people in Kashmir want to share the opportunities and rights extended to them by the Indian government but on the other hand, the ‘Jazbaa’ factor for Pakistan remains intact. This paradox of emotions smacks of double-play. “Demand rights but continue indulging in anti-state activities”. In other words “Keep crying”!
Arun a Kashmiri now in St Jose USA questions Kashmiris : “Is Islam so weak a religion, that is can be defiled by some fool who makes a worthless film, worthy of ridicule? Or is Islam a religion whose message is so loud and clear, whose truth is so self evident that a million such movies can do nothing?” and answers “I am sure it is the latter. Then why not ignore the film and let it sink into hell? Why have a bandh, which hurts the common man? I can see why Geelani wants a bandh. He wants to re-assert himself as a leader. Without these bandh’s many like him could sink into oblivion, especially when Kashmir is getting peaceful. So he demeans Islam by giving importance to this film. Just what I would expect, from politicians who uses Islam to increase their own importance.”
Another Kashmiri believes “Give Kashmiris freedom of speech but not taxpayer’s money for waging a war against the Indian state.”
Given this scenario of a state- that is just a juvenile step into normalcy and continues to be potentially eruptive, some harsh measures need to be taken to douse the adrenaline of mischief mongers to stoke the embers of distrust once again and bring in chaos , anarchy and grave loss of life.

In normal circumstances and conditions, people behave in a ‘normal’ fashion wherein dissent co-exists with assent “correction- through evaluation, criticism, protests or demonstrations.” But these choices are not adequate for those sitting on the sidelines of Power in Kashmir. “They would wind up the toy uptil its last string and let it loose in a distorted but new pattern and then watch the drama play, clapping their hands in glee”.

Ban on social networking sites should be time bound, but the apprehensions of the ruling government are genuine, in my opinion. The dreadful video could be downloaded and uploaded on multiple sites to incite violence. ‘What has till now not been seen (even by those who screamed their lungs out, killed and ransacked public property even in Pakistan) maybe broadly broadcast on massive screens, their ill-gotten intent succeeding with emotional appeals on sites like Facebook or Youtube .
Would those who are suffering the ban on such sites merely miss their daily dose of interactions and would they be able to justify the havoc created by the misuse of these very sites?

FIRST PUBLISHED IN RISING kASHMIR

Remembering Lahori YASH CHOPRA By Rashmi Talwar : RISING KASHMIR


Yash Chopra’s SILSILA — A casting Coup

Lahori-Yash Chopra

By Rashmi Talwar

The swish of chiffon Sarees had already mesmerised our generation of teenagers or those in their early 20s. Yash Raj films had introduced us to ‘Tulips’ and ‘Windmills’ of Amsterdam for the first time in Silsila – a film that took much from the real-time high profile romance of Rekha with the most handsome baritone voiced Amitabh Bachchan.
The fragrance of mountains from Kashmir to the Swiss Alps, the lakes and flora had seemed like the stars in his films were floating on whispering clouds, endless rainbows, the bluest waters.

RISING KASHMIR: Remembering Lahori YASH CHOPRA

Kabhi Kabhi, Chandni, Lamhe, Darr had the leading lady so dreamlike, that one wondered if such creatures actually existed. We, as young girls then, all wanted to emulate them. So, school and college farewells, saw girls in sheer chiffons with a swaying paalu following them. Never mind if some of starry-eyed ones tripped on the edges, but they had to be one amongst the exalted queens of Yash Raj films, to be able to garner a tall-dark-handsome, Mills and Boons, type of guy.

During my journalistic years much later, as women journalists were often saddled with soft beats- like it or not, I too was put to task on film personalities. I do not feel any guilt in saying, I enjoyed it thoroughly, much to the smirks of fellow women journalists, who felt it was a page3 type story. Hardly journalism! as they called it. In, came a chance to interview Yash Chopra, the King maker of Romance.

He was here in Amritsar with his wife Pamela Chopra and was conferred the degree of Doctorate of Philosophy (honors causa) for his contributions to art and culture by Guru Nanak Dev University, in 2004.
The then Vice Chancellor (VC) Dr SP Singh was more like a father figure to me. He invited me, individually to have special lunch with the awardees at the 30th Convocation of the Univ.
As I saw Yash ji and his wife holding a plate, Dr Singh, a bright glint in his eye, egged me on to interview him there and then. “A journalist must never lose a chance. I know this, because I too was journalist at one time,” he urged.
But I couldn’t bring myself to barge in upon a couple, cosily eating lunch together. I told Dr Singh, that I shall do the interview only after, he is over with his lunch. Later the honoured VC even related this incident to my Bureau Chief, as all laughed at me, in our office.
Perhaps Yash ji had heard our conversation and quickly finished his lunch and joined us. “Tell me what do you want to ask?” ‘Sirrr! I wanted to talk to your wife’, I blurted out in confusion. ‘About what?’ he asked. Sirrr ji! I want to know how she views your films, your profession and your success.’ I said.
He gave a coy smile and said, ‘ No, Pamela doesn’t like to talk to the media’, as I stole a glance at his wife enjoying the lip smacking Amritsari cuisine, in a world of her own. I remembered that they had a love marriage. Soon, we reached an unoccupied cane sofa and Yash ji, made me sit beside him. The rest of the media persons too had been let in as the lunch was almost over.
We all sat with him, some at his feet glancing at him, some standing over his head and others surrounding the little sofa. Once on the route to queries, I asked him if he would ever make an Indo-Pak film as he was connected to Lahore as his birthplace. Yash Chopra said his forthcoming film would be exactly that but categorically ruled out taking his film troupe and artistes to Pakistan. He expressed his apprehensions over security issues. However he said he did not like to project any Anti-Pak sentiment in his films. He had not named his film at the time but ‘Veer Zara’ was already in the pipeline. On being asked if he would ever make a Punjabi movie, He smilingly retorted ‘but I always bring Punjab in my films’. Well, DDLJ, Silsila, Dil Toh Pagal Hai, Veer Zara had plentiful of Punjabi flavor in them. About getting the Rekha, Amitabh and Jaya in love triangle in Silsila which was a seen as scoop of sorts, Yash ji said, I signed them and the next day flew off to Switzerland. Those were the times of only landline phones’ he laughed. We all understood and looked gigglingly at each other.
Yash Chopra, who was then on the advisory board of the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, showed no qualms about taking on the government on censorship issue for their leniency in passing vulgarity in films and TV programmes. He said remixed songs were jarring to him as they mutilated a beautiful composition and made it like a ‘Hijra’neither man nor woman. ‘No one can see these vulgar videos with their family’. Over reports of a nexus between films and International Mafia raging at the time in 2004, he said he was unaware of it, if it did exist.
Interestingly, I was one of the first ones to cover the story of Indian Prisoner Sarbjit Singh still imprisoned in Kot Lakhpat Jail in Pakistan which is known to be a case of mistaken identity and by some strange coincidence another case of mistaken identity was also underway at that time in the sessions court in Amritsar and I had minutely studied it and verily reported it even as it was a sub-judice case , but had led to release of the accused, a 70 year old .
It was, but a wild thought then, that Yash ji too would be including a twist of ‘mistaken identity’ in his forthcoming Indo Pak movie. Lo and Behold! This hunch came true in Veer Zara. Later, I covered the entire shooting of the film in Amritsar at Khalsa College, Attari International Railway station, Samjhauta Express, Harike, Wagah Land route and various other sequences shot in Amritsar and around.

Scene from Veer Zara

When I went to Lahore the very next year in 2005, for the first time . People there were thrilled over this very Indo-Pak romance. However, some said the language used was not authentic lahori and petulantly pointed out that the sets too could have been improved had Yash ji come to Pakistan and noted the minute details as he is wont to do in all his movies. One elderly lady in Pakistan had a question to ask –‘Why is the boy from India and the girl from Pakistan in the movie?’ She asked sweetly, ‘Why not vice-versa?’ I gave her beaming smile, How could I have an answer about the storyline of one of the topmost Directors of Bollywood in whose honor the government of Switzerland named a lake as ‘Chopra Lake’ in a place called Alpenrausch.

A Clip from Film SILSILA

True to the title of his last film-‘Jab Tak Hai Jaan’ Yash ji passionately took on his work.
In Yash ji’s sad demise, I feel as if the Heavens had their quota house-full for this ominous year 2012, wherein many greats in performing and other arts, musical legends and now even the most loved comic- Jaspal Bhatti of ‘Ulta Pulta’ fame has his Powerlines cut, true to his forthcoming release ‘Power Cut’. Along with Amritsaris heavy weight Dara Singh – the benign grandfather figure, Rajesh Khanna the ultimate in romantic hero, Jaspal too has journeyed to the Gods to provide the endearing comic touch, to the Grand Play being mastered in the World Beyond.
First Published in RISING KASHMIR after Yash Chopra passed away ….

Wagah wonder: Border melts on a platter here…………..By Neha Saini


Amritsar, September 10
Days before External Affairs Minister SM Krishna reached Lahore to shake hands with chief minister Shahbad Sharif on Sunday, the warmth in this part of Punjab was being gently stirred up, gastronomically. Near the Attari-Wagah border, the best of cuisines from both sides of Punjab waited to tickle the taste buds. Diplomacy could wait, after all, with Punjabi ‘tadka’ ready to serve up a preamble.

The idea is simple: move on with peace with food as an essential ambassador. So, here it is: ‘Lahori Dum Biryani’, ‘Chapali Kebab’, ‘Miyan-ji-ki-daal’, ‘Lahori bhindi’, ‘Amritsari daal’ ‘Amritsari fish’, ‘bhuna gosht, lassi, kheer, rasmalai, jalebi, firni and what have you.

You are right; a distance of 30km (how far is Lahore, youngsters on this side often ask) isn’t much to proffer a flavour switch. Conceptually, it does. Here’s how.

Walk inside ‘Sarhad’, a stone’s throw from the border. “Our chefs have carefully put together ‘Lahori Thaal’ using spices and flavours from India, Pakistan and Afghanistan,” says Aman Jaspal, the owner. Since fish and mutton are a favourite on both sides, these form the basis of many recipes at ‘Sarhad’.

Aman knows Lahore and its by-lanes. “Amritsar and Lahore share a rich culinary tradition. We want engrossing conversations on cross-border cultural exchanges over a sumptuous meal,” he says.

He has already hosted special guests such as Pakistani filmmaker Ayesha Akram at ‘Sarhad’. Aman quotes her: “It is a simple and an impressive way to bond. Most conversations happen at the dining table.”

The marquee on Sarhad also flaunts a ‘Museum of Peace’. “There are many multimedia displays from the Partition and Pre-Partition days besides pictures, maps, renditions and writings by famous people who witnessed the Partition. Our collection has been sourced from scholars in London researching Indo-Pak relations,” says Aman.

From Lahore
* Mian-ji-ki daal (a medley of five lentils), tawa gurda kapoora, dil, maghaz, chaamp and ‘khusrey de kebab’

From Amritsar

* Kulchas and puris, Amritsari fish, parantha, tandoori chicken, bhuna gosht, lassi, kheer, ras malai, jalebi, firni

THE WRITER IS A CORRESPONDENT WITH THE TRIBUNE