Posts Tagged ‘Jammu & Kashmir’

“Kashmir will join Pakistan the day poo-bags enter Gulmarg!” ….By Rashmi Talwar / Trip Advisor


On the flower laced path to St Mary's Church Gulmarg, Jammu & Kashmir

On the flower laced path to St Mary’s Church Gulmarg, Jammu & Kashmir

Gulmarg waters do not speak. They take side lanes, quietly dolloping down from crevices and flow silently downstream, moistening lush green undulating daisy slopes, embellished with hues and shades of wild swinging flowers in the softest breeze. The wavy hilltops are a fairyland where children would love to roll downhill and play antique games of L-O-N-D-O-N —London.

Gulmarg- ‘The meadow of flowers’, appears to open as a large cine screen after a Deodar tree-lined ribboned road enters a passage cut through the hills. I  expect a thunder of drumming music to follow the opening scene. Instead, much cackle follows, unmindful of the cacophony, I feel immersed in the spectacular beauty of the vista of Gulmarg. At first it appears like Switzerland, where no condescending boundary walls rupture the beatific scenery perched at an approximate altitude of 2650 m and located merely 56 km north of Srinagar- the Capital of Jammu& Kashmir, a simple 90 minute drive.

Someone calls it ‘Heaven on Earth’ and I believe it. Just then, I step out onto the path and my foot squashes on warm horse goo! I look around for help, skidding on one leg, kicking the other to let go of the poo and looking around to wipe my shoe with an old newspaper or grass. Conversely, I see most side paths lumpy with animal excreta. I wonder if ‘poo bags’ were still to be invented or has the discovery yet to catch the political eye of the area to impose sanitized laws? I am at a loss. When I do happen to broach the subject of ‘poo-bags’ with a local horse-walla later, his kohled eyes look menacingly at me as his henna reddened beard shakes, with a whip in one hand, he threatens –“Kashmir will join Pakistan the day poo-bags enter Gulmarg!” I smilingly point towards a known India-Pakistan border close by called –Line of Control’ in the region, saying –‘Of course you can go anytime to Pakistan!’ Later, I was to thank my parents to have been born a girl, and their production being a little pretty, lest, as I was told –“If you had been a man, your comment could have led to blood-fights and you surely would have been lynched”.

My life spared, I learn to live for the rest of the days with the horse poo, pooled around and the goat or sheep dark granules naturally manuring the grassland. The slight stink mixing with crush of grass blades and the hilly flower scented air and I begin to enjoy Gulmarg. I do have to keep my vision field synchronized to admire the flowers on the slopes, a wide view of the ravishing spread of quaint huts on green ranges and avoid a stare at the dirt on the circumnutating road.

On my trekking ways, as special treat for my lungs, heart and pores, I happen to encounter many tourists in altercation with locals. The reason, I learn, the horse-wallas and taxi operators threaten outstation taxis to enter the main roads. They fight so brusquely with tourists that I join my hands in prayer that I was spared the ignominy as I was ‘staying’ and not just ‘visiting’ Gulmarg.

Asia’s highest gondola or cable car is close to the tourist huts that I have booked. The place also gives me an opportunity to peak at Khyber Resorts, the only five star hotel property, close by and a muzzly waterfall in the corner. It costs me Rs 1400 both ways to ride two phases (13, 780 ft.) of Gondola or cable car. I click, click pictures, of down below from the cable car glass, as it mounts and watch smart trekkers along the Kongdoori Mountains, dotted with Gujjar Huts, to reach the first phase of the ride.

Apharwat glacial peaks are higher, beyond Kongdoori. I hear they take skiers to the top phase considered the highest ski slopes. Gulmarg’s other asset is the highest golf course in the world. Some locals at the glacier, point out a shape that automatically takes on a look of ‘an army picket’ when it’s described so, on another peak—“That’s the LoC –the infamous Line of Control between India Pakistan border that divides Jammu and Kashmir, for which three India-Pakistan wars took place, one as recent as 1999 Kargil War,” he booms. I feet historically enriched, on seeing a prominent landmark, denoting past events.

My dependable guide gives me advice on the Apharwat glacier-“The sledge-wallas will demand Rs 1500 but you settle at Rs 800 and so also with the skier”. I make it to the glacier with a continuous barrage of bargaining that goes on for snow boots, snow jackets, sledging, skiing on rent. The bargain ends at Rs 900 for sledging and another 900 for skiing, with extra costs for boots, ski sticks, jackets. Emptied of all money, carried that day over a wonderful meal of biryani, coke, curd and parantha on Kongdoori Mountains we also see the ‘Satt dhara’ where seven streams meet with a distinct shade of water. I would have loved to go to Alpather –The frozen lake, a little trek from Apharwat glacier ,but the weather was changing swiftly in the snowy peaks and gondola timings have to be adhered.

I head to the hut and give the guide a generous tip along with the caretaker of the hut who recommended the guide. Later, my taxi driver tells me I was looted all the way. The payment for sledging, skiing, boots, and jackets was three times more than the actual. “They work well together- ‘Aak ashh ishara!’ they work with Eye signals!”

My daughter insists we go to the best place for dinner. So we head for Khyber Himalayan Resort. The Taxi guy asks for an exorbitant Rs 300 for a 150 mts ride to Khyber nearby, earlier too a taxi walla had shouted out an overpriced sum for rescuing us in the incessant rain. The fact that someone is visiting five star property automatically targets them as a sitting duck for fleecing. Instead, we settle for three horses at Rs 300 inclusive of waiting and return, and feel like royalty, riding up to the high stone-walled property, till a Posh Pajero sports SUV, honks and the Resort’s Durban brusquely asks the horse-walla to vacate the entry. Poof goes our royal ride, but unending tickles and giggles make up for it. I wonder if smart floral buggy rides to the hotel would add to the charm of Gulmarg.

Nearly 10,000 ponies strut along the roundabout road. Ponies that have been part of Gulmarg since its inception are in for heavy competition with nearly 150 PVC – the all-weather open vehicles, allowed by the government to swoosh on roads charging a princely Rs 2000 for a round. However an environmentally sound setup is of solar panels, seen all over. Sitting quaintly are also two baby penguins model Swiss huts, facing a ‘Rani temple’ complete with temple bells, perched atop a hill. The British built, St Mary’s church parked amidst a pathway of Lupins, Daisies, touch-me-nots, an exquisite white bench, amongst the picturesque surroundings, guarded by heavy fronds of oaks and Chinars, is exquisitely charming.

Fish out the ‘Gora Kabristan’ where many English nobles and sundry rest in graves marked by gravestones in an innocuous enclosure or look for a Maharaja palace that I couldn’t locate. Mughal Emperor Jahangir lover of Kashmir was known to be mystified by the charms of Gulmarg, which also gets the credit of being the place to get the first Ski Club of India in 1927 by the British.
Gulmarg where prime property of Sheikh Abdullah –‘Lion of Kashmir’ is located, especially the ‘Hotel Highland park’ with walls lined with collectibles and memorabilia, as in times past gets the lion’s share of day-time tourists to Kashmir.
I only pray, the Meadow of flowers blooms may not become prey to poo or pelf.

FIRST PUBLISHED IN TRIP ADVISOR ON OCTOBER 2, 2015
URL: http://www.tripadvisor.in/ShowUserReviews-g297623-d6533524-r315333253-Discover_Gulmarg_Adventures-Srinagar_Kashmir_Jammu_and_Kashmir.html
http://www.tripadvisor.in/ShowUserReviews-g297623-d6533524-r3153332
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April Fool Cheers ! / By Rashmi Talwar


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

April Fool Cheers ! 

aprilRashmi Talwar

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

Now this had turned into a serious research project.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

00–00

 

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

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


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

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

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

Rashmi Talwar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BOX

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

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

Reduced to Ashes

On Saturday night, 13th of September 2010, the building of Tyndale Biscoe in Tangmarg was torched.
Hundreds descended to vent their ire on this innocent school building after watching an Iranian channel broadcasting about a white pastor, seen burning a page from a book, purportedly from the Holy Koran, to commemorate the 10th anniversary of 9/11 attacks in New York, by terrorists.

News of this spread like wildfire and the majestic school building, in the lap of wooded greenery where many a village child found his/her education, went up in angry flames. A distraught Principal Rajinder Kaul of Tyndale Biscoe School Tangmarg, who headed the school from the millennium year of 2000 while showing the remnants of destruction at Shajimarg in Tangmarg rued. “This happened two days after the commemoration of 9/11’s 10th anniversary on September 13, 2010”.

“Ferocious flames engulfed and gutted the entire structure in an area of 19 kanals in which the school stood, built with aim of elevating the standard of education amongst rural children. “Even though a CRPF picket was close by, help came too late”, cried Sabina Yasreen a school teacher, who saw the school grow, adding classes, the library, the laboratory for 13-years, and then saw its total destruction. Tears rolled down her cheeks as well as those of some senior students, as they talked to this writer in the school premises amidst ghastly trunks of 40 charred Deodar trees that helplessly watched as humans turned wild in a fury of destruction.

Bishop Samantaroy in Amritsar , said, “On hearing this devastating news, I immediately set off for Tangmarg from Amritsar, keeping no track of time and reached the next morning, despite stringent checks and halts throughout J&K. It was a volatile period of strife in the valley. The security forces had fortified the church building in Gulmarg which was also under grave threat”.

“The news of Koran burning turned the angst against the Christian institutions that had nothing at all to do with the actions of one insane man from America,” commented the Principal-Director of TBM Parwez Samuel Kaul, to this writer in Srinagar, who later sent a detailed report to the government which led to compensation promise to the tune of Rs 8 crore.
“Though the officials were informed prior to the attack of grave possibilities and requested for security they paid scant regard. The mob even stopped the fire brigade from reaching the spot,” revealed the Bishop. “I was heart-broken as I was involved with the Tangmarg School right from the time of land selection to its start in 1996, seeing it grow and flourish. With beaming Kashmiri children, the School was more like a beautiful fairy garden. To see it turn to ashes was killing.”

“The Tangmarg school’s safe status was assumed as students from 150 villages studied here, ensuring its security. That strategic neglect by government and security caused grievous damage as the school turned into a soft target and the fire reduced it to ashes”, a Kashmiri bureaucrat said on conditions of anonymity.

Trees more than 40-70 feet tall surrounding the school, stood witness to the terrible insanity that night that set a place of learning alight and also gutted nine other government buildings including tehsil headquarters.

All records everything was burnt, everywhere were ashes and soot that flew around as the wind blew. However, the arsonists were unaware that seven copies of the Quran kept in the school were also burnt, when they set it afire. Mustaq Ahmed Dar – a teacher for seven years says his copy of Koran was one of the seven that were reduced to ashes. Hardly any pictures other than those that were in the main TBM branch were left as the reminder of what the original school looked like.
Socio-Economic Development Project (SEDP) president Daniel B Das, also a member of the Amritsar Diocese, said they had earlier thought of withdrawing from Tangmarg which is a rural area. However, it would have sent a wrong signal to the forces which were inimical to the pluralistic character of Kashmir.

Children came the following morning, each of them crying and holding hands of their teachers and hugging in that terrible hour of tragedy. Senior students and teachers took turns to douse the remnant ashes that were simmering and causing more damage to ground below.
Undeterred by the tragedy, the school authorities from Srinagar and Amritsar restarted the school the very next day , shifting it to Dobivan village hospital with not even a pencil or eraser, but plain guts and resilience, in a move to save the academic year of 500 girls and boys. Principal Rajinder Kaul proudly tells us that the same year students who appeared in the matric board exams produced a cent percent result with three students making it to the merit list of J &K State Board of Secondary Examination for year 2011.
The school was shifted back to the same site and now carries on in modular or pre-fabricated huts provided by the government for which the school built base plinth foundation from the one crore with the preliminary compensation released by the government.

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

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

Compensation for arson

Director and Principal of Tyndale Biscoe and Mallinson society had written to the Jammu and Kashmir government a detailed note about Rs 8 crore in compensation, but nearly two and half years later only the initial compensation of Rs one crore was released.
On 4th May 2013, the local Tangmarg Tehsildar with a team of officials marched to the school to dismantle 25 pre fabricated by the Divisional commissioner’s office. The officer left after being confronted for a notice or communication by relevant authority.
The school with 500 students had started functioning in 25 modular huts that were released by CM for temporary reconstruction of the school building, till the time permanent structure of the school building was constructed, according to an official communication.

How Tyndale Biscoe changed the character of Kashmir?

In Srinagar you may pass a sign outside a tall gate in the midst of a Sheikh Bagh bazaar, that reads “In all things, be Men” with an emblem of two crossed heart shaped oars. Most would fail to get the import of this motto and emblem that stands to symbolizes ‘Face all challenges with courage and a gentle heart’.
With the first school started under Church Mission School CNI under Diocese of North India (DNI) whose foundation was laid in Lahore, Pakistan, the entire character of Kashmiris took a U-turn. Those who chose to put their wards under the wings of Cecil Canon Tyndale Biscoe felt the drastic change, some opposed it vehemently while few tolerated and fewer were visionaries to appreciate the new calling. Where Patshalas and Maktabs were run by Pandits and Maulavis respectively, the first Christian school established in Kashmir in 1880, to usher in widespread changes in channelizing attitudes, talents and spirits posing a challenge to traditional lifestyles and acceptable dogmatic rituals and superstitions.

If not for Tyndale Biscoe –

The Mighty Pir Panjal range would have stood virgin with no one to show a ‘V’ sign for Victory after the toughest climb.
The bluest waters of Kashmir would have never rejoiced with Aquarian sports and regattas (boating competitions).
No trophies would have been won in competitions of footballs, dancing, boxing, boating, mountaineering, trekking, rock climbing or swimming or possessing the rare “Pluck” to dare.
The Wular Lake would still be in wait for swimmers given the belief about its demon-like qualities and a fiery temper
If not Famine, Floods and Fires; certainly Cholera would have erased the names of many Kashmiri families, which traces its origins to the late 1800s or beyond.
Surely, Kashmir would have been turned into a dump yard with no lessons of –‘Cleanliness is next to godliness’ learnt and girls would have remained illiterate and sodomy would have still ruled as a bullies would roam the streets.
Arrogance and devilish Taboos would have ruined many a woman- the embodiment of life.
Citizens would become stingy and selfish or would have run away in the face of disasters. They would have never learnt the spirit of service or performing civil duties of firefighting, street cleaning, preventing cruelty to animals, rescue operations during floods and epidemic of cholera breakouts.

Modern-day concepts of marathons, Peak treks, camping, excursions, and service above self were a part of school curriculum way back in 1890s in Kashmir. “Secularism was visible when this Christian school houses were named not after some Christian saints but after mountain peaks of Kashmir- Kolohai ,Harmukh, Tattakuti ,Mahadev”, says Mr Rajan Sandhu estate supervisor of Tyndale Biscoe

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

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

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


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

Rashmi Talwar, Journalist from Amritsar bags Kashmir Award -2013

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


Here is letter from department of Tourism

Dear Rashmi Talwar,

Good Evening,

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

Warmest.

Husain Jt Director Tourism
Srinagar
Jammu and Kashmir

http://www.risingkashmir.com/rising-kashmir-bags-2-awards/#

Hilarious kick-start to the first Football in Kashmir….. By Rashmi Talwar/ Rising Kashmir


While buying roadside knick-knacks, if an old man is seen looking closely at a tall gate of Tyndale Biscoe and Mallinson School in Sheikh Bagh locality of Srinagar, surely, that night’s bedtime story would be an inspiring and hilarious tale of the first football of Kashmir.

The first football- a mini humpty-dumpty- traveled with a newly-wedded English couple of Rev Cecil Tyndale Biscoe, his new bride Blanche Violet Burges in 1891 from London, England. It sailed the seven-seas and reached Karachi, bumped on to Rawalpindi and bounced over to a horse–carriage to Baramulla to finally set sail in a ‘doonga’ – an indigenous Kashmiri boat- and reached Srinagar in 1891.

FIRST FOOTBALL IN KASHMIR

FIRST FOOTBALL IN KASHMIR

Tyndale Biscoe and the first football in Kashmir

Tyndale Biscoe (TB) recalled with glee his tryst when he brought the first football to Kashmir in the autumn of 1891 – “When I brought my bride to Kashmir in November 1891, I brought, also a leather football. When I held it up before the assembled school they asked, what is that?
TB- It is a football.
Boys- What is the use of it?
TB- For playing a game.
Boys- Shall we receive any money if we play that game?
TB- No!
Boys- Then we will not play that game. What is it made of?
TB- Leather.
Boys-Take it away! Take it away!
TB-Why should I take it away?
Boys- Because it is jutha (unholy) we may not touch it, it is leather.
TB- I do not wish you to handle it. I want you to kick it and to-day you are going to learn how to kick it, boys.
Boys- We will not play that jutha game.

So instead of the usual English lesson with the senior class, where many boys had whiskers and beards and some were married and had children, Biscoe described the game and, drew a map of a football ground on a blackboard, showing the position of the players, etc.
Anticipating trouble, he called the teachers, who were all Brahmins, and ordered them to picket certain streets to prevent the boys from running away. When all was ready he gave the orders to proceed to the ground and-“shooed them on like sheep or cattle to the market” when the boys entered the gate. It was a great sight never to be forgotten- All boys shuffling along the street wearing wooden clogs-kharav, carrying their firepots-kangris under flowing phirans or cloaks, on their way to play football. Some were wearing huge gold earrings, some had nose rings and all of them wore their caste marks.

Soon goal posts were put up and teams lined up. A crowd of townsfolk grew every minute, all eager to see the new mischief this foolish young sahib (Tyndale Biscoe) was up to now. When everyone was set, Biscoe put the football in the centre and ordered to kick.

The black-bearded Brahmin looked at him, then at the crowd of fellow co-religionists around, and hung his head. Biscoe again ordered, “Kick!” – Nothing happened. He boomed: “I will give you five-minutes to think, and then something will happen, which you will not like.” What was going to happen, he had not the slightest idea, but fortunately he had armed his teachers with single sticks, in order to drive the boys to the common ground. He lined up the teachers at the goals and told them that when they heard him shout “kick”, should the order not be obeyed immediately, they were at once to rush from the goals at the teams waving their single sticks, and shouting blue murder.

The countdown began: “10 seconds left, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Kick !!!” and down came the teachers shouting and waving their single sticks. Off went that ball and in five seconds all was confusion, for the boys forgot their places on the field, or that they were holy Brahmins, and a rough and tumble began. As they tried to kick the ball, generally missed it, their clogs flew into the air and their pugaris (turbans) were knocked off while their gowns or cloaks (phirans) flapped in one another’s faces; a real grand mix-up of clothes and humanity, it was.

Then all of a sudden there were sounds of agony and horror. A boy was brought sobbing, this Brahmin boy had the unholy leather kicked bang into his face. A terrible predicament, what could the gods be thinking about it? Biscoe told them to take him to the canal and wash him. Away went the crowd with the defiled boy. Back came the washed boy and the rest of the players, all of whom to his surprise at once resumed the game and continued until Biscoe called time. Sightseers were wildly excited and went off to give accounts of this “first game of football played by Brahmins in Kashmir”.

When the so ‘defiled’ black-bearded boy reached his home, his wickedness had reached before his arrival. He was not allowed to enter his home for three months and stayed with a kind relative. Brahmin priests were sure that it was a naughty game. For twelve months, no football could be played unless Biscoe was present to play or referee. Many pricked and deflated the ball but were caught.

After ten years, football was taught to students of ‘State School’ as a game of higher caste gentlemen, later other schools followed. The Hindu or Mohammedan schools too bought footballs and before long inter-school matches were played.

At first, during matches witchcraft was used. Opponents would bring a Brahmin priest to exorcise the goal to prevent the ball to goal. After years, Kashmir succeeded in exorcising the demon from football and despite the valley’s unabated turmoil football’s fascination, is visible in phiran-clad youth holding kangris with one hand, being playful with a football in grounds all over villages of Kashmir, although, few may have had a chance to hear a bedtime story of the furore this little brat caused when it first stepped into Kashmir.

The author can be mailed at rashmitalwarno1@gmail.com
http://www.risingkashmir.com/hilarious-kick-start-to-the-first-football-in-kashmir/

Kashmir, Punjab addicted to DRUGS… By Rashmi Talwar/ Rising Kashmir/


ADDICTED

ADDICTED

Kashmir, Punjab addicted to DRUGS 

Rashmi Talwar

SEPTEMBER 2, 2013 7:11 PM

The staccato of guns, the ear-shattering explosions, crinkling shattered windows and wailing screams of the near dead, half dead, the dying, the crimson streams of blood, have taken their deadly toll on both Kashmir and Punjab, leaving behind a trail of tears.
The next big challenge for Kashmir is the drug menace that Punjab is already fighting. Will drugs become another Frankenstein for the conflict zone triangle of India, Pakistan and Afghanistan? Do the perpetrators realize that those peddling or turning a blind-eye may themselves have their homes lit with the dark fires of drugs and end in a slow death, most miserable?

Having exhausted even the short change from American-Dollars received for sending arms and ammunition into Punjab and then Kashmir, the sly borders are indulging in alternate infiltration – fake currency and Drugs! These are the gen-next lethal weapons pushed into both these border states from across the semi-porous borders and even through legal trade routes.
While fake currency hits the economic health, deadly drugs destroy entire families- “Naslain ki naslain tabah karne ki saazish” (conspiracy to destroy breeds and breeds of humankind) pointed out Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, recently in Amritsar- the city that was a hotbed of terrorism in the 80s. Referring to monumental proportions of drug seizures, the former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Azad, is not off-the-mark. Punjab’s countryside of wheat, paddy and mustard blossoming border villages is heavily infested with drugs.

Massive seizures of drugs from drug cartels busted in recent months worth millions of dollars in international market, have crossed the barbed and dragon wire-fencing in Punjab, creeping in the dark into villages lining the border belt between India and Pakistan. “On an average, illegal drugs worth over Rs 2,000 crore ($365.8m) are routed to Indian Punjab annually,” Punjab’s State Minister for Health and Family Welfare Mohan Mittal had asserted.

Punjab, once in the grip of terrorism and separatism, is fighting a losing battle with drugs this time. So too is the fate of scarred Jammu & Kashmir, now in the grip of drugs for last more than a decade. Even west Punjab, especially capital Lahore on Pakistan’s side, is not left untouched by heavy dose of deadly drugs. In Afghanistan, the ready and cheapest cure for any type of pain is opium. The battle–weary population in Jammu and Kashmir, owing to low internal income generation in the past two decades of militancy, has taken to drugs. Many speculate this to be a way to blind away the realities of dealing with death and destruction or joblessness. The emotional angle is merely an excuse for escapism, some experts believe.

Infiltration routes on Indo-Pak border, that once saw heavy arms and ammunition trafficking, are now witness to additional baggage of banned drugs, heroine and others. No religious sermons have been successful in weaning away this wasting crop of sprightly youth from drugs and substance abuse in both Punjab and Kashmir. Even if normalcy does return to Jammu and Kashmir, the state is heading towards a bigger challenge of a monster of drug addiction, like Punjab.

A psychiatrist in Srinagar says, “Drugs become a cocoon to tide over emotions of seeing daily dirges and wailing mothers. “One shot and he/she is yours!” is the funda of drug dealers, who start off as users themselves and to fulfill their personal supply, graduate to the dangerous world of drug peddling.” Hundreds of youth in the once robust countryside of Punjab and now Kashmir have turned into junkies. ‘Junky’ literally meaning turning into junk; ‘Drugs have junked our youth’ admit civil society and politicians across the spectrum of Punjab and Jammu & Kashmir.

Mohammad Faiyaz Farooqi, IG BSF for the entire border of Punjab and Jammu says ‘in last few months a massive seizure of 200 Kg of heroine was affected by BSF alone. There are many agencies that are on the lookout for drugs as they pass through electrocuted fencing, cobra wires, goods, human couriers, and other covert channels. Even security personnel have not been left untouched. Many police, BSF and other personnel have been lured and are under treatment for drug addictions.

There was an instance of a popular publishing house in Amritsar, once caught sending drugs to Canada through courier, by cutting out the holy Guru Granth Sahib to hide packets of heroine. In another case, a Punjabi couple got their friend to gift new suitcases to his aged parents heading for America. The aircraft was cruising along the runaway when ordered to halt. The old couple and their baggage were both downloaded. “The new suitcases were lined with scores of packets of heroine!”

Jammu and Kashmir presents a dismal scenario. The United Nations Drug Control Programme Survey identified nearly 70,000 drug addicts in Kashmir. The long waiting list running into hundreds, for de-addiction center run by the police control room (PCR) in Batamaloo and off shoot centers in Anantnag and Baramaulla are just the tip of an iceberg. It wasn’t without cause that Azad accused Pakistan of pushing in the drugs in the border region to spoil entire breeds of families in Punjab and Kashmir, nor was congress party Vice President Rahul Gandhi merely bragging to showdown the opposition when he declared that 70 percent of the youth in Punjab are into drugs, the statistics of drug addiction is indeed alarming.

Joblessness, frustration and other pressures are cited as reasons for the high incidence of drug addiction, but doctors says addiction is a chronic disease like diabetes, blood pressure and if the habit of being addicted is not channelized, it can take the destructive route. Dr JPS Bhatia, Director of Hermitage Drug Rehab Center in Amritsar reveals that he gets 50 patients every month out of which five are females. “Every third house in Punjab has a drug or alcohol addict. As much as 80 percent of those admitted in his rehab center are heroine users.

Arif Magrabi Khan, working with addicts from Hyderpora locality of Srinagar, says the figure in Jammu and Kashmir for addicts is close to one lakh including use of psychotropic drugs. A UN survey had discovered around 6000 women addicts. The female count is much more, says Arif, as stigma, keeps many women mum, while Kashmir’s countryside is flush with cannabis addiction that grows wild there.
The infiltration of High grade drugs is easy in Kashmir owing to tedious mountain passes, snow, water and fog that help easy thoroughfare for drugs both from Afghanistan and Pakistan. Lax vigilance, high corruption, in cahoots with security at border and police makes a good supply-chain to other states in the country. Disgruntled youth – once fodder for militant groups – are now drifting into addiction, spurring a social problem of increasing gravity. Because of this, even in international forums on drug addiction, Punjab comes into stark focus and now Kashmir too is taking center stage.

While palaces were built by politicians and others on the tears of both Punjab and Kashmir, drugs were offered to assuage the devastation. During elections, political parties have graduated from mere alcohol sops to drug distribution to garner in votes.

It was strange to notice that the Punjab chief minister urged Ghulam Nabi Azad to take up the issue of drug addiction in Punjab with the Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and asked him to impose a blanket ban on poppy husk, which was selling freely in states like Rajasthan. Are Punjab and Jammu & Kashmir governments not responsible for their own youth? Or will the menace of drugs completely consume the children of Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab, before politicians wake up and see that the Frankenstein monster of drugs has entered their own backyards while they played vote bank politics!

The author can be mailed at rashmitalwarno1@gmail.com 

FIRST PUBLISHED IN RISING KASHMIR ON September 1, 2013

URL: http://risingkashmir.in/kashmir-punjab-addicted-to-drugs/

 

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

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

Tourism-II: Rural Flavor to boost Tourism ……By Rashmi Talwar/ Rising Kashmir


RURAL FLAVOR TO BOOST TOURISM

RURAL FLAVOR TO BOOST TOURISM

Rural Flavor to boost Tourism
By Rashmi Talwar

Lying atop a light haystack in a bullock cart, gazing at the clouds, singing-‘Mein chalee, Mein chalee, dekho pyar ki galee….’, slipping down to sit in the cart-man’s seat, a flying tail lashed my face and nearly entered my open mouth. It singed my cheek, felt like a slap, but then someone splashed a glassful of water on my reddened face and everyone broke into guffaws.‘Tujhe pasand nahi karta’! (The bull doesn’t like you !) “As if I was gonna offer him a marriage proposal!” I retorted, and laughter resumed and went on as long as the litlu litlu cart wheedled away tingling with cowbells.

This piece of personal memory brings smiles and gurgling laughter whenever I happen to look at a bullock cart during village detours. Turmoil in Punjab for almost two decades halted all rural fun and a flight of youth took place, while turmoil in Jammu & Kashmir tore up income resources, and left little to finance any fancy dreams of urban or metro settlement. Going abroad was also lesser in comparison to Punjab whose ‘entire villages are aging’ and where the once robust countryside of lush gold of mustard flowers and wheat fields that flowed alongside roads and rugged paths shrank rapidly with fragmented landholdings and unsupervised grabbing by land sharks.

Punjab youth’s growing infatuation with fairer lands and fairer maidens abroad and the commercialization of rural land had coined a slogan ‘ek kilaa vech, te munde nu bahar bhej’ (Sell one acre of land and send your son abroad). In comparison stringent land laws have saved J&K and rural tourism has larger-than-life potential in Kashmir.

Unlike Punjab, Kashmir still retains its rural flavor, its weather adds to the unspoilt caresses of its emerald grasses and undulating slopes. Its upper reaches, and some of its lower ones, still hold a bountiful in luxuriant topography unmatched by any in the sub-continent or the world, wherein lies exquisite scenic beauty and delicate scents. Visionaries with their eye on niche Rural Tourism – for those who seek places lesser known, need to study the successful tracks carved by other countries with similar weather and scenic strengths and indigenously adapt for a self sustaining and robust rural tourism that not only allows a rare glimpse into pastoral life but also has potential to retain and sustain the virgin and pristine beauty of the region.

Carin Jodha Fischer, a German national working in Gogaldara village near Tangmarg and the entire Khag region for last seven years, on the lines of rural tourism says, “Initiative in this direction may not find favor with the traditional tourist infrastructure of houseboat owners, hotels, resorts and urban-stays that is the mainstay of most tourist host cities, but rural tourism holds a huge potential of alternative income in the non-agricultural sector for rural dwellers. Joint Director J&K Tourism Mohammed Hussain too is intensely keen to start this hereby untapped natural attraction for increased tourism through the rural tract with this niche tourism circuit.
rural tourism_4
Government Input:

Director, J and K Tourism, Talat Parvez, claims that the state tourism department is avidly looking to develop rural tourism,- “towards this end, 50 villages are identified as rural tourism villages under the programme. Three rural tourism circuits have also been identified and sanctioned by the Centre for development. In addition, a plan for conservation of both urban and rural heritage sites has been formulated. Moreover, pilgrimage destinations like shrines, temples and monasteries, often located in rural areas, are being developed to boost pilgrim tourism to these localities. New rural tourism destinations include Gurez and Bangus Valley and a few others are currently being considered for future tourism development, including the Khag area in the Beerwah Constituency of Budgam District in Central Kashmir.

Interestingly, some rural tourism projects were given the green signal even during the years of militancy under the Government of India project for promotion of Rural Tourism. Despite the lumbering situation at the time, turning worse in 2010 with stone-pelters, these projects in J&K displayed remarkable success wherein all work had been expeditiously completed in sanctioned time. Seven out of eight -sanctioned ‘rural tourism’ projects by the union ministry were adjudged ‘successful’ and only one took the blame for being average. No other state fared better than this northern mountainous beauty, save for the aspect of attracting tourists to it.

To safeguard rural areas emerging as targets for animal attacks, the government has undertaken an unusual drive of applying the most dreaded hot chilli ‘ghost pepper’ or ‘bhoot jholokia’ – the oil of which is smeared to fences to ward off wild animals, thus reducing the man-animal conflict and injury which could have been a big deterrent for rural tourism projects. A security man commented, ‘Wish this oil could be applied to concertina wires to negate cross border militant infiltration too’.

Jobs and economic upliftment of villagers:
• Rural Tourism promises plentiful jobs for rural youth as builders, painters, masons, artisans, carpenters, guides, cooks, porters, hosts, providers, trainers, horse owners, gillies (angling experts), adventure-sports assistants, photographers, artists and others. Simple villagers, who cannot afford opportunities for their progeny, would be thrilled about having a profitable stake in such community or cooperative ventures of a particular rural tourism circuit and would readily pool in for a build up as well as infrastructural needs of the project, with government help.

• Instead of building new structures incongruous with the surroundings, existing rural homes could be given additional incentives to add more rooms or dorms to accommodate tourists. Rural home-stays could boost income of families, which could include all meals, including packed lunches, bonfires, barbecues thrown in for outdoors, as part of the package.

• This could translate into a business opportunity for the locals and even for the likes of nomads, gujjars, bakarwals etc. to present the rarity of their culture as a means of earning for the prosperity of their clans, just as houseboat, lodges and hotels owners are doing.

• Entire ‘cluster infrastructure’ could be built with the replication of original architectural design to every new additional structure including community centers useful for get-togethers, experts’ training workshops besides exhibition of lost and existing performing arts. This could conserve existing architectural practices and revive lost cultures allowing a peep to a visitor into the rich cultural heritage of the region especially performing arts – not hampered by language barriers like dances- Rouf that graces all festive occasions, Hafiza Naghma of weddings, Bhand Jashan, Bacha Nagma during harvest season, where a boy dresses as a girl, Wanwun –song session during weddings or an adaptation of Bhand Pather –traditional folk theater of Kashmir.

• Revival of lost and prevalent handicrafts could benefit with a sales outlet in the base camp of each niche tourist circuit.

• It would invigorate the pride of villagers in their holdings and deter flight of local youth to cities and other regions.

• The situation could turn ideal as a natural and sustainable way for rural and urban economic exchange.

• Villages will retain their distinct architecture and their exciting indigenous innovations.

• Community or clan’s fascinating rituals, traditions and culture unique to the locals could become part of the tourism itinerary. Look at the habitation of gujjars in Yousmarg, log and mud huts with grass growing on their roofs. Some of them are so structurally imbued in natural groves so as to use the slope to carve a home in such a way that a dwelling hardly causes any disruption in the slope’s angle. Houses ensconced in greens are as innovative just as a rich tapestry of landscapes naturally born. A home stay in these could enrich a tourist, besides providing income to the families.

• ‘Native ways’ of doing certain peculiar activities can be showcased as workable models without formal knowledge of sciences, using mere common sense to secure themselves from vagaries of nature, prying animals and others. This could serve as a platform for display of native building techniques of nomads or gujjars or paharis, such as creating weird angles for sturdy logs, their fittings so meticulous, to bear heavy snow weights while occupants move away for green pastures in the plains to tide over the Chillia Kalan or 40 day harsh winter, could be real eye openers.

Jammu & Kashmir wears varied caps-
rural tourism_1

Jammu & Kashmir has the rare distinction to wear varied caps, given the wide spectrum of weather, terrain, topography, wind, snow, water, mountains, heritage, handicrafts of this beauteous state that could become individual, collective or combined focuses of Rural Tourism. While many of these activities are already being promoted by state tourism department, dovetailing these with rural tourism could enhance their charm manifold. Some examples:

• Kashmir countryside has tales & stories, legends & history, varied shrines built from multi influences including, Buddhist, Hindu, Greek, Persian and Mughal besides melas, festivities and celebrations of rituals, that could allow an entire HERITAGE focus to rural tourism.

• Adventure, sports, backpacking, trekking, camping, hiking, mountaineering, mountain biking and of course horse riding, rock climbing, paragliding, hay stack rides, could be slotted into DRY adventure sports, while white river rafting, parasailing, canoeing, kayaking, water skiing and water ball, (in upper lakes), speed boat tours in silent waters surrounded by lofty cliffs and many innovations could be included in WATER adventure sports.

• Skiing, snowshoeing, sledging, snow scooters, snow mobiles and snowman-making or snow sculptor competitions for added fun in the itinerary of WINTER sports.

• ANGLING or FISHING has already formed it own rural tourism circuits, which could be enhanced by including rural stays such as in lodges or rural home stays.

• Bird watching, wild life watch, village walks, village stays, flora, fauna, medicinal plants could come under NATURE or ECO -rural tourism.

• Traditional Kashmiri architecture, built of environmentally friendly materials, including brick, mud, wood, stone or a combination of all these used by Kashmiris, Gujjars, Bakarwals and nomadic communities could be promoted as ‘Rural Architecture’ tourism. On similar lines could be ‘Pilgrim’ Circuit, ‘Border-Areas Rural Tourism along the LoC and added flavors could be ‘Rural Cuisine’ fests etc.

·Apart from this ‘Cluster Handicrafts’–focusing on areas where clusters of skilled handicrafts are prepared in villages as suggested by Director Tourism Mr Parvez could develop into another circuit. Tourists would be delighted to know about unique and exquisite handicrafts like ‘Khatamband’ or the nail-less interlocking woodwork for ceilings and walls, or ‘Panjrakari’ –the netted lattice work for windows or addition to doors. Rural Mela Tourismlike Rajasthan’s famed Pushkar mela or ‘Start to Finish’ Tourism for products like papier mache tour. Strawberry, apple, walnut, cherry, and other fruit orchards could have ‘As-much-as-you-can-Eat’ rural tours.

·Some of these tours could so easily translate into additional export avenues from the region’ is the contention of expert planners. These could be single or multi-day tours with provisions for rural stays.

rural tourism_2

Blueprint on setting up a base camp:

• Local labor could build similar architectural pattern congruous to the area.

• Eco–friendly septic tanks or easy disposal means besides stringent check on disposal & litter.

• Approach road to main hub.

• Medical station at base station for emergencies.

• Rural gift shops could be a big hit with tourists who love to take a piece of the place for posterity. Gift items related to ‘particular’ tours on every base station could be the answer, which could boost up huge job potential and income resources. Example ‘Fishing Tour’ could have trout fish look-alike key-rings, trout shaped penholder, or trout fish shaped car hangings, wild flowers or mini-fish glass paper weights, T-shirts, caps, etc. Architectural or Heritage tours may have miniature gujjar houses as gift items, winter sports having miniature papier mache skis or sledges. While traditional wicker, copperware, wood carvings and other handicrafts from the entire state could be also be promoted.

• Temporary, modular or prefabricated collapsible toilets & shower cubicles with Timer fittings.

• Tutoring and monitoring locals on hospitality, sanitation and home stay provisions.

• Soft loans to villagers to add living quarters to existing structures in a planned fashion

• Recce on all tours for focus points, like the ideal place to camp.

• First aid training /and teaching simple English language skills.

• Allowing only small batches of tourists to ensure quality services, assistance and long term benefits of good publicity by word of mouth.

• Employing village youth for security needs.

WE ALL KASHMIRIS

WE ALL KASHMIRIS

FULL PAGE RISING KASHMIR 

FIRST PUBLISHED IN ‘RISING KASHMIR’ ON JUNE 20,2013.
URL: http://risingkashmir.in/news/rural-flavor-to-boost-tourism-49499.aspx

Kashmir’s Trout Fish trail …..By Rashmi Talwar………..Rising Kashmir


Rashmi Talwar

trout fish article

Tourism in Kashmir is bubbling with swarming number of tourists but at the same time, it is grappling with the challenges to cope up with the lack of infrastructure and other related issues. With tourism confined to a few spots in the Valley, most of the beautiful places remain virgin and unexplored. ‘Rising Kashmir’s’ Editorial Contributor RASHMI TALWAR was recently in Srinagar to attend the fortnight long Tourism festival in the month of May and tried to peep into some important facets of tourism. In this weekly series, she will look at various sectors and bring our readers a hands-on account.

Tourism Series —- Part I

Kashmir’s Trout Fish trail

By Rashmi Talwar

What the Chinar is to the most incredible horizon of the Kashmir skyline, the Trout is to the bubbly elixir of tumbling waters that unabashedly flows over the smoothened edges of the Himalayan rockery, in the magnificent valley.

I recall as a child, the soft nibble by naughty trout fish, as I dipped my toe in the crystalline waters of this vale and threw puffed rice over it. The sensation when the fish scooped up the rice from my toes still tickles me whenever I see a fish manicure being done in pricey malls that have emerged in metro cities recently. Strangely, even though the fish nibbles the same way, it can never draw the childhood giggles and is no match for the twinkling mischievousness of early infancy. The trout maybe the Rainbow or the Brown variety, but time has not eroded the innate impishness of this marine delicacy, even as the valley around it saw the bloodiest turmoil for more than two decades.

Unfettered and liberally flapping in multitude schools, the fish – in rivers, waterfalls, water parks, ponds, streams and lakes, completely lords over Kashmir’s flowing frothy waters and joining the dance of the tumbling friendly waves. I happened to watch their antics once again during the angling competition introduced this year in the Kashmir Festival 2013 organized by the Jammu and Kashmir Tourism. The puffed rice sprinkled on the surface of water brought them in hordes to become an angler’s delight. They were finally caught and put on the griddle after an angling competition in the virgin waters of River Brengi in the Daksum- Kokernag area.

No one sleeps or dies hungry in Kashmir- the vale of plenty. The waters are abundant with the choicest fish, the fruit plentiful and grain in aplenty ensures a tummy full. Even a plastic string with a hook and a ball of dough can fetch you a kilo of fish that is enough for a meal for four or five with the rice as a staple fare. Fried, barbecued, toasted, saucy or curried- fish is indisputably one of the healthiest diets. Combine this with the cleanest air, water and one feels rejuvenated.

Although the Fisheries Department has put fishing by tourists on a tight leash it has given leeway in terms of obtaining a permit and issued guidelines on the period of fishing, the baits used and banned, the type of rods that are permitted etc. While fly fishing and fly rods are permitted, spinning rods or reels and live baits are forbidden. Also one has to reserve the beat on various rivers to have a smooth run in this beatific and holistically satisfying leisure.

Sit in a quiet corner along the river Lidder flowing through Pahalgam or River Brengi in the upper regions of Daksum and Kokernag, drop your line into the flowing gushes and engage in something so serene, scenic and fructifying that instantly merges one with scents of nature. And if you want to be warmed by the sound of human voice, an I-pod can do the trick.

Camp alongside the river and enjoy an outdoor experience or eat with the stars, in the moonlight. The Directorate of Fisheries has lodges in some of the finest spots and you may need only three days for an advance booking to enjoy close encounters with the sound of waterfalls. Your amateur or learned angling skills too may get a boost over fishing in the gurgling waters of Sindh, Nambal, Madhumati, Erin and other fabulous spots or beats.

However unsupervised angling could drastically deplete this rich marine dainty. An avid angler who has angled for years in the remotest regions of Kashmir along with his pet expert angler called ‘Gillie’ or ‘Shikari’ observed, “The size of the average trout has reduced.” Although this could be attributed to many other reasons including the effect of global warming and various changing weather conditions, it is tip-off that should be probed.

Fishy tales

Mohammad Altaf Wani, Chief Executive Officer, Tourism Development Authority, Kokernag region contends that, in 20th century British were able to successfully bring in varieties of fish that became plentiful in the mountain streams falling over from Himalayas and the Pir Panjal range by early 1920’s. A mother trout fish farming project under European Union assistance too has been established at Kokernag.
High altitude lakes on a short drive of an hour or two from Srinagar can bring in hot catches.
April to October could be your best time bet. But catch no more than half a dozen per person with an average length of 7.5 cms, the younger fish should be left alone to develop as adults, lest you may have to deal with the law. Artificial flies are the only ones permitted and beats can be reserved ranging from a single day to a week.
The Lidder and Sindh streams provide best of trout. In April, August and September these rivers turn more silent and in the stilled water the big fish leisurely swims, giving a wonderful chance for a bigger catch.
‘Look under the boulders too, the smallish ponds or try for all season smaller tributaries and channels, they may hold many surprises for a marine bounty’.

Conditions

Flights to Kashmir do not object to a light two to three meter fishing rods that can be booked with main luggage and an eight cm reel, despite security concerns.
If you do not wish to carry your own fishing equipment or line or rod, you could pick one of the best at the most reasonable cost in terms of foreign exchange at Munawar Shah and Sons, the oldest fish angling equipment outlet located at Lal Chowk. In this business from the time of British in 1880, spanning a history of more than 130 years. It can cater to any of your needs that conform to angling in Kashmir. All of Munawar’s four sons run their outlets using the same brand name.
Regular flies used in Kashmir include Jinger Quill, Butcher, Peacock, March Brown, Woodcock, Watson’s Fancy & Green Coachman and equipment could cost you anywhere between Rs 1000 to Rs 10,000.
The water level, clarity, swiftness, and no rain are just the right weather factors for angling.
High end tourist demand has helped in carving out niche` clientele for whom customized itineraries are on offer, to include entire angling tours of Kashmir. Gaffara’s Tour and Travel’s Managing Director Ghulam Mohammed Khuroo, talking about the soaring demand of the high leisure activity says “We can plan a whole angling tour for enthusiasts including packed lunch, folding tents and camps, providing authorized gillies, advising and arranging permits, booking beats and other needs”. Many other travel agencies too have roped in this leisure in their travel offers.
Khuroo with a twinkle in his eye gives a solid tip, “Don’t underestimate the trout as easy prey, it is a crafty fish and will involve all your skills to make it bite the bait’. The angling package could also include rods and baits.
A multi-crore fish feed manufacturing mill close to Manasbal is likely to start production in the coming year for fish feed to be made like floating pellets that would further boost fish farming in Kashmir. The machinery has been imported from Holland.

BOX

Fishing beats

Fisheries opened 198 beats for reservations this season; the choice range from the turbulent Wangat and Sindh Rivers to the serene high altitude lakes of Krishansar, Vishansar, Gangabal and Nunkhol.

Other nullahs and streams could be those of Bringi, Gurez, Hamal, Dachigam, Kishenganga, Kokernag, Lam, Ferozpora(Tangmarg), Hirpora, Naristan, Nowbugh, Madhumati, Puhru, Dessu Bidhar, Mather and others.

Trout is present in all the streams and high altitude lakes of the valley. The important ones are Lidder, Sindh, Kishenganga, Sukhnag, Doodhganga, Erin, Ferozpora, Bringi, Rambiara, Vishav, Madhumati and Puhru. These streams have been divided into a number of trout beats:

Lidder area encompasses Nafran, Aru, Sheesh Nag, Fryslan, Masjid, Langanbal, Batkote Yenner, Kutnari, Bumzu, Wahdan , Tricker , Nambal, Panzath.
In the Sindh Area is Kullan, Gund, Sumbal, Mammar.
The Wangath area has Kangan and Wussan to offer
In the lush untouched Bringi Area falls the beat of Nowbugh, Daksum, Mather, Dyus, Ahlan and Dandipora .
The Kulgam Area connects Aharbal, Kutnari, Isthal and Kandai beats
In the high reaches of Budgam Area lies Sukhnag Fall, Sukhnag Arizal, Beerwa, Shaliganga Burzkoor, Doodhpathri, Basant Wuder, Doodhganga Frasnag, Doodhganga kalnag, Doodhganga Charji and the Doodhganga in Yusmarg.
The Bandipura Area angles the beats of Erin Sheesh Sar , Erin Chuntmulla that is merely 70 kms from Srinagar and close by falls the Erin Shokhbaba and Erin Papchhan.
Further off from Srinagar the Madhumati consists of three beats namely Madhumati Athwatu, Madhumati Pannar, Madhumati Sonerwani
In the one of the most picturesque Gurez areas falls the Kishenganga and most beats are named after it as Kishenganga Sheikpura, Kishenganga Barzil, Kishenganga Dawar and Kanzalwan.
The Tangmarg area near the beautiful valley of flowers of Gulmarg is equally stunning. Add to it are the fishing beats of Hamal, Drang, Ferozpur
Another is the Shopian area and the angler’s delight at Hirpora.

Keep in mind

Each beat stretches to about 2.5 Kms.
With a permit for a day, one can take a catch of maximum of six fish.
Take the permit with you while fishing but refrain from sharing or sub letting it.
Seek help from only authorized gillies or shikaris .
If you try a balancing act whilst holding two rods in both hands or you may just think of using natural baits, beware ! You may see yourself hauled up by the law.

History

The History of introduction of Trout in Kashmir dates back to early 1900s. The first batch of Trout ova of 10,000 eggs arrived from U.K. in 1899 with the courtesy of Duke of Bedford, to whom the Kashmir Maharaja presented an excellent Kashmir Stag trophy through Sir Adelbert Talbot, British Resident at Srinagar. Unfortunately the first batch of fish ova perished enroute due to absence of air transport.

This of course did not deter the importers who ordered a second shipment of trout ova that arrived through Mr. J.S.Macdonall from Scotland in excellent condition in the winter chill of December 19,1900 which included 1800 fry . Almost 1000 fry were transferred to Panzagam, Dachigam (Harwan) while the rest were reared in the premises of a private carpet factory in the heart of city near Khank-e-Moulla.
Bringi in south Kashmir was one of the most prized beats where many VIPs flew down in helicopters to fish prior to militancy in the valley in 1989. Locals of Bringhi reveal that this area became a hot bed of militancy due to its direct connect with Chandanwari in a trekking trail that further connects to the annual pilgrimage of Amarnath Yatra.
Frequent Hartals in the valley came as a blessing in disguise for soaring demand for fishing. Earlier only houseboat owners bought equipment for their foreign clients as they accompanied them for angling but strikes led to more people leaving the city to go to quiet reaches and spend time in angling.
FULL PAGE RISING KASHMIR URL :http://www.risingkashmir.in/news/kashmirs-trout-fish-trail-48952.aspx

Shades of KASHMIR’S Red — By Rashmi Talwar Rising Kashmir RK


Our Moon has blood clots :- Exodus of Kashmiri Pandits  By Rahul Pandita

Our Moon has blood clots :- Exodus of Kashmiri Pandits By Rahul Pandita


Book Review:

“Our Moon has blood clots”- Exodus of Kashmiri Pandits written by Rahul Pandita
Shades of KASHMIR’S Red
— By Rashmi Talwar Rising Kashmir RK

Color red surely must have emerged from Kashmir–no one has ever returned from there without being fascinated by its red apples, reddest of cherries, tulips, red flower bells or strawberries on a reddish ride. When its dusk spreads that rare crimson, soothsayers in Kashmir are known to predict of bloodshed somewhere. Is it then a natural corollary that Kashmir’s waters be ruddied with blood through generations, just as the red appled cheeks of its light skinned people?

If that be the case, how could Kashmir’s legendry tales of a robust composite culture, deny the blemish and clots of red blood, on the fair face of its moon, and call it a flaw-less beauty. The stains come in the form of its belief and make-belief, its truth and half-truths, its faith and its faithless, which comes across boldly through Rahul Pandita’s book ‘Our Moon has Blood Clots–The Exodus of Kashmiri Pandits’.
The book reminds me of a famous couplet of Allama Iqbal:

‘Jis Khaak Ke Zameer Main Ho Aatish-E-Chinar,

Mumkin Nahin Ke Sard Ho Wo Khaak-E-Arjumand’

(The Earth that enshrines in its bosom, the autumn red fire of a Chinar tree,
It is impossible for that celestial Earth to cool down).

Iqbal too has recognized the red in Kashmir. Perhaps the Almighty in painting the beautiful picture of this Glorious vale, sought the brightest contrast of red and white, like the frothy white streams, waterfalls of its rivers and the snow blankets that make it so picturesque.

Rahul Pandita releasing his book "Our moon has Blood Clots" - Exodus of Kashmiri Pandits

Rahul Pandita releasing his book “Our moon has Blood Clots” – Exodus of Kashmiri Pandits

If Basharat Peer’s ‘Curfewed Night’ could blaze and awaken the collective consciousness of all with its painful episodes, Rahul’s book sears and tears through the shroud that had till now ‘burqaad’ the plight of the Kashmiri Pandits and becomes a must read to get to the bottom of the Kashmir’s maze of problems and puzzles.

‘Our Moon….’ races through two decades of mayhem and also touches the landmark of Indo-Pak partition of 1947-the partition that tore apart Kashmir and Punjab, yanking and wrecking families, dividing hearts and territories, then ripping apart the fabric of composite culture and bracketing them into Hindus, Muslims, Christians and Sikhs.

Bringing to the fore the history of the evolution of this land of Rishis, Rahul has unfolded the bands of blood, in episode after episode, relating to the helplessness of Pandits who faced the recent fiery militancy in Kashmir, as also the blazing tribal attacks of 1947 engineered by Pakistan to grab Kashmir. How Pandit families had fled then, during partition from marauders who spared none, not Sikhs and not even Muslims, and in recent militancy when even friends turned foes, is heart wrenchingly narrated in the book.

But militancy of 1989 was different, it targeted a soft community and Rahul’s extensive research has bared the lies, opened the cans of truth, the same way as majority community’s story was told by Basharat in his book.

Rahul’s book could have easily got colored by lenses of ‘my side, my coin’, but many episodes mentioned in the book have already appeared in newspapers. Some merely as four liner news reports and relegated to the corners in what appeared to be a covert immunity to the plight of a minority community when roaring guns and raging gun-battles had caught the headlines.

In the entire narration there is only one instance in the entire book when I laughed unabashedly and that is Kashmiri-Hindi ‘gobar-guss’ goof-up . But then the writer too has called it laughable, despite the creepy circumstances. The writer’s brother Ravi’s killing and their ‘tippi-tippi-tap’-bosom pal brothers remind me of another set of Kashmiri brothers, when one day the elder one suddenly died in a freak accident, I know how excruciating is it to see the shouting pain in the flooded eyes over that irreparable loss, as if the forlorn eyes were speaking thus:

Badley mein koi bhi imtihaan ley le
Kahe toh meri Jaan ley le
Bas ek dafa mujhe bataa de,
Kahan tu hai, kahan hai tu.

(In exchange put me through any test.
Or even take my life
But tell me just once
Where you are, where are you?)

The author, a 37-year-old Associate Editor with Open Magazine, says –“I wanted to write this book since I entered college”. The book’s beauty is also in the inclusion of several rituals and traditions followed by Shaivites, which many of us had heard in passing as per our acquaintances, friends and relations. Specks of poetry by Agha Shahid Ali and the famous poetess Lal Ded have aptly enveloped and developed the striking situations.

Some of the most chilling and moving lines and incidents in this book are about an old Kashmiri who lies dead clutching a pack of chilled milk against his cheek- his last ice pack, to ward away the heat of the plains, unbearable for Kashmiris, who have never seen a fan in any room of their homes; the author as a 14-year old, holding a half tomato in the relief camp food distribution and recalling the times when unripe tomatoes of their vegetable garden became balls to play cricket with; the obsession with the tale of 22 room house by Rahul’s mother who is unable to come to terms with the exile.

Rahul lays bare the stark truth about vicious ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Pandits from their hearth and homes wherein not only militants from across the border but also some from the majority community in Kashmir played a cruel role out of personal grudge or by getting swayed by the hate-wave of the time. But the author has been careful in his writings not to add his own feelings to the inquiry and injury. His book is informative and thankfully devoid of chest-beating narratives.

Having met the new generation of Kashmiri Muslims, born after the exodus of Pandits, I have noticed that they have very little idea about their co-existence with Pandits or living with other communities, except in some pockets where Sikhs in a good number reside in and around the surrounding villages. This is not the only reason to have enlarged the gap between the two communities, Muslims and Pandits, but the fact that even Kashmiri Muslims hardly talk about how the Pandit exodus took place in its right perspective to their younger generation.

“In every home, someone has died; maybe he was a militant or died in an encounter, bomb blast, picked up by security forces, gone, disappeared,” says Rahul -“I remember all the names of people killed, where they were killed – it keeps playing in my head. I sleep with it at night. It’s a part of who I am now. Like the old newspaper which carries the headline of my brother Ravi’s murder.”

This book comes as a strong equalizer to the alternate tales woven around vicious militancy nurtured from across the border and atrocities attributed to security operations, the guile of some in the majority community had been carefully hidden and the real stories of exodus of Kashmiri Pandits had remained shrouded in mysteries and ever changing testimonies that bore little resemblance to reality.

Standing in the snow in Srinagar, lost in thought about those who must have played with snowballs and created snowmen, plucked the icicles hanging from their roofs through the windows, thrown them into a glass and poured sherbet on it or maybe just jutted out their tongue to lick the icicles as they remained suspended, I am about to fall. I grab to hold a nearby Deodar tree to hug it and help me break my fall in Kashmir’s snow. Rahul Pandita’s book is like an icicle that instead of giving you pleasure, pierces through your heart and leaves you bleeding forever and there are no Deodars in the story to hold on to for support.
0000
FIRST PUBLISHED IN RISING KASHMIR BY RK : http://www.risingkashmir.in/news/shades-of-kashmiracutes-red-43822.aspx

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

India has no constant policy on Kashmir: Gen (retd) VK Singh… By Rashmi Talwar /Sify


Retd COAS Gen VK Singh

Retd COAS Gen VK Singh



EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW with Gen VK Singh

India has no constant policy on Kashmir: Gen (retd) VK Singh
By Rashmi Talwar

Gen (retd) VK Singh former COAS (Chief of the Army Staff), post his retirement has chosen to come into public life . The Army Chief, had once waded through thick layers of controversies. He first came into the limelight with the confusion of his date-of-birth, then bugging allegations of defense ministry’s office, pushing the panic button on inadequate ammunition in Indian army’s arsenal and others. Now out of power, out of office, secrets are slipping from him, baggages of silence have been shed and many a behind- the- scene, brasstacks are being readily exposed.

The former army chief is trying to wean the public towards the newly formed-Jantantar Morcha (JM) of which Anna Hazare is the patron, and the former COAS Gen Singh, the chairperson. How much militaristic experience in planning, precision, implementation he brings into this civil movement through the fledgling organization that he calls apolitical, is yet to be seen.

His take on National and International issues are thus gathered by RASHMI TALWAR in an exclusive interview with the former COAS, during his Amritsar visit, to announce the flagging-off of the JM from Amritsar’s historic Jallianwala bagh on March 31.

Q. Why have you joined hands with Anna Hazare?

Ans: Because I am equally perturbed about where our country is heading. I too can contribute much to arrest the nation’s current downslide, due to corruption.

Q. Having remained a COAS what is your take on India and Pakistan?

Ans: I am for peace between India and Pakistan. I favor good neighborly relations with trade, business, commerce and other soft channels, but in no way am I in favor of Kashmir being a condition for any forward movement towards peace. Next to its obsession with Kashmir since 1947, Siachen has been the biggest bone that is stuck in Pakistan’s throat since it lost the glacier to the Indian Army in 1984.

Q. Recently former Pakistan President Gen Parvez Musharaff talked about solving the Kashmir issue by revival of the 4-point programme, what do you make of that ?

Ans: In recent times, demilitarization of Siachen is being touted as ‘the’ ultimate solution to the Kashmir problem. Do you know who all were in the 11-member Indian committee formed for Track-II diplomacy? Air Chief Marshal Shashi Tyagi , ‘Fauji’ Journalist Col Ajai Shukla. They were calling for demilitarization of Siachen Glacier in the Saltoro range. (Agitatedly), these are those people who have not visited nor have any notion of the reality of Siachen and the Indian position there. Pakistanis are on the west side of the Saltoro Range. Pakistan has a zero presence in Siachen and is fooling its people. All upper regions are under India’s control and Indian troops are well-entrenched. I wonder, if demilitarization has any scope of spreading this troop withdrawal by Pakistan, from Baltistan as also areas further in the west? Till now, there has been no move to arrive at an agreement by Pakistan to draw a ground demarcation i.e. AGPL (Actual Ground Position Line) to identify which side is where and here we are talking of demilitarization and troop withdrawal. I see no logic, it is ridiculous. In Siachen, Indian army is at an advantageous position sitting on strategic heights, why should we vacate it, for Pakistan to engineer another Kargil?

Q. It is being speculated that USA is bringing India and Pakistan closer to counter the growing power of China?

Ans: If USA is thinking that by bringing India-Pakistan together it can counter China’s growing power then US is ‘naive’. However this idea is too far-fetched. Does America not know that a country like Pakistan can do to it. How it is a complete supply chain for terrorism.


Q. And the Kashmir issue?

Ans: So far, Kashmir has served as a domestic gain for Pakistan. Kashmir is a like pinprick, albeit a large pinprick, that Pakistan uses on India when it wants or unwants something. Kashmir is merely being used by Pakistan. See how Pakistan has spent billions on its anti-India stance and jeopardized its economy. Club that with Pak’s multiple problems of Baluchistan, Quetta, Karachi, Lahore, judiciary, civil society; each of them is flaring. Pakistan army has a vested interest in keeping the turmoil along the border with India alive.

Q. What about India’s handling of Kashmir?
Ans: India’s drawback is that it has never had a constant policy on Kashmir. Its policies go up and down, governed more by political motives than by national interests.

Bad governance is the single major reason for the state of affairs in Kashmir today. Congress in coalition with present NC in J&K was PDP’s partner earlier. Look at the level of opportunism. The kind of money pumped into Kashmir, is unimaginable. As per the present regime’s record, see how the Shopian Rape case was handled, how stone pelters were handled? They had a successful Panchayat election, but do not want to empower them. How was the Amarnath issue handled? Corruption is so rampant and money hardly reaches the needy. I have been a commander, led a Battalion, a Brigade and a Division in Kashmir and I know the ground realities there.

Q. What about AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act) that gives unlimited powers to army in Kashmir without answerability or trial?

Ans: AFSPA has been deliberately ‘demonized’ to deflect attention from main issue of misgovernance by vested interests. Kashmir is a highly emotional place. In one instance a rumor in Pattan had all Shias, chest-beating without a single one of them knowing the reason for it. There are hundreds of such instances that could be cited similarly in Kashmir. It is easy to manipulate a highly biased public. More hurt is caused by distrust and suspicion. Once such rumors spread, no one is willing to listen and no one can set the record right. It’s about hyperbole and all hell breaks loose, much like a chinese whisper or a spreading wild fire. In J&K, Pakistan has unleashed a proxy war and the situation has to be tackled by the army to safeguard interests of the nation.

Q What about Afzal Guru’s hanging?

Ans: I do not wish to go into legalities of Guru’s case. But concerning the political manipulation, there is no end to it. There can’t be appeasement of any sect or have double standards.

Q As former army chief do you think Op Bluestar was the right decision?

Ans: Operation Blue Star, in 1984 to flush out militants from the Golden Temple, was a ‘hastily taken political decision. The then COAS Gen AS Vaidya was unwilling to carry it out.

It is the manner in which it was presented that made all the difference. Gen Vaidya was not in favour of it .Gen Vaidya was against the whole plan of action including the timing of it (Martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev). I was a major at the time and I know Gen Vaidya had said, “No” to army action against people belonging to the nation, but he had to follow orders.

Q Did Gen Vaidya follow orders reluctantly?

Ans: (Shrugs his shoulders!) Orders are orders! (Operation Blue Star was carried out at Golden Temple to flush out militants led by Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, holed up there, who had fortified the holy precincts. Bhindranwale was also killed during the operation by the army.)

Q. What is the plan of Anna Hazare’s Jantantar Morcha for the public?

Ans : Jantantar Morcha is an apolitical organization aimed to reach the grass roots level in villages and cities on a 25-point charter prepared by Anna Hazare .

Q. How can you clean up the filth in the well of politics if by not jumping into it? Will you support any party or individual in the political fray? What are the chances of Arvind Kejriwala’s ‘Aam Adami’(AA) party? Any hierarchy created for your JM?

Ans: We shall inform, create awareness and motivate the masses to rise in a peaceful manner to change the system. We need not be in politics to clean it up, because it is difficult to change the set of rules laid in politics for the past six decades. But yes, we will support clean individual candidates in the forthcoming elections. As far as Kejriwala’s political party is concerned, it would have a very limited success. Some of the party workers of AA met us here and are willing to support our organization to make village ‘leaders’. As of now there is no hierarchy or line of command created in the organization. We plan to take our yatra in the form of a public rally from the strongest symbol of Freedom Movement- the Jallianwala Bagh, covering most of Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Delhi . The last leg of this All India rally would be from the Punjab areas to Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pardesh besides others.

Q3. Do you think you can replicate or expect a mass movement yet again, as was seen in Jantar Mantar supporting Anna Hazare ?

Ans: People are fed up, now is the chance for the people to make their voices heard, presence felt and act as a pressure group to change the rules that have brought ruination. This mass presence, this frustration and anger with the system was recently seen in the ‘Damani Gang rape case’.

Q4. Damini’s case aroused the public anger as they identified strongly with the security of their children? How does JM plan to trigger such a movement? Is there a plan to charge the masses? It could cause a law and order problem, what then?

Ans: The boiling process has already started and we are targeting the first time voter numbering 9 crore and the 2nd time voter numbering 19 crore. Youth is where JM draws its strength. Yes, we do have a plan but I am not about to share it. It will be visible at the right hour. Our aim is to carry forward this agenda peacefully with a mass movement and we have full faith in Anna ji who will flag the Morcha from Jallianwala bagh on March 31. JM wants the 25- point charter, to be progressed in this one year. Its moot points are ‘Right to Reject’, formation of ‘Gram sabhas’ as watchdog units at village level since panchayats too have become political, Criminals be disallowed to contest any election, besides others.

Post Script: Army Chief Gen Singh who at one time was refuting allegations of phone tapping of defense ministry during his ongoing ‘date-of-birth’ related controversy alleged that his phone was tapped .

FIRST PUBLISHED IN SIFY.COM at : http://www.sify.com/news/interview-vk-singh-on-anna-movement-kashmir-s-problems-and-afspa-news-national-ndfnvcajdei.html

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

Jammu’s ‘Youngistan’ Enthralls Amritsar….. By Rashmi Talwar


Play: Do Kodi Ka Khel

Play: Do Kodi Ka Khel


THEATER REVIEW

THEATER REVIEW

Jammu’s ‘Youngistan’ Enthralls Amritsar

By Rashmi Talwar
Jammu & Kashmir’s young and only woman director-actor Ifra Kak’s maiden production ‘Do Kodi Ka Khel’ lays bare the convoluted world of corruption. An adaptation by Jammu’s Amateur Theatre Group, the production is based upon Bertolt Brecht’s famous play “Three Penny Opera” with its Hindustani adaptation by Parimal Dutta.
At the “10th National Theatre Festival” at Punjab Naatshala, in Amritsar, commemorating “100 Birth Anniversary of Saadat Hassan Manto” this year, this ‘youngistan’ production played by 15 young boys and girls from militancy infested and remote areas of Jammu and Kashmir, synergize the play, whose plot revolves around a beggar bunch and a dacoit’s gang both of which flourish ‘unabashedly’ under the protective patronage of the local police.
The actors are playing archetypes from popular culture. The leader of the beggars- Narhari Poddar, is a jumpy character, full of ideas to change the failing beggar business and convert his gang into a fake freedom fighters bunch, only to find that his vivacious wife, high on drugs, is unconcerned about their only daughter Phoolan Rani, who goes on to marry a promiscuous dacoit Bhayanak Singh.
What follows is rigmarole of changing colors of the police in a series of comic situations made brighter by the character of Police Inspector -Patti Pandey, played by Pankaj Sharma. Overall, Pandey is symbolically and reality-wise, the best framed character of the production. Wearing a cervical neck collar, his lopsided gait and mannerisms are interesting to watch.
The play was brilliantly executed, using the ‘epic’ style of theatre wherein an actor comes out of its character and jumps back into it. “At specific moments the acting crosses over into a parody of melodrama”, contends its director. The high energy levels, clarity of thought, simple narrative, using rhyming dialogues adds to the thrill of unfolding events and puts them in definite focus, leaving an impactful, thought-provoking message in its conclusion.
Bits of humour add spice to the goings-on in the play. The character of Narhari Poddar, played by a reed-thin actor Sourav Sharma, adds much fun to the streaks of comic relief with his break-dance routine and pelvic thrusts on music and songs of Bollywood.
His drugged wife Manmohini played by Delight William is sheer delight to watch as her mood swings of highs and lows catches one off-guard with her edgy slip of tongue . Ayaan Ali, as Bhayanak Singh dacoit, with his gang is impressive, not in the conventional vision of a ‘daaku’ but as flippy character who often speaks to the audience about their silence, their mute acceptance of corruption just as a daily domestic chore and arouses them not to remain mere spectators. Ifra, the director of the performance also an actor playing the character of Phoolan as a precocious child, is a bundle of laughter, lively with her childish antics and logic. The acting was deliberately loud and exaggerated, giving glimpses of ‘Bhand Pather’- the traditional folk theatre of Jammu & Kashmir.

The costumes and hairstyle of characters appeared to have got much attention from costume designer Delight, Shaheen and makeup artist Manoj Dhamir.

While the set was simple with merely two-three props of a table-chair and a death noose, the lighting was used brilliantly. Other than some gaps, when the stage was left empty, the production was endearing and smooth. Overall, it was an endearing performance of a timeless play that will be remembered by the audiences of Amritsar for a long time.

FIRST PUBLISHED IN RISING KASHMIR ON DEC-19,2012
URL:http://www.risingkashmir.in/news/jammus-youngistan-enthrals-amritsar-38474.aspx

Ifra Kak :Theater can be Therapeutic …By Rashmi Talwar


ifra article RK

Ifra Kak :Theater can be Therapeutic …By Rashmi Talwar

Ifra Kak, naturally took to the ‘waters’ of the theatre-world with an ease, that is inborn. A Masters degree holder in Performing Arts (Theatre), from Hyderabad Central University, she has acted in a number of plays and has now emerged as the first woman director, in the vast repertoire of Jammu and Kashmir’s vibrant theatre scene. It is perhaps no mean achievement for a young woman, that too in a male dominated society of her home turf and irrespective of the spate of turmoil in Jammu and Kashmir, that took most of her teenage and formative years, this 26-year old theatre professional, continued to traverse her chosen paths to follow her inherent passion for theatre productions.
In her candid talk with RASHMI TALWAR, Irfa talks about her achievements, her challenges ahead and how she is ready to go the extra mile, to become a name in the International theatre scene.

Q1: Ifra, you have been awarded by JKFMAC (Jammu &Kashmir Film Makers &Artists Cooperative) as the first woman director theatre director of the State of Jammu &Kashmir, what next?

Ans 1: Awards are an acknowledgement of one’s work. But they give one more responsibility to prove again and again that one had deserved it. By no means have I felt that an award is going to make me slack and rest on my laurels, instead, I would like to work doubly hard. I have made my way to the prestigious ‘International Performance Research Programme’ at University of Warwick, UK and I am the first ever woman from Jammu &Kashmir to be selected for such a programme. My dream is to bring my work to the level of International Theatre and to be reckoned in my field. My father Mushtaq Kak is already a noted name in theatre circles worldwide. Considering that aspect, I feel fortunate. But I want to travel my paths on my own merit.

Q2: What are your current projects, do they involve the Kashmir situation?

Ans 2: Presently, I am working on two theatre projects Ariel Dorfman’s “Widows” and a concept performance of “Sordid Tales of Suffering” based on Euripides’ “Trojan Women”. I consistently try to motivate Kashmiri women to participate in theatre and focusing on this aspect, I also conduct theatre workshops for them in Jammu & Kashmir. I am particularly perturbed over the plight of ‘Half Widows in Kashmir’. “Sordid Tales..” – is a concept performance on the atrocities on women in Kashmir. Apart from that, I have done the dramatization of Lydia Avilov’s autobiography “Chekhov in my life” which ‘ was awarded ‘Mahindra Excellence Award’ and was recognized as Best of the Year, production by Sahitya Kala Parishad, New Delhi.

Q3: Do you think theatre can be therapeutic, have you given this aspect a try? How was your experience?

Ans 3: Yes, theatre as an art form can be therapeutic. For this, I had done a fortnight long, spot devised project of a theatre workshop with the inmates of ‘Kot Bhalwal Central jail’ Jammu & Kashmir, which is one of the most sensitive jails of the country. I was the first person of J&K to take that step. It was an experience of a lifetime. I saw inmates from many countries there including from Pakistan and Afghanistan. An unnatural environment of confinement naturally evolves unnatural behavioural patterns of being disturbed, in depression, low self esteem, aggression, silent or rigid.
Someone told me at the outset of the workshop, that Azhar Masud – hardcore terrorist, exchanged for release of passengers of flight IC-814 in 1999 had been housed here. It gave me goose-pimples but after that I concentrated on my task of relieving some of the pent up emotions of many of these hapless prisoners who were remorseful and longed for freedom. The medium of theatre helped them. I particularly remember a young boy who had accidentally committed a murder and for days he did not speak while we conducted the workshop. Then about a week later, his eyes shone, his silence broke and he voluntarily came forward to participate and derive joy from acting. This gave me a big sense of achievement.
Besides this I have also worked with the orphans of Rainbow Home, Hyderabad and Deaf and Dumb children of Ahuti Centre, Hyderabad with good results.

Q4: Have you also been able to widen your creative dimensions through world theatre?

Ans 4: I was fortunate to participate in twelve (12) major workshops in the field of theatre, both before and during my university education. These include -Children’s Theatre Workshop- Dr Sudhir Mahajan, Forum Theatre Workshop-Sruthi Bala (London) -, Scenography Workshop- Deepan Sivaraman (London & India)-, Theatre Management Workshop- Kunt (Norway), Theatre Design Workshop-David Whittan ( Secretary General, IFTR, England)- 2010, Invisible theatre Workshop- Devendra Nath Sankaranarayan; Scenography Workshop- Robin Das (NSD); Acting Workshop- Douglas-Complicite (London)-2010, Community Theatre- Ola Johanson-Switzerland-2010, Advanced Scenography Workshop- Deepan Sivaraman (London& India), Forum Theatre Workshop- Mark- USA-2010, Acting Workshop- Rajesh Tailang- besides various workshops of National School of Drama . I participated in the Bharat Rang Mahotsav which is the biggest International Theatre Festival, conducted by the NSD and also got the opportunity to act in the plays directed by many eminent directors, not only on my home turf , but also outside. Apart from this photography is my other companion.

Q5: Can you name some of the plays that you acted in?

Ans 5: As a child artist I worked in various serials of Doordarshan such as “Habba Khatoon”, “Shikast”, “amma”, “Aastha”, “Rasoolmeer” and others. I have also acted in nearly 14 plays some of which are Mother’s Courage – Sreejith Ramanan; Satya Harischandra – Supriya Shukla; Iphigenia – Satya Brat Rout; Dooth Ghadotkach – Bhoomikeswar Singh; Reflection – Noushad Mohd; Alberts’s Bridge – Mohan Maharshi; “Jameela” – Gargi (NSD); “Accidental Death of an Anarchist- Vijay Kapoor ;’Kanjoos’-play-Neeraj Kant-; and two solo performances in ‘Mantri ji ki Moochh’ and ‘Ram Khilawan’

Q6: How does it feel to work in a man’s world especially in Jammu and Kashmir where ideas of women working in theatre are still very orthodox?

Ans 6: Frankly, it is very difficult. It is very difficult to get a female cast for my plays. I try to motivate women in theatre, not only as a means to creativity but also as an alternate way of livelihood, but the conservative string plays a spoilsport. However, I am not about to give up and shall keep trying to inspire and motivate them.


FIRST PUBLISHED IN ‘RISING KASHMIR’ ON December 15, 2012
http://epaper.risingkashmir.com/15122012/default.asp

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

Between the Devil and the Deep sea …… By Rashmi Talwar


Caught Between the Devil and the Deep sea[/caption]

I agree with Mr Shujaat Bukhari on the role of the media in Kashmir during the conflict that started in 1989 onward.
It is also true that many newspapers emerged during that time as the writer points out ” from eight to 800″. The media in Kashmir unfortunately was caught between the devil and the deep sea. Also many sane voices who had a vision of Kashmir’s dangerous paths and liaisons were smothered, and a popular sentiment took over and was intensified by the culture of the gun.
When Pakistan as a country was being doled out aid by US and other countries during the Afghan occupation by USSR , it looked flushed with joy ! A joyous time — accrued out of money that poured by Foreign lands ! and Kashmiris felt one with them, owing to religiosity, culture etc but when it was seen that the stoking country Pakistan was turning into a failed state , some of the hawks and hardliners changed their lingo to ‘Azaadi’ or Freedom for Kashmir.

Why didn’t they think of Freedom for Greater Kashmir including the areas in India as also occupied by Pakistan or China?

In my opinion no solution can be solved by the gun, many like me too vouch for that.

After having stoked fires of hatred and communalism in Punjab , Pakistan had tried its utmost to get a separate Punjab by the name of Khalistan and thus cut off the main route to Kashmir through Punjab from the rest of India.

I know the price Punjabis paid in blood and lives in Punjab during the mid seventies and thereafter till 1989 . However the Roti -beti ka rishta (the relations based on sharing food and giving or taking a daughter in marriage between the two communities of Hindus and Sikhs) finally prevailed to save the situation. It is not merely that the people came to their senses one-fine-day. A heavy hand was used and many lost their near and dear ones and our Golden Temple saw the ignominy as a mute spectator to its devastation and desecration ..
Discrimination prevailed for the entire community for the fault of a few. Many sikhs were blacklisted in foreign countries too and are still in the same category.

Coming back to the role of Media then, in Punjab …. the newspapers made it a point to be inclusive of saner voices alongside the separatist ones. Many sane sikhs stood out against these daily attacks. Media-persons faced the same fear of the gun of a terrorist or of a policemen, lingering over their heads as of journalists in Kashmir.
Many media persons were sacrificed for speaking in favor of terrorists or against them , between the two warring sides.
However in Kashmir the situation aggravates as along with being a Kashmiri the dominant community there has been unfortunately been labelled according to the world situation on religious lines. The Kashmiri Journalist therefore has to take a double blow.
It is like in a family situation “When a father , mother , son or daughter commits a crime the whole family faces the brunt

I feel Good Newspapers must be encouraged by Govt but in turn these papers must also bring in saner voices to sound balanced and guide the people to prosperity , progress and peace, but most of them err on this aspect instead flying on the wave of sensationalism just like the many TV channels these days . Media has to act responsibly and ”seen” to be acting that way by the general public .. otherwise media cannot blame the public for forming opinions in which public blames the media for stirring the public in ungainly directions . … Dear Writer this is only my Humble opinion … rashmitalwarno1@gmail.com

FIRST PUBLISHED IN ‘RISING KASHMIR’ ON JUNE 25, 2012, AS FEEDBACK ON OPINION PAGE ON STORY “HOW GREEN IS THE VALLEY?”