Posts Tagged ‘Rising Kashmir’

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


snapshot IndoPak PMs meet jan2016.JPGIndia-Pak Meet

And then they came ….

Rashmi Talwar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The writer can be reached at rashmitalwarno1@gmail.com

URL:http://risingkashmir.com/article/and-then-they-came-/

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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.
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FIRST PUBLISHED IN RISING KASHMIR BY RK : http://www.risingkashmir.in/news/shades-of-kashmiracutes-red-43822.aspx

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

How the Rajoana hanging was torpedoed ?—— By Rashmi Talwar RK


Secret Hangings

Original Heading – ‘Secret Hanging’- a new political tool?
By Rashmi Talwar

How the Rajoana hanging was torpedoed ?—— By Rashmi Talwar RK

Has the ruling government at the center found a new tool in ‘secret hanging’ to wrench the power of political manipulations for its exclusive use? This question has been uppermost in the minds of political parties, especially regional ones whose role has suddenly been eroded in the power-plays.

In the past, these very parties had employed sharp tactics of ‘arouse-n-appease’ their publics for vote bank politics, whenever dates of hanging of convicts were announced. Similar political tactics have been seen to be used blatantly by successive union governments by manipulating CBI case hearings, case announcements, judgments or even new cases openings, to puncture the opponent’s rising influence, especially as a diversionary tactics or in some cases ‘just to put the opponent in their place’.

Take the case of, Balwant Singh Rajoana, the assassin of former Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh, who was to be hanged on May 31, 2012. Three days prior to carrying out the death sentence, a clemency plea in favour of the convict, no-less, than by the present Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, was admitted by President Pratibha Patil, who returned it to Ministry of Home Affairs to further review the case and saved him. The Rajoana case was ‘stayed’. In other words it was the victory of a regional political party, Shiromani Akali Dal led by Badal, who emerged as a saviour for an assassin, convicted of killing Beant Singh- a ‘Congress’ Chief Minister.

In August 2011, when Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalitha moved the resolution in the state assembly to commute the death sentence of former Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi’s assassins- she used the arouse-n-appease tactic to save Santhan, Perarivalan and Murugan the killers, citing the sentiments of Tamils.

No sooner had Jayalalitha’s plea for mercy been broadcast, a simmering Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah angrily tweeted that ‘if Jammu & Kashmir made such a mercy plea for Afzal Guru- a convict in the Parliament Attack (a Kashmiri), then the public reaction would have not been so subdued’. He even went ahead and queried that if other states were throwing their weight behind Rajiv’s assassins, Beant’s assassins and mass murderers, why was it wrong to ask for clemency for a Kashmiri Afzal Guru.

The clemency pleas of Rajiv’s assassins, Rajoana and Davinder Pal Bhullar, spiralled into issues of sharply divided opinions, arousing passions and subsequently opportunism in political parties. The field was open for all political parties, especially regional parties, to politically manipulate the situation by arousing local passions and finally stepping in to save the state subject. Thus, gaining popular support for this supposed ‘gallantry’.

On the one side it was seen as a virtual ‘defeat’ for the ruling party at the centre in such scenarios. In a quick swoop, the supporting (regional) parties showed the central government as a cruel ‘imposing authority’. On another side, these very parties were successful in making the convict appear as a forthcoming martyr or hero for its community as the state chief ministers came out openly in their support.

Defeating such ploys of state governments, the first secret hanging in recent times came of Ajmal Kasab, the lone surviving assassin of 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks. Although, in Kasab’s case the state governments had limited role to play in view of the fact that he was a Pakistani national, this was probably an experiment by the central government in deriving political mileage out of such ‘secret hangings’. This hanging was seen by all, as resurrecting the sagging image of Congress that was viewed as ‘weak’ owing to slow or delayed reaction on vital issues of major public sentiment and interest. Enthused by the positive feedback generated Kasab’s ‘secret hanging’, the central government was now ready for the second such experiment, this time around with an additional advantage of taking the wind out of sails of the regional satraps.

This time it seems to be Union Home Minister, Sushil Kumar Shinde’s loose statement had antagonized the majority community. A senior political analyst sees it as -“It may appear to be farcical but the statement made by our Home Minister wherein he said that ‘training camps of both BJP and RSS are promoting Hindu terrorism’ may have proved to be the proverbial last nail in Afzal Guru’s coffin”.

While Kashmir flared up post Afzal Guru’s hanging, the senior political analyst, equally upset with the manipulations of the union government, made the picture clearer, he said – “Shinde’s remark, coupled with the fact that the Congress party is popularly perceived to be minority appeaser, had obvious negative fallout. The Congress poll pundits viewed Shinde’s outspokenness as a ‘verbal bomb’ that had antagonized the majority community and results of this blunder would surely emerge in the forthcoming elections in 2014.”

He further analyzed– “Whatever the ruling Congress party may do to woo the minorities, no political party in India can afford to win the parliamentary elections without a strong support base in the majority community. Hence, as a damage control exercise, as also to dodge a belligerent Narendra Modi- a projected candidate for PM and a three time CM of Gujarat- who is breathing down their necks, Afzal Guru had to go”.

Otherwise why is it that convicts before Afzal Guru like Balwant Singh Rajoana, convicted for killing Punjab chief minister Beant Singh in 1995, Devinder Pal Bhullar, another sikh extremist on death row for killing nine persons in a 1993 car blast case, Murugan, Perarivalan and Santhan – convicted in the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi-are still alive and Afzal Guru is hanged?

In the case of Afzal Guru, senior political analysts have castigated Omar Abdullah for speaking about the negative fallout of the hanging. Prabhu Chawla, the editorial director of The New Indian Express and The Sunday Standard asked –‘Why is young and bright Omar Abdullah taking up the issue of Afzal Guru. Didn’t Guru attack India of which J&K is an integral part?’ Akhilesh Mishra, a right wing activist contends about Omar’s stand that – “By publicly saying that a new generation of Kashmiris might be driven towards separatism, Omar Abdullah is actually seeding the idea himself.” What they probably have missed out though is that Omar Abdullah’s ire may actually be expression of the frustration of a regional political party (NC) against the central government (UPA) for maneuvering such cases to their own political advantage.

In this entire scenario, it is sad to see this disgraceful trend, in which the ruling party at the centre on one side and state governments on the other have jumped on to a populist bandwagon of either hanging or defending hardcore convicts on partisan lines of community or caste or region, only for vote bank politics! Whichever side gains advantage in this sad game of one-upmanship, it is the nation that loses in all circumstances.

FIRST PUBLISHED IN RISING KASHMIR –

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


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

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

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

Two Mothers reunite a son to a Pakistani Mother


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

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

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

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

FIRST PUBLISHED IN RISING KASHMIR

Peace Pangs and Pain of Partition, Candle Lit Freedom at Midnight ———– By Rashmi Talwar


Candle Lit Vigil on Indo Pak /Wagah Attari /Border in Amritsar -2012


RISING KASHMIR FRONT PAGE – 17 AUG 2012 Indo Pak Candle Lit Vigil /Wagah Attari /Amritsar –


Peace Pangs and Pain of Partition, Candle Lit Freedom at Midnight ———– By Rashmi Talwar
On the Midnight of August 14-15, a candle in hand, I walk with peaceniks, to Wagah-Attari Indo-Pak Joint check post in Amritsar. The tearing border of yore, on this particular day, is beauteously bridal showered.

Dark trees, shrubs draped in twinkling drops of fairy lights and strings of glitzy flags, transform the stringent security postures and the night’s gloom into a bejeweled bride, festooned for the Independence Day Celebrations of India and Pakistan- the two countries who had chosen to separate but cannot wish away their umbical cord or get over their shared history.

Like a wedding shagun, a basket of fruits and sweets arrive from Pakistan to India and the gesture is reciprocated the next morning by India to Pak.

It is the 17th year by Peace activists as well as organizations ‘Folklore Research Academy’ (FRA), ‘Hind Pak Dosti Manch’ , ‘Punjab Jagriti Manch’, that conceived the idea of Candle lit Vigil annually on this momentous occasion of Freedom, at a time when one country’s dusk coincided with dawn of the other.

Lighting candles had come as a symbolic gesture of peace between two clanking forbidding Gates – an unspoken barrier of no trespass! That open every morning and close by sunset.

The idea of candle lit vigil was infact a simplistic emotional call for friendship, sharing pains of separation, longing hearts and prayer for harmony on the midnight of Freedom. It started as a friendship mela at Wagah, in memory of Raja Porus a common hero for denizens of both countries.

I reached a little early, giving me the luxury of retrospect. Gaping at the peeking moon, beaming in its full circular glory, through diaphanous clouds, it made me wonder if there shone a moon on those sultry, bloody August nights of 1947. The nights of stealth, loot, rape, fear, blood screams and surrenders to the greatest inhumanity to shake the Earth, leaving millions homeless, naked and paupered.

I wondered was this, one of the routes traversed by those loaded bullock carts, donkeys, sheep and goats and teeming millions, household buckets brimful with oddities, weary animals, to have written their footsteps in blood, crossing the Cyril Radcliff line.

“Did they fold their hands in prayer looking at the sky for a savior or in thanksgiving, for being alive?” Starving, in tatters, lost and bewildered as to what this meant for their future.

The cities, towns and villages quivering at their changed destinies, shuffled like a pack of cards, by a single stroke of a pen, of the reigning regime of the English; fearful of the bottomless pits of depravity by human-turned animals.

I looked askance at the trees, “Why did you stand as mute spectators to the bloodshed of innocents waylaid by mobs, blood curdling screams of many a fair maiden carried away in a frenzy of lust and fury?”

I had heard of many a head of the family’s frozen turbulence, in putting their girls and woman on the sacrificial altar, cutting their heads with a swift stroke of a sword and the bloodied heads, rolling onto male feet. Brave some women stood with chilled faces witnessing the, ‘nanga nachch of vaishiyaat’ (naked dance of death)…

I stilled these stirrings….

Tonight was different, guards had been raised, and BSF personnel guarded at every 50 steps.
A threatening barbed wire fence loomed in the darkness but faces glowed in shimmering fairy lights.
I saw, people had changed !
Perhaps, the wounds healed and generations that faced it all, turned greyer and wiser. “Hatred divides and Peace Unites; There was no third path !”
The call from Indians this time too was answered with solidarity and support from Pakistan’s peaceniks of SAFMA (South Asian Free Media Association). A call for harmony, peace, mutual coexistence, for progress and prosperity through enhanced trade, visitations, easings, release of prisoners on either sides.
Now an annual feature, the candle-lit vigil first started as a trickle say FRA’s leading names Ramesh Yadav and Talwinder Singh; with the first breakthrough of poetical symposium at Wagah Indo-Pak border by Kendri Punjabi Lekhak Sabha in 1993.
Down the years the innocent blaze of candle lights contributed to awaken the political authorities from their self-imposed slumber.
The flag of peace taken forward this time did not include celebrities. Mahesh Bhatt, Tara Gandhi- Mahatma Gandhi’s granddaughter and journalist Kuldip Nayyar were conspicuous by their absence while the cultural programme on the stage too was taken over not by the likes of established singers Harbhajan Mann or Hans Raj Hans, but by blooming youthful singers -Jyoti and Sultana the teenage Noora Sisters of Coke studio fame who unleashed sufi Punjabi music,, bonding the gathering of multitudes that trickled in from border villagers. The crowds swung into a frenzy of music, Bhangra and Buraaah !

Singers Nachattar Gill , Firoz Khan—who sang –‘Sadi Zindagi ch khaas teri thaa, Sochi na tenu dilon kadd ta ..(You have a special place in my heart, think not that my heart has abandoned you ) or “Ravi puchey Chenaab toh , Ki haal hai Satluj da ..” (River Ravi asks river Chenab in Jammu &Kashmir, how is river Satluj -Punjab being the land of five rivers –Panj-five, aab-water ) addressing the Indo Pak separation.

Pak women journalists, an MNA –Member of the National assembly –Tahmina Daultana, Faiza Ahmed Malik –Member state assembly, Awais Sheikh- counsel for Indian prisoners in Pakistan, besides mediapersons made up a medley crowd of representations from Pakistan who stood on the Indian side of the border hand in hand with Indians.

On the stage Raga Boyz –a three member band of brothers and sons of Ustad Hamid Ali Khan –Pak’s Gazal Maestro, drummed out the famed trespasses of naughty ‘Jugni’- the cult female folklore figure , brave and rebellious, bellowing out her antics, to the huge crowd who joined in from adjoining border villages.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s congratulatory note was read. “But what good is word oral or written if changes do not take place on the ground” contended Satnam Manak spearheading the Peace march.

Kargil war in 1999, viewed as a back stabbing operation by Pak , served as a bolt from the blue, for the efforts of peace, close on the heels of the CBM euphoria over improving Indo Pak relations, but peaceniks never gave up .
In its 66th year of Independence, and 17 years of ‘candle lit vigil’ this is only the 5th time that peaceniks from Pakistan were allowed to come near the gate to give momentum to the movement of peace.

And the jubilation turned infections when India’s candles glowed and were waved while Pakistanis took more liberties and stuck the candles in the niches that make up Pakistan’s side of the metal border gate. They even mounted upon the gates, peeking through and singing songs while the Pak Rangers and Border Security Force personnel in India smiled and laughed at their antics indulgently.

Songs of ‘Tere Mere geetan pyaar da Pul bandhna, Iss kaandiyali Tarr ne ek din Phul banna …’ (Our songs shall one day become a bridge, ..this barbed wire shall one day turn into a flower..). singing ‘Heer’- another common legend of love, turned crowds to thump a -bhangra in euphoria.
A 40 member Peacenik delegation from Pakistan and the Indian Peace organizations jointly highlighted the commonalities of Punjabis beyond the dividing line. Making fervent appeals to both nations to shed differences and grant visa-less travel to senior citizens, for a year, especially those who had suffered the pain of the partition.
The call did not end here. It called for visa less travel for under 12 year olds. The idea was brilliant. In other words it called for a grandparent to take their grandchildren to the land of their forefathers and forge a feeling of love amongst those who have no clue about the reasons of enmity, stoked by vested interests whose lifeline lay in continued hostilities.
They called for cutting of expense on weapons and alleviating causes to eradicate poverty, illiteracy, creating better civic infrastructure.
For “setting up visa counters at JCP on both sides to facilitate more travel.” This meant more people to people contact and a chance to remove long festered misgivings and doubts. And to resolve the Kashmir issue amicably.

Unlike Kashmir that still has its Bloodlines intact post partition, Punjab was brutally amputated and separated from the other Punjab.

Just after the candles were lit and had played their part, a rain shower washed the entire dirt floating in the air to bring winds of change for this land of hope. I again stole a glance at the moon that emerged through the spent clouds, its baby face shone more glorious and I prayed it would banish this darkness of hatred forever.
URL of story :http://www.risingkashmir.in/news/peace-pangs-and-pain-of-partition-31716.aspx
FIRST PUBLISHED IN RISING KASHMIR ON FRONT PAGE DATED 17 AUGUST 2012

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