The Kashmir

October 22, 2012

Okus Bokus – The origin of the melodious lullaby

Filed under: Kashmir, Kashmiri Pandits — Tags: , , , — TheKashmir @ 5:30 am

The new commercial of ICICI Bank has received tremendous response and many have been left wondering what does the lyrics mean .

Okus Bokus is actually a Kashmiri Lullaby . The word Okus Bokus over the centuries got corrupted from Hukus Bukus which means who is he and who is me OR Tchekus BeKus again maining who are you and who are me .

The translation is done here .

Tse Kus Be Kus Teli Wan su Kus
Who are you and who am I then tell us who is he the creator that permeates through both you and I

Moh Batuk Logum Deg
Each day I feed my senses/body with the food of worldly attachment and material love (Moh = attachment)

Shwas Khich Khich Wang-mayam
For when the breath that I take in reaches the point of complete purification (Shwas = Breath)

Bhruman daras Poyun chokum
It feels like my mind is bathing in the water of divine love (Bhruman = nerve center in the human brain, poyun = water)

Tekis Takya bane Tyuk
Then I know I am like that sandal wood which is pasted for divine fragrance symbolic of universal divinity. I realize that I am, indeed, divine (Tyuk = Tika applied on the forehead)

The message of this poem is rooted in Kashmiri spiritual tradition. The poem itself is ageless. Some say it came up during Lal Ded’s time, other’s say it dates back to the origin of Kashmir and Kashmiri culture itself. The poem, in later years, was made a song for children. For years it served as a poetic medium to pass down the essence of Kashmiri culture to little ones.

It is said that the tones produced by the arrangement of words in this poem as well as its rhythm has a calming effect for infants and toddlers of all times

Here is the ICIC jingle of Okus Bokus

And here is famous Kashmiri Singer , Kailash Mehra , singing Okus Bokus for Kashmiri Pandit diaspora in USA

Mr Anil Mattoo explaining the same , somewhere in USA

March 11, 2012

PANUN KASHMIR , A POSSIBILITY OR A PIPE DREAM | #Kashmir

Filed under: Kashmir — Tags: , , — TheKashmir @ 10:21 am

FOR THE DOUBTING THOMASES

PANUN KASHMIR , A POSSIBILITY OR A PIPE DREAM

Preface to the Paper: On the onset of Islamic Insurgency in the mountainous State of Jammu and Kashmir in the year 1989-90 a small but significant ethnic minority called Kashmiri Pandits were forced to leave their homes. Though estimates vary on the number of those who were forced to leave Kashmir valley in the winter of 1989-90, it is broadly believed, on the basis of various figures available with the government, that a total of 56000 plus families forcibly migrated to the plains of India. The exodus which followed a spate of killings and vandalisation /burning of Pandit houses and places of religious worship was described by the NHRC or the National Human Rights Commission as “akin to genocide”.

As a response to the ethnic cleansing, a frontline organisation of Kashmiri Pandits called the Panun Kashmir (Our Kashmir) demanded the following:

  • The establishment of  a  separate homeland  for Kashmiri Hindus in the Kashmir Valley, comprising the regions of the valley to the East and North of river Jehlum;
  • That the constitution of India be applied in letter and spirit in the homeland in order to ensure  right to life, liberty, freedom of expression, faith, equality and rule of law;
  • That their homeland be placed under central administration with a Union Territory Status till it evolves its own economic and political infrastructure;
  • That all the seven lakh Kashmiri Hindus, which includes those who have been driven out of Kashmir in the past and yearn to return to their homeland and those who were forced to leave on  account of  the terrorist  violence in  Kashmir, be settled  in the homeland  on  equitable  basis  with  dignity and honour.

 

Various “un-constitutional experts” whom we shall call “Doubting Thomases” here have from time to time raised the issue of the homeland (UT Of Panun Kashmir) being a constitutional & political impossibility.

Thus in this paper we will try and look at the reorganisation of States in India and what factors caused the reorganisation, whether re-organisation of territories can happen on the basis of ethnicity and thus address the issue of whether the proposed Union Territory of Panun Kashmir is constitutionally and politically possible or not.

I therefore submit my hypothesis as under:

There is nothing that prevents the formation of a Union Territory of Panun Kashmir, either under the Indian Constitution or the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir. It will thus be a question of the will & determination of the Panun Kashmir organisation to determine the result of the Union Territory of  Panun Kashmir.

History of Reorganisation of States in India:

India was an amalgamation of more than 600 princely States at the time of British Raj. Upon the dawn of Independence in South Asia the Hindu Majority Areas became India while the Muslim majority became Pakistan. When the Constitution came into force on January 26, 1950, India became a union of states with extensive autonomy and some states  administered by the central government. Under the Constitution, there were three kinds of states — nine Part A states, eight Part B states and 10 Part C states. Part A states were former governors’ provinces in British India — Assam, Bengal, Bihar, Bombay, Madras, Orissa, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. Part B states were the former princely states such as Hyderabad, Saurashtra, Mysore, Travancore-Cochin, Madhya Bharat, Vindhya Pradesh, Patiala & East Punjab States Union and Rajasthan. Part C states included a few princely states as well as former provinces governed by chief commissioners such as Kutch, Himachal Pradesh, Coorg, Manipur, Tripura and so on. J&K was granted special status (under article 370 ) as a result of its merger into the Indian State upon being attacked by Pakistani Trained Tribals.

How one man’s sacrifice changed the course of the State Reorganization:

The winter of 1952 could be termed as a watershed in the reorganization of the Indian States. A petite Gandhian Potti Sriramulu fasted for 56 days and died while fasting. His death unleashed a huge wave of protests not just in Madras where he fasted for the statehood of Andhra Pradesh but all over South India. All through his period of fasting Nehru, the left leaning moderate first Prime Minister of India, maintained a stony silence and made no efforts to save the dying man. But that’s for another day. What it however did was that it forced Nehru into announcing a separate statehood for Andhra Pradesh , just three days after Sriramulu’s death.

Jawaharlal Nehru was left with no option but to appoint a State Organization Commission for creation of States on the basis of linguistic similarities. The State Reorganisation Act came into effect from 1st of Nov,1956. Simultaneously an amendment was made to the constitution which is the now the famous Seventh Amendment. The distinction between Part A and Part B states was removed, which were now known simply as “states”. A new type of entity, the union territory, replaced the classification as a Part C or Part D state.

But this was not the end of the reorganization of the states but just the beginning.

It is very important to understand the logic behind the formation of the new states and union territories in order to know whether the proposed Union Territory is possible or not. We shall in this light examine how we arrived at the present 28 states and 7 union territories and as a case we shall study the reorganisation of the Punjab (which was not done on the basis of linguistics) and North East (where states were created on the basis of ethnicity) and take Mizoram as a case study(where a single hill district attained statehood).

India has witnessed three main reorganizations, the first which we have already mentioned above, in 1956, the second in late 1960’s (when Punjab was Split) and 1970’s when the northeast was split up and several new states were created following the formation of the State of Nagaland and the third in 2000 when the states of Jharkhand, Uttarakhand and Chattisgarh were created. So as we can see the formation of the states has been a continuous process with new states and union territories being created from time to time in the Federal Structure of India.

Before we move to the process of creating new States or Union Territories and the constitutional jargon, which incidentally isn’t much, let us study what caused these states to come to fore. Once the principle of linguistic states had been accepted it was only a matter of time that other considerations such as ethnicity would come to fore as a reason for formation of new territories and that is why precisely what happened. In the first reorganization of states Punjab was not touched. It remained as a whole comprising of the former princely state of Himachal Pradesh, the now Haryana and the present day Punjab. The Akaali Dal which was a minority in the erstwhile united Punjab launched an agitation to carve out a Punjabi Suba. There was a lot of Politics behind this, the details of which may only lengthen this paper but it would suffice to say that a mask of language was put on what was purely an ethnic identity question or state or one can even say a matter of religious identity. The Akali Dal manifesto to the SRC declares that, “The true test of democracy, in the opinion of the Shiromani Akali Dal, is that the minorities should feel that they are really free and equal partners in the destiny of their country…to bring home a sense of freedom to the Sikhs, it is vital that there should be a Punjabi speaking language and culture. The Shiromani Akali Dal has reason to believe that a Punjabi-speaking province may give the Sikhs the needful security.”

Read again…give Sikhs the needful security

The manifesto makes no bones about the real reason for the demand for formation of a new state .But as one would imagine that it would be an anathema to Nehru as it would be to a lot of so called moderates like our doubting Thomas. The manifesto is abundantly clear as to why the Sikhs and not Punjabis want a new State. Even today most of the low lying hilly areas of Himachal Pradesh have linguistic and cultural similarities with Punjabis, far greater than they have with people living up in the mountains whose language also borrows most of its syntax and word bank from the Punjabi language.

Eventually in the September of 1966 the demand for a Punjabi Suba was accepted and the state was trifurcated when it could simply have been bifurcated because no one else asked for a separate state. The basis given for trifurcation by the Shastri government (Nehru had passed away by then) was that people who speak a derivative of the Braj Bhasha would have a separate state of Haryana and the ones who spoke Pahari or Kangri would be merged with Himachal Pardesh. The government wanted a façade of the linguistically organized state to remain though it was very clear as to why the State of Punjab was created. What this reorganization did was that Sikhs became a majority in the new Punjabi Suba or Punjab as it is called. It is particular importance to this paper that there were no deaths during this agitation although a huge number of people did go to jails.

Now let us move to the more difficult area of North East where reorganization of the Seven Sisters from the unwanted mother Assam, who eventually became a sister herself, took place purely on the basis of preservation of the distinct ethnic character of each of the tribes.

The regional composition of the North East at the time of independence consisted of the Assam plains of the old Assam Province, the hill districts, the North Eastern Frontier tracts (NEFT) of the North Eastern borderland, and the princely states of Manipur and Tripura, both of which opted for merger with India in 1949.As for administrative changes in the wake of the transfer of power on 15th August, the administrative jurisdiction of the excluded and partially excluded areas in the hills of Assam was transferred to the government of Assam which acted on behalf of the Government of India.

The Constitution promulgated in 1950 contained a special provision in the form of the Sixth Schedule for the administration of “tribal” areas that were meant to protect the tribal people who were living scattered throughout the country. The provision was applied to the ethnic groups in the hill region of the North East.

Under it, the “tribal” areas in the North East were divided into two parts, Part A and Part B. The United Khasi and Jaintia Hills District, the Garo Hills District,the Lushai Hills District, the Naga Hills District, the North Cachar Hills District,and the Mikir Hills District were placed in Part A as Autonomous Districts administered by the Government of Assam, The North East Frontier Tract, the Balipara Frontier Tract, the Tirap Frontier Tract, the Abor Hilland Mishmi Hills Districts and the Naga Tribal Area came into Part B, which was administered by the Governor of Assam acting as Agent of the President of India. Tripura and Manipur were not promoted to states but were made special administrative regions under the control of central government. Hereafter, state formation in the North East followed a process whereby the area once unified into Assam was separated and ultimately turned into a state.

Stupid as it may seem, the SRC had suggested that the State of Assam be enlarged to include the princely states of Manipur and Tripura. The ethnic people of the entire North East were up in arms and some literally were and demanded separate states for separate ethnicities. Language as a basis had once again been thrown to dogs. Nagaland was the first state to be created in 1963 .But our considerations lie elsewhere. The representatives of Hill Districts, yes Hill Districts, which were then one district hill towns expressed the hope of forming their own hill state. Far Fetched as it may have seemed for the Ghasis, Jantiyas and Khasis to form a state of Meghalaya it did happen .In 1970 the autonomous Meghalaya State was established which later became a full fledged state in 1972.Meghalaya was still 3 hill districts but imagine a single hill district becoming a full fledged state. The Mizo Hills area which was Lushia Hill District or Mizo Hill District of Assam in 1954 was accorded the Status of a Union Territory in 1972 and attained full statehood in 1987.Now who but an optimist and he who believed in the idea of a separate State of Mizoram would have imagined that one day it would be a separate state within the Federal Structure of India.

So we have no dearth of examples of states and Union Territories being created on one pretext or another and despite Nehru’s wishes of a hugely centralized administrative machinery the formation of new states and reorganisation is and was not just a political compulsion to keep the Union of India together and but an acceptance of the diversity of the various constituents of Indian Union accompanied with the frailty or strength of the Federal Structure depending upon how we look at it. Whatever may be the reasons, the truth is that new States were created and the Indian state like the Universe though may be whole but is in a constant state of making and unmaking within.

That brings us to the important Part of this paper which will deal with the process of creating of a new Union Territory or a State with special reference to Jammu and Kashmir in the context of it having Article 370 and a separate constitution.

Process of formation of a UT/State within the Indian Dominion

I will try and make this as lucid as I possibly can so that the spirit of the Indian Constitution is not lost on us. The Parliament has the power to form a new state or territory within the Indian Dominion. Articles 2 and 3 of the Indian Constitution bestow on the Parliament the power to establish new states on such terms and conditions as it deems fit. The Article 3 of the Indian Constitution which deals with the power and procedure to establish new states reads

3. Formation of new States and alteration of areas, boundaries or names of existing States.—Parliament may by law—

(a)form a new State by separation of territory from any State or by uniting two or more States or parts of States or by uniting any territory to a part of any State;

(b) increase the area of any State;

(c) diminish the area of any State;

(d) alter the boundaries of any State;

(e) alter the name of any State:

Provided that no Bill for the purpose shall be introduced in either House of Parliament except on the recommendation of the President and unless, where the proposal contained in the Bill affects the area, boundaries or name of any of the States, the Bill has been referred by the President to the Legislature of that State for expressing its views thereon within such period as may be specified in the reference or within such further period as the President may allow and the period so specified or allowed has expired.

2 THE CONSTITUTION OF INDIA 3

Explanation I.—In this article, in clauses (a) to (e), “State” includes a Union territory, but in the proviso, “State” does not include a Union territory.

Explanation II.—The power conferred on Parliament by clause (a) includes the power to form a new State or Union territory by uniting a part of any State or Union territory to any other State or Union territory.

We have to read the Articles 2 &3 with reference to the 4th Article of the Constitution which reads.

4. Laws made under articles 2 and 3 to provide for the amendment of the First and the Fourth Schedules and supplemental, incidental and consequential matters.—(1) Any law referred to in article 2 or article 3 shall contain such provisions for the amendment of the First Schedule and the Fourth Schedule as may be necessary to give effect to the provisions of the law and may also contain such supplemental, incidental and consequential provisions (including provisions as to representation in Parliament and in the Legislature or Legislatures of the State or States affected by such law) as Parliament may deem necessary.

(2) No such law as aforesaid shall be deemed to be an amendment of this Constitution for the purposes of article 368.

It is very important to refer to the 1st Schedule of the Indian Constitution which clearly defines the geographical area of the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

So the creation of the Union Territory is the prerogative of the President and the Parliament and the State Legislature’s interference is limited to just giving its opinion. Although on account of Article 370 of The Indian Constitution which gives special but temporary status to the State we have to be careful to read the law. The Parliament can make laws but the applicability of such powers or even the power to make such laws in case of J&K is limited to those matters in Union and Concurrent Lists (we will see later in our paper how Parliament’s supremacy holds even in matters related to State List) which unfortunately is silent on the re-organisation of the State. So are we at a dead end ? Well far from it. The President has the power to issue a public notification which may either cease the powers of the Article completely or they may be applicable with certain provisions or modifications. It is under those powers that the 1953 position when India Parliament or the Central Government controlled only Four subjects (defence, external affairs, communications and ancillary) now holds a sway over most of the policy making and law making instruments. We must also read the Instrument of Accession to know how land can be acquired in the State of Jammu and Kashmir. The point six of the instrument reads:

Nothing in this Instrument shall empower the Dominion Legislature to make any law for this State authorizing the compulsory acquisition of land for any purpose, but I hereby undertake that should the Dominion for the purpose of a Dominion law which applies in this State deem it necessary to acquire any land, I will at their request acquire the land at their expense, or, if the land belongs to me transfer it to them on such terms as may be agreed or, in default of agreement, determined by an arbitrator to be appointed by the Chief Justice of India.    

There also is nothing in either the article 370 or the constitution of J&K or the Instrument of Accession or the Indian Constitution that forbids the formation of the UT within the State of Jammu and Kashmir. Yes there may be no precedence on the issue but then there wasn’t any precedence of the formation of Hill Districts as States in the North East.

Also noteworthy are numerous references in the constitution especially in the part of the constitution concerning the relations between the Union and States i.e Part XI. Time and again it reiterates the Power of the Parliament even regarding those issues which may fall in the purview of the State List. In the same Chapter mentions and I quote,” 251. Inconsistency between laws made by Parliament under articles 249 and 250 and laws made by the Legislatures of States.—Nothing in articles 249 and 250 shall restrict the power of the Legislature of a State to make any law which under this Constitution it has power to make, but if any provision of a law made by the Legislature of a State is repugnant to any provision of a law made by Parliament which Parliament has under either of the said articles power to make, the law made by Parliament, whether passed before or after the law made by the Legislature of the State, shall prevail, and the law made by the Legislature of the State shall to the extent of the repugnancy, but so long only as the law made by Parliament continues to have effect, be inoperative.

We will also look at how the amendment will be made once the bill is passed in both houses of Parliament and an Act comes into effect. It is then a mere formality that the necessary amendments as they may be for the creation of the new state/UT. Article 368 confers on the Parliament to make amendments. Although it is not within the scope of this paper to define the procedure of the covenants or riders yet we must know this simply to understand the process. The Article 368 reads as follows:

368. Power of Parliament to amend the Constitution and procedure therefor.— (1) Notwithstanding anything in this Constitution, Parliament may in exercise of its constituent power amend by way of addition, variation or repeal any provision of this Constitution in accordance with the procedure laid down in this article.

(2) An amendment of this Constitution may be initiated only by the introduction of a Bill for the purpose in either House of Parliament, and when the Bill is passed in each House by a majority of the total membership of that House and by a majority of not less than two-thirds of the members of that House present and voting, it shall be presented to the President who shall give his assent to the Bill and thereupon the Constitution shall stand amended in accordance with the terms of the Bill:

Provided that if such amendment seeks to make any change in—

(a) article 54, article 55, article 73, article 162 or article 241, or

(b) Chapter IV of Part V, Chapter V of Part VI, or Chapter I of Part XI, or

(c) any of the Lists in the Seventh Schedule, or

(d) the representation of States in Parliament, or

(e) the provisions of this article,

the amendment shall also require to be ratified by the Legislatures of not less than one-half of the States by resolutions to that effect passed by those Legislatures before the Bill making provision for such amendment is presented to the President for assent.

(3) Nothing in article 13 shall apply to any amendment made under this article.      

[(4) No amendment of this Constitution (including the provisions of Part III) made or purporting to have been made under this article whether before or after the commencement of section 55 of the Constitution (Forty-second Amendment) Act, 1976] shall be called in question in any court on any ground.

(5) For the removal of doubts, it is hereby declared that there shall be no limitation whatever on the constituent power of Parliament to amend by way of addition, variation or repeal the provisions of this Constitution under this article.]

For the formation of the UT the amendment makes no changes in the a) to e) section of the Article 368(2).

Conclusions:

States/Union Territories can be created not just on the basis of linguistical similarities or dis-similarities but on the basis of preservation of ethnicities and in some cases even religious identity of a particular group.

The Formation of the Union Territory/State is purely a prerogative of the Parliament and even if the State Legislature from which the new territory is to be carved votes the proposal out (though the President only seeks their views and not consent) yet the supremacy of the Parliament will prevail.

The Proposed Union Territory of Panun Kashmir has a valid reason to be established because it will help stop the erasure of the unique ethnic culture and tradition of the Kashmiri Pandits.

The Union Territory of Panun Kashmir-How and When:

Now that we established that there is a precedent for creation of Union Territories on the basis of ethnicities and States on the basis of religious similarities and the Constitution is not an impediment in the creation of the UT in the State of Jammu and Kashmir, we must ask how and when it is likely to be established.

Some two years back the Legislative Assembly of the Madhya Pradesh State (on the insistence of the Panun Kashmir organisation) passed a resolution by voice vote asking both the Centre and the State Government to carve out a separate area within the State of Jammu and Kashmir for the ethnic minority called Kashmiri Pandits. Though the resolution may have no legal or constitutional validity it does point to how and when the Panun Kashmir organisation can push forward the passage of the bill to create UT of Panun Kashmir. The passage of the bill can be smooth only when there is a favourable dispensation (towards the idea) and when the dispensation has numbers on its side to have the bill passed through both houses of the Parliament. Difficult as it may seem today it is not an impossible task by any means. There is every likelihood that in near future (30-40 years) time a dispensation (like the one of Shivraj Singh Chauhan, the MP-CM) will rule in the Centre and will have numbers to pass the resolution .It is then that the Panun Kashmir Organisation should press for a resolution of the issue and have a bill passed in both houses of the Parliament. Till that time they need to keep working hard in raising the political pitch on the issue, a sizeable part of that work is already done or is in the process of being accomplished. There is no doubt today that most in the media or policy making circles or even the successive Government at the Centre recognize(only PK has represented Kashmiri Pandits on all round table Kashmir Committee set up by the government) Panun Kashmir as the organization representing Pandits though every now and then some formations like third front in the Centre do prop up but they vanish as fast as they appear. The State Legislature will never be favourably inclined towards Panun Kashmir and towards Pandits at large but be that as it may ,its negative feedback on the issue or its throwing out or not admitting the bill has no bearing once the Parliament has passed the bill.

We must also understand that formation of UT’s or new States does take time and to expect results like a cup of instant coffee may just not be possible. So for those who ask how long I must say, long enough as it has been for every other state be it Punjab or be it Mizoram. Although we have gone into some detail over the history, politics and constitution with regard to formation of new states I reiterate that even if there is no history or even if the constitution does not have the necessary provisions the will (here I mean intensity and not mere numbers) of the people who want the state will eventually prevail over the them and provisions will be and always have been made to accommodate the aspirations and genuine demands of the people. For those doubting Thomases who may keep parroting that it is a constitutionally impossibility we have shown it is not, but more important than that for them and for us is to understand that  many nations have been created and many have merged since the formation of the United Nations .None of them had a constitutional provision to either merge or break, so it is only for the naysayers or the unbelievers to look for a written word as a permission to bring forth a new idea or implement a new one and that too when the written word is not divine but written by mere mortals like us or by those on whom we enshrined the responsibility of writing the constitution.

This paper is definitely not the final word on the issue and I am willing to stand corrected, guided and evolved by people who have more insight and knowledge of the issue at hand.I hope that this rather preliminary note of mine spurs the real constitutional experts to delve deeper into the issue, with their knowledge and erudition into the understanding of the constitution. It should also bring this issue to debate and the Kashmiri Pandits as a community should thread bare discuss the law and politics which will make the UT of Panun Kashmir a reality.

References:

1. The Constitution of India.

2. The Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir.

3.  Instrument of Accession

4. The States Reorganisation Act 1956.

5. The Punjab Reorganisation Act 1966.

6. The North Eastern States (Re-organisation) Amendment Bill 2011 as presented in Lok Sabha.

7.  Marg Darshan Resolution of Panun Kashmir adopted in 1991.

8.  Singh, Gurharpal, 1995, The Punjab Crisis Since 1984: A Reassessment’, Ethnic and racial Studies Vol. 18.

9.  Phadnis, Urmila, 1989, Ethnicity and Nation-building in South Asia, New Delhi, Sage Publications.

10. Pal, Kiran, 1993, Tension Areas in Center-State Relations, New Delhi, Surid Publications.

 

Follow the author on Twitter @rashneek

February 18, 2012

The Snow Is Calling Once Again | #Kashmir


The Snow Is Calling Once Again 

By Ramesh Manvati

This time, I made my arrival quite early,

With the hope to embrace you tightly,

But, nowhere could you be seen.

Day in and day out, to meet you, I am so keen.

I am calling you once again.

Oh, Pandit ! Don’t you realise my pain?

The winter has set in yet again.

Have I to continue to seethe in pain?

I had called you in the past,

Your eerie silence has made me aghast.

Your roots, over five thousand years old, continue to seethe in pain.

I fail to understand what is the gain?

Over twenty painful years, we are already ages apart.

Your journey back home – not yet ready to start?

Seems, I have to bear, still, your being so upset.

To welcome you back, do I need to re-assure you,

That I will lay my best and thick velvety carpet?

Everything you have forgotten, so I feel.

Compelling me to remind you, with a fresh appeal.

On the onset of every winter, you would wait

for my arrival, with much zest and zeal.

And on my arrival from the heavens above,

within the warmth of your ancestral homes,

peeping through the doors and

through the windows-partly open,

or many a times from the ‘dub’ of your ‘bub’,

the leisure time you would enjoy,

gazing my elegant movements in sheer joy.

sonna sheen vollun dhaaray-dhaaray,

maharaaza raaza kumaaray aaw……”

some would merrily sing. And, at times, many

sipping ‘sheeri-chaai’ or even some hot ‘kehwa’

in the traditional ‘khos’ or a ‘kenzi-khos’,

held on the sleeve of your ‘pheran’,

prepared in a ‘samawaar’ and served by a ‘nosh’,

with a ‘garma-garm’ ‘taeil-woar’, ‘tomlla-tsaot’ or ‘ makkaai tsaot’,

or with it, even some enjoying ‘soa’tt’,

With a cosy ‘kaangar’ beneath your ‘pheran’;

The eldest among you, even smoking a ‘jajjeer’.

Forgotten? Occasional ‘shalfaa-malfaa’ , you had

with your toddlers to warm their hands and feet. And,

simultaneously narrating to them local folk-tales and lullabies.

Even ‘nav-sheen’ you celebrated,

in the company of your kith and kin,

music and dance; well dressed and decorated,

with the choicest of your dishes. And,

a ‘welcome drink’ would not be a sin,

even in the ancient times; just recheck

from the treasure of your ‘Neelmat Puraan’.

 

Remember? On my very first arrival,

the new brides you would routinely tease,

Forcing them to bring a ‘paschin’ - raw or cooked,

from their ‘maaluen’ with much ease.

Children would playfully sing everywhere,

sheena petto-petto, maama itto-itto…………”.

Even the stray dogs would dance merrily here and there,

on the roads, in streets or outside your ghetto.

You can be so forgetful, baffles me.

When I have not forgotten, how can you?

Walking, through your orchards and rice fields -spread across Kashyap’s valley.

Or through the towns and villages or ‘Sri-nagaree’ of goddess Sharada’s seat;

Through the serpentine and uneven lanes and narrow by-lanes,

with a ‘khraav’ or ‘pullhor’ or a long boot or a ‘duck-back’ shoe protecting your feet;

Your daily routine, even though being hurt, once in a while,

because of pervading ‘tulkattur’- exposing my frozen attitude,

would continue with serenity and great fortitude.

Even your cursing me at times – that, at times, I would mind,

while finding it difficult to move around.

Still, my cool but peaceful white cover on the ground,

over the surrounding houses, trees and the distant mountains,

lovely murmuring streams, though in deep sleep;

would make you overlook my hurt and dirt.

At the same time, no more feeling of being slighted, I am telling you.

Stray dogs, cows, crows and other perching birds,

without a fail and religiously you would feed, I still remember.

In the plains or atop a nearby hillock, temple bells you would ring,

Morning and evening, ‘kashiri leelaai’ you would sing.

As a habit, whether young or old; men or women,

busying yourself in the company of holy men,

always keeping your household, body and mind-neat and clean.

oftenly, you would praise my beauty and the surrounding scene.

My periodic arrivals and my stays

long or short, you enjoyed and cherished too.

I too enjoyed, let me now reveal to you,

your rolling me into a ‘sheena-mohneow’ occasionally-

in your ‘waaeri’, in the streets, or in nearby open fields. And,

even the ‘sheena-jung’ with your ‘mohalla’ friends.,

I remember vividly, why cannot you?

The vacations, children spent in their ‘maataamaal’, during the stay

of my old friends like ‘chillai-kallaan’, ‘chillai-khorrud’ and ‘chillai-buchcha’.

Remember? The sheer panic of being caught red handed,upon the sudden

bursting of a stolen egg – hidden inside the embers of your cosy ‘kaangar’ ;

Or, making and eating of a ‘mallai-kulfi’ on the ‘braer-k’anee’ of your residence,

secretly from the prying eyes of your elders including ‘bub’, ‘dyed’ or ‘baed- maej’,

 

Also, the ‘faaka’ many of you kept for the entire sacred month of ‘maag’;

Or the visit of your family priest, on the eve of ‘gora-trai’ of this month to your homes

with handmade pictures of ‘Saraswati’-blessing new brides and youngsters; and

exhorting them to continue the ancient tradition of learning.

I have just not forgotten; how can you?

hayrath-pooza’ was incomplete till, some of you, made my use.

That I had to be there even in the summer month of ‘haar’,

to defeat the evil designs of a tyrant Afghan ruler-Jabbar Khan,

and to uphold the sanctity of your sublime faith.

The popular tease - “wuchutoan yi jabbar jandha, haaras ti korrun vandha…..”

is an ample proof of my historical claim.

Even performing of your annual ‘jattae’n-ttae’n……..’,

on ‘teela-aettham’- concluding day of the sacred festival of hayrath’;

Or distribution of ‘dooen’ to ‘haenz’ children, curiously watching on the ‘yaarbal’ and,

offering of burning ‘chaeng’ to holy ‘Vitasta’ in the evening of the day,

Have you so conveniently forgotten?

I have not, how can you?

The aroma surrounding many of your winter festivals, rituals like

‘kheschri-maavas’, ‘gaada-batta’, ‘kaaw-punnim’, or

shishur’ of a new born child or a ‘nav-nosh’; And,

the twenty three day long ‘hayrath’ celebrations, still haunts me.

Such ancient festivities you will be observing in exile, so I earnestly hope.

Though, in an alien land, difficult it surely must be for you to cope.

The special dishes, as per your ‘reeth’, that you

prepared on such joyous occasions, still water my mouth.

Oh, Pandit ! Treat me back to that aroma and couth.

Decades have passed; have not heard a Lall-Vaakh,

“ hayrath maej aayay, marscha papar kyaaway………”

or “thukk-thukk, kuss chuv….”, nor seen anyone playing with cowries,

Please no more deprivations, I pray thee.

You cannot be so cruel to me.

Holding back the tears and trying to be brave.

My children – ‘shishar -ghaaent’, many now grown and

many on their way, hover in desperation. And,

for the warm kiss of your teeth continue to crave.

The winter has set-in, once again,

This time, I made my arrival quite early,

with the hope to embrace you tightly.

But, nowhere could you be seen.

Oh, Pandit ! I am reminding you once again,

Don’t you realize my seething pain?

Over two decades already, we continue to be apart,

Journey back home to your very own-‘Pannaen Maej-Kasheer’,

Still not yet ready to start???

      __________________________________________________________________________________

The writer , a Sr. Activist of Panun Kashmir, can be reached through e-mail : paannyaar@rediffmail.com /rameshmanvati@yahoo.co.in

        __________________________________________________________________________________

This poem is dedicated to the Youth of ‘Internally Displaced’ Kashmiri Pandit community ( now scattered across the globe) on the eve of “Ist International Kashmiri Pandit Youth Conference” organized under the aegis of Panun Kashmir, in Pune ( India), on 7- 8 January 2012


January 20, 2012

Curfewed Night – A book review ~ by Prof. GL Jalali | #Kashmir

Filed under: Jihad, Kashmir — Tags: , , , , , — TheKashmir @ 5:06 am

Book review –    Curfewed Night

Prof. G.L. Jalali

Packed with facts and fiction, narrated in a locale of electrified human emotions

TITLE……………………Curfewed Night ; AUTHOR………………….Basharat Peer

DATE OF PUBLICATION…………….2010 ;PAGES………………………………….221

PUBLISHER……..Harper Publications, London

Its racy prose is both lyrical and moving, subject matter most poignant It describes what a heaven it (Kashmir) was and what a hell it is now – all man made.

It is an emotional tale of mans’ love for his land, the pain of leaving home and ultimately the joy of return

In the wake of the ongoing Muslim insurgency in the erstwhile princely Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir that broke out in 1989 a spute of books, dealing with the J&K insurgency, have flooded the world book market. These books were authored mostly by the persons living either outside J&K or some foreign writers. There were a few Kashmir authors who wrote copiously on the Kashmir subject. Mr. Basharat Peer, the author of Curfewed Night (under review) is one such author who has the distinction of writing a revealing book on the ongoing political turmoil in his native land – the scenic valley of Kashmir. His book “Curfewed Night” is the memoir of a young Kashmiri Muslim Journalist who spent his childhood and adolescent years in the strife ridden Kashmiri valley.

Belonging to a well-to-do Muslim Peer (priestly) family, Basharat’s father Mr.GA Peer is a serving bureaucrat (now posted as Commissioner-cum-Education Secretary in J & K state).His mother serves as a school teacher while his grand father is a retired head-master of a Government Secondary School. His upbringing was unlike that of other Muslim boys in his native village, Seer which is on way to valley’s internationally known tourist spot. Gifted with rich imagination and deft of thought, Basharat Peer describes his village environs-open paddy fields, neighboring mountains, rich flora and fauna, village houses with thatched roofs, running and roaring brooks – in an artistic manner couched in a simple, readable and, above all, racy style of his prose reminiscent of any matured and experienced English writer. Still, the young scribe has to go miles ahead. For his style of writing I offer my hearty congratutions to Mr. Basharat Peer.

The book consists of sixteen chapters running over two hundred twenty one pages. Each chapter carries an appropriate heading, capping the details given inside the chapter. Chapters from one to eight describe author’s early life up to the period when he is all set to leave the valley for plains in search of new green pastures and to make a successful career. In the second part the author of the Curfewed Night describes his journey as a reporter of a Delhi based newspaper through length and breadth of Kashmir, meeting a cross-section of the Kashmiris and noting their reaction towards the militancy that engulfed his homeland.

So the book titled Curfewed Night is an anecdotal record of the events seen through the prism of a writer who, overtly or covertly, sympathizes with the militants. It is a chronicle of events keenly observed by a young Muslim journalist who grows up watching this charming valley turning into a hotbed of Muslim insurgency.

Basharat Peer’s narrative takes the reader into 1990s when almost the whole of Kashmir valley was overtaken very badly by Pak-sponsored militancy. The author was only 13 years old boy, reading in a village school when the Indian army was fighting a tough gurrila war with the Pakistan trained militants.

Pakistan had never reconciled with the Indian stand on Kashmir.  When General Zia-UI-Haq came to power in a military coup against the democratically elected Bhutto Government, Pakistan started a proxy-war to grab Kashmir. It started indoctrinating Kashmiri Muslim youth, giving them arms training at military camps set up in PoK by Pakistan’s infamous ISl. Thus started the Jihad in Kashmir. It burst forth with vigor in 1990. The civilian government in the valley was almost subverted. That is what Mr. Basharat Peer, the author of the book the Curfewed Night under review, calls “Independence movement”.

Even in his adolescence, he was swept by this “Freedom movement” which was in full bloom. Once it so happened that he had to join a procession of “Freedom Fighters”, he felt himself a part of “something larger’……”Fighting and dying”. Fired with a strong urge to usher in an Isiamic order and to overpower the enemies of their so-called freedom, Basharat’s school friends would cross high-mountain peaks, standing magnificently all along the border with PoK, to receive arms training in alien climes. The rebel in the young school-going boy, Basharat, take the place of a coy- some sibling of a middle-class rural Muslim family and decides to join the much talked about freedom-struggle as Mujahideen. He wants to bid adieu to studies at school.

Peer’s parents heard about their sons firm resolve to join JKLF, the then premier militant outfit, fighting for valley’s independence. His parents intervened and succeeded in preventing young Basharat from joining the militant outfit. “He can join after finishing his studies,” they said to their overzealous son. Rebellion, his father said repeatedly, were led by educated men. The young boy had to yield to the wishes of his parents. He draws a pen picture of the situation appering in February 1990 in the valley, particularly in Srinagar. The author says, “By February 1990 Kashmir was in the midst of a full-blown rebellion against India. Every evening we heard the news of more protests and deaths. Protests followed killings, and killings followed protests. News came from Srinagar that hundreds of thousands of people had marched to pray for independence at the shrine of the patron saint of Kashmir, Nooruddin Rishi. All over the state similar marches to the shrines of Surfi saints were launched. I joined a procession to the shrine of a much revered Zain Shah Sahib at Aishmuqam near my school”(page 17). It is worth mentioning that Saint Zain Shah was originally a Kashmiri Brahman converted to Islam in 15th century,. When Kashmir was ruled by some fanatic Muslim rulers, including the infamous idol breaker Sikender Butshekan. As admitted by the author of the Curfewed Night, it was a full-fledged revolt against India, provoked and abetted by Pakistan in collabration with the Sunni Musllim Community. So, the so-called political movement was no less short of a religious movement aimed at seceding Kashmir from India on the “basis of two-nation theory, the sheet-anchor of the bloody Partition of the Indian subcontinent. It is on account of this premises that former President of Pakistan,Ghulam Ishaq Khan called the Kashmir issue “unfinished agenda of Partition”. To call the ongoing Jehad as Independence Movement by Mr.Basharat Peer, the author of the Curfewed Night, is sheer travesty of truth and the distortion of historical facts

His remarks about the former Governor of Kashmir, Jagmohan are unwarranted and condemnable in the light of facts. ‘The night of January 20, 1990 was long and sad. Before dinner, my family gathered as usual around the radio for the evening news on BBC World Service. Two days earlier, Jagmohan, an Indian bureaucrat infamous for his hatred for Muslims, had been appointed the governor of Jammu and Kashmir. He gave orders to crush the incipient rebellion……”(page15). To this question the author will find a suitable answer in the “My Frozen Turbulance’ written by Jagmohan two decades ago. He says when he had assumed the charge as the Governor of J & K state, the strife-torn state was “slipping away from India” as a result of conspiracy hatched and worked out by Pakistan’s infamous ISI, named “Operation Topac”. As a patriot and well-wisher of the peace-loving Kashmiri’s he had no option but to bring the deteriorating situation under control. It goes to the credit of Mr. Jagmohan that he retrieved the valley for the Indian-nation and let the flag of secularism flying aloft on the ramparts of the Red Fort. Had he remained as the Governor of J&K state for some time more the history of the strife-torn state would have been decidedly different and there would have been no Kashmir issue. Unfortunately, some anti-national elements, emboldened by false media propaganda by Pakistan against Jagmohan, this visionary and ace-administrator was unceremoniously removed as Governor of the state. I, as reviewer of Mr. Basharat Peer’s book Curfewed Night, am not holding brief for the former Governor Jagmohan, but stating facts for the information of the author of the book who appears to rely upon what former militants and their sympathizers have stated in their interviews with the author of the book.

His reference to the Gowkadal firings and killings needs to be discussed in the light of volatile propaganda. On page 15,the author say’s “One protest march began from a southern Srinagar area where my parents now live, passed the city centre, Lal Chowk, and marched through the nearby Maisuma towards the shrine of a revered Sufi Saint of a few miles ahead. Protesters were crossing the dilapidated wooden Gawkadal Bridge in Maisuma when the Indian paramilitary, the Central Reserve Police Force, opened fire. More than fifty people were killed. It was the first massacre in the Kashmir valley. As the news sank in, we all wept…? It was no doubt, a great tragedy. There was reliable intelligence reports that some mischievous elements in the protest march were bent upon raking up communal riots by setting ablaze on way Hindu houses in nearby Kashmiri Pandit localities, including Ganpatyar, Habba Kadal etc. That might have been the reason for the Indian Security Forces to take such a strong action. On hearing about such happenings, the heart of every Kashmiri – Hindu or Muslim- is bound to bleed and ache, let alone that of the author of the book under review.

One thing, as pointed out by a critic, goes to the credit of the author of the book Curfewed Night, is an extraordinary memories that does a great deal to bring the Kashmir conflict out of the realm of political rhetoric between India and Pakistan and the lives of Kashmiri’s. Again, Mr. Basharat Peer refers to his unsuccessful visit to Kunnan Poshpara Village in Kupwara district of North Kashmir were the security forces were alleged to have raped a number of village Women. It was just a propaganda stunt by Pakistan. A probe into the alleged rape incidents by the state authorities brought the fact to limelight that these charges leveled against the Indian army were totally false and fabricated. I wonder how an impartial news-reporter was led away by this propaganda stunt. His emotional out burst on these fabricated crimes committed by the security forces can be gauged from his own description !  “He sits at a bus-stop watching for the bus to take him to Kunnan Poshpora, but when it arrives he just goes on sitting, listening to the sound of reviving engine, and watching the bus drive away. For all the stories of suffering he seeks out, there is one he cannot bring himself to look at too closely.”

The author has no word to say about the Chattisinghpora and the Wandhama carnages committed by the militants on non-Muslim villagers. In Chattisinghpora village, situated close to Bashart Peer’s native village in Anantnag distinct, over thirty- Sikhs were brutally killed, while twentyfive Kashmiri Pandits in Wandhama village in Ganderbal Tehsil were gunned down mercilessly and their houses set on fire. A thirteen year old Kashmiri Pandit boy was the lone survivor in this village where almost fifty Pandit families lived prior to this brutal massacre of innocent Kashmiri Pandit Villagers. Their burnt houses still remain a living eye-witness to the atrocities perpetrated on the Kashmiri Pandit Community.

There is just one stray reference to the forced mass exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from the land of their birth. The author went to attend his village school one fine morning. He found no Kashmiri Pandit teacher present in the school as all of them had fled the valley. Of course, he felt very sad and puzzled. ‘The murders sent a wave of fear through the community and more than a hundred thousand Pandits left Kashmiri after March, 1990. The affluent moved to houses in Jammu, Delhi and various Indian cities. But a vast majority could find shelter only in the squalor of refugee camps and rented rooms in Jammu and Delhi’ (page 184).

The author refers to the secular and harmonious atmosphere prevailing In the valley prior to 1989. ‘The practice of Islam in Kashmir borrowed elements from the Hindu and the Buddhist past, the Hindus in turn were influenced by Muslim practices. In my childhood nobody raised an eyebrow if Hindu women went to a Muslim shrine to seek the blessings of a saint. The religious divide was visible only on the days India and Pakistan played cricket. Muslims supported the Pakistani Cricket and the Pandits were for India. My father’s best friend was and remains a Pandit; my mother had long friendships with Pandit women who taught in the same school”( chapter 15, page184).

The chapter titled “Papa-II”deals with the author’s interviews with some militants. The details givien by these militants about some of these interrogation centres are horrible and blood-curdling ancedots. The discription of these horrible stories invoke the sympathizes of the reader, no matter how callous-minded the reader may be. If true, one cannot but condemn these inhuman acts committed by the army investigators. But there stands a question mark: are these real acts of the India’s disciplined army? However, there may be exceptions here and there. Perhaps it is aimed to tarnish the image of our security forces.

One such centre was shut and later on occupied by a top-ranking Oxford Educated Kashmiri bureaucrat as stated by the author of Curfewed Night, Says the author, “Before moving in, the Oxford-Educated Officer called priests of all religions to pray there and exorcise the ghosts”(page 133, chapter 11).

The author has almost sidelined describing the gruesome killings of some eminent Kashmiri Pandit leaders, Lawyers, Doctors, Journalists, Business men, Teachers and Scholars. Can the Kashmiris particularly Kashmiri Pandits forget brutal killings of Pandit Sarwanand Premi and his son, whose eyes were gorged with an iron rod and the bodies cut to pieces or Sarla, a school teacher in a Kupwara school, sawed to death in a sawmill. Militants are equally responsible for turning the happy valley into hell. Without describing these killings, the author has not taken his narrative to a successful conclusion.

However, author’s search for his “lost teacher”-Pandit Chaman Lai Kantroo- evokes our admiration for this budding Kashmiri Muslim author. He desperately makes a search for his childhood Kashmiri Pandit friends. He visits Awtar’s hut in Jammu where he meets his father’s adopted Hindu sister Gouri  wife of Awtar, Jee. “Is he Ammul’s son?” says Gouri. “Ammul was my father’s childhood name which hardly any one outside the family knew. My eyes were wet,” narrates Basharat Peer (page 183). He met his childhood friend, Vinod, by chance in Srinagar where he worked as Area Manager of a Pharmaceutical Company. After a long search he met his Master Jee Chaman Lai Kantroo, in a rented room in Amphela in Jammu. “A step stair led to the rooftop. Behind a curtain of clothes hanging on a nylon rope was a garret. “Come in, Basharat,” Mr Kantroo called out. I looked at him ; he had aged. His checks had sunk deep, his hair was almost white; his eyes were deep down, but seemed to have lost their verve.”(page190). His teacher gave him a book of poems composed by him. The cover of the book read “Eternal Sin”. His partings were surcharged with emotions on either side-from his old student Basharat and his teacher Pandit C.L. Kantroo.

He describes valley’s corrupt bureaucracy. Even bureaucrats demand huge bribes for sanctioning monetary relief. “The files do not move by itself from one table to another. Out of the relief money of one lakh, the applicant has to spend 25 per cent to thirty thousand rupees. Otherwise he will waste years visiting offices. And once he pays that, we ensure that his name in the compensation job list goes up and things move fast.”(page 164). He gives a pen picture of the devastated Rughnath Mandir in the interior of Srinagar city and the abandoned Martand temple at Mattan sans (missing) Shiva idol. At the end of the Curfewed Night the author crosses the Line of Control at Uri which now “functions as a defecto border between two parts of Kashmir” He comments, “The Loc did not run through 576 kilometer of militarized mountains. It ran through the reels of Bollywood coming to life in dark theatres; it ran through the conversations in Coffee shops and TV screens showing cricket matches. It ran through whispers of lovers. And it ran through our grief, our anger, our tears and our silence”. (Page 220-221). It ends with the people awaiting eagerly for the bus coming from the other side of our valley. “I watched thousands of men, women and children stand and along the soldier-laden road, welcoming the ones who had stepped across the Iine.”(page221).

I wish Basharat Peer writing his new book, describing the return of 4 lakh displaced Kashmiri Pandits to their land of birth and their Muslim brethren according them warm hearted welcome in the true spirit of “Kashmeriat” of which the author of the Curfewed Night is a strong votary Amen !

In the end I agree that the “Curfewed Night is an emotional tale of man’s (author’s) love for his land, the pain of leaving home and ultimately the joy of return”. Its racy prose is both lyrical and moving, subject matter most poignant. It describes what a heaven once it was, and what a hell it now is – all man-made! Buck up Basharat Sahib-that is my message to you!

*(The author is prolific writer and editor Samachar Post)

January 19, 2012

Future of Kashmiri Pandits | #Kashmir


Future of Kashmiri Pandits

  By B. Raman

It is 23 years today since Jammu & Kashmir saw the beginning of the ethnic-cleansing of the Kashmiri Pandits, the original inhabitants of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K), from their homeland at the instigation of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) by a group of Kashmiri jihadi elements trained, armed and motivated by the ISI.

2. The lead in this act of ethnic-cleansing was initially taken by the Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) and the Hizbul Mujahideen (HM). Other jihadi organisations, which subsequently came into existence after having been trained and armed by the ISI, kept the ethnic-cleansing going till practically all the Kashmiri Pandits were driven out after having been subjected to numerous indignities and brutalities such as rape of women, torture, forcible seizure of property belonging to the Pandits etc.

3. The Pandits, who survived these acts of indignities and brutalities, were forced to leave their homeland and seek shelter in camps for refugees set up in Jammu and Delhi. Within a few weeks of the outbreak of the ethnic cleansing, a majority of the Pandits found themselves reduced to the miserable status of refugees in their own country.

4. As the Pandits and their wifes and children were subjected to indignities and brutalities and driven out of their homeland, the State of India totally caught by surprise watched helplessly and pusillanimously, as the plans of the ISI to change the demographic composition of the Kashmir Valley in order to make it a predominantly Muslim area were sought to be implements by the jihadis trained by the ISI.

5. Neither V. P. Singh, who was the Prime Minister when the ethnic-cleansing was carried out nor any of his successors had the least idea of how to deal with the situation. There were various options available. I would cite only two. The first option was to direct the Army to re-establish Indian sovereignty over Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK) and Gilgit-Baltistan as a punitive measure. Pakistan had by then acquired a military nuclear capability, but not a nuclear arsenal. It did not have a satisfactory delivery capability. We could have, therefore, easily re-taken the POK and Gilgit-Baltistan without fear of provoking a nuclear war. The V. P. Singh Government did not exercise this option.

6. The other option was to train and arm the Pandits and ask them to go back and re-occupy their property and fight against the ISI-trained jihadis. This option was carefully examined and given up as not advisable. There were legitimate fears that this option could polarise for ever the relations between the Muslims and the Hindus and play into the hands of the jihadis who wanted such polarisation.

7. The option finally chosen was to look after the Pandits in the refugee camps and other areas where they had settled down with their relatives and wait for the restoration of normalcy in the Valley so that these refugees could be helped to go back, re-establish their ownership of their property and resume a life of dignity as the residents of their traditional homeland.

8. The Pandits have been waiting for 23 years hoping that the day of their return with honour and security to their homeland would come. It has not so far despite the considerable improvement in the ground situation. In the meanwhile, the plight of the Pandits has been slowly forgotten. Everybody sheds crocodile tears over their sufferings, but there is nothing more by way of action. The future of the Kashmiri Pandits as an important dimension of the Kashmir problem is less and less talked about.

9. There was one man, who spent his years of retirement in attempts to ensure that the promises made by the nation to restore the honour and dignity of the Pandits was not forgotten. He took a lively interest in their future and interacted vigorously with leaders of the Government and opposition political parties to see that this dimension of the Kashmir problem was not forgotten.

10. His name was R. N. Kao, a Kashmiri himself, who was the legendary founding father of the Research & Analysis Wing (R&AW). The Kashmir tragedy broke out five years after he finally retired from public service in 1984. From 1989 onwards till his death in 2002, he devoted a lot of his time to his self-assumed task of restoring the honour and dignity of the Pandits.

11. Since Kao’s death in 2002, the Kashmiri Pandits find themselves orphaned. There is no one at the political or bureaucratic level, who is prepared to come to the forefront, stick his neck out and demand action to restore the dignity and honour of the Pandits. Hopes that the BJP-led Government would pay lively attention to the future of the Pandits were sadly belied. The BJP-led Government was as confused and as inactive as any of the other Governments that had held office since 1989.

12. How to move forward? Two realities have to be kept in mind. Firstly, it is too late in the day to think of identifying and punishing those who were responsible for the ethnic-cleansing. Any ill-advised attempt to do so would complicate the situation further.

13. Secondly, the return of the Pandits to their homeland cannot be enforced unilaterally by the Governments of India and the State. It has to be the outcome of a consensus among different political parties of the State and leaders of different communities. The Government of India has a moral responsibility for working towards such a consensus. Presently, it has not been doing so. It should be made to do so through public pressure. It is time to stop meaningless breast-beating on the plight of the Pandits and their future. It is time to work for concrete ways of enabling their return to their homeland in dignity and honour.

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com  Twitter : @SORBONNE75 )

Source 

August 6, 2011

Kashmir Resolution Introduced In The House Of Representatives | #Kashmir


 

HRES 387 IH

112th CONGRESS

1st Session

H. RES. 387

Recognizing that the religious freedom and human rights violations of Kashmiri Pandits has been ongoing since 1989.

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

August 1, 2011


RESOLUTION

Recognizing that the religious freedom and human rights violations of Kashmiri Pandits has been ongoing since 1989.

Whereas Jammu and Kashmir has an ancient culture of religious tolerance and pluralism, where Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Christians practiced their faith freely in an atmosphere of mutual respect and peace until 1989;

Whereas Kashmiri Pandits are the original inhabitants of Kashmir, tracing their heritage and culture back several millennia;

Whereas Kashmiri Pandits have been the victims of documented human rights violations resulting in the severe curtailment of their religious freedom for more than two decades;

Whereas the Kashmiri Pandit population has declined from 400,000 in 1989 to a current level of less than 4,000 in the Kashmir valley and many Pandits continue to live in refugee camps;

Whereas international human rights organizations have noted the campaign of intimidation and violence directed by foreign militants and foreign terrorist organizations against Kashmiri Pandits;

Whereas thousands of Kashmiri Pandits, elected officials, and military personnel have been killed in terrorist attacks; and

Whereas numerous groups that have claimed responsibility for these attacks have been designated as foreign terrorist organizations by the United States Department of State: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the House of Representatives–

(1) condemns the extremist violence, lack of religious freedom, and human rights violations committed against Kashmiri Pandits, which they have endured for more than two decades; and

(2) Insists that terrorist infrastructure in the region must be dismantled and terrorists should be held accountable for their actions.

 

Also Read HERE

August 5, 2011

Kashmiri Pandits, Sri Lankan Tamils and Indian hypocrisy – Reply to Mr Aditya Sinha | #Kashmir

Filed under: Kashmir — Tags: , , , , , — TheKashmir @ 12:10 pm

Different versions of Kashmir in political, social and religious context are nothing new. Mr. Aditya Sinha’s article “Kashmiri Pandits, Sri Lankan Tamils and Indian hypocrisy” that appeared in Daily News & Analysis (DNA) on 31st July 2011 prompted me to write back. I disagree with Mr. Sinha’s view regarding Kashmiri Pandits.

It was surprising to see equation between Kashmiri Pandits and Sri Lankan Tamils. Although we are sympathetic towards Sri Lankan Tamils, one cannot equate the two as unlike the Sri Lankan Tamils, Kashmiri Pandits are citizens of India. Our main concern should be first for the citizens of our own country and then others.

The onset of turmoil in Kashmir valley in 1989-1990 was marked with the ethnic cleansing and genocide of Kashmiri Pandits. Ethnic cleansing is an attempt to create ethnically homogeneous geographic areas through the deportation or forcible displacement of persons belonging to particular ethnic groups. United Nations defines ethnic cleansing as rendering an area ethnically homogeneous by using force or intimidation to remove from a given area persons of another ethnic or religious group. Many Kashmiri Muslims (and not all) joined the so called freedom movement and chose to be part of armed struggle. The objective of militancy in Kashmir was to create a valley homogenous in its religious (read Islamic) character. To create such homogeneity, Kashmiri Hindu minority was forced to leave the valley.

Ethnic cleansing sometimes involves the removal of all physical vestiges of the targeted group through the destruction of monuments, cemeteries, and houses of worship. Ethnic cleansing may involve death or displacement where a population is identified for removal from an area. In Kashmir, houses of minority Hindu Pandits were burned; temples were destroyed. Notices were pasted on the walls of Pandit houses mentioning them to leave the valley or to perish.

Genocide may be used as means to carry out ethnic cleansing. Genocide is defined as the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group. 

Article 2 of 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (CPPCG) defines genocide as any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: 

  1. Killing members of the group;
  2. Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
  3. Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life, calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
  4. Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
  5. Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in a ruling on 11 June 1999 stated that “Against the stern definition of the Genocide Convention, the Commission is constrained to observe that while acts akin to genocide have occurred with respect to Kashmiri Pandits and that, indeed, in the minds and utterances of some of the militants a genocide-type design may exist, the crimes against the Kashmiri Pandits are near-Genocide and not Genocide.”

In the speech on 7 April 2004 the UN Secretary General said, “Wherever civilians are deliberately targeted because they belong to a particular community, we are in the presence of potential, if not actual, genocide.”

1990s were painted with genocide of Kashmiri Hindus. Many Kashmiri Hindus were murdered. Kashmiri Hindus were targeted by the militants in 1989 and afterwards until they didn’t left the valley. The official figure of Kashmir Pandit killings is 219. Kashmiri Pandit Sangharsh Samiti (KPSS), a valley based NGO, disputes the government figure. In its first list of asurvey, Kashmiri Pandit Sangharsh Samiti (KPSS) suggests that 399 Pandits were killed and the list of KP killings is still incomplete. KPSS did the survey in 2008 and 2009 to find the exact number of Pandits killed, which revealed that 302 members of the community were killed in 1990 alone. Selective killing of minority Hindus amounts to genocide.

In exile, thousands of Kashmiri Pandits have died due to change in environmental conditions. Kashmiri Pandits were forced to live in hostile conditions in make-shift camps in Jammu/Delhi. During summers, the average temperature of Kashmir would generally be in thirties while in Jammu/Delhi, it is in forties. Think of 45ºC and 6-8 people living in a tent. The habitat changed resulted in sun-strokes, anaemia etc. which caused many deaths. Moreover, deaths happened due to snake bites as slum-like conditions of camps became the breeding ground for snakes. Even after 21 years, some are still living in camps.

Those Kashmiris who chose/supported the gun are responsible for the grievances of all Kashmiris whether Kashmiri Muslims or Kashmiri Hindus. It is amusing when the separatists (some of them were terrorists in 1990s) state that they are in favour of return and rehabilitation of Kashmir Pandits. Because they are the same people who were responsible for the exodus of minority Hindus from the valley.

Kashmiri Pandits have been denied justice from past 21 years. The human rights violation of Kashmiri Pandits ought to be addressed now. Kashmiri Pandits haven’t suffered physically only but culturally and psychologically also. Kashmiri Pandits have been suffering in a political-religious war in which they don’t form any part.

Author : Varad Varenya [ Twitter Handle : @VaradVarenya  ]

July 21, 2011

Fai, my beleaguered friend by K.N. Pandita

Filed under: Kashmir, Terrorism In Kashmir — Tags: , , , , , , — TheKashmir @ 4:29 pm

Fai, my beleaguered friend
By K.N. Pandita [ref]

It was the summer of 1992.  An African NGO at the UN Human Rights Commission at Geneva had given me accreditation, and I spoke usually on IDP issues at the UN.

I sat sipping coffee in the lounge. A neatly dressed person of rather smallish height, carrying a portmanteau, came to me, introduced himself as Ghulam Nabi Fai, pulled the chair and sat down. I leapt, and fetched him a sizzling coffee, and we both sat down to speak in chaste Kashmiri. We felt, or I felt, relaxed. In response to his inquisitive probing, I said that I was a Kashmiri Pandit and a RAW agent. He chuckled, but had no courage to say he was ISI agent.

Our long association usually interspersed with pleasantries and sarcasms continued throughout our two decade-long associations in Geneva, Brussels, London, Washington and elsewhere. Talking to his flock from both sides of Kashmir at Geneva or Brussels, he used to tell them about me,” This Pandit is the guide and path finder for the Indians.” I think for a long time he did believe that I was a mole of Indian intelligence. My reaction was let sleeping dogs lie.

I will recount only two jokes about him that I can recollect. Once, Fai and I sat in the spacious lounge at the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva with a large group of Kashmiri separatists drawn from both sides of Kashmir whom he was briefing. We talked on Kashmir culture. Fai was euphoric about Kashmiryat and delivered a short but passionate speech. I posed a question. What is Kashmiriyat, please concretize. He started with many elementary things, salt tea, wazeh-wan, kangari blisters (nareh taet) etc. I quipped, “Fai Sahib, our real Kashmiriyat was the widespread head skin disease of favus (khaer in Kashmiri and Ganjapan in Hindi). Curse the Indians, now not a single Kashmiri afflicted with favus is to be found in the valley.” Peals of laughter from the audience. Fai retorted, “Damn you! We could be squire with the Indian might but you damned Pandits of Kashmir are our Achilles heel. Such sadists are you, the Lucifer.”

At the NGO Committee meetings of the ECOSOC at UN in New York, India opposed Fai’s application for ECOSOC status for his NGO (KAC) and Pakistan opposed my application for the same for our NGO (Asia-Eurasian Human Rights Forum). Year after year and session after session since 2001 our applications were deferred because the Indians and the Pakistani delegates opposed us respectively. I told Fai let us make a compromise formula. We tell both Indians and Pakistanis to accept both and we sill work together in unison as human rights activists. With this proposal, we first met the Paki but unofficially. After hearing our proposal, he exclaimed in Persian, “ yak na shud du shud” meaning so far there was one scourge but now there will be two of them. We all had a hearty laugh, and neither of the two has been granted status so far. I wonder what this Committee will do with our application in its next meeting when it again comes up for consideration.

Fai is suave and a soft spoken person. He is a decent man in his bearing, never irritated, never angry. At lunch time, he would often beckon me to come along to the restaurant for eating together. We did so many times. But once I had a 2-hour long one-to-one meeting with late Ayub Thukar in Geneva. We talked about the need of inter-community dialogue without government interference in Kashmir to bring normalcy in the strife-torn valley. It was around 2003. In the course of that talk, Thukar hinted that we did not need inclusion of Fai in our effort as Fai was only pseudo-academic and a failure on ground strategy. Some months later Ayub Thukar died of throat cancer in London but some weeks before his death he had sent me an email saying he cherished the return of peace to the valley.

In my personal meetings with Fai, he never talked of politics much less Kashmir politics. He talked mostly of Kashmiriyat and many vague things. I never felt any need of dragging him to a discourse on political issues.

In the briefings at the UN in Geneva, Fai seemed to be dominated by another anti-India and pro-separatist activist and theoretician, namely Barrister Abdul Majid Tramboo, who is now running the Brussels branch of Fai’s Kashmir Centre. While Fai would like that knowledgeable persons like I on Kashmir situation should be given the freedom to ask questions in the seminar/briefings and express views, Tramboo manipulated the briefings in a way that he left no scope for anybody to ask a question. The reason is that the speakers they dragged to the platform like Galloway and Victoria Schofield and others were paid persons and far removed from the history of Kashmir and the sub-continent.  We would and often did corner them and expose them.  So both Fai and Tramboo preferred to keep us out of those briefings.

Fai’s main work was to influence opinion makers, law makers, human rights activists, intellectuals and NGOs in the US and in Europe in favour of Kashmir’s secession from India and accession to Pakistan. He never supported independence of Kashmir. In that sense he is a dedicated Jammat-e-Islami and among the first few students of Ali Shah Geelani and protagonists of his pro-Pak ideology. Fai’s skill lies in roping in not only the European and American intellectuals only but some Indian and Kashmiri Pandits also. Even one of the three-member team of interlocutors, too, has been once the beneficiary of Fai’s largesse.  Their names are now fully known and the Times of India of 21 July has posted video clips of the speeches of one Jammu journalist and a Kashmiri Pandit in Fai’s latest seminar in Washington. They have been regular participants in his sponsored seminars and thus frontline beneficiaries of his largesse.

Fai invariably would send me a notification regarding a seminar going to be organized by him (KAC) giving the theme, the persons invited, the venue and all information. But he never sent me an invitation letter and I never attended any of his seminars. In response to his notification, I always wished him great success in deceiving himself and the deceivable Kashmiris.

Ali Shah Geelani has given a call for general strike on 22 July and the “separatists”. Forgetting that Fai stands for merger of Kashmir with Pakistan, Kashmiris will give him a thundering response. This buries their fake azaadi slogan deeper in its grave.

The Jammu-based pro-Fai media outlet has started the propaganda of calling Fai’s arrest as shift in America’s Kashmir policy. It is a shift, of course, and it is a facet of the intelligence sharing understanding between India and the US. But wait, many more skeletons will tumble out from the cupboard when the Home Ministry begins a through investigation into this anti-national perfidy.  In the first place, and without delay, our foreign office should immediately impound the passports of all those Indians who have been receiving ISI’s largesse through its Fai outlet and whose names have been mentioned by Fai in his website as having attended his seminars in foreign countries. But it has to be seen if New Delhi is content with making the US its cat’s-paw.

US Govt Department of Justice Press Release HERE 

Copy Of Criminal Complaint HERE

For G.N.Fai click HERE 

June 28, 2011

Ugh . It sounds nice !

Filed under: Kashmir — Tags: — TheKashmir @ 9:57 am

An article on a website of a national newspaper [1] , a rather delayed response [2] and a counter argument was going on well , and I thought let us leave it as it is . Let the readers decide .

I personally am firm not to respond , as I have often witnessed that any discussion of a subject as serious as Kashmir , often tends to get ugly and ends up at personal attacks.

I was , honestly , not happy with the choice of words Sabah Ji had used in her post . But then one is free to write anything , and a satire should be appreciated even if you dont necessarily agree to it. And I must admit that I admire the wit of Sabah Ji , everytime I come across her post or a tweet.

Sabah Ji , had also tweeted to Pawan [?] that she has tweeted her response and is done with it.

As they say , hell hath no fury greater than of a woman scorned , I was hugely disappointed with a retweet done by Sabah Ji even after tweeting that she was ‘done with it’ ,  The tweet read as follows

Now that was one retweet , which I take offence to , as nowehere in my post is a line which in anyway directs hate towards anyone .  However I am glad , that Sabah Ji chose to retweet this and display it on her public twitter time line.

Coming back to her response ,  the subject line starts with Ugh !  The subject line is extremely interesting , and I am sure Ram Gopal Verma can surely make a movie on that subject . However on a serious note , why does a response from a person who has a different view point be responded with a ‘Ugh’ ?  But then , as I said …. I would end up admiring that subject line as well .

I wont comment further , let the civility prevail.

June 27, 2011

Are we ready to let Kashmir be? Yes , we already do . Only facts have to be told.

Filed under: Kashmir — Tags: , , , — TheKashmir @ 11:40 am

In the age of information , nationalists have failed to build up relationship .  It is no surprise that people with  ‘separatist ‘  ideology on regular interval find it very easy to find space in leading national newspapers , especially Hindustan Times .

Hindustan Times has quite a ‘flexible’ editorial policy . It goes into a full page online request to Rahul Gandhi to shave his beard  [ 1]  and when he does , it is again followed by announcement that Rahul has shaved [2].

The flexibility and access is quite accessible and more to ideas where separatism seems to be either ‘justified or encouraged.’

It was a chance that I was directed to an article by Ms Sabah Haji in HT , dated September 11th .  Since the article may appeal to many so called ‘liberals’  , I wanted to share few thoughts about this article .

Sabah Haji starts with why does it justify to be called a Kashmiri for those living in the state of Jammu & Kashmir . She writes

We call ourselves Kashmiris because we can’t say ‘Jammu and Kashmiris’ without sounding silly. Also, we speak Kashmiri. So that’s our identity.

Now one must know that the culture , language , food etc of many region in the state are different . How can a person from say Ladakh , who may not even be able to say “hello” in Kashmiri call himself a Kashmiri ?  How can a Dogra from Udhampur , Jammu , Kathu , Samba call himself a Kashmiri when he hardly knows the language or doesn’t even live in . How can a a Gujjar Muslim from Poonch or a Shia from Kargil call himself a Kashmiri , when they speak a different language  ?

The fact remains that the state is of diversified culture , language and imposing of a name or a brand does not serve any good.  Respecting each region is a must and ignoring it in choice of words is not a job done well.

Sabah , further writes

No one in Kashmir drills their children with ‘Azaadi’ mantras and anti-establishment behaviour

In all fairness , I would be delighted to know how does a 5 or a 6 year old child know what different nations are ?  What “Azaadi” means ? Why  India should be hated ?  Does this not get picked up while watching how the elders behave or act .  This is purely a behavior a child from any community in Kashmir or elsewhere is likely to pick up from the parents or elders he/she witnesses each day .

Sabah Ji has very intelligently tried to balance and clear the issue of exodus and atrocities upon Kashmiri Pandits . She writes

And the Kashmiri Pandit exodus — what a shameful tragedy. India and Pakistan played a huge, unforgivable part in this horrific episode as did those Kashmiris (Muslims and Pandits) who supported communalising the movement, either actively or under threat or coercion.

Now isn’t that interesting , nowhere a courage to call spade a spade ! She doesnt mention or write that Kashmiri Pandits have been victims of Islamist agenda . Instead she goes to extent of even blaming , yes you have read it right , she has ‘blamed’ some Kashmiri pandits of ‘communalising’ the ‘movement’ as well.  A community which was trying hard to save themselves from marauders is being blamed .

Sabah Ji further writes

What irks us is that while your Bhagat Singh is a ‘shaheed’ (martyr), while Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose is a fierce nationalist, Kashmiris are to be typecast as violent troublemakers and written off for the same ideals and aspiration.

While as this argument may be appreciated by ‘ liberals’ or those who hold limited knowledge of history , but can Sabah Ji pls let us know if Subhas Chander had killed innocents and raped women ? Did Bhagat Singh go out and plunder places of worship of others ?  Subhas Chander and Bhagar Singh were nationalists who fought for independence of India from foreign occupation . Kashmir is different . Kashmir has been part of India since time immemorial . It is mentioned in MahaBharata and Raj Tarngini. One needs to read history with an open mind to clear whatsoever doubts are there .

I agree with Sabah Ji that no one can make her think of an Indian. And I am sure no one but she herself can help her to think like one .  As for someone asking “Aap Hindustan se hai ” to people in Kashmir , all I can say is that the argument is a bit to stretched by Sabah Ji . Unlike her, I am from the valley while she is from Doda district . I have interacted with many tourists and all I can say is that most of people in valley are extremely intelligent , and too while dealing with tourists. Most of them would be able to make a distinction between a Tamil , Kannadiga or a Telgu by just havinga look at the face and they even speak ” broken ” south Indian Language” .

Sabah Ji ends with a request for plebiscite  ,  and I could not help but smile . She should know that conditions for a plebiscite were not fulfilled by Pakistan to start with .  By it’s invasion of state , Pakistan lost out the reason to further the ’cause ‘ of plebiscite . If there is anyone to be blamed for this , it has to be Pakistan . Now plebiscite issue has become obsolete .  Ex UN Sec Gen , Kofi Anan , during his stint in Pakistan itself said….. “ UN resolutions on Kashmir did not come under Chapter 7 of the UN charter and were, therefore, not self-enforcing. Unlike the resolutions on East Timor and Iraq, which come under that particular chapter, the Kashmir resolutions require the cooperation of both parties for implementation……[ March 2001  During his brief interaction with the media at Pakistan's Chakala military ].

I personally admire Sabah Ji for being a thoughtful person . I would wish Sabah Ji works for other issues , including finding out reasons why her home region of ‘Doda’ has such a different male / female sex ration . In Doda male to female  population is 63:37. I am sure for that cause , she would find many ” Hindustanis” chipping in their support , as I see many ” Hindustani” already extending support to her charity schools up in hills of Doda.

Also Read This article by @primary_red

June 22, 2011

Exposed : In Kashmir money is being paid to stone pelters !

Filed under: Kashmir — Tags: , , — TheKashmir @ 10:51 am

Some great piece of journalism by Ms Smita Prakash  , Editor News , Asia News International [ ANI ]

 

“I am not going to say to you that the stone pelters did wrong. They were misguided. They had energy, they were angry and didn’t know how to say No, when money was offered for a seemingly non-dangerous assignment.”

“This discontentment was channeled by the separatists for their ends. For example if the separatist got 500,000 rupees from Pakistan or the other Muslim countries, which fund the separatist movement, they distributed 100,000 to each leader. They in turn paid each young boy 5000 rupees to throw stones. Those young 16-18 year old boys who were sitting at home because of schools being closed due to bandh calls by separatists, and who have little job prospects, with nothing to do and fed on azadi slogans, picked up stones without realizing that they were being used as pawns. We all did it.”

“Now, those boys are either dead or in jail for the past several months under the PSA Act (Public Safety Act). But those who sent them to throw the stones are still getting money from both the Government of India and the Government of Pakistan. They still travel abroad whenever they want, they attend international conferences, the interlocutors meet them, and their children are studying in Delhi. Yes, I am talking about all the Hurriyat leaders. What fools they have made of you Indians and Pakistanis.”

 

Continue reading HERE 

 

Also watch this Video , [ Confession of a mastermind behind stone pelting in Kashmir ]

 

Exposed : Kashmir being most militarized zone is a propaganda & a myth

Filed under: Kashmir — Tags: , , , — TheKashmir @ 8:19 am

A very well researched post by a leading blogger @pragmatic_d exposing the media which believes in sensationalism without researching the facts , exposing the separatists claims of Kashmir being most militarized zone .

……. So the actual strength of security force personnel dealing with the people in the state is nowhere near the figure of 7,00,000 which is usually floated in the media. Barring the 2,20,000 policemen, paramilitary troopers and Rashtriya Rifles soldiers deployed among the population, the rest of the army soldiers shall continue to be deployed on the LoC, AGPL and LAC irrespective of the internal security situation in the state. Even among the 2,20,000 troopers, a fair share of the police force would still be required to maintain the law and order in the state which has a population of 1,25,48,926 as per the 2011 census.

Meanwhile, let us get another fact out of the way. These deployments are for the complete state, and not just for the Kashmir Valley. For example, the Rashtriya Rifles units are deployed as Counter Insurgency Force (CIF)- R in Rajouri and Poonch, CIF-D in Doda, CIF-V in Anantnag, Pulwama and Badgam, CIF-K in Kupwara, Baramulla and Srinagar, and CIF-U in Udhampur and Banihal. Kashmir Valley, or the Vale of Kashmir, forms just 7 percent of the area of the state of Jammu and Kashmir ….

Read the complete post HERE

May 23, 2011

There is a liberal bias. It’s demonstrable !


Though NDTV is believed to have largely been shy to highlight the trauma , pain and anger of Hindus of Kashmir , also commonly called Kashmiri Pandits , for a change yesterday they did a discussion about ‘possibility’ of return of Hindus back to valley .

I would not like to give any personal opinion on the discussion , which was hosted by Ms Barkha Dutt , however I would like to share some tweets which I saw after the program .

These tweets are largely from :-

  1. Muslim Group :- Who largely want Kashmir not to be part of India
  2. Kashmiri Hindu [ Pandit ] / Nationalist group : – Who are staunch nationalist , however forced into exile by Islamists .

Kashmiri Muslim Group

When translated , its a message to Aditya Raj kaul , It says … I spit on your face Aditya Kaul

Nationalist / Kashmiri Hindu group

May 16, 2011

The Amarnath Pilgrimage – History & Facts


Historically, the worship of Shivalingam has been a very popular religious practice in Kashmir. The same stands corroborated by Kalhan Pandit who in his monumental work, Rajtarangini, makes a mention of ‘vateshwar’, an ancient Shiva-lingam worshipped even in his lifetime. A king of Kashmir, Ravana, (1000 B.C)worshipped it as it was believed to predict future occurrences & events through the light emanating from the Sri-cakra engraved on it.1 The king was so devout in his worship of the Shiva-lingam that he consecrated the entire valley of Kashmir to the Math where-in he worshipped the Shiva-lingam.2 The Mahadev Peak, Dyaneshwar lingam &Sureshwar lingam, known as svayambhu lingams, have been objects of worship for the Hindus of Kashmir. In fact, the interiors of Himalayas possess numerous such lingams & Hindus reverently call them Shiva-dhams. Pilgrimages to the Shiva-dhams have been a regular feature without interruptions.

 

            The ancient cave of Amarnath known for its icy-lingam that is naturally formed has been a venerable spot of pilgrimage for thousands of years. The icy-lingam waxes & wanes with the waxing &waning of the Moon. It attains its full length form on the night of shravanPurnima. As per the written records the icy-lingam has been nomenclatured as’amresh’, ‘amreshwar’, ‘rasa-lingam’, ‘siddhi-lingam,’ ‘buddhi lingam,’ ‘shuddhilingam,’ ‘puratan buddhi lingam’ & ‘pumsavan lingam.3 The nomenclature of ‘amarnath’ as is in voguehas been drawn from & owes its genesis to the ‘Amarnath Mahatamya’, anauthentic work on the Amarnath as a holy place of worship.

 

            As per the ‘Amarnath Mahatamya’ Shiva in the form of  icy-lingam bestowed immortality on gods,devatas & thus he is known as ‘amresh’ or ‘amreshwar’. He delivers hisdevotees from the pains & pangs of old age & disease soon after they have his ‘darshan’ & ‘Satksatkar’ in the formation of icy -lingam. As per the Tantric erudites, He is Amarnath because He commences His ascent from’ama-kla’ to ‘purna-kala’ & a mere drop from it liberates a pilgrim, adevotee, from age & death & grants him the state of oneness with Supreme consciousness, the same as Shiva. A pilgrim, who in his extreme joyfulness& ecstasy, dances inside the cave, is considered a veritable rudra. 

Historical records

 

            The references to the holy cave of Amarnathare available in Bringesh Samhita, Nilmat Puran, Amarnath Mahatmaya & Rajtaranginis of Kalhan Pandit, Rajanak Jonraj & Shuk Pandit & othertravelogues by foreign travellers.

 

            Bringesh Samhita is a compendium of the Mahatamayas of all the prominent & well known tirthas (holy places) of Kashmir compiled by Bringesh, a scholar of eminence. In Kashmir, we have a galaxy of three persons bearing the same name of Brigesh. One was agana, an attendant of Shiva, the other was a sage & the third a scholar of eminence. Bringesh, the gana, being an unworldly recluse could not have any cultivated interest in writing & compiling the Mahatamayas. The research scholars hold that initial task of compiling Mahatmayas was taken up by Bringesh who was a known sage & the date for it is supposed to be 5thcentury A.D. The third Brignesh given to scholarship & scholarly pursuits is supposed to have aptly culminated the work as begun by the second Bringeseh in 12th century A.D.4. The entire work is unfortunately lost & the manuscript  available in the Ranbir Library, Jammu, is a truncated version &hence falls short of providing multi-dimensional & authentic informationabout the culture & mores of ancient Kashmir including  the topography of the region.

 

Mythology

             The Bringesh Samhita relates that Mahakala threatened the gods (devas) with death &destruction & they in all trepidation called on Lord Shiva & humblyentreated Him to protect them from Mahakala’s menacing threat of decimation. Shiva in all mercifulness freed them from Mahakala’s threat by showering uponthem the boon of immortality. Again to seek Shiva’s support & protectiongods (devas) could not see Him as He was deeply immersed in His devotional& meditative practices. In absolute distress the gods (devas) lifted theirhands to supplicate Him to appear before them. Shiva, the merciful, appeared inthe formation of an icy-lingam & this is the genesis of the Holy Lingam& subsequent pilgrimage to the holy cave of ‘amresh’ or ‘Amarnath’.

 

            Bringesh Samhita also relates that Kashmir was a vast expanse of water & the sageKashyap drained the lake for the land to appear. Bringesh, the sage, was scouring the swathes of the valley & discovered the cave wherein an icy-lingam in full length form was standing. Lord Shiva gave him a sceptre for protection of pilgrims which has now taken the form of Chhari Maharaj, the holymace leading the annual pilgrimage.

 

            As per Amarnath Mahatamya, Parvati, the consort of Shiva, was ultra-keen to know in full details the mysteries of life & immortality .Entreating the lord to reveal the mysteries to her, Shiva traversing the tops& ridges of the Himalayas took rest in a cave & disclosed to her all the secrets about life & immortality. Finally Lord transmuted Himself into an icy-lingam.

 

Nilmatpuran

             Vital to the history of Kashmir Nilmatpuran as a fascinating store-house of socio-cultural materials is the earliest work of 6th century A.D. which carries a reference to the Holy cave of ‘Amreshwar.6 It authentically establishes that the cave known for its icy-lingam was well within the active consciousness of general populace in Kashmir. The people of Kashmir in particular & the vast masses of people in India in general believe Shiva as the god of mountains laden with layers of white snow. Shiva’s consort, Parvati, is the daughter of the Himalayas who got wedded to Shiva who has His abode in the snow-capped mountains. Pilgrimages to the mountains as a home to gods have been an ancient practice of the Hindus. The Hindus of Kashmir as part & parcel of the Indian cultural mosaic shared the same cultural spirit & ethos & made pilgrimages to the mountain peaks & mountainous caves in search of spiritual upliftment & spiritual bliss of peace and ananda.

 

Amarnath Mahatamaya

             Amarnath Mahatamya gives a full & elaborate account of the pilgrimage to the Holy Cave of Amarnath. It details out all the holy spots enroute to the Holy cave. It does not only mention the religious merit that a pilgrim earns by bathing & cleansing praxes at various holy spots, but also gives an authentic & credible account of their topography & geographical position. Amarnath Mahatamya has its essential base in the Adi-Purana establishing its original position as a Purana. It was regarded  as a standard Mahatamya giving lucid details & exact descriptions in concordance with well recognised literary  practices. The Amarnath Mahatamya certainly has a religious & legendary complexion, yet it is a mine of information on the cultural ethos of Kashmir in those hoary days of yore & also the socially-oriented behavioural indices of aboriginal Hindus of Kashmir.

 

Kalhan’s Rajtarangini (1148-50 A.D.)

             Kalhan Pandit, the Herodotus of Kashmir history, has made definitive & categorical references to the Holy cave of Amarnath. In Tarang I of his work, Rajtarangini, he makes a mention of a legend of Naga Sushravas, who had given his daughter in wed-lock  to a Brahmin youth for the help he had rendered him in harvesting the crops. But king Nara, the ruler of Chakradhar (Chakdar) near vijyeshwar (vegibror), tried to abduct the young Brahman’s youthful Naga wife. This aroused the wrath of Naga Sushruvas, who in all blood & fury, arsoned & destroyed Nara’s entire kingdom & put him to death. It was done in all bitter revenge & Naga Sushruvas, perhaps fearing fearful reprisals, carried his son-in-law & his spouse to his own abode, Sushram Naga, now known as Shesh Naga. Kalhan writes, “This place is now located en route pilgrimage to ‘Amreshwar’.

 

            Kalhan Pandit describes the Shesh Naga lake as ‘the lake of dazzling whiteness resembling a sea of milk’ This authentic account available in Rajtarangini unambiguously buttresses the assertion that the pilgrimage to the Holy Cave of Amreshwar must have been much in vogue in Kalhan Pandit’s time.

 

            The above-mentioned reference to ‘Amreshwar’ is not the solitary one that Kalhan Pandit has provided the succeeding generations about Amarnath. He as a historian possessed of an observant eye conveys more credible materials about the cave shrine.

 

            In Tarang II of Rajtarangini Kalhan Pandit conveys that “King Sandimat Aryaraj (34 BC) used to spend the most delightful summer in worshipping linga formed by snow in the regions above the forests.”7

 

            It is a clear cut reference to the icy-lingam at Amarnath cave.

 

            In another  reference to Amarnath Kalhan Pandit in his Rajtarangini, Tarang VII conveys that Queen suryamati, the spouse of king Ananta “submitted trishuls, banalingas and other sacred emblems in the name of her husband at Amershwar”.8

 

Jonraja’s Rajtrangini 

            In his second Rajtarangini, Jonraj, a fearless historian of Kashmir, writes, ‘Sultan Zain-ul-abidin (1420-1470) paid a visit to the sacred tirth of Amarnath while constructing a canal on the left bank of the river Lidder (lambodari)’. 9

 

Shuka Pandit’s Rajtarangini 

            In his fourth Rajtarangini, also known as Rajavalipataka, Shuka, the disciple of Prajya Bhatt, whose Rajtarangini is lost, gives full length detail of the pilgrimage to the Holy cave of Amarnath. Shuka informs that Akbar who as per history had annexed Kashmir at the pleadings & prodding’s of two political advisors of Makhdoom Sahib, a Naqshbandi sufi of indigenous origins, anti-shia to his bone-marrow, had made some queries from his governor Yusuf Khan about some political-cum-administrative affairs regarding Kashmir. In his reply to the query made by the emperor he mentions among other things the Amarnath pilgrimage in broad & incisive details. It establishes that the Amarnath pilgrimage was surely in vogue even in the times of Akbar who annexed Kashmir in 1586 A.D.

 

Asif Vilas by Pt Raj Jagannath 

            As reinforced by historical evidences Shah Jehan vandalised temples & other places of worship of Hindus in Kashmir & a shocked foreign traveller, Francios Bernier, writes, ‘The doors & pillars were found in some of the idol temples demolished by Shah Jehan & it is impossible to estimate their value.’11

 

            But the Amarnath pilgrimage continued un-interrupted despite the emperor’s vile iconoclastic activities. In his well-known eulogy of Asif Khan, Shah Jehan’s father-in-law, a reputed aesthete, Panditraj Jagannath, makes a categoric mention of Amareshwar while giving a poetic description of Nishat garden as laid out by Asif Khan. In his flight of imagination jagannath writes in the ‘Asif vilas’ that ‘ Indira, king of the galaxy of gods, comes here to pay obeisance to Lord Shiva.’12

 

Francois Bernier, The french physician  

            Francois Bernier, the French physician, accompanied Aurangzeb, the Bigot, when he was on a visit to Kashmir in 1663 A.D. Driven by curiosity & wander-lust he visited Trisandya, Verinag, Achabal, wular-lake & Sangsafed facing Harmukh & therefrom he pursued ‘Journey to a grotto full of wonderful congellations’. 13 It had taken him two days to reach the grotto, which surely is no place other than that of the Holy cave of  Amarnath.

 

            In the second reprint of Bernier’s Travelogue titled ‘Travels  in Mughal Empire,’ a noted historian, Vincent A. Smith, writes in his introduction, ‘ the grotto full of wonderful congellations is the Amarnath cave, where blocks of ice, stalagmites formed by dripping water from the roof, are worshipped by many Hindus, who resort here, as images of Shiva, glaciers surround the………………….’14

 

Kirpa Ram dutt & holy cave of amarnath (1675 A.D.) 

            At the behest of Auranzeb his governor in Kashmir, Iftikhar Khan, cruel & theo-fascist, subjected the Kashmiri Pandits to the worst ever persecution & torture for their conversion to Islam. Kashmiri Pandits, five hundred in number, under the astute leadership of Kirpa Ram Dutt, a known Shaivite Scholar, met at the Holy cave of Amarnath to devise a workable strategy to meet the challenge. One of the pandits at the Holy cave saw Lord Shiva in a dream directing him to call on Guru Tegh Bahadur (1621-75A.D) at the village of Anandpur Sahib in the Punjab. It was from the Holy cave of Amaranth that kirpa Ram Dutta in obedience to the direction of Lord Shiva led the delegation of five hundred Pundits to Guru Tegh Bahadur & rest is history.15

 

Vigne, a foreign traveller 

            Vigne, another foreign traveller, paid a visit to Ladakh and Tibet during the times of Maharaja Sher Singh of the Punjab. He made an attempt to visit the Holy cave of Amarnath via the traditional route, but was forced to return from vayuvarjan (vavjan) because of inclement weather. Out of sheer curiosity he met various shades of people, mostly the natives and thus gleaned a lot of relevant material about the pilgrimage to the cave and put it to writing in 1842 A.D. In his reputed travelogue titled as ‘Travels in Kashmir, Ladakh and Iskardu’, vigne conveys, ‘The ceremony at the cave of Amarnath takes place on the 15th of the Hindu month of Sawan, 28th July…………… not only Hindus of Kashmir but those from Hindustan of every rank and caste can be seen, collecting together and travelling up the valley of Liddar (Lambodari) towards the celebrated cave, which from his description must have been the place which Bernier tried to visit but was prevented.’16

 

            What we get  from vigne’s travel account is that pilgrimage to the Holy cave of Amarnath was not only a local affair, but would draw a crowd of pilgrims from far and near in the country.

 

Guru Arjan Dev Ji Maharaj (1563-1606 A.d.)

             It is a known fact that Guru Arjan Dev Ji Maharaj granted land in Amritsar for the ceremonial depature of Chharhi, the holy mace of lord Shiva, marking the commencement of the pilgrimage to the Holy cave of Amarnath. This gracious act of the Guru Maharaj lends unimpeachable credibility to the fact that pilgrimage to the holy cave was not confined to the natives of Kashmir, but would draw enthusiastic pilgrims from across the country. To earn religious merit many devout Hindus would donate lands and moneys to the religious  groups and institutions to provide facilities to the pilgrims bound for the Holy cave of Lord Shiva.

 Pt Sansar Chand Koul, a naturalist of Kashmir

             In his booklet ‘The  Mysterious cave of Amarnath’, Pandit Sansar Chand Koul, the first ever geographer of Kashmir, author and scholar, informs that ‘in 1819 A.D. Pandit Hardas Tiku founded the Chhawni Amarnath at Ram Bagh in Srinagar where saddhus (renunciates) from the  plains assembled and where he gave free rations for the journey, both ways from his own private resources”.17 The year 1817A.D. as mentioned by Pandit Sansar Chand Koul marks the end of the brutal and tyrannical rule of the Afghans who persecuted Kashmiri Pandits to incredible limits, out-smarting the pains and wounds inflicted on them by the sayyid-sufis from Central-Asian countries.

W. Lawrence’s Valley of Kashmir  

            In his celebrated work ‘Valley of Kashmir‘ walter Lawrence, the Settlement Commisioner of Kashmir, has not missed to make a mention of the pilgrimage to the Holy cave of Amarnath.

             He writes, ‘Puranmashi the full moon of the month of Sawan is the day when pilgrims must reach the distant cave of Amarnath and worship the snow-lingam which gradually melts away  after the puranmashi. Strict Hindus both male and female discard their clothes and put on shirts of birch-bark before they enter this cave……………………………’ 18.

 Routes to the holy cave of Amarnath

             The traditional route to the Holy cave of Amarnath has been via Lidder Valley despite the fact that the cave is situated in the geographical environs of the Sind Valley. The prominent holy spots enroute the traditional path have been elaborately mentioned in the Amarnath Mahatamya. The holy spots other than Anantnag as elaborated in the Mahatamya are :-

Balihar (Baliyar), Vaghashram (Vagahom), Hastikaran (Hasikhan), Chakresh (Chakdhar), Devak (Divakiyar), Harish Chander (Chandanyar), Surya-guha-vat (Sirigofwar), Sakhras (Sakhras), Badoras (Badur), Hyashashishram (Kamalnag), Uttarnag (Wotarnag), Sarlak (Salar), Khilyayan (Balkhyalan), Narayan-Maha-Khetra (Kolar), Mamlak (Mamleeshwar), Bragupati (Pahalgam), Sthanu-ashram (Chandanwor), Giripesh (Pishbal), Sushrumnag (Shishirnag), Vayuvarjan (Vavjan), Pancha-tarni (Panchtarni), Garbagar (Garabyatra), and Amravati (Ombravati).19

 

            After having ritual baths and performing other ritual practices at these holy spots the pilgrim’s progress blissfully climaxes at the Holy Cave where the icy-lingam, the transmuted form of Lord Shiva, is standing either in suyambhu form or in full-length form only to bless the pilgrims and grant them deliverance from sickness of the world caused by meshy layers of duality.

 

The Baltal Route

 

            The Baltal route to the Holy cave of Amarnath is the Sind valley route which has not been popular with the pilgrims, either natives or from various parts of India. The route lies in inhospitable terrain, arduous and difficult, risky and menacing. Thanks to the Border Roads Organisation a negotiable path has been carved out and constructed and in view of the facility a multitude of pilgrims is seen ambling on the path for ‘darshan’ of the Holy icy-lingam. The path remains open for all months of the summer. Distance wise, the Baltal roiute is shorter than the traditional Pahalgam route.

 

Route from Zojilla Pass

 

            The Zojilla route to the Holy Cave of Amarnath has been a known route and comparatively the shortest route to the sacred shrine of Shiva. It is just a track that can be trekked on foot and descends near the cave from the Amarnath peak.

 

Kishtwar – Seru Route  

            Kishtwar -Seru route has equally been a known route to the Hindus of Kishtwar and other belts of the mountainous region. Kashmiri Pandits, who doggedly refused conversion to Islam during the tyrannical days of Sultan Sikander (1387-1407AD) fled to Kishtwar for shelter and safety, trek the same route to pay obeisance to Shiva in the Holy Cave. For them, it is a popular route, though it was already popular with the indigenous population of the region.

 Sacki- Pantsal route

             The geographical studies of the region reveal that Sacki-Pantsal route is also a route leading to the Holy Cave. But it has not been much in vogue because of its difficult terrain and weather disasters.

 

Pigeons in the holy cave

             A pair of pigeons, present and flying in the cave, drench its chill-cold and weird environs in mystery and mystique. The pilgrims consider it extremely auspicious and feel blessed, thrilled and transported to mystical realms when they catch a mere glimpse of them. The pair of pigeons in the Holy  Cave has been reverentially depicted in the Amarnath Mahatamya as the two messengers of Lord Shiva disseminating  His revealed verities and truths to the world of humans for their spiritual upliftment and emancipation.

 

            As per the legend Lord Shiva revealed to His ever-eager consort, Parvati, the mysteries of creation, life and immortality in the Holy Cave of Amarnath. The pair of pigeons, quietly perched in some niche of the cave, overheard the secrets in full details as were revealed to Parvati by Lord Shiva. Having learnt of their presence in the cave, Lord Shiva granted them the boon of immortality and hence their eternal abode in the Lord’s cave.

 

            Foreign travellers having found their way into the purlieux of Kashmir have not missed to make a mention of the pair of pigeons in the cave-temple.

 

            Anchored in speculation, waxing eloquent on the topic of pigeons, vigne, a foreign traveller, writes, ‘The dove (pigeon) has always been an emblem of peace, the sublime and preter-natural     have always been concomitants of wildness; solitude accompanied by an extra-ordinary degree of remoteness has often been a cause of sanctification. And the wild and gloomy the locality, the better has it been thought qualified to become the peculiar residence of God.’ 20

 

Swami Vivekanand on Amarnath cave (1897 A.D.)

 

            Swami Vivekanand, an eloquent and eminent spiritualist of India, paid a visit to the Holy cave and was mystified by the icy-lingam in the Holy cave where Lord Shiva had dwelt upon perennial subjects of creation, life and immortality that have ever been intriguing humankind from the days of its creation. As per his well known biography Swami Vivekanand is reported to have conjectured about how the Holy Cave could have been discovered. The author writes ;-

 

            ‘I can well imagine how this cave was first discovered. A party of shepherds, one summer day, must have lost their flocks and wandered here in search of them. What must have been their feeling as they found themselves unexpectedly before this unmelting ice-lingam of white camphor, with the wall itself dripping offerings of water over it for centuries unseen of mortal eyes ? When they came home they whispered to other shepherds in the Valleys how they had suddenly come upon Mahadeva.’ 21

 

            On having entered the cave Swami Vivekananda was overwhelmed with a mystical experience. He had a darshan of Shiva. He called the place religious, inspiring and extremely beautiful. He wove meticulously beautiful poetry about the icy-lingam and its impact on his total psyche.

 

The tyrannical Rule of Sultan Sikander 

            Sultan Sikander, who had pawned his soul to a Sayyid-Sufi from Central Asia, Mir Mohammad Hamadani, was not only an iconoclast, but a misanthrope, hater of books, enemy of aesthetics and worst form of Islamist. He issued an atrocious and contemptuous government decree ordering the Kashmiri Hindus to get converted to Islam or flee the native land or get perished. As a result, thousands of Hindus were brutally massacred, thousands got converted and thousands fled the land for shelter.

 

            The Sultan’s numerous crimes against humanity are :-

 

1.       He did not permit the Hindus to go to temples to pray and worship.22

 

2.       He did not permit them to blow a conch or tolll a bell.23

 

3.       He stopped Hindus from performing their religious practices and celebrating their festivals. 24

 

4.       He killed them if they put a tilak-mark on their foreheads.25

 

5.       At the apperance of the new moon, the Hindus were not allowed to worship or take out processions.26

 

6.       He burnt six mounds (1 mound = 37 kilos) of sacred threads worn by Hindus as a mark of their religious initation only after putting them to cruel death.27

 

7.       He stopped Hindus from undertaking pilgrimages to all Shivadhams (Amarnath, Sureshwar, Harsheshwar, Dyaneshwar, Mahadev Peak).28

 

8.       He stopped Hindus from burning their dead.29

 

9.       He demolished and destroyed the marvellous temples of Martand, Vijyeshwar, Chakrabrat, Tripureshwar, Sureshwari, Varah and many others.30

 

10.     He imposed the hated Jazia (poll-tax) on the Hindus, thus declaring them dhimmis.31

 

11.     He waged war on the Hindus when Mir Mohammad Hamadani declared them ‘Kafirs at war’.32

 

12.     He burnt books on Hindu knowledge, science, astronomy, astrology, music, dance, poetics and medicine.33

 

          The worst ever hurricane fury of genocide of the Kashmiri Hindus 34 unleashed by Sultan Sikander and vigorously pursued by Ali Shah and their armies 35 forced Hindus to burn, hang and drown themselves in rivers and wells and jump over steep precipices to protect their religion. The genocide of Hindus acquired a renewed speed and impetus when another wave of Sayyid Sufis led by Sayyid Jalal-ud-din Bukhari 36 entered the borders of Kashmir. The Hindus and their cultural signs and symbols were ruthlessly destroyed the same manner as locusts destroy and devour the lush green paddy fields.

 

Q-factor in the History of Kashmiri Hindus

             Zain-ul-abidin came to the throne of Kashmir in 1420 A.D. In his treatment of and attitude unto the remaining small number of Hindus, not more than proverbial eleven families, the Sultan slavishly followed the marked foot-prints of his predecessors and felt no reason to swerve away from the state policy chalked out by the foreign Sayyid-sufis in choke-hold of state apparatus. The Sultan at the behest of Sayyid-suifs in his court repalced Sanskrit as the official language of court by Persian37. He showered lavish and unprecedented patronage on the foreign musicians from Khurasan and other Central Asian belts thereby discouraging and disparaging the indigenous trends and shades of music38. His court was under the total siege of foreign Muslim ulema and Sayyid-sufis whose inflow into Kashmir had gained tremendous volume and speed. As he was in the line of foreign unsurpers Zain-ul-abidin failed to architect a state that would transcend religious hue and complexion. Encouraging foreign craftsmen to pursue their crafts in Kashmir he dealt a massive blow to indigneous crafts and craftsmen, their jobs being practically stolen by foreign Muslims from distant countries. Sharia-bound the Sultan did not order the execution of a foreign Sayyid-sufi when he murdered a saffron-clad recluse in cold blood. The reason cited was that he was a Sayyid-sufi and hence above law and immune to severe punishment. The state that Zain-ul-abidin assiduously built was an all-round affair of the Muslims from distant lands and people in general though forcible converts to Islam remained deeply mired in despondency and alienation. As social and moral cohesion and bonding had ruptured and shredded the individuals as units in the social fabric were reduced to a state of sheer lawlessness and chaos.

 

            No historian of Kashmir has been precise in citing the date and time when the Sultan developed a fatal boil on his body. All sorts of treatment by a host of foreign physicians was administered to the ailing and wailing Sultan. In all desperation the Sultan was informed of a Hindu physician, Shirya Bhatt by name, who had somehow survived the holocaust and was living in obscurity away from the prying eyes of Muslim maruders.

 

            The Hindu physician was called in. In all Jitters and a chill going down his spine Shriya Bhatt examined the awe-inspiring patient, Zain-ul-abidin, the son of Sikander, the iconoclast and commenced his indigenous treatment. Some days elapsed and lo! the high profile patient showed encouraging signs of turning the corner. He recovered and came to live a normal life. Happy and elated the Sultan sent for the Hindu physician, a native under duress in a gulag and in all generosity asked him to name the beneficence or bountiful reward he would like to have from the Sultan.

 

            What the Hindu physician, Shirya Bhatt, in all humility and supplication asked for as the beneficence or bountiful reward  from the Sultan worked as Q-factor in the history of Kashmiri Pandits. A pious and noble soul, altruistic in his world view and harassed to his bone-marrow, Shirya Bhatt shell shocked the Sultan when he asked for naught for himself, but prayed for the return and rehabilitation of multitudes of his compatriots who had fled their native land to avert the Muslim persecution, allowing them to pursue their indigenous form of education and have jobs in government. The Sultan, more or less, chastened by the fatal boil and under a debt of gratitude to the Hindu physician ungrudgingly conceded all what the Hindu physician had supplicated for.

 

            The Sultan to the absolute  disapprobation and annoyance of Muslim Ulema and Sayyid-sufis despatched messengers to various parts of the country to spot out exiled Hindus and earnestly urged them to return to their native place. He reduced the quantity of Silver (4 tolas in weight) to be paid as Jazia (poll-tax) by half, but was not gracious enough to withdraw the hateful imposition in full thereby granting them total exemption from the punitive tax.

 

            As the Hindus could not cremate their dead under a despotic decree from the Muslim Sultan called Sikander, they were left with no option but to cremate their dead inside their dwellings and kept the ashes in an urn placed in a space created by removing mud and stone from the main doors of their dwellings. Srivar, a historian of Kashmir, writes that when the Sultan Zain-ul-abidin permitted the severely persecuted Hindus to immerse the ashes of their dead in the Gangabal Lake, ten thousand of them miserably perished in a horrific snow-storm that cruelly hit the upland regions the time they were on a return journey after performing rites and rituals connected with the immersion of ashes40.

 

            Srivar also informs that he as a faithful courtier had to pay tax-money, a monstrosity, for the cremation of his father. When he cheekily brought it to the personal notice of his Sultan in the court, he condescended to reduce the tax money, but was again not magnanimous enough to remit the levey in toto that was punitively imposed on the Hindus by Sultan Sikander41.

 

            The Muslim Sultan, Zain-ul-abidin, as a result of fundamental shift in his attitude permitted the exterminated Hindus to celebrate their religious fairs and festivals, circumambulate around the Sharika Parbat and chant hyms and mantras in high decibel and undertake pilgrimages to their holy spots and Shivadhams42.

 

            It becomes stark clear that pilgrimage to the Holy Cave of Amarnath was cruelly stopped by the Muslim ruler Sultan Sikander, from the day he launched a Muslim crusade against the natives and could not be resumed till Zain-ul-abidin suffered a change of heart after the fatal boil that was treated and cured by Shirya Bhatt, who was later included in his court and put in charge of health facilities for the people.

 

            As per the historical archives, Ibrahim Shah II (1552-54 A.D.) granted religious freedom to all. The Hindus were granted freedom of worship only on payment of Jazia (poll-tax). The Hindus made a request for the remittance of the oppressive tax. The Sultan in all hostility replied, ‘How can I who is a Muslim cease to levy tax from the Hindus?’43

 

            The chak fanatics (1554-85 A.D) who were Shias by faith re-imposed Jazia in full on the Hindus of Kashmir. Any Hindu wearing a sacred thread had to pay an annual tax to the chak rulers. Shuka Pandit, a contemporary historian, makes a comment, ‘The Hindus were overpowered by religious intolerance the same way as the sun is overpowered by the grey sable clouds.’44

 

            By implication what is conveyed by Shuka Pandit is that Hindus performing any religious act including a pilgrimage to the Holy cave of Amarnath had to pay a tax to the Muslim rulers.

 

            The Afghans as per all available versions of Kashmir history were barbarous, crude, cruel, ignorant and inhuman. They chopped off every twig from the tree of mercy. The atrocities inflicted on the Hindus of Kashmir by Afghans were unheard of and  beat all previous records. They plundered their houses, looted all what they had by way of material possessions, and anybody complaining or resisting was straight-away put to axe or sword. Persecuting and massacring Hindus was designed to exterminate their entire race or achieve their conversion to Islam. The Hindus fled their land of ancestors to the tropical plains of India to save themselves from the barbarous Afghans. When Hindus were existentially in peril, how could they  have thought of living a pious life of religiosity and performing pilgrimages to the holy spots (tiraths) that they reverred and worshipped for spiritual attainments ? The brutal Afghans stopped them from undertaking pilgrimages to well-known Shiva-dhams or even celebrating their auspicious fairs and festivals. They condemned them as manifestations of infidelity and heresy violative of Sunna and Sharia 45.

 

            The people of Kashmir in general heaved a great sigh of relief when the Sikh army from the Punjab expelled the brutal Afghans from the territory of Kashmir. The soothing relief to the Kashmiri Hindus was that all vexatious and oppressive taxes levied on them were mercifully withdrawn in toto and pilgrimage to the Holy cave of Amarnath was resumed. It was during the reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh that the Holy Mace symbolic of Shiva’s Mace was stored at Amritsar and pilgrimage to the Holy cave of Amaranath would kick-start right from Amritsar.

 

            With the Dogra takeover of Kashmir in 1846 A.D. the pilgrimage to the Holy cave assumed a new scale and dimension. The number of pilgrims increased manifold and proper arrangements for safe conduct of yatra were meticulously made. The Dogras managed the shifting of the Holy Mace from Amritsar to Srinagar where it was stored at Dashnami Akhara where from it is traditionally taken to the Holy cave in a massive procession of devotees, pilgrims, sadhus, sanyasis and general mass of Hindus.

 

Malikhs of Batakoot

 

            Before discussing the role and status of Maliks of Batakoot it becomes quite imperative to place the Maliks as a generic term in proper historical perspective. It can be gleaned from the pages of Hindu history of Kashmir that the Hindu rulers were extremely vigilant in guarding the frontiers of their kingdom. There were routes and passes that were vulnerable and militarily sensitive and could be used for incursions, surprise raids or full-scale aggressions by the invading hordes. To guard their territories the rulers had set up military-cum watch stations put under the charge of officials designated as dwarpals or dwarpatis. They were also tagged as ‘margeshes’ meaning those who mastered the routes or pathways. These military-cum-watch stations were so fortified  in terms of men and materials that the marauding armies of Mahmud Ghaznavi failed twice to invade Kashmir and conquer it.

 

Records Alberuni —   

            ‘They (Hindus) are particularly anxious about the natural strength of their country and therefore take much care to keep a strong-hold upon the entrances and roads leading to it. In consequence it is very difficult to have any commerce with them…….’ 46

 

            It broadly explains how Kashmir resisted going the Islamic way for full six hundred years after the advent of Islam in India.

             In the wake of the launch of Muslim crusade against the natives of Kashmir by Sultan Sikander and his Sayyid-sufi mentor from Central Asia, Mir Mohammad Hamadani, the dwarpals, dwarpatis and margeshes like all other hapless segments of Kashmiri Society were coerced, tortured and brutalized to change their indigenous faith. After they got converted merely as statistical Muslims they were renamed as maliks and were allowed to retain their profession or else they were to be de-mobilised. When army was used for whole-sale conversions by Muslim rulers, all the exit routes were totally closed for the fleeing Hindus so that they would not escape the orgy of conversion47. The same converted Maliks guarding the passes and other exit-points faithfully executed the atrocious writ of the tyrannical rulers.

             Maliks as a vital cog in the Muslim state apparatus were tortured, hounded out and made to flee in the aftermath of chaks getting defeated by the mighty Mughal forces. Most of them perished and some survived by hiding themselves in secluded mountainous regions. The surviving ones had no option but to make a truce with the Mughals to earn reprieve. They were permitted to pursue their profession of guarding the routes and ingress-points on mountains girting the valley.

 

            With the advent of Dogras the Maliks lost their professional moorings and utility as they established the same improvised policing methods and techniques that were largely prevalent in the Punjab, perhaps introduced by the Britishers.

  Myth of Discovery of the holy cave of Amarnath by a Malik

             It is a mere myth, a fib, a lie and a fabrication that the Holy cave of Amarnath was discovered by a Malik in1845 A.D. The litany of references and allusions to the Holy Cave are so profusely splashed in the historical works and theological literature of Kashmir that in no uncertain terms establish its enormous antiquity. Most of the Muslims rulers as borne out by historical records banned the pilgrimage to the Holy cave or created insurmountable hurdles and difficulties for the pilgrims to undertake the pilgrimage. Sultan Sikander banned everything that had a Hindu flavour. Ibrahim Hussain Shah imposed Jazia (poll-tax) on a Hindu to practise his religion including undertaking pilgrimages. Chaks were crude and intolerant fanatics. They used all wild and cruel methods in their armory to exterminate Hinduism from Kashmir. Afghans were the cruellest of the cruel. Their persecution of Hindus is bone-chilling and beggars description. The pilgrimage to any and all Shiva-dhams became impossible during the barbaric period. The pilgrimage to the Holy cave of Amarnath was a continuous affair. All written records amply bear it out and fully buttress it. It got interrupted during the time-periods when indigenous religion, medicine, theology and architecture were decimated. The unrelenting natives under constant on-slaught during the Sultanate chunk of history and even during post-Sultanate period resisted and rejected conversion and fled the land of their birth six times48. In the history of Kashmiri Pandits the stark resemblances to the Jewish history of the exoduses and persecution are writ large. The small numbers that survived the Muslim genocide or those who found it wise or expedient to return to their native land from the plains never severed and abandoned their linkages with the hall-marks of their religion and culture. Steely and resilient they continued to pay obeisance to the Holy cave of Icy-Lingam for spiritual fulfilment and ascendance. This fact is amply reinforced by the calender of the native Hindus, nearly five thousand year old in which the pilgrimage to the Holy cave of Amarnath is included as a day of fasting on account of ‘Shrawan Purnima’, the culminating day of the pilgrimage to the Holy cave.

 

Association of Maliks with the Amarnath Pilgrimage

             As per my personal findings the Maliks of Batakoot are those who proved stubborn beyond limits and failed to reconcile to the Mughal conquest of Kashmir and to avoid annihilation hid themselves at a distant place in the mountainous region away from the gaze of the Mughal soldiers. As they lost their ancestral occupation and had become rudderless and vagrant the Dogra rulers in view of their history harnessed their services as guides to the pilgrim’s enroute the Holy cave of Amarnath. Over the years they were assigned the additional jobs of maintenance of the rough track, raising of small sheds on the routes and physical safety of the pilgrims. In lieu of their services they were paid a sufficient part of the offerings that the devotees offered to the Icy-Lingam in the Holy cave.

 

            To reinforce my stand-point I refer to W.Lawrence who lucidly mentions that pilgrims on way to Holy cave were joined by Brahmins at Mattan and further up at Batakoot Maliks used to take charge of the pilgrimage. He also adds that Maliks were supposed to keep the track in order, guide or escort  the pilgrims and carry sick pilgrims and ensure that nothing was stolen and received one-third of the offerings at the Holy Shrine of Amarnath.

 

            My probe into the affair has led me to an alternate theory that the Malik clan after their conversion to Islam would collect tax money or Jazia (poll-tax) from the native Hindus and the devout pilgrims across the country on a pilgrimage to the holy cave of Amarnath. For most of the Sultanate period barring a short-lived interlude the native Hindus, their religion and its prominent signatures littered over the entire region were under a determined onslaught and decimation. If Hindus were allowed some sort of vague religious freedom, anathema to Islam, they had to pay tax-money or Jazia (Poll-tax) for their religious observances and pilgrimages. As Maliks were stationed at all vulnerable spots, if Amarnath route was one and I believe, it was, they could have been assigned the authority of collecting the hated tax from any Hindu pilgrim, a dhimmi as per Islamic practices.

 

Who is Secular?

 

            With the eruption of mass frenzy over the diversion of some chunks of forest land at Baltal to Amarnath Shrine Board, some half-baked Muslim leaders, immature and ill-informed media men and ultra-liberals have claimed that the association of Muslims with the pilgrimage is something uniquely secular. Let these worthies be told that it is the Hindus who are ultra-secular for having allowed the Muslims to be a part of the pilgrimage and have a share from the offerings. Do Muslims allow the Hindus or for that matter Christians or Jews to be a part of their annual pilgrimage? It is an established fact that the Hindus have a catholic and tolerant view of the world and are accommodative and assimilative and view God’s essence in all men of all faiths. Their tolerant world-view gets established by the vedic dictum – Reality is one, interpretations vary.

 

            If some chunks of people involve themselves in economic activities during the period of pilgrimage to the Holy cave it is absolutely an absurd position to highlight it as basis for orchestration of the secular credentials of that chunk of population. The fact of the matter is that pilgrims on way to the Holy cave duly purchase the services of a chunk of people who happen to be Muslims. It is no charity, it is no benevolence, it is a simple position of purchasing the services of a labourer, a courier, a pony wallah willing to sell his muscle or bodily strength or any other means of assistance to a pilgrim. To color the pilgrimage as an expression of syncretic culture of Kashmir and to project it as a shining precedent of secularism are mere absurd constructions and far-fetched and irrelevant stipulations. The Kashmiri Pandits who have been hounded out of their native place sufficiently know the worth of syncretic culture of Kashmir and its facade of secular credentials.

 —- The Beginning —-

Author : Prof. Mohan Lal Koul

April 23, 2011

Peace-Process- Hidden Agenda

Filed under: Accords, Kashmir, Nationalism — Tags: , , , , — TheKashmir @ 4:40 am

 By Dr. M.K. Teng

Now that the Government of India has repeated its Sharam-ul-Sheikh performance at Thimpu and offered to resume the composite dialogue with Pakistan, virtually jumping over the stand it had taken in the aftermath of the terrorist attack on Mumbai, there is much more that the Indian Government has to explain about what it intends to do in Jammuand Kashmir. Evidently the climb-dam by the Government of India on crucial issues involved in its policy in respect of Jammu and Kashmir, reflects a willful surrender. This perhaps eminates from its inability to face political blackmail and pressure brought to bear on the Indian leaders in the name of economic development and under the cover of peace and security of the region.

The Indian policy reflects a strange sense of helplessness, which pervades the outlook of the Indian political class and which acts as an impelling force to drive those in power to invite Pakistan to the conference table again and again, after every small and major misdemeanor Pakistan has committed. Every time, Pakistan has returned to the conference table, grumbling and growling at the inability of the Indian Government to make the composite dialogue purposeful and result oriented. The cause of concern is not the abrasive attitude of Pakistan, but the uneasiness with which the Indian political class reacts to it.

The Indian Government has rather, with deliberate intent, tried to play down the way Pakistan has expressed its dissatisfaction with the purpose and the pace of the peace-process. It is mainly because the Indian leadership has shown reluctance to face the prospect of laying down a baseline of its policy on the Kashmir issued In fact, the Indian political class has so far evaded the crucial decision of fixing the “irreducible minimum”, beyond which it would not go to reach a settlement with Pakistan on Jammu and Kashmir. Its exhortations to urge upon the Indian Government” to walk an extra-mile” from its “stated positions” in order to be able to reach an “out of the box” solution of the Kashmir problem and its extravagant eagerness to nudge the Indian Government “to go far enough in its engagement with Pakistan, to reach, a settlement on Kashmir”, are idle expressions used to camouflage the subterfuge it has indulged in so far. The truth is that the Indian political class has never mustered courage to stand upto its neighbors. In fact, the Indian political class has never shared with the Indian people the import of defending their borders.

 

Muslim outlook

The Government of Pakistan, its military establishment as well as the civil society in Pakistan, are, all agreed upon the baseline of their stand on Jammu and Kashmir. The civil society in Pakistan has, on no occasion, found it necessary to urge upon the Government of Pakistan, “to walk an extra-mile” in order to reach an “out of the box settlement” on Kashmir. Pakistan has stuck to its stated position that : (a) the Muslims of Jammu and Kashmir are apart of the Muslim nation of Pakistan (b) the Muslims of the state of Jammu and Kashmir acquired the right to unite the State with the Muslim homeland of Pakistan from the partition of India, (c) the Muslims of the State were denied their right to unite the state with Pakistan in 1947, when the ruler of State Maharaja Hari Singh acceded to India, against their wishes and (d) India, which pledged itself to implement the United Nations resolutions, envisaging a plebiscites to enable the Muslims of the State exercise their choice to determine the final disposition of the State in respect of accession, has not redeemed its promise.

From the very inception of the peace-process, which was primarily an Indian initiative, Pakistan has unflinchingly stuck to its self-righteous commitment that its claim to Jammu and Kashmir, based upon the Muslim majority composition of the population, is non-negotiable. Pakistan has stressed time and again that its claim to Jammu and Kashmir on the basis of the Muslim majority composition its population underlines the principle on the basis of which India was divided in 1947 and the Muslim homeland of Pakistan was created. Pakistan has repeatedly stated that the partition of India marked the culmination of a historical process which underlined the Muslim struggle for a separate Muslim homeland in India, comprising the provinces and the regions of the British India populated by the majority of Muslims and Muslim princely states. Pakistan has consistently held that the partition of Indian recognized the Muslim majority composition of the population of the British India and the princely States as the basis on which the territorial jurisdiction of the Muslim homeland was determined. The Kashmir dispute, Pakistan has claimed in unequivocal terms, is a manifestation of the unfinished agenda of the partition of India.

 

The Muslim League laid claim to the Muslim ruled princely states as well, on the basis of prescription and conquest because it could nor bring itself round to accept the exclusion of the Muslim ruled states from the Muslim homeland of Pakistan. The Muslim League leaders considered the Muslim ruled princely states to be the citadels of the Muslim power in India, which had survived the establishment of the British rule inIndia. The insistence of the Muslim League on the lapse of the Paramountcy was used by it to isolate the Muslim ruled states. Except that the lapse of the Paramountcy caused the Muslim League some tactical disadvantage in the Jammuand Kashmir, its acceptance by the Congress brought India to the verge of disintegration. Were it not for the people of the Muslim ruled States, who defeated the designs of the Muslim League and the Muslim rulers, India would have been divided further. The ideological commitment of the Muslim struggle for a separate Muslim homeland in India to secure the Muslims in India, a separate freedom which ensured them the realization of their Islamic destiny was fundamentally Muslim in outlook. The territorial claim to a Muslim India, comprising the Muslim majority provinces of the British India and the Muslim ruled States the Pakistan Resolution envisaged, was also Muslim in outlook. The claim that the unification of Jammu and Kashmir with Pakistan is the unfinished agenda of the partition of India is also Muslim in outlook.

 

Irreducible Minimum

Pakistan has not allowed its stand on Jammu and Kashmir to be wrapped in any ambiguity. In fact it has spelt out the baseline of its stand on Jammu and Kashmir in unmistakable terms. It has refused to deviate from its stated position that the Muslim majority composition of the population  of the State is basic to any settlement on Jammu and Kashmir. It has refused to delink the Muslim majority composition of the state from the right of self-determination, which it has consistently maintained, flowed from the partition of India. Exactly, as the Muslim League agreed to divide the Muslim  majority provinces of the Punjab and Bengal and the Hindu majority provinces of Assam, on the basis of population, Pakistan has offered to accept the division of the State on the basis of population, as a basis for a settlement on Jammu and Kashmir. It has proposed the separation of the Muslim majority regions of the State, comprising the Muslim provinces of Kashmir, the Muslim majority districts of the Jammu province and the Muslim majority district of Kargil in the frontier division of Ladakh and their unification with the Muslim homeland of Pakistan, as the irreducible minimum which it is ready to accept as the basis of a solution of the dispute over Jammu and Kashmir. The participation of Pakistan in the peace-process, in the ultimate analysis, is aimed to persuade  the Indian people to accept the application of the principle which underlined the partition of India, as a basis of a settlement on Kashmir.

 

Interestingly the peace-process carried on between the Vajpai Government and the Government headed by NawazSherrif; followed by negotiations between the Bajpai Government and themilitary regime headed by General Musharraf; the long and atrocious talk held at the Track Two level, largely a framework of conflict resolution, fabricated by the American diplomacy and the Manmohan Singh-Musharraf parleys leading to the so-called “non-territorial settlement” on Kashmir; reveal a continuity in the stand taken by Pakistan. The stand taken by Pakistan has underlined; the separation of the Muslim majority regions of the State, on the Indian side of the Line of Control with their eventual disengagement from the Indian Union and their re-integration within a framework of political imperatives evolved by the two countries India and Pakistan, with the consent of the Muslims of Jammu and Kashmir.

 

The Musharraf plan lay bare theperfidy. It recognized the separation of the Muslim majority regions of the State and their reorganization into a new political entity on the territories of India which was governed by Pakistan. The Musharraf plan envisaged the division of the State into six geographical zones of which five were Muslim majority zones, the transfer of power in the state to the Muslim separatist regimes under the garb of self-rule; withdrawal of the Indian armed forces from the State in the name of demilitarization; the unification of the Muslim majority zones situated on the Indian side of the Line of Control with theoccupation territories of Azad Kashmir under the cover of “irrelevant borders” and the placement of the State under the joint-control of India and Pakistan. Manmohan Singh cried aloud, undoubtedly to attract the attention of the Muslims in Jammu and Kashmir and perhaps, the Muslims in India, to the historical task, he had accomplished by putting Jammu and Kashmir on a ten year long journey tojoin Pakistan. The Musharraf plan provided for the revaluation of the arrangements made in accordance with its provisions after ten years a stipulation which the Indian Government tried to underplay.

 

 

Greatest Betrayal

 Pakistan appears to have convinced itself that India has finally accepted the principle of the partition of India as the basis of a settlement of Jammu and Kashmir. Evidently the impatience and the urgency, the Foreign office of Pakistan has exhibited about the progress of the peace-process, arises out of  its eagerness to evolve a procedure for the separation of the Muslim majority regions of the State, their disengagement from the Union of India and the eventual integration with the Islamic power-structure of Pakistan.

The territorial boundaries of Pakistan, laid down by the partition of India in 1947, were confined to the territories of the British India. The Indian princely states were not brought within the scope of the partition of India. The claim Pakistan has laid to Jammu and Kashmir on the basis of the Muslim majority composition of its population did not from a part of the process of the partition and the transfer of power in India. The right of the self-determination of the colonial peoples was an expression of the historic process of decolonization, the Second World War set into motion. The right of self-determination was never conceived as an instrument of any religious war. India was not divided to ensure the Indian people their right of self-determination.

 

Jammu and Kashmir forms the most crucial part of the northern frontier of India. It continues to be central to the security of the Indian borders in the north. Any prescription for a second partition of India, to disengage the State from the Indian Union will not usher in a State of peace between India and Pakistan. Peace  between the two countries  will always depend upon the mutual respect they have for each other’s strike capabilities. The Indian political class, whatever, the nature of its commitment to the Indian unity, cannot ignore the hard fact that Pakistan has a stock pile of nearly two hundred nuclear weapons in its basement. Pakistan is an ideological state-a fact, which the Indian people can overlook at their own peril.

 

*(The writer heads Panun Kashmir advisory).

Source: Kashmir Sentinel, April 2011 issue

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