Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

It Takes Theatre to Make a Serious Point: Inter-community Dialogue is Essential in the Valley

Artistes break the ice and tread where most are hesitant to go

Kashmiri play reiterates need for inter-community dialogue

By Ravinder Kaul (Daily Excelsior)

There have been quite a few occasions in the recent past when Kashmiri artistes, through their artistic creations, have attempted to highlight the need to initiate a process of dialogue between Kashmiri Muslims and Kashmiri Pandits. Release of two music albums last month, one by a group from Kashmir, urging the members of the minority community to return to their homeland and another by a Kashmiri artiste living in forced exile in Jaipur (Rajasthan), highlighting the yearning of the members of the community for their land of ancestors, are an indicator towards the fact that there is still a glimmer of hope that the members of both the communities can come to terms with their respective loss and at least sit together and talk. The play Zamaanay Pok Na Humdum, presented by Manasbal Dramatics, Safapora, Kashmir in Rang Pratibha, the Festival of Plays by young theatre directors being organised by Sangeet Natak Akademi, in association with J&K Academy of Art, Culture and Languages at Abhinav Theatre here today, is another attempt to break the ice between the two communities.

The forced exodus of the entire community of Kashmiri Hindus from Kashmir Valley 18 years ago has left deep scars on the psyche of members of the displaced community. More than the physical and economic sufferings of the community during the period of exile, it is the feeling of ‘betrayal’ by their friends, neighbours and colleagues belonging to the majority community, at a time when they were being targeted by armed religious fanatics, aided and abetted by our belligerent neighbour, that has hurt them the most. The white lie spread by some interested groups among the majority community, that it was Jagmohan, the then Governor of the State, who coaxed the members of the community to leave their centuries old place of habitat with a promise of a tent and a few thousand rupees as relief, caused further damage. The fact that many among the majority community actually believed this preposterous lie resulted in the final break down of the possibility of a meeting ground between the two communities.

The title of today’s play has been derived from a popular Kashmiri song written by Ghulam Nabi Doolwal ‘Jaanbaaz Kishtwari’ and sung in a soulful voice by legendary singer Ghulam Hassan Sofi. The play begins with the migration of Pandits from Kashmir and projects the sufferings of the members of the community in exile. At the same time, the play also highlights the problems faced by the members of the majority community in the armed conflict between militants and the security forces. The role played by unscrupulous politicians in increasing the miseries of the masses by lining their own pockets has been included in the play.

The play concludes in a verbal encounter between members of the two communities trading charges against each other, which comes to an end with the dialogue of an abettor that he was prepared to continue the struggle till the last Kashmiri. The obvious reference here is towards the role of our neighboring country in the conflict. The members of both the communities realise the gravity of the situation but the play still has a question mark, formed by the artistes on stage, as the final outcome of the entire exercise, One is still not sure as to what will happen?

All the artistes were wearing symbolic costumes, a yellow robe and red trouser, with traditional Kashmiri headgear in similar colours. Ubaid Ahmed Wani, Syed Zubair Ahmed, veteran actor Rashid Ghamgeen and Suriya Khan impressed with their histrionics. The writer and the moving spirit behind the play Nisar Naseem has raised a significant issue through this play and has attempted to articulate the sufferings of common Kashmiris in the years of turmoil, highlighting the need to put our past behind the and initiate a dialogue process between members of the two communities. Ashiq Husain Manasbali, the young director of the play has exhibited his seriousness and deep understanding of theatre through this production. The concluding verbal duel was conceived as a Haenz fight, the fighting between the boatmen, rather boat-women, of Kashmir, who have developed such duels into a virtual art form. This and some similar scenes do denote a definite spark in him.

Jammu Kala Mandir presents its play Yatra on Wednesday. Varsha Dogra directs.

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