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.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

A Special Sufi Festival Held in the Valley

While demoguoges are busily engaged in communal sniping, lucky are those who can shut them out with soothing music of brotherhood and unity

3-day Sufi festival begins;Kashmir an abode of Sufis, Saints

SRINAGAR: A scintillating and heart rendering performance by artists from Kashmir, Delhi and Egypt mesmerised the audience on the first day of a three-day Sufi festival that started at Sher-i-Kashmir International Convocation Complex (SKICC) on 19th June, 2008. The festival being jointly organised by Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB), Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) and J and K Academy of Art, Culture and Languages (JKAACL), while Doordarshan Kendra Srinagar, J&K Tourism Department and J&K Information Departments were collaborating with the festival.

The ambience of the conference hall with rich spiritual music and dance took the audience into ecstasy and heavenly bliss. The festival has been organised to commemorate the 50 years of the establishment of J KAACL and to bring home the message that Kashmir, which over the ages has symbolised peace, mutual harmony and togetherness still has the image of being an abode of Rishis, Sufis and Munis. Kashmir always accepted the message of peace and love through any faith that ever preached it.

On the occasion, Governor Lt. Gen. (Retd) S.K Sinha while highlighting the importance of music in our daily lives said that it believes in no boundaries and has the capacity to transcend all barriers to reach hearts and souls. He said that Sufism links the souls with the creator and spreads the messages of brotherhood, peace, amity and tolerance. This spirit has connected people together and helped in creating harmony in society, he added.

The Governor described Kashmir as an abode of saints and Sufis and said its glorious ethos makes it unique and district in the world. He said that the Amarnath Yatra is a unique symbol of Kashmir's rich pluralistic ethos, through which the message of togetherness and peace spreads all along. He said that the artists of the Central Asia are also participating in the 3-day musical bonanza while the artists of Pakistan have been performing since the inception of this event.

On the occasion, Chief Minister (CM) Ghulam Nabi Azad highlighted the initiatives taken by the Governor over last four years for inviting different artists and cultural troops from neighbouring countries and Central Asia for showcasing their culture. He said that the main motive for organising such festivals was to highlight the concept of love, peace and patience which was the intrinsic essence of Sufism.

The three day International Sufi Festival concluded here on June 21, 2008 with the sizzling performance by the artists from Syria and Uzbekistan followed by performance of internationally acclaimed Pakistan's Ajoka theatre group's landmark production "Bullah" a famous play depicting the life and message of sufi saint Hazrat Baba Bullah Shah .

The final day cultural extravaganza commenced with the Sufi dance of Uzbek in which one dozen artists enthralled the audience presenting 10 dance performances showcasing the sufi tradition popular in central Asia .The performance was highly appreciated by the audience.

The Uzbek dance comes from an Islamic culture and North Indian court dance springs from Hindu roots. These diverse forms interacted and evolved under the Mughal dynasty founded by the 16th century emperor, Babur. For Uzbeks, Babur is a much- admired hero and poet; for Indians, he is remembered as a cruel conqueror. But from either perspective, Babur is recognized as the founder of the Mughal dynasty that blended Central Asian Islamic culture with North Indian Hindu traditions.

Earlier welcoming the guests, Zaffar Iqbal Manhas Secretary, Cultural Academy said that the festival will be remembered for decades together for its vibrant and theme oriented presentations. "About 100 artists from five countries of the world including Pakistan , Egypt, Uzbekistan, Syria and India were our guests for three days and in future we are inviting prominent Sufi singer from Pakistan, Abida Parveen with the help of ICCR New Delhi in September this year," he added.

After Sufi dances, a play directed by Madeeha Gohar was staged. As per story line the play started with the funeral procession of Bulleh Shah. The religious head refuses to grant permission for burial in the Muslim graveyard unless it is established that Bullha died a Muslim. Qazi narrates the misdeeds of Bullaha in the court room and the story of Bulleh Shah is revealed in a series of flashbacks. The play is narrated by Sona and Chandi who move in and out of the flashback to carry the storyline forward.

(State Times and Daily Excelsior)

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