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.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Analyzing Lal Ded's Message During the Contemporary Turbulent Era

Afshana re-interprets the message of Kashmir's first Feminist poet and social rebel

(Ms. Syeda Afshana, 34, was born in Srinagar. She attended the Vishwa Bharti High School in Rainawari, Srinagar, and the Government Women's College in Srinagar where she received a B.Sc. degree. She completed her Master's degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from the Kashmir University in 1999 and was the Gold Medallist (first position holder) in her graduating class. She is currently a Lecturer in the Media Education Research Centre (MERC) of the Kashmir University and pursuing her doctorate on the role of internet after 9/11.)

Lal Ded : Communicator Par Excellence?

With a rope of
loose-spun thread
am I towing my boat
upon the sea.
Would that God
heard my prayer
and brought me safe across!
Like water in cups of unbaked clay
I run to waste.
Would God I were
to reach my home! (Lal Ded)


We live in communication rather than outside communication and use communication for our own purposes. That’s why the patterns of social communication constitute the world as we know. It is a primary social process where communication becomes the locus of forces through which persons create and manage Social Reality which includes – Concept of Self, Concept of Community and Concept of Cultures.

Through communication we create concepts of self: Who we are? We create relationships within the community and build institutions. We communicate and act together to create and recreate community relationships. Relationships exist and are managed within a culture. That’s why human communication notion is not always getting the accuracy of transmission but of social-reality creation.

From the communication perspective, human actions are seen as the process by which persons collectively maintain social reality . Human beings simultaneously live in a symbolic universe (social reality) and are engaged in sequences of interactions with their environment and other people. They actively strive to create coherent messages drawing from the resources of their social reality and from the practices in which they are engaged with others.

The primary model that supports such communication process is - SOURCE→MESSAGE→CHANNEL→RECEIVER
Source / Speaker: LAL DED

The source of a message is the central person doing the communicating. Lal Ded as a source is shrouded in myth, miracle, and legend. Was she a ‘Saint or Social Rebel’- the queries are bamboozling.

Poorly researched and not well documented, her life description lacks veracity. Given the socio-politic and cultural milieu of her times, people perceived her differently. Chroniclers and historians of repute are silent about her. A group of scholars project her as an ascetic, sadhvi, yogini adept at a form of meditation (Kundalini Yoga / Trikashastra) and a profound exponent of Shavism in Kashmir, while others opine that she was a mystic, iconoclast, poetess, a social-rebel whose exclusive art of conveying message through a peculiar form of poetry earned her a mass-appeal.

In his book Kashmir’s Transition to Islam-The Role of Muslim Rishis, Prof. M.Ishaq Khan writes that in an ‘environment which was undoubtedly exposed to Islamic influences centuries before the establishment of the Muslim Sultanate’, Lal Ded had three options before her —
To embrace Islam
To reform Hindu society
To revolt against caste-ridden social order

The first option cannot be taken for lack of substantial evidence. Her conversion is not credibly established from history, however the influence of mysticism, Sufis and Islamic scholars of great standing is felt in her poetry.

The second one, as per Prof. Khan, flounders on the bedrock of her seminal historical role which speaks more of her association with Islam than with Shavism. The last option is established by her message that was replete with dissent against ‘social and spiritual pretensions of the Brahmans’ of the time.


Lal Ded is the first woman mystic to preach medieval mysticism in Kashmiri poetry. Her messages in the form of Vaaks were a forceful expression of incisive metaphors, riddles and semantic symbols. Her message deprecated and disgraced the established organized and instutionalized religion of the time by attempting to present a simplistic, countryside – interpretation of Man, Supernatural and their ‘possible confluence’ by practicing ascetism and penance as a result of engaging in extreme forms of meditation and yoga.

Though down the ages, folklore and fable has filled in the unanswered questions and queries about her person and life, but the concept of God and religion in her message remains obscure. In the face of her vaaks being conspicuously emphatic on issues that demanded tremendous physical toil and dedication for attaining purity of self by total renunciation of world, society and peoples, obscurity in some key aspects is reflective as well as amazing.

Her public and popular demeanor notwithstanding, the contemporary proponents of Islam - who were in the process of gaining foothold at the time treated her poetry as a disguised support whilst people of her community thought of her as a saviour in the backdrop of ragging casteism and sectarianism perpetuated by the their religion.


The medium used by Lal Ded was Oral word , in the form of Kashmiri Language. Being a language that had people could associate and identify with, her message cut through the cords of common masses who were reeling under transitory but equally historical situations.

Receiver / Audience:

Common masses of the time were her target audience. Her denunciation of casteism, peculiar yet simplistic form of poetry, her mental synchronism and amiability with Rishis and Sufis were the main factors for her mass-appeal. It was an Age of Social Ferment, upheavals of lasting magnitude were making inroads.

Contemporary setting:

Given the Synchronic and Diachronic perspective of communication, the efficacy of Lal Ded’s message raises lot of skepticism in the contemporary era. That her message was effective because of its temporal dimensions is a moot point. Putting her in today’s settings will not only alter her status as a Communicator but will surely place her message on the testing crucible of Rationalism that has overtook most of the present generation.

For a student like me, the following Vaak of Lal Ded raises certain questions-

"That transcendental- self may assume the names of Shiva, Vishnu, Buddha or Brahma; I am concerned only With their efficacy in cutting asunder my worldly affections, which might be accomplished by any one of these.”

For me, a representative of my generation, Shiva, Vishnu, Buddha or Brahma whisk many qualms, forcing to break certain shibboleths that have been fed into my mind over years.

Need of the hour:

Discerning spiritual vision of Lal Ded, is the indispensable requirement of our times. Separating her genuine outpourings from the spurious interpolations can be taken over by objective research and study, thus freeing Lal Ded from the trappings of many myths and legends. To reconstruct her image in the light of authentic fact and looking at her as a poet who gave voice to women seems mandatory before going into any kind of intellectual or literary debate about figures like Lal Ded who have been the victims of misinterpretation and misrepresentation at the hands of our ‘pseudo-historians.’

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