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 11, 2008

Remembering the "real" Zoonie

Yousuf recalls the spirited life of yet another Kashmiri poetess and rebel

(Mr. Yusuf Jameel, 50, was born and raised in Srinagar. He completed his B.A. (Humanities) from the Kashmir University and went on to complete a Master's degree in Political Science from the same University in 1980. He served as an Assistant Editor of the Urdu daily, Aftab, during his student days, and afterwards did some freelancing before joining the Daily Telegraph in 1983. Since 1993, he is a special correspondent with the Asian Age and its sister publication, the Deccan Chronicle. He has been a frequent contributor to the BBC, the New York Times, the Voice of America, the Agency France Presse (AFP) and a number of other national and international news agencies. He received the International Press Freedom Award from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) in New York in 1996, and the SAFMA Best Reporter Award in 2005. Mr. Jameel is noted for his fearless reporting that has earned him the ire of both authorities and militants, but takes his leasure time in stride with photography, fishing and trekking.)

Remembering legendary poet Habba Khatoon

Srinagar: Preparations are under way to remember the legendary Kashmiri poetess whose songs are still sung in the Valley.

Beneath the makeshift army outpost at Athwajan, the highway township on the outskirts of Jammu and Kashmir's summer capital Srinagar, lies the tomb of Habba, also known as Zoon (moon in Kashmiri language). She may well be called the Philomel of Medieval Kashmir. The tomb needs to be secured.

Habba's paramour Yusuf Shah Chak, the last king of Kashmir, was externed as Mughal Emperor Akbar annexed Kashmir in 1585 AD. The most illustrious poetess from the Valley must have eaten her heart away in disgust and dismay. The Kashmiri nation at that time was groaning under internal exploitation and external aggression.

Zoon was born to a poor peasant Abdi Rather and his wife Janam, in Chandrahara village in the Valley on the bank of Kashmir's major river Jhelum in 16th century. The legend goes that a wandering Sufi mystic gave her the name Zoon. There is no mention as to when she became Habba, but it is generally believed that Yusuf fell in love with her during a visit to the plateaus of Pampore.

In her prime youth, Zoon or Zooni began to compose lyrics under the guidance of her Sufi mentor. As she also had a melodious voice, she would sing her own compositions. Her songs soon became popular in the surrounding villages. And it is said that Yusuf heard her sing and fell in love with Zoon. According to the legend, Yusuf, without ascertaining who she was, decided to marry her. She was married to Aziz Lone, one of her collaterals. The proverbial animosity between the mother-in-law and the daughter-in-law dampened the marital relations between Zoon and her spouse. She was forced to live with her parents. Zoon at such a tender and impressionably age could not recover from the rebuff she received at the very threshold of her marital life. Her despondency flowed out in the form of poetry.

Her another name (Zoon) can be inferred from this:

"I am bemoaning my lot in plaintive cries, the Moon (Kashmiri Zoon) has been devoured by an eclipse."

It is said that though married, Zoon refused to allow her husband Aziz the conjugal life. She was thrashed and thrown out of her home and made to live in the sheep pen in the courtyard. After a while, she ran away during a snowstorm to her parent's home. Aziz refused to divorce her. Then came Yusuf in her life.

Prof. K.N. Dhar says, "Habba's songs are musical in essence and pathetic in spirit." According to him, her popularity is also due to the fact that her songs are not only a replica of Kashmiri sense but also a potent vehicle of Kashmiri music. Her originality in this sphere is undisputed. Even though she has appropriated a sizeable chunk of Persian words, she has refrained from owning Persian code on metres. As the talk of her charisma travelled to the nook and corner of the subcontinent, noted Indian filmmaker Muzaffar Ali had in late 1980s started making a film on her life. But with the Kashmiri insurgency bursting into a major violence in 1989-90, he abandoned the project.

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