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, July 4, 2009

Closing the Circle: Can Tears Turn Into Glue?

Arif writes about a night to remember at the Tagore Hall when Kashmiri children born away from Kashmir connected with natives, leading to an editorial pleading for return of pluralism in the Valley (two reports)

(Mr. Arif Bashir, 25, was born in Check-e-Ferozpora, Tangmarg. He completed his schooling in his native village, and obtained his Arts degree, with emphasis in English Literature, Urdu Literature, Political Science and English, from the Amar Singh College, Srinagar. He subsequently completed his Master of Arts degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from the University of Kashmir. He is a Reporter for the Kashmir Images, a leading English daily of Kashmir Valley, and is presently an Associate Editor of the Daily Khidmat (English version), that slso is published from the Valley. He has written, scripted and directed two Documentary Films - 85 Degrees, and Faces of Hope - and one fictional Film - Dastak. His ambition is to become an outstanding Film Maker.)

Kashmiriyat takes rebirth at Tagore Hall: Born in exile, Pandit child artists make all eyes wet

Srinagar: Keats’ knight at arms was enthralled by La Belle Dam Sans Merci and this enthralling had given him some discomfiture, but the audience at Srinagar’s Tagore hall would have loved to remain enthralled for ages together while the young Kashmiri Pandit children were performing on the stage.

All eyes moist and all hands clapping – Kashmiriyat took rebirth at Tagore Hall Sunday evening when a house-full of Kashmiri Muslims were mesmerized by a group of 40 Kashmiri Pandit children, ironically none of them born here.

From Lala Ded to Mehjoor and from Abdul Ahad Azad to Dina Nath Nadim to Moti Lal Saqi, the child artists – between the age group of 4 to 16 years – performed on spiritual, melancholic, romantic, fun and revolutionary songs and so perfect was the lip movement and so classy the steps that one could not help clap and clap non-stop.

Born in exile, none of the performing child has ever visited Kashmir earlier, the place their parents and grand parents love more than their lives.

Dae’d Boni Te Beye Sabzaar, We’n Kath Jaa’e Samau
Kola Radan Lae’j Kae’nd Taar, We’n Kath Jaa’e Samau
(All Chinars and all greens are burnt, where we shall now meet; all the streams have been fenced with barbed wires; where we shall now meet).

When the young children performed on Moti Lal Saqi’s these verses, no eye in the audience could afford to remain dry.

Despite all troubles; despite all traumas; despite all dirty politicking – Kashmir is still alive and so are Kashmiris. And this was proved beyond doubt today seeing jam-packed Tagore Hall, not packed with VIPs who move around in bullet proof vehicles but the ordinary Kashmiris who had thronged the venue with their families.

And Kashmiriyat, that had got some beating during past more than a decade, was reborn as all Muslim Kashmiri hands clapped on every move and every word of Kashmiri Pandit children.

The programme ‘Mauj Kasheer’, a variety show of Kashmiri Culture was specially designed and organised by Jammu and Kashmir Academy of Art, Culture and Languages to showcase the musical talent of the Kashmiri Pandit children born in Jammu and other parts of country. The programme also highlighted how strongly the Kashmiris, living in exile, continue to remain linked to their cultural roots in Kashmir Valley.

Performing on the lilting music composed by Krishan Langoo, the children with every move of theirs touched something within of all those present in the audience and even a shrewd politician and finance minister of the state, Abdul Rahim Rather was seen wiping his tears.

So touched was Rather that he announced a cash prize of Rs.2 Lacs for the performing artists as a token of love and encouragement.

“Chounth Chu Yete, Magar Zew Che Tou’er. (Mouth is here but the tongue is with them {Kashmiri Pandits}),” commented Ghulam Nabi Ganie, a teacher hailing from a Baramulla village, who was mesmerized by the performance of the young Pandit artists and their love for Kashmiri language.

The teacher was impressed that how seriously the Pandits, although living in exile, were contributing for preservation and progress of Kashmiri language.

Earlier, speaking in his welcome address, Zafar Iqbal Manhas, Secretary J&K Cultural Academy, said that though unfortunate turmoil has resulted into geographical separation of Kashmiri Pandit community from their land of origin but Kashmiris stand united by one common language and culture. He said that in order to provide opportunity to the children born in exile to visit Kashmir, Academy has organized this special show here and “we are planning to extend this programme of young Kashmiri Pandit artists in different parts of Kashmir Valley so as to provide them an opportunity to visit land of their ancestors and also interact with their contemporaries.”

Unbreakable Links (Editorial in Kashmir Images)

Kashmir, since 1989, has witnessed tragedies and tragedies alone. It has been death and destruction allover; with thousands buried in the graveyards, which have emerged in every nook and corner of Valley. People have faced serious emotional, psychological and economic disasters and normality and peace have taken a ruthless beating. Amongst all these tragedies one is the displacement of a section of Kashmir society – Kashmiri Pandits – who in the wake of insurgency left their homes and hearths and since then are living in Jammu and other parts of country a life in exile. While there are so many versions regarding the causes behind Pandit migration, one thing is certain that in any society, a minority community decides to migrate only when it feels that the majority around is not in a position to safe guard its life and property. One can’t rule out then Governor Jagmohan’s hand, but he could only facilitate what the community had already decided. Anyway, without going into that debate, Pandit migration continues to be a dark chapter of our contemporary history. The only good thing is that despite the migration and despite misgivings about each other, the two communities still are emotionally and psychologically as close as ever and given a chance they would again be living together happily.

No politics, no hate campaigns, no religion based politics can sever the innate links that exist between Kashmiri Pandits and Muslims and that was proved beyond any doubt at Tagore Hall on Sunday evening when house-full Muslim audience was cheering non-stop the child artists of Pandit community who were performing there during a programme organized by Cultural Academy. As the child artists performed on the songs of Lala Ded, Dina Nath Nadim, Mehjoor, Azad and Moti Lal Saqi, are eyes were wet and almost every individual in the audience could feel their own half performing on the stage. That is the bonding between the communities who basically are from the same lot. Language and culture are the basic that unite people and no politics or hate campaigns break this link. The emotions may remain dormant for sometime but once given a chance they are expressed more vehemently each time. The government’s and politicians have been talking of getting the displaced Kashmiri Pandits back to their own soil but unfortunately nothing of the sort seems happening. Fact of the matter is that it can’t be done by government policy and politicians but by the ordinary sons and daughters of the soil. Efforts are to be made, the way Cultural Academy has initiated, to bring the two communities together and allow them to share their grievances and longings with each other. The love between the two is eternal and is always there. Need is to provide an opportunity so that people are able to express it.

The tears in the eyes of Muslim audience at Tagore Hall was an open invitation to Kashmiri Pandits – come back, we are longing for you.

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