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 17, 2009

Tragic Ending to a Music Composer and Lyrical Master

Huma remembers a great artist and a loving parent whose mysterious death continues to haunt the family

Remembering melodious Ghulam Nabi Sheikh

Huma Sheikh

Few days before his death, Dad was singing a sing, which was recorded in 2003, to a group of students and family in our home.

My father, Ghulam Nabi Sheikh, had sung and recorded innumerable songs. His voice shimmered with his passion for Kashmiri music.

As Program Executive in Radio Kashmir, Srinagar and previously as producer and singer, he could create a high-quality recording whenever he presented or dubbed a show on radio.

The power of Dad’s voice and his singing versatility earned him a title “Mehdi Hassan of Jammu and Kashmir,” and his compositions carried him to greater heights.

He spent almost 40 good years of his life in devotion to music in Kashmir. He was “Top Grade” artist of JK and his songs and compositions blended with contemporary tunes yet retained their melodic folk texture that touched people’s hearts.

He further eternalizes his singing and musical abilities by creating a breed of singers in Kashmir, who all are now popular singers in the valley.

Dad began his musical career at the age of 14. From these early days, he would participate in singing competitions in and outside of Kashmir, often winning first slots. His first international visit as a teenage was to Bangladesh, where he received first prize in a singing competition. Around the same time, Dad began singing for Yuvavani service of Radio Kashmir.

He would be at the same recording room as popular singers of their days like Ghulam Hassan Sofi, Raj Begum and Naseem Akhtar. Dad received first prize in a youth competition in 1980 organized by the Cultural Academy, Srinagar.

Dad soon joined a cluster of singers like Shaheema Azad, Kailash Mehra, who had started their singing career way ahead of him. Singers like Aarti Tikko and Vijay Mala came around the same time as dad. He started singing and composing songs for Radio Kashmir’s General Service while mesmerizing thousands of Kashmiris with his wonderful voice. He marveled people with his singing performances across all states in India. He won “Grade A” singer slot in light music.

In 1983, he was appointed music composer in Radio Kashmir. After 1989 when Pandit Bhajan Sopori, who was Program Executive at Radio Kashmir, left Kashmir, Dad overlooked Radio’s Music section. During those tough years of turmoil, he created a large group of singers in Kashmir, who eventually got recognition in the field of music. Among them are Rashid Farash, Waheed Jeelani, Muneer Ahmed Mir and others.

As approved music composer by Music Audition Board, All India Radio, New Delhi, he also composed songs in Urdu, Dogri, Gojri, Punjabi and Bengali among others.

Years into his stint as music composer, he cleared Union Public Service Commission examination to serve as Program Executive in Radio Kashmir. He was awarded “Top Grade Singer” in light music for excellence in the singing of Kashmiri songs--the other “Top Grade Singer” in light music in the Valley is Begum Akhtar. He also won “D-I Graded Singer” award in light music (Urdu).

He served as member of the Advisory Sub-Committee for Kashmir Folk Music in Cultural Academy (1995-2003) and member of Program Advisory Committee of Doordarshan Kendra Srinagar (1986-88). He was also empanelled with Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR).

But the voice is silent now. Today is the sixth anniversary of his death, yet his death is still a mystery.

My father was died in 2003. He disappeared mysteriously from the train bound for Delhi from Jammu on the night of July 13 and was reported dead the following day by Punjab police. They claimed his body had been cremated. We only got his clothes and slippers and the ring and watch he was wearing.

The tragedy of his death has stuck with us and the ghosts of mystery haunt us as time passes. We have many questions but no answers.

We have questions about who killed him and what led to his death. We regret that the Jammu and Kashmir government couldn’t do anything to unravel the mystery. The lukewarm response of the government toward handling the case also adds to the lingering feeling every Kashmiri has that the people hardly have any power when it comes to dealing with cases that happen outside state.

My father’s death is not the only case in the Valley; many tragedies have happened in Kashmir. At the end of the day, it is not the death of a person but a family. Over the course of six years, my mother has lost hope that her husband will ever come back and so have I and my siblings—a brother and sister.

We just don’t know as we have never seen his dead body. “Some day, there will be a miracle when dad will knock on our door. We don’t stop thinking about it.”

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