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, May 14, 2010

Stories From the Edge

Javid, Blog's unofficial "resident philosopher," mulls on a fabric (called Kashmiriyat) that seems to have lost its color

(Dr. Javid Iqbal, 63, was born in Srinagar. He attended the D.A.V. School, Srinagar, and graduated in Medicine from the Government Medical College (GMC). His professional service in medicine includes work in the Middle East for three decades. During his days at the GMC, he captained the cricket team. He enjoys writing and staying close to his children in far away lands.)

New Lexicon of the Kashmiris
…a Tale of Changing Social Attitudes and Political Perception!

The title is borrowed; it is the title of a book written by B.L.Saraf. The book conveys, what ails us and reflects on what we have missing in the vale for last two decades; the colour that our Kashmiri Pandit community added to social panorama, without which we are a lot poorer than we ever were, since the waters of ‘Satisar’ the wide water formation covering the entire vale, flew through the mountainous range; the Himalayas, leaving the geographical bowl, breathtaking in appearance, we so proudly call the vale of Kashmir!

The book projects persons, relating them as live characters to events. The events encountered, though known relate to characters in varied manner, for example 82-year-old widow Sampkuj living in a well furnished flat in a posh locality, courtesy of her two sons, US citizens, who are extremely happy that the young maid Salochna looks after their mother very well. And for the septuagenarian Gopi Nath who, in an old age home, is waiting for his death.” These are live characters, who had in the good old days, the benefit of a known neighbourhood, generations old, who would act as a cushion, wherever the sons would be living. They wouldn’t need the cover of Salochna for their mother. Ghulam Mohammad’s, Ghulam Nabi’s or Ghulam Qadir’s family would readily come forward. Septuagenarian Gopi would not be in an old age home, awaiting death.

B L Saraf paints a tragic-comedy situation, on which Kavita Pai too has commented in a very touching manner in a column recently. However, Kavita is not live to the pure Kashmiri scenario of years of yore, hence lacunas in her comment on the ‘Lexicon’ are understandable. There are accounts in migrant Pandit homes of parental threatening of decamping in old age home, obviously arising from perceived lack of concern by their upwardly mobile professional off springs in metropolitan centers in the country…Bombay, Bangalore or Kochi. In good old days, an old Pandit or Panditani living the comfort of their home and hearth in Kashmir might have had to face a similar situation; perceived lack of concern, however they would have vented their anger by walking into the neighbouring Muslim home and returned home after getting a few tips on being considerate to off springs, who might have a young family to rear, an office to attend to. So, the perception developed might have had no reality. That is how concerns were shared in Kashmir of two decades back. It was a delight to live in these shared neighbourhoods.

Tales of so called ‘exodus’ abound with glimpses of pathos and what Kavita calls dashes of the acerbic wit. Kavita is right; Kashmiri Pundits did have that acerbic wit in abundance. However, I would definitely question the use of the word ‘Exodus’ not on what the use of the word implies grammatically, but in its religious implication. The term alludes to Moses (AS) who led the ‘Hebrews’ out of Egypt, which was not their home and hearth, but as per the lore, they had been migrated to Egypt, out of economic compulsion. The religious lore says that due to famine in ‘Cana’ [Kena’n in Arabic] they migrated and were settled there. The settlement was facilitated by Syedena Yousuf (AS) who was Aziz-i-Misr; a position of commendable authority. Later they were tyrannized by Pharos. Put on forced labour in building pyramids, Moses (AS) worked for and achieved their salvation. Contrary to Hebrews, Kashmir is home and hearth of Kashimri Pundits and they have a birth right to be here, the Hebrews in their exodus out of Egypt, were led across Sinai to Palestine. It was named Israel, as this is another attribute of Syedena Yaqub (AS)/Jacob, as Judeo-Christians call him. So, in the religious lore, it is exactly the reverse of common implication of the word. Exodus of Hebrews was the way to salvation!

B.L.Saraf asserts that ‘the events of the last twenty years in Kashmir, the uncanny attitudes of the Kashmiris and the roles played by the politicians’ is responsible for the accretions to the lexicon. Uncanny attitudes could be attributed to developing political situations and he is right about the role of politicians. Infact uncanny attitudes resulted from the changing perceptions of politicians. Perception borne of conviction could be acceptable, even appreciable, as times and events do dictate a change in perception. However the changed attitudes were borne of design rather than conviction, which as Saraf seems to suggest resulted in accretions to the lexicon. The politicians in Kashmir have changed colour and hue repeatedly. The swim from mainstream to separatism and from separatism to mainstream has been too frequent for comfort. And it is not last twenty years only, but over six decades old tale, ever since subcontinent was divided and Kashmir question cropped up.

Saraf is also right about culture of sycophancy, which led to “sycophancy Kashmiri style” wherein “in Sheikh Abdullah’s regime everyone, even a confirmed atheist rushing to offer nimaz five times a day and in Farooq Abdullah’s regime a rotund armchair un-athletic person of any hue religiously rushing to 18 hole golf course every day”. On a personal count, I asked a brilliant highly qualified Kashmiri Engineer in UAE, who was getting rave reviews in the media for doing some excellent work, as to why he doesn’t serve his own people. His reply confirmed Saraf’s take of the situation “I failed to attend the mosque to please the lion and also failed to wield the golf stick to please the cub!”

The propensity to living in nuclear families is not confined to Kashmiri Pundits, but is worldwide phenomenon, which was already in existence in the west, but has now overtaken the eastern hemisphere too. The nuclear family having no space for the senior citizens has led to the concept and development of ‘old people’s homes’ where ageing parents are dumped. As of now, there are no such homes in Kashmir. However to say that nuclear family concept is not taking root would amount to denying a fact. While as in the past, for brothers to live separately, even after getting married and raising families of their own would amount to violation of social norms; however on children growing up, getting married and another generation coming to fore would force a separate household. The reason was mostly economic; means to sustain a separate household were meager. It could be said that virtue was made of necessity. In modern times brothers do separate, the parents are taken by usually the one, who may have a supportive and understanding spouse. Kashmiri Pundits, had they been in their home and hearth might have faced a similar phenomenon of gradual change, which could be absorbed, as more change would follow with the evolvement of times and new chain of social norms.

Kashmiri Pandits, in their earlier migrations in 18th and 19th century settled in U.P-in cities like Allahabad a and Lucknow. These were economic migrations, as Kashmir had phases of flood and famine. Kashmiri Muslims too migrated, mostly to cities in Punjab-Amritsar, Sailkot and Lahore. Kashmiri Pundits however stuck to the roots much more than the Muslims. While as Muslims did inter-marry with other subcontinental ethnicities, Pundits exhibited clannish tendencies. A pandit girl was sought after, even if the search would consume time. It happened in case of Jawaharlal Nehru also. Marriage with Kamla resulted after an intense search. That clannish mentality might be changing, as reports pour in of Kashmiri Pundits marrying girls from other subcontinental ethnicities. If true, the miniscule community might find it difficult to maintain numbers.

Saraf’s account of Pandit home away from the home is interesting. The talk of snake bites, unknown in Kashmir and of employment packages forming the crux of discussion is considered unique by Saraf. With passing years, Pandits have learned to evade snake bites. Some have shown interest in reaping the benefits of employment packages and are assessing return. Their wholesome return would be welcome, as the colour they provided to social fabric is missing.

Yaar Zinda, Sohbat Baqi [Reunion is subordinate to survival]

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