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.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Book Review: "Iqbal and Kashmir" by Dr. Fareeda Majeed Kak

Kashmiri culture comes to the fore with a new rendering from Fareeda

(Dr. Fareeda Majeed Kak, 53, was born in Nowpora Khanyar, Srinagar. She received traditional Quranic and Islamic education from a learned local lady, besides receiving primary education from Govt. Primary School Nowpora, Srinagar. She was admitted to Govt. Girls Higher Secondary School Khanyar for school education and completed her B.A. (Arts) from Govt. College for women Nawakadal. In 1979 she joined the Department of Urdu in the University of Kashmir, Hazratbal, and got merit scholarship because of topping the list in B.A. In 1982-83 she completed her M. Phil under the auspicious guidance of Late Professor Al Ahmad Saroor, one of the leading scholars of India and in 1985 she was awarded Ph.D. degree on the topic “Iqbal Aur Kashmir”. Same year she was appointed as adhoc teacher in the Higher Secondary School in Zewan, Pampore, and got married to renowned naturalist Dr. A. Majeed Kak. In 1986 she got a permanent appointment in School, and in 1993 she was appointed by the Public Service Commission as a teacher for higher education and since then has worked in various degree colleges like Government College for Boys Ananatnag, Women’s Nawakadal College, and presently working in the Government College Bemina as Associate Professor and the department head in the Department of Urdu. Dr. Fareeda Kak is a regular writer for various local dalies and other national journals, she also has poetic approach. Recently she published a book entitled “Iqbal Aur Kashmir”. The book is highly appreciated by the Iqbal Institute of Research and Philosophy in Kashmir University and was inaugurated by the Vice Chancellor Dr. Riyaz Punjabi in presence of invited leading scholars of India and in a mammoth gathering on 22nd April 2010 on the occasion of Iqbal Day at the Gandhi Bhawan. Fikri Iqbal is her second book presently in the press for publication.

Book Review - Iqbal and Kashmir

(Prof. Mohammad Aslam, Department of English, the University of Kashmir, reviews a book on the poet of the east by Dr. Farida Majeed Kak)

Book: Iqbal and Kashmir
Author: Dr. Farida Majeed Kak
Publisher: Minhas Publication
Year Publication: 2010
Price : Rs. 600/-

That Allama Iqbal was a Kashmeri Brahmin whose ancestors lefty their native place and settled in Sialkot, Pakistan might appear a thing of no interest today because many people have written about it, also any discussions on his thoughts about Kashmir and Kashmiris would seems rather too obvious because many books and research papers have been published in this regard, but how many of us know that these now/ known facts would have remained shrouded in mystery had not our young scholars and Iqbal lovers taken a lead in demystifying many of the contentious issues about him. For instance, Jagan Nath Azad’s pioneering research brought to light many hidden aspects of Iqbal’s life, especially his date of birth. Many M Phil and Ph D projects carried out in Universities unearthed different aspects of Iqbal’s poetry and philosophy.

Kashmiris love for Iqbal is not unknown, whether we really understand Him or not, he has always been a part of our academic programme at all levels of education. In the school days we would known him by his ‘Childs prayer’—Lab pe aati hai dua’ ban key tamanna meri --- or’ song of India’, Sarey Jahan sae accha Hindustan hamara’ a morning assembly song in most of schools. He was there in College Urdu text books. He was studied at the University of Kashmir under the aegis of Urdu department. However, the Iqbal chair at the university, established in the seventies of the last century--- which eventually became the Iqbal Institute and now the Iqbal Institute of Culture and Philosophy--- provided a platform to Iqbal’s scholars to clear many ambiguities about Iqbal’s life and many insightful research works carried out under the guidance of the first Iqbal chair, Prof. Al Ahmad Saroor.

Iqbal and Kashmir by Dr. Fareeda Majeed Kak (FMK, hereafter) is one such study which the author had carried out fro her PhD under the supervision of Late Prof. Saroor and which she now come out in a book form like Prof. Bashir A. Nahvi (‘Foreward’), I am surprised why this book should have taken such a long time to get published. One can understand the difficulties that writers, hear, face in publishing their works, especially when the readership is not that encouraging! Anyways, better late than never, FMK has ultimately mustered courage (and also means, it seems) to publish the research work on her own. This doesn’t belittle the book. Shakespeare appeared in the written form much after his plays had been staged at Stratford-Upon-Avon. He continues to be studied. Iqbal and Kashmir is a book of all times in Bacon’s terminology and therefore deserves to be read with interest so that we appreciate how vague and mystified Iqbal’s life, in general, and his relationship with Kashmir, in particular, has remained, mostly because of lack of research on and about Iqbal. The author’s work on genealogy, tracing his origin to ancient Kashmir and his subsequent moorings through his poems and contacts about the pathetic condition of his birth palace and its people, assumes significance because it does not talk through hearsay but very authentic documents on and about Iqbal and which are now available in libraries of most of the universities where Urdu is taught as a subject.

Iqbal and Kashmir contains nine chapters which are preceded by ‘Forward’ by Professor. B.A. Nehvi, ‘Commentary’ by Professor. S.M. Iqbal and ‘introduction’ and followed by a well documented ‘Bibliography’. Chapters 1 and 2 trace the Allama’s genealogy, his dynasty, birthplace etc. FMK has as a researcher collected all the relevant data and compared that with the Allama’s own statements so that she could arrive at a certain conclusion about whether the Allama was a Kashmiri Pandit or he belonged to the Sapru Family. Naturally these two characters contain well documented Urdu and Persian poetic lines from Iqbal which point to his belonging to a Kashmeri Pandit dynasty. Chapter three attempts to trace Allama’s families converting to Islam. After quoting from Muhammad Din Fauq, FMK concludes that Iqbal’s Family has accepted Islam in the Fifteenth century “that is, about 450 years before Allama Iqbal was born and when Delhi was under Sayid or after them under King Sultan Bahlool Lodhi” (p.81). In chapter four, FMK discusses Allama’s migration to Sialkot, Pakistan, taking a dig at some of the Allama’s biographers and documenting from historians like Muhammad Din Fauq and Shyam Lal Pardsi, FMK has found it hard to draw any conclusion on it. Since the Allama’s life history has remained a mystery, biographers have not been successful in determining the exact date/s of his and his family’s migration to Pakistan. The following chapter (5) traces Iqbal’s birthday once again, FMK has drawn on several works written about Allama, in general and his birthday, in particular. She has concluded “the statement of elders in the family of Allama Iqbal and some reliable persons approve 1294 hijra, in comparison to 1847 A.D.[as the Allama’s birthday]”.

The next three chapters (6-8) are devoted to the Allama’s visits to Kashmir and his acquaintances. How many times did he visit Kashmir, who hosted him and who were the people who went to Sialkot to visit him, what kind of contacts he had with the people here etc. all these have been discussed in great detail to place to place Iqbal’s love and concern for Kashmir in proper perspective. The author writes that Iqbal did not have much knowledge of the history of Kashmir (p.176), but he was very much interested in its literature and culture (p.177). The Chapter ‘Present Day Kashmir and Iqbal” discusses the Allama’s impact on Kashmir and Kashmiris extreme love for this poet of the East. “… Allama’s poetry and messages continue to impact Kashmir. Every year different colleges, schools and universities organize meetings and seminars to commemorate his anniversary” (p.437). In this chapter FMK also mentions the works which have been written in Kashmir on and about Iqbal. Strangely, the author has confined herself to the period when she was doing research at the Iqbal Institute. She would have added more weight to her argument had she updated her information and talked about how many other works have been written since her completing the research.

Iqbal and Kashmir is a piece of research and therefore the readers would come across all the academic paraphernalia that forms a part of any thesis and dissertation carried out for an M Phil or a PhD. Each statement quoted is documented, each line cited is properly referred to its original source and each chapter contains end-notes and references which are an essential part of any research work.

The book is hardbound with an impressive jacket with Iqbal’s photograph as if he is overlooking charming Dal Lake and huge Chinars. For a common man the price of the book (Rs. 600/-) could be a burden on his/her pocket, but libraries and departments concerned with Iqbal and his teachings, it should not deter them from adding a valuable book to their collection.

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