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 23, 2010

Return to the Motherland

Rajnath narrates a personal story of his darshan of "Maej Kasheer" and shares his experiences

(Dr. Rajnath Bhat, 54, was born in Fohar, Anantnag District. He completed his B.Sc from Anantnag College, the University of Kashmir, followed by M.A. and Ph.D. in linguistics, as well as another M.A. and Ph.D. in Hindi from the Kurukshetra University. Subsequently, he spent three years at Tamil University Thanjavur; joined Kurukshetra University as a lecturer, eventually becaming a Reader. He went as Associate Professor to the University of Asmara, Eritrea, for over two years. Currently, he is a Professor in Linguistics at the Banaras Hindu University. In his leisure time, he prefers travel.)


May is a hot and dry month in the plains. I sensed that our mother found it difficult to manage day to day chores smoothly especially after the recent surgery that she underwent in Jan.10. My summer vacations were due to begin and I decided to pay a visit to Kashmir for the second time after our displacement in 1990. Mother agreed very happily. We traveled up to Jammu by train and took the less expensive flight, Spice Jet, from Jammu to Srinagar. My cousin’s brother-in law was waiting to receive us. We went to their residing place in Tulsi Bagh. After a quick lunch, rice with knolkhol, we went to the Jyeshtha Devi Temple complex where a room booked a month back was allotted. The room is spacious and sufficiently furnished. The cooking gas connection and utensils too have been provided. It was the month of May but there were two quilts and two blankets in the room so each person could sleep comfortably. I obtained rice, moong-beans, onion, cooking oil from the complex shop that made us comfortable with regard to our dinner as well. I had a nice sleep and my mother too must have slept well. Next morning mother prepared yellow rice and took it to the Devi’s temple some ten odd stairs away. I had a nice bath in the geyser-fitted bath-room of the room that was allotted to us. Soon it began to rain and it did not stop for the whole day. We were forced to remain in-doors with electric heater on. Meanwhile my cousin called and spoke to my mother, his paternal aunt, and instructed that a vehicle was on way to the temple-gate to take us back to his place of residence and we were supposed to cancel our stay at the temple-complex immediately. I met with the president of the Complex to convey our decision to him. We were back at Tulsi Bagh by 3 p.m. It rained for another two days making it impossible for us to move out of the residence. When the Sun appeared on the fourth day morning, a Friday, we decided to go to Mata Ksir Bhawani temple at Tulmul. My cousin arranged a taxi and we reached Tulmul at noon. It was a moment of great pleasure to be there. The security from the outer gate itself is very tight. The inner compound was almost empty. We sat inside the temple for quite some time. The purohit who put tilak on my forehead seems to be a local youth who has efficiently remembered the mantra to be recited while doing the job.

We started our return journey in the afternoon. A couple of miles away from the temple a group of youth stopped our vehicle. Our driver, Sahil, very politely agreed to turn back. He took a village route to the newly laid highway that perhaps connects Bandipora with the City. Once he sighted the highway, he felt relaxed. Then he told us that that was a normal thing on Fridays. Some youth in a few towns block roads after offering the Friday Namaz. A young bearded gentleman, Sahil has spent several years in places outside Kashmir. He had been an army recruit too but he had to quit. Sahil opened up and told us that he had a childhood friend who spoke very rarely and very little and whom people in the locality and home considered to be a lunatic. Then suddenly one day he along with a foreign national was blown up near an army camp by the explosives that he carried inside his pheran. Sahil was arrested to retrieve more information about his friend. “He knew nothing.” He looked sad and anguished for the suffering of his parents during the period of his arrest. It was 4 in the afternoon when we touched the City outskirts. Sahil on his own took us to Shalimar and Nishat Gardens and on our request to the ancient Shiva temple at Ishbari, then to Bhagwan Gopinath Ashram and the Ganpatyaar temple.

The Ganpatyaar temple is highly fortified. The KP houses in the vicinity have crumbled. I saw a dog entering a KP house through its window. I asked Sahil to come back the next morning if it was sunny.

We were back at the residence in the evening when three of my colleagues Roop, Maharaj and Mallikarjun from Patiala, Lucknow and Mysore respectively came over to meet me. They were in the City on an academic tour.

The next morning our vehicle came at about 8 in the morning and we took Roti and vegetables in our Tiffin box and started our journey to Sonamarg. The route to Sonamarg passes through Ganderbal, Kangan, Gund etc. Sahil halted for breakfast at Gund where my mother purchased Shawls. I had a cup of Kahwa for Rs. 15! Upon reaching Sonamarg we asked the driver to be around. We enjoyed the breeze and the snow-clad peaks around the place. A jeep nearby fitted with a microphone and an amplifier was making appeals in Kashmiri to seek financial support for ‘orphans’. After nearly two hours we asked Sahil to drive us back to where we could eat our food. He brought us to a Government restaurant some 5 KMs away from Sonamarg. The place is quite picturesque, situated on an island at the bank of Sindhu River. The Manager there was quite cordial. He allowed us to eat our own food there. However, we purchased biscuits, tea etc. from them. After lunch we met a Shawl-seller who happened to be a boy from our native village! He was happy to know that we hailed from his village! Our return journey was quite comfortable. We were back at the hotel by 6 p.m. The following day was a Sunday. We asked Sahil to bring his vehicle by around 10 a.m.

My cousin and two of his brothers-in law agreed to join us the next morning. They prepared delicious food-items early in the morning and we started our journey by 10 a.m. We reached Baba Rishi and went in there. There were another ten odd vehicles parked outside but we were the only KPs among the pilgrims. From there we went to Gulmarg where our driver parked at a height near the rope-way on the advice of my cousin. The driver left us there and went to meet his friends. It was a beautiful sight and quite breezy. The breeze made my mother uncomfortable. She wished to start the return journey immediately. My cousin and his brothers-in-law began to have liquor along with food. We finished our lunch by 2 p.m. There was a brief drizzle that made the place even more beautiful. My mother was looking around for Sahil to appear who finally came at 4 p.m. My mother did not spare him and he went on apologizing. We were back in the City by 7 p.m. Mother asked Sahil to come to the Hotel next day after 11a.m.

Sahil, the vehicle driver, called next morning to inform that his vehicle-owner needed the vehicle-Mahindra Xylo- and that he-Sahil- had arranged for a substitute driver and vehicle that would drop us at Mattan- Anantnag. Mattan is my mother’s birth-place. Two of her brothers have been spending the summer months there for the last five odd years. They have repaired/redone some part of the house that is located opposite the first gate of the Nagabal (the holy spring). Besides, Mattan has been my High School town. The alternative vehicle came and we started our journey after lunch. We made a brief stop at Avantipore temple-ruins and then at Anantnag Nagabal. We reached Mattan at around 4 p.m. Mamaji, AK, was waiting. The following two days were rainy again, so we stayed indoors. Meanwhile the elder Mamaji, BN, and his wife too arrived. AK has a trusting young man, Altaf, from the neighboring family who does several chores for him. The rains halted life especially in the villages.

A young person, a tailor-master, from the neighborhood came to AK’s room in the afternoon. He got acquainted with me and a few minutes later, he narrated the story of his suffering. “He went to Srinagar to learn the art of tailoring. A young fellow one day came to that shop and sought stitched clothes from him. Since he was only an apprentice, he did not know anything about the customers or their clothes; the elderly tailor-master who owned the shop was elsewhere. When he could not satisfy the young gentleman, the gentleman threatened him. A week or so later the apprentice was arrested and severely tortured. Several months later, he learnt that his name had been given to the security forces by the same gentleman who had threatened him at the tailor-master’s shop where he had come to learn the art of tailoring. The small town boy after severe suffering in the custody gathered courage to tell the senior most officers to make the following enquiries from the informer: “How did the informer know me? Which place was I from? What is my father’s name?” The officer did the same and found out the falsity of all that the informer had been saying all those months. The accused was helped by one of his London- based cousins during the period. Finally he was out and he went back to his little town to do tailoring on his own. He has moderate earnings now.

Altaf helped us to hire a taxi from the town when it was sunny again and we went in a single day to Verinag, Kokernag, Acchabal, Nagadandi, Martand Sun-temple-ruins, and returned to Mattan by 7 p.m.We had lunch at Kokernag.

The following day the same taxi took us to Arau- ahead of Pahalgam- where we had tea. We met four young men- Shawl sellers- from our native village there. We returned to Pahalgam at lunch-time and had lunch at a Dhaba near the Bus- Stand. Then we went to the Mamaleshwar temple across the river Lidder. A local youth, it seems, puts vermillion on the pilgrims’ forehead at the temple. After 4p.m. we started our return journey. We went to our native village that falls en-route Mattan-Pahalgam road some 18 KMs away from Pahalgam. We reached the house of the lone KP family in the village in the evening. Two of their daughters had arrived from Delhi/Jammu the previous day. My Mamaji and Altaf had tea with us and they went back to Mattan. My childhood friend Dar came to meet us the next morning so did another person, Mir, who was very close to my eldest paternal uncle’s family. Dar was aware of my illness and he as well as his wife was further shocked to see me with a staff in hand. Mir too was shocked as he learnt about the serious illness that I suffered last autumn.

In a matter of minutes, Mir told us that years ago he was asked to play his beloved musical instrument, Rabab, in a hall in a village five KMs away from our village. There were some more music-lovers and singers who too were persuaded to participate in the musical evening. But it was a conspiracy, said he. An hour or less had passed, when their instruments were broken into pieces and they (the players/singers) were given a severe beating by the men, then known as ‘cultural police’. During the subsequent days men opposed to ‘cultural police’ tried to probe them regarding the identity of the beaters but they did not reveal their identity to prevent further harassment to themselves. Being a music-lover he feels sad for animal or any killing. He asked me and my mother to stay on in the village and get a house constructed. He promised to extend whatever support he could.

I found that these boys of yesteryears, who are of my age or senior to me, have black hair and look much younger.

During the day I met a couple of state security personnel who reside in my younger uncle’s house. After brunch they bask in our kitchen-garden across the stream. One of them asked me to return and settle in my village. Yes, said I, but only after the fear /threat of any kind gets eliminated. “That will not happen any day”, said he.

I walked a couple of lanes, went to the Bhuteshwar temple across the stream and prepared to leave the next day. My friend Dar dropped me and my mother at Mattan where from AK’s younger son, my cousin, brought me to Srinagar. En-route Srinagar, he stopped his vehicle and paid a hefty sum in cash at a Durgah. I spent the following day at his place. Next morning he sent his friend, an MD medicine, who dropped me at the airport. The young doctor from the City believes that ‘the old peaceful days- that he has not experienced in person- shall come back’. At the airport, he put my suitcase on a trolley, and I said good-bye to him.

An hour later, I was at Jammu. In the evening I went to Chhanni, Sector 4 in a hired auto to wish luck to my paternal cousins whose sons’ marriage was in progress. They wanted me to stay for the night but I could not because the medicine that I take after dinner was not with me. One of the grooms dropped me back at my sister’s place at Shakti Nagar. The next morning, my sister and I went to the wedding of the daughter of a village girl, Lalli. It proved a good meeting place. We met a large number of men and women from our native village. The next afternoon, I started my return journey to Varanasi; my place of work which Dr. K L Chaudhary calls ‘the abode of god’- and reached here on Sunday. On Tuesday, I took over as the Head of the Department for the second term.

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