Monday, September 29, 2008

We the People

They were hanging.There was hardly a peg,a tree trunk,an electric pole from where they were not hanging. They came in all sizes and colours. Some were made of old pherans and others of the colourful but torn summer dresses.The noose was tight.It almost ensured that the effigy dies the moment it is hanged..Entire valley had descended into a pall of gloom..People wore black bands and shouted slogans against Gen.Zia-ul-Haq. The day was marked by sporadic incidents of violence and curfew had to be clamped in many parts of Kashmir.
Meanwhile Pakistan went about its business normally.
Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was hanged that morning.It was a move that evoked widespread condemnation the world over, but protests, only in Kashmir. While Bhutto was hanged in Pakistan, Zia was hanged in Kashmir.
As time passed by Zia became the hero of the masses. He was seen as an icon of resurgent Islam, someone who brought back faith to people and implemented Sharia as the law of land.Many years later when Zia was killed in a plane crash, Kashmir was again wailing and weeping. Many took to the streets.In seminars, held in his memory, he was called the Amir-ul-Moimeen(The leader of the Faithful),the true muslim, the upholder of Sharia. Everyone seemed to have forgotten that he was hanged many years back, in this land.
Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah (love him or hate him) was one of the tallest leaders of Kashmir(both literally as well as metaphorically).People loved him, sorry, adored him. It may be true that most Pandits did not like him yet he had his share of admirers or chamchas among Pandits as well, depending upon which side of the fence you are on. Kashmiris called him the Lion of Kashmir, an epithet that almost personified him. There were lakhs of people on the streets of Kashmir to attend his funeral. They were full of sorrow and wondered how the void created by his death would be filled. His grave was like a Dargah with people pouring out in large numbers to read Fatiya,place flowers and spray Itr(perfume).
Not many years later a movie named,”Omar Mukhtar-The Lion of the Desert” was screened in Kashmir. The screening led to violent protests and people bayed for Sheikh’s blood. They wanted to dig his grave and some even wanted to urinate on it. They all wondered why Shiekh did not fight the Indians like Omar Mukhtar, the Libyan Tribal Leader fought his opponents. A Lion it seemed had eclipsed another Lion.
The arrival of militancy saw many people calling Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah a traitor. They said the title of Sher-i-Kashmir was a title bestowed on the Sheikh by the Indians.Once again the voices wanting to dig him out of his grave got louder and shriller. Police and Para-Military Forces were now guarding the shrine of who was once “the greatest leader of Kashmir”.No one came to place flowers at his grave anymore. No one wanted to spray Itr on his grave.
Suddenly one day two young boys turned up with a small bottle of Itr.It was pleasant surprise for the Policeman posted there. They allowed them to go to the grave.The boys hurriedly emptied the contents of the bottle on his grave and left.As soon as the young boys left, the stench of urine filled the place. By the time the Police could react the two boys had vanished.
Tailpiece:Once a journalist asked Sadiq Saab(one of the Chief Minster’s of Kashmir),about his support base in the valley.Sadiq Saab replied 40 lacs.The journalist asked him about Sheikh Saab’s support base.The answer was still the same.The perplexed journalist asked him,What is the population of the valley.The answer was still the same.

Rashneek Kher

Friday, September 5, 2008

Harmukh Vich Deedar

The title of this post may not be in consonance with the contents of the post but as it unfolds we will find the title relevant.Be patient for it may be a long,dry and sometimes scholastic.
I have been requested by many of my friends to write something on the controversy sorrounding the Amarnath Land Lease Issue.I have really been postponing writing my thoughts becuase the issue was so mired in controversy that I did not know where to start from.
It was 30th of June,08 and it was my daughter's third birthday.I had travelled to Ahmedabad to be with my family so that we could all celebrate the day.In exile,I have many outposts but no home.However,in the back of my head was this feeling of uneasiness.Crowds in Kashmir were swelling against the land transfer to the SASB.Kashmir was turning green.The green of Islam was clothed in the green of environmental conservation.We were told Kashmiri Muslims are protesting because giving this land meant environmental degradation while the slogans and the frenzy on the streets had a different story to tell.It was Pakistan se Rsihta Kya-La Illah Illlaha and Hum Kya Chahtee-Azadi.
When I woke up on 30th morning,Mehbooba Mufti had a cruel smile as she appeared on Times Now.The land given to Shrine Board was revoked.To say that I felt hurt or helpless would be an understatement.I took the evening flight back to Delhi.As I sat waiting for the flight to take off I called my friend Aditya and told him,"we are born at a wrong time in History".
I for one am in favour of a Yatra which extends for no more than 15 days.This two month Yatra is against the established ritual of the Yatra as prescribed in the Amaraeshwar Mahatmaya.The Yatra has lost its sanctity because of this unwanted extension.There is a prescribed period for the Yatra which we must follow both as a matter of tradition as well as religion.
Whether the land is given or not given to Shrine Board is also not an issue.What is really important in all this is the reaction to simple land transfer.It raises serious questions about how Islamized the valley has become.How much they hate the very presence of any vestige of any non-Islamic institution in the Kashmir.For those who may not know that an University (to be called Sharda Peeth) was to be established in Kashmir.This project also faced similar protests and is now scrapped.On this blog I have often gone into the details of Kashmir's hoary vedic past and its being an abode for heterogenity before the invasion at the hands of Muslim Invaders.The Muslims of Kashmir today want to draw their ancesstery to the pagans of Arab or fleeing Mullahs of Iran.And that is the root cause of all the protests.The pattern of religious and ethnic cleansing is bare for all of us to see.First they drove away the Pandits,then they burnt their houses and then desecrated their temples and shrines.Amarnath Shrine was increasingly being seen as the last vestige of the Hindu(mind you not Pandit) connection to the mainland India because Shiva as a deity has a pan Indian presence unlike goddesses like Rajgyna or Sharika who are the Isht Devis of the Kashmiri Pandits alone.This was consistently irking the separtists,the Muftis and their masters across the border.They wanted it be stopped somehow.
The necessity for the land to be leased to the Yatris was felt by the board because a lot of people died in a snow storm some years back.All these could have been saved if we had some structures where they could have escaped the wrath of the nature.Probably thats why the government acceded to the request of the Board.It was eventually two PDP ministers,who cleared the decks for the land transfer to the SASB for a two months' period.
However as soon as the separatists(read Pan-Islamists) started protesting against the land transfer, the Muftis,who I often called the plagirized version of Hurriyat,felt losing their turf.They joined the bandwagon and called for revocation of the very order that they had stamped.Kashmiri Muslims have increasinly been used to bringing people down to streets to scare the government.More often than not has the Indian State fallen to this and many desicions in the past have been revoked or softened because the Indian state did not have balls to call the separtists' bluff.
So shrill have the voices emanating from Kashmir become that Sajjad Lone(not even a Mohallah leader) had the cheek to tell Barkha Dutt to mute Dr,Jiteneder Singh's mike on the TV Show.He even had the audacity to tell Dr.Ajay Chrungoo that his stance could irk someone in Kashmir which can lead to further problems for Pandits living in Kashmir.Little does he realise that he himslef spends a lot of time in Delhi,in a predominantly Hindu dominated area.
What the government did not expect was the reaction from Jammu.They were taken aback as people in Jammu took to streets in far greater numbers than Kashmiri Muslims.Everything came to a standstill.The bandh was complete and voluntary.The movement was drawing support from everyone.Yet it was Omar Abdullah's speech that it gave it the required impetus.He said "hum jaan de denge par zameen nahee denge" as if the Abdullah's already had the title of the land.Kuldeep Dogra's suicide as a reaction to Omar's speech re-kindled passions and now the entire Jammu province joined the Sangarsh Samiti.There were ofcourse the underlying dormant hurts which got an opportunity to vent.Jammu has often been treated as a poor cousin of Kashmiris.Jamuities,who contribute 75% to the state ex-chequer have been treated badly by the State.The Kashmiri Pandits never got a chance to vent their hurt and humiliation.They have been angry at the way the State has treated them.
So Jammu burst.The separatists were getting a taste of their own medicine.They cried "Economic Blockade".The "economic blockade" was made an alibi for going to Muzzafarabad.Although newspaper after newspaper kept chruning out stories of no blockade yet the separtists have seldom taken truth from elsewhere but Pakistan.Don't we all know that Eid in Kashmir is celebrated only when the Hilal Committee of Pakistan approves that"they have sighted moon".Indian Muslim, it seems,is not a part of the Ummah.
Now when the land is restored to the SASAB for three months of Yatra,the separtists must be nursing their wounds and learning to mend their tongues.Sajjad Lone's statement that "the land issue is resolved,touch me if you can" must be stuck somewhere in Kupwara trying to cross to Rawalpindi.
As all this happens I remember the myraid verses that scores of Muslim poets have written to the ominpoetent glory of Shiva.In all this my favourite remains, Shams Faqir's verses
Zaane wale kar zaanee yaar,Harmukh* Vichu Deedar
Parde Zaal Aaz dard-e-naar,Harmukh Vichu Deedar
O! seeker of truth,turn to Harmukh
Burn the veil of ignorance,turn to Harmukh
(*In Kashmir,the mountain of Harmukh is believed to be the abode of Shiva)
We as Kashmiris still can redeem ourselves by turning back to Harmukh for burning our ignorance.The sooner the separtists and Muslims in general realise this the better it will be for Kashmir.

Dead End

Dead End
The road to what was once my home in Kashmir....zuv chum bramaan ghare gachehae..