Sunday, November 18, 2018

Census Numbers of Kashmiri Pandits, 1921-1931

Date to refute the propaganda that perpetuates the myth that Kashmiri Pandits were elite exploitative class of the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

Year 1921

Total KP population
: 55055
30947 Male +24108 Female

Working Male: 17919
Working Female: 1389
Dependents: 35744

People whose primary means of income was cultivation:

Male: 4376
Female: 731

People who worked as Agents/Managers/Forest officers, their clerks, rent collectors:
Male: 294

Field Labourers/Woodcutters:
Male: 2


Male: 4

Artisan and other workmen:

Male: 272
Female: 339

Transport Owner/Manager:

Male: 10

Labourer/boatmen/palki carrier:
Male: 68


Male: 2070
Female: 12

People whose Principal means of income was State Service:

Male: 3844
Female: 31

People who had State job as a means of additional income:

Male: 481
Female: 1

People who had some other means of income on top of State job:
Male: 208

People holding Religious Posts:

Male: 74


Male: 57

Other Jobs:

Male: 129
Female: 1

Living on their incomes from the funds:

Male: 98
Female: 4

Employed in Domestic service:

Male: 1742
Female: 46

Contractors/Clerks/ Cashiers:

Male: 51

Male: 47
Female: 4

Beggars/Criminals/in jail

Male: 80
Female: 3

People who earned from Land:

Male: 1025
Female: 214

Commissioned Gazetted Officer in Public Force:

Male: 1

Gazetted Officer in Public Administration:Male: 6

Other Public Administration:

Male: 2970
Female: 3
Literacy rates

Total KP population: 55055

Total Literate: 14,740
of them 14456 Male and 284 Female

Total Illiterate: 40,303
of them 16, 479 Male and Female 23824.

Literate in English: 5,154.
of them 5104 Male and 50 Female

That means 73.21 % of KPs were illiterate (53% of Males were illiterate).  That should puncture the myth (that even KPs like to boast): KPs were highly educated class.

However, the edge was only with the 9.36% English literate KPs among 55055 and 34.97 % among the KP literates. No other community had more number in this category.

To compare: There were only 5231 educated KMs in the state with their population of 796392. Of them only 340 knew English and among them only 5 woman knew English.

Things were to change from KPs and KMs in the next decade.

Year 1931

In 1931, Kashmiri Pandit population increased by 14.6 percent. Though it might sound high. The total increase in number was only 8056. From 55055 it moved to 63088. Number of educated people among KPs increased by 31.9 percent. 

It is claimed in myths that KMs were deliberately kept uneducated by the Maharaja (and some even claim by KPs), however, the reason for illiteracy among Muslims is explained in the 1931 report:

"The backwardness of Muslims is the result of their concentration on the soils which does not permit the agriculturist to devote sufficient time and energy for his personal education or the education of his children."

Yet, efforts were made to get them educated. In the State, the number of schools doubled from 670 in 1921 to 1246 in 1931. [Shri Pratap College, Srinagar gave Rs 1500 scholarship for Muslims and Prince of Wales College, Jammu gave Rs 3000.]

The census report says on the progress among KMs.

"The community that has evinced the keenest interest in augmenting its ranks of literates in beyond doubt the Kashmiri Muslim. In population they have added only 70 persons to 100 of their strength but in literacy they have more than quadrupled the number. "

Their population increased by 69.7 % (this drastic increase partly because "Hajjams" started entering Kashmiri Muslim as their caste) to 1352822 from 796392. The number of literate increased by 313.4 percent. 

According to the report:

"When we look to absolute figures only without reference to the population of each caste the Kashmiri Muslims show the highest number of literates viz. 21,639, followed by Kashmiri Pandits with 18,915"

In 1921 there were only 5231 literate KMs while in 1931 the number grew to 18,915, the biggest absolute number in the state, 

In 1921 there were only 5 English literate KMs per 10000 of their population. In 1931, the number became 25. That's an increase of 20%.

Yet, in case of Srinagar city we read:

"The total number of literates in the city of Srinagar is 17,575 out of which 16,480 are males and 1,095 females. The proportion of literates per mille [1000] of the total population of the city is 101 being 174 for males and 14 for females. If we exclude population below 5 the proportions would rise to 117 for persons, 198 for males and 16 for females. Amongst Hindus, the proportion of literates works out to 344 while amongst Muslims it dwindles down to 39. The obvious reason is that the Hindus in the city are mostly Kashmiri Pandits or outsiders attracted by the prospects of trade to whom literacy is the one thing needful for conducting their business. The Kashmiri Pandits as already stated have a very high degree of literacy because of the traditions amongst them of following Government service as their calling in life. The Muslims on the other hand are devoted to indigenous arts and crafts which though more paying do not demand literacy as a pre-requisite."

The KPs still had the advantage in English in the entire state. For KPs there was an increase of 50 percent.  From 1045 per 10000 in 1921 it grew to 1588 in 1931. 

The report records: "The Kashmiri Pandits hold an enviable position in the State in the matter of English literacy having 1588 literates per 10000 of the population. Their males have a much higher proportion viz 2, 789. The Kashmiri Pandit is by tradition a Government servant for which the requisite equipment is a knowledge of the English language to which he has turned in a greater measure than any other caste."

Still, for every 1000 KP men 635 were literates and 365 illiterates. Over all the number stood at 369 per 1000. Other communities were of course worse than KPs, but Khatris (386/1000) were better than KPs in literary. Even in the field of female literacy they were better place. They had 178 literate females per thousand compared to (24 for KPs, 22 for Sheikhs , 21 for Brahmins, 1 for Kashmiri Muslims)

Now, let's see what did this "tradition of Government service " for KPs meant in numbers.

In 1931, there were 13133 total people in Public Administration and 12265 in State service

According to census, for every 1000 employees in State Service, about 305.9 were KP men and for every 100 woman employees in State Service, only 1 Female was KP woman. Overall, we can say 70% of State service comprised of other communities. 

This is the complete breakdown for KPs.

For every 1000 people employed in these fields, following were KPs:

State Service: 


Exploitation of animals and vegetation :







Public Force 


Public Administration 


Arts and Professions 


Persons living on their income 


Domestic service 


Insufficiently described occupations 


Beggars, criminals and inmates of Jails


The report noticed, "The Kashmiri Pandits are gradually relinquishing their ideal of Government service and turning to trade and even manual labour in increasing numbers."

Then there is the question of unemployment. If KPs were spending so much effort getting education. was it rewarding? 

"The unemployed who possess a higher qualification than that of a matric are 289 only exclusive of 73 unemployed who are below 20 years of age. Of these 226 are Brahmans and 26 other Hindus. The Muslims number 37 only. It is very much in the fitness of things that the Brahman who inherits traditions of learning from the past should be most exposed to the uncertainty of employment. The Muslims and others who have a stake in the land naturally do not take to education keenly especially when the education provided in schools and colleges is of a purely literary nature and does not enable the bookish student to pursue any calling except that of a clerk in Government service without further training."

This provides the backdrop form Roti agitation that city KPs launched in 1932 in response to Glancy commission that among other things sought to lower the requirement for Government jobs. This would have mean all the decade that KPs spent preparing for government job would have been wasted. KMs who by number were already most populous literate group with 21,639 would have been rightly seen as a threat by18,915 literate Kashmiri Pandits. It must have dawned on KPs that their future is at stake. 21,639 was a negligible number given the total population of KMs who were still into land and trade but for 18,915 KPs out of total 55055, the math looked fearful enough . How much of these fears were triggered by census itself is not hard to guess. Just like today Census becomes a political game, back then also in Kashmir, Census data was a political tool.


Overall, if KPs were the exploitative class, there are probably the only exploitative class in the world in which majority of the people belonging to this class were not working in privileged positions. And KPs would be the only exploitative class whose population showed no drastic increase in population dues to all the "exploitation" they were doing.   

Sunday, November 11, 2018

The oldest specimen of Kashmiri Painting

The oldest surviving specimen of Kashmiri
school of Painting

The figures of Buddha and Avalokitesvara on the wooden cover of birchbark manuscript discovered by Pandit Madhusudan Kaul Shastri in 1938 from Naupore in Gilgit where earlier the same spot had yielded in 1931 the now famous "Gilgit Manuscript". The painting is dated between 7th-9th century and shows influence of Gandhara (the way physique is drawn), Ajanta (the way eyes are drawn) and Pala Bengal school (the way headdress and face is drawn). At the feet of the deities can be the patrons who look and dress like Central Asians.

[housed at SPS museum, Srinagar]

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Horse Rider of Ushkur

via: Penn Museum 

"The relief illustrated in Plate XII was found on the site of Huskapura (modern Ushkur), near Baramula in Kashmir, by Father de Ruyter of the Church Mission School at Baramula [around 1915]. The slab, which is on exhibition in the Fitler Pavilion, bears the equestrian portrait or effigy of a warrior armed with a bow carried on his left arm, a shield and sword on his right thigh, and a battle axe and a quiver full of arrows at his back; also apparently a mace is attached to the saddle. His costume consists of an under coat fastening on the proper right, and an over jacket fastened by straps in the centre; probably also of trousers and boots, but the feet are broken away. The horse is richly caparisoned and almost completely covered by a richly decorated cloth; it is guided by a bridle and bit. The incised inscription, in a late variety of Sārāda script known as Devāśeşa, is damaged; it is in corrupt Sanskrit and not quite intelligible. The date, however, is clearly legible and is ‘on Friday, the ninth, of the dark fortnight of Magha in the year 82.’ The era is not specified, but may be assumed to be the usual Saptarsi or Laukika era of other Kashmir Sārāda inscriptions, which era is usually recorded with omission of the centuries. The year 82 of the inscription would then correspond to the year 6 of one of the Christian centuries, and this century, to judge from the epigraphical peculiarities and the style of the relief was most likely the sixteenth, giving the date A.D. 1506. As to the epigraphy, it may be remarked that medial e is not represented by the stroke behind the consonant as was the case up to the time of Zainu’l-‘Abidīn, King of Kashmir from A.D. 1420-1470. The second line of the inscription which must have contained the name of some king or queen is unfortunately defective. The rest of the document records a gift of goods and animals (twenty khāris of paddy, two of wheat, eight oxen and five traks of coarse sugar); but the names of the donor and recipient are lost. The style of the sculpture is somewhat provincial, but it is of high interest as a rare and almost uniquely complete representation of contemporary military equipment. For much of the information given above I am indebted to Rai Bahadur Daya Ram Sahni, one of the most learned officers of the Archaeological Survey of India.

Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, "A Relief and Inscription from Kashmir" Expedition Magazine 2.26 (1931). Expedition Magazine. 

Five Yogis, Shankaracharya, Mughal Painting, 17th Century

One of the earliest instance of western art mixing up with Kashmir.

"Plate 231/ Harvard 1983. 620 recto Hindu Holy Men Artist: attributed to Govardhan Mughal school Circa 1630-1635 24,1 x 15,2 cm Watercolour on paper Private Collection, Courtesy of the Harvard University Art Museums. Govardhan’s miniature brings to life five Hindu holy men meditating beneath a neem tree near an early Kashmiri temple close to Srinagar, seen in the background. Each portrait represents a stage of life. In the foreground, a languid youth with a golden sea of curls reclines opposite the figure, a middle-aged sanyasi whose other-worldly gaze, self-grown shawl of long hair, and claw-like fingernails attest to his shedding of almost every mundane activity. To his left, sits an older devotee, whose expressive, disciplined face implies both intellectual power and spiritual grace. At the left of the miniature, momentarily distracted from his elevated state, a dark-bearded figure with a mala (rosary) and a turban wound from his own hair, looks out beyond the frame. Behind 124 the others reclines a holy man whose tense expression hints of troubled dreams. In the foreground, a fire smoulders, producing both warmth and the ashes worn instead of clothing by these aspiring saints. Nudes are rare in Mughal art, and most of those known to us depict holy men. Although the pose of the naked chela (apprentice) here was inspired by an engraving of Saint Chrysostom, interpreted as an Odalisque by the German printmaker Barthold Beham (1502-1540), Govardhan not only changed her sex but trimmed several years from her age. So convincing is the young sadhu that Govardhan’s adjustments to the western prototype must have been studied from life. Inasmuch as Prince Dārā Shikoh was so concerned with the varieties of religious personality, it is likely that this remarkable picture, one of Mughal art’s most serious investigations of the human spirits, was commissioned by him. Literature: we are grateful to Gauvin Bailey for discovering Barthold Beham’s prototype, for which see: Bartsch 1978, vol. XV [8], No. 43."

~ Indian Paintings in the St. Petersburg Muraqqa by Stewart Cary Welch, 1996

The hill and temple depicted is probably Shankaracharya of Srinagar, the iconic symbol from the city. Although Welch identifies the tree as Neem, however, Neem is not that common in Kashmir and certainly not a common motif for art around Kashmir. It is possible the tree depicted is Brimji (celtis australis/Nettle Tree). Brimji is a common tree near holy sites of Kashmiri Pandits, this shade providing tree is considered holy by Kashmiris.

Asoka and Shankaracharya hill by Abanindranath Tagore, 20th century


Govardhan was the son of Bhavani Das, a minor painter in the Mughal imperial atelier. Govardhan began his career during the reign of Akbar. Govardhan was a Khanazad (born in family), house born slaves, trained since birth for service to royal family.


The Penance of Saint John Chrysostom by Barthel Beham, (1502–1540) was a German engraver, miniaturist and painter.


On Khanazad


Friday, November 2, 2018

Pregnant superstitions and beliefs

Mother and Child, 1916.
by Charles W. Bartlett

Quick reference notes I have been keeping for last few months (with input from friends and family).

• Kashmiri word for pregnant: ba'ri'tch. [Baariya. Sanskrit word for wife.]

• in Kalyug 13 year old girls will give birth

• During eclipse, whatever the woman is doing...the baby will have its mark. If a woman picks knife...the child will have cut mark. If woman plays with fire...child will have burn mark. And so on. Stay indoors during eclipse. Muslims also believe in it. Muslim neighbours used to ask Pandits for the exact timing of eclipse, it used to be a giveaway that the lady is expecting a child.

• Generally stay indoors.

Maag month (January/February) born sleep with half eye open.

Ghat paksh born with slit eyes

• Mool: Baddest time according to Kashmiri Jantri (almanac) for giving birth

• Find someone who has thumb (Frozen neck). Get massaged (kari thumb) by pregnant woman. [My parents actually asked one of my friends if he needed massaging. It was embarrassing to say the least and infuriating. Had a little light with parents]

• Pregnant woman is not supposed to see a maharaj - groom 

• She should generally not sit in the room with the entrance door, whoever visits the house should touch her head 

• She is not supposed to be informed of any deaths. Pregnancy time generally a time of impurity.

• Ath wairith Zan. Born with hands open. Lucky kid. Like Akbar. 

• Owl hooting in tree. Boy is predicted.

• In 9th month give butter. Kishmish sheera  Raisins soaked overnight. (kateer)

• Woman needs to sit carefully during last days of pregnancy in order to avoid having a child with 'Tond ' - conical enlarged head.

•  While leaving for delivery, tie a knot in chunni that the woman is wearing.

• eat "ha-nd", dandelion leaves post delivery. Rich in Iron

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Woodcutter and the Ghoulish Wife

'Kashmiri Woodcutter' by Abdur Rahman Chughtai
 (Pakistan, 1897–1975) via: bonhams
I like watching zombie movies, more macabre the better. Like many, I find in them a reflection of out times. My mother-in-law does not approve of my taste in cinema, she does not like the "shikas" movies I watch, specially at a time when her daughter is pregnant. Yet, one day while I was watching one such movie, she decided to tell me a folktale. I don't know the origin of the tale, but I have not heard anything like it and I think she told the story just to mess me up. Anyway, in service of literature and lost folklore of Kashmir, here it goes:

There was once a simple woodcutter who used to live in a forest with his wife. The couple used to frequently roam in the jungle looking for fine wood. Husband would cut while the wife would collect. One day, while going about the routine, woodcutter's wife started acting all weird. She called out to her husband and said to him,"I smell someone is roasting some fine meat nearby, I have an incredible urge to have this meat. Please, please, O' husband of mine fetch me the meat whose sweet whiff is making my stomach twitch." Poor woodcutter was all confused, he could barely smell anything. He tried to reason with his wife. "In this forest, who possibly could be cooking a meal of meat. What has gotten into you? I cannot smell anything." Wife persisted, "O' husband of mine fetch me the meat whose sweet whiff is making my stomach twitch." Woodcutter took in a deep one through the nose and could now smell the meat. "Even if someone was cooking, how can I get it for you?" Wife started crying, no rhyme or no reason. "What a useless husband I have? Wish I had married the butcher instead."Seeing the mad fervor in his loving wife's eyes, the woodcutter gave in and promised to fulfil this wish. Wife told him to go and not come empty handed or else he will see her dead face, she will put an axe to her throat.  He asked her to head back hime while he would go looking for the barbeque chops. He followed the smell and after walking some distance, the woodcutter found himself in front of a funeral pyre. Someone had burnt a body in the forest. Woodcutter was saddened by the thought that he had come looking for this meat, this cage of a soul. He even laughed a bit now at her wife's stupid demand. However, since he had promised his mad wife a piece of roasted meat, he used his axe to fetch a piece from the fire. A shoulder, a limb, a heart or a liver, one could not tell, he just wrapped it in a piece of cloth and headed back home. "Surely, she would not eat it, if nothing else, it will be a good joke,"  thought the simple woodcutter. On reaching his hut, he told the wife all that he saw, he hoped that his wife by now would have calmed down. Instead his wife asked, "Where is the meat?" Her eyes fell on the bundle of cloth hung from his shoulder, she lunged at it, dug her hands in and before her husband could do anything, she took a chunk of meat and sunk her teeth into it and then the grind. The woodcutter was repulsed by the scene, in that moment he could see a ghoul chomping on a human prey. A strange mix of anger and fear pulsed though his veins and in that thoughtless moment, instinctively, his hands went for his axe and and the axe went for wife's stomach. As the axe cut though the belly fat, the stomach split open and put popped a baby not yet fully formed, hanging by a slender thread and in it's mouth a piece of meat. Three bodies fell to ground and only then the woodcutter understood his wife's wild demand. All this time, his wife was pregnant and they did not know. He should have known a pregnant woman and her taste buds at such times can make any such demands. A husband has to be patient, caring and fulfil all her demands in the best way he can. Woodcutter could have gone and bought a piece of roast meat and she would have accepted that too happily. The woodcutter now rued his fate and cursed his gods. His wife was dead, his baby was dead, his axe had tasted its own blood.


Sunday, October 28, 2018

Remains of Kashmir, 1947

After Pakistani raiders passed through Kashmir.

1. A Burnt Kashmiri peasant woman. Village Shalteng
2. A Kashmir peasant stabbed to dead.
From "Inside Pak-Occupied Kashmir" (1957) by P.N. Sharma. Photo journalist for Blitz magazine of Bombay was taken prisoner in 1948 after the plane he was in was shot down. He was assumed dead. The book gives first hand account of violence wrecked by Pakistani raiders and their motivations.


The fire of 1947-48 is part of some personal family histories:

"In 1947, when the Kaabali raid was going on his Nanaji, Niranjan Nath Raina (called taetha) and family were living in Pattan near Baramulla and when the Kabaalis reached their village, the whole of the area was reduced to ashes. Nanaji's father was hiding somewhere in drygrass and he was burnt alive."

an account of the fire, Keys to a house not There

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Communist turns and Kashmir twists

"The idea of an independent Kashmir was originated by the Communists. For "it reflects the innermost desire of the Kashmiri people" (Cross Road, May 20, 1949). The same paper, the official organ of the party, on January 6, 1950, called on the people of Kashmir to "concentrate on mass struggle for the realization of freedom, democracy and peace, for the end of monarchy, for a people's democratic state, and for friendly relations with the Soviet Union, the People's republic of China and other neighbouring countries." Again on July 27, 1952, the paper regretted that the Kashmir delegation was being forced to accept the Indian government's terms on Kashmir's constitutional position in the Union, agreed upon in the Delhi agreement.

By the time the leaders of Kashmir started shifting toward independence, the Communists had, ironically, developed their own doubts about it. They were upset by Adlai Stevenson's cordial talks with Abdullah during his visit to Kashmir in May 1953 and reported U.S. support for Kashmir's independence. Moreover, by now post-Stalin Russia was coming to terms with India, necessitating a more nationalist orientation on Kashmir policy from the CPI. Accordingly, on August 2, Cross Road published the text of the party resolution which "viewed with grave concern reports from Kashmir that some leading personalities of the Sheikh Abdullah group and its supporters had made public declarations that the state of Kashmir should be independent of India."
"The shift in the Kashmir policy of the Communist party of India, in response to its international requirements, had handicapped the Communists within Kashmir. Having once encouraged agressive trends in Kashmiri nationalism, it had now become a champion of Indian nationalism. The party, which had called accession to India treacherous in 1950, pleased for a "de jure recognition of the present frontiers in Kashmir" in 1956, and by 1957 demanded abandonment of Pakistani aggression. Likewise, the communists first favoured full independence, then later supported limited accession, and finally advocated full integration into Union.
When the DNC [Democratic National Conference], taking the Communist position, demanded in the State Assembly the extension of the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and the Union Election Commission to the state, Bakshi condemned it as a pro-merger party trying to "sell Kashmir to India." In fact, the DNC stand helped him to appear a champion of Kashmir's autonomy. In Jammu the DNC group, in its effort to outbid the Praja Parishad, championed Dogra chauvinism and demanded a greater share for Jammu in services and in developmental expenditure. This further isolated the party in the Valley and led the National Conference to spread the rumor that the DNC was an agent of Hindus conspiring to get the state merged with the neighbouring Hindu majority state of Himachal Pradesh. The DNC was further weakened by fundamental ideological divisions within the organisation. The Jammu group, led by Ram Piara Saraf, was categorically committed to the discipline of the CPI and the principles of Communism, while the Sadiq group of Kashmir had a broader based and was nationalistic and less doctrinaire. On issues like the Tibet and Sino-India disputes, the divergence between the two groups became very marked. "
"India's tough international line on Kashmir also had a demoralising effect on the secessionists. Krishna Menon declared in the Security Council debates in 1957 that Kashmir was as irrevocable a part of India as Madras and the Punjab. Pakistan's international prestige was at a low ebb. The merger of several linguistic states in West Pakistan into a single province and the imposition of martial law were not inspiring events for the Kashmiris. Sham Lal Yachu, publicity secretary of the Political Conference, the only professedly pro-Pakistan party of Kashmir, declared in a lengthy statement that serious rethinking had started in his camp. He spoke of the advantages of Kashmir's willingly becoming a part of India. Yachu was not disowned by his party. Similarly, Prem Nath Bazaz, the first vocal exponent of Pakistan's case in Kashmir, expressed his disillusionment with Pakistan. In Abdullah's camp, too, pressure for a settlement with India was growing, and possible solution for Kashmir within the Indian framework were discussed."

Balraj Puri (Editor, Kashmir Affairs, this piece was first published in his magazine in 1960 ) on Jammu and Kashmir in "State Politics in India" (1968) Ed. Myron Weiner, published by Princeton, which was the go-to place for C.I.A for "scenario evaluation" back then for ops like Iran coup of 1953. While pre-1960s and post-1990 writings of this circle are widely available freely and shared by "experts"... this evaluations from 60s when pro-Pakistan lobby was on a back-foot would cost you around Rs.7000.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Brother from Kashmir

Guest post by Pratush Koul in which he remembers his brother from Kashmir

6th August 2013
Excelsior told us about you. How you left us and your mother all alone. She was bereaved the most. You were her only son and her sole reason to live. With you, gone were her materialistic attachments of the world. I can’t recall for how many days she stared at the door, waiting for you, waiting for her son. We were here at Jammu when we heard about you. It was past sunset, the news made us feel the dusk that day. Your memories were recalled, especially by dad, in front of whom you grew up. After this conversation, mom and dad went to sleep, but I was awake, haunted by the memories from 3 months ago when you last visited, the memories of Kashmir where we played cricket in your lawn and also by the fact that I’m never going to see my brother again, see my “Adil bhaiya” again.

It was in summer - when I first traveled to Kashmir. The lakes, the green fields, and the mountains- they were all tempting. It was the 5th day of our visit I remember when we visited your home in Ompora. It was a simple, serene two storied house, I liked its appearance. When they went in the house, I got hold of my mom’s hand. My parents were greeted and were requested to sit on the “takhtposh” (A bed, short in height), When the Tea and Namkeen were being served, it was at that moment I saw you for the first time, from the crevice of the old door. You were called, and I remember you advancing towards my father and hugging him tightly, I was surprised. Then you hugged me. As we were sipping our tea you talked with my parents and I was at first startled by the fact that how were you able to talk in Kashmiri, it was believed by me that it was a special secret language. It was then explained to me after I was visibly alienated that your family and my parents had worked together in Kargil for 1-2 years. After talking with you for more than an hour, your mother asked you to take me for a stroll near the locality. My mom, being apprehensive, kindly denied as the atmosphere of Kashmir wasn’t good at that time, but after telling that Adil is with him and there is nothing to worry about, she agreed. I went with you, behind you, as you were leading the way across the lanes. We talked with each other, about weather, games, school and other things a 6 year old boy could think of. We were near a small shop and I remember meeting two of your friends. They greeted you but were looking differently at me. I could sense that something was amiss as when I moved my hand near them for a handshake, they ignored me. Then they asked you that who is this boy and where is he from. You told them that I was your brother. I glanced at you while the other two were surprised. Then I remembered one of them saying that he has a tilak on his forehead, how can he be your brother. I wasn’t able to understand that question but his tone changed dramatically after he pointed his finger on my forehead. I held your hand with my tiny fingers, sensing threat. Then you spoke”so what? He is my brother”. I felt safe after I heard these words and as I can recall, you shouted on him for scaring me and we left the place and headed straight home, on the way you told me that they were fools and don’t tell anyone about what happened. I said ok. At that day, I went out with a friend and came back with a brother.

As night started to pour in, my parents asked permission to leave as we had to head back to jawahar nagar, where we were staying. Your family tried all means to convince us for a night stay but the situation around that area was not welcoming. They allowed us to go on the condition that we come back as this visit wasn’t satisfactory. Mom and dad responded positively in unison. We headed back.

The next day, we came and had breakfast at your home. After a couple of hours as we were leaving, you started to argue with your mom that you wanted to join us. Dad said why not. So, as we leaved Ompora, with an extra accompany, we headed straight to Dal Lake. During the Shikara ride, I remember you being seated next to me, pointing at other shikara’s in the lake. As we reached the Char Chinaar Island, we clicked a lot of pictures, pictures of you posing in the white kurta pajama, pictures that were taken on houseboats, we hoped that we will only remember the time and events captured in these pictures, but when I see those pictures, I only see you, the person, the time and place seems irrelevant and blurred. After the ride, we headed to the revered shrine of Tulmul, in Ganderbal.

At that time, an auspicious day was celebrated. You joined us in the pooja and rituals and took the Prasad with us. At the end of the day, we went back to your home to drop you and the farewell was painfully difficult for me as you got all teary. We hugged each other and you said to me that we will meet soon. After bidding adieu to your family, we left.

January 2013

Months after grandpa passed away, I became quiet and didn’t talk much. One day, dad gets a call. It was from you. You wanted to visit us with some friends. My dad happily invited you and your friends and my mom prepared all kinds of food delicacies you enjoyed. Day after tomorrow, you arrived, with your three friends.

This time, as you entered the main door, I hugged you first. It was wonderful meeting you after 9 odd years. We talked a lot, about your college, my school, life back in Kashmir, your family etc. I talked with your friends also as dinner time approached. We relished on some of the finest Kashmiri delicacies and after you prayed your namaaz, we continued our talks from where we left from. It was a wonderful time, how your friends told me about your childhood menaces, how we enjoyed our previous visit and we also planned our next trip, a trip to the places we missed previously. After that we slept.

Next morning, I woke up late. I saw you pack your bags, I asked where we you going, my dad also joined. You replied that you have to leave for college. I wasn’t in the mood of letting you go. I insisted for another day, you politely declined. As you grabbed your bag and were about to leave, I asked “when will we meet next time? I didn’t even show you the pictures”. You replied”you will hear from me soon” and you left, just vanished from the main gate as I stood staring there for some time.

Present day

As I come across the old album, my eyes get all watery when it stares your face. It feels so different that I’m of the same age as yours when you left us. It feels so lonely. On that fateful day, I lost you to the deep waters of Harvan, a brother was lost that day. Looking back at our memories, I don’t see a skinny boy holding my hands while we walk through the dark lanes, I don’t see myself hiding away behind a boy when he taught some lunatics a lesson, I don’t see that shoulder on which I slept during travels, I don’t see those hands that taught me how to make shadow puppets but I see that brother for whom, age, distance and religion were no barriers. He was above them all. He stood for love and affection. Adil stood for the real Kashmiriyat. You will be remembered, you will be missed.


Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Recanting Yachu

Much of Kashmir conflict is nothing but men and women running on treadmill whose surface is Chess patterned. Mill seems to be churning and running but no one going anywhere. Some old ideas churned over and over again. Chess pieces falling off the board....same positions refilled at same spot on the Tahreeki mill with new chess pieces (most of them children of fallen pieces). One of the more interesting movement on this stupid treadmill chessboard is that of Pakistan loving Kashmiri Pandits who had M.N. Roy as their ideological father.

On the surface it seems nothing changed. But, if you look closely, you will find that when the design of the chessboard drastically changed in 1960, even some of their Pak loving pawn pieces saw the obvious darkness at the bottom of the ditch.

" I belong to a group in Kashmir which was the first to challenge, in a vocal way, the accession of the state to India. Lately we have been doing some rethinking about our basic postulates as well as assessment of the political situation. Though, I believe, I share this process, in varying degrees, with my other colleagues, I cannot commit them to my conclusions as we have no regular contact with one another, being scattered in jails, Kashmir and Delhi

Most of us drew our inspiration from philosophies like Radical Humanism, Socialism or even Gandhism. It is interesting to recall now that when we were supporting Pakistan's case in Kashmir on secular and humanistic grounds, Sheikh Abdullah was leading religious crowds in mosques and elsewhere in the name of Islam (but not communalism) as also of Kashmiri nationalism to accession to India.

Now when our tribe has somewhat grown we do not feel happier in the new company and rather find that our real goal is further receding. Our opposition to India was not based on our love for the ideals on which Pakistan was founded. We were rather motivated by a democratic ideal in supporting what we considered was the wish of the majority. Secondly, we, particularly Hindus among us, were keen to rise above the interests of Hindu communalism and Indian nationalism."

Yachu of Kashmir Socialist Party was the Publicity Secretary of Political Conference of Khawaja Ghulam Mohiuddin Qarra found in 1953, the first Pro-Pakistan camp in Kashmir. It had other Pandits like Raghunath Vaishnavi (who incidentally was the first one to petition against the Shiekh for failing to protect a Hindu temple in Srinagar), Badri Nath Koul, Prem Nath Jalali, Niranjan Nath Raina and Prem Nath Bazaz too. The extract is a piece by Shyam Lal Yachu titled "Rethinking in Pro-Pak Camp of Kashmir" from the book "The Story of Kashmir: Political development, terrorism, militancy and human rights, efforts towards peace, with chronology of major political events" (1995) ed. by Verinder Grover.

The new age Bazaazs, Vaishnavis, Yachus, Bhans and Kauls living outside Kashmir now saying violent crowds at mosques is not communalism. Again reminding people that only Hindus are capable of  rising above Hindu communalism and Indian nationalism. A muslim in a violent crowd cannot perform such feat of moral superiority. Tahreeki nepotists continue to sell violence as quest for democracy. 


"Rethinking in Pro-Pak Camp of Kashmir" in which Yachu recommended merger with India appeared in Kashmir Affairs 1960.

The reason for this turn is provided by Balraj Puri (Editor, Kashmir Affairs, first published in his magazine in 1960). It had to do with the nature of Pakistan and it's increasing isolation.

"India's tough international line on Kashmir also had a demoralising effect on the secessionists. Krishna Menon declared in the Security Council debates in 1957 that Kashmir was as irrevocable a part of India as Madras and the Punjab. Pakistan's international prestige was at a low ebb. The merger of several linguistic states in West Pakistan into a single province and the imposition of martial law were not inspiring events for the Kashmiris. Sham Lal Yachu, publicity secretary of the Political Conference, the only professedly pro-Pakistan party of Kashmir, declared in a lengthy statement that serious rethinking had started in his camp. He spoke of the advantages of Kashmir's willingly becoming a part of India."


Shyam Lai Yachu, born in Kashmir in 1929. He died in 1996 and like most of the people of his community, generation, cutting across ideologies, he died outside Kashmir, in exile. He died in Delhi at a relatives place, having never married. 


Kashmir based Tahreeki journal KashmirReader, did remember him, again in propagandistic manner, remembering him as champion of merger with Pakistan, conveniently forgetting the fact that he was one of the first Pandits of Pakistan camp who revolted when the true nature of Pakistan state became obvious. 

Shyam Lal Yacha, Kashmir Reader, June 2015. (Just as fresh bout of violence was about to start in Kashmir)


Saturday, September 1, 2018

notes on Harmukh Bartal

We are still no closer to finding the writer of "Harmukh Bartal". I still maintain that it is a love song.

We find a line "Be'no ye dooryer tchalay Madano"...while of course can also be found in Rasul Mir's love lyrics "Butino Ye Doorer Choon Zaray, Bal Marayo"

However, mystery deepens. I recently came across another version of the lyrics. The version is given by Pandit Anand Koul in his "Archaeological Remains In Kashmir" (1935). In this version (unattributed to any poet), instead of "Harmukh bartal" (Gateway to Harmukh) we find "Achhabal gachhi dabu" or "the grass hut of Achhabal garden". That it is a love song is driven home all the more by use of word "Shakarlab: sweet lipped" and reference to Shirin-Farhad.

There is a tradition in Kashmir of poets getting inspired by work of other poet and including them or building on them in their own creations. So, we find refrain from Habba Khatoon in a work by Mehjoor, even though two are separated by centuries. And often lyrics become so popular that the poet is lost. Maybe something similar happened with "Harmukh Bartal". We still don't know.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Khalsa High School, 1950

Andy Singh shares a photograph from his personal collection. Khalsa High School, Srinagar. 2007 Bikrami (1950). He writes : "My late uncle Satwant Singh Sawhney ji is in this photograph ( first left , first row sitting )."

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Prem Nath Bazaz on many exodus

from Prem Nath Bazaz's The History of Struggle for Freedom in Kashmir: Cultural and Political, from the Earliest Times to the Present Day (1954).

Instead of focusing on the "7 exodus" nonsense...if only period from 1947 till now was seriously would have seen the slow and steady exodus that happened when a supposedly enlightened form of governance had come in force.

The thing to note in the paragraph is the familiar use of Butshikan. Even Bazaz couldn't help bringing it up. Then there is the pointer to the fact that pandit hadn't run "amuck". Nowadays, the narrative tells the same story but it is the KMs that claim that "we didn't run amuck"...KPs not running amuck is not even worth mentioning. And yes, again, even back then harsh climate was part of the exodus story.

On Meaning of word Dejjhor

'Hor' is an archaic Kashmiri word for pair (hor in "pul-hor": a pair of traditional kashmiri slippers), while there are no clear answer for the meaning of word dejj. According to some it is the Kashmiri form of a Sanskrit word dwija (twice-born). The belief comes from the fact that the act of wearing Dejhor by a girl is considered same as the thread ceremony of a Brahmin boy. Interestingly, Dejhor is not offered to the girl by the groom, he does not put it in her ears. They are put by paternal aunts. But, is that correct? That Dejj is corrupted form of "Dvija"? No.

"Dejj" is simply the Kashmiri word that means "loose/unsteady/unbound". It is the female adjective form of "dyol". In Kashmiri, a mad man, a man with unsteady mind, maybe called "dyol-mut" while a woman may be called "Dejj-mitch". So, a Dejj-hor in Kashmiri is simply as pair of loose danglers.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Mani Kaul's Before my Eyes (1989)

video link
Mani Kaul's Before my Eyes (1989). The film was produced by J&K tourism department but the end product by the legendary filmmaker left them so confused that the film was never properly showcased by them. It was supposed to be a tourism film but Mani Kaul made it without showcasing the usual sights of Kashmir. Most people would miss the genius of this film, but those who understand cinema would know what Kaul managed to achieve with the film.
With minimalistic human presence and a deliberate brooding consciousness of the geography of the place, the film like some dream of a child, traces the flight of a soul in paradise, there are sights and some sounds, it rises till the beauty materializes before your eyes and you realize it is not a dream, or is it.
The Hot air balloon works like a metaphor for dream in the film. Director hints at it when you see some people asleep in a Hotel room while a balloon rises from the window. You know you are dreaming because the western music mixes up with the local sights from a houseboat.There are vast mountains, greens, whites, wild brooks and broad rivers. You see a child running free. A man galloping on a horse while the moon rises. There is a garden, the (only) famous garden. You are alone in all this space.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

The Spy Tales from 70s

In June 1977, Jammu and Kashmir had some interesting visitors from across the border. Five Pakistani men and a woman from Lahore illegally crossed border from Sialkot and walked into Jammu. The woman was a performing artist named Haseena and she was traveling with a purpose. From Jammu, the woman and the troupe travelled to Shopian in Kashmir where she assumed the name - Gul Afroze. She stayed in town for about ten days and then made her way to Srinagar. In Srinagar she rented out two houseboats and kept rotating her residence between the two boats. A few days later she tried to get herself enrolled as a casual artiste in a Central Government department. During a routine "character verification" check with Intelligence Bureau the plot went bust. Haseena was quietly flown out to an undisclosed location. It was revealed that Pakistan's Military Intelligence had enrolled talented girls for spying in Kashmir, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. The ring had been active in Jammu & Kashmir since 1973, supplying inflowing of military movement to Pakistan by co opting Indian military and Army officers.

Pakistan came up with the plan under Z.A. Bhutto at the end of Indo-Pak war of 1971. Bhutto re-organized the counter Intelligence wing of Pakistan's intelligence Bureau and Military Intelligence. The objective was to carry out subversive activity in Kashmir and collect vital military information.

In March 1979, 60 men and officers of Indian Army posted in Samba sector were investigated for passing information to Pakistan. Many of these men, including 2 Army officers were found guilty and handed over long prison sentences. About 50 to 60 per cent of arrested Army officers, including senior and junior officers, were alleged to be directly involved while a major-general, two brigadiers and one colonel acted as accomplices.

B. L. Kak writes in his "Kashmir: The Untold story of Men and Matters" (1987):

"Towards the end of April 1979 it was stated that 25 to 30 members of the gang had visited Pakistan individually and collectively from time to time under the veil of secrecy. This disclosure was followed by the circulation of a report that two officers of the Indian Army, stationed in Kashmir, would be punished on charges of "objectionable" activity and misuse of the official position. The two officers, a brigadier and a major, had been accused of spying for Pakistan with the help of two women. These two women - mother and daughter - were identified as residents of a border town in the west of Srinagar. The middle-aged woman (mother) was given the title of "captain" by a Pakistani Intelligence agency, while the daughter, educated and charming with a husky voice, was trained and encouraged until she gained experience to infiltrate into some Army circles in Kashmir.

The middle-aged woman managed to keep her adversaries at a distance in spite of the fact that she had been described as a "Pakistani Agent" in the official records of Intelligence Bureau and the State Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in the past. A local contractor of the area had wanted to enter into matrimonial alliance with her daughter. But he had to withdraw from the field in the wake of the reported advice from the Pakistani Intelligence agency that it wold be useful to rope in the Indian Army major, who was then posted to that area, as the husband of the charming girl. And as the mother of the girl had a reason to oblige the Pak agency, the Army major was lured to roll down to become her son-in-law, although the marriage between the two was arranged in secrecy. Some time after his marriage the Army major received orders of his transfer to a place outside Kashmir. Happily for him, the major managed to get himself posted to Kashmir again with the help of his wife. The lady wooed a former minister in Delhi and subsequently tricked a senior brigadier of the indian army in Srinagar before the latter became a friend of her family."

In August 1979, a lieutenant colonel of Military Intelligence wing in Kashmir, was accused of having prepared a secret 20 page document for Pakistan.

The document was earlier seized in third week of July near Laghama in Uri Sector by men of Intelligence wing of Border Security Force. The matter was dropped after much controversy between Army and BSF. K.M Singh of the intelligence Bureau as well as Mahesh Shanker, Ghulam Jeelani Pandit, A.M. Lone and Rathinder Kaul from CID refused that the document was prepared for Pakistan.

In November 1980, some captured smugglers revealed that BSF Dakota planes were getting used to fly hashish balls from Srinagar to Amritsar and Delhi.

Kashmir was big money, and men were small fish in mouth of invisible big fish. The real fishing season arrived in 1990.


Tuesday, May 1, 2018

A Brief history of Book Banning in Kashmir

Following is an extract from "Kashmir: The Untold story of Men and Matters" (1987) by B. L. Kak (1941-2007). The section "Fever and Fear" offers the readers a glimpse of the regressive tide that was building up in Kashmir at the end of 80s. How the violence of 1990 was just the natural outcome of the movement or tahreek that was underway in the crevices of Kashmiri society and how this society was inverted and conformed till regressive voices became mainstream voice of the populace. Like all violent right wing projects, the "revolution" starts as a cultural project in which books are the first targets and the last step in a call to arms. 

"Knowledge is a treasure; zeal without knowledge is like a fire without light ." A reality, as it is. And you cannot refute it. Ironically, however, most of the Kashmiri Muslims have proved themselves opponents of all books of knowledge. Instances, in this connection, are numerous. A thing of the past, though, became quite an event in Kashmir in April 1982. The police went against a local writer. The step against him was, curiously, ordered about four years after he printed his book in Urdu language in Srinagar and circulated in parts of the State in May 1980. And the unostentatious writer, Tej Bahadur Bhan, was baffled by the action against him. Indeed, immediately after his arrest, he pleaded for a quick answer from a police official to his question: "Have you gone through my book"? It was not for the police official to have an academic discussion with Bhan as the latter had been rounded up on the charge that his bool contained some objectionable material.

On the other hand, however, Bhan's close associates were intrigued when police lifted him and kept him in detention, though for a brief period. It was not unknown that Bhan's arrest had followed the protest demonstration by activists of the militant Jamait-i-Tulba in Baramulla, 32 miles from Srinagar, against the book - "Pehchaan". Scores of Kashmiris, especially writers and intellectuals, found it difficult to appreciate the police action against Tej Bahadur Bhan. It was apparently in this context that 17 known writers and artists, including Ali Mohammad Lone, Autar Kishen Rahbar and Bansi Parimoo, demanded Bhan's release as, according to them, his detention had violated the freedom of expression. Happily for Bhan, some opposition and Congress (I) members in the Indian Lok Sabha, in Delhi, also condemned the government, headed by Farooq Abdullah, for the writer's arrest after he had supported Darwin's theory of evolution in his book.

While most people began to think that this Darwin hatred had come rather late, Muslim fundamentalists in Jammu and Kashmir were dead earnest about keeping the "corrupting" influences away. These fundamentalists found Bhan's book highly objectionable and demanded it be banned and the writer prosecuted. There was already a long list of banned books in Kashmir and most people outside the State might have been surprised to find Bhagwat Gita in the ban lost of Kashmir varsity. A case charging Bhan with attempt at hurting the sentiments of a particular community was registered. And Ali Mohammed Watali, then DIG of police, said that the police had launched a careful study of the issue. This was one positive fallout of the controversy since the study of the book could at least initiate policeman to literature and other intellectual pursuits.

That was the time when Kashmir's education department found itself in a quandary. A serious problem had cropped up, making it difficult for the authorities to support the quoted saying: "Knowledge is a treasure; zeal without knowledge is like a fire without light." In other words, valuable protestations by a section of the Muslim fundamentalists against the introduction of NCERT syllabus in educational institutions in the State created practical dilemma for the policy-making body in education department. Jamat-i-Islami and Tableegul Islam were credited with a success after the Farooq government did not hesitate to oblige them by proscribing a book on history meant for 6th standard in schools covered under the NCERT syllabus. The banning of the book, which allegedly contained derogatory reference to Islam, had further encouraged a section of the Muslim fundamentalists to demand withdrawal of NCERT syllabus itself.

During G.M. Sadiq's tenure as Chief Minister the Muslim militants had whipped up popular sentiments against a famous printed document titled "Bool of Knowledge" which allegedly contained some anti-Islamic material. Demonstrations were organised against the existence in Kashmir of the book. Gripped by religious frenzy, demonstrators had attacked foreign tourists in skimpy clothes and a stinging treatment was given to a few European women - nettle was rubbed on their exposed legs. At the boulevard of the Dal Lake in Srinagar, a foreign tourist was compelled to shout "ban Book of Knowledge". But the ingenious foreigner with unconcealed sarcasm [shouted] "ban all books of knowledge". The Sadiq government soon proscribed the book and also unconditionally released those arrested for violence during the agitation.

After Shiekh Abdullah's return to power in 1975, Muslim fundamentalists succeeded in removing several books from educational institutions and reference libraries. These books included studies on Darwin's theory of evolution, A Short History of the World by H.G. Wells and Monuments of Civilisation. The last mentioned book contained a pencil sketch of the Prophet and this sparked off angry demonstrations, starting from the Kashmir University, and resulting in a series of violent incidents. Jamat-i-Islami was then accused of having incited the agitation, but the charge was stoutly denied by party president, Saduddin, who asserted that it was his party's intervention that had saved the situation. However, a section of Kashmir University students complained to the then Governor, B.K. Nehru, that the party and its youth wing, Jamait-i-Tulba, were injection communalism into campus life. It was alleged that followers of these organisation had tried to build a mosque on the campus and also sought closure of the unique Central Asian Museum.

The campaign against the museum was started after the museum claimed to have identified a figure on the coloured tiles of the building to be that of said-philosopher, Syed Mohammed Madani Ali Kashmiri. Popularly known as Madin Sahen, the saint came to Kashmir in the 15th century from central Asia. he and his son were buried near a mosque at Zadibal on the outskirts of Srinagar. The museum survived the closure campaign thanks to stiff opposition from many influential Kashmiri Muslims, including Shiekh Abdullah. interestingly, in view of the attitude of the fundamentalists, booksellers in the State began to ensure that the books they put on sale were non-controversial. A leading bookseller in Srinagar had to engage an experienced Muslim teacher to go through several books on Islam before he put them on sale. Similarly, many librarians had voluntarily removed such books and periodicals that could provoke the irascibility of fundamentalists.

Even after the formation of the Congress (I) backed government headed by G.M. Shah a serious development had taken place with the high-pitched cry for Islamic order in the Muslim-majority Kashmir. The cry and unhindered actions by a section of the Muslims to communalise the situation perturbed most of the Hindus, particularly those residing in villages. And although the authorities in Srinagar and Delhi reaffirmed their resolves to stamp out the evil of communal politics, the growth in the activity of Islamic fundamentalists in towns and villages of Kashmir had become a reality with a phenomenal increase in the number of protagonists of Islamic order in a decade. The decade that was: June 1975 to June 1985. With the removal of Congressmen from power in February 1975, hundreds of Muslim fanatics got an opportunity to intensify behind-the-scene efforts on the need for the preservation of Muslim character of Kashmir.

Even Sheikh Abdullah, after his installation as the Chief Minister in 1975, was found encouraging actions designed, as they were, to unite Muslims and to increase the number of Islamic institutions, including mosques, not only in the two capital cities of Srinagar and Jammu but also elsewhere on the State. The Sheikh called himself a secularist. And yet he always advocated the need for the preservation of Muslim character of Kashmir. True, as the ruler of Kashmir for over seven years, he did not allow his opponents belonging to the Muslim-dominated groups to grow. But these opponents belonging to the right-wing Jamait-i-Islami, Jamait-i-Tulba, People's League, Mahzi Azadi and People's Conference were not prevented from open and secret attempts to strengthen and widen Islamic centres.

New Delhi had been apprised of the Shiekh's unwillingness to know out those Muslims who had engaged themselves in activities seeking establishment of more and more Islamic institutions, particularly mosques, in Kashmir. But the ruling party at Delhi could not assert itself simply because of the Sheikh's capacity to whip up passions of his con-religionists. Curious, indeed, was the oft-repeated statements by senior Congress (I) leaders describing the Shiekh, after his death in September 1982, as "a secularist" and "highly progressive in outlook". Equally curious was the statement by the leader of the State Congress (I) Legislature party, Maulvi Iftikhar Hussain Ansari, describing the Sheikh as "a communal politician sympathetic to Islamic fundamentalism". Less than a month before the Sheikh's death, Sheikh Tazamul Islam, President of the Jamait-i-Tulba, said that his party was being reorganised to bring about an Islamic revolution in Kashmir. In an interview published in "Arabia," a journal published from London, Tajamul mentioned that, as part of the programme, students and youths were being trained and drilled for achieving "our goal of establishing an Islamic government in Kashmir."

About a year after the Sheikh's death, Jamait-i-Tulba and People's League voiced the demand for acquiring arms for their workers and supporters. What for? Just to prevent "Hindu chauvinists" from attempts at doing away with the distinct identity of the Kashmiri Muslims. Before its merger with the Mahzi Azadi, the Muslim League had asked the Muslim youth to join "jehad" against secularism and for Islamic fundamentalism in Kashmir. The message was contained in a booklet in Urdu language circulated in Srinagar and elsewhere in the State. The 32-page booklet urged the Kashmiri Muslims to "prevent daughters of nation (Kashmiri nation) from moving around half-naked in educational institutions, offices, shops and public parks, to force closure of cinema houses and liquor shops, to eliminate narcotics like hashish which have fouled atmosphere in cities and towns and to revive your Islamic identity." The booklet blamed outsiders (apparently meaning Indians) for attempts to "annihilate" Muslim religion and called upon Kashmiris to initiate a "struggle" against them.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Genesis of Utility of "last rites of KP" in mythical Kashmiriyat narrative

Claude Lévi-Strauss tells us that people think about the world in terms of binary opposites—such as high and low, inside and outside, person and animal, life and death—and that every culture can be understood in terms of these opposites. "From the very start," he wrote, "the process of visual perception makes use of binary oppositions.

In the narrative of Kashmir, if Kashmiri Pandits and Kashmiri Muslims are the binary, under what conditions do these binaries interact with each other? Is there a pattern to the narrative used to define the relation between there binaries? Perhaps there is. Every year as violence rages in the valley, we find media latch on to the stories of Kashmiri Muslims performing last rite of some forlorn Kashmiri Pandit. In the grand narrative of Kashmiriyat, this is the part where reader is reassured of humanity. The part where the narrator of the myth reveals some kind of generic truth that makes the whole tale all too real and human. Even the reader who does not know the checkered history of Kashmir conflict, its many layers and complexities, gets the "truth" due to the way  this story is told. How? And Why?

 Strauss in seminal work "Structural Anthropology" (1973) tells us:

"Myth is the part of language where the formula tradutore, tradittore reaches its lowest truth value. From that point of view it should be placed in the gamut of linguistic expressions at the end opposite to that of poetry, in spite of all the claims which have been made to prove the contrary. Poetry is a kind of speech which cannot be translated except at the cost of serious distortions; whereas the mythical value of the myth is preserved even through the worst translation. Whatever our ignorance of the language and the culture of the people where it originated, a myth is still felt as a myth by any reader anywhere in the world. Its substance does not lie in its style, its original music, or its syntax, but in the story which it tells. Myth is language, functioning on an especially high level where meaning succeeds practically at "taking off" from the linguistic ground on which it keeps on rolling. "

Strauss postulates: "Myth like rest of languages is made up of constituent units. These constituent units presuppose the constituent units present in language when analyzed on other levels - namely, phonemes, morphemes, and sememes - but they, nevertheless, differ from the same way as the latter differ among themselves; they belong to a higher and more complex order. For this reason, we shall call them gross constituent units."  He calls these units - mythemes. According to him a structural analysis of sentence based on : economy of explanation; unity of solution; and ability to reconstruct the whole from a fragment, as well as later stages from previous ones, we will see patterns, patterns that can be read. He explain the concept, he gives an example. Imagine a future archaeologist from a time when humans have disappeared and so has all information about their culture. This archaeologist comes across of book on earth having orchestra score ? How will the archaeologist know that he is looking at orchestra score. The only way he intelligible can: he will see the patterns, notes and symbols repeating, he will eventually realize that the symbols in the book have a meaning and there is music in them. Similarly, if someone really smart goes to a fortune teller, the will know that the teller's cards are limited and the "future" being read to him is having finite outcomes based on various combinations of those cards. 

Strauss in the beginning of his work quotes father of American Anthropology, Franz Boas: "It would seem that mythological worlds have been built up only to be shattered again, and that new worlds were built from the fragments." 

We are now going to look at the mythical fragment using which this recent discourse about Kashmiri Muslims performing last rite of Kashmiri Pandits is built. The mytheme of the story which again appear during a violent era.

Margaret Bourke-White was the american photographer who famously chronicled 1947 partition violence, the horrors captured by her appearing in Time magazine. She travelled all over the sub-continent and met all the main actors of the narrative from Jinnah, Gandhi, Nehru to Sheikh Abdullah. In 1949. she brought out a book "Halfway to Freedom: A Report on the New India" based on her experience in the field, all that she heard and all that she saw.  In the section "Democracy in Himalayas", she discussed Kashmir and rise of Sheikh Abdullah.While writing about the subject, she does something that very few other western writers of the time had done, he gives us myths that surrounded the man known as Sheikh Abdullah. So, we are told how people believed that in 1931 when Sheikh Abdullah was imprisoned by Hari Singh in Hari Parbat fort, the king personally tried to have the man fried alive in a pan of hot oil. But the great pious Sheikh dipped his hand in hot oil like someone would in a pan of curd. He was unscorched. The king seeing the miracle grew afraid and let him go. Then we are told how people started noticing the name "Sher-i-Kashmir" mysteriosuly appear in autumnal Chinar leaves all over the valley. (Interesting that Aatish-e-Chinar should be the man's biography). Among these tales we are told another tale of the great Sheikh, the tale of "last rites of KP" placed centrally in the narrative:

"The episode which has most deeply influenced them took place just after Sheikh Abdullah had come back from college [possibly 1930]. There was a religious clash in the streets of Srinagar; not a full-scale riot, but enough throwing of stones and threats of violence so that no Hindu dared cross a Muslim district. This placed the Hindus pitiably at a disadvantage, because Hindus are outnumbered nine to one by Muslims in Srinagar.
Srinagar, the "City of Seven Bridges", is channelled with water-ways and busy with traffic of little pointed boats pushed with poles. Near the Second bridge [Habba Kadal] a Hindu girl was lying dead in her house. It is an injunction of Hinduism that the body must be offered up on the funeral pyre within twenty-four hours after death, but for two days she had been lying there and the family dared not carry her away for fear of Muslims. When Sheikh Abdullah learned of the girl's death he went to the house and brought away the body in a boat.
'Not even the police or government officials could have done it, ' a Home Guardsman who had been a policeman explained to me. 'I was on duty on the Fourth Bridge. I saw the boat passing down the river. Shiekh Saheb was fresh from college then, and dressed in his black student's jacket and red fez. On a wooden plank was the body of the Hindu girl, wrapped in white. Crowds were following the boat's course along the riverbank, shouting that the Sheikh was a kavog' - the Kashmiri word for low-caste burner of corpses.
Sheikh Abdullah could hardly have chosen a more symbolic demonstration of his belief that human relations should transcend differences of creed. One of the sharpest contrasts between Hindu and Muslim ritual is in the treatment of the dead: Muslim bury, Hindus burn their dead."

Thus we see that even back then a dead KP in the narrative served the same purpose that it does now. A prop to show the humanism in brute majoritarianism. Again we read of an act that (still) no government agency like police or any local administration can do. At least back then it was accepted and reported that the minority was in precarious situation. That the community was depended on goodwill of the majority and was subservient to their whims and fancies. In the language employed in current reports, in the present re-tellings of the "last-rite" story, the greatness of the majority is further amplified while the minority has been further obliterated. Back then the myth, built on binary of weak Kp and humanitarian KM, was used to build a personality cult, it was a single event in a narrative, now the event is held over and over again in news reported, narrative repeated over and over again to the point of propaganda, all to humanise tahreek that finds all kind of ways to use death, all just to convince the reader that the story is still the same.

Interestingly, in her book Margaret Bourke-White, we hear Sheikh say something that the later politics of Sheikh made impossible to concede, that KPs too victims of system, that they were not "the" system. We read:

Muslims had found it easy to blame all poverty on the "Hindu yoke", the oppression of the Hindu Dogras, the class to which the Maharaja belonged. While still a youngster, Abdullah told me he had witnessed an incident that led him to learn that the mere fact of Hindus' oppressing Muslims was insufficient to explain poverty. He was passing though an apple orchard which happened to be owned by a Muslim, and which employed some Hindu pickers. The owner had ordered one of the men to the top of a rather frail tree, and when a branch loaded with fruit came crashing down, bringing the apple picker with it and breaking his rib, the proprietor fell on the fellow with curses for his stupidity and heavy blows from his walking stick.

Abdullah accompanied the workman home and was stuck by the fact that, apart from the little cluster of plaster Hindu gods and sacred stones and flower petals in a clean corner of the hut, this Hindu family lived in the same wretched squalor as the Muslim needleworkers. Then he began visiting the shacks of quarry labourers - stone cutting is generally a low-caste Hindu occupation - and here too he found that when it came to living conditions the problems of Hindus and Muslims were identical. The fault lay in a system where a fortunate few could treat millions as chattel. As he grew older he became convinced that justice could come only with self-rule and that the people must forget religious differences and wage the fight together."

What strikes in the passage is the need that is the need felt by Sheikh to make it clear that his fight is not against Hindus per se, that he stood for something greater. Today, Tahreekis make the same claim. That it is a "political issue". In the older tale, an experience, a description of a lived experience is given. However in the current tale, good intentions are to be assumed from the act of "last rite of KP".

In reality, reading into the cards, the way this story is told, repeatedly, a pattern, a symphony does appear, from the symbols it is clear that all such tales end badly for KPs. They end with a KP burning on a funeral pyre and a KM besides it singing song of self-praise. 


Sunday, March 18, 2018

Kashmir- As I Know It

Guest post by Pratush Koul on being a young Kashmiri Pandit and growing up outside Kashmir

We, teenagers of the 21 st century see life very differently from our parents. Our life generally revolves around competition, success, fashion, technology, studies etc. which leads to self confinement of oneself thus, the meaning of life has taken out from the picture. In our life generally the value of culture and heritage has diminished.

But, some people are raised in a different way, contrary to the habitable condition, these people, in their childhood suffer and face a lot and are forced to live a dreadful life. These incidents can cause a psychological trauma and can make that person mentally handicap.

Unfortunately, we can find context in various incident of the past and present where children, elders, women and men-folks suffered psychological trauma from an incident that devastated their lives.

Our story is no different.

Talking about me, I was born in Jammu in Gandhi Nagar. It was winter of 1999, nine years after our migration. As a toddler, my mother says, I used to cry a lot over absurd things such as cats, dogs, the moon, fireworks etc. and would always make their lives more miserable. I am told, at that time, there were not many cars and buses on the road. My father used to take me for a ride on his Chetak scooter until I stop crying. Around 2001-02, our house was completely built. A small, one story house in a rather quiet society. I had a small family; me, mom, dad, grandpa, grandma. When I was in my 6th standard, I was first told that you were a Kashmiri; This was taught to me when I asked my parents that, if people of Punjab are Punjabi, Bengal are Bengali, then what are we?

When I heard it, I took a sigh of relief, as I had thought I would never liked to be called a “Jammuee” (This was the word I thought I might hear.) As all my cousins were in Delhi and Chandigarh and I was a single child, its quiet obvious to deduce that I had a lot of lonely time. At that time, I used to sit with my grandparents and they would recite me stories from Gita, Ramayana, and Mahabharata which I enjoyed.

My grandfather used to read two newspapers daily (one English and one Urdu). I would some time ask them, pointing my tiny fingers to any random line on the Urdu newspaper, “What is this?” They would answer me with a smiling face. My grandfather often used to tell me about their childhood, how they used to study and also about their house. Once they told me about how, they were appointed for a job that was in Muzzafarabad and how their refusal saved them from the wrath of partition. It was 1947, they just had completed their matriculation exam and were asked by their father that there is a post of teacher in Muzzafarabad, which he should take, in order to earn for the family (he had a lot of siblings). Call it their ignorance or they forget, he couldn’t join the office which proved to be a blessing in disguise. They also showed me their matriculation certificate, after much requests.

In school, there was this one incident which happened to me in 8 th class. There was a boy, who used to annoy everyone; no one was spared from his mockery. One day he decided to annoy me. After much ignorance, I shouted, “Shut Up”. He had expression, totally opposite from what I was expecting, he was laughing with joy, and then he said, “Hath Me Kangri,Muh Me Choley, Kaha se Aaye Ye Kashmiri Loley”. I didn’t know how to respond to that. This was something I had never heard, and something I didn’t expected from one of my classmates. Other classmates interrupted and calmed the situation. I didn’t tell this to anyone at home, only kept it to myself at that day; I came across this question “DO I belong here?” it got me thinking for days until in school, I did a musical performance with my friend, it was a Dogri song, and after we sang, the sound of applause from the audience answered my question.

In my family, my father is a Kashmir lover, my mother on contrary, isn’t. no doubt, she has created an environment in the house by which one could easily identify her love for the culture and heritage of that land but when the statement “let’s go to Kashmir this summer” is said by dad, the expressions of my mother’s face changes. She always says that there are more places to go then just Kashmir, She avoids going there, main reasons being the recent turmoil caused by the miscreants and the previous experiences of migration.

Talking about my parents, my father lived in Habba Kadal, a locality having majority of KP families residing. He had his schooling from national high school Karan Nagar and then he went to Baraut for his in agriculture. He shared various incidents of his college life, how they, with a group of kashmiri boys used to live together in hostel, prepare Roganjosh and Haak using homemade Kashmiri spices and have a feast in their hostel rooms, with even giving a plateful of that to guard so that the feast goes on uninterrupted.

My mother is originally from Bandipore, but she too shifted to Habba Kadal after the demise of her parents. She had her schooling from Bandipore.

The best part of family gatherings is different for different people. For some, it is food, for some it is playing cards, for some it is singing, but for me, it was listning to discussion held by older people, discussion being about incidents from past, stories, jokes, family secrets etc. I was a member of that group, not a speaker but a listener. Some people would ask me whether I was able to grasp and connect with the kath-darbaar going on here, I would nod my head, not breaking the rhythm, not breaking the flow of their tales. By such stories, I learned a lot about things, places, people, historic events, funny incidents, all related to Kashmir. But apart from all that, after the fun and laughter of the past, came the sad ending; Migration, Exile, Exodus, Azaab, Pain, Homesickness, sometimes it would end with teary eyes and people would leave for their home, a home that is just a house now, not a Ghar. I sat there in the empty room, all this events revolving inside my brain, forming the story.

Such a story was their when my uncle told me that it was because of migration, you are in this world. I was totally awestruck and confused and even thought for a moment that he might be drunk! He told me that once he went to see my father in 1989, to check if he can be a suitable match for my mother, he went to his house, meet him and left. Before any further talks could proceed, the wrath of migration befallen on them and they were forced to leave their home my uncle lost hopes of finding him in the large commotion of people roaming across all over India in search of shelter. They too left Kashmir and came Jammu. One day, he had gone to Geeta bhawan to meet his friend who, like others, was waiting in line to get registered as a migrant and get a migrant ration card. And there, he saw my father, too waiting in line. They meet and hugged each other and two years later, my parents got married.

I was fortunate enough that my family didn’t had to suffer the wrath of migration camps and further atrocities caused by the gloom-ridden tent life, but that doesn’t imply we had a smooth life, the psychological trauma was with us too, in our minds.

In my childhood, I remember going to Mishriwala, Muthi camps with my mother. She, working in social welfare department, had been given duty to collect data of the migrant families for some government purposes. I don’t remember quite much of the details involved but I do remember the conditions and environment where the people were living, it was too pathetic to even describe that place in words. At present, I have a lot of friends and relatives living in Buta Nagar and Jagti camp and I often visit them. Apart from their present financial conditions, one can witness that none of them show a lack of discipline, values, hospitality and respect. Even in toughest time, they held their moral status perfectly.

Another quality, which I have recently encountered in my college life, is of the traditional attachment of Kashmiri Pandits which leads to the formation of small groups. Pune, Mumbai, Haryana or Florida, UK, Germany where ever KP’s are present, there exists a Community/Group. This helps, in my case in keeping the bond between the Kashmiri brethren and also helps one to quickly adjust to the new environment as you will have people from your community surrounding you.

In Conclusion

I think that the teenagers/millennial/youth of KP have inherited a void, a void of Kashmir, the real Kashmir, that Kashmir whose stories we used to listen from our parents, that Kashmir where Lal-ded fed Nund-reshi with her milk, that Kashmir where after a prayer to Shankaracharya Temple, one paid homage to Hazratbal Shrine and that Kashmir also who is still waiting with his blood soaked chest, waiting for his long lost children. I may have visited Kashmir five times, but only as a tourist. I wish that this generation pass down its legacy, a legacy more than thousand year old, praised by all from Nilamat Puran to Walter Lawrence; to its rightful descendants.

I may have not got the chance to be born or raised in Kashmir, but my wish would be that each part of my body would embrace and get absorbed into my motherland, just like a plant who grows from the land and is, at last, diffused back into it. Only then my soul would find solace and finally I will reach my home.

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