Monday, December 24, 2018

Pt. Rughonath Vaishnavi and a dead Temple. 1960

Remains of Bhairav temple Chattabal
2009. Pic: Autar Mota

In 1951, the Food Control Department of Jammu and Kashmir State encroached upon and occupied the Bathing Ghat and other premises of Bhairav temple Chattabal. They started using the place for distributing rations. The temple was desecrated. I grew up hearing stories of the desecration. But, I assumed may be post 1990, my family was exaggerating. My family comes from the area, my grandfather used to take me to the Ghat and show me the lock on the temple and the ruins. I was eight. Over the decades my grandfather saw the temple of his ancestors desecrated multiple times, in 1973 a mob threw chappals into the Hawan kund and in 2008 we saw a glimpse of the burnt remains of the temple. He was eighty. I wrote about it. The story was still not clear to me.

I recently came across postscript to the story in a small footnote in the book "Crisis in Kashmir"(1991) by Pyarelal Kaul (who was with Praja Socialist Party).

"That Shri Bhokhatiashwar Bhairov Nath Asthapan, Chattabal, Srinagar is and continues to be, an ancient, holy shrine of the Hindus -- That the said Asthapan Ghat is and has been with the Hindu Community in general, always used by the Hindus of Chattabal in particular, for the observance of religious rites and worship such as daily Sandhya, Kriya Karam, Shradhas, etc., for hundreds of years past. --
That the entire compound of the said shrine has been reduced to a public market place by the said illegal and unlawful encroachment by use and occupation of the said Bathing Ghat and other premises of the said shrine with night soil, urine, filth and rubbish of every kind."

Notice dated April 2, 1960 under section 80 CPC to the Chief Secretary of State for removal of encroachment and payment of damages. The advocate for Pandits was Pt. Rughonath Vaishnavi, the man who Tahreeki propagandists now like to market as "Pakistani Pandit" ignoring the fact that during Bangladesh war he was one of the men who supported liberation of Bangladesh.

Why did Pandits chose Vaishnavi as a representative?

It is true, Vaishnavi was a man with political opinions and stood by his ideology. He believed in democracy. Resolution through non-violent means. Even if it all meant Kashmir becoming part of Pakistan. But, as this notice shows, he was concerned about what was happening to his community. It was something that concerned him directly. He was physically living in Kashmir. So, the meaning of it was clear to him. Perhaps he saw this act as an extension of Muslim ultra-nationalistic tendencies being fanned in the valley for all kind of political gains. Today, most KPs who remember the destruction of this temple, blame the ghat boatmen Hanjis, people of nearby locality Nalbandpora, which was hotbed of Plebiscite front politics (which back them was just another front for getting NC back in power) for the desecration of the temple with the motive of usurping the temple land. Few remember the politics behind it. 

This act of Vaishnavi  sets him apart from the new age "Pakistani Bhattas and Bhattanis" of present generation who are incapable of doing the same, [among them is Vaishnavi's grand-daughter  Mona Bhan]. All they can do is push stories of "Kashmiri Muslims performing last rite of Kashmiri pandit" and then while living outside Kashmir write about dead pandits who loved Kashmir to be part of Pakistan. They can sell fear of Hindu India and at the same time sell the idea of peace with Muslim theoretic state of Pakistan and a Sharia compliant paradise Kashmir. Forgetting that from Bazaz to Vaishnavi, all of them have written about obvious growing religious fanaticism of Pakistan. It is they who are also enablers of the environment today in which a pandit writing a petition about desecration of a Hindu temple in Kashmir would be labeled "Sanghi Batta". Vaishnavi today would have been labeled Sanghi Batta out to demonize Kashmiri Muslims. No matter what they say or write the true meaning of these events cannot be changed for the victims. The temple is dead.

It was this dispute from 1950s that foretold that my family would be forced to leave their ancestral place someday. In late 60s, some of the families from our extended clan started leaving the place. Some moved to Delhi and some to other localities. My grandfather stayed on but he did purchase a piece of land in Jammu in late 60s after selling a piece of land in Chattabal near Lakad Mandi. All of them knew what was coming, they didn't know the date. All of them were preparing for the inevitable.


Video Link

Monday, December 10, 2018

Jagannath Sathu on Plight of Pandits, 1952

KP farmer women.

Jagannath Sathu was a radical humanist inspired by thoughts of M.N. Roy. He organized Kissan Mazdoor Conference and later was vice-president of KDU (Kashmir Democratic Union), the first Pro-Pakistan political party of the state. Along with Pandit Prem Nath Bazaz he was one of the few Pandits who challenged Sheikh Abdullah reign by backing Pakistan. In 1950s, he was exiled to Delhi along with Bazaz by Sheikh. He was also one of the first Kashmiri to be rounded by police on terror charges in Delhi. He was devotedly anti-communist (his piece on "Red-Menace" is rather famous in academic circles) since communists kept changing the horse they were backing in the conflict. 

Here's an extract from 1952 pamphlet published by Sathu on "Plight of Minorities" in Kashmir, about the pandits he writes:
Pandits Suppressed Everywhere

Kashmiri Pandits are as a community an intellectual class in the State. For centuries, may be thousands of years, they have led the Kashmiri masses in education and culture. By dint of their efficiency, faithfullness and diligence they have manned the administrative machinery of the State under the successive rules of Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Mughals, Pathans, Sikhs and Dogras. But now for the first time under the secularism of the Kashmir nationalists, they were told that these qualities were of no use or value and it was the brute majority of the numbers that counted. Therefore not only were State Services refused to Kashmiri Pandits even when they were better qualified for these than the Muslims related to or acquainted with the nationalist leaders who were appointed; the Pandits already in Service were also superseded by their subordinates far junior to them in class and grade and inferior to them in academic qualifications. It becomes very poignant for a Pandit official to wok under an inefficient, less qualified, uninformed and inexperienced subordinate who promoted to a responsible job inly because he is muslim favoured by the nationalists. In many cases employees twenty or thirty steps junior have been pushed to the top.
Thus jobbery and favouritism is not confined to the sphere of Government services. It is applied everywhere. Government contracts in P.W.D., Forest, Panchayat, Revenue and other departments are also given to their own men by the nationalists. Relatives and friends of Ministers get the lion's share. The dealers appointed by the Government to sell rationed goods are the favourites of the ruling clique. This also adversely affected the economic condition of the Kashmiri Pandits.
The agrarian reforms and the way they have been implemented by the Abdullah Government have hit the Kashmiri Pandits hard. We shall have to say a lot about these reforms at its proper place but here we would like to discuss their repercussions on the social life of the Pandits. More than thirty percent of the lands in the valley belonged to this community. A very insignificant fraction of the lands was bestowed upon the few members of the community as jagirs by the past rulers for some loyal services rendered. Most of the land in their possession was secured by Pandits either at the time of the first settlement of the land seven decades ago when not many people were coming forward to take the responsibility. of developing the barren regions of the valley. Land was then considered a great liability and only industrious people with some capital to invest could have land as a business proposition. A large slice of this land was also purchased by the Pandits after 1934 when propriety rights were granted to Kashmiris. Before that year the Maharaja was recognised, in law, as the sole proprietor of land in the valley. Pandits purchased agricultural land with their hard earned money in hope that it would yield good return to maintain them. When the agrarian reforms were introduced thousands of Kashmiri Pandits whose only source of income was land were thrown on the streets.
According to the Big Estates Abolition Act every landlord has the right to keep 182 Kanals of his land. But the nationalist leaders and workers have been touring far and wide in the valley advising Muslim peasants not to give any share of the produce to the Pandit landlords. When the guardians of Law and Order are themselves interested in preaching the defiance of law what redressal can be available to the poor Pandit. Thus the Act has practically taken away the whole land without compensation from the Pandits irrespective of their economic condition.
No remedy but exodus
With doors of Government services virtually closed on them; with government contracts almost totally denied to them; with trade and commerce in a chaotic condition in the State; with land snatched away from them; and above all, with insecurity and uncertainty all round in their home land, if Kashmiri Pandits found the demons of starvation, death and disrespect staring them in their face there in no wonder in it. Time and time again they approached the eminent Kashmiri Pandits such as Sapru, Kunzru, Katju in India, they even waited upon Sardar Patel, with their bucketful of woes. But evidently no body could help them so long as the Kashmiri Pandit Prime Minister of India was adamant on his policy about Kashmir. Having felt convinced that they could expect no sympathy from high political quarters at New Delhi and the unlimited power of the Kashmiri nationalists was in no way to be curtailed, having also realized that there could be no end to the abnormal conditions so long as the dispute over the accession issue between Indian and Pakistan continued Kashmiri Pandits decided to leave their motherland for good. What a wrench it must be to a Pandit to bid goodbye to his country of birth it is not difficult to imagine. Already about 20,000 Pandits, men, women, and children have come out and settled in different parts of India. If the present conditions continue for some time more there should be no doubt that the remaining members of the community will also leave their hearths and homes and they valley will be completely denuded of the Hindus.
From their bitter experience of the nationalist politics during the last two decades particularly since October 1947, the Kashmiri Pandits consider it quite risky and dangerous to remain in the valley; they are afraid of a flare up which might develop into a big conflagration, envelop the small microscopic minority, and reduce it to ashes. 
It is interesting that even such a partisan person, a pro-Pak person could back in 50s, could ( and indeed did) articulate Pandit concerns, their plight so clearly. Something the younger generation of Pro-Pak KPs, are now incapable of expressing publicly. The piece also makes it clear how Pandits came to acquire land post 1934. 


Friday, December 7, 2018

Jokes from the Dead

This happened somewhere around early 1990s. Pandit Dina Kak still had a lot of friends in Srinagar. He would write letters to them. In his letters he would ask some of his friends to send him latest copies of local newspaper. Sometimes ask for newsletters of JKLF. Some of his dear friends would oblige him, so they would send him old copies Al-Safa, Aftaab...this is the best they could do for him. When the papers would arrive at home, he would have his cup of tea and could often be seen smiling reading the paper. Sometimes he would even laugh out loud. Dina Kak's wife would get angry. She wondered why he still needed to read these papers published in Srinagar. After all these were the papers that just a few years ago had carried threat letters to pandits from militants. She wondered if he had become one of those self-hating pandits. Or, if he had become a sadist. Maybe a trip to Dr. Susheel Razdan was on needed. Then one day when she had had enough, she refused to serve him tea while he was reading one of the papers. Under duress Dina Kak finally explained:

When I read Hindustan Times or Times of India...there is no mention of Kashmiri Pandits anywhere. Occasionally there is a photograph of some migrant camp with a caption about how all pandits were originally elite class. All I can read is how militants are making the government dance and how government is claiming that things are going to be fine year. However, when I read these papers from Kashmir, it is the same story, but occasionally I find article by former friends about how Pandits are doing great outside Kashmir, how the government is pampering us silly, how money is dropping from the sky. I feel rich. I feel powerful. We run the congress, we run BJP, we run RSS and sometimes we are godless communists too. I read how we control the media, the government and the Army...even US and Israel. If you read them, if a few years we Pandits would be ruling the world. It makes me feel a whole lot better.


This happened somewhere in the 90s. After it became clear that "Panun Kashmir" was not a possibility, the pandits, as usual, gathered in Vikram Park by the side of canal to deliberate upon the issue. It was in this meeting that Er. Shiban Ji The Great gave his famous solution to KP predicament. He was the last speaker for the day, it was late afternoon, much like the heat of the sun, the meeting was now ebbing. But, Er. Shiban Ji still had fire in him and his word smelt of embers from a fresh Kangri.

"Brothers, listen and listen carefully. What I am about to suggest may offend most of you but I have done all the calculation and this is the only way forward. It is a question of life and death. Rather a question of death. And only death can provide the answer. Our Muslim cousins are fighting this war using deaths and deaths it is we should fight back using. Things have to change. Our deaths have to change. I propose we change our death rituals. No KP in death should be burnt any more. Let's start having burials for our dead. And those burial grounds be in Kashmir. Our living can live in clusters of choice, they won't allow it, let our dead stay in clusters, in Kashmir. Dead pose not threat. If Afghan and Pakistani Mujahids can find burial place in Kashmir. If they can claim a piece of Kashmir, no reason why a KP should not find a little corner. After all how much space does a dead need. Don't walk away, please listen. I have done the calculation. 4 feet by 2 feet. That is almost 3 square meter. That's 0.0003 hectare. In 30 years, 50000 thousand of us would be dead, victims of heat, snake bites, old age, accidents, heartaches, nostalgia and homesickness . That's 0.0003* 50000 hectares or almost 30 acres. That is almost 5 times the size of Melbourne cricket field. In 30 years, if our progenies chose to return, let this land be our Panun Kashmir, let the dead and the living find a piece of land in Kashmir. Till that time, let the dead find peace in Kashmir."

Like always not many heard him that day too. Those who did, laughed. Then they too left. Er. Shiban Ji was alone. "Let them burn, I shall be buried," Shiban Ji promised himself. A decade later Er. Shiban Ji moved to Germany, after the death of his wife, his son who was working as an Engineer with a famous automobile company, would not let him live alone in Jammu. Years raced to another decade. As Er. Shiban Ji aged, his brain got the maggots of alzheimer. It was then that he started begging his children that he be buried after death. "Let them burn, I shall be buried," he would say all the time. When the time came, the son listened and left no stone untuned to have his father's last wish fulfilled. Er. Shiban Ji now lies buried in Germany at a place near Dachau.


This happened somewhere around 2010: in village Dupbal a rumor was going around that a dead body had been found. It was of a young woman. Clashes were imminent. Village elder prepared for the worst as young men had started gathering. However, authorities sent a policeman in civics who talked to the elder. Elder was jubilant. This was good news. He gathered the villagers and announced,"The body was of old Shanta ji who never left Kashmir. Let the villagers gather and celebrate Kashmiriyat. Set up a funeral pyre."


Many moons ago, radio presenter and expert of Asian affair Oral Stain asked great Kashmiri historian and Tikka Master Gundhlal Dolmut what is the one event in history that if undone would have changed the course of Indian history.

Gundhlal took a deep long drag from his hookah and closing his green eyes, in a deep sonorous voice replied:

"Spain should have remained under caliphate. Fall of Al-Andalus was a tragedy. Had the dream sustained, America would still have been discovered, ships would have still sailed, mountains of Gold moved, natives would have found one true god at the hand of soul catchers, they would have got rail roads and bathing soaps, civilisation would dawned but all the Red Indians would have been Muslim. It would have been real kal-doudas for Anglo Saxons. They would have been still busy trying to quieten their own middle-east... their own many Palestines and Kashmirs."

Stain Sahib was irritated by the answer. Dolmut was not making much sense. Stain Sahib erupted, "What has that got to do with India?"

Gundhlal opened his eyes, as if from some deep slumber and calmly replied, " want to know about real Indians and not the other Indians!" Gundhlal took another drag from his Gur-Gur, inhaling the Jahnami Tamookh, he continued:

"Lalitaditya should not have helped Chinese in their fight against Turks and Arabs over Tibet. Tibet should have fallen to caliphate. Kashmir would have been Muslim in any case, but Tibet would have been Muslim too. Today, China would have still busy handling Tibet issue. There would have been self-immolations of another kind."

The comment brought a wry smile to Oral Stain's face. In his leather bound private notebook, he wrote a note on the episode: Illustrious Kashmiri Pandits have lost their mind in exile.


Saturday, December 1, 2018

Pandit Prem Nath Bazaz on Article 370

"Was the special status and autonomy conferred on the State under Article 370 to pave way for integration of Kashmir with the rest of India by assuring State people of their political, social and cultural freedom or was it meant to allow the State politicians, especially Kashmir Muslim leaders, untrammelled opportunity for exploitation of the ignorant, gullible and backward massed? It was a moot point which probably never occurred to stalwarts of the Congress party in early days of independence when they evinced fullest confidence in the honesty, sincerity and love for teeming millions of National Conference leadership. Capture and enjoyment of power brought an awareness to the favorite leaders that the integration of the State with India, however desirable, was antagonistic to their private interest; no sooner than the objective was achieved, their own importance would cease and opinion of State people would grow in importance and weight.

Therefore, to keep people in darkness and not to make them politically conscious and socially awakened became a vested interest of Kashmir politicians. A policy was evolved to make Kashmir Muslims feel perpetually in terror of the hostile Hindu majority and depend upon the local coreligionist leaders for protection against it. Article 370 was frequently maligned and abused, and conditions were created not to allow it to outgrow its utility as originally intended but to make it a permanent feature of the Indian Constitution. In this atmosphere while the leaders thrived, the position of average Kashmiri worsened. The Central leadership of the Congress was caught in a web woven by the National Conference leaders before they could realize what was happening.

When this ugly aspect of the State politics came dimly to their notice or was forced on their attention by realities of the situation, National leaders could, in the beginning, hardly believe it; a little later they pooh-poohed it; and finally felt helpless to effectively deal with it. Consequently, in disregard of the growing resentment of the people, the State was handed over to the leaders as their fief with the result that it kept the problem of integration of Kashmir people with the rest of India alive for the past thirty years and till today."

~ Democracy through Intimidation and Terror. The Untold Story of Kashmir Politics, Pandit Prem Nath Bazaz, 1978

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 (whose population increased by 22.5 % from 1921 to 1931) 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.   


1. Census of India 1921 vol.22 Kashmir [Link] under by Chaudhari Khushi Muhammad, Governor of Kashmir.
2. Census of India 1931, Volume 14. Jammu & Kashmir State [Link] under Pandit Anant Ram Dogra, Census Commissioner and Director of Land Records and Pandit Hira Nand Raina, Assistan Census Commissioner.
3.  Census of India 1941, Jammu And Kashmir Parts I And II [Link] under Captain R.G. Wreford, Census Commissioner for the state

In 1941 census, the practice of giving data specific to KPs was put to an end. However, in the report we read, there were 76,868 Kashmiri Pandits in the state in 1941. And:

"Most of the Kashmiri Pandits are residents of Srinagar; over 62,000 live in the Anantnag District in which Srinagar City is situated. Another 11,000 were recorded in Baramulla District. The figures do not exceed a thousand in any other district except Jammu which has 1,367."


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.

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