Tuesday, October 21, 2014


The frequency with which one is seeing ISIS flags being displayed in Kashmir these days has lead to heated debates. From “outright condemnation” to “they have no role in Kashmir” arguments we are losing sight of the bigger picture. To be fair to the separatists’ one has to accept that even the separatists themselves would hate to see the so called “freedom struggle” being hijacked by the ISIS. The presence of ISIS would mean shrinking of Petro and Paki money that separatists are so used to. It would also mean de-legitimization of whatever little legitimacy it may have in the eyes of OIC members since the world at large has already seen through the “freedom struggle” of “indigenous Kashmiris”.

Yet we are seeing young men displaying ISIS flags at regular intervals. The question is not whether ISIS has an organizational structure in Kashmir or not, or whether those displaying the flags owe their allegiance to ISIS or not. It is also not important whether the background checks on these “idiots” as Omar Abdullah would like to call them, revealed their links to any terrorist organization or not. What is important to know is what kind of people would display the flags of a barbaric, obscurantist, medieval mindset terrorist network.

Kashmir has experienced periods of extreme religious bigotry in the past as well. The armed insurgents both locals as well as foreigners used barbaric methods of killing and torture. From axing people on saw mills to chopping their genitals, from nailing the heads of infidels to gouging the eyes of their victims the terrorists have used every inhuman way of creating fear into those who disagreed with them. So in a way one can ask, how different or more barbaric is the ISIS when compared to let us say a JKLF or a Hizbul Mujahideen.

In the last two and half decades Kashmir has been radicalized to a degree that was unknown in its history. The entire countryside is teeming with a group which calls itself “Allahwalles” or The People of God. They are ubiquitous. This is one radicalization that I must admit hasn’t come from Pakistan but from mainland India. They have sown the seeds of puritanical Islam in the vast swathes of Kashmir. The Kashmiri countryside is hugely influenced by their thought. Then there are other ideologies like Ahl-e-Hadees who indoctrinate their followers in Wahhabism a thought that stands in complete contrast to the local born Sufis of Kashmir. As a young boy living in the countryside I have seen women of my village wearing colourful pherans with Salwars and a Headgear, while now, girls as young as seven are completely draped. More men sport “Islamic” beards than ever before. The issuance of a fatwa to an all girls music band by Grand Mufti was an ominous sign. This tells us how far religion has travelled in Kashmir in the recent years. The Dargahs of the Sufi saints have seen less attendance and the numbers are falling every year. In the past one would see huge gatherings at the Dargahs of Kashmiri Poets like Ahmed Batwari or a Shamas Faqir but as time passes by, there is a question being asked by the young in Kashmir,Is it Islamic to bow there ?

It is in the light of such retrograde developments that one needs to see the “appearance” of ISIS Flags. It may be true that only a handful young men support the idea of ISIS, it may equally be true that the philosophy of ISIS may not have many takers in Kashmir but then the very fact that radicalization has reached a stage where even if a handful have empathy towards the ISIS and its methods is a matter of grave concern. It is undoubtedly a failure of the administration that people are waving these flags but what should worry us more is that the ones waving the flags today would be the gun runners of ISIS tomorrow. We would be ignoring the issue at our own peril.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Medical Camp for flood victims of Kashmir

Roots in Kashmir organised a 3 day medical Camp (28-30th Sep, 2014) at Srinagar for flood hit victims. They were provided with free medicines and vaccinated against Hepatitis, Typhoid and Tetanus.

The camps were organised at the following places:
1. Zyestha Devi Temple
2. Durganag Temple
3. Ganpatyar Temple
4. Karfalli Mohalla

Our heartfelt gratitude to Dr. Pawan Zuthsi, Dr. Anil Dhar and Dr. A P Singh, who flew from Delhi to attend to these patients.


Thursday, October 9, 2014

A case in favour of Haider

2 years ago i had read a book titled ” We wish to inform you, we will be killed with our families”, based on ethnic cleansing of one certain sect in Africa, Rwanda. The title of the book stringed by heart and i knew i had to read it. Page by page the story unfolded incidents about how minority sect was murdered by majority. I, being the naive reader of history of Africa, read faster than i could consume, to get to the underlying cause, the reason for ethnic cleansing of the minority tribe. Apparently, i could not find one logical reason why Hutu , the majority, killed 75% population of minority sect, Tutsi. The book is a memoir of the genocide. Unknown number of Hutus participated in killing and arson against minority Tutsi. The survivor interviews make it known that neighbors , friends and co workers , with whom they shared land, lanes and boundaries of homes, were part of mob that attacked and killed them.  The hate Hutus had for Tutsi, could not be attributed to any know or stated cause in the book by author. A similar hate was reserved for one particular community during time when Hitler ruled Germany. A fictional movie based during events of that time, related Jews to mouse, justifying that despite it being harmless, men have certain repulsive emotion for it. Jews, it meant, were mouse meant to be chase and killed.
Narratives are important, from both sides in fact, victim and his persecutor, for a victim cannot falsify history if his persecutor does not speak . History, alas, is often written by victor, because propaganda does become a substantial part, as it gets inked , unlike stories of victims which remain oral  and hence diluted with time. Propaganda does not end with justification, its meant to project persecutor as victim and victim as his initial oppressor. There is some romance is showing how victims rose and rebelled against his oppressor.  Same way like Jews were said to dominate the German civil society and hence all hatred was justified. But fortunately for Jews, world and their own kind, told their stories and inked their history. Also, fortunately for Jews,  they ended up being on side of victors after the war ended.
It is important to understand the context written above. 2 examples , set in different continents, different zones. Yet, the cause for hate towards the victims is unknown, rather unjustified. Kashmir set in 85-89 was the same Germany and the same Rwanda. Yes, the stats where different in terms of dead’s of victims but the soul of anarchy was the same. A minority community, less that 5% of population was targeted. What happened and who did, is truth that is told by many, far more accomplished people than me.  Haider, sets a narrative, that is different from truth and history of Kashmir. But my case is not against it, as  freedom of speech is imperative for me and my kind, who struggled 25 years to find a voice in media , to tell our story. Haider can never and will never take away the fact, nor alter it, neither defeat it. When 20 years of media propaganda of masquerading persecutor as victim couldn’t box the facts, one film , a motion movie, can not change it. Haider, is just another reason, a reminder and a provocation for victims to fight harder, speak louder to tell their stories. In fact movies like Haider define why heart aches happen to KP men and women. It ensures that strings get plucked that have been dusted in last 25 years. I have not seen Haider nor do i intent to watch it. Haider again gives me a reason to raise my voice , in fact i have been raising my voice since 25 years, but ears get concerned only when i speak against Haiders and its kind. So lets thank the makers in their attempt to trample with facts and put blanket blindness to the exodus, genocide and continuous victimization of a minority sect. For good is always in comparison to a evil.
Speaking of evil as the makers converted, one of only two , sun temples in India, into a place of devil ( Martand Sun temple ) for a song sequence  , a certain Muslim king of Kashmir, Sikander Butshikan would be happy in his grave. For he tried for one complete year to burn the temple down , yet its ruins stood the test.  Its another case and fact that maker was informed and told story of KPs by people who thought, hopefully, he is making a fact based movie and not churning another mythical oppressor is victim propaganda.  He chose to ignore it but we should make him remember it each time, every time.

PS : Have you ever thought where exilees and refugee’s kids go on summer breaks?
Author: Akshay Ambardar. Twitter: @AkshayAmbardar

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Can this flood wash away a painful past?

Can this flood wash away a painful past? http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/opinion/can-this-flood-wash-away-a-painful-past/article6438991.ece

A natural disaster in Kashmir has brought Hindus and Muslims closer. But the wounds run very deep
Jammu and Kashmir is currently facing a severe flood crisis. In Kashmir Valley, the ferocity of the waters has led to several deaths and large-scale destruction of property. While many groups and individuals are involved in rescue and relief operations, the Indian Army has so far been the biggest saviour.
Many are now hoping that this leads to the Kashmiris looking at the Indian military personnel in a different light. Given Kashmir and its embittered history of the last 25 years, that will take much more than a rescue operation.
But the flood has seemingly achieved something else. It has brought the Kashmiri Muslims and their erstwhile neighbours, the exiled Hindu community, closer. In 1990, Islamist extremism forced Kashmiri Pandits out of a land where their ancestors had lived for thousands of years.
The Pandits, constituting less than 5 per cent of the Valley’s population in 1990, were driven out in a violent ethnic cleansing. More than 700 of them were brutally done to death.
Ignored by the state
Today, out of more than 3,50,000 Pandits, only around 3,000 remain in Kashmir Valley. The Indian state has displayed lack of strength or even unwillingness to intervene in pogroms or other forms of violence perpetrated against its various communities. This arc of injustice includes the 1984 anti-Sikh pogrom, and the 1993 and 2002 communal riots in Mumbai and Gujarat. Similarly, the state has repeatedly ignored the plight of its tribal communities in both central India and the Northeast, and has remained almost indifferent to injustices meted out to the Dalit community.
In post-flood Kashmir, at least, moderate voices are hoping that the “shared fate” (of losing home) will now result in an empathetic view of “each other” and that the Pandits and Muslims will come to some sort of understanding on how to normalise relations. Is there a possibility of justice and reconciliation in Kashmir on the lines of South Africa or Rwanda? Can the Kashmiri Pandits return to their homes, especially given that the new government at the Centre has listed it as a priority?
While most of the houses in the Valley belonging to the Pandits have been sold for a pittance under extreme duress, the return under such circumstances also involves re-establishing the neighbourly trust.
However, as Ivana Macek writes about Sarajevo, such a process is a painstaking emotional and social endeavour, something that cannot be regulated from “the above” by political agreements or well-meaning but often poorly informed outsiders.
Even if the Kashmiri Pandits were to be housed in a separate settlement, the scars of 1990 will not go. It will be difficult to forget how, in several cases, their former neighbours, friends or colleagues were directly or indirectly involved in the murder of their loved ones (and in other brutalities such as rape).
The phenomenon of personalised violence, according to the scholar Cornelia Sorabji, acquires a particular importance since “brutality is aimed at humiliating, terrorising, and killing the ‘enemy’ population in order to remove it from the territory, but also at transforming the assumptions held by both victims and perpetrators about the very nature of identity groups and boundaries in order to prevent any future return of the exiled population”.
Absolute denial
So, how can the Pandits be expected to return without getting justice? And justice, as Victoria M Esses and Richard A Venon argue, does not only mean a formal legal system but also “people’s beliefs about the fairness of a particular situation”. The unfairness of the Pandit exile is a permanent denial by their erstwhile neighbours of being responsible for or complicit in crimes committed against them, or even an acknowledgement that the exile was forced upon them. There is absolute denial, forget public remorse or asking for forgiveness.
Various Pandit narratives have also recorded passiveschadenfreude by their neighbours and friends, like compelling many exiled Pandits to sell their houses during the peak of the conflict for a pittance and at a time when they were under extreme financial stress.
The process of reconciliation and justice can only begin once the two communities try and understand each other’s pain. The counter-insurgency operations in Kashmir have been deeply unpleasant. Around 17,000 civilians have died, roughly one-fourth of them at the hands of the Indian security forces. More than 8,000 persons have disappeared, and many of them are believed to have been killed by security forces as well. For many years, Kashmiris in the Valley had to suffer the humiliation of crackdowns and identification parades.
Justice denied
Over the last 25 years, instead of accepting the brutalisation of 1990, a majority of Muslims created the myth of Jagmohan, the then Governor of Jammu and Kashmir, who they claim encouraged the Pandits to leave. Myths, as Pal Kolsto, reminds us, “do not function or ‘act’ in one way or another of and by themselves: it is people who employ myths, in more or less harmful ways”.
That is why in the midst of this injustice, the Pandits’ call for justice corresponds to (as argued by Isabella Delpla): (a) a staunch denunciation of impunity; (b) a personal attempt to forgive (or both, since, according to Delpla, the two stances can be compatible); and (c) a personal refusal to use violence (but saying things like “God will take care of them” or “God has taken revenge through the flood”).
For 25 years, the Indian state has hardly shown any interest in providing justice to Kashmiri Pandits while a majority of India’s intellectuals have denied them agency. This long apathy has ensured that most of the documentary evidence of the crimes committed against them is lost. But like Eichmann’s trial in Jerusalem, eye-witness testimony can lead to what the French historian Annette Wieviorka calls the “social recognition” of their suffering.
This commemoration from below (where the focus is on the subjective and psychological needs of victims) has to be the first step in bridging the gorge between the two communities. And then justice, in a legal sense, can follow. As Kavitha Kalvakuntla, the MP from Telangana, recently demanded in the Lok Sabha, this must include putting on trial terrorists such as Farooq Ahmed Dar aka Bitta Karate, who is responsible for killing at least 20 people, most of them Pandits.
Only then can the gorge of 1990 be bridged.
The writer is senior editor of The Hindu and author of Our Moon Has Blood Clots. He is a CASI visiting fellow. This article is by special arrangement with the Center for the Advanced Study of India, University of Pennsylvania
(This article was published on September 23, 2014)

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Jalodbhava of 21st Century

The story of creation of Kashmir goes back to around 5000 years, when a demon by the name Jalodbhava, who although raised by Nagas, became a trouble for them. The nagas with the help of Sage Kashyap, requested Lord Vishnu to help them get rid of the demon. Vishnu drained the valley of its water and killed the demon. It was on the request of Sage Kashyap, the Nagas welcomed the humans to the valley of Kashmir. This was the beginning of human habitation in Kashmir. As a mark of gratitude, the Kashmiri Pandits (Hindus) still revere Nagas, through the springs of Kashmir (Spring is called Nag in Kashmiri). Almost every temple in Kashmir has a spring considered to be a residing place of nagas of Kashmir and hence sacred
The tradition continued till 1990, when almost in one single night, the entire Kashmiri Hindu population was forced to leave their home of 5000 years. The pro-Pakistani elements and the Jihadis ensured that the valley is bereft of its aborigines and its only minority. On the night of 19th January, 1990, almost 5,00,000 people were forced to flee by force, coercion, threat, killing, rape or any other threat a savage could use.
In the last few years, Pandits yearning for their roots, decided to visit their holy sites. One such visit was planned this year by a group of 40 Kashmiri Pandits, to the holy spring of Kaunsar Nag also known as VishnuPad (feet of Lord Vishnu).
Kaunsar Nag is a spring in the mountain range of Pir Panchal in south Kashmir. The spring has numerous mentions in the religious texts of Kashmiri Pandits and even in the historical texts like Rajtarangani. Konsarnag – Myth, Legend and History
While not required by any law, they pilgrims considering the ground situation in Kashmir, decided to inform the concerned authorities about this trip. The idea was also not to provide an alibi to the authorities in case of an unfortunate event. The approval was duly given by the Deputy Commissioner of the area.
  Kausarnag Yatra DC approval
This did not go well with the Jalodbhava of the current era. The three elements of previous Jalodbhava were present in even now. There was Nag (spring), the descendents of Kashyap and water. The jalodbhava, now known as Syed Ali Shah Geelani, raised the voice of protest against the pilgrimage. He initially chose the camouflage of environment, forgetting that the spring and its surrounding were being promoted as a tourist destination by Tourism Department and thousand of tourist visit the spring every year.
On being rebutted with facts and low numbers of the pilgrims, Jalodbhava was left with no option but to show his true colours (Terminate Kaunsar Nag Yatra). The protest was against Hindus doing pilgrimage in Kashmir as his followers’ believe that Kashmir is only for Muslims.
 Posters against Kaunsar Nag Yatra
The Jalodbhava created communal tension, instigated violence against the pilgrimage and even threatened the pilgrims. As usual, the weak state government succumbed to the pressure of this demon and prohibited the pilgrims from taking the pilgrimage. (Separatists force govt. to withdraw permission for Kaunsar Nag yatra)
While the mythological Jalodbhava used his physical power to kill people, the reborn jallodbhava uses the gift of gab and religious ignorance to kill people.  The Jalodbhava of 21st century has been playing with the lives of many for over the years. While his children live a life of comfort, he has been brainwashing the youth of Kashmir against a plural society and respect for other religions. He has been indirectly responsible for many deaths. In 2010, the Jalodbhava through his rabid communal speeches instigated young impressionable minds to stone pelting and arson, resulting in death of around 120 people.
Post exodus of Kashmiri Pandits, the separatist like Geelani, had been shredding crocodile tears for their Pandit brothers. Knowing fully that Kashmiri Pandits return is difficult, (some even said impossible); they saw no harm in lying blatantly. Kashmiri Pandits were assured of protection, full religious freedom and brotherly treatment. Then something unexpected happen, the 2014 elections of India, threw up a Prime Minister, who for the first time in 25 years, confidently talked about the return of Kashmiri Pandits. This in conjunction with increasing number of Kashmiri Pandits returning to valley for pilgrimage created panic in the minds of Jalodbhava and his cronies. They today feel that Kashmiri Pandits can come back, hence, the mask of Kashmiryat (an imaginary word for ‘Hindus being treated well in Kashmir’) had to be thrown aside to block the return of Kashmiri Pandits.
The modern Jalodbhava sees the return of Kashyap descendents as a threat to his existence, and hence the opposition. Interestingly, the mythological Jalobhava was killed by Lord Vishnu from the very same spot, what is today knows as Kaunsar Nag

Tuesday, August 5, 2014


Kausarnag is an ancient pilgrimage like Amarnath. Before the forced exodus of Kashmiri Pandits in 1989 Kashmiri Hindus would undertake this Yatra every year. The river Vishoka Veshav in Kashmiri) as per belief is considered the incarnation of Lakshmi in Kashmir and since time immemorial this Yatra is being taken. The name Kausar Nag comes from Karm Sarovar Nag.
After a gap of 25 years Kashmiri Pandits decided to re-start this Yatra once again. The permission was sought from Government of J&K through formally submitting a request to the Deputy Commissioner of Kulgam District and the permission was duly given by him on 2nd July,2014. Accordingly arrangements were made for the Yatra.
The separatists started protesting against the Yatra saying it was a plan to change demography of Kashmir. They circulated posters against India, Kashmiri Pandits and the Yatra. In these posters they called Kashmir a Muslim Land.The posters read that India plans to change the demography of Kashmir on the lines that Israel has done.The posters were pasted all over South Kashmir. The separatists also started a campaign saying that the Yatra will destroy fragile environment. Nothing can far from truth than this.The Ahrbal Development Authority is inviting tourists to this lake. How can 50 Pandit pilgrims destroy the environment when thousands of house boat hotels in Dal are not doing it?
The separatists also started protests by means of stone pelting, burning of tyres, blocking of roads so as to threaten the Yatris.On 30th evening the Deputy Commissioner of Kulgam told a news correspondent that they have cancelled the permission although we have not been formally given any communication so far.The Deputy Commissioner obviously under pressure from CM Omar Abdullah cancelled the permission saying that the Yatra should be taken via Reasi saying that ,that is the traditional route for the Yatra. The Yatra route always has been Shopian-Kongwatan-Kausarnag.
This was an abject surrender by the State government in the face of protests by the anti nationals. The Yatris who had come from Delhi, Pune and Jammu were left with no option but to go back .
We request the Hon’ble Minister to
1.      Intervene and ask the State Government to re-issue the permission for the Yatra which was cancelled at the behest of the separatists.
2.      To be kind to Ensure Security for the Yatra via its traditional Route ie.Shopian and not Reasi ,this is not the Yatra Route.
Submitted by
Kashmiri Pandits  on 1st Aug,2014