Thursday, April 10, 2008

Will Kashmiri Hindu Pandits Ever Return To Their Homeland by J.N Raina in Asian Tribune

Jamaat-e-Islami leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s call for the return of the Kashmiri Hindu Pandits to their ancestral abode is ludicrous. The community has almost been exterminated from the Elysian valley, through the planned process of ethnic cleansing, sporadically, especially since independence, when India became a secular and democratic nation.
Over five lakh Kashmiri Hindus live like refugees in their own country. Now their number might have proportionately increased during 18 years of their "exile." They were forced to flee like pigeons from their home and hearth at the point of gun, when Pakistan-sponsored terrorism erupted during 1989-90. Their houses were repeatedly plundered by the Muslim fundamentalists, assisted by gun-wielding militants in the nefarious "operation." Several hundred temples and places of worship were either desecrated or destroyed during militancy, which is still on.
Geelani’s call is mischievous. He is not honest in saying that the Kashmiri Pandits should only return to their ‘native places’ where their “old Muslim neighbours would receive them with open arms”; and that they should not ‘opt’ for living in the ‘security zones’, because that according to him is “impractical and rather fraught with dangers”.
Perhaps Geelani and his cohorts are treating the proposed ‘home-coming’ as a return of the prodigals. It is apparent from the tone and tenor adopted by the diehard Geelani and many others of his ilk.
Geelani’s call came on the heels of the Jammu and Kashmir Government’s announcement of a ‘grand’ rehabilitation plan for the Kashmiri Hindu migrants, under which a cluster of houses and flats are being constructed, under a comprehensive package. These will be ready within this year, or may be earlier, to coincide with the elections to the state Assembly.
But one would like to ask Geelani, where are the so-called ‘old houses’ of these Kashmiri Pandits? Where are their landed properties? Where are their apple and almond orchards; temples and religious places, palatial buildings, paddy fields, business establishments et al. Their dwellings were pulled down after their mass exodus in early 1990.
No one dared to go back and see these damaged properties or even to file an FIR. Police proved helpless. Many houses were grabbed. Roughly, over 80 per cent of the migrants disposed of their properties under pressure and unforeseen circumstances, and that too at throwaway prices. Surprisingly, after the sale deeds were conducted, prices went up significantly so that the migrants do not return to the valley. It was all manipulated.
Where from the money came to purchase these properties at one go? It is generally believed that Kashmiris are poor. The Pandits are in wilderness. When I visited the then Hindu-dominated locality of Habbakadal in 2005, it wore an eerie and deserted look. Even dogs would not struggle to bark.
It may sound hypothetical, but one would like to understand that after Geelani and his folks receive the Pandits with ‘open arms’, where shall they go? Geelani, who is leading a faction of the Hurriyat Conference, is in fact denigrating the Pandits’ community. The like-minded political leaders, preferring to act as a "devil’s advocate," are in support of Geelani’s view that the migrants should return only to their ‘old houses’ and not to Government flats under construction. It is untenable. The Kashmiri Pandits are now a fragmented lot. They have settled in different parts of the country, mostly in Jammu and Delhi. Thousands of them live in shattered tenements and dingy apartments, in unhygienic conditions.
If Geelani and his compeers had been honest enough about the return of the Pandits, they should have first condemned militancy in no uncertain terms, and the barbarous acts the community was subjected to before they were hounded out. Geelani and his ‘comrades’ should have volunteered to reconstruct the burned down houses of the migrants and restored their places of worship to their original shape and not waited thus far. But alas; they were never serious, for the fact that they regarded the Pandits as persona non grata in the valley. Geelani is against the permanent stay of outsiders in the valley, including Biharis, but those who were the permanent settlers were thrown out.
The radicals by and large achieved their goal of establishing what is known as "Nizam-e-Mustafa" (Islamic way of life). This concept is against the general will of the majority of the Muslims. They have opted for modernity rather than for Afghanistan-type Talibanisation of the Islamic society. What the Muslim fundamentalists are aiming at is against the concept of secular democracy, adopted by India. The radicals’ ideology has not only ruined Kashmiris but the people of Pakistan as well.
The Hurriyat leader is shedding crocodile tears that "Kashmir is incomplete without the Hindu Pandit community." The population of Hindus in Kashmir was reduced to just two per cent (from 15 per cent in 1947) before 1990 exodus. Now less than 15,000 to 20,000 Hindus live in the valley.
Panun Kashmir Chairman Dr Ajay Chrungoo is averse to Geelani’s idea about the return of the Pandits. "By insisting that the migrants should return only to their old homes and intermingle with their old Muslim neighbours, Geelani in fact wants them to ignore their security concerns. He does not want the Pandits to have relationship with the Government or the security forces."
Naturally, it could be interpreted to mean that the Kashmiri Hindus should identify themselves with the politics of the radicals, which is uncalled for. Panun Kashmir, an organization representing the Kashmiri Pandits, has demanded to carve out a separate homeland for the Kashmiri Hindus in the valley, within the Indian union.
Geelani and other separatist leaders should say peccavi (we have sinned) and apologize to the Pandits before making such overtures. They should abjure violence and realize that separatism is disastrous. Separation of Kashmir from the Indian union is impossible. It simply means disintegration of India as well as Pakistan. It can never happen. The radicals are a curse upon the people of Kashmir. Geelani’s mea culpa for supporting and engineering terrorism in the valley will go a long way in the restoration of normalcy in Jammu and Kashmir. What they want to achieve is unachievable, for if Kashmir is unstable, both India and Pakistan will remain so.
The fundamentals in the valley have no locus standi to decide about people residing in the other two regions of the Buddhist-dominated Ladakh region and the Hindu-dominated Jammu. Ugly happenings in Kashmir will have an adverse impact in both the countries. The Kashmiri Muslim fundamentalists are holding people in the entire subcontinent at ransom. This is why Pakistan Peoples Party Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari wants Kashmir issue to be kept on the backburner, to develop economic relationship between India and Pakistan

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

J&K better than PoK, say Euro MPs(

New Delhi, April 9: Prominent Members of European Parliament (MEP) have come down heavily on the Pakistan government for "lack of democracy and development" in Gilgit and Baltistan areas of Pak-occupied Kashmir.
While Pakistan was seeking self-determination in Jammu and Kashmir, "it was not even prepared to allow democracy on its side of the border," Baronness Emma Nicholson MEP said at a two-day international conference on 'Constitutional, Political and Socio-economic conditions of Gilgit Baltistan' at the European Parliament in Brussels on Tuesday.
Nicholson, who represents the Liberal Democratic Party, had authored a report on the "suppression of human rights" in the Northern Areas of PoK which was adopted by the European Parliament in 2007.
Participating in the conference, another MEP Geoffrey van Orden said while there had been extensive political and economic development in the Indian side of J and K, this was "totally lacking" in PoK.
Charles Tannock, MEP from the UK, drew a sharp contrast between India and Pakistan in terms of economic development and democracy, while UNPO chief Marino Musdaschin said there could be no progress on Kashmir "till the initiation of full political process in PoK".
The conference was also attended by several other MEPs, NGO representatives and leaders of the International Kashmir Alliance (IKA).
IKA General Secretary Shaukat Ali Kashmiri wanted the European Parliament to set up a fact-finding mission on the ground realities in the Gilgit and Baltistan region and other parts of the PoK. He also sought starting of a bus service between Gilgit-Baltistan in PoK and Ladakh as part of Indo-Pak confidence-building measures.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Press Coverage on Navreh

The Times of India(Delhi Edition)
Ringing in the New Year, Kashmiri style
Aastha Manocha
The Indian Express -
New Delhi, April 8: Waking up all night to usher in the New Year’s first sun rays isn’t a uniquely western concept after all. In Kashmir, it is traditional to do so as was seen in the Navreh celebrations.
Roots in Kashmir, a Kashmiri Pandit youth initiative, in association with Kashmiri Seva Samaj had organized the celebration of the Kashmiri New Year or Navreh for the second year in a row. The celebrations began at 2.30 pm on Sunday afternoon and ended on Monday morning with an aarti at Sharika Devi’s temple up on Hari Parbat, Faridabd.
This year’s Navreh, which literally means ‘new spark’, saw the famous singer Kailash Mehra enthralls the audience with her melodious voice as she sang songs steeped in Kashmiri history and culture like Shamas Fakir, Ahmed Batwari, Krishnajoo Razdan, bringing in the memories of the old days in Kashmir. However, before that the audience was addressed by Shri P N Raina, who had specially come from Jammu for the celebrations and Shri J N Kaul, founder of SOS India, who had also been instrumental in building the temple, a replica of the original hill-top temple of Kashmir, in Faridabad.
Both of them reminded the Pandits to revive their unique culture through events such as this and appreciated the efforts of the younger generations.
More than the cultural programmes was the spirit of togetherness that was seen shared among the people there as families sat on the lawns modelled on the famous Badam Vari or almond garden of Kashmir, as they lay down their sheets and shared home-made Kashmiri food they also shared old memories of the past when they used to celebrate new year in their homeland. The most common refrain among seen each other was ‘where have you been all this time’.
While the numbers dwindled out into the night, the zest was still there as Kashmiri singers sung songs of all moods, often ending in people letting their hair down and dancing to the tunes. It was quite a sight to see people of all ages attempting a ‘roff’ the traditional arm in arm dance of Kashmir to songs like the original folk version of the Bollywood number Bhumbro Bhumbro.
The all night long celebration ended with an aarti early in the morning to bring in a pious start to the New Year.
The Daily Shadow(J&K)
The Early Times(J&K)

Navreh Celebrations at Hari Parvat,Anangpur,Faridabad

Pictures of the Navreh Celebrations......
Legendary Kashmiri Singer Kailash Mehra enthralling the audiences..... She brought the past back to us....From Naem Saab's Bedardi Dade Chane to Krishaan Joo Razdan's Bel tay Madal it was journey of nostalgia but with Sahebo Sat Cham mae Chaane it was a voice of hope...
And she bade farewell for now with Paertho Gilas-e-kuleney Taland Sh.J.N.Kaul blesses Kailash Mehra...
Roots in Kashmir unveiling its New LogoRavi Bhan singing Moti Lal Saqi's"Ganemat Sham-e-Gham"
A section of the Audience....