Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Unsung Kashmiri Soldier

The funeral of the Martyr

The martyrdom of Shabir Ahmed Malik, a paratrooper with the Indian Army has once again brought to fore the role of Kashmiris in fighting terrorism in their state. He was martyred fighting intruders in the border district of Kupwara in North Kashmir. The Sainik School educated had turned 22 the very day he attained martyrdom. His supreme sacrifice will be remembered for long. What will be remembered even longer was the fact that thousands took to the streets to bid an emotional farewell to this son of the soil. Thousands shouted Shabir Ahmed Zindabad and Azad Hindustan Zindabad.When his tricolour draped body was brought to his village Wakura, near Ganderbal thousands mourned and a pall of gloom engulfed the village and adjoining areas. Yet it was proud moment for most of the people as one of them sacrificed his life to save Kashmir and India.
“We are proud of what he has done but at the same time we are saddened by his loss,” Ghulam Mohammad Malik, Shabir’s brother, told reporters soon after laying him to rest at Dab-Wakura graveyard.

This isn’t the first time nor would it be the last when Kashmiris have taken terrorism head on. However the fact remains that the Kashmiris who have laid their lives or are fighting terrorism day in and day out are not given as much recognition as their counterparts in the rest of the nation.

When a Policeman or Para-military personnel is killed fighting terrorists in Delhi or Mumbai, the whole nation mourns. It is carried prominently by all newspapers and TV Channels. To this day we remember the sacrifice of the soldiers who were martyred fighting terrorists involved in the Parliament attack. This is not to belittle the role of security forces anywhere but how many of us remember the Policemen who are almost killed regularly in Kashmir.

It is important for all of us to recall the role of J&K Police in fighting terrorism. It is their rank and file who has the biggest network of informers which helps the state Police to thwart terrorist attacks. Their local knowledge and better understanding of the terrain has given them an upper hand in fighting insurgency in the State. It is the local Police who are targeted almost regularly because of their vulnerability of being locals and thus them and their families being almost sitting ducks for terrorists. Despite that the local Police have done a commendable and almost thankless job of eliminating terrorism or at-least bringing it down to a level where the elections could be held peacefully. While it is true that the army and Para-military forces have acted in tandem with the local Police but it is essentially the local Police who are the first ones to take on Fidayeen attacks wherever they happen in the State. It is them who eventually the broke the back of the terrorist groups like the Yasin Malik led JKLF or the Hizb.

At this point we must also make a mention of the Ikhwanis or the renegade terrorists who at the height of terrorism helped cleanse Kashmir of the Pakistan Sponsored terrorist gangs.

The Ikhwanis who were mainly ethnic Kashmiris took upon themselves the noble task of cleaning Kashmir of the Islamist virus that had people like Yasin Malik and his ilk had brought from Pakistan. It was to the credit of the Ikhwanis led by the charismatic Kuka Parrey that militancy declined in the mid-1990s.

Sudha Ramachandran writes in the Asia Times,”Parrey inspired many militants to switch sides and cooperate with the security forces. "The power that Parrey and his boys came to wield and the new-found legitimacy they got by strutting around with the Indian forces and flaunting their weapons in the open was undoubtedly a big attraction for several militants who were fed up with life underground and disillusioned with 'the cause'," a Kashmiri police officer pointed out. Consequently, hundreds of militants surrendered.”

The very fact that the once heavily terrorist infested areas like Shopian, Bandipora, Devsar, and Doda are today terror free is a testament to the dedicated Police Officers and their force in J&K.There are countless Kashmiri Muslim Officers who have told me,”Cleansing Kashmir of these terrorists is the true Jihad”They have steadfastly stuck to their tasks and persevered to get Kashmir to Peace without caring for their own safety or the safety of their family.

On this day, let us all remember the unsung and unwept Kashmiri soldier who has stood between chaos and India, between Pan-Islamism and secularism, between barbarianism and civic society, between mayhem and peace. The situation in J & K is still far from normal but whatever strains of normalcy have been achieved have been due to the consistent efforts of those Kashmiri soldiers to whom this jihad is a personal battle to kill the evil within Kashmir. It is to them that I stand and salute, it is to their efforts that I bow my head and to their sacred vow that annihilating these terrorists is the true Jihad that I revere.

Monday, March 30, 2009

One More Navreh...

Different Navrehs bring with them different sets of emotions .Most of the time Navrehs in exile have been nostalgic. They bring back memories of my childhood. Of days, when the day begun with an obeisance to the mother goddess atop the Hari Parvat. As a kid, Sanskrit prayers would make no sense to me, yet there was this strange sense of achievement that I could recite them alongside my elders.
There are fond memories of collective recitations of various prayers but one prayer would stand apart. Whenever we sang “Maej Sharikay Kar Daya”(Oh Mother Sharika,be benign to us) it would move us all to tears: tears of communion with our higher selves; tears of joy, of being alive in a hostile Kashmir; Tears of her being our saviour and confidante.
Soon the action would move to the Devi Anagan where hundreds of revellers like us would lay their picnic paraphernalia. Over hot cups of Kahwa,the quintessential politician among us would uselessly discuss the situation in Iran,the diehard poet would bore us with one more of his Leelas’ but the day belonged to the children. The weather on most occasions would participate in the festival. Kids like butterflies were unstoppable. Festivity was in the air, in minds, in hearts and in souls of all those Brahmins who had been brutally murdered on this given day, many centuries before, by Islamic invaders. The Goddess would overlook it all.
The Badam Vaer’s (The Almond Orchard) bloom was divine to say the least. In Kashmiri folklore and poetry so much has been written about the bloom, yet so much is lost between what his eyes see and what his pen writes. The ephemeral nature of the Almond Bloom notwithstanding was a sight to behold and a divinity to be felt. Rides, toys, love, were abundant in the Vaer. Every child represented a free soul- fearless of present, unaware of the past and careless about the future. It was then that my grandfather would recite at the top of his voice-Abhinavgupt’s “Vyapt Charachar Bhav Vishesham”.
As I grow grey in Exile,Navrehs seem to carry different messages for me.Although I try to celebrate them with the same fervour as I would back home,I obviously cannot offer my daughter the luxury of a Badam Vaer or the Devi Angan.I rue the loss but am proud that I carry the legacy forward.A legacy of the people of the verge of extinction.Tomorrow as she sees the Thal(A ritual associated with the NavreH) she will in some way become the bearer of the ember of our existence that is fast turning to ashes.Will she be able to make fire(Reh) from it or will the embers turn to ashes is something we may not live to see.
Many years back in this Zaalim Vonth Ros Shaher(Cruel Endless City as my friend, a refugee from our land , Zahoor Zargar calls it) I was depressed on this day.I saw no hope,no fire,no refuge but my solitary words …..

Yi Kyuth Navreh,Kames chi reh
Na Che, ti ,na maey
Tale Kyuth Navreh

What Navreh is this
Inside whom do the embers glow
Not you,not me
Then What Navreh is this

It isn’t as if I have all these years been despondent and hopeless in exile but there have long periods when I saw no hope of return. But it wasn’t just about return. What depressed me more was our own hollowness or crumbling of our hope.

The message last year though was one of hope.
My solitary words did not fail me in the moment of hope and I sang…..

Ye chu nov Navreh,
vich prazlaan chay na chaney reh
chuy chane rahey,rang rotumut maey
chakh aash baneth vaen aamech chey,
kad valenje maenae,yus chuy vaeh
Aakash ti pataal sar kar aaz
chey prarran panchalech ,che divay
haeth pagahuk gaash,che aayak aaz
bar-e-chirninaev kin mae chaye divay
vanvas me mokelaav mahsoosas
aaz kaluk ravan karetan khay

Wonder what message this Navreh has for me….

Nonetheless Happy Navreh!

Rashneek Kher