Saturday, May 9, 2009


Ranish Hangloo
Childhood Blues continue to haunt

January 1990, I had just started to crawl when communal forces broke legend long relations and compelled one of the oldest civilized communities to leave the saffron valley.

Along with my parents, I traveled 350 kilometers in a fiat car from south Kashmir to city of temples, Jammu. A deafening silence kept filling each passing kilometer. Moving towards south of Jawahar tunnel, nature started adjusting its color for an undesirable change. Slowly the chinars turned into pines and then finally eucalyptus. Mercury started expanding. As soon as we reached Hari palace, I woke up in my mothers lap saying “mummy tresh” (Mother I am thirsty, give me water).

Months passed on and my growing steps saw the lines stretch on my father’s forehead. Finances started bothering us on each day of the calendar. Everyone around was searching for any possible keyholes of survival. I remember, each morning some or the other fellow being used to come to the door shouting- ‘paksa relief commisionery’ (‘let’s go to Relief commissioner’s office’). No one realized that this relief commisionary would become a parliament for minority section of Kashmir.

As men tried their luck with such authorities, the women too fought their share of struggle. Forced to bargain for vegetables everyday, the female folk tried to adjust a home budget that had inadequate amount in the first place. Monj – Haakh (Knol Khol), a leafy vegetable was in maximum demand. What started with one rupee is today sold at Rs 30 at vendor price. Refusing to alter at least this cultural attachment, we as a community still purchase it with equal charm. Monj-haakh is served hot on our plates daily.

The climate has never been friendly to Jammu especially the summer season. But at times it became as good as spring to me. Every year my Delhi based aunt would get me toys during the vacations. Though summer in Jammu is synonymous to a hot tandoor (hand made oven) but that anticipation for toys, at least for a few moments overshadowed our natural calamity. Today as I reminisce of my childhood days, toys remind me of Sharma Ji- our landlord- who never allowed me to play in the house he owned. He often complained to my parents about me, considering me a noisy child. That b*****d never understood that kids play at this age and when they play they are supposed to make noise. Like my childhood rights snatched in Kashmir, Jammu too did not allow me to celebrate my innocence.

Spending such a shackled childhood left undesirable remarks in my mind. I started believing this is the best that a human being deserves. Perhaps this is the kind of life for all of us. Until, my mother started narrating me stories that I should have faced myself, but fate had other plans. She was, rather relieving her bolted memories upon me. She used to (she still does) start with ‘Kasheri aous ase…’ (In Kashmir we used to have…). Those real life happy incidents of valley were hard to vision in my mind. I deemed them as any other fairy tale I knew about. I still try and force myself to imagine my mother being served by 3 servants. Her references to the past are authentic, but today my mother is pushing herself, beyond her physical strength to serve all of us without any help.

When I entered into my teens, the financial troubles began to fade away to a certain extent, but those luxurious aspirations were only at an imagination stage. Due to my hard work and family’s support, I was selected in two of the best schools of Jammu; in fact I topped the entrance examinations. However I could not enroll myself in neither as a huge fee was not affordable.

As time rolled by, memories got sliced into the good and bad. The bad memories have now forced me into an unshapely adulthood, making me feel that neither did the past bring us anything healthy nor has the future anything good to hold.

A desire to relive those innocent days is increasing every day. I know that this is no possibility and I hope it’s not because of material treasures that now I have begun to acquire. I hope this article is not a sudden burst of emotions. I guess it is only an incomplete childhood….

Well, whatever it may be but “yem fir gindha beiti” (This time I want to play)

The writer Ranish Hangloo is studying journalism at the AJK MCRC, Jamia. He can be reached at

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Am I a Pappu ?

Kamal Hak

Nowadays I am scared to indulge in my favourite pastime while driving. Mind you I drive around four hours every day. I am very hesitant to tune it to any FM station for some nerve soothing music. It is not that suddenly music doesn’t hold my interest anymore. It is the intermittent messages declaring the people who won’t vote as Pappu that is giving me a complex. I realize I have been a Pappu all my life. Strange as it may appear but the fact remains in half a century of my life I have never voted.

But, am I really a Pappu?

Like any youngster, I still remember the day when my name appeared in the electoral rolls for the first time. It gave a strange feeling and the confidence of being an adult. I thought it also developed a parental feeling in me as my younger siblings started appearing like children who needed to be taken care of. I also remember an hour long wait in a long queue before gaining entry to the room in the Govt. Girls Primary School near my home, where the polling officers gave you the ballot paper. I also remember the disappointment and the humiliation after all this being told my vote had already been cast. That day my faith in my Muslim neighbours received a serious dent. That day my belief in the might of Indian democratic institutions also diminished. Subsequently, I chose to be a Pappu than face the humiliation. After every election, my caring neighbours would dutifully inform me that the records will show I have cast my vote.

For last nineteen years I have been living in Delhi NCR. I am a registered voter in my local constituency. I also have a voter card. The electoral officer in my erstwhile Srinagar constituency must either be obliged to my family, most unlikely, or may have taken me as Kamaal Haq, more likely. My name still appears in the electoral rolls there. I have never felt inclined to vote here. Some how and I may be wrong, I have always felt my voting here will suit my tormentors in valley and take me further away from my homeland.

Don’t be a Pappu.
It is not only the media, NGO’s and the election commission that is urging me. I am amused some of my own community men also have joined the bandwagon of ‘don’t be a Pappu.’ They want me to strengthen the very process that threw me out of my homeland. Nevertheless, I thought may be they are right. I am now prepared to pin my hopes on the democratic process for bringing me succor.

Please guide and advise me.
There are more than twenty candidates for Srinagar constituency. Nearly all of them including Autar Krishan Pandita of BJP are there just for a symbolic presence. Khalida Shah, wife of Gul Shah and sister of Farooq Abdullah is also not seen as making any significant difference.. The contest is mainly between Farooq Abdullah and Moulvi Ifftikhar Ansari of PDP.
Shall I vote for Farooq Abdullah, a founder member of JKLF and the chief patron of uprising in Kashmir, who abdicated his moral, political and constitutional responsibility towards me in my hour of need? Or shall I vote for Ansari, a perennial turncoat who represents a political party that considers me as a pariah?

I don’t mind being a Pappu.
I don’t want the people of Kashmir, the governments of J & K and India to ever believe every thing is alright with me and I have forgiven them. Either way my vote will not make any significant difference to my plight or state of affairs in this country. But as a Pappu I will always have a satisfaction of being a mirror which reflects the nation’s failures.

I can now tune in to my music station.
The author Kamal Hak is a political analyst based in Noida, near New Delhi. Hak is the National Spokesperson of Panun Kashmir. He can be reached at

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Minorities also want their voices heard-Tanya Asharneea(Hindustan Times)

Click on the image to enlarge
The minorities also want their voices heard

Aditya Raj Kaul (19), a Kashmiri Pandit, has lived in Delhi for 18 years. But when it comes to exercising his franchise, he wants to do so as a Kashmiri.
“My family fled Kashmir when I was one, but I am extremely attached to my homeland. In the elections, I would like to vote as a Kashmiri, rather than a Delhi resident,” said Kaul, who is also the founder of Roots in Kashmir, a youth group of Kashmiri Pandits.
“As we did not willingly leave Kashmir, we feel the election commission should take steps to ensure that our voices are heard in the state,” Kaul said.
The sentiment echoes amongst several young Kashmiris. Forced to flee their homeland twenty years ago, they feel disheartened by the electoral system and say the process of voting for a migrant Kashmiri is discouraging.
The election commission has set up four polling booths in Delhi and one in Udhampur for Kashmiri migrants to vote. However, a sizeable number of Kashmiri migrants also live in other cities like Bangalore, Mumbai and Pune. “It is unfair that while others get a day off to vote, we are expected to take leave and fly to Delhi or Jammu to vote,” said 22 year-old Pooja Shali. She said such a process could erase Kashmiri Pandits from the geographical horizon and voters’ lists of Kashmir.
Kashmiris in the city are also against the compulsory M-forms (migration form) that they have to fill while voting. “The M-form system should be deleted from the process to ease the lengthy enrollment and voting process,” Kaul said, adding that even the ‘migrant’ term pains them. “We were forced out at gunpoint, so we feel the term is derogatory,” he said.
Church puts in a word
The Federation of Catholic Associations of Delhi (FCAD) believes that Delhi’s Christians — 3.5 lakh in number — should play a more proactive role in the polls and has urged them to vote.
“The community has not always had an easy time in playing their political role. Over 70,000 domestic workers from Orissa and Jharkhand remain disenfranchised, without a ration card. Another segment of the floating population, working nurses and the working class, have no vote,” said John Dayal, Christian activist and secretary general of the All India Christian Council.
Jenis Francis, FCAD president, stressed the minority choose a party that shuns sectarian politicians and has a secular record. “We should choose a party that ensures that minorities and poor are not demonised,” he said.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Press Coverage of "Elections for you:Exile for Us"

Kashmiri Pandits demand Voter ID Cards

New Delhi, May 3Covering their mouths with a black cloth, hundreds of Kashmiri Pandits today protested against the alleged discrimination faced by them at the hands of the government and the Election Commission. The Pandits were holding a dharna at Jantar Mantar.
The protesters demanded that the voting procedure for them should be simplified to ensure their full participation in the democratic process. They also asked for the issuance of voter ID cards for them.
An agitated protestor, Kulwinder Sharma said, “Despite the assurance of Chief Election Commissioner in this regard, nothing has been done so far. We have to fill in migrant forms—M-forms—in our own country. It is extremely painful. We are not migrants but refugees in our own country. We are Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) under the United Nations guidelines,” Sharma added.
Another protestor said, “We fail to understand why this M-form system is there when photo identity cards could be made for the exiled Pandit voters. The M-form system should be removed.”
Raising his voice against the system, Aditya Kaul said, “It seems the state ensures that over a lakh Pandits living in towns other than Delhi and Jammu don’t get to vote. While others get a day off to vote, we are expected to take leave and fly to Delhi or Jammu to exercise our franchise.”
“At a time when registering as a voter is a mere mouse-click away, the Election Commission has made a very difficult procedure for us. We too are Indians so why we should face such discrimination?” said an angry Ranish Hangloo, a youth activist in the group.
Sanjay Peshin, chief coordinator of Roots in Kashmir said, “To escape persecution, more than 4,00,000 Kashmiri Pandits had to leave their homes in the valley. Even after 19 years of exodus, more than 50,000 of these refugees are living in ‘animal-like state’ in camps. We are denied of our basic rights.”


Kashmiri Pandits protest against “discrimination” in voting procedures

“It is an attempt to erase us so that we can no longer claim to be Kashmiris”
NEW DELHI: To protest against the “discrimination” faced by them at the hands of the government and the authorities in voting procedures, a global youth initiative of the Kashmiri Pandits called “Roots in Kashmir” organised a protest at Jantar Mantar here on Sunday.
Along with Roots in Kashmir, members of Panun Kashmir, All-India Kashmiri Samaj, Kashmiri Sewak Samaj and Internally Displaced Kashmiri Pandit Youth Front also participated in the protest wearing black bands across their face.
The protesters demanded that voting procedure for the migrants be simplified to ensure their 100 per cent participation in the democratic process.
According to Roots in Kashmir, the number of members of the Pandit community in the voter list of Jammu and Kashmir had dropped considerably in the past two decades. “While the year 1996 saw 1.47 lakh of them, in 2002 their number slipped to 1.17 lakh and further down to 0.71 lakh during the Assembly polls held in the State last year,” added Aditya Raj Kaul of Roots in Kashmir.
A youth activist in the protest group, Ranish Hangloo, said: “At a time when registering as a voter is a mere mouse click away, the Election Commission in connivance with the State is making the registration process more tedious for us to ensure that we are denied even a basic human right.”
Criticising the voting procedures for Kashmiri migrants, Chief Coordinator of Roots in Kashmir Sanjay Peshin said: “With polling facilities in only two cities in India, the State ensures that over a lakh Pandits living in cities other than Delhi and Jammu do not get to vote.”
“It is but a part of the larger process to erase us not just from geographical horizon of Kashmir but from mind-spaces, voter lists and ration cards so that one day we can no longer claim to be Kashmiris,” he added.