Monthly Archives: March 2009

People mourn Kashmiri soldier’s death

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SRINAGAR, Mar 24: A career in Army as a soldier has been frowned upon for most of the past 20 years in Kashmir but the times seem to be changing now as was evident from the scenes witnessed at the funeral of Kashmiri soldier Shabir Ahmad Malik in Wakura area of Ganderbal district.

Malik, a para-trooper in the Army, laid down his life fighting a large number of militants who had infiltrated into this side of Line of Control in Chowkibal area of Kupwara district on March 20.

It was not only the Malik family who were mourning the loss of their 22-year-old son but the eyes of entire Wakura village were moist as they raised slogans in praise of the martyr and India.

Long Live Shabir and Hindustan Zindabad slogans rendered the air around Wakura as many youth vowed to follow the footsteps of Malik. According to official estimates, more than 5000 people attended the funeral prayers of the Army soldier.

Such scenes have been repeated across Kashmir valley hundreds, if not thousands of times, over the past two decades but the tears were shed for militants who were killed in encounters with security forces and slogans were against 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.

His mother is barely able to talk as she still is in disbelief that her son is no more. “I was with him at the passing out parade and he used to call me three times a day. Now, who will call me,” Raja Begum said as she broke into wails and cries for her beloved son.

Shabir’s father was inconsolable. “When he joined the Army, he told me that our days of poverty are gone and that he will take care of my treatment. His promise was so shortlived,” Ghulam Hassan Malik said.

Even the neighbours were deeply struck by the grief as they recalled the helpful and soft spoken local boy. “Generally, people get airs when they get authority … he had no such airs. He was the same local lad even after joining the Army that he used to be when he was as a growing teenager,” Abdul Ahad, one of the mourners, said.

Malik had studied upto 12th standard from the prestigious Sainik School Manasbal and joined Army soon after.
Excelsior Special Correspondent
source:daily excelsior

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The Hindu Diaspora In The Middle East

Hindus consisted of 80 percent of the population of India in 2001. Naturally one would expect the same percentage to be present, wherever the Indian diaspora is considered. But in the Middle East (based on USA Government data), the number of Hindus in the following Middle East nations is as follows: Bahrain (44286) United Arab Emirates (944352), Oman (96147), Kuwait (300667) Saudi Arabia (165606) and Qatar (65328). Hindus number only 1.6 million out of the total Middle East Indian diaspora of 3.3 million, namely 50 percent.
Different political/religious/social reasons have ensured, that the percentage of Hindus compared to the local nationals, varies from a plain point six percent (.6) in Saudi Arabia to 21.25% in UAE. For example in Saudi Arabia, the labour department insists on only Muslims being recruited for working in the country and as such the proportion of Hindus in the NRI labour forces is barely, a mere ten percent of the 1.5 million NRIs in Saudi Arabia. On the contrary, in Dubai capital of the UAE, the Hindu community is now even able to openly celebrate traditionally “loud” festivals like Holi and Divali and hence numbers as much as, 60 percent of the NRI population of 1.5 million.
The best countries for the Hindu diaspora in the Middle East are Bahrain, Oman and Dubai, not necessarily in the same order.
Of these Oman has the best record, for the Sultans, the traditional rulers Oman, have great regard for India and know its customs and vagaries. Sultan Taimur, the present Sultan’s grandfather, spent more than 30 years in Mumbai till his death in 1965, after his abdication; he is buried there. Sultan Said, the present Sultan’s father, studied in India. Oman’s current ruler, Sultan Qaboos bin Said, personally granted support to the building of two temples in the country. Jayant Vyas, the second priest at the Krishna Temple, Muscat, is all praise for the Sultan and adds : “During the Babri Masjid riots in India, the Sultan personally ordered his guard to protect the temple. He told us not to fear any attacks and to continue with our pujas.”
Hinduism first came to Muscat in 1507 from Sindh. Indeed, four Hindu temples existed in Muscat ca. 1760. The number of Hindus had declined in the 20th century, although it is now stable The historical Hindu Quarters of al-Waljat and al-Banyan are no longer occupied by Hindus. Today Oman is be the only country in the Middle East which has an indigenous Hindu minority. It is the only Arab country, where irrespective of his or her religion, any person who has lived in the country for at least 20 years, is eligible to apply for citizenship, which almost a thousand Indians have so far been accorded so far.
Hindu temples once located in Ma’bad al Banyan and Bayt al Pir, no longer exist. The only active Hindu temples today are the Muthishwar temple located in Al-Hawshin Muscat, the Shiva temple located in Muttrah, and the Krishna temple located in Darsait. The only Hindu crematorium is located in Sohar, northwest of Muscat.
The most prominent indigenous Hindu is Kanaksi Khimji. The great consideration Oman has towards Hindus in Oman, is largely due to the Khimjis – a powerful business family, that has great say in the various ministries of the country. In fact the world’s only Hindu Sheikh is Kanaksi Khimji, the head of Khimji Ramdas Group of Companies, as the title was granted by the Sultan of Muscat to him. His grandfather came to Oman in 1870 and since then the Khimjis have prospered.
The present head of the family happens to be an uncompromising vegetarian, his devotion is anchored to Lord Shreenathji, and though his admired entrepreneurship branches out across the globe, his roots lie in Gujarat. His business acumen is so well recognized, that, the Sultan of Oman gave hisÿ yacht Lo’Lo’ to this person of Indian origing, for developing tourism business in the Sultanate. Dressed in a flowing full-length robe and wearing the kaffiyeh, the cloth that covers the head, Khimji easily passes off as an Omani. When he married in 1960, Khimji was presented with a silver jug by Sultan Said Taimur Bin Faisal. The queen mother, Bibi Mahezun, had given him two of her photographs, a privilege accorded to only a few. His firm is a leading corporate house in Oman. It represents over 100 global brands in a wide spectrum of businesses and services in that Gulf nation. Thanks to the pioneering spirit of Kanaksi Khimji in education, there are now 14 Indian schools in Oman, with 17,000 NRI students pursuing their education.
When it comes to UAE, The bilateral contacts between the UAE and India date back to the early 19th century when pearls and dates from the former and spices, provisions and clothing from the latter, were energetically traded to their mutual advantage. Although some Indian trading families began settling down in places like Dubai, Sharjah and Fujairah around that time, it was only after World War-I that their numbers started increasing exponentially. The local government’s relatively liberal policy towards religions other than Islam, has enabled the NRIs to build Krishna Temple (Srinathji) and a Shiv temple + Gurudwara. They have also been allowed to set up a number of cremation grounds, one of which has even been built at government expense, for the benefit of persons who are not permitted by their religion to bury their dead. The Hindus also respect these signal concessions and during Ramadan fasting period, the prasad in these temples is distributed only after the Iftar time (breaking fast).
With a population of 643,000 and a total area of 691 sq.kms., Bahrain is the smallest of the Middle East States. Indians are known to have gone to Bahrain in pursuit of trade as early as 3000 BC when their ships plied from the Harappan settlements to Oman and Bahrain, on their way to Mesopotamia. In fact Bahrain was under the British Government in India, prior to Indian Independence in 1947, like the other princely Indian states. During that era, the prime ministers to the Emir (king) of Bahrain were the Hindu Bhatias and their family temple was and is in the centre of the town.
Bahrain’s distinguishing features have been an enlightened and modern education policy and a moderate policy towards non-Islamic religions. Religious freedom is prevailing really well in Bahrain. There are four temples, a Krishna temple, Durga temple, an Ayyappan temple, ISKON temple and three gurdwaras for the Sikh community. Though several Indian families have been residing in Bahrain for many decades, only a few of them have been granted local citizenship.
To be sure, life for the Hindu, in these largely Muslim states ranges widely, from religiously intolerant Saudi Arabia, through a laid-back existence in easy-going Oman, to the relative excess of Dubai. But even in Dubai, it is hard to forget, that you are in an Islamic country, and this, mixed with mutual stereotyping, and expat-unfriendly residence laws, makes the Hindu in the Middle East always a little nervous, but more prosperous than he would be in India.

-(Maharaja Features)
written By Antony Kuriakose
source:kashmir times

RENAMING OF ANANTNAG AS ISLAMABAD

JAMMU, Mar 13: While taking the serious exception to the recent resolution brought by People’s Democratic Party (PDP) MLA, Peer Mansoor Hussain in State Legislative Assembly, Jammu and Kashmir Vichar Manch (JKVM) today said it is part of a big conspiracy to distort the facts about the original history of Kashmir.

The act of PDP is aimed at Islamisation of Kashmir by distorting the facts of ancient history of the Valley, JKVM senior national vice president, Dr R L Bhat told reporters here today.

Contesting the claims of the PDP MLA on history of Kashmir, he said the name of Anantnag has been mentioned over 1700 years back in Neelmat Puran one of the ancient books on history of Kashmir and same has also been mentioned by Dr Ved Kumari Ghai at three places in her book which is the translation of Neelmat Puran. The book has been published by JK Academy of Art Culture and Languages, he added.

He said the verses in Neelmat Puran describe the sacred nature of Anantnag , the importance of visiting the tirath and the merits acquired by worshiping there and the present Anantnag is built around this holy site, he added.

Dr Bhat, who was flanked by JKVM state president, Ashok Kangan, its general secretary, H L Bhat and Executive member J L Raina said, Bringish Samhita in its various Mahatamyas also carries details about the holy places in Anantnag district including Anantnag itself.

He said this way it has become clear that Anantnag is an ancient place which has been known for 1700 years past and the town is named after a holy spring which has great religious significance as per Neelmat Puran.

As quoted by MLA while referring to Taarikhi Hassan that town has been founded in Jehangir’s time under the governorship of Islam Khan and the name of the town was later changed in Ranjit Singh’s regime, Dr Bhat termed it a bundle of lies and is not based on facts.

He also contested the claims of the MLA on Hariparbat and Shankaracharya which he said were originally called Kohi Maran and Takht Suliaman. These claims are not borne by Taarikhi of Hassan Shah or any historical record, he added.

Criticising it he said this entire theory is a part of conspiracy to take Kashmir towards Islamisation.

He said the renaming of Srinagar air port on the name of Sheikh-ul-Alam is also the part of the same theory. Had there been sincerity why the airport has not been named as Nund Rishi Airport by which the Sofi saint was called by people of all religions in Valley, he asked?
SOURCE:DAILY EXCELSIOR

IQBAL’S HINDU RELATIONS

I am beholden to P.V. Rawal of Jammu for sending me a photograph of Allama Iqbal’s Kashmiri Brahmin family taken in Sialkot in 1931. At this time Iqbal was in his mid-fifties. He had already risen to the top as the greatest Urdu poet, at par with Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib. Although he was proud of his Brahmin descent, he had nothing to say about his Hindu relations. In this picture, the elderly lady seated in the middle is his grandmother, Indirani Sapru, nicknamed Poshi, wife of Pandit Kanhaya Lal Sapru. The man standing on the left in a shawl is Iqbal’s cousin, Amarnath Sapru; note the close resemblance to the poet.

The family traces its origin to one Birbal. They lived in the village of Saprain (hence, the surname Sapru) on Shopian-Kulgam road. Then the family moved to Srinagar where Iqbal and most of his cousins were born. Birbal had five sons and a daughter. The third one, Kanhaya Lal, and his wife, Indirani, had three sons and five daughters. Kanhaya Lal was Iqbal’s grandfather. His son, Rattan Lal, converted to Islam and was given the name Nur Mohammad. He married a Muslim woman ? Imam Bibi. The Saprus disowned Rattan Lal and severed all connections with him. There are different versions of Rattan Lal’s conversion. The one given to me by Syeda Hameed, who has translated some of Iqbal’s poetry into English, maintains that Rattan Lal was the revenue collector of the Afghan governor of Kashmir. He was caught embezzling money. The governor offered him a choice: he should either convert to Islam or be hanged. Rattan Lal chose to stay alive. When the Afghan governor fled from Kashmir to escape its takeover by the Sikhs, Rattan Lal migrated to Sialkot. Imam Bibi was evidently a Sialkoti Punjabi. Iqbal was born in Sialkot on November 9, 1877. As often happens, the first generation of converts are more kattar than others. Iqbal thus grew up to be a devout Muslim. It is believed that once he called on his Hindu grandmother, then living in Amritsar. But there is no hard evidence of their meeting and of what passed between them; Iqbal did not write about it. Though he had many Hindu and Sikh friends and admirers, he felt that the future of Indian Muslims lay in having a separate state of their own. Iqbal was the principal ideologue of what later become Pakistan. Iqbal’s mother-tongue was Punjabi but he never wrote in it. He used only Persian and Urdu, as did many Urdu poets before him.

There are many aspects of Iqbal’s personal life which have not been fully researched by his biographers. We know he married two or three times and that his favourite son was Javed, who became a judge of the Lahore high court. Iqbal’s affair with Atia Faizi of Bombay when they met in London is well-known. There must have been some correspondence between them to show the kind of relationship they had. When in Heidelberg, he was taken up by his young German tutor, Emma Veganast. This secret was divulged by the mayor of Heidelberg in a speech in which he named a part of the bank of the river Neckar after him ? Iqbal Weg. The Pakistani ambassador to Germany had the mayor’s speech mentioning the girl’s name suppressed. Iqbal and Emma continued to write to each other till the end of his life. The correspondence should be available in archives in Lahore and Heidelberg. Lovers of Iqbal, among whom I count myself, deserve to be presented with a fuller picture of their idol. We have biographies of Rabindranath Tagore revealing all his love affairs but none of the Allama telling us of the kind of man he was.
written by:Khushwant Singh
source:The Telegraph,India

Hindus feel the heat in Pakistan

Riaz Sohail
BBC News, Karachi

Wealthy Hindus like Garish Kumar are targets for kidnappers
The kidnap and murder of a Hindu engineer in Pakistan’s southern province of Sindh has increased the insecurity among fellow Hindus.

Garish Kumar disappeared last month near Hyderabad city, 250 km (160 miles) from the port city of Karachi in Sindh.

His dismembered body parts were later found near a madrassa (Islamic religious school).

Police initially said the crime was committed by an outlawed Muslim militant group. Five people were arrested.

However, Hyderabad’s police chief, Shaukat Shah, the incident now seems to be a simple kidnapping for ransom case.

Minority report

Kumar’s father, Saspal Das, is a trader from Kunri town in Sindh’s central district of Umerkot.

Most Hindus are poor peasants and serve as bonded labour

“No one listens to the Hindu minority,” he complains. “”We have no security.

“We are targeted because we are Hindu. There is no other reason for kidnapping Garish.”

Pakistan is home to some 2.5 million Hindus, 95% of them living in the southern Sindh province.

Most are poor, low-caste peasants.

However there are also some successful upper caste businessmen. In Sindh, they are a hot commodity for bandits.

They lack the protection afforded to local tribal Muslims.

Whole tribes often go to war with one another in rural Sindh over any slight to their members.

That cushion is not available to the Hindu minority.

Protection money

In recent years kidnapping for ransom and armed robberies have multiplied in the area and Hindus have increasingly been the focus of attacks.

Hindus have to pay thousands of pounds to avoid kidnapping

Many pay protection money regularly to local gangs or influential figures. But in spite of this they are still targeted.

Santosh Kumar, a rice trader from Larkana town in upper Sindh, and his two brothers were kidnapped in separate incidents in 2006. They were later released after paying a huge ransom.

Another wealthy trader from the nearby city of Sukkur in Sindh, Sundeep Kumar, was kidnapped in 2005.

He was released after paying a ransom of over a million rupees ($16,000), according to local sources.

The ransom can sometimes go up to five times that amount.

But not all Hindus are as rich as Sundeep Kumar.

Last August, a youth, Ramesh Lal, was kidnapped. His relatives could not afford the ransom, and his body was later found at a police check post.

In the last three years at least five Hindu traders have been killed after being kidnapped or offering resistance.

“Powerful oppress the weak”

Ramesh Lal, a Hindu MP in Pakistan’s parliament says, “The Hindus are not as rich as portrayed.”

“Often the kidnappers ask a huge amount that the families cannot pay. As a result the hostages are killed.”

Even Hindu women and children are not spared by the kidnappers

The President of the Hindu council in Sukkur district, Mukhi Aishwar Lal says, “the powerful always oppress weaker communities… Hindus are weak so they are targeted.”

He relates how a few years back a Hindu family travelling by local bus were kidnapped by local bandits, while rest of the passengers were allowed to go.

Around that time some foreigners were also kidnapped in the same area. The police secured their release without any payment, but the Hindus were released after a huge ransom was doled out.

Such incidents increase the feeling among Hindus that they have no say in power and authority in the country.

Political apartheid

In Pakistan’s political system, the minorities, such as Hindus, Christians and Sikhs, remain outcasts despite represented in every major political party.

After Gen Pervez Musharraf seized power in 1999, he scrapped the controversial separate electorate system introduced former dictator Gen Zia-ul-Haq in 1980s.

Under the separate electorate system, non-Muslims could only vote for candidates of their own religion. Seats were reserved for minorities in the national and provincial assemblies.

Critics said Muslim candidates no longer had any incentive to pay attention to the aspirations of the minorities.

Gen Musharraf hoped to reverse that by the simple step of abolishing the system. But that appears to have failed.

Sudham Chand, a Hindu community leader who led a local campaign to scrap the separate electorate system was killed in broad daylight. His murder conveyed many a message.

The killers were not arrested. His brother later migrated to India.

Ramesh Lal, a member of the National Assembly, says that the restoration of the conventional electoral system is of little use if the minorities have no security.

And still, he complains, no one asks the minorities what problems they are suffering.

Losing faith

Mukhi Aishwar Lal agrees that Hindus in Sindh are still afraid.

Garish Kumar’s grieving father, Saspal, wants justice

They are frightened to move outside freely. Some even put themselves under a self-imposed curfew after 2000 hours a few months ago.

“No-one is targeting the minorities,” argues Kishanchand Parwani, Advisor for Minorities’ Affairs to the Sindh Government.

But he admits that, although the minorities are supposed to be equal citizens according to the constitution, the reality is different. He accepts that they feel like second class citizens.

Garish Kumar’s father, Saspal Das, still retains faith in the system: “I will fight till I get justice for my son.”

But many Hindu families who stayed in Pakistan after partition have already lost faith and migrated to India

83 acre land belonging to displaced Pandits encroached in Kashmir

JAMMU : Jammu and Kashmir government today said that 1,608 cases of trespassing and encroachment of properties belonging to displaced Kashmiri Pandits have been detected in the Valley.

Replying to CPIM MLA, M Y Tarigami’s question in the Assembly, Minister incharge for revenue said that 1,608 cases of encroachment and trespassing have been reported in connection with properties belonging to displaced KP’s.

Nearly 83 acres of land belonging to displaced Pandits in the valley has been encroached. The process to evict the encroachers is on and 1,160 other encroachment cases have already been disposed of, he said.

He said that no immovable property of displaced Pandits has been taken into custody in terms of Section 7 of Jammu and Kashmir Immovable Property and Preservation, Protection and Restraint of Distress Sale Act of 1997.

There are total 58,618 displaced families including 33,351 Kashmiri Pandits, 2,231 Muslims and 1,701 Sikhs residing in Jammu and Kashmir and outside.
source:daily excelsior