Monthly Archives: July 2010

Open Letter to Prime Minister of Pakistan

Open Letter to Prime Minister of Pakistan

Subject: Persecution of non-Muslim Minorities in Pakistan.
Ref: – Continued Demolition of Hindu Temples and persecution of Hindus in Pakistan threatens peace in the sub continent.

Hon’ble Syed Yousuf Raza Gillani,
Prime Minster of Pakistan,
Islamabad, Pakistan
Hon’ble Prime Minister Gillani,

Freedom loving people all around the world and those believing in equality and freedom of all religions (billions in numbers) particularly Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists and others are appalled at the continued persecution of the minority Hindus in Pakistan and the colossal failure of the Govt. to stop this genocidal and highly provocative movement. The latest examples of this ongoing saga of unlawful and inhuman activities in Pakistan is contained in the below given attachments A, B & C. These are just a few instances that we reproduce as evidence though such acts of communal hatred and ethnic cleansing against the minorities, more importantly against Hindus and Sikhs, take place in the Islamic state on a regular basis.

This anti-Hindu, anti-Sikh crusade is not restricted to depriving them of their properties and places of worship but the abduction of Hindu women, forcible conversion to Islam and subsequent marriages with Muslim persons seems to have become a common place. How ironic yet hypocritical it is on the part of Pakistan to demand equal and special status for Muslims in other countries but refuse to provide the same treatment to its own non-Muslim minorities?

Mr. Prime Minister, how sad and regrettable it is that on the one hand your Govt. claims to be a representative Govt. yet it has elected to throw into the dust bin the numerous representations made by the victimized Hindu community of Pakistan against the oft repeated waves of criminal behavior towards them. As a member of the United Nations and its acceptance of the UN Charter, Pakistan is committed to maintaining freedom and equality of all religions. Unfortunately that commitment has fully and completely been trampled upon in the case of its non-Muslim minorities. The naked aggression by one religion with a view to deprive the other religions of their assets and sources of sustenance and the forcible conversions must be considered criminal and therefore, severely punishable under the law. Pakistan has failed in this test as well.

For safeguarding minority Hindu temples and institutions, it is absolutely important that the Govt. constitute a Waqf like autonomous Hindu Board. The role of the community in temple management and setting up Hindu Advisory Councils must be an integral part of the new policy. Such councils could play a meaningful role in oversight and decision making process utilized by the officials dealing with temples and their Trusts. Such Councils, elected or nominated by the Community, state and national religious leaders, could shoulder a significant amount of decision making and management responsibilities. They could also contribute in stopping the ongoing desecration and decimation of the religious infrastructures by recommending the necessary remedial measures for quick enforcement by the authorities.

We believe that the current high level talks between governments of India and Pakistan for “building trust” between the two nations would be futile if there is no proven and verifiable trust between Hindus and Muslims due to the former being continuously persecuted. As you might remember Mr. Prime Minister, the lack of trust between these communities was the very basis of Partition of India in 1947. We sincerely believe that at this point in time Pakistan has an invaluable opportunity in wiping out terrorism against Hindus and other non-Muslim minorities and prove to the world at large that she was not interested in aiding, encouraging and abating terrorists and militants and that the Indo-Pak talks were not just a political deception or gimmickry created by the Western world and Islamabad.

According to the information available to us Muslims in India do not only enjoy “equality” in their citizenship status but they were also showered upon special privileges and voluminous reservations in every walk of life. Consequently since the partition their population has increased four fold from 35 million (1951 census) to 140 million. However, according to reports, in Pakistan during the same period the numbers of Hindu and Sikh population have shrunk from 25-30% to less than 1%. Obviously such massive disappearance of the minority population in a short span of time speaks volumes about Pakistan’s policy towards her minorities.

The continuation of the policy of “hate crimes” against the non-Muslims by Islamabad at some point could likely have an adverse impact upon India’s liberal and special policy towards her Muslim population. Accordingly the question we might ask is it Pakistan’s goal to hurt the Indian Muslims by calling in to question India’s liberal policy towards her Muslim citizens? If not, in that case there has to be a radical transformation in Islamabad’s policy towards the non-Muslim citizens of Pakistan. Least your Govt. could do is to adopt a policy of reciprocity.

We do not need to remind you Sir, that there is already a huge amount of backlash and resentment against Islamic fundamentalism, terrorism and militancy in the West — Europe and America included. Your country has been described as the epicenter of these disturbing developments while the continuing persecution of minorities in Pakistan only enhances such a view. In America a vast majority of people are strongly questioning in fact publicly opposing the plan for building a grand Islamic Mosque in New York close to the site of the former World Trade Towers. And in France, the authorities are seriously considering a proposal to ban wearing of “burqas” in public by Muslim women! Additional half a dozen European states are said to be ready to follow that path.

Considering all these developments, a formal declaration by the Govt. of Pakistan, humanizing, liberalizing and bringing at par with modern states its policy towards non-Muslim minorities based on the above stated suggestions, could mark a turning point and provide a sound reason to the international community for taking a second look at the Islamic Republic and her attempts for updating her state craft. Turning the trend around by modernizing its approach towards her minorities would be in the best interest of Pakistan itself.

We would like to thank you in advance for your time and consideration. We are also hoping for receiving an early response, strongly upholding equality and freedom of all faiths as dictated by United Nations Charter and the universal principles of equality and reciprocity.

Dr. Jagan Kaul
Krishan Bhatnagar
Hindu Jagran Forum (USA)
July 30, 2010
========================

Attachment A

Jul 21, 2010

Pak to demolish 87-yr-old temple

Amir Mir / DNA
Wednesday, July 21, 2010 0:55
http://www.dnaindia.com/dnaprint910.php?newsid=1412526

Despite strong protest by Pakistan’s Hindu community, an 87-year-old pre-partition Hindu temple in Pakistan’s garrison town of Rawalpindi is facing demolition.

According to Jagmohan Kumar, the head of the Hindu community in Rawalpindi, the temple was being used by Hindus and Sikhs to perform last rituals of their dear ones.

According to the plaque fixed on the building, Lala Tansukh Rai, the Raees-e-Azam Rawalpindi, had constructed the temple in memory of his wife. “The ‘Shamshan Ghat’ is not only used by the locals but by the foreign missions of China and the Buddhist community as well”, Kumar said.

“The land for ‘Shamshan Ghat’ was allocated to the Hindus during the first tenure of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto when Kishan Chand Parwani was the federal minister for minorities in her cabinet. The temple is now being demolished while the open area is being maintained for the community”, he added.

According to Kumar, the original area of the ‘Shamshan Ghat’ land was 277 kanals and there were several temples along the Tipu Road and Nullah Leh. “Some of these temples were demolished before the partition while many were razed to ground after the Babri Masjid was demolished in 1992 in India. There were several temples in the adjacent localities of Raja Bazaar in Rawalpindi where there are now residential apartments”.

Jagmohan asked how the Muslims would feel if there mosques were demolished for residential purpose.

http://news.hinduworld.com/click_frameset.php?ref_url=%2Findex.php%3F&url=http%3A%2F%2Fvivekajyoti.blogspot.com%2F2010%2F07%2Fpak-to-demolish-87-yr-old-temple.html

==========================

Attachment B

Hindu-Sikh body condemns temple demolition
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
http://www.thenews.com.pk/print1.asp?id=252016

RAWALPINDI: Pakistan Hindu Sikh Social Welfare Council in its meeting strongly denounced a so-called media group for trying to forcibly occupy a temple situated at Tippu Road, Javed Colony, here.

President of Pakistan Hindu Sikh Social Welfare Council Jag Mohan Kumar Arora vehemently criticised the Auqaf Department for its negligence. “The Auqaf Department is creating a rift between minorities and the government.”

He urged the government to take notice of the situation and ensure protection of minorities’ rights.Meanwhile, Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti has condemned the demolition of an old temple at Tippu Road for commercial purposes.

Talking to APP here on Tuesday, he said that it was not good omen to damage the temple, which was built in 1923 in the memory of Tunkukh Rai.He said, “According to the Constitution of Pakistan, minorities have an equal right to live according to their religion”.

He took a serious notice of the incident and asked the Punjab government to conduct an inquiry into the incident and submit a report immediately. He also committed to safeguard temples, Gurdwaras, churches and other worship places of the minorities, adding, “It is a very shameful incident and no one is allowed to harm, demolish, disgrace or confiscate them.”

Meanwhile, rejecting the news item regarding the demolition of a temple at Tippu Road, Rawalpindi, the Evacuee Trust Board (ETB) clarified that the building was neither a temple nor had it any link to it.

Chairman Evacuee Trust Board Syed Asif Hashmi has formed a committee comprising leaders of Hindu Community to expose the conspiracy of spreading rumours by declaring the building as temple.

The committee would send its report to the board at the earliest. The Evacuee Trust Board had demolished an old building some days ago and some elements had declared the building as a temple. According to the spokesman of the ETB, the building was located near the Shamshan Ghatt and a temple was located on the distance of 500 yards from that building, which was demolished in 1992 after Babari Masjid Tragedy in a protest demonstration. The spokesman termed the protest triggered after demolishing the building a planned conspiracy

=====================================

Attachment C

Posted by jagoindia on July 18, 2008

Pak digs up 300-yr-old Krishna temple for ‘relics’
Amir Mir, July 07, 2008, dnaindia.com
Authorities excavate temple courtyard without permission
ISLAMABAD: The desecration of Hindu temples goes on unchecked in Pakistan without any reprimand from the government.

On July 2, the courtyard of a 300-year-old ancient Krishna temple situated in the Shorkot town in Punjab was excavated on the orders of a senior government official, who wanted to dig out precious relics. They carried out the excavation without taking permission from the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB), which looks after Hindu places of worship in Pakistan.

Case details reveal that Zubair Khurshid Bhatti the district coordination officer (DCO), Jhang district, forcibly entered the temple, broke all the ETPB seals and began digging the temple’s courtyard, which they claimed would unearth relics and statues of ancient gods and some holy books.

While Bhatti claims that locals asked him to excavate the temple’s courtyard, no local confirmed this. On the contrary, when Aman Das, a Hindu from the same vicinity’s main bazaar area was asked about the episode, he expressed feelings of deep hurt and mistrust. “We do not have much say even about issues related to the sanctity of our religion and places of worship,” he said.

“But when the authorities would not think of producing a relic by evacuating any ancient Muslim mosque in Pakistan, then why us?” asked Aman.

According to sources, the assistant administrator of the ETPB requested Bhatti time and again to stop the digging at the temple’s courtyard, but Bhatti snubbed him. Bhatti finally gave up after he could not find any relic. He then instructed his staff to fill up the 10-feet pit in the courtyard.
“This is sheer goonism. The senior government official misused his authority to dig out the temple courtyard. He did not pay heed to the Hindu locals who stood helpless in front of his authority,” expressed Shanti Das, Aman’s wife.

“Being a Hindu in a Muslim dominated society does not expel our right to go to temples or to protect them against demolition,” she added.

Prior to this incident, some statues of the Hindu gods were stolen from the Katas Raj temple, an incident which deeply hurt the sentiments of the Hindu minority in Pakistan.

amir.mir1969@gmail.com

scapegoats,stone pelters, and Omar Abdullah

Another year in exile for Indigenous inhabitants of Kashmir. For the sake of statstics, This is my 21st year in Exile.There is a mixed response when Kashmir is discussed among Kashmiri Pandits.” I would like to live the rest of my life in Kashmir” says a relative of mine who is a septuagenarian. On the other hand, a teenager son of a friend of mine, who was born and raised in Delhi says, ”I will settle abroad, once I finish my studies”. I guess, this is what is known as generation Gap.

Thanks to Pakistan sponsored terrorism, which they have successfully painted with the color of “Holy Jihad”. They have made sure that for Kashmiri Pundits, there is no return route to Kashmir. Times change, so does man , and so has Kashmir. Stone pelting has become the new “in” thing. The emotionally charged, misguided miscreants and paid agents , who are backed ,groomed and guided by Pakistan are using their time and energy to find the best stones of Kashmir. The puppets of ISI viz “The hurriyat conference” have successfully staged the Drama and have held at Ransom Whole of Kashmir.

Time and again, amid these protests one thing has been made clear to one and all that, “this is a Islamic war”, whether one likes it or not. Another thing which has come up time and again from Pakistan backed separatists is that there is no room for “secularism” in Kashmir. Long time back, I used to hear that Kashmir is a land of Rishis and Sufis and the life force of Kashmir is “Kashmiriyat”. Unfortunately, “Kashmiriyat” died long ago ,with the genocide and mass exodus of Kashmiri Pandits. May be, It is still left with some people in Kashmir who adhere their daily life and routine to Universal spirituality and not only to religion. Personally, I don’t think that religions must have been designed to kill fellow Human beings.

With the arrest of Shabir Ahmed Wani, It has become crystal clear now that the protests and agitations, were staged by the Pakistan Backed separatists and terrorists, in order to create unrest in civil society .These idiosyncratic misanthropists earnestly yearned and prayed to Almighty for the deaths of civilians. For them somehow the pot should keep boiling, Their bread and butter is directly linked to unrest and deaths of civilians .After all this is their profession and they are handsomely paid by their Masters in Islamabad.

Stone pelting is a barbaric act and I was told that even Islam considers this to be unholy, but who cares!!! After all, isn’t Religion also a commodity to be exploited for selfish reasons? And who knows this fact better than “Kashmiri Pandits” who have seen the practical face of Islam. Islamic Scholars may argue endlessly in order to prove that Islam means “Peace”. With due regards to them,they should have taught the actual meaning to those who killed my friends and relatives. Somebody has to remind them “actions speaks louder than words”.

Sufism, which I believe, is an integral part of Islam, has in the recent times lost its sheen and is held hostage by the more stringent Wahabis. Sufism cannot help and motivate anyone to take up gun and kill fellow human beings ,as Sufism has a different way of looking to nature and life.One of the beliefs of the sufi’s is that Allah has made man almost perfect, and other living and non living beings try to emulate Humans, so that they can also become or transform into Humans. I have read a particular sufi arguing that a rock or stone at the river bed of a River or Stream earnestly years to become Human, he also insists to look more closely to a pebble in a stream, and just look at how even a pebble struggles hard to get into the shape and try to resemble that of a Human Face. However, This school of thought will never appeal to stone pelters of Kashmir, who according to sources are paid Rs 50 to Rs 150 per day for engaging the JK Police and CRPF. Isn’t it Irony that stone wants to become Human being, and in Kashmir, some humans have become as cold as a stone….

Separatists who have distorted their religion for the sake of their Selfish cause can twist anything at anytime according to time and Situation. Some of these so called Pseudo-Scholars have targeted the Chief Minister of J&K for a reason which is purely natural.I am talking about ageing. We all know ageing is a natural process, but not with ISI backed separatists. They are arguing that the Chief Minister’s hair has suddenly turned grey because of his unholy acts. Had It been pre-1990’s, When there was euphoria about National conference and when the masses idolized Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah , the similar situation would have been interpreted differently. They would have argued differently and may be compared Chief Minister Omar Abdullah with The great “Moses”, who had also turned grey within a short span of some 40 days when ten commandments were revealed to him at Mount sinai. They would have further sealed this argument as ultimate truth, by comparing the respective ages of Moses and Omar Abdullah. At the age of 40 , Moses was revealed ten commandments, and the present age of Omar Abdullah is also 40 Years…

Approximately 200 million muslims live in my country out of which 5 million muslims live in Kashmir. The only difference between 200 million and 5 million is that the former constitutes minority of India(except J&k)and the latter constitutes majority of J&k. The minorities of India viz Muslims and Christians are mostly at peace with India ,except at some occasions when political parties try to divide the masses of India either on the basis of caste, creed or Religion. But never in the History of India, the situation of any ethnic group has been so deplorable as that of Kashmiri Pandits. In other parts of India, after political turmoil or riots, Occasionally minorities or weaker sections/groups move out of their native places and come back again to their Homes , once Riots subside.However in case of K.P’s, things are different as Kashmir Pandits do not form any vote bank and hence politically unwanted and can only be used as Scapegoats. It is easy for the politicians to blame Kashmiri Hindus for anything and everything. Government is not able to generate enough jobs or livelihood, because either they are inefficient or corrupt, but they are answerable to public,particularly their vote bank.To cover their shortcomings, somebody has to be made a scapegoat,In case of J&k, It his your’s truly” kashmiri pandit”.For the sake of votes, politicians furnish arbitrary evidence and twist the statistics in such a way which somehow makes it evident that Kashmiri pandit is a real culprit.Can’t blame them as there are serious loopholes in Indian vote bank politics and Indian way of Democracy. Kashmiri Hindu is also a culprit because he is well educated, he is non-violent, he is law-abiding, he is hard working, he is still a survivor and above all his heart beats for India. You must have heard of “Kumbah ka Mela” and “ Lord Rama”. Kumbh Mela comes after 12 years, and the Vanvas(exile) of Lord Rama who had to move out of Ayodhya lasted for 14 years. But Hello!!! we are not talking about mythology,we are talking about K.P’s-the hindu minorities of J&K,who don’t have a legal and constitutional voice.Excuse me for reminding you once again that I am a Kashmiri Pandit, uprooted from Kashmir,at the brink of cultural extinction,Victim of politics,still in exile,longing to go back to Kashmir and this is my 21st year in Exile…..

Mr Geelani, were you served biriyani for the day?

Mr Geelani, were you served biriyani for the day?

More than a decade-and-a-half back I was on a photographic assignment to Fatepur Shekhawati, a town in Sikar district of Rajasthan, known for its exquisite havelis and frescos. It was a beautiful, wintry but sunny Friday afternoon at the bus adda in Jaipur. When the bus didn’t leave at its stipulated Rajasthan Roadways timing, I went to the driver to ask why he was delaying the departure. “I am sorry for the delay, bhaisahab,” he said politely and pointing towards a remote corner on the platform, he added, “Some countrymen are offering their Friday namaz.” As I turned around, I found some 8 to 10 Muslims offering namaz in a seamless queue and in perfect synchrony. It was a sight to behold, and to be honest I loved it. For a Muslim in India, and that too in a state like Rajasthan, where Advani et al had left no stone unturned spewing venom against Muslims some years before that on Babri issue, it was azadi at its best.

Since it was only a few years before this incident that I had become a so-called Kashmiri migrant (some Indian dhoti-clad, paan-spitting politicians still call us refugees, not knowing the difference between the two; but that is another story, not debatable here), my instant reaction to this incident was that the bus driver is a Muslim. I could not hold my inquisitiveness and asked him if he was himself a Muslim. Pat came the reply, “I am a Hindu.” Needless to say, I had asked a ridiculous question.

More than a decade-and-a-half later, and some 3 weeks back, as I was taking pictures around old Amirakadal in Srinagar, I found this little boy of around 8-9 years jumping into almost every other frame till he caught me perfectly into one that I intended to have this gloomy-looking but typically-smiling man (a trait wed to Kashmiris – both Pandits and Muslims – despite pain and parch) in thirties selling fresh currency notes in exchange for the old, torn-out currency.

The boy was impressive and innocent, likable to the core, and rather than dissuading him from doing his lovable mischief, I tried to strike a chord with him. Reluctant and shy in the beginning, he walked a step towards me later. “You look pretty smart in the picture,” I complimented. He smiled and came one more step closer, his cheeks growing pink. “Do you want to see how you look?” I asked. “Aa hawkhe haz,” he asked as if doubtful. As I handed over the camera to him for a live view, his doubts shrank and trust grew more. Looking at himself he smiled and tried to frolic away; but before he would, I asked him if he was studying. He gave a vertical nod first and soon effaced it with a horizontal one; seemed to be in no mood to take another question on the topic and freed himself from my grasp and went out of sight.

Long after the incident, the boy was lingering on my mind and I wondered what his hybrid nod meant. Did he mean he was enrolled in a school but because of frequent hartals and official/ unofficial closures he was infrequent to attend; or did he mean school, as it used to be, was nomore a basic right of children in the Valley? I cannot and must not presume answers for this dilemma; because I leave that to Syed Ali Shah Geelani and men and women of his ilk who are so blinded by their personal aspirations and interests that for young boys as these they feel it is wise to let them march from post to pillar instead of encouraging them to go to school. For innocent boys as these – sadly some of whom fell prey to bullets recently – this certainly is not azadi of any sensible kind.

However, for people like Syed Ali Shah Geelani this must be azadi of the very true and ‘kind’ kind. Diagnosed with renal cancer he knows no other country (not to speak of a bankrupt nation as Pakistan) could have been as sumptuous on him as India by providing him free sarkari biriyani and free medical treatment throughout his detentions and doing everything to defy God’s will and keep him up and running against the nation itself. Azadi, for him, is his best weapon to incite vulnerable parents of the Valley to deprive their children of the previous gift of education, exploit youth to pick stones, take out procession and alas, destroy their own futures by what can never be a fulltime, honorable profession; so much so that youth of the Valley have found a good pastime in sanghbazi until CRPF retaliates.

For Syed Ali Shah Geelani azadi, as a Urdu word, would be more sweeter than Kashmiri phirni, since it is this word that helps him blackmail India and extract money from Pakistan to prevent his own fortunes from plummeting. There are reports that Hurriyat chairman has received a whooping 80 crore rupees ever since the “struggle for self-determination” began. Hurriyat is once believed to have remarked that the money was “collected” for “relief and rehabilitation” of “militancy-affected people of the Valley”. Relief and rehabilitation? One may ask where and what did they rehabilitate so far. And can one expect relief and rehabilitation from a party that incites hapless Kashmir’s to come out in to streets, pick stones with an intention to kill or get killed in the process. All this looks preposterous; it may be a human being on one or another side of the fence; at the end of it all, it is someone’s son, someone’s brother, someone’s husband and someone’s loved one that departs.

It has become an irony in Kashmir that when a sanghbaz gets killed, people who initiate him into the most medieval act actually convey his dear ones a message that he was worth just Rs 50 to 150 a day. Well-meaning, thoughtful people of the Valley realize this; some even want to speak out since they believe it is time to be in peace rather than turmoil, but they can’t since either they fear elimination or don’t have a platform to do so. History is also testimony to the fact that evil spreads fast; trampling goodness on its way.

Goodness in the Valley has been strangulated; but fortunately still prevails. People at the grassroots, irrespective of being rich or poor, still beat with a warm heart; they welcome you, they hug you and they respect you as a fellow human being, a fellow Kashmiri from whom they had departed 20 years ago. Matchless hospitality, as against azadi, runs through these people’s veins. Such people – during my personal and innumerable interactions with them – have come as a ray of hope who might keep the impeccable Kashmiriyat alive.

The general perception that I gather is that people of this understanding are well-informed about all aspects of the Valley as it stands ruined post-terrorism now and as it was beautifully flourishing before murderers started getting glorified post-1990s. That must bring Kashmiri awam to Yasin Malik, whom money accumulated from terrorism landed him from a congested Maisuma Bazar house to a plush new bungalow in Maisuma, not to speak of commercial buildings, hotels, and investments in real estate not only in Kashmir but in United Kingdom also. Renunciation of violence, as he has done, after accumulating so much of fortune is a natural and safe recourse from the movement that took lakhs of lives in what he had promised as “separation of Jammu & Kashmir from secular India as an Islamic Nation”. Ironically the guy who can barely speak sense, whenever he opens his mouth, says now he is looking for “peaceful methods to come to a settlement on the Kashmir conflict.” Sadly no one questions his integrity that he had shown earlier, no one dares him ask his accountability for the personal fortunes he has built over the dead. Average, hapless Kashmiri has been and still is at the receiving end; his mind practically a hostage to a misled thought emerging from a perverted mind. The trend is fatal, and if it continues parents would wish in future if only they could have reverse the past for their children’s good.

Bytheway, it is Friday again, and across the length and breadth of the country devout Muslims would be offering juma namaz peacefully (and surely in complete azadi) in thousands of mosques. In the Valley, however, menacing concertina wires have been put up to prevent any human movement. A friend calls me up and says he has run out of milk and vegetables for lunch; and in the same breath (almost as a salute to his Kashmiriyat) he asks me if I needed anything? I tell him I can live on just oxygen-rich air nonstop for at least 76 hours; but am seriously worried about Geelani whether or not he was served in time his regular biriyani for the day ….

source:Dr. Sanjay Parva
the author can be contacted at– drparva@gmail.com

Stone pelters of Srinagar and the walnut tree

http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/indus-calling/entry/stone-pelters-of-srinagar-and

Stone pelters of Srinagar and the walnut tree

Tarun Vijay, 01 July 2010, 08:40 PM IST

Rafiq was a small-time wage earner in Srinagar. He worked in a suburban bag factory as a semi-skilled labourer. His cousin had been found dead in police custody a day before and hence he took leave to join the jenaja — last journey of his dear cousin the week we were in Srinagar to organize a seminar in memory of Syama Prasad Mookerjee, who laid his life for the full and irreversible integration of Kashmir with the rest of India. Suddenly stone pelting began by some of those who were part of the jenaja, as anger mounted to see police personnel in the way, resulting in a shootout.

Next moment, Rafiq, who had come to share the grief of the loss of his brother, was dead. A stray bullet had pierced through him.

I felt disturbed hearing the news. What was Rafiq’s crime? How can one explain to the mother and sister of the poor fellow the reason of his jeneja at the age of 28? Couldn’t the police have acted with some restraint and let the anger pass with looking the other side or just keeping away from the jenaja route? Can all the Muslims in Srinagar or the valley be dubbed anti-nationals and terrorists? If we say the valley belongs to us, then those who people the valley must also be owned up and made to feel our warmth of belongingness.

Kashmir is us. Then surely the people too are our own.

And so was Colonel Neeraj Sood, who died fighting the terrorists. He laid down his life courageously serving the motherland. While we empathized with the family of Rafiq and felt strongly about how police can be further restrained, I found no one, in Srinagar publicly mourning the martyrdom of Colonel Sood.

No politician went to salute his body at the airport, no media organization wrote about his death with a sense of sorrow.

On the contrary, there was a provocative glee on the front pages of the Kashmir dailies describing the colonel’s death.

Why?

The security forces are in Kashmir on the orders of the constitutional powers and they are simply obeying the democratically elected governors. The same people are happily accepted as personal security guards by even the separatist leaders of the valley, but are often mocked at, almost lynched and brutalized when found lonely and vulnerable. I can understand the anger among Delhi or Murshidabad people against the rough and rude behaviour of a police force run under a colonized framework, but if a soldier in khaki is beaten up in Srinagar, it’s not because he is wearing khaki. It’s India he represents. His motherland, India, which is beaten up.

Why?

If the Srinagar youth are us and we feel an affinity with them, it’s not because they are pro-Pakistan or demand separatism, but because we feel they are Indians and we must show our camaraderie to them as fellow citizens living under the grace of the tricolour. Hence, we must share their agonies and pains and dreams and ambitions to rise like Shah Faisal, who topped the Indian Civil Services exam and wants to be a role model for the Kashmiri youth — not the stone pelters.

Jawans of the security forces, which include the police too, are as much children of Mother India as are the Indian Kashmiri youth of the valley.

I visited various parts of Kashmir and know for sure the trouble that hogs the limelight in Delhi and elsewhere is simply limited to a few urban centres crowded by a lazy and almost semiliterate on Kashmir, national and international media. The whole exercise of the stone pelters and their “abbas” is to attract attention and show that not everything is fine in Srinagar. The local people, be those shikarawallas (boat owners in Dal Lake) or small shopkeepers want their business to run, see their children grow in a happy atmosphere, have them study in good schools and colleges and rise in life. For them, business means attracting more tourists. They feel aghast that if these stone-age separatists are so devoted to Kashmiri welfare, why do they spoil their business in the peak tourist season? They don’t want to shut their shops and businesses almost every other day, sometimes for weeks at a stretch, but the fear of getting killed by the anti-national elements and having no corner to take shelter, they yield to the bandh calls of the terrorist groups. It’s the separatists who are using the common Kashmiri as cannon fodder to their lunatic agitational approach, funded and guided by Islamabad. They have a vested interest in keeping the common people poor, backward and indulging in stone pelting, because a happy, prosperous and peaceful Kashmir would delegitimize their claims and demands.

So what happens when a Shiva temple is burnt on the outskirts of Srinagar during a bandh call? Or an Amarnath Yatra is sought to be shrunk to just 15 days in the name of environment protection by those who were responsible to kill the Dal lake with pollutants and have nothing to say about that? When the falsehood overpowers the stark naked truth and the media laps up the make-believe stories strengthening a notion that all Kashmiris support separatism? Nothing.
Half a million Hindus were coerced to leave their homes and nothing happened. Temples were destroyed and nothing happened. Not even a feeble series by a chivalrous mediaperson to document the destruction of places of Hindu worship. The president of the Bar Association of Srinagar gave a statement to the press that said: “I am not Indian.” It was front-paged by many newspapers. Nothing happened. An advocate, who declares that he is not an Indian, is practising in the courts and the authorities are keeping a silence on his mouthful of anti-India statements. Being an Indian has become a matter of loss in Kashmir with the Centre’s Nehruvian policies and provincial politicians using separatist emotions for votes.

No stories on Hindus who still remain in Srinagar and Anantnag. They seem to have been categorized as expendable.

Kashmir is full of good, noble-hearted and intelligent people. It’s only the small coterie of separatists fed on New Delhi’s appeasement and American support (like Hurriyat — no base except a Washington-Islamabad helpline). A scholarly politician, a Muslim leader, was in tears while describing the pathetic condition of Hindus in the valley. And he narrated a true story of an abandoned Hindu home that turned my eyes moist.

In a village near Srinagar, abandoned by Kashmiri Hindus, he saw a walnut tree peeping out of a window. It was a strange sight. Walnut trees are grown in an orchard and not in drawing rooms. He went close and found the tree had taken roots inside a room and since the windows were broken, it grew to the side where the light of the sun came from. The plants always grow like that, towards the sun. How was it possible that a walnut tree was planted inside a room? No, perhaps, and he used his imagination, when the Hindus were on a run, in a hurry a member of the household might have left some walnuts inside the room. Years of moisture and a dilapidated condition of the house, which used to reverberate with sounds of laughter and tears of joy or mourning, made the left-over walnuts take root and grow.

Take root and grow?
A house was turned into a jungle.
And nobody would like to speak about it.
A walnut tree grew from inside a house.

Usually, and quite naturally houses grow under a tree shadow. Trees never grow from within a living house.

The walnut tree growing from inside a baithak, a living room of a family must be telling a tale. Where were the samovars, children, the kahwa and the songs when the walnut took a root?

And the slogans of the Hindu Muslim unity, the sufi tradition, the message of brotherhood emanating from Charar -i-Shareef and Hazrat Bal?

No one answered.

I share the grief of Rafiq. But not at the cost of forgetting the martyrdom of Colonel Sood.
I must, with thanks, reproduce a poetic tribute by Shiv Om Rana to Colonel Neeraj Sood here as my tribute to a great martyr:

An ode to Late Col Neeraj Sood

(who laid down his life Kashmir while chasing terrorists)
Rest In peace.
O! My brother-in-arms.
For you wished very young,
To be thus destined.
Expect not your countrymen,
Or political masters
To mourn or give a trime.
For them your life is yet another brine.
TV channels will show a flick or two,
So will print media do.
But all will be forgotten
In another day or two.
Only your family will carry the cross
Of missing son, brother
Husband or father
For rest of their life.
Rest In peace.
O! My brother-in-arms.
For you wished very young,
To be thus destined.