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The longest night-recalling 19 jan 1990

Posted in kashmir by Sandeep on January 27, 2011


January 19, 1990.Twenty one years have already passed since that dreadful day which turned into a never ending longest night, when dawn that ends the darkness of the previous night so very naturally,seemed to be a distant dream. When you think of those agonizing and tormenting hours of that night even today, your heart misses a beat and if you do not come out of that nightmarish experience immediately, there is every possibility of going into convulsions that could lead to a catastrophe. Such is the impact and the imprint of that day on our lives that you have to carry those scary and torturous memories with you till you are alive. Chila Kalan was at its worst, it had not snowed for quite some time and the sub zero temperature was sending a chill down your spine. On top of it, there was mounting tension in the air. Selective killings of Kashmiri Pandits had already started and we like eternal fools were still awaiting some miracle to take place that could restore some kind of normalcy. I, unlike other days, came home early around 6 pm. As usual, I parked my car on the main road near the then Kani Kadal Fire Station just across the shop of the milk maid famous for her PANEER and then walked through the 9 serpentine KOCHAS leading to my home situated on the eastern banks of KUTA KOHL, once a roaring tributary of Vitasta.All the houses on our side belonged to Kasjhmiri Pandits with the sole exception of a house whose owner was one Munnawar Sheikh,a well respected trader of Kashmir Arts, and surprisingly the same was true of the other side, but in reverse, where every one was a muslim with the sole exception of a house belonging to Moti Lal Bhan who as a teacher had achieved a celebrity status in his profession.

It will be interesting to recall the days preceding the deadly night of the 19th January and my personal experience of those horrible days. Mohan Chiragi ,(it is so difficult to add prefix ‘late’ to his name) against heavy odds had taken it on himself to bring out the Srinagar edition of leading Urdu national daily newspaper QUAMI AWAZ, already being published from New Delhi, Lucknow and Patna. The paper was an instant success, and its office in the KHIDMAT HOUSE on the bund at Abi Guzar Srinagar was a meeting point for all those who still had the courage to talk differently – against the militancy. A 30 plus strong staff of reporters, correspondents, copyists, Katibs , photographers and those on administrative duty had to be taken care of. And remember, all of them were kashmiri muslims. The staff working late at night was more keen to have me with them and it suited both Chiragi and myself. They were all nice boys, doing their duty as dedicated newsmen, yet you could not rule out the possibility of someone leading them astray, if left alone. And why were the staffers keen that, I stay with them till they close down for the day – usually10-30 or 11 pm – a deathly time those days. I was in fact their insurance. Tahir Mohi-ud-Din (now Editor of very popular Urdu weekly CHATAAN published from Srinagar) was the News Editor and he had to be left at his residence in Natipora. He was so scared of crossing the Ram Bagh bridge, where the security forces would subject anyone at that late hour, and rightly so, to a thorough search, which could mean staying out in the cold for quite some time. It just did not matter that you were a PATARA KAAR, the local journalists had already started calling themselves so. My presence would mean an easy and out of turn hassle free passage. Not only that, Morfat Qadiri son of that legendry journalist Qadiri Saheb had to be dropped at Narsingh Garh, but not before some more staffers had to be dropped en route at TankiPora, Dalhasanyar and Bana Mohalla. The real ‘fun’ would begin at Tankipora-Zaindar Mohalla. Incidentally, I discovered that the Jeep we were travelling in, was displaying HAZA MIN FAZAL-I RUBI in bold letters on its front bonnet, the legend was not there a few days back.Besides, even QUAMI AWAZ was very discreetly obliterated from the front wind screen. Coming back to Zaindar Mohalla. It would be pitch dark by the time we reached there. No street lights , no lights even in the residential houses on either side of the road. Atmosphere so eerie, as if the entire city had been taken over by ghosts and suddenly the head lights of the vehicle would show some creepy movement far ahead of us and the jeep passengers in one voice would say BISAM-I-ALLAH and ALLAH-O-AKBAR and the driver would immediately use the dipper thrice to signal to the now visible crowd , maybe 50 yards ahead of us that we were a friendly lot .We would slow down and the hostile crowd of some twenty to thirty young boys at that unearthly hour surrounded us immediately. You could see two or three of them displaying AK 47 rifles and few having pistols in their hands. SOURAI YASEEN was continuously recited by the staffers and none seemed to be worried about me ,strangely they wanted me to take care of them even when we were confronted by militants. After identifying ourselves as journalists representing KASHMIR TIMES(this was their own paper), they singled me out and wanted me to step out of the jeep. I was absolutely unperturbed and rest of my fellow passengers almost collapsed expecting to see last of me. There was further shock in store for them when they saw and heard me shouting at the leader of this blood thirsty crowd,” Haya Ashqa…………..” He came running towards me trying to hide his AK and responded,” Papa, how are you here(in Kashmiri)…………..”. I knew this Ashqa, a young twenty odd years old, 6 footer with an athletic built from 1984 when he was a member of the youth wing of the Awami National Conference led by Kh. G.M.Shah. He immediately ordered his crowd to get lost and allowed us to go but not before he obliged me by giving a demonstration of their routine nocturnal activities. Within a fraction of a second, the crowd re assembled and as per our agreement , we could restart our journey only when we could not hear them any more. With the engine of the jeep resting, it was silence of the grave yard all around and all of a sudden the silence was broken by the bone chilling chorus singing by the militants led by Ashqa who had started moving in 4 abreast column towards Haba Kadal (for obvious reasons), and what were they singing: JAGO JAGO SUBAH HUYEE, ROOS NE BAAZI HARI HAI, HIND PE LARZA TAARI HAI,AB KASHMIR KI BAARI HAI, JAGO JAGO SUBAH HUYEE. Those who were unlettered and illiterate in the crowd, and they formed the majority, would say:JAGO JAGO SUBAHAN VOUTHI HOUYE ( wake up, wake up; it will be utter chaos in the morning ). And imagine the plight of those of us going through this torture night after night. Nowhere did we ever see a policeman or any other security personnel en route.

And on 19 Jan 1990, Bahadur was home too and so was my brother Ashok. Bahadur lighted the coal BUKHARI and we settled down to a hot cup of tea, exchanging blank glances. My mother, who had lost her vision almost completely in both eyes because her surgery was indefinitely deferred due to turmoil in the valley, was the only one asking questions on current affairs. Clock on the wall showed it was already 7 pm, and it was time to switch on the TV for news. The telephone started ringing, it was my sister from Narsing Garh,” Papa, can you hear something…………….?” She was quite nervous and scared. I could hear some sloganeering in the distance through my receiver, but could not make out what it was all about. It was scary though. I tried to reassure my sister and wanted her to give more details. All that she could say was that huge crowds seem to be coming from Chhatabal area towards Karan Nagar and they were raising anti India, pro Pak slogans. The cause of concern was, they were raising anti-Batta slogans too. She wanted to confirm if such slogans were raised elsewhere too. She was sure that her time was up and she bid me a tearful god bye. I was at my horn’s end, I really did not know what to do. I again rang her up and she let me hear the loud and clear slogans raised apparently by huge crowds that were zeroing in, and I asked her to keep calm and not to lose hope. I once again assured her that all would be well within a few hours, but who could guarantee a few hours of safety ? Our side was still Ok, but then a call came from Bana Mohalla, they too repeated the same and worse, they had seen people coming out on roads , huddled up in groups sort of conspiring. And then it was the same all over the city. It seemed the city had been taken over by JKLF, the only terrorist outfit operating then. It was 9pm and we saw hordes of muslims coming out on Guru Bazar bund on the other side of Kutta Kohl and they were not raising any slogans, but their whispering was reaching us loud and clear. There was total black out on our side. All KP households had put their lights out and all the family members virtually huddled up in a single room with no lights on. Just on the other side of this once mighty rivulet,which was now reduced to a drain and one could walk across it on foot in less than five minutes, we saw some people, not more than five or ten moving in that minus 5 degrees C temperature, pointing towards our house. We could distinctly hear them,” Look, they are enjoying the warmth of the BUKHARI………but for how long?” Both my brother and myself and Bahadur too failed to make out who they were. It semed we were still out of the harm’s way. But suddenly the situation took a turn for the worse. One of my telephones no: 3223 got disconnected but the other no: 5273 coming from the muslim side was, thankfully in working order. Hundreds of muslims came out of their homes, braving the freezing cold started raising threatening slogans not only at a hearing distance but also at a hand shaking distance .Time now was 11pm. Now onwards it semed the time too froze. I started receiving desperate calls, now from Bansi Parimo, a little tater from Rageshwari ,both from Sanat Nagar, and then from Wanabal and Rawalpora. End seemed a few minutes away and help was coming from nowhere. I called up who’s who of JK Police, some did not pick up the phone and others sheepishly expressed their inability and helplessness to provide any relief. I called Mohan Chiragi in Delhi and got all the nos: of those who mattered. One of them was the then Home Secretary, one Shiromani Sharma, He was sort of disturbed by my call and was shockingly surprised to hear that the situation was that bad. He confessed that nobody had informed him about this looming tragedy. He promised help. I did not stop there. I traced Mufti Mohd Syed in Mumbai,where he was addressing a public meeting, and got in touch with him. It took me a lifetime to reach him, it was just past midnight and he advised me not to panic, help was on way. I repeatedly called some of my Muslim friends and soon discovered that it was a futile exercise. It was one muslim lady of Rawalpora, who sounded as worried and tense as we were and that was a big consolation . In the meantime, our immediate neighbors with whom we shared a common wall, stealthily walked into our ground floor sitting room to feel little more at ease .My calls to army did not mature and the blood thirsty , hostile crowd seemed to be knocking at our doors. Death was imminent. Something had to be done and done very quickly. My brother and myself chalked out a plan. Plan to die heroically. There was one satisfaction: Anoo and Chandan were safe in Delhi. We had seen them off alongwith photo journalist Mushtaq at Srinagar airport only a few days earlier. Everybody in the neighborhood was convinced that we had lots of weapons in our home, though the truth is that my brother had just one double barrel licensed gun at home. We had a box full of cartridges too. Frontal attack would come from across the Kotta Kohl, they could come in hordes and we decided to shot as many rounds as possible ,killing or injuring all in the line of fire. In the meantime, we prepared the womenfolk to lay down their lives by self immolation. A can full of kerosene oil was kept handy. It goes to the credit of my mother and her age old friend Rupavati to volunteer for this kind of death . Even Bahadur’s wife and her two young kids prepared themselves for the ultimate sacrifice. One last attempt, I called an army no: in Udhampur and was assured by an officer of the rank of a major that a column of soldiers was kept ready and it would move out from Badami Bagh Cantt. soon. How soon, SOON would be, was a million dollar question. The night seemed unending. It was 3am. I called the muslim lady in Rawalpora once again. She sounded a little relaxed and I was re assured. I connected the movement of the army column with her near positive response. The army would obviously reach Rawalpora first through the bye-pass, but my calculations were ill founded. She clarified that since their neighbor, a senior politician and an ex minister too had joined the militant processionists ,and advised her husband to follow suit and her husband had willingly obliged him by joining the anti Indian processionists some of whom were armed to the teeth . They were convinced that AZADI was only a few feet away and they could ill afford not to be part of this victorious team .Incidentally both these gentlemen are living today, while one of them retired as a chief justice of a State high court, the other rose to be a cabinet minister once again.

The last to call around this time was Inderji from Ishbar, the hostile crowds had come out on roads even at this late hour, to ensure that they are not denied the share of Azadi, now round the corner. One thing was evident, Bhattas (kashmiri Pandits) all across the city of Srinagar were waiting with baited breath for the eventuality – death at the hands of their one time neighbors who were prowling the streets raising venomous anti Bhatta slogans . There was no news from rest of the Valley.The time shown by the grand- father clock on the wall was just past 4am, but that hardly made any difference, the menacing crowd just a few meters away from our doors was more restive than an hour earlier, even when the temperature had dipped to around minus 7degrees Celsius. You just heard the battle cry of ALI ALI and the women folk started chanting SHIV SHAIV SHAMBU and we loaded the gun. End seemed a second away. Nothing happened . Ashok looked at me and we concluded that the marauding crowds were probably waiting for a signal to attack the Pandits simultaneously all over the city, or else why should they have not attacked us after raising that battle cry.. After all it would not take more than a million strong agitating blood thirsty mobs parading the city streets for almost nine hours to decimate the already almost frozen to death Kashmiri Pandit community in a jiffy. Another call to that major in Udhampur, this time he gave me a telephone no: of some other officer in Badami Bagh cantt. I called him and to my surprise, he responded immediately assuring me that the column was ready and they were awaiting the orders from the civil authority. “Where is the civil authority” I retorted, but alas! He had disconnected the line. Waiting for the inevitable, the deathly silence was broken by the howling of stray dogs and my mother was the first to hear BAANG from a distant mosque and she jumped,” tala, gash ha aao……” (look, it is dawn). We removed a part of the curtain hesitatingly and could see the silhouette of huge crowds, now unbelievably silent, disappearing into narrow lanes and within a few minutes with better visibility, we could hardly see anybody on the bund. Was it a jumbo repreive ?

Our house was the target, we learnt later, but was not attacked for fear of heavy reprisals. After all, they were convinced that our house was actually an ammunition dump and we could take then hell out of the ill armed hordes even if they were large in numbers. But why did they not annihilate the rest of us? Who and what saved us that day? And look at our naivete, most of us continued to live there after surviving that nightmare.

The author of this article is MR.shiben kishen tikoo…

Bending to Separatists: Betraying the Tiranga

Posted in india, kashmir by Sandeep on January 25, 2011

Bending to Separatists: Betraying the Tiranga
Nancy Kaul
25 January 2011

India ’s flag is the pride of the country, symbol of our national sovereignty, our constitution, our freedom. The Tiranga stands for our national self-respect, our valour, dignity, unity, and territorial integrity. The fluttering tricolour is the first and foremost identity of the Indian nation. It is for the Tiranga that our armed and security forces are ever ready to shed their blood to secure India from within and at the borders with their sacrifices and martyrdom.

Every 26 January, the country led by the President salutes the Tiranga, presented by the defence and security forces of the country. Salutation to the Indian nation and the right of unfurling the national flag on Republic Day (26 Jan.) and on Independence Day (15 Aug.) is a right every Indian citizen enjoys under the constitution.

Non-hoisting of the national flag at Lal Chowk in Srinagar is nothing less than a betrayal of the nation. In 2008, separatists tore down the Indian tricolour during the unrest created by the Hurriyat Conference (a conglomerate of 23 anti-national and separatist organizations), along with the PDP and other politicians from the Valley.

“De ragda, de ragda, Hindustan (they chanted, vehemently stamping their feet on national flags spread out beneath their feet), jive jive Pakistan .” There followed a mad frenzy of slogans and the hoisting of the Pakistani flag.

CRPF was forced to be a mute spectator to disrespect of such magnitude and State DGP Kuldeep Khuda allowed the Pakistani flag to flutter unmolested at Lal Chowk for several hours, atop the very clock tower where the Tiranga fluttered for many years, even as terrorists continued to attack Lal Chowk with grenades and fidayeen attacks.

On both occasions of Republic Day and Independence Day in 2010, the betrayal continued unchecked by the State authorities and the national flag was not allowed to be hoisted even by Security Forces over the Lal Chowk clock tower.

Now, in 2011, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has announced that no one will be allowed to go to Lal Chowk to hoist the flag as it would antagonize the people. “What is the need for an individual to hoist the flag,” he asked. This prompted terrorist Yasin Malik (chairman, JKLF) to challenge the decision of the BJP Yuwa Morcha to hoist the flag at Lal Chowk on Jan. 26. “I challenge them to come and hoist the flag,” Malik said while addressing a seminar in Srinagar .

These synchronized statements of the Chief Minister and the separatists point to a deep and evil design to push the tide of Indian nationalism back from the state, particularly at a time when the separatists and militants are facing diminishing popular returns. Once the Chief Minister declared he would not allow anyone to enter the state boundaries, Yasin Malik and his slogan-shouting goons were allowed to move freely in a procession to Lal Chowk.

It may be recalled that on 11 Sept. 2010, Mirwaiz Umer Farooq had asked people to march to Lal Chowk from Idgah after Id prayers, which culminated in rioting, violence, burning of Government and security buildings, and the waving of Pakistani flags as his Azadi cacophony continued in Srinagar, leading to a situation best described as instigating and waging war against the State. Yet the Government and State Police Chief looked the other way.

These separatists and anti-nationals are allowed to raise Pakistani flags, yet the Chief Minister and his administration are happy to toe the line of secessionists by not allowing the Indian flag to be unfurled on Republic Day! In fact, Mr Omar Abdullah is even suggesting that there is no nationalist in Kashmir and that not one citizen there wants the Indian flag to be unfurled in Srinagar city! This is grave injustice to those who believe in India and gave their lives for its unity, such as Maqbool Sherwani and Brig Rajender Singh.

These statements must be seen in the light the oft-repeated cacophony emanating out of Pakistan : On 26 Sept. 2010, Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit claimed the state is not an integral part of India and the issue cannot be resolved within the ambit of the Indian Constitution.

Is preventing the unfurling of the Indian flag in tune with a signal from Pakistan ? Certainly not allowing fellow countrymen to enter the State reeks of the agenda of Sheikh Abdullah and has chilling shades of 1953 when Dr Syama Prasad Mookerji was arrested for entering the State of Jammu and Kashmir disrespecting the ‘permit system’ for entry, and then ‘allowed’ to die in jail in circumstances that remain unexplained to this day.

By deploying such heavy force and repeating the same folly, sealing Srinagar as if it were a fortress under siege by hostile forces, the State and Central Governments are furthering the cause of the secessionists. At the time of writing, BJP leaders Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley and Anantha Kumar, who flew to Jammu airport to support the beleaguered cadres of the Yuwa Morcha, were confined within the airport building and asked to return to Delhi . They would do well to stay put till 26 Jan. and unfurl the flag in the airport terminal itself, unless better sense prevails.

It would be in the fitness of things for all other senior BJP leaders, including Chief Ministers, to rush to the State and challenge Mr Omar Abdullah and his administration to arrest them. A full blown crisis could make at least Mr Farooq Abdullah see sense and pave the way for an ultimate resolution of the confrontation. This would also be an appropriate moment for the President of India and the Supreme Court of India to find a way to remove Article 370 from the statute book and fully integrate the state into the Indian nation, which will prove to be the biggest boon to its own poor citizenry.

The right to hoist a flag at Lal Chowk is every Indians’ right. As Congressman lawyer Abhishek Manu Singhvi said in the Supreme Court in the flag case: Indeed, the very denial of the right to fly the Flag to the Indian citizen – as was the existing status quo for decades after independence – is itself the manifestation of a psychological mindset, a subservience to imperial and colonial notions of governance and a slavish approach to nationhood. Such a denial perpetuates the hiatus between the governors and the governed which is fundamentally antithetical to the very concept of a Republic signified by the emotive and euphoric opening words of our Constitution, ‘We the people of India …’

When Prime Minister Manmohan Singh bats for Omar Abdullah on the issue of denial of the right to unfurl the flag at Lal Chowk, he should view himself as another pawn in the agenda of the secessionists and separatists to hit at the umbilical cord that binds Jammu & Kashmir to India . To appease them is to compromise with the nationhood and sovereignty of India .

Prime Minister, this is your litmus test. Pakistan ’s ex-foreign minister has said that you had virtually concluded an agreement on Jammu and Kashmir , a sovereign part of our country. Is this true? What was the agreement? And is the obstinate insistence on not flying the flag on 26 Jan. at Lal Chowk a part of this understanding?

Have you – like Dharmaraja Yudhisthira after he gambled away his freedom and that of his brothers in a game of dice – promised to give away that which does not belong to you? Such a pact would be bad in law and morality.

The author is convener, Daughters of Vitasta..


Contrition of a separatist leader….

Posted in JAMMU & KASHMIR, kashmir by Sandeep on January 4, 2011

21 years may not be a long time in History but for a mortal like man it is a hell lot of time. One entire generation is born and raised in 20+ years. Time provides a tough challenge and makes or breaks sprit in men. For some It gives them courage to speak truth which though looks very easy, but in reality ,is one of the most difficult virtues to stand for. Not everyone can be like Mahatma Gandhi who makes Truth look so easy and who practices non-violence in form of thought, word and deed. But at least one can always try to stand for Truth. Recently Separatist leader Prof. Abdul Ghani Bhat also showed some courage as he spilled the beans,and spoke that truth, which for long ,pro-pakistani separatists were hiding in their hearts.
His stark revelation was long known to Indian administration, but in this phase of unrest ,nobody would have believed them. It may come as a shock for some to know that their beloved religious leader Moulvi Faroq and Separatist leader Abdul Ghani lone were cold bloodily murdered by their own men!!! Prof. Bhat revealed, that even his brother, Mohammed Sultan Bhat, was also killed by those who were espousing the separatists cause.

From his speech, I have extracted some of his statements..
““We have to first accept and speak the truth about ourselves. We can’t build a movement on lies,”
““This movement started with the assassinations of thinkers and the people who held an opinion,”
“If you want to rid people of Kashmir of sentimentalism bordering on insanity, you have to speak the truth.”
“India didn’t kill him either.”

Prof. Bhat also flayed the idiosyncratic dictum of chronological hartals, forced by “G” faction of Hurriyat, which affect common man the most and termed it as a result of “no thinking” and “no strategy” on the part of Hurriyat Hawk syed ali shah Geelani. Geelani was also imputed for the death of 114 innocent lives as his faction was spearheading the 6 month long agitation.

Some blame, definitely lies with Indian administration also because ,they are also responsible for the imbroglio in Kashmir. If Kashmiri Muslims feel alienated, from rest of Country, It is the responsibility of Indian administration which includes both governments at state and centre to dispel their fears of alienation.
Sometimes,I wonder if the problem of Kashmir has been created by India? Is article 370 mainly responsible for the sense of alienation as far as Kashmiri Muslims are concerned! Because that article somehow, somewhere has created a division of inequality in the minds of Kashmiri Muslims. Mainstream Political parties speak of “Self Rule”And “Greater Autonomy” which further strengths the idea in Kashmiri Muslims that they are unequal to rest of the Indians. I would definitely like to ask the mainstream political parties of Kashmir about the concept of “self rule” or “Greater Autonomy” and how it can dilute the fears of alienation faced by Kashmiri Muslims!
At the time of India-Pakistan Partition, we all know that J&K was under the monarchial rule of Maharaja Hari Singh who acceded to India by his own will. Since Pakistan was not even born before 1947, there was not any uprising based purely on religion, as is in the case of today’s Kashmir. It was not any “epiphany” for common masses , as was stated by noted Novelist Arundati roy, But a heavy dose of lies and conspiracy coated with religion, which has made the” Kashmir”, of today.
Coming back to Prof. Bhat’s catharsis and contrition of heart, His revelations have uncovered the ugly facet of so called Kashmir Freedom struggle , which was draped otherwise in a thick layer of lies. This whole episode also implies the struggles and war of pride, prejudice, envy and personal aspirations of those who claim to be at the helm of the struggle. Another thing which became clear from this episode is that, there is lot of rivalry between different separatists, for supremacy, of becoming “the Alpha” among leaders of Kashmir.