A Nation Without History

Another fire, another shrine, another enquiry commission and another set of conspiracy theories, nothing seems to have changed. This goes on to prove that we as people and government or Waqf Board as administrators have learned nothing.

We the people in our frenzy to express our love sometimes, ourselves give the kiss of death to the same thing that is very dare to us. At every shrine we ourselves add some new lights, new gadgets etc. without taking into consideration the overall effect of these new additions. Well we can’t blame people wholly and solely for this behavior in the absence of proper system being in place. The administrators of these shrines are themselves responsible for arbitrary additions to the structure, be it the addition of one more building or installation of a new sound system. Thus the Waqf Board and government do not seem to be bothered about ensuring safety and security of these vital structures, through proper planning and implementation. They seem to be just bothered about making sure that the cash flow, in the form of donations, continues without hindrance and with no authority there to ensure their accountability they are making most of it.

The loss of shrines to fire is not the loss of a physical structure only. With every shrine turning to ashes we lose an important phase our history and culture. Every Khanqah or shrine in Kashmir, be it the Khanqah of Tral, shrine of Rishi Manul sahib in Anantnag or the shrine of sheikh Noor-ud-din Noorani at Chrar-e-sharief, is marvel in itself and in addition to being the centers of spirituality they are what connects us to our glorious past. These shrines and khanqas are evidence of our rise from the depths of ignorance to the heights of architectural creativity & cultural superiority. Now, with these physical evidences being consumed by fire, one by one, what will be left for our kids to look at and feel proud about their being Kashmiris!

The importance of these physical structures (mosques, shrines & Khanqahs) as the evidence of our golden era, in the absence of any mention in the history books of schools, has become invaluable. These have remained as the only links to our history. When the growing kid with an unending curiosity tries to know about himself and his homeland and finds nothing in history books, he is plunged into identity crises. In his / her quest to know who he is, he approaches other mediums and that is when he tries to find this answer through television or Indian cinema. Then the teens / juveniles / kids try to identify themselves with what they see on T.V or cinema and try to imitate what they see. This has been the reason of inoculation of many alien customs in our culture over time. In earlier days this identity crisis was overcome by the daily evening dose of folklores and tales and to enhance their effect along the way came to aid our unique Kashmiri culture. With school curriculum becoming extremely gruesome, kids are left with very little time to engage in self or surrounding discovery and as far as folklore are concerned they are things of the past. Even the parents are unable to provide quality time and attention to their wards, thus hampering their overall development. A child’s development cannot be complete unless he knows his roots and history. History is not merely a subject to be taught in schools to make young minds aware of a nation’s past or make him remember significant dates or remembering names of people who made history. Rather it is a tool of sowing seeds of patriotism and nationalism; it is a tool of enlightening the young minds and extending the horizons of their vision; it is a tool of expanding the boundaries of their hearts and making the lines drawn on God’s earth by human hands obsolete. But the question that remains to be answered is what seed are we sowing?

In our schools, kids may learn everything about the sub-continental even world history but the only thing that they learn about Kashmiri history is that Kashmir acceded with India. The young curious minds have the right to know about their history, of how Kashmir was almost the only nation whom the earth shaking Mughal army couldn’t conquer; of how we successfully defended against numerous Chinese attacks, only to be conquered when they attacked in winter; of how we overcame the cruel Monarchy rule under which we were treated as less than humans,we were mercilessly massacred (1931) and despite all the odds we triumphed. After knowing their history there is a realistic chance that they will feel proud about themselves, about who they are and not try to imitate the alien customs. But the question that still remains to be answered is, why is our own history hidden from us, after all we are not a nation without history!

Also Appeared in The Kashmir Monitor

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The Death of a Language, Death of a Nation

While waiting at a bus stop in Delhi once in a while the old DTC (Delhi Transport Corporation) bus passes by. With everything being polished over in the capital city some things are being painted over, like the words written in Urdu on these buses. Soon all these buses will be replaced by the new & glittering ones and there won’t be even this faint shadow of Urdu on Delhi roads. A language is dying and with it a culture is dying but who cares.

Some intellectuals are portraying the decline of Urdu as the loss of Muslims and most Muslims are seeing it as such, which shouldn’t be the case. It is the loss of all the people of subcontinent irrespective of the religion they belong to. Allah in Quran declares that all the languages are His. But Like people we have divided languages into ours and theirs, when it should had only been His. Allah in Quran says (Surah Ar-Room Verse 22) “And one of his signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth and the diversity of your tongues and colors; most surely there are signs in this for the learned”.

The question that comes to mind is even after knowing this, how & when did  we start attributing Urdu with Muslims and Hindi with Hindus. To understand this we will need to travel back in history to the times of Ghalib, 1828-29, when he was in Calcutta (Kolkata). During his stay there he was once invited to Persian poetry reciting (Farsi mushaira ), while he was being escorted there one of the accompanying person’s said that it was very nice of British to start a course at Fort William College to teach and promote Hindi as well as Sanskrit for Hindus, where hitherto Urdu and Persian was being taught to Muslims . On hearing this Ghalib became very furious and is believed to have said, “who told you that Urdu was Muslims Language and Hindi of Hindus. Urdu belongs to Har gopal Tafta and Daya shankar Naseem as much as Hindi belongs to Raskhan. Waris & Fareed have given their love to Punjabi and Amir Khusroo has  enlightened us even through Awadhi. This is nothing but a tactic to divide people using religion and language.” No one can deny that these were prophetic words, but what is deplorable is we are still propagating the same doctrine of division, which was used to make us week and conquerable.

Without doubt New Dehli  is no more Ghalib’s or Mir’s beloved Delhi . If Mirza Ghalib would somehow happen to visit Delhi of today he won’t be able to recognize it, apart from the structural changes the city has changed its language too! After the homeland of Urdu Language, Uttar Pradesh, banished Urdu as a medium of instruction, the city that nurtured & nourished Urdu is now in its earnest trying to deliver the final blow to an already dying language. Soon after the partition When Pakistan became the prime nemesis of India, Urdu was unofficially declared the friend of the enemy, thus an enemy. By the time year 1960 came, Which was celebrated as Ghalib Centennial, the damage to the language was intense and by the year 1969, When All India Ghalib Centenary Committee was formed, the decline of Urdu was so evident that well known Indian poet Sahir Ludhahanvy could bear it no more and wrote these couplets:

in Shahrun mein gonjiy thiy Ghalib ki nawa barsun

Un shahrun mein ab Urdu be nam-o nishan tehriy

Azadiy-I Kamil ka aglan hua jis din

Is mulk key nazrun mein ghadar zuban tehriy

The cities in which Ghalib’s poetry echoed for decades

Now Urdu is hardly a known language in those cities

The day complete freedom was decreed for India

The same day Urdu became a “treacherous tongue” in India

Since then little has been done to stop the downward slide of the Urdu language in Delhi or anywhere in India. In 2003 then President Abdul Kalam gave his nod to the Delhi Official Language Bill, 2000, by virtue of which Punjabi & Urdu became second official Languages of Delhi. Even after that little has changed on the ground; there are no milestones written in Urdu, No Bus has destination or route written in Urdu, Students are not encouraged to study Urdu in Schools even in Muslim majority areas. If you happen to visit any Book Shop in the old Delhi and read aloud any Urdu words written on walls of the shop, the shop keeper can’t help but to look in awe. Urdu is dying a slow but certain death in Delhi.

Closer home the things are no good as well, Urdu is official language of Kashmir but till recently even legislations weren’t in the official language and only a court order made the government to do so. Urdu is namesake official language of Kashmir but English happens to be the working language. This apathy towards Urdu comes as no surprise here, what can be expected of the people who are hell bent to kill their own mother tongue, Kashmiri. People feel ashamed to talk in their mother tongue as if doing so suddenly drags then down, to the level of untouchables, from the heavenly heights. Our academicians , Journalists, intellectuals, bureaucrats, politicians etc talk of promoting and nourishing Kashmiri in public but when they are in there own echelons or in privacy of their homes Kashmiri is a big no! there is no better way to describe the deplorable condition of Kashmiri than the fact that the number of people who can read & write Kashmiri fluently can be counted on finger tips. Recently government has reintroduced Kashmiri in schools but the zeal is missing.

In Kashmir people were divided on religion and language, When pundits migrated from Kashmir with them Hindi also migrated. Yes here one is forced to say “History repeats itself” but there is one more saying about history that we have overlooked “Learn from history”. After pundit migration almost three generations were born who can’t read or write Hindi. Even now Hindi is not being taught in any of the government schools in Kashmir. Hindi being the national language of India should be taught in every school. Moreover what makes Hindi more important is the fact that when one travels to any major city of India, if he/she doesn’t know Hindi, he/she is  as good as an illiterate.

Languages should not be and are not property of a particular of any religion; they are the holders & keepers of heritage of the people of that region. Hindi, Urdu, Bengali are the language of the subcontinent and that is how they should be treated.

With every year at least one Language dyes and the death of these couple of language should be of no significance, but what is of significance is what is lost with them. Every language gives us a different perspective with which to look at the universe and then try to understand our own world. Death of language does not mean death to that language only but with it its stories, the poetry and history also dies. So death of a language is not only death to that language but death of a nation!

Also Appeared in The Kashmir Monitor and Bloggers Park

Tinted cars of Kashmir

Supreme Court of India in its order on 28th April 2012, asked vehicle owners to have tints on their car glasses only within the permitted limit. If vehicle owners fail to comply they would be held liable for contempt of court and monetary punishment, if they do not toe the line by May 4.

As per the rules provided under the Motor Vehicles Act, 1989, the permissible limits for the front and rare windscreens is 30 % and for side window panes it is 50%. to put it in simple terms, if your car has black film on the front and rear windscreens that blocks light by more than 30% and the tint on the side window panes is more than 50%, then you could be in contempt of court in addition to being prosecuted as per the rules provided under the Motor Vehicles Act.

As far as Kashmir is concerned we all know that there no place for rules and regulations. So implementation of Supreme Court orders is a far cry. to prove my point below are some photographs of official vehicles with tinted panes, against supreme court guidelines, but who is afraid of supreme court here! 

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In the above photograph we clearly see that the tints on windscreens and panes is beyond the permissible  limits. Are security forces allowed to use non military vehicles and are they exempted from from the court orders. Is this how they do the dirty jobs (black ops),  by flaunting rules of country of which they are supposed to be guardians.

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The above pic is of a departmental vehicle, can we ask who gave it permission for its tinted windscreens and panes?

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The above two pics are of an official vehicle with tints beyond permissible limits. If the officials who are supposed to implement the supreme court orders on ground go against it then who will uphold the rule of law?

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In the above pic the official car has no tints on the front and rare windscreens but the side panes have tints  beyond permissible limits and the irony is, that the traffic cop who is supposed to stop the car and remove  the tints on side panes, is making way for the officials car. We can’t not blame the cop he is simply doing what he is supposed to do, making way. If the higher authorities are not serious about implementation of supreme court guidelines and themselves violate it, how can we expect the lower ranks to take it seriously.

There are even some senior politicians who move in tinted cars but who will dare to stop them. The only hope of supreme court guidelines being implemented in Kashmir is supreme court taking “sou moto” of the situation (case).

Reclaiming The Paradise

5th June has been celebrated as “World Environment Day” (WED) since 1972, it is hosted every year by a different city with a different theme. It has grown to become one of the main events for the United Nation Environment Program (UNEP) to spread awareness about the environment. This event is not only about spreading awareness but also to encourage political attention and action, as it is not a hidden secret that politicians have only tried to doge or sideline the Environmental issues rather than taking them head on.

Through WED UNEP tries to personalize environmental issues and make everyone realize their responsibility and empower them to become change agents by highlighting the effect & power of our individual actions.

This year WED was hosted by Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and the theme was “Green Economy”. The UNEP defines the Green Economy as one that results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities.

World Environment Day (WED) celebrations  got underway on Friday (1st June) at Rio de Janeiro’s iconic Christ the Redeemer statue with the Government of Brazil and the UNEP launching the Green Passport initiative, which is aimed at changing the behavior of travelers and  tourists within and outside the country.

The technology has made world a smaller place with knowledge and news being shared instantaneously. All the countries in the world try to learn from each other and try to emulate the best practices, but we here in Kashmir are satisfied with taking up what everyone else kicks out. With the world focusing in transforming their economies in to greener ones, we are satisfied with making it blacker with the ever increasing soot from cars & trains.

The bureaucrats and politicians of Kashmir are well versed when it comes to figuring out how to take their percentage from each project, when defending their actions which sometimes are in gross violation of rules & regulations. While doing all this never seem to be at the loss of words, but somehow they never seem to have heard words like planning, implementation, green technology or sustainability. These are the same bureaucrats who with criminal nexus with corrupt politicians tore the Green-Belt to shreds for their own greed. These people should have been tried in the court of law but our judicial system doesn’t dare to touch them, can someone dare to raise even a finger towards the erstwhile bureaucrat’s farm house in Dachigam- National Park?

Kashmir is known as the “Paradise on Earth”, it beauty is unparallel, it takes any visitors breath away at the very first glimpse and thus it has a greet tourism potential, which yet remains to be exploited fully. With every spring a rush of tourists visit valley and with almost no infrastructure to support it, a lot of problems come to fore. There are no public lavatories or urinals at any of the tourist places, be it inside Srinagar or outside! So tourists and common people are forced to take natures call by violating the nature only. Dustbins are an endangered species here in Kashmir, so if a person in need of one finds it he/she feels extremely lucky. These are very basic facilities that should be available to everyone and their absence only helps in the erosion of beauty that we are so proud of. Government should take steps on war footings to make these facilities available at all tourist & market places.

Government should start a campaign similar to “green passport” which would help in informing the tourists about do’s & do not’s. We could use such an initiative to sensitise tourists about the importance of different historical places and how we as a nation would appreciate of them not spitting on the walls of our history. Tourists could be encouraged not to through rubbish from their vehicles on roads or anywhere else except in dustbins, if they can’t find a dustbin on road they should carry it to their hotel and make use of hotel dustbin. Same applies to us, the residents, only if we care for our environment.

Agriculture land is being converted into residential at an alarming rate, despite a ban in effect, but no one seems to be bothered. Where from are we supposed to satisfy our food needs in future? It will transform us into a beggar nation, knocking on every door (neighboring states) asking for some food, is that what we want?

We certainly cannot blame government for everything; a society is what we as people make of it. So if our society is full of filth we are to blame, isn’t it we who throw rubbish around or is it someone from outside who comes and does it. We always rue about non action of government, take the case of polythene, when there was no ban we wanted it to be banned when it was banned we still complain about governments inaction. And all along what did we do besides complaining, we demanded polythene (carry bags) from shopkeepers, as we feel ashamed to carry a paper or cloth bag from home. If we stop demanding and using polythene wouldn’t the government ban be more effective.

There are certain aspects in which government certainly cannot shrug of it responsibility, like the upcoming Hydroelectric power plant in Gurez. Many environmentalists have been claiming that it is an environmental disaster and it will uproot a lot of people. So can we ask why, despite these apprehensions and without answering them properly, the government is still allowing the project to go ahead? Is it our own Mr. 10% at work or is it 20%?

When we as a state should have been pioneers & promoter of green technology, we are just satisfied with second grade technology which just enhances the rate of erosion of our environment. Government allowed diesel engine trains to run in Kashmir when they could have easily made railways to opt for electricity driven trains in J&K or Kashmir at least. Are they waiting for the pollution levels to reach near to that of other metro cities in India and only then will they make such a move, Haven’t our bureaucrats heard precaution is better than cure and in this case there is no cure at all.

With the number of cars and buses increasing rapidly, the amount of green house gases that are being added to our environment is astronomical. Government should seriously think about emulating Delhi in making Public transport to run on CNG, but it seems our government has other priorities than attend to the environmental mess.

Even the Srinagar Airport clearly shows that environment is not our priority. This energy guzzling building is a blot in the name of state of art technology that exists today. When Empire State building in New York can be converted into world’s one of the most energy efficient buildings why can’t we transform our little Airport into one? An airport introduces a place to the tourists or visitors and portrays (communicates) that places priorities to them, well our airport communicates a lot but certainly not a thing about our concern towards our environment!

It is our environment that makes Kashmir Paradise on earth, and to preserve it should be our highest priority. Technology has provided the ways and means of transforming an environment into a greener one, we certainly should, without further delay, promote and become pioneers of green technology in our quest to reclaim our paradise.

Also Appeared in “The Kashmir Monitor