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Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri

Panun Kashmir

Milchar

Symbol of Unity

 
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Preface

A brief historical background is in order to introduce this work, which is an expression of my experiences of the last violent decade in Kashmir.

Having failed through three major wars to annex the state of Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistan hatched a low intensity proxy war by fuelling insurgency in the state. She cashed on the religious sentiments of its Muslim youth and provided them incentives to cross over to training camps in that country for religious indoctrination and instruction in subversion and guerrilla warfare. During the years 1986-1990 thousands of these trained youth were pushed back in batches as warriors (Mujahids) and equipped with sophisticated arms and lethal ammunition to wage a war of ‘liberation’ (Jihad) under the command of numerous terrorist outfits remote-controlled in Pakistan. The ‘Jihad’ started with threats, abduction, torture and killing of the minority Hindus of the Kashmir valley (the Kashmiri Pandits), who were forced to flee. It resulted in the exodus of nearly three hundred and fifty thousand people into the neighbouring province of Jammu and the plains of India in the first half of 1990. 

Meanwhile, death and destruction continue in the valley, the armed bands burning down educational institutions, bridges and vital communications, looting, vandalising and burning the leftover properties of Pandits, enforcing Islamic diktat on the masses and holding civil servants to ransom in order to run the administration by proxy.

Soon what was believed to have started as a freedom movement degenerated into a massive operation of loot, extortion and rape. The majority of Kashmiri Pandits having fled, the guns were now turned towards the moderates amongst Muslims and the common village folk. Their initial enthusiasm and support for militancy cooled off as the Mujahids who started as their heroes showed their true colours as they indulged in a relentless spree of plundering forests, looting properties, collecting forced donations from the salaries and earnings of every working person, coercing people to enlist their young boys for training in the camps, and demanding their unwed girls in matrimony. As a vested interest developed in militancy, new power equations evolved and foreign mercenaries were pumped in to fill the vacuum created by the capture, surrender and death of ‘local militants’ in internecine battles and counter insurgency operations. In spite of some containment of militancy, the militant groups have expanded their field of operations into Jammu with their hit and run tactics of causing bomb blasts in busy bazaars, bus stands and railway stations and the selective killings of Hindus in remote villages, the militants entrenching themselves in inaccessible dense forests.

These poems written during the last ten years have been arranged in three sections. The first section unfolds the rise of militancy in Kashmir which was touted as the bastion of Hindu Muslim amity and the epicentre of cultural synthesis (Kashmiriyat) and religious tolerance. The Pandits and their gods are under attack as the Muslim fundamentalists seek to cleanse the valley of ‘infidels’, creating terror, charge sheeting them for treason, exhorting the masses to revolt and throw them out of their homeland.

The second section describes the exodus and the rootlessness of exile; the hurt, trauma and anguish of an itinerant existence away from home; the haunting memories of the past and the present persecutions; the vulnerability of life and the spectre of death in the refugee camps. Their preoccupation with the search for their roots and their gods and the mental debate as to whether they failed their gods or the gods failed them is an ongoing process of self-appraisal with the Pandits. The crisis of identity on the one hand and the attempts to re-create the lost paradise on the other is part of the unfolding moral, psychological and  spiritual struggle that goes on side by side with the struggle for day to day survival in exile.

The third section depicts the urge to reclaim the roots as hope kindles with the reports of containment of terrorism coupled with the conciliatory postures of Muslims in the valley and as visitors from there bring the nostalgia of homeland to the Pandits in exile. 

The poem ‘Arrival’, capturing the images while on his travels to his exiled relatives in India, is authored by Dr Robin Chowdhury, my brother, living in Australia. I could not resist the urge to include it in my collection here and ‘On Your Arrival’ is my response to his sentiments.

The poems bear the date (or month) and the place of writing. Because of arrangement in three sections some poems written on an earlier date appear later or vice versa, but the poems in each section follow a chronological order.

K L Chowdhury
Jammu - October 1999

 

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