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An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri

Panun Kashmir

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Revisiting Kashmir after 17 years

- the way ahead

Piyaray Lal Raina

The first thought that comes to my mind before writing my impressions of visiting Kashmir after 17 years of exile is to thank my Isht Devi Ragnya Bhagwati for giving me a chance to pray at Her feet after such a long time. I used to  go there almost on every Shukla Ashtami come summer or winter .and kept on praying to Her every day  of my exile  with the hope that before my final exit I will get a chance to pray at  Khirbhawani Temple once again.

I visited Kashmir in the last week of May 2007 along with my wife, my niece and her son who left Kashmir at the age of 7 years. We stayed at a hotel in Rajbagh, Srinagar near the place which was my home once.  My primary desire to visit Kashmir was to go on a pilgrimage, but one cannot ignore the feelings that you get after revisiting the place after 17 years, which was my home for 55 years and before that home of several generations of my ancestors. My object of writing this article is to apprise the readers particularly my community members about my impressions of the place and the people with a view about the possibility of our return to Kashmir

Temples and Ashrams

Since I was on a pilgrimage, I will first of all write about the state of religious places which we visited:

1) Khir Bhawani.  During good old days I always thought of getting rid ugly   structures around the shrine which was occupied by shopkeepers. Well that has been done now. Very nicely planned structures have been raised or are in the progress of construction. Besides about 40 dharmsala rooms, well planned shops, two large hawan shallas to accommodate around 200 persons at a time, have been built with excellent ventilation. Within the paved compound several shelters have been made around the shrine for yatris.

 The structures around the chinar trees that grace the shrine are being redone. On the whole the place looks good It seems Ragnya Devi has taken the charge of rebuilding the shrine in Her own hands.   

It was Ashtami on the day of our visit. About 100 KPs were there which included some locals and a few who like us had come from outside. The colour of spring water was a pleasing shade of green and blue.  Three priests were among outsiders who had come from Jammu. They had come to make some quick bucks from the devotees without performing pooja the way it should be done. They were competing in raising the voices without proper coordination while carrying on recitations. A local old Muslim was selling milk, ratandeeps and vena. I saw him moving  freely within the premises of shrine to collect used ratandeeps for reuse

A non Kashmiri Hindu  Halwaii was selling luchas and   serving kahwa on request.

A contingent of  CRP persons is posted inside the shrine and at the outer gate.

They prepare khir everyday  from  their own money or donations from yatris and serve it as prashad to all . A telephone booth ( without ISD ) is  run by a Muslim boy  within the premises of shrine near the gate entrance . A number of tourist visit the place daily.    

Hari Parbhat

Hari Parbhat is no longer  a calm and clean place where we used to go for a sacred  walk  for  a  parikrama ( going round about 4 kms) A whole new city  with roads has come up inside  boundary wall ( called Kalai)

We had several shrines around this hillock where we used to pray while making a parikrama. Now only two sites are visible: Ganesh Temple and Sharika Temple. (Aka Chkreswar)

Ganesh Temple

The old structure at Ganesh Temple has been reconstructed with nice wooden ceiling and a side  hall in first floor  by few  dedicated community members  It was being painted. Lord Ganesh has not received a new coat of sindur for years. I was told a hawan will be performed here on Ganesh Chaturdashi falling in July and a new coat of sindur will be applied soon. All the same  we could see  several syambhu ( self  revealed ) Ganeshas all over the   rock .We  applied little paint to one  syambhu Ganesha and carried out  full traditional  pooja  with all recitations for two hours . The temple looks like a chowkidars hut adjacent to the massive stone gate at the stairs leading to Mokdum Sahibs shrine up on the hillock .It is hidden behind the tall 3 storey house in front of temple. The lane in front of temple has been occupied by Muslim neighbour.  

Sharika Temple

It is well kept.  The shilla which is the object of worship has been smeared with fresh sindur. A contingent of CRP personal is guarding the shrine .There is no trace of Devi Aangan . Muslim houses have come up right upto the stair case leading to the shrine.

Ram Kouln Mandr

The temple still stands there but it been completely vandalized and dharmshallae adjacent to it have been burnt down.

Shankeracharya Temple  

It has the same grandeur as it had 17 years back. Security is very tight. We were not allowed to carry cameras or mobile phones. A long queue of visitors was waiting for dharshan of Lord Shiva

Jeshtadevi Temple      

A few dedicated members of community have not only preserved it but made several additions to the structures around it. Security is tight from a Km away No autos are allowed within one Km  of temple site.

Durganag Temple

The temple is well kept.  As usual it is favourite destination of sadhus and pilgrims. A new four story dharamsalla is nearing completion. A number of Hindu tabas in the neighbourhood attract tourists for lunch/ dinner.

Ashrams 

We could get time to visit Ishber Ashram near Nishat and   Ramakrishna Ashram near Shali store. Both the Ashrams are well kept with CRP personal posted there. Ramakrishna Ashram has added a new guest house for its devotees and a large hall for serving food on special occasions   Pooja of Bhairwa  at Ishber  and  Shiv linga  at RK mission    gave us great satisfaction .. A few days back Shri Shri Ravi Shanker Ji  prayed at Ishber Ashram when he was on a brief visit to Kashmir.

Development works

As a result of huge inflow of funds from govt.and non govt. sources Kashmir looks different now .Right from airport one can see the change. Airport is a modern one  which can handle about 20 incoming and outgoing flights  with peak traffic flow of about 20000 passengers .Srinagar city has doubled in  area  with constructions every where . Railway line from Qazigund to Baramulla is nearing completion. Additional bridges have been built on river Jehlum . To get an idea of development works there were just two cement factories in 1990 producing hardly 600 tons of cement per day. At present there are seven large and small cement factories producing about 7000 tons of cement per day and another four large scale factories are under construction which will add about 6000 tons per day. There are hardly any power cuts. All the power from Dulhasti power project of Kistwar which was commissioned recently has been diverted to Kashmir as there are no transmission lines for transfer of power to other parts of India .Many new English medium schools have come up including DPS.

The sad part of story is that Srinagar city  is heavily fortified , growth of city is very erratic with no  planned development, roads are narrow even in Rajbagh where land prices range plus one crore per kanal of land, Dal Lake has shrunk  in size resulting in overcrowding of houseboats, even River Jehlum has been reduced to a stream. The standing walls of burnt down buildings is a reminder of the faded glory of City.

Life in Kashmir 

Month of May when we visited Kashmir is usually full of excitement with lot of tourists from India, which involves people of all walks of life to focus on doing good business. Thus everybody seemed to be praying to militants to hold guns for some time. While Muslims and Sikhs are fully enshrined in Kashmir, the few KPs (less than 5000) look like lost in wilderness. The prosperity of people is very visible from the houses they live, the number of cars they own, the dress they wear and the food they eat at restaurants.

Our Prospects of returning to Kashmir

Under international laws, we as aborigines of Kashmir,  have a right to settlement there. No solution to Kashmir problem is possible without our right to settlement. Govt of India, State Govt and even the Muslims of Kashmir are aware of it. That is why we are offered several packages which suit our politicians .At this time of history we have to  evolve our strategy and stick to it  even if it takes another 50 years or more for acceptance

Our strategy

We have to take following factors into consideration to arrive at our decision: 

1)      Living out of Muslim dominance in Kashmir has given us a strength of exploiting our talents to our capacities which is not possible for us in present day Kashmir which is now a virtual Islamic state.

2)       All lands where we lived have been taken over by Muslims/Sikhs. Land prices have gone up considerably.

3)      All businesses , govt. jobs , bank jobs, airport jobs,  school  and college teaching jobs are manned by Muslims

4)      The political atmosphere in Kashmir will not change. Kashmiri Muslims have divided the valley into pockets of their influence based on religious sentiments, economic interests, political aspirations etc. To keep their interests alive   they have evolved one   common strategy   to keep India on the defensive by exploiting their nuisance value by   raising the slogans of   autonomy, independence   involvement of KMs in political future of Kashmir and so on .The least they expect is status quo of article 370 of Indian constitution which they have successfully used to create a Muslim State.

From the above it is very obvious that going to Kashmir as the govt. of India /J&K Govt wants us, is out of question. A division of our territory will provide a better environment to both Hindus and Muslims to grow side by side as has been demonstrated by Ambani Brothers after they split the ancestral property. Our long term strategy should be:

a) Strengthen our roots where we are living now by enriching our selves economically through business, taking up jobs which command influence and respect.  

b) Demand a package of settlement in a designated area in Kashmir   which we can call as our homeland. It may be given any name: Panun Kashmir, KP settlement area, KP reserve area. It should be out of administrative   control of J&K state. I would   suggest an area which starts from  Verinag  / Qazigund  and extends up to Pahalgam as our area of resettlement. Large parts of this area are still open  which provide a  scope for proper planning of a modern city. Srinagar is only one hour journey from Qazigund railway station.

c) To achieves our long term goal we should involve all sections of society in it. If we could have a  credible Think Tank to guide our movement that would be excellent.  

Kashmiri Writers P.L. Raina

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