Zuv' chumm' bramhaan'
Ghar' gachaa

Jun 22, 2006

Where is my bus to Kashmir?

Lalit Koul | June 20, 2006

One more bus. One more Caravan-e-Aman. One more photo-op. One more show of bending backwards and appeasing terrorists. Last time, it was the prime minister flagging off the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service, this time it is the de facto prime minister Sonia Maino Gandhi.

Yes, my fellow Indians! In case you did not know, I-do-not-care-for-PM-post-because-I-run-the-country-anyway-lady Sonia Gandhi is flagging off another bus service between India and Pakistan today from the town of Chakan Da Bagh near Poonch in Jammu and Kashmir.

This bus service is going to take the passengers from each side of Line of Actual Control between India and Pakistan on a 47-km long Poonch-Rawalkot trans-border road and facilitate the ceremonial peace-hugs.

Let us rewind a little and go back in time.

After engaging in various kinds of diplomacy like Track-I diplomacy, Track-II diplomacy, cricket diplomacy etc, the Government of India and Pakistan started the first round of bus diplomacy on April 7, 2005.

In Kashmir's blooming spring, it was Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh who waved the ceremonial blue flag to flag off the much-hyped bus service between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad.

In spite of many threats from Islamic terrorists, the Caravan-of-Peace did actually leave the Sher-e-Kashmir International Cricket Stadium in the heart of Srinagar, with lots of decoy buses as part of the caravan and reached its destination of that now-famous Lal-Pul (Red Bridge)
near Chakothi, connecting Kashmir with Pakistan-occupied areas of Kashmir.

But the buses left Srinagar only after the terrorists blew up the tourist reception centre in the heart of the town, where would-be passengers were staying, just a day before the scheduled departure time. In this first trip, 30 people from Pakistan-occupied areas of Kashmir crossed over to India and 19 people from India crossed over to Pakistan-occupied areas of Kashmir.

Two weeks later, on April 21, 2006, the second bus of this Caravan-of-Peace left Kashmir for that Lal-Pul on the LoC. This time, the buses left from an undisclosed place and the travelers were sequestered in the Nehru guesthouse near Chashma Shahi. In order to ward off any terrorist attacks, the police, military and paramilitary forces had sealed off all the roads and alleys along the route of the bus service.

This time around, the bus from Muzaffarabad carried 25 passengers, including 14 residents of Kashmir who were returning home after having traveled on the inaugural service.

And thus the Caravan-e-Aman started and kept going until no one bothered about it and no one noticed whether it was still on or not. In between, a natural calamity in the shape of devastating earthquake that had its epicentre in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir also put a huge damper on the first Caravan-e-Aman.

Do you wonder how many terrorists might have crossed into India using this very bus service? Your guess is as good as mine. But I know this much that there were at least 11 Pakistani cricket fans who came to India for the Indo-Pak cricket series in March 2005 and then disappeared in India. Till date, they have not been traced and sent back to Pakistan. So how has the first Caravan-e-Aman benefited India that we had a dire need of starting another bus service?

Anyone out there who could rationalise this decision?

It is ironic that on this day, World Refugee Day, the Indian government is flagging off another bus service between India and Pakistan while there is no bus service for more than 400,000 refugees who are within India longing to go back to their homeland in the vale of Kashmir.

While the government in Jammu & Kashmir is busy appeasing secessionist elements, there is a sizeable population of residents of Kashmir who languish in refugee camps in sweltering heat, dispersed all over the plains of India. Any guesses who these folks are? YES. You got that right. Kashmiri Hindus.

It has been 16 long years that Kashmiri Hindus have not been able to go back to their homes in Kashmir. And please keep in mind that they are all on this side. None of these 700,000+ innocent victims of terrorism and political games are living in areas across the Lal-Pul. They are
all on this side of the Jawahar Tunnel in India itself. But they cannot just board a bus and travel back to their homes in Kashmir and live there. They just cannot.

Governmental agencies will tell you lot of stories about what all they are doing to get Kashmiri Hindus back into the valley but please do not get sold on those. All those are just that, stories. Fictional stories.

A few years ago, I had written a column, 'Daddy, Why can't we go to Kashmir?' in which I mentioned how my six-year-old daughter at that time asked me that poignant question and how I could not answer her simple question. Last year, when the first bus service was flagged off, my daughter watched and read the media clippings showing the reception given to Kashmiris from across the LOAC and I could see the same agonising questions on her face all over again.

So I made up my mind to visit my homeland and take her along. And off we went to my homeland. It was after 16 long years of forced exile that I took a chance, went back and touched and kissed my lovely homeland. It was an experience, full of nostalgia as well as heartbreaks.

While we were there, I stopped by at a Kashmiri music store to buy some audio cassettes of Kashmiri music. While I was shopping, the merchant was very cordial. But as soon as the trade was over, he made a comment and I quote: "So how long are you going to be here?" And that brought me back to the reality that we, the Kashmiri Hindus, are still not welcome in our homeland. As long as we go there as tourists, it is fine. But if we demand our just rights, we are not welcome. And the Government of India is perpetuating that notion by implementing its
flawed and dangerous policies of appeasement.

While new and newer bus services are commissioned to allow people from across the border to come and enjoy the fruits of freedom over on this side of the border, Kashmiri Hindus, living the life of refugees in their own land are left asking: "Where is MY bus?"

Jun 19, 2006

Incoherent Response

The pattern and rising crescendo of the terrorist violence, witnessed during the past few months in and outside Kashmir, put Pakistan's larger game- plan in perspective. CrossBorder Terrorism, sponsored by Pakistan has travelled from Doda to Delhi and Varanasi to Bangalore. The ruling UPA establishment has been repeating ad nauseaum worn out clichés to explain the sharp intensity in terrorist strikes. It is being claimed that the violent acts were aimed at scuttling the Round Table Conference II and the 'peace' process and were actually the acts of desperation on the parts of terrorists.
The official assessment, which seeks to trivialize the grim situation only hides the govt. 's own incompetence in taking on the terrorists head on. Even the CPI(M),an alliance partner of the UPA govt. and a party not given to hard approach towards terrorists,has found urgency in asking the Central Govt. to take all effective steps to crush terrorism.
The pattern of terrorism, seen of late, indicates that Pakistan is pursuing multifold objectives through the instrumentality of sponsoring CrossBorderTerrorism. One, it wants to keep on the relentless attrition on the minorities in J&K and effect further religious cleansing. Secondly, it does not want civil society in Kashmir to evolve and seeks to keep it hostage to its jihadist objectives through coercion and lollipops. Thirdly,it wants to maintain the stranglehold of jihadist violence intact in all the regions. Lastly,it visualizes its fond dream of 'strategic parity' with India in latter's balkanization.
On May 1 last, 32 members of the minority community were massacred in Basantgarh region of Doda. A fortnight later Army foiled another attack on the minorities by eliminating four dreaded terrorists in Banihal region. The terrorists have been resorting to brutal killings of civilians and indulging in grenade attacks to create terror among Kashmiris and smother any dissent.
The terrorists have been indulging in high profile attacks to demonstrate their reach. 3 days before the RTC II was to began, there was a 'fedayeen' attack on a Congress rally in Srinagar, which was to be addressed by the Chief Minister. It left 7 killed and many, including IGP Kashmir critically wounded. There were two car-bomb attacks in Hyderpora and Padgampora, a place not far away from IAF Base at Awantipora. Another explosives- laden car was seized at Lethpora. Nearly 800 kgs. of RDX have been seized from different parts of the state, in one such recovery 400 kgs. alone were seized from a cowshed in Lulipora,Pattan. The J&K CM went on record saying that the Govt. foiled terrorist designs to create Iraq-like situation in Srinagar before and during RTC.
There are many new elements in ISI's strategy. The teenage boys and women are being hooked as the new elements for subversive activities. A woman was blown to pieces while handling an IED at Pampore. As a change in the strategy Pakistan is replenishing jihadist ranks in Kashmir by recruiting Muslim youth from fundamentalist seminaries in Maharashtra, Gujarat, etc. As per credible reports these youth are being given training in subversion in training camps in southern Kashmir.
To weaken India, Pakistan is pursuing a two-pronged approach---making economic infrastructure of the country as target of subversive acts and secondly, provoking communal conflict. Some of the jihadists arrested recently in Western India said they had orders to target Dams, power grids in AP,Kandla port, an oil pipeline in Gujarat,besides bridges and markets. The terrorists also targeted Varanasi, the spiritual and cultural centre of the majority community. Security forces foiled attempts to target such holy places like SomNath temple and Vaishno Devi shrine. Continued attacks on tourists in Kashmir and the attempts to target RSS and VHP hqs. are also attempts to create communal conflict
The Home Secretary GOI, the Army Chief and the Defence Minister have been unanimous in saying that terrorist infrastructure across the LOC was intact. What then is the logic in pursuing the so-called peace process with Pakistan? We are being told that Pakistan is a failed state and the extremist elements were outside the control of Gen. Musharraf. If Pakistan is a failed state with Musharraf having no authority then why should India deal with him? The reality is Pakistan has a strong state built around the army, which is in no danger of losing control. This state has pursued as a matter of political gain the instrumentalisation of religious extremism and terrorism. The challenge before the international community is how to wean the army away from this habit.
Incoherent response by the Govt. has led to spurt in terrorism. We reiterate our commitment to Zero-tolerance on terrorism and yet show willingness to talk to the terrorist state of Pakistan and their proxies in Kashmir. This duplicity must end. It undermines our credibility at the international level. Only a well-focused, sustained and strong policy vis-à-vis terrorism and Pakistan will deliver India from the monster of Islamist terrorism.

Source: Kashmir Sentinel, June 2006 issue

Jun 13, 2006

Being Minority...

Only Hindu temple in Lahore demolished

Enough ruckus was created on the demolision of a roadside tomb - categorized as a dargah by some in Vadodara recently - even though it was done on High courts directive with an objective of infrastructure expansion (easing traffic woes of that area).

I am keen to see how many muslims come out to protest this demolition - a historic temple in Lahore - the only remaining Hindu temple in the city (others have already been demolished since 1947). The demolition was done just to make a shopping complex - a pure comercial gain - not for any infrastructural reasons.

Its not that I expect any better from Pakistan - a failed state which openly subjects its minorities to discrimination. Minorties there have little political voice and rights and are constitutionally recognized only as second-class citizens.

What I want the so-called minorities of India to see and understand is - that this is what minority persecution means !!

Jun 12, 2006

Bad reporting by BBC

Ref: Deadly grenade attack in Kashmir

I can't imagine how a supposedly reputed media house as BBC can make this blunder... unless they just don’t care.

The grenade attack mentioned here in Jammu - whereas the headline says Kashmir.

For years since 1990, I have seen people claim that they had recently been to Kashmir and it was all fine there - and only later I would find that they had just been to Vaishnodevi and Katra, and to Jammu on way - and that’s what they assumed was Kashmir. Even now, my friends ooh-aah when I am about to head for a vacation to Jammu - assuming that I will be in Kashmir.

Such ignorance can be pardoned of a layman in Chennai or Bangalore - but not of a journalist.

And why does it matter?

For years this misrepresentation in media has been rampant - where the media selectively projects the pain Kashmir valley has been experiencing - totally ignoring that Jammu and Doda districts for last many years have seen as much pain and agony - for no reason.

Worse still, this attack is a targetted attack at innocent Hindu pilgrims headed for the Vaishnodevi shrine - clearly aimed to disrupt the Amarnath yatra.

Native Hindu's have already been eliminated from Kashmir - and Hindu's in Doda/Rajouri have been under attack for many years now. And now, Hindu's aren't even permitted for a 4-day pilgrimage.

Ethnic cleansing of the highest degree...

Jun 6, 2006

Zyeth Aetham...

The sunday that just went by - was Zyeth Aetham (Zyestha Astami) - one of the most important festivals of Kashmiri Pandit calendar - probably next only to Herath. And yet, we spent the day in almost denial of the day... just with some memories of the day back from my days in Kashmir.

Back in Kashmir, before the days of exile... the day would be marked by a pilgrimage to "Khirbhawni" shrine... popularly known as "Tulmul". Unless you are k een to do that under an armed cover of CRPF convoys now, this is a dream. Especially not after the hosts have decided to start killing tourists... Afterall, KP's arent any more than tourists now.

The shrine is believed to have mystical powers which have been witnessed and acknowledged by Swami Vivekananda.

The water in the springs is known to change colour from time to time - in a way predicting the future for the land ahead... Folks says the spring water was murky grey few days before Indira Gandhi was shot dead. I don't know how to interpret it - but probably thats when India's transistion to becoming a soft state began. The colour was a dark murky one even in early days of 1990...

I wonder what the colour is today...

(pic: Courtesy kplink.com duely acknowledged)

Jun 1, 2006

Kashmir: Yet another attack on tourists...


I am confused. Should I feel sorry for these people - innocent tourists from Bengal, who probably had gone out there to relive their aspirations of visiting the fabled 'jannat-e-Kashmir' which so far they had seen only in Bollywood movies of 80's or earlier. Or should I feel angry at them - what on earth were they thinking when they booked a tour to Kashmir?

I find this mixed feeling overwhelming me right now... veering more towards the angry side given that this is the third such incident in a fortnight - first a group of tourists from MP, then a huge group from Gujrat and now these folks. And yet, they didnt take off their blinders.

Do these folks - Indian nationals, of course, even know about something called 'terrorism' or is this yet another case of the middle-class "This is not going to impact me"
blinders... "Have promised to kids take kids on vacation when schools close, found a cheap deal for Kashmir - "wow Kashmir"; jump on. Aaah... whats the problem there. Prime Minister Manmohan was there just a weeks ago and he even chided the army. Army is the bad one there - but they wont harm me. Barkha Dutt is there every weekend. And I have seen all the 'militants' debate it on NDTV. They look so cool. And anyway they are just militants... never heard of a terrorist in Kashmir. Lets go...".

Someone offer them a cheap package to visit Baghdad or maybe Kabul and they will hop on...

For Gods Sake... did they have no clue why 500,000+ Hindu's from this so called 'Jannat-e-kashmir' have been exterminated... ejected out of their own homeland for more than 16 years now... more than what even Lord Ram spent in van-vaas. Didn't they know that this half a million lot of Hindu's from Kashmir (Kashmiri Pandits) paid this price, and many more were killed - just because they were "Indians" and that too "kafirs"... and didn't say "Yes" to Jihad.
Didn't these tourists never hear of Sangramapora, Prankote, Wandhama, Chattisinghpora, Nadimarg, Chapnari, Amarnath, Doda massacres in the news... or maybe they were too busy voting for their favourite Marathi or Bengali Idol at that time.

Nothing could be a better sitting duck to hunt - than a bus bearing a registration number "GJ xx xxxx" going through streets in Kashmir.

And they say we Indians are the smart brains...