‘Budding Cricketers in Jammu-Kashmir Have Found A New Idol’

Tawqeer Hussain, a Delhi-based Kashmiri journalist who works for the Japanese daily Yomiuri Shimbun, says he sees an IPL team from Jammu-Kashmir on the horizon

It might be surprising for the rest of India, but both cricket and IPL are immensely popular in Jammu and Kashmir. In fact, football comes only second after cricket in terms of mass popularity, with both the young and the old, hooked to the game.

There are several factors behind the popularity of cricket in the state. Earlier young and budding cricketers would be asked one typical question: Who are your ideals in Indian and international cricket? And they would typically respond by citing the names of Mohammad Azharuddin, Sachin Tendulkar, Saurav Ganguly, Waqar Yunus, Shoaib Akhtar, among other greats, especially from the sub-continent. Not anymore.

Now they have their own fast-bowling sensation from Jammu: Umran Malik!

This is perhaps for the first time that the state has witnessed a speed sensation from Jammu. Earlier Jammu would nurture batters, while Kashmir, with its rocky and hard surfaces, would encourage fast bowlers. Now, Umran has turned the tide. And, hence, we should witness a beautiful synthesis in a radical change of role-play between the cricketers of Jammu and Kashmir.

Surely, IPL has played its own role in giving a boost to cricket in the state. Earlier, much before the entry of Umran, the state has given to India the likes of all-rounder Pervez Rasool, Manzoor Dar, Rasik Salam, Mithun Manhas, among others. The IPL dynamic has shifted the paradigm.

Hussain says Suresh Raina and Irfan Pathan (right) have encouraged cricket talent in the state

Besides, another fast bowler, Irfan Pathan, coming over from Baroda as a mentor and coach, has been decisive for young cricketers in the state. He and others have given an international feel to cricket in Jammu & Kashmir. Along with Suresh Raina, ace fielder and batsman, who is also originally from the state, they have definitely given a boost to cricket here. Indeed, there are reports that Raina is starting a cricket academy in Kashmir.

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I will give you an interesting example. In the far-flung south Kashmir, locals were playing a cricket match, and, guess, who were the chief guests! Irfan Pathan and Suresh Raina.

Come to think of it, this not only gives a huge boost to the youngsters, but it adds a flovour to a game unprecedented in the history of its local cricket. Undoubtedly, Umran Malik can lead Jammu and Kashmir in the days to come in all forms of the game. Besides, there is no doubt he will play for India and mark his presence in the international stage.

The only thing that is of importance right now is that the state should have its own IPL team with the finest of the lot from international cricket become part of its pluralist beauty and ethos. That would mark another wonderful landmark!

‘The Kashmir Files is A Farrago of Disinformation; A Propaganda’

Omair Hasan* counters the Bollywood narrative which, he argues, is an attempt to further polarize the country and a disservice to the cause of Kashmiri Pandits

I was about three year old when the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley happened. I have very little memory of the incident. But the story of their migration came in front of me in various forms. As I grew, I realized a couple of houses in my neighbourhood were always deserted. Those were the houses of Pandits who left during the 1990 violence.

I also came across many other stories of violence against them. Nobody can justify the atrocity and violence which happened on them. But weaponising those tragic incidents against Kashmiri Muslims is also not justified.

I saw The Kashmir Files and I seriously doubt the intention of the movie. It is a farrago of disinformation. A complete distortion of facts; a misrepresentation of history and a vicious propaganda.

Every incident has been presented in the movie in a way with an agenda. If we start with the death toll, 89 Kashmiri Pandits were killed in attacks since the inception of militancy in 1990, according to the government data. The movie completely evades the data on the number of killings.

There are various scenes in the movie which show the massacre but never address the number of deaths or what led to the start of killings.

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In his book Kashmir: The Vajpayee Years, AS Dulat addresses the reason behind the start of killings. He writes that some Pandits were on the payrolls of Intelligence Bureau which he was heading. He also goes on to name some of them who were killed. This vindicates the position taken by militant groups that they were not targeting Pandits in general but had selective targets not linked to their religion but for their affiliations with Indian Intelligence.

This thus debunks and punctures the Indian state’s propaganda to shame Kashmiri resistance movement. I believe that the intention behind hiding the numbers and reason in the movie was to obfuscate people than to make them aware of the event.

Another distorted fact which has been shown in the movie is Kashmiri Pandits demanding removal of Article 370 in 1990. It is laughable. Why were Pandits demanding the removal of Article 370 then, when it also suited them as much as it suits Kashmiri Muslims?

Now let’s talk about slogans used in the movie. Slogan has always been a big part of any movement and so it has been in Kashmir. But the film shows some false slogans that was never a part of the public movement in Kashmir. The film shows Kashmiri crowd raising slogans like “Ralive, Tsaliv ya Galive (convert to Islam, leave the place or perish).” This is completely false. It was never a part of the ‘Kashmir movement’ in its entire history.

According to the movie, all Kashmiri Muslims support Pakistan, including Abdullahs and Muftis. The fun fact for readers of this article is that the so-called nationalist BJP has formed many governments with these so-called Pakistani supporters both at the Centre and in Kashmir.

The movie hails the present government at the Centre as if this is the first time the BJP government has come to power since 1990. I would like to remind people that in these 32 years, the BJP government has remained in power at the Centre for 14 years. We must not forget that it also formed government in Kashmir too. In these years, how many Pandits have been resettled in Kashmir?

Injustice has happened to Pandits but we can’t do justice to them with this kind of propaganda by building anti-Kashmiri narratives. Such kind of movie will further polarise the country and anger of people will be vented out on innocent Kashmiri students who are studying in universities and colleges in different parts of the country. These students have nothing to do with things which happened when they were not even born or were very young and had no say in the politics of the state.

Whether Pandits or Muslims, I think Kashmir is the real victim here. It has been victim for many centuries and still fighting the battle.

As told to Md Tausif Alam

* Hasan declined to share his picture for safety reasons. Respecting his wish, we have used a representational picture

‘Slowly The Situation On Ground Is Improving In J&K’

Priyanka Pandita, a 29 year old Kashmiri Pandit, says life of a Jammu-Kashmir citizen has improved marginally since August 5, 2019, when the Centre abrogated Article 370

As someone who belongs to Jammu & Kashmir, we see the world differently and in turn are seen differently by the rest of the country (or the rest of the world). So far there has been no possibility of having a good education or work life in Kashmir and those of us who can move out of the state, do so. But when we go to other states for studies or work, most people see us only as Jammu & Kashmir residents and less as people who have dreams, hopes and aspirations of a better life.

Till Class 12 I lived in J&K, but after that I have lived in Uttarakhand, Rajasthan and Karnataka for higher studies and just shifted to Mumbai post-marriage, but the story was the same everywhere… Kashmir just meant violence and terrorism to other people.

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say we have had an identity crisis of sorts. There are so many of us who long to be a part of the wider landscape but the goings on in Kashmir for the past few decades had led to more and more isolation of the residents of Jammu & Kashmir… until August 2019, when Article 370 was abrogated. It will now be almost two years to that (in my opinion) momentous day and I feel it is in the best interest of Jammu & Kashmir that it happened.

As far as I can see, the ground reality has changed for the better. I now feel like part of a whole and hopefully it will change for other people as well. Identity of the residents of this region won’t be pigeonholed anymore. And it is not just about us Kashmiri Pandits (living in Jammu region) but also many Muslim friends of my father have mentioned how there seems to be more peace around, how the mahaul is more conducive for business and also tourism (of course once coronavirus is under strict control).

Pandita says ‘mahaul’ is more conducive for business and tourism now

The endless curfews, the looming shadow of when violence might erupt, suspension of internet… it was all beginning to take a toll on people who longed for normalcy. Instances of stone pelting have come down. And people have finally begun to listen to each other’s point of view. The communication breakdown that had happened is being repaired little by little. Earlier there was no possibility of having deep conversation with fellow Kashmiris on the matter of terrorism or even how the government was faring.

People would get defensive so quickly and a conversation would turn into an argument. All solutions begin with a conversation and now I feel people have begun to talk to each other a little more openly. I have also begun to worry less about my parents and other loved ones who live there, no matter which part of the country I am in.

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I believe Covid was also handled well because the Centre was in charge here. In fact there has been less corruption for the past two years as far as I can see. I last visited my family in November, 2019. After that the pandemic meant travelling has been difficult, but I have kept myself updated.

Also, the local leaders whose policies so far reflected only resistance have begun to think of cooperation (even if it is miniscule right now), I feel after they were arrested or put under house arrest.

I feel once the final creases are ironed out (like the restoration of statehood, elections), Jammu & Kashmir will truly be on the path of development. The Taliban’s advancement in Afghanistan has rung bells of concern for the subcontinent, but I believe that the strong leadership of the current government will keep them at bay and Kashmir will truly flourish, even if it takes one baby step at a time towards the future.

As Told To Yog Maya Singh

A Tale Of Two Elections In Jammu & Kashmir

The month of November has witnessed elections in two different parts of the former Himalayan state of Jammu and Kashmir. On November 15, elections were held in Pakistan occupied Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) wherevotes were cast to elect a puppet legislative assembly. And on November 28, Direct Development Council (DDC) elections were held in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir for the first time.

The DDC elections were held in order to elect representatives who would be in charge of development projects in their respective districts.

The GB elections were more of a ‘make-PTI-win’ by hook or crook exercise. Originally the elections were scheduled to be held in August. However, excuses were made regarding incomplete voters list and elections were postponed for three months.

Critics of Imran Khan are of the view that this was a manoeuvre to let winter set in so that far-flung regions in the mountainous region would be blocked due to snowfall thus making it impossible for voters to get to the far and few polling stations.

The DDC elections in Jammu and Kashmir were held for the first time in the history of the Union Territory. They are designed to devolve power and to transfer control of local development from a centralised UT government right down to the district level.

On the contrary, the GB elections were a power grab scam which enabled the federal government in Pakistan to ‘select’ a toothless rubber-stamp legislative assembly.

On election day, ballot boxes were stolen and ‘unknown’ gunmen armed with guns attacked more than one polling station in GB and allegedly replaced numerous ballot boxes with those which had already been filled with votes to make ‘selected’ PTI candidates win.

At least 1,700 postal votes were discovered in Astore which had mysteriously been stamped before the election date.

Despite vigorous election campaign run by Pakistan People’s Party leader Bilawal Zardari Bhutto and Maryam Nawaz of Pakistan-Muslim League Nawaz drawing the largest crowds at her public meetings in Gilgit and Skardu they only managed to bag 4 and 2 seats respectively. The PTI bagged 8.

It has been the norm in previous GB elections held in 2009 and 2013 that the party which formed government in Pakistan would win in GB as well.

However, this time around the poor performance of Imran Khan government in Pakistan, the lack of grass root party organisation in GB, the resentment against the declaration of turning GB into Pakistan’s fifth province and the resonance of the anti-military establishment public discontent displayed at several rallies held across the country under the banner ofPakistan Democratic Movement were decisive elements that everyone had realised would grossly dent PTI popularity, if any, in GB, and that the PTI would lose miserably.

However, today we have a PTI government in GB. This can only happen in Pakistan where the invisible hand of Pakistani military establishment works in mysterious ways. But the people of GB have rejected the tampered election results and taken to the streets.

Violent protests set in across the land and in Gilgit and Skardu they continue for over a week. All major opposition parties have refused to accept the election results.

The DDC elections held on November 28 were held undisputed. Even the Gupkar gang did not raise a finger to challenge the transparency of the voting process. Electors in the valley came out in their droves to vote.

A 120-year-old woman was carried on the back of her great-grandchild to the pollingstation. Despite the bone-chilling cold and the fear of terrorist attempts to disrupt the polling, people came out and voted.

A glance at the percentage of votes might give us a better understanding of how seriously people took the DDC elections. In an interview with this scribe Sajid Yousaf Shah, CEO of The Real Kashmir News said that more people turned up at the polling stations in South Kashmir than North Kashmir.

This, he claimed, was of great significance since most of the violence and terrorism was previously attributed to the Southern part of the valley.

Perilously notorious trouble spots such as Kupwara, Shopian, Doda, Kathua and Samba to name a few, witnessed a turn out of 50.74 per cent, 42.58 per cent, 64.49 per cent, 62.82 per cent and 68.61 per cent respectively. The total overall turnout was recorded at 51.76 per cent.

No untoward incident was reported during the polling. This shows the resilience of the people of Kashmir who have been held hostages for seven decades by those who now comprise the Gupkar gang.

The politics of communal hate and insecurity are over or so it seems at least for now. The fact that people turn up at the polling stations in Jammu Kashmir is a testimony of approval of the abrogation of article 370 and 35A.

The second phase of the DDC elections will be held soon. This will include areas that were left out in the first phase. Unlike GB where elections have brought more repression of the colonial occupier, the DDC elections are to prove the steam engine for progress and prosperity.

The tale of two elections have brought about two opposing outcomes.

While DDC election in Jammu Kashmir will help the Union Territory to take long strides towards integrating its economic and political with the living body of Hindustan, in GB the struggle to free our people from the clutches of jihadist oppression and colonial slavery continues.

(The author is a human rights activist from Mirpur in PoJK. He currently lives in exile in the UK — ANI)