Kashmir’s Pains

Human Rights Watch talk about the Kashmir situation:

Behind The Kashmir Conflict


The dramatic escalation in May 1999 of cross-border shelling between India and Pakistan, and fighting between Indian troops and militants who have crossed over from Pakistan, have focused international attention on the security implications of the conflict. But the pattern of systematic human rights violations by all parties in Kashmir has been a critical factor in fueling the conflict that is often overlooked. If those violations had been seriously addressed at any time during the last ten years, the risk of a military confrontation between India and Pakistan might have been reduced.

This report documents human rights abuses in Indian-controlled Kashmir by both Indian security forces and Muslim militants, many of them believed to be Pakistani-trained, who have been fighting for independence. Focusing on the border areas in southern Kashmir that have emerged as important new areas of conflict since 1996, it also documents abuses that took place in the Kashmir valley in late 1998, based on extensive interviews with residents and government officials conducted during a mission in October 1998. Our goal is to provide some insight into the nature of the conflict, the way its geographic focus has shifted since 1996, the increasingly communal aspects of the longstanding political and territorial dispute, and measures that all parties to the conflict should take to prevent further abuses. The escalation in fighting has made it all the more urgent that the international community ensure these measures are taken.

The Kashmir conflict not only continues to raise the spectre of war between India and Pakistan, but it also continues to produce serious human rights violations: summary executions, rape, and torture by both sides. In their effort to curb support for pro-independence militants, Indian security forces have resorted to arbitrary arrest and collective punishments of entire neighborhoods, tactics which have only led to further disaffection from India. The militants have kidnapped and killed civil servants and suspected informers. These actions, together with the fact that many of the militants are crossing into India from Pakistan, have reinforced India’s determination to eliminate the security threat by any means necessary. Indeed, the Indian air strikes that began in May were in response to the incursion from Pakistan-controlled Kashmir of a large contingent of militant forces into mountainous areas north of Kargil and Dras.

That incursion is part of the same pattern of militant activity documented in this report. Since 1996, as Indian forces have gained the upper hand in the major towns and villages of the Kashmir valley, militant groups have concentrated their efforts on occupying strategic areas along Kashmir’s far northern and southern borders, including the districts of Rajouri, Punch, and Doda. In the early years of the conflict, the militants were largely from the Kashmir valley. With support from Pakistan, they were fighting for independence from India and some for accession to Pakistan. Although militant groups in Kashmir continue to draw recruits from among the local population, since 1996 the militant groups in these border areas have been predominantly Pakistani Kashmiris who support the independence struggle, or Pakistanis from elsewhere in the country who have been drawn to the conflict for ideological reasons. The groups often include Afghans and other foreign fighters who have no local base, although they may recruit local Kashmiri men to join them. The fact that a large contingent of these forces have entrenched in the high mountains near the towns of Kargil and Dras on the Indian side of the cease-fire line, known as the Line of Control, represents a major escalation in the conflict.

The reasons for the geographic shift from the Kashmir valley to the border areas lie in the changing military dimensions of the conflict. Indian forces have decimated the ranks of the militant groups operating inside Kashmir. The Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, a militant organization that was reputed to command the most popular support among Kashmiris, abandoned the military struggle in 1994. The remaining groups, most of which have close ties to Pakistan, have been largely driven to the more remote mountain areas of Doda and other southern districts from whose rugged terrain they launch attacks on Indian security forces and local civilians. Between 1997 and mid-1999, these groups have massacred more than 300 civilians. Several of those incidents are documented in this report. Although no organization has claimed responsibility for any of those massacres, two militant groups, Harakat-ul Ansar and Lashgar-i Toiba, are known to operate in the area and both include non-Kashmiris in their ranks. Although so-called foreigners operating in Kashmir outside of the Kargil region number at most a few hundred, they represent a dangerous development in the conflict as they have no accountability to the local population and engage in acts of extreme violence with little regard for the outrage such attacks elicit from Hindu and Muslim Kashmiris alike.

The Indian army has retaliated by conducting cordon-and-search operations in Muslim neighborhoods throughout these districts, detaining young men, assaulting other family members and summarily executing suspected militants. The brutal tactics employed resemble those used in the early 1990s in the Kashmir valley– indiscriminate shootings and assaults, rape, and arson–that provoked widespread anger among the local population. While such wholesale attacks on civilians have decreased in the valley as Indian forces have consolidated their hold there, they have increased in the southern border districts where they are perceived by the local population as an attempt by Indian forces to punish the Muslim community at large. Aggravating the situation, the army has recruited ex-servicemen, who for historical reasons are almost exclusively Hindu, to serve in Village Defence Committees (VDCs) that assist the army in military operations. In Doda and the border districts, where the population is nearly evenly divided between Hindus and Muslims, there is growing concern that tensions between the two communities might ignite a wider communal conflict.

Elsewhere in Kashmir, most of the militant groups have lost considerable ground militarily, their ranks diminished through infiltration and assassination by “countermilitant” militias made up of former guerrillas and by the government’s long policy of summarily executing captured guerrillas. Thus Srinagar and other towns in the valley now seldom see genuine military engagements between militants and state forces. Militant operations in the cities are generally limited to hit-and-run grenade or sniper attacks and assassinations of political leaders, civil servants and suspected informers.

Despite the election in September 1996 of a civilian government in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, and Indian government claims that “normalcy” has returned there, abuses by the army, federal paramilitary forces and a newly constituted police force are rife. Indian forces also continue to arm and train countermilitant militias to assassinate suspected militant activists and intimidate local residents. Although some militant leaders command popular support, extortion and other abuses by the militant groups and their failure to prevail against the Indian forces have left the population embittered. At the same time, ongoing brutality and repression by Indian troops continues to fuel popular discontent and fear. India may have largely crushed its armed opposition in Srinagar and other cities in the Kashmir valley, but it has won little support from the Kashmiris.

As they have gained greater control of the cities, Indian forces and the countermilitants have fostered a climate of repression. Although government troops who no longer fear an ambush are less trigger-happy than was the case in the early 1990s when retaliatory shootings of civilians in crowded urban areas and villages were common, targeted executions continue. Detentions and “disappearances” have left residents fearful of talking to international human rights organizations. Little human rights documentation is done because human rights activists and lawyers have been killed or threatened. Doctors who have treated torture victims have also been threatened and spoke to Human Rights Watch only when assured strict confidentiality.

Custodial killings — the summary execution of detainees — remain a central component of the Indian government’s counterinsurgency strategy. While the difficulties associated with documentation make it impossible to state accurately the number of such killings, human rights groups in the state and elsewhere in India estimate that such summary executions number in the thousands. In this report, Human Rights Watch documents nine that occurred in 1998 and one that occurred in 1997. The killings continue because they have the sanction of senior Indian officials who justify them on the grounds that there is no other way to counter a serious “terrorist” threat. Since the insurgency erupted in Kashmir in 1989, there has been no effort on the part of the government to reduce the incidence of custodial killing.

“Disappearances” of detainees also remain a serious problem. Not only has the practice continued, but there has been no accountability for hundreds of cases of “disappearances” that have taken place since 1990. The Kashmir Monitor, a human rights group based in Srinagar, has documented 300 cases of “disappearances” and claims that the actual number is much higher. An association of the parents of the “disappeared,” one of the few human rights groups functioning in the state, has been unable to persuade the government to provide information about their missing sons. During its mission, Human Rights Watch documented thirteen cases of “disappearances”: two from 1998, nine from 1997, one from 1996 and one from 1995.

The Indian security forces also engage in brutal forms of torture which likewise have the sanction of senior officials. The latter privately justify the practice on the grounds that there is no other way to obtain information from a suspect. In fact, torture is also routinely used to punish suspected militants and their supporters and to extort money from their families. Human Rights Watch documented three cases of torture in this report, one of which took place in October 1998, the other two of which describe a series of detentions in which torture occurred from 1996 until 1998. In one case, two detainees who confessed to having weapons after undergoing severe torture were later berated by an army officer for lying and then released. Human Rights Watch staff also interviewed doctors who had treated former detainees who had been tortured. Methods of torture include severe beatings with truncheons, rolling a heavy log on the legs, hanging the detainee upside down, use of electric shocks, immersion in water while being suspended upside down, and the insertion of an iron rod on which chili paste has been applied into the rectum. Extensive beatings and use of the roller frequently lead to renal damage or failure; being suspended for prolonged periods upside down can lead to nerve damage and paralysis of the limbs.

Hospitals in Srinagar have registered more than 180 patients with torture-induced renal problems since 1994, some one hundred of which were admitted since 1996. These figures only include those cases serious enough to require treatment in the hospital. Of the 180 cases, six died of renal failure. Some of the survivors have suffered permanent damage.

Indian security forces have raped women in Kashmir during search operations, particularly in remote areas outside of major cities and towns. The difficulties inherent in documenting such attacks on women are many. The victims are unlikely to seek medical attention unless their injuries are severe and are reluctant to report their assaults because of the shame and stigma that they may bear as a result. Nonetheless, Human Rights Watch documented one case of rape by the Indian army in Doda and received consistent reports of such abuse from elsewhere in Doda and from the border areas of Punch and Rajouri. Significantly, army authorities have demonstrated some concern about rape and have initiated a number of courts-martial of soldiers for rape. However, many reports of rape, particularly by federal or local police forces, are never investigated.

Prosecutions of security personnel responsible for abuses are rare. The State Human Rights Commission, which is mandated to investigate complaints of human rights violations and make non-binding recommendations to the government, began its work in early 1998 and by November of that year had undertaken investigations in some 200 cases. The commission does not take up cases pending before the High Court. In addition, the commission’s work is severely hampered by the fact that it cannot directly investigate abuses carried out by the army or other federal forces. These forces conduct their own investigations, the results of which are not made public. Although government officials claim that disciplinary measures have been taken against some security personnel, criminal prosecutions do not take place.

This report is based on a mission to Indian-controlled Kashmir in October 1998. In the course of that mission Human Rights Watch visited Srinagar, Pampore, Uri, Jammu and Doda. We conducted more than fifty interviews with doctors, lawyers, journalists, human rights activists and other residents of Kashmir. We interviewed leading members of the All-Parties Hurriyat Conference, the political umbrella organization of the militant organizations. Although India does not officially permit international human rights organizations to conduct investigations, Human Rights Watch staff met with representatives of the state government, including Chief Secretary Ashok Jaitley, Justice Kuchay and other members of the State Human Rights Commission, and Superintendent of Police in Doda Munir Khan. We also interviewed leading advocates for the displaced Kashmir Hindus in Jammu, and a local leader of one of the most prominent countermilitant organizations.

(emphasis added)

Human Right Watch Reports on Kashmir in 2006

The Destruction Of Our Shared Cultural Heritage

kuuchaa-e-yaar ain Kaasii hai
jogii-e-dil vahaaN kaa baasii hai

pii ke bairaag kii udaasii suuN
dil pe mere sadaa udaasii hai

Beloved’s lane is exactly like holy city of Kashi
My ascetic heart dwells therein

Due to the sadness of the separation from the beloved
My heart is always immersed in dejection
Wali Dakhani

Wali Dakhani, credited as the father of Urdu poetry, was essentially a Sufi and like many others of his ilk didn’t stay at a place for long. His tours took him to Ahmedabad, Burhanpur, Surat and Delhi. He visited Delhi for quite a few times and it is believed that the poets in Delhi started writing in Urdu after appreciating the beauty of Dakhani’s verses. That same Delhi then gave us Mir, Ghalib and Zauq. Not that we have preserved the heritage of Mir and Ghalib diligently, as Mir lies unnoticed somewhere near a railway station in Lucknow and Ghalib’s haveli was recently reclaimed from a coal merchant, but the fate that befell Wali is truly heart-wrenching. May be Ghalib composed this couplet for such an occasion:

hu’e mar ke ham jo rusvaa, hu’e kyuuN na garq-e-daryaa
na kahiiN janaazaa uThtaa na kahiiN mazaar hotaa

That I died and was disgraced, why was I not just drowned
never was there a funeral, no where was a tomb erected

On 8th March 2002, the shrine of Wali Dakhani was razed to the ground just 10 meters away from Ahmedabad Commissioner of Polices’ headquarters. Overnight a tarred road was constructed on that spot. Here is a clip from the documentary Final Solution by Rakesh Sharma that shows the place where Dakhani’s shrine used to be.

Faiyaz KhanThe tomb of Ustad Faiyaz Khan in Vadodara suffered the same fate and so did scores of other shrines. The attackers knew what they were doing. On any given there are as many Hindus, if not more, as there are Muslims visiting Sufi shrines. It is criminal to even think of music in terms of Hindu and Muslim but classical singers have always been patronized by Hindu kings. Even Ustad Faiyaz Khan was a court musician in Vadodara. By destroying symbols of our shared cultural heritage the attackers were creating a wedge between the communities that would be very difficult to bridge. If there is one thing extremists hate the most is the common ground. When the propaganda machines are working overtime to prove that ‘others’ are really different, then it serves their purpose to raze to ground every symbol that claims otherwise.

We are living in an increasingly globalized but increasingly polarized world. Finding commonalities and celebrating differences has been part of our rich Indian cultural tradition. Let us find ways to carry forward that great Indian tradition. To quote Wali again:

tuk “Wali� ki taraf nigaah karo
subh suuN muntazir hai darshan kaa

O my love just have a look at “Wali� for a while
He is waiting for your sight since the morning

Open Thread: Gujarat Violence, Five Years Later

The fifth anniversary of the tragedy of Gujarat is upon us. In these days of TRP-driven news coverage where any issue is relevant till the next breaking news, five years seem an eternity. IM Blog is solemnly commemorating those sad turn of events with the hope that it will help initiate a dialog among fellow Indians and give us strength to face the truth. At the very least it will give us a chance to remember those Indians who were brutally killed by a combination of official apathy and murderous designs of hate-mongers, and those for whom the riots never ended.

Godhra Carnage Gujarat Riots

Gujarat Riots Gujarat Riots

This open thread will be used as a starting point for discussions and the links of all the articles/news items covering this event will be posted. If you find a link that you think should be included in this thread, please drop us a line in the comments.

25th February 2007

Prayer meets, commemorative seminars, memorial programmes and a film festival will mark the fifth anniversary of the apocalyptic Godhra train fire of Feb 27, 2002, as well as the ensuing sectarian strife that changed social equations in the state.

A number of citizens’ groups, including the Ahmedabad Women’s Action Group -, have jointly organised an all-religion prayer meet at the historic Sabaramti Ashram of Mahatma Gandhi in the city Feb 27 in memory of the 1,169 people who were killed at the Godhra railways station as well as during weeks of violence in its aftermath across the state. [RXPG New]

27th February 2007

On the eve of the fifth anniversary of the post-Godhra communal riots in Gujarat, a group of voluntary organisations demanded the Narendra Modi Government to publicly apologise for what happened in 2002 and take immediate steps to rehabilitate those still living in make-shift camps. [The Hindu]

Tomorrow — February 28 — will mark the fifth anniversary of the Gujarat genocide. Godhra happened today, five years ago; the ‘reactions’ followed from the day after. We started by calling them the ‘riots’. But now, to express our outrage at the role of the police and the state government in what we suspect were the results of careful planning, we prefer to use ‘genocide’ or ‘pogrom’. For most of us, these words are hiccups in a history of comfortable forgetting and ignorance. The nicest thing about the unthinkable or the unspeakable is that it absolves one of the responsibility of having to think or speak about it. [The Telegraph]

G’ is the letter for the land of ‘G’andhi, ‘G’odhra, ‘G’ujarat and the ‘G’rief. Every year we observe all the ‘G’ anniversaries so ardently that we have actually forgotten their real significance. We remember that a great man called MK Gandhi was assassinated on a particular day but forget the reason for his sacrifice. We remember Godhra carnage and Gujarat riots’ tragedies but fail to learn the lessons of religious tolerance. Amidst ceremonial celebrations and observance, we don’t realize that every year ‘past’ meets the ‘present’ just for the sake of a better ‘future’. Instead we get this ephemeral sense of triumph- Thank God the anniversary of the riots went peacefully without any disturbance this time! [Zee News]

Fault lines created by the sectarian violence in Gujarat remain intact five years later, with rights activists alleging that minorities continue to be at the receiving end. “There’s still a feeling of fear. People are afraid to speak out against the government,� said Father Cedric Prakash, the director of the city-based human rights group Prashant, on the fifth anniversary of the Godhra train fire of February 2002 that ignited a terrible gore. [Gulf Times]

In the town of Baroda which witnessed days of violence after the train attack, Muslim intellectual JS Bandookwala says: “The situation is so bad for Muslims that our only hope is that we must emphasise education and have a say in the state’s economy.” His concern is justified when you consider the economic fallout of the riots. The Muslim economy has been completely shattered in the past five years as the two communities have become polarised. [BBC News]

28th February 2007

Prayer meetings and other programmes were organised across Gujarat on Tuesday to mark the fifth anniversary of the Sabarmati Express train carnage at Godhra railway station in 2002. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) held special prayers at Godhra and also at the CTM cross roads here in the presence of kin of victims. “Prayers are being held in memory of the train carnage victims. Kin of victims are also present on the occassion and we hope they gather strength to live life without their loved ones who died,” a senior VHP leader said. [The Hindu]

Colourful paintings and wall hangings depicting the vivid, abstract pictorial images of 2002 Gujarat riots, were put up here on display yesterday to mark the fifth anniversary of one of the country’s worst religious riots. [Gulf News]

Widowed during the post-Godhra riots, Juhapura-resident Yasmeen Sheikh is having trouble coming to terms with bringing up four children alone and battling brain tumor. But where she has most trouble is understanding the terms of the compensation package given to her by the State Government in June 2002, she says.[Indian Express]

The Supreme Court of India compared Modi to Roman Emperor Nero, remembered in popular legend as playing his lyre while Rome burned. Modi’s Hindu-nationalist government looked elsewhere while innocent people were burning and was probably deliberating how to protect the killers, it said in a 2004 judgement.[Reuters]

Muslim survivors marked on Wednesday the fifth anniversary of one of India’s worst communal riots by praying for justice and visiting homes that remain charred and empty after they were attacked by Hindu mobs. Many families are still searching for remains of their loved ones — and justice for their killers — after riots that erupted when 59 Hindu pilgrims were burnt alive in a train carriage in an incident on February 27, 2002, blamed on a Muslim mob. [Scotsman.com]

Twenty three-year-old Firoza Sheikh has recently been elected to the local municipality in Saonli, a small town in the Godhra district of Gujarat. Though it is not uncommon for women to fight elections at every level in India, what is unusual is Ms Sheikh’s background – she spent the first 18 years of her life in the confines of a conservative Muslim household. [BBC News]

1st March 2007
The riot-affected gathered at the Gujarat Vidyapith here on Thursday under the aegis of the “Sach ki Yadein, Yadon ka Sach,” an umbrella organisation formed by over 25 voluntary organisations to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the post-Godhra riots. Their number surpassed the estimates of the organisers. More than 6,000 people from different riot-affected parts of the State turned up to narrate their experience.[The Hindu]

Thousands of men, women and children, both Hindus and Muslims, marched shoulder to shoulder through the once worst riot-infested areas in the heart of Ahmedabad on Wednesday to “herald a new era of communal harmony” in Gujarat. The rally was timed to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the “Gujarat Bandh” day on February 28 in 2002 when hundreds of Muslims were burnt alive in several parts of the State in retaliation for the Godhra train carnage the previous day.[The Hindu]

3rd March 2007
At Sardar baug in the heart of the city hundreds of victims of Godhra carnage 2002 held a dharna. During the three hour demonstration they held street plays and sang songs of religious unity in the society. This marked the conclusion of the week long Sach ki Yadein, Yadon ka Sach a programme organized by a number of NGOs to mark the Fifth Anniversary of the Gujarat Carnage 2002.[Gujarat Global News]

Delhi’s Able Daughter: Sadia Dehlvi

Sadia Dehlvi’s accomplishments negate the myths about the status of Muslims in India

Sadia Dehlvi Receiving the Best Journalist Award in 1989

As her name suggests, Sadia Dehlvi personifies Delhi in all its dimensions – the old, the contemporary, the changing and the permanent. As she remarks at her Nizamuddin house, “I am a true dilli-wali ; I live and breathe this city and relish every moment of it. I cannot imagine living anywhere else and I hope to die here.”

Sadia Dehlvi &  Zia Mohyuddin at Bazm-e-Urdu

Sadia shot to fame in the 1980s, a gorgeous young media person whose spitfire writings on women and minority issues won her the Best Journalist’s Award in 1989. At that time, few Muslim women were visible on the capital city’s scene and perhaps this novelty had something to do with her immense popularity. A long-time friend and disciple of Khushwant Singh, Dehlvi appears frequently in his writings. Singh’s book Not a Nice Man to Know (a compilation of some of the writer’s best works) carries the dedication: “To Sadia Dehlvi, who gave me more affection and notoriety than I deserve.” This media-celebrated

Sadia Dehlvi & Yasir Arafat

friendship turned Sadia into a household name and she later produced a show for Star TV in which Singh interviewed women from different walks of life. The two Pakistanis interviewed on the program were Tehmina Durrani and Asma Jehangir. Sadia also appears on the cover of Singh’s infamous Men and Women in my Life.

“I am the key figure in Khushwant’s imaginary harem,” she laughs. “On a serious note, I have learnt many things from him. He’s humble, lives simply and practices tolerance and coexistence.” I remind her of an article in which Singh declared that Sadia was his best friend and the only one who would mourn his death. “There are more people wanting to spend time with him than he has time for,”? she muses. “What a wonderful way to grow old and live such a full, creative life. He is truly a national treasure.”

Sadia describes the launch of his recent – that Singh calls his last – book, the Illustrated History of the Sikhs , where the prime minister of India was the chief guest and Singh commented that his words of praise should not go to the PM’s head – liberties that only Khushwant Singh could conceivably take. When Sadia married the dynamic, Karachi-based Reza Pervaiz, Khushwant Singh wrote a piece telling the millions that he performed the kanya daan (the ritual of giving away the bride) “with cake, champagne and tears.” Now, Singh proudly refers to Sadia’s son Arman as his grandson and insists that the lad call him “Nana”?

Sadia Dehlvi is a person of many talents and aspects. One of her well-known projects is Amma and Family , a comedy television show written and produced by her. The inspiration came from Anwar Maqsood’s Aangan Taira – Sadia’s literary favourites from Pakistan being Naseema Siraj (Allah Maaf Karay ), Allah Maaf Karay ), Mushtaq Yusufi and Ahmed Faraz. In Amma and Family , Dehlvi highlights Delhi’s unique dialect and demolishes television stereotypes of paan -chewing, gharara -clad, adaab -spouting Indian Muslims. Dehlvi and her brother’s wife Himani (artist Tayeb Mehta’s daughter) played themselves in this.

Mushtaq Yusufi and Ahmed Faraz. In Amma and Family , Dehlvi highlights Delhi’s unique dialect and demolishes television stereotypes of paan -chewing, gharara -clad, adaab -spouting Indian Muslims. Dehlvi and her brother’s wife Himani (artist Tayeb Mehta’s daughter) played themselves in this autobiographical series while show was directed by Sadia’s younger brother, filmmaker Vaseem Dehlvi. Veteran actor Zohra Sehgal, who played the lovable and wise penny-pincher Amma, is on record saying that she greatly enjoyed the role and the script.

autobiographical series while show was directed by Sadia’s younger brother, filmmaker Vaseem Dehlvi. Veteran actor Zohra Sehgal, who played the lovable and wise penny-pincher Amma, is on record saying that she greatly enjoyed the role and the script.

Sadia Dehlvi has enjoyed a long association with the world of letters. She belongs to the Dehalvi khandaan , the publishers of Shama , a literary and film Urdu monthly that achieved great popularity in both India and Pakistan. With her family having served the cause of Urdu for over fifty years, Sadia now keeps the flame alive with her organisation Bazm-e-Urdu which is devoted to the preservation of the language and its rich cultural legacy. In this context, Sadia believes that the price of Partition was paid by Indian Muslims and the decline of Urdu in India started once Pakistan had adopted it as its official language.

However Dehlvi’s enthusiasm, never far from the surface, is rekindled when talk turns to the qawwalis, poetry recitals and theatrical events promoted by Bazm-e-Urdu . At the moment, she is trying to get an established theatre group to produce, as a lavish production, Farhatullah Baig’s Dilli ki Aakhri Shama (The Last Candle of Delhi). Laughing, I suggest that perhaps she should just present herself on stage as a concise way of getting the message across!

Under the umbrella of Bazm-e-Urdu , Sadia Dehlvi is doing serious work. Foremost on the challenging agenda is the need to ensure the availability of teachers in schools where children wish to learn Urdu, stipends and merit-based scholarships for students of the language and awards for individual contributions to the language. Bazm-e-Urdu finds support in business tycoons and Urdu aficionados such as Kamal Morarka whose Morarka Foundation supports the conservation of Indian heritage.

Sadia Dehlvi & Dilip Kumar

The much-bemoaned state of the Urdu language in India is no secret. By all accounts, its status is becoming that of a classic, with the number of Urdu readers and speakers on the decline. For decades, Bollywood kept Urdu alive by employing lyricists and script-writers who shaped the mainstream Urdu-esque idiom for the cinema.

Dehlvi’s current efforts include a pictorial book, Delhi: The Threshold of Twenty-two Sufis : An accomplished photographer, Dehlvi spends Sundays shooting Delhi’s dargahs . As the commissioning editor for a prestigious publishing house, she talks of her involvement in coffee table travel series on Goa, Kashmir, Sikkim, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Kerala and other destinations. If all this were not enough, she is also working on another book, Female Voices from the Valley of Tears which tells the stories of women in Kashmir and the atrocities faced by them. “Women represent the basic essence of theSadia Dehlvi & Ismat Chugtai family structure and that is collapsing,” she informs me. “This will be my bit for Kashmir.”

As we stroll on the rooftop of her flat overlooking Hamayun’s majestic tomb, Sadia points out the various landmarks in this part of the city. We discuss the myriad facets of Delhi and I discover apparently endless depths in my companion. She is a devout Muslim who prays five times a day and devotes half an hour each morning to recitation from the Quran. This is followed by a yoga routine because, she explains, “I am then equipped emotionally and physically to battle the daily stress of city life.” She is also diwani of the 22 Khawajas who “protect and bless my city.” On Thursday evenings this celebrity – who appears regularly on Pg 3 of the city newspapers – is found lighting candles and listening to qawwalis at Nizamuddin Auliya’s dargah while a hazree at the tombs of Qutub Sahab Bakhtiyar Kaki and Hazrat Shah Farhad is a weekend must. Dehlvi perceives no conflict in her eclectic lifestyle and is comfortable with what most people would perceive as a contradiction.

Sadia lived in Pakistan for a little over a year and recalls good times in Karachi with pleasure, telling me that she has a large number of friends there with whom she keeps in touch. “Karachi is full of independent women like me, who navigate their own lives and often end up threatening the men they encounter,” she comments. However, she considers that the best gift Pakistan gave her was her son Arman, born in 1992 at Karachi’s Lady Dufferin Hospital. Sadia believes that Arman was born as a result of a mannat at Khawaja Moinuddin Chisti’s dargah in Ajmer. His date of birth coincides with the great saint’s Urs, the 6th of Rajab, and Sadia is sure that Arman’s extraordinary musical talents are a gift from the Sufi who rules the subcontinent.

Arman’s talent is indeed formidable. Having received training since he was 3-years old, the boy is a gifted player of the tabla, harmonium and electric guitar. He has already been initiated into the Dilli Gharana style of classical singing and at the age of thirteen, Arman has three concerts to his credit. Like his mother, Arman is as comfortable singing verses from Khusrau and Ghalib as he is with heavy metal and rock songs. He is given Urdu and Quran lessons at home and has become a great favourite at Delhi’s milad mehfils for naatkhwani and qirat .

Later that evening, dinner is comprised of delicacies from the Al-Kausar restaurant, owned by Sadia’s family. Not content with her contributions to Delhi’s cultural landscape, Sadia is equally passionate about the Dilli ka dastarkhwan . “There are few real Dilliwalas left in Delhi; with fusion food taking over, special efforts have to be made to keep the culinary traditions of our city alive,” she states with decision. Twenty-five years ago, Sadia created the first kebab kiosk on the streets of New Delhi (earlier, the only place one got authentic Delhi cuisine was on the streets). Al-Kausar’s menu includes Delhi classics and for over two decades, it has been elite Delhi’s favourite dhaba .

Our conversation is replete with ‘Sadiaisms:’ “Frankly, I find the rich very boring. I thank God for not giving me too much money, because a little insecurity keeps one going and gives life that extra topping of excitement. I try to make Arman understand this by explaining how boring it would be if we could afford to eat pizzas every day!” Another gem: “Money without vision becomes a curse. One must give back to society.”

Ferrying rasgullas from the kitchen, Sadia Dehlvi reflects on a life fully lived. “I grew up on a diet of feminist writers in an Irish convent boarding school in the Simla hills,” she comments. “”t resulted in a conflict of cultures and my teenage years were packed with trauma. That was the era of idealism and rebellion: we coped with the severest of generation gaps, annihilating with unthinking radicalism the truths wooed by our parents and grandparents.”

What a life, I thought as I left Sadia’s place. Here in Pakistan, it is important to understand the extent of her contributions, for we hold on to myths about the abysmal conditions suffered by Muslims in India. Minority status and the baggage of Partition notwithstanding, they continue to make their mark in every field. Perhaps the misunderstandings on both sides can only be undone through an easing of visa and border regulations. Meanwhile, those travelling to Delhi should not forget to give Sadia Dehlvi a call.

The author of this article, Raza Rumi, is a writer based in Pakistan. He writes extensively on Urdu literature and history. His blog can be found here. This article was originally published in The Friday Times. Watch out for this for illuminating articles from Raza.

Disrespect of the Indian Flag


Notice the Indian flag lying on her feet of this self proclaimed divine woman. If this women would have been remotely Muslim then I am sure there would have been many innocents killed in the name of anti-India feeling and disrespecting the flag. The guy in pink shirt is Anil Ambani. The lady is Nirmala Devi and the old man next to her is her ‘own’ husband, an ex-IAS officer and chief of SCI.


Rediff goes again-II

Rediff considers every Pakistani as a Muslim and every Indian as a Hindu. According to B Raman Pakistan’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Khusro Bakhtiar made the following statement in National Assembly

the identities of 49 of the 68 persons, who perished in the fire, have been established so far, Twenty-seven of them were Hindus and only 22 were Muslims.

The actual statement is

the identities of 49 of the dead bodies were established, and that 22 of them were Pakistani.

I think I should now add a separate category on rediff. The way it has pandered to a particular class of people who view everything as Hindu or as Muslim is highly condemnable. That class of people, of which Mr B Raman is a part of, are just another fascists who have killed humanity in their hearts. There are 68 people dead damn it! and people like these are playing politics on it. There are families who have lost their dear ones and few families even were completely erased out.

Iftqar Hussain, Nabi Mohammad Khan, Waqar Hussain and Ruksar Khan from Farrukhabad in Uttar Pradesh accompanied the bodies of their two sisters, their husbands and their children who died in the blasts. The brothers, who had stoically withstood the tragedy so far, broke down on seeing their relatives on the Pakistani side. For a while after that, the stillness of the night returned as people went their ways.[HT]


If peace between is to prevail in India and Pakistan then fascists have to be dealt with or else statements like these will continue to stir emotions and will thus keep the fire of hatred burning. I have a suggestion, may be let’s divide India and Pakistan again.

Our condolences are with the deceased. Innalillahi wa innailaihi rajeun, From ALLAH we come and to ALLAH is our return

The Bombs Of Hatred

At least 68 people have died in the gruesome act of terror on the Samjhauta Express. The terrorists struck a day before Pakistani foreign minister was to arrive in Delhi for talks and a week before the 5th anniversary of the Godhra carnage. The security is so lax on this train (supposedly one of the most secure trains of India) that one can board from Old Delhi and the baggages would not be checked till the train reaches Atari.

Samjhauta Express Burnt Bogies

There are powerful cliques on both sides of the border wanting to scuttle the peace process. Praveen Swami writes an insightful article in ‘The Hindu’ on the opposition of the India-Pakistan peace process from extremists in Pakistan.

Islamists have, in recent weeks, repeatedly argued that the peace process poses a threat to both Pakistan’s economic survival and its ideological raison d’etre. Growing interaction at the level of ordinary people, Islamists have claimed, is working to soften the hatred they believe is necessary to protect their nation.

There has been resistance from certain Hindu extremist groups to the recent bonhomie between Indian and Pakistan but whether any outfit would go to the extent of bombing a train is yet to be seen.

The average man on the street, as is always the case with train accidents in India, did his bit in rescue and relief operations. However, I was appalled to see the absolute lack of empathy on the part of ‘educated’ Indians at the CNN-IBN news-item reporting this attack.


I mean what sort of people would rate this gruesome act as 8.7 on a scale of 10. It seems that some people are actually happy that this happened. Is it because most of the victims were Muslims and Pakistanis on top of that?

Acorn writes about the bomb attack here and Adil Najam provides a Pakistani perspective on the tragedy.

The Mongol Catastrophe and Aurangzeb

I come across some funny opinions.

Mongol Catastrophe
This (http://www.islam-watch.org/HistoryOfJihad/jihad_against_mongols.htm) was rather interesting.

To quote this writer:

“…The relatively unknown story of how the Jihadis tormented the Mongols and Turks leading to a fierce and vicious counter-attack by the Mongols on Islamdom from 1200 to 1258. An attack that was fiercer than the Crusades and which nearly wiped out Islam.”

Immediately upon reading this, I was wondering what he has to say about their (the Mongol’s) subsequent conversion to Islam, and this absolutely hilarious guy goes on:

“…President Bush can as well learn a lot from the Mongols who were the only ones in History to have come nearest to destroy Islam. The failure of the Mongols to do so was due to the fact that although they hated the Muslims, they did not realize that the brutality of the Muslims originated from Islam and eventually the Mongols themselves embraced Islam to become part of the Muslim psyche they so hated to begin with.

Any one who wants to fight the Muslims, needs to understand Islam, and he needs to fight Islam and not just its practitioners – the Muslims. Or else, like the Mongols, after defeating the Muslims on the battlefield, that leader would end up embracing Islam, and become a part of the problem he started out to unravel.

For those who do not know the history (you could watch this): A Muslim ruler did indeed do very wrong by killing a messenger from the Mongols. The Mongols, in response, attacked. The Muslims at that time were not very united. This resulted in a military defeat. Baghdad, the intellectual capital of Medieval world, collapsed. The famous “House of Wisdom” was destroyed. Books were burnt down.

After sometime, the conquerors became conquered. They converted to become Muslims.

Do I need to talk about the writer’s inconsistency in that he endorses the killing of so many people as a feat and celebrates the killings and the burning of so many books and the destructioin of Baghdad? At the same time claiming to want peace?


I came across a writing on Aurangzeb on Rediff. Shariqe has already written about it. Did we know that Aurangzeb built a temple? I seriously think this was a gimmick. A ploy to win votes. Appeasement!

Aurangzeb is often pictured as only a tyrant. He surely was pitted against Hinduism, that’s what my impression is. Yet, he never attempted a full-fledged equivalent of the inquisition. Given that, he restarted Jiziya tax! And he is responsible of destroying a lot of Temples.

Point is: there was no government order to kill the infidels everywhere in the country. There have been some atrocities here and there, though.

From wikipedia

“…During his reign, many Hindu temples were defaced and destroyed…”


“…Also, it is useful to note that even amidst the orthodoxy, a great many top imperial officers continued to be Hindu, including Aurangzeb’s highest general Mirza Raja Jai Singh. The number of Hindu mansabdars actually went up in Aurangzeb’s time to 33% in the fourth decade of his rule, from 24.5% under his father Shah Jahan.”

His own daughter did not share his orthodox viewpoint. She wasn’t killed because of that!

As Sharique pointed out, Aurangzeb is often invoked in order to prove the tyranny of the Muslims. His or other Muslim rulers’ wrongdoings are used to justify or invoke hatred against the Muslims.

On the other hand, the much celebrated Akbar was no all-saint. We hear that deen-e-elahi was a very nice thing. I don’t agree. The central idea of deen-e-elahi was submission to king. I don’t like that. I would like to question the king.

What we want is an honest, impartial discussion of history.

Life can not be coloured in black and white. Most of it are in shades of grey.

Cross-posted at Reflections.

Rediff goes again

Rediff always lives upto its expectations. This time it has highlighted the controversial figure of Aurangzeb to pander to fascists. By inciting passions it just puts the peace in a perilous situation. Assuming that all the allegations against him are true, what purpose does it solve to dig up history? I understand every religion has good and bad people, every religion has seculars, pseudo seculars and fascists but is it justified to hold the entire community responsible for the acts of a few? Reminders like these keep the hatred alive. Kindled passions fall easy prey to fascists on both sides. All this in the name to be ‘transparent’? A heavy price indeed!

Mr. Francois Gautier just parroted the concerns of the RSS. His argument being that history should be told as it is to the younger generation because this will bring transparency. Well assuming correct history is not being told and the examples he cites, about France and French Catholics and Protestants, are indeed genuine, that doesn’t prove anything because of many reasons-

1. The scars of partition of India are still fresh in the minds of Indians. Indian Hindus still see the partition as a blot on their history and the Pakistani Muslims see that as a victory. Problem comes when Indian Hindus start equating Pakistani Muslims to Indian Muslims. May be another 100 years to completely erase these scars.

2. That element of rationality is still not developed  among a huge majority of Indians and Pakistanis alike. This is due to educational and economic reasons. They are easily persuaded by leaders. That element of having an opinion based on a thought process is still missing. We fell prey to this

“Lord Curzon (Governor General of India 1895-99 and Viceroy 1899-1904, d.1925) was told by the Secretary of State for India, George Francis Hamilton, that they ‘should so plan the educational text books that the differences between community and community are further strengthened’.
Another Viceroy, Lord Dufferin (1884-88), was advised by the Secretary of State in London that the ‘division of religious feelings is greatly to our advantage’, and that he expected ‘some good as a result of your committee of inquiry on Indian education and on teaching material’.
‘We have maintained our power in India by playing-off one part against the other,’ the Secretary of State for India reminded yet another Viceroy, Lord Elgin (1862-63), ‘and we must continue to do so. Do all you can, therefore, to prevent all having a common feeling.'[source]

and sadly those deeply engraved lines of animosity still exists.

But the bottom-line is rediff has once again played the irresponsible media. Controversies like these ensures hits and then who cares about the impact!