Wednesday, August 27, 2008

What were they thinking?

Today as every Indian news channel is recounting the horrors of the 16 hour long hostage drama in Jammu, Jammu is still reeling under the shock of the incident and is warily coming terms to the fact that some of the militants are supposed to be still missing. The valley is maintaining a stoic silence. And I am wondering what some of these people were thinking?

* The BSF personnel who discovered that the fence on the Indo-Pak border had been cut and militants had infiltrated at 12:30 a.m on Tuesday. The fact that they hid in the bushes for 30 hours undiscovered before venturing out, is not being looked upon kindly by the civilians and villagers of the surrounding area.

* The driver of a load carrier auto No. 5843 JK02C at village Gadla in Lalyala area of Kanachak sector.He was Darshan Lal son of Leelu Ram R/o Gadla, Kanachak. Two militants took positions on front seat of the auto and forced Darshan Lal to drive.

* The five or six Gujjars who along with their large milk containers were also sitting in back portion of the auto. One of the militant sat with them in the back. The militants were wearing ‘khaki’ dresses of police which they had brought with them from Pakistan and were carrying assault rifles, ammunition belts, grenades and some other devices.

* The police/army personnel who tried to intercept Darshan Lal's auto carrying the 3 militants and the innocent Gujjars at various check points.

* What did Havildar Netar Singh and Sepoy Yashpal, both from Ist JAK Li, think before they were fired at by the militants at an Army naka outside Kanachak Dak Bungalow.

* Naib Subedar (JCO) VVK Parkashan's last thoughts before he got shot and died on spot at Domana.

* What was Army jawan Sepoy Pal Panion of 61 Field Regiment thinking as he chased the auto on a civilian’s motor-cycle before he too was shot at by the militants and injured seriously.

* A Gujjar Muslim identified as Mohd Shabir tried to grapple with the militant sitting on back portion of the auto in a bid to snatch his weapon. The militant threw him out of the vehicle near Domana and opened firing on him but he survived the shots. What was he thinking?

* At Keran Patian Darshan Lal's auto stopped and the militants hijacked another auto.The auto was being driven by Havildar Vijay Kumar son of Sita Ram R/o Keran Patian, who had come to his house on leave from his place of posting at Jaipur and was driving his father's auto to reach to the main road from where he was scheduled to leave for Himachal Pradesh.
Vijay Kumar categorically refused to give lift to the militants and was shot dead. What was he thinking when he heroically refused to drive and what is his family thinking now?

* The militants, rendered without a vehicle, then started targeting civilians and opened firing on a motor-cycle killing Showkat Hussain son of Saif Ali R/o Khairi, Bantalab. Showkat’s brother, a police constable who was sitting behind on the bike, had a narrow escape in the firing. Another constable, Joginder Singh too survived the firing.

* The militants tried to enter into the house of another Subedar (Retired) JCO Naseeb Singh son of Vidhu Singh but he too resisted the attempt and was gunned down.

* Two labourers, moving in the village, were also shot at by the militants and injured seriously. They have been identified as Uttam Acharya son of George Acharya R/o Assam and Ragha Behlev Rai son of Berin Rai R/o Bihar, both of whom were putting up at Keran Patian. Assam and Bihar... so far away from home to make a honest living. What are they thinking as they struggle to survive.

* 60 year old civilian Sarasa Ram son of Mangi Ram R/o Chinore suffered a heart attack after hearing sound of gun shots during the gunbattle and was rushed to GMC Jammu where he breathed his last.

* The villagers of Keran Patian were sleeping at 6:15 a.m and most of the houses were bolted form inside. The militants tried entering a few houses and failed. The villagers must be thinking what if they had not bolted their doors which is not very unusual in a small town/village, what if....

* Billo Ram's house was unfortunately not bolted form inside as Billo Ram had gone to Government Medical Collge/ Hospital for treatment. He had beenbitten by a snake. A neighbor was present in his house at the time besides Billo Ram's mother, 35 yr. old wife, 4 children, the oldest being 9 and the youngest being 2, his brother-in-law and a tenant who is also a teacher. What did all these people think when they saw these militants barging in early in the morning with AK 47s and hand grenades.

* What went through Billo Ram's mind as he heard the news and rushed back from the hospital. What was he thinking for the 16 hours...the time it took for this hostage drama to end, not knowing whether his family was alive or not.

* What went through the 35 yr. old Sunita's mind, mother to the 4 children as she hid in a room with her brother. How did she explain all this to her children. How did she shush her crying 2 yr. old and pacify her frightened 3 yr. old. I am also wondering what those children ate or did not eat for those 16 hours. It is being reported that when the hostage drama ended Sunita had a gunshot wound on her thigh and she was rushed to the hospital. The children it is said took 2 hours to come out of this shock.

* And finally what went on, through the minds of those Pakistani terrorists who killed so easily and were ready to die so willingly. How had they been brainwashed? had they or their families been promised money, or was it the lure of 'jannat' or the 76 or so virgins awaiting them in heaven?How do you learn to hate so? Really, what were they thinking?

I can only mull over these questions and make conjectures. The questions bothersome and the answers even more difficult.

Monday, August 25, 2008

UN Resolution of 1948

There has been a lot of talk about the right to self determination and plebiscite as decided by the UN. I would like to skim through some essential points to highlight how the involvement of both India and Pakistan are important for holding a referendum and why it failed in the first place.

Lots of Pro Azadi and Pro Pakistan Kashmiri Muslims have been alleging that India is solely responsible for the failure of the plebiscite not taking place.

Well following are some points which need to be understood.
There is a misunderstanding that the resolution contained only a plebiscite. The resolution contains three steps in sequence.

a)Cease Fire(was implemented and the result is present day LOC)

b)Truce agreement(produced BELOW)


Often the plebiscite is quoted by Pakistani authorities without the mention of truce agreement.The logical step should be implement Cease fire—Truce agreement—and then Plebiscite for Kashmiris to determine their fate.

The Resolution of the U.N. Security Council of August 13, 1948 to which Pakistan was a party but observed it only in its breach reads:

Part 1 was the Cease fire agreement which resulted in LOC.

Part 2 was truce agreement which was not respected by Pakistan

Simultaneously with the acceptance of the proposal for the immediate cessation of hostilities as outlined in Part I, both Governments accept the following principles as a basis for the formulation of a truce agreement, the details of which shall be worked out in discussion between n their representatives and the Commission .
1. As the presence of troops of Pakistan in the territory of the State of Jammu and Kashmir constitutes a material change in the situation since it was represented by the Government of Pakistan before the Security Council, the Government of Pakistan agrees to withdraw its troops from that State.
2. The Government of Pakistan will use its best endeavour to secure the withdrawal from the State of Jammu and Kashmir of tribesmen and Pakistani nationals not normally resident therein who have entered the State for the purpose of fighting.
3. Pending a final solution, the territory evacuated by the Pakistani troops will be administered by the local authorities under the surveillance of the Commission.

1. When the Commission shall have notified the Government of India that the tribesmen and Pakistani nationals referred to in Part II, A, 2 hereof have withdrawn, thereby terminating the situation which was represented by the Government of India to the Security Council as having occasioned the presence of Indian forces in the State of Jammu and Kashmir, and further, that the Pakistani forces are being withdrawn from the State of Jammu and Kashmir, the Government of India agrees to begin to withdraw the bulk of its forces from that State in stages to be agreed upon with the Commission.
2. Pending the acceptance of the conditions for a final settlement of the situation in the State of Jammu and Kashmir, the Indian Government will maintain within the lines existing at the moment of the cease-fire the minimum strength of its forces which in agreement with the Commission are considered necessary to assist local authorities in the observance of law and order The Commission will have observers stationed where it deems necessary.
3. The Government of India will undertake to ensure that the Government of the State of Jammu and Kashmir will take all measures within its powers to make it publicly known that peace, law and order will be safeguarded and that all human and political rights will be guaranteed.

4. Upon signature, the full text of the truce agreement or a communique containing the principles thereof as agreed upon between the two Governments and the Commission, will be made public.
Government of India and the Government of Pakistan reaffirm their wish that the future status of the State of Jammu and Kashmir shall be determined in accordance with the will of the people and to that end, upon acceptance of the truce agreement, both Governments agree to enter into consultations with the Commission to determine fair and equitable conditions whereby such free expression will be assured.

Since there have been Pro Pakistan slogans in the valley , I questions the logic behind this love for Pakistan. After reading the UN Resolution, anybody would find it difficult to justify the school of thought which touts that Pakistan is invested in the interests and welfare of the people of Kashmir.

In my opinion the azadi movement glaringly lacks true and honest leadership. Geelani is unquestionably on Pakistan's payroll and has made it clear that he defines an Azad Kashmir as a Kasmir which is part of Pakistan. There are many in the valley who clearly do not want this and are being mislead by this kind of leadership. Some Kashmiri Muslims claimed that the chant 'jeevay,jeevay Pakistan' to incite the CRPF, the Army etc.They fail to see that the Pro Pakistani leadership wants them to do so because they want to provoke the armed forces, pray for casualties will follow, consequently adding more fuel to the fire.

The true azadi seekers, need to , reflect,re think , re strategize and realize they are being taken for a ride.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Cause of Secularism

I am Secular, and I am a Humanist. I am a Hindu.I am a Dogra from Jammu and I am also an Indian. Secular and proud to be a Hindu does not go together or atleast not considered true these days. Especially if you are a Dogra from Jammu and feel that the the cancellation of the land order to the Amarnath Board should be revoked.

I would not have wasted my breath proving my credentials but I feel the voice of the Jammu people is not reaching the mainstream. If you have seen any national TV debates recently you will know what I am saying. The Jammu region is sadly lacking a good orator. We are not comfortable with English and the region's representatives are seen as either incoherent like the Samiti convenor Leela Karan Sharma, or sounding like a right wing activist like Mr. Jitender Singh. The best of the lot is Sheikh Shakeel Ahmed, from the Jammu Bar Association. He is coherent though looks like he will break down as he is unable to put his point across and is pitted against word savvy opponents like Farooq Abdullah and Mirwaiz.

Because of this lack of good speakers the regions case is not being presented properly. The media has always sided with the underdog. The underdog here being the Kashmiri Muslim. Shockingly amiss is the Kashmiri Pandit viewpoint. If they do get the pandits on these debates the time allotted to them is miniscule. It is surprising how the media has forgotten that they are the underdogs here, with no home or hearth. Lack of media attention and oratorial skills has caused the right wing activists to exploit the situation. Pravin Togadia of VHP said it is a 'religious issue' and the entire nation read the Hindu nation supports the Jammuites. BJP supports Sangharsh Samiti and hence another reason for the issue to take on a communal tinge. The Samiti convenor Leela Karan Sharma is or was associated with RSS so that does not help either.

The fact that 48 other organizations are backing the Samiti is ignored.The fact that it is a People's Movement and has gone on for almost 60 days is inconsequential.The fact that the Samiti asked BJP and VHP to back off so that the issue is seen in its true light is given no due attention. The Samiti prevented Advani and Rajnath Singh from addressing rallies in Jammu. In yesterday's 'jail bharo' move the Gujjars who are Muslims also courted arrest. Gujjar Leader Fazal Din has been leading the Gujjars in this movement.Areas like Poonch, Doda, Rajouri, Kishtwar which have witnessed demographic changes with the migration of Hindus to Hindu majority areas as a result of terrorism has also witnessed protests in favor of the Samiti. Mostly by the remaining Hindus in those regions and the Gujjars.

Of course the forces trying to communalize the issues are working overtime. The breakdown of the long secular history of the region is critical for vote bank politics.

Glaring is the absence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's direct and visible involvement. The PM has been referring to the issue in J&K in speeches given at different venues.The Government in the Center has messed things up by its slow and delayed response.

The issue once again is:

1.Why should High Court Order which allows for building of temporary structures for pilgrims in the Baltal forest which otherwise is uninhabitable be revoked because the seperatists or political leadership in the valley did not approve. The pilgrimage is for a duration of 2 months in a year and some sheds are necessary due to inclement weather conditions. Some 250 pilgrims died in a snowstorm last year. The Shrine board is a body consisting of State Subjects and rumors were spread that it was not so. There were no efforts to dipel the rumors that the land would be permanently transferred to the Shrine Board. All land is under the jurisdiction of the Government.

2. Why should it be possible for the Kashmiri Muslims to buy property, do business and study in Jammu if the Jammuites cannot do the same in the valley. Jammuites are also state subjects and under the Article 370 entitled to similar rights.

The underlying problems of discrimination with the Jammu region thanks to an appeasement and cover up policy of the Center favors the valley.

The Valley has a seperate agenda, that of wanting freedom or azadi. Some want a merger with Pakistan but most, want to have nothing to do with either Pakistan or India.As a seperatist Kashmiri Muslim friend of mine said he wants absolute freedom, not a merger with Pakistan.He told me that he feels leaderless.He said,if the choice was only merger with Pakistan he prefers to settle in Bihar. Another young Kashmiri Muslim from the valley says this conflict of interest within the people of the valley might lead to a civil war like situation.They stand strong and united though and are clear that they want Azadi.

But the media has not been able to highlight the real issue which though is to do with a place of worship, is more complex. Arundhatis and Shabanas of the world raced to make politically correct statements without really studying and understanding the problem, hence sabotaging the issue.The issue will get distorted and twisted and maybe is taking and will take on a communal color, in the coming days.But that is not how and why it started.

I had to write this peice because I promised my 66 year old father in Jammu who courted arrest yesterday and today that I would hold onto my secular beliefs in the face of all odds. He asked me to view things in a balanced way and hoped it reflected in my writings.He reminded me that secularism is core to my region, my religion and my civilization.Secularism is in my blood.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

History of Jammu and Kashmir

Someone said that merger was not a bad idea because 300 years of history could not be undone by 61 years of enmity. The reference here is Kashmiri Muslims wanting a merger with Pakistan and India's 61 year long enmity with Pakistan.
If I was blessed with powers of divine intervention I would in the first place undo the partition of 1947. Or if the partition had to take place all the Muslims should have moved to Pakistan and the Hindus to Hindustan. But who am I to say that.
Also I have a sneaking suspicion that the bond with the land is sometimes a stronger bond than the bond we have with religion.
Today if I am asked to give up my home in Jammu because as a Dogra Hindu I need to move to India while the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir merges with Pakistan. Can I do that easily?
Mental institutions in Jammu have older Kashmiri Pandits who have gone insane after 1989. They lost their sanity after being driven away from their homes, apple orchards, their temples, the land of their forefathers.Many died in Jammu in the migration camps because they could not acclimatize to the higher temperatures of the plain.So many Kashmiri Pandits stopped being secular after 1989. The younger generations of Kashmiri Pandits struggle to maintain a facade of secularism if they try at all that is because they have seen their grandparents and parents suffer. They carry with them pictures of their ransacked and deserted homes.

How far in history do we have to go to prove our rightful claim to the land.


According to the oldest extant book on Kashmir, " Nilmat Puran ", in the Satisar lived a demon called Jalod Bowa, who tortured and devoured the people, who lived near mountain slopes. Hearing the suffering of the people, a great saint of our country, Kashyap by name, came to the rescue of the people here. After performing penance for a long time, the saint was blessed, and he was able to cut the mountain near Varahmulla, which blocked the water of the lake from flowing into the plains below. The lake was drained, the land appeared, and the demon was killed. The saint encouraged people from India to settle in the valley. The people named the valley as Kashyap-Mar and Kashyap-Pura. The name Kashmir also implies land desicated from water: "ka" (the water ) and shimeera (to desicate). The ancient Greeks called it "Kasperia" and the Chinese pilgrim Hien-Tsang who visited the valley around 631 A. D. called it KaShi-Mi-Lo ". In modern times the people of Kashmir have shortened it into "Kasheer" in their tongue.


Kalhan has started the history of Kashmir just before the great Mahabharat war, and the first King mentioned by him is Gonanda I, whose initial year of reign he places in 653 Kali-era, the traditional date of the coronation of King Yudhistira, the eldest brother of the Pandvas. Gonanda was killed in a battle along with his son in India, and at the time of the commencement of the Mahabharat war, Gonanda II was ruling Kashmir.The sanskrit work 'Ratnakar' also mentions the kings after Gonanda I.Ashoka too ruled kashmir and his grandson Damodar was a very popular king . The Srinagar airport was named after him Damodar e karwa. Kashmir was also ruled by Indi grek kings followed by Kushan rule. Then there waS the Karkota rule followed by Utpal dynasty. Lohara dynasty ruled Kashmir till the end of the HIndu rule(1339).

Shah Mir ascended the throne under the name of Sultan Shamas-ud-din, and his dynasty ruled the state for 222 years. This period is one of the most important in the annals of Kashmir, in as much as Islam was firmly established here.

The Moghuls remained in power here, from 1587 to 1752.

AFGHAN RULE: 1752 - 1819
Kashmir remained a dependency of Kabul rulers till 1819, roughly a period of 67 years.

SIKH RULE: 1819-46

DOGRA PERIOD : 1846 1957

The two Anglo-Sikh wars led to the final extinction of Sikh soverignty in the Punjab and by virtue of the treaties of Lahore and Amritsar the British who had by now become undisputed masters of India, transferred and made over in perpetuity, the independent position to the Maharaja Gulab Singh and heirs male of his body, all the hilly and mountainous country situated to the east of Indus, and west of Ravi river. In consideration of this transfer Maharaja Gulab Singh paid to the British government the sum of 75 lakhs of rupees. Maharaja Gulab Singh entered Srinagar on 9th November 1848 at 8 in the morning. The Dogra royal line traces its descent from the ancient Kshatriyas mentioned frequently in Mahabharata. The Dogra ruler claimed that they belong to the Surya Vanshi (sun born) race.

It was on 26th Jan. 1957 that the Kashmir Constiuent Assembly ended the hereditary rule of the Hindu monarchy in the state exactly after one hundred and ten years of its establishment. The Partition in 1947 on communal lines meant disaster for the region. Pakistan sent its guerrilla fighters who especially targeted the Hindus. Pakistan wanted to grab Kashmir, even though its ruler in the terms of Independance Act, had acceded to India, and signed the instrument of Accession as required under the said Act. The main burden of Pakistan invasion had to be borne by the Hindus of the districts of Muzzafarbad, Baramulla, Poonch, Rajuari, Mirpur, Bhimber, Kotli, Skardu, Gilgit and Ladakh. Thousands of people became the victims and lost their lives for no fault of theirs, and property worth crores accumulated for decades was lost just within a weeks time. Major demographic changes occured and the migration of Hindus from Muslim majority areas in the region which support Pakistan has been an ongoing process.

Who then decides whose land is it anyway?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Azadi = Merger with Pakistan?

Hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani on Monday demanded the merger of Jammu and Kashmir with Pakistan.
Addressing a mammoth gathering at the tourist reception centre in Srinagar, Gillani said there was "no solution to the Kashmir issue other than merger with Pakistan".
"We are Pakistanis and Pakistan is us because we are tied with the country through Islam," he roared, as the crowd cheered him and chanted: "Hum Pakistani hain, Pakistan hamara hai" (We are Pakistanis, Pakistan is ours).

I am so disappointed for many people. The Kashmiri Muslims fighting for freedom from POK.
The Muslims waging a war for freedom from Pakistan in Balawaristan.

For the people in Aksai Chin (China Occupied Kashmir)who harbored dreams of re-integrating with Kashmir.

And most of all I am the saddest for the Kashmiri Muslims from the valley who had their hearts set on Azad Kashmir , a Kashmir which included POK and was independent from both Pakistan and India. Your leaders have let you down.

Geelani said on Monday that they had a connection with Pakistan because of Islam. So it has been a communal fight all along. Then why blame Jammu of communal ism.

I had been asking Kashmiri Muslims who were pro freedom some tough question on some forums and had not been getting answers. The million dollar question was WHAT AFTER AZADI? I asked them yesterday if they or their leaders had a blueprint for Azad Kashmir.
The separatists submitted a memorandum to the US oops sorry the UN. Well the error because it is US which decides which issue is important for the UN to intervene and and how. And when the UN still does not back US intentions it just goes ahead and does it anyway.
Well my take on this memorandum yesterday was...The UN will just appeal to India to handle the matter peacefully and engage in an all party dialogue, including Pakistan. Although I wonder what Pakistan will bring to the table, it is not even willing to open the trade routes. And is now busy deciding what to do with Musharraf.

And if UN agrees to intervene more actively I wonder about the hidden interest the US might have in Kashmir. Well it is strategically located, for starters...US is already in Pakistan and Afghanistan looking for terrorists and it is they who call it.. hunting down Islamic Terrorists. Troops based in Kashmir would mean controlling and monitoring an Islamic State. An Islamic state is what Kashmir would be in the International Community's eyes. And it would give the US an upper hand with its opponent China. It will be breathing down China's neck from the valley. I am worried about the HR violations then..the US in general is wary of anyone with a beard and brown skin after 9/11.

The US/ UN will justify this occupation because the demand of Azadi is backed by no blueprint or preparation of how the Azad Kashmiris will sustain themselves ...especially how will they protect their borders from ready to attack and occupy- Pakistan and China?

But I guess the questions I posed yesterday were useless becuase there is a blueprint for Azadi and that is a merger with Pakistan based on the theory of one religion one nation.

I find this statement by Geelani disturbing because I personally know of Kashmiri Muslim youth who are pro azadi and for their own justified reasons. These young Kashmiri Muslim men are clear they want freedom from both Pakistan and India. These men are also secular in nature and have said to me that they do not think of India as their enemy as long as they are granted freedom. But their naivete in trusting the secessionist leadership who is on the Pakistani payroll has let them down.

The lesson here for the Dogras and Kashmiri Pandits and all the other pro India groups - protect you rights.

Let us not be worried about pseudo intellectuals like Arundhati Roy who said
"Kashmir needs freedom from India". To all those who think she has acted like an anti national Arundhati Roy is a bigger traitor to the Kashmiri interests saying what she said she played into the hands of leaders like Geelani and help crush the pro azadi ..independence from both Pakistan and India dreams of many a kashmiri muslim youth.
People like her need to do things like this from time to time to keep themselves in the news. Luckily for her and unluckily for those whose interests she has hurt that our great nation is a democracy and she too is entitled to her views.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Jammu Vs. Kashmir The Battle Continues...

Jammu entered into the 26th day of Bandh and 49th day of agitation in response to a call given by Shri Amarnath Yatra Sangarsh Samiti (SAYSS) demanding restoration of 800 kanals land to Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB).

In the valley on the other hand the chairmen of parallel factions of Hurriyat Conference, Syed Ali Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq on Sunday said that the resistance struggle will continue and asked people to gather on Monday and a procession would be taken out heading towards Sonawar to submit a memorandum at the United Nations Military Observers (UNMO) office. The Hurriyat’s Coordination Committee also said there will be no strike from Tuesday to Thursday.

The SAYSS has said that it is open for talks if the center has concrete plans. The first all party delegation which came to Jammu to they allege was not serious about resolving the issue. The Sangharsh Samiti has alleged that Amar Singh was sleeping through the meeting.The convenor of the Samiti has said thatthey are open for a 'middle path' if it comes form the government.

The whole scenario is gradually but inevitably taking a communal tone.Some Gujjar khullas or huts wre burnt.The Samiti alleges these khullas were empty as the Gujjars are a nomadic tribe and move to the mountains in summer. The Kashmiri Muslims of the valley have claimed beating up of Kashmiri truck drivers in Jammu by hindu fundamentalists. It has resulted in the death of one driver.

2000 semi and unskilled laborers have left the valley under the threat of severe repercussions by militants and locals. These laborers were mostly from Bihar and Jharkhand.

The Center, Congress and the UPA meanwhile is still bungling along. The blame of worsening conditions is in large part due to the ineptness shown by the Centarl goverment. Some of the glaring mistakes were :
a)It took the Center 40 days of agitation in the Jammu region which was preceded by violent protests in the valley to take note of the problem.
b)The whole issue of "economic blockade" was being politicised and blown out of proportion. There was a bandh in Jammu and the highway was affected too. There was a call of blocking the highway to Srinagar. The government took time in taking help of the army to clear the highway. The highway was cleared within a day or two but no efforts were made to dipel the notion that the 'blockade' had been lifted.
c) If there was and is a shortage of essental commodities they could have been airlifted to the valley.
d) The seriousness of the crisis has still been not appreciated by the government beacuse there is no direct involvement of the Prime Minister as yet.

So while the Center sleepwalks through the issue parties like BJP, PDP, NC are playing the game of votebank politics and hoping to piggyback happily to the upcoming elections in 2009. The seperatist leaders in the valley and the communal forces elsewhere are having the last laugh.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Devil's Labyrinth or Heaven on Earth

Violence in Jammu and Kashmir continues. Jammu has entered its 46th day of agitation and 16th day of bandh.In the valley there has been a call for bandh till the 18th of august. There has been loss of life and property.

Though the row started over the Amarnath Land transfer or rather land leasing issue, it has snowballed into a demand for Azadi for Kashmir by the Kashmiri hardliners like Hurriyat Conference and a do or die matter of honor for the Dogras of the Jammu region.

It is and has been a very complicated issue thanks to its history, various ethnic groups and their religious and political affiliations. If my previous posts have seemed to simplify the matter, that was not the intention.

I have previously stated that the Dogras of the Jammu region are united in their struggle, hindus and muslims alike. But this statement is likely to cause confusion. By Muslims of the region I meant the Dogra Muslims. The demography of the region is the key to understanding the problem. There are now 10 districts in Jammu region: Jammu, Kathua ,Udhampur, Samba, Reasi, Poonch, Rajouri, Doda,Kishtwar,Ramban
Out of these only Jammu, Kathua, Reasi, Udhampur and Samba are predominantly Hindu. The Hindus are mostly Dogras. The districts of Poonch, Rajouri, Doda , Kishtwar and Ramban have Muslim majority.

Historically , Poonchies have rebelled against the Maharaja of J&K a Dogra Ruler. During the partition they fought to get independence from Jammu. They have had an anti India stance since then.Since Rajouri District shares its borders with Pakistan, it is the site of infiltration and militant activity. Due to militancy substantial minority communities have moved to the Hindu dominated districts near Jammu. The militants hiding in the forests in and around Rajouri have either brainwashed or threatened the locals to adopt a seperatist view.

The Dogra Muslims have chosen to support the Hindus in the Amarnath issue. They also agree that the people of Jammu region especially Dogras have faced discrimination. They stand united with their Hindu brothers in demand for justice.
In Ramnagar tehsil in Udhampur District Mr.Dilkhursheed, a Muslim has been made the Chairman of the Amarnath Sangharsh Samiti. Prominent Dogra Muslims like Sheikh Shakeel,Member Jammu Bar Association, Abdul Mazeer the Chairman of the Muslim Congregation Jammu, have joined their Hindu counterparts in the agitation.

Kashmir Valley has the history of struggle against the Maharaja. Even during the partition many did not agree with the Maharaja's decision to accede to India. Many in the valley still want independence from India and want a separate country which includes the POK.

Kashmiri Pandits and the Dogras stand united but were not on very cordial terms with each other before. The Pandits appreciate the fact that Jammu opened its doors for them in the 1989 mass exodus but some of them feel that the Dogras were silent spectators during their persecution. Dogras empathize with the Pandits but harbor resentment over the years of discrimination and governance which favored the Kashmiris.

These are the major players but there many more in this circus. The Ladakhis, Baltis. Gujjars ,Bakkerwaals....The more the merrier they say, but here the case is not so. It means more complexities and more difficulty in finding a long term solution to the problem.

Is it Heaven on Earth or the Devil's labyrinth is the question I am asking myself these days.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Pot Calling the Kettle Black

Pakistan Foreign Office said it was approaching the international community, the UN, Organisation of Islamic Conference and human rights organisations, urging them to "take notice" of the situation in Jammu and Kashmir.

I condone the killings and loss of property in the Kashmir and in Jammu, but this latest rhetoric by Pakistan is ridiculous. Pakistan has poor human rights records by both local and international standards. At a time when the regions of Baltistan and Gilgit are fighting for their freedom from Pakistan occupation, Pakistan's concern for Kashmir's freedom is bewildering.
Check out:

As in previous years, violence against women remained rampant in Pakistan. Under Pakistan's existing Hudood Ordinance, proof of rape generally requires the confession of the accused or the testimony of four adult Muslim males who witnessed the assault. If a woman cannot prove her rape allegation she runs a very high risk of being charged with fornication or adultery, the criminal penalty for which is either a long prison sentence and public whipping, or, though rare, death by stoning. The testimony of a woman carries half the weight of a man’s testimony under this ordinance. The government has yet to repeal or reform the Hudood Ordinance, despite repeated calls for its repeal by the government-run National Commission on the Status of Women, as well as women’s rights and human rights groups. Informed estimates suggest that tens of thousands of cases under the Hudood laws are under process at various levels in Pakistan’s legal system.

Domestic and international human rights organizations and media drew attention this year to the government’s dismissive attitude regarding violence against women. In January 2005 Shazia Khalid, a doctor, was raped by a masked intruder alleged to be an army officer in Balochistan province. Khalid, who subsequently fled to London, accused President Musharraf’s principal secretary of acting on behalf of the Pakistan Army in personally coercing her to leave the country. Mukhtaran Mai, who was gang-raped on the orders of a village council in 2002, was denied permission to travel to the United States in June, in order to prevent her from “maligning” Pakistan. The ban was lifted after an international outcry.

President Musharraf subsequently sparked international outrage by publicly stating that rape has become a “money-making concern,” and suggesting that many Pakistanis felt it was an easy way to get a foreign visa. He specifically mentioned both Mukhtaran Mai and Shazia Khalid in this context. Despite the international and domestic condemnation, President Musharraf has not apologized for these remarks or withdrawn them.

Pakistan's Blasphemy Laws target Christians and Hindus living in the country.Several minority Muslim communities, such as the Mojahir and the Ahmadiyya have been attacked in Pakistan over the years. Plus, the ethnic Balochi have allegedly been severely discriminated against, leading them to start a secessionist movement under Nawab Akbar Bugti called the balochistan Liberation Army.Sectarian violence also increased in the predominantly Shi’a Northern Areas. In January Agha Ziauddin, a leading Shia cleric, was murdered in the Himalayan city of Gilgit.

Since 2001 the conduct of the “war on terror" in Pakistan has involved serious violations of human rights. Suspects arrested and held on terrorism charges frequently were detained without charge and subject to trials without proper judicial process. For example, Zain Afzal and Kashan Afzal, U.S. citizens of Pakistani origin, were abducted from their home in Karachi in August 2004 by Pakistani intelligence agents. They were released on April 22, 2005, without having been charged, after Human Rights Watch intervened. During eight months of illegal detention, the two brothers were repeatedly interrogated and threatened by U.S. FBI agents operating in Pakistan, and were subjected to torture by the Pakistani security services.

Military operations are ongoing in South Waziristan, adjacent to the Afghan border, and previously noted problems persist, including collective punishment, extrajudicial executions, arbitrary detentions, and limited access to prisoners.

Pakistan has attacked Human Rights defenders most famously Asma Jehangirthe U.N. special rapporteur on freedom of religion and head of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, the country’s largest such nongovernmental group, was publicly beaten. The police, under orders, also attempted to strip her naked. Some forty others, including Hina Jilani, the U.N. special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, were also beaten and arrested by the provincial police and the federal Intelligence Bureau. This was during an event designed to highlight violence against women in 2005.

The list is longer.It is definitely the case of kettle calling the pot black.

Pakistan's rhetoric is only going to hamper the peace process in India. It serves no ne of the concerned parties, the Kashmiri Muslims or the Kashmiri Pandits or the Dogras. I wish Paksistan would concentrate on its money laundering President rather than creating mischief across the border.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Jammu and Kashmir under Seige

After 13 yrs. curfew was imposed in the entire valley. The Kashmiri local media reports that 21 people are killed versus the national media reporting 11 dead and 500injured.

The secular nature of the protests in Jammu too has taken a beating. Kishtwar in Jammu region too erupted in violence with the two communities clashing. 2 people were killed and 80 injured.More than 100 shops were gutted or extensively damaged.

It troubles me to say that I do not see any light at the end of the tunnel. The people in the Jammu region are not budging till their demands are met. They want the order on the transfer of land revoked. And the issue of regional discrimination is the basis for such intensity of protests. But who disentangles the issues which seem to be hopelessly mixed up. There is a lack of strong leadership in the region. Parties like BJP see it as an opportunity and are preparing ground for the upcoming elections in 2009.

The people in the valley are tierd of being under the shadow of the militancy and the military and are longing for freedom from both. This is also evident by the beating of the former PDP minister Dilawar Mir in Sopore. He had gone to express PDP's solidarity with the fruit growers who Suddenly, a group of fruit growers and residents of Sopore took objection to Mir’s action and dismissed him "one of the killers of Kashmiris". They also expressed their anger against Mir’s party and shouted that it was responsible for creating the current crisis first by allotting land to SASB and later by demanding its cancellation. They lamented that "economic blockade" in Jammu was the result of the same "mischief" by PDP.

The different young voices I am hearing on different forums and Jammu and Kashmir communities have this to say:

Jammu Region: They want revocation of the order of transfer of land. They are clear that they have to stand up for the long on going regional discrimination. They also admit there has been a lack of strong leaders from the community. They are secular in nature and pro India. They are leaning towards seperate statehood.They want peace.

The Valley: They are not pro India and have many grievances against the Indian Govt. Fair enough they have been under the shadow of the gun for too long now. Many of them are openly pro Pakistan though most of them prefer a seperate country, Azad Kashmir over aligning with Pakistan. They have expressed their desire to have the Kashmiri Pandits back. They are definitely fed up with all the loss of life and property. Some of them admit that parties like PDP and NC indulge in vote bank politics. They too want peace.

The Kashmiri Pandits: The KP are still waiting for justice and waiting to return to their homeland. They openly express solidarity with the Jammuites. They are angry and justifiably so.They feel the Kashmiri Muslims expressing desire to have them back is all words and is translating into no action. They too want peace.

Ladakh: Have not heard any voices from this region. Dont know wether its good or bad.

Cannot say if this impasse will result in any positive and constructive results. The politics of region, religion and vote bank is most likely to win again. The politicians are bound to settle amongst themselves making sure they win some if they lose some. All at the cost of the larger interests of the people.
Valley will go back to being what it is ...a ticking time bomb waiting to explode ...again.
The Kashmiri Pandits yearning for their homeland and waiting for conducive environment to return to their homes, their apple orchards, their valley.
The Dogras risk fading into oblivion once again thanks to lack of strong and articulate leadership.

I am praying I am proven wrong.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Jammu Agitation - Regional or Communal

The Jammu Agitation is not communal but regional. There is a danger that the history of tolerance might break under the strain and might become a victim of political mischief.

If one looks at reports now coming out of the Jammu region one will see that the muslims of the region are standing by their hindu counterparts. This kind of honest and detailed coverage was long due. It is to be noted that there have been incidents of no communal violence in this 40 days long agitation. Unfortunately very recently there have been reports of Gujjar Muslims huts being burnt. But otherwise this has been a remarkably peaceful protest.

One of the most famous dogra singer is also a Muslim, Ghulam Mohammed.Late Ustaad Allahrakha the tabla maestro(Father of Ustaad Zakir Hussain) was a Dogra Muslim. I have personally heard him giving an impassioned speech demanding recognition for the Dogri language in the early 1990's. But this secular fabric of the region is under duress due to the delayed and inadequate response of the central government.

Notably it took more than a month for the national media to give due importance and coverage to the issue. This is a very irresponsible act because the agitation was being dismissed as yet another hindu-muslim fight. The nature of the agitation is not communal, is proven by the fact that the Dogra muslims as well as Gujjar Muslims of the region are supporting the cause. They are saying that the region has been long discriminated against in favor of the valley. This dicrimination was against the muslims of the Jammu region too. The region of Ladakh too suffered.

A Jammu Bar Association Member and a Dogra Muslim Sheikh Shakeel Ahmed has endorsed the cause and supporting the movement by the Sangharsh Samiti. Mr. Sheikh Shakeel scoffed at Mr. Farooq Abdullah and Mr. Sajjad lone's attempts to say that he was supporting the Hindus because he had to live with them in Jammu. This is an example of the politics of religion trying to overpower an issue and change its course.

"This is not a communal agitation. Firstly, when you focus on this religious issue, it happens to be the last straw that broke the camel's back. And at the base of it all what is now coming out is actually a manifestation of grievances over issues that are rather secular in nature. You have a region that has suffered a lot," said Dipankar Sengupta, Economist.
Now if you have a centralised governance, a particular province, in this case the province of Kashmir is overly-represented in the state legislature. It is discrimination. Real and perceived discrimination is bound to take place. And it has taken place. Now if it was a decentralised governance, and this state is a mountainous state, a multi-ethnic state and a diverse state, it cannot be in any way governed in a centralised manner. You have to have a democratic devolution of power, decentralisation in this state otherwise the state cannot run. That unfortunately is completely missing in this particular state. So you have various people, various regions, feeling alienated, feeling disempowered, blaming each other as well as the Central government for this current state of affairs," he added.

"Population at that time was equally balanced. But when the state Constitution was framed and state has its own commission. They were given 42 seats and Jammu was given 32 seats. There was difference of 10 seats. Then we raised hue and cry and four seats were raised in the Valley and five seats in Jammu. In the present population we have more than 32 lakh voters and Kashmir has 29 lakh voters. Kashmir has three Parliamentary seats, Jammu has two. So political power is retained by them and by that they discriminated in the employment in the whole of the Secretariat where more than 3,000 employees are there. There are hardly 3-4 of the Jammu regions, including Muslims. In the medical colleges, in the engineering colleges in employment, in development, every where there was a discrimination with the Jammu people," said Leela Karan Sharma, leader, Amarnath Sangharsh Samiti.

All this and the militancy in the valley has lead to further alienation between the people of the 2 regions of Jammu and Kashmir.40 seperate organization have come together in Jammu and are working together. What unites them. A desire for a powerful voice for their grievances makes this agitation a people's movement.

This pot has been on the burner for quite sometime now and it was just a matter of time before things boiled over.

Some must see videos:

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Rise Jammu Rise

Any parent will tell you that if a child is not reprimanded, corrected and if the need be punished or as it is fashionably known given time out for bad behavior, he/she will continue to make the same mistake. In fact the absence of timely correction will lead to an emboldened and impudent child who will continue to do the forbidden act time and again.

Well so what does the parent, read Central Govt. do when the child i.e. the Kashmiri leadership and the people are naughty? The naughty deed being the political parties from the valley threatening to march to Muzaffarbad a town in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir to sell their fruits. And this is not anything new. Threats of aligning to Pakistan is commonplace. It is either this or an act of terrorism. So again how does the Center react to this? The Center says please do not walk to Muzzafarabad and further gives them candy to pacify them. The candy being compensation for the economic losses they had to'suffer'

What does it do with the other child Jammu who is asking for some well deserved rights? It is trying to placate it by promises of candy in the future. Promises it has no plans to fulfill.

Undoubtedly very bad parenting. Unfair comparisons and treatment between two siblings will have bad consequences. The unfortunate of the two siblings will be psychologically scarred for life and its spirit be crushed.

So let the false promises not fool you. Let it not crush your spirit. You are in the right, Jammu, so stand up for yourself. Krishna Neeti says if someone slaps you and tries to do it again you have to stop him. And stop him you will.

Rise Jammu Rise!!!!

Friday, August 8, 2008

No Brainers

When the Kashmiri separatists oppose transfer of land to the shrine board it is not considered communal. As soon as the Jammuites demand revocation of the transfer of land the problem becomes communal?

The Kashmiris from the valley fear demographical changes if the land is leased out to the shrine board. The shrine board would be setting up temporary structures for a period of 2 months in a year in an area which is remote and not really conducive for permanent settlements. In 1989 7 lakh plus Kashmiri pandits were forced to leave the valley. Will that not be counted as a change in demograpghy?

Farooq Abdullah has threatened to leave the country. Mehbooba Syed said all this is driving them towards Muzzfarabad in POK (Pakistan Occupied Kashmir). Farooq Abdullah has questioned his father Sheikh Abdullah's wisdom in acceding to India. Are these kind of statements not anti-national?

India cannot afford another partition but the voice in Kashmir is anti-India. Though it becomes even more necessary to win them over it cannot be done at the cost of the people of Jammu and Ladakh.

Some facts:
1. Area: Kashmir:15948 Jammu:26293
2. Govt(Revenue): Kashmir:20% Jammu:75%
3. Voter: Kashmir:2288395 Jammu:3059986
4. Assembly Seats: Kashmir:46 Jammu:37
5. Lok Sabha Seats: Kashmir:3 Jammu:2
6. Cabinet Ministers: Kashmir:14 Jammu:5
7. Unemployment: Kashmir:29% Jammu:70%


Jammu and Ladakh have been paying the price for a very long time. Price for what you ask? The price to show that everything is ‘fine’ in the state. Price to reign in the separatist sentiments in the valley. To appease the Kashmiri in the valley who like a spoilt pampered child threatens to align with Pakistan every time it gets a slap on the wrist for doing something ‘naughty’, read sheltering and harboring anti India sentiments, terrorists, driving away the Kashmiri Pandits from the valley etc etc etc.
Funds, jobs, businesses, tourism, seats in academic institutions and so on and so forth have been directed towards the valley barely passing through and more or less bypassing the Jammu and Ladakh region. The Center has been a silent spectator and rather has been an active participant.

Everytime something which is in the larger national interests is done in the valley it threatens Kashmiriyat and the Muslim sentiments. It is a ploy to abuse their privileged position. In bargain the people of the Jammu and Ladakh region have had to suffer in silence. They have lost their identity and have no voice at all. This is a price for being patriotic. The strike in Jammu has entered its 40th day and the curfew its 17th day. There has been police brutality and excesses despite of which the protestors have been chanting Jai Bharat Mata ki/Indian Army Zindabad.
As opposed to this there have been pro-freedom,pro-pakistan and anti –govt. slogans in the valley. The political leaders from Kashmir like Farooq Abdullah an have said he would have to visit his father Sheikh Abdullah's grave and ask whether staying on in India after Partition had been the right decision. "A time has come when I could require a visa to visit Jammu," he said. Mehbooba's speech was no less high-pitched as she said the blockade resulting from the Jammu stir could result in the Valley "looking to the road to Muzzaffarabad (PoK)".
The highly political speeches by PDP and NC leaders, who while catering to the hardline sentiment were also competing to "represent" the Valley, only brought out the divide over the Amarnath controversy. (

The Muslims of Jammu Region which comprises of the following districts: Kathua, Samba, Udhampur, Reasi, Rajouri, Poonch, Doda, Ramban, and Kishtwar are supporting the agitation in Jammu. It is political mischief which is inspiring comments from Kashmiri leaders that they want to ensure protection for the Muslims in Jammu. The Muslims and Hindus in Jammu are united.
The issue is not communal. It reflects regional antagonism yes, due to lopsided and unfair governance.The Amarnath row was just a breaking point. The Jammuites want to be heard now. Enough is enough.

Must read article on the Jammu Issue

Following is a very important link which offers solution to the Jammu crisis. But more than offering solution they also throw light on the tone and sentiments of the people of Jammu and the people of Kashmir.

It is an article by Professor Amitabh Mattoo who is a reputed acamedician and also the Kashmiri Vice-Chancellor of Jammu University.The valley's point of view is reflected in Mirwaiz Umer Farooq's article who is also the Chairman of All Parties Hurriyat Conference.

Link to the article:

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Jammu Burning

I don't know how to and where to begin from. I just know I need to write because what we really know about the crisis in Jammu ranges from little or poor information to misinformation. This is thanks to the general ignorance about the region, the valley hogging all the attention, all the time and an irresponsible media which is not doing ample justice to the real issues at hand.

To begin with, everybody who lives in Jammu and Kashmir is not a Kashmiri.Besides Kashmiris we have Dogras, Paharis, Gujjars, Bakherwals,Kishtwaris, Ladakhis living there.Languages spoken are Dogri,Pahari,Kashmiri,Kishtwari,Urdu,Hindi,Balti and maybe many more.It is a melting pot of different cultures.
Kashmir has been known as a center of learning for Sanskrit and Persian. Ladakh is the only place in the world where Tantrayan Buddhism is practised as a way of life.Jammu the land of Dogras has been a seat of Rajas and Maharajas who have cemented and enriched the ties between these diverse groups.The Hindus and the Muslims have lived in harmony and happiness.

The Constitution of India granted Jammu and Kashmir special Autonomous area status as a temporary provision through Article 370. However, some Muslim Kashmiris demand greater autonomy and sovereignty and even demand independence from India. Many Hindus and Muslims would like to see the state fully integrated into India.

According to Wikipedia,"Jammu and Kashmir is the only Indian state that has its own flag. Designed by the Government of India, the state flag of Jammu and Kashmir is the native plough on a red background which is a symbol of labour. The three stripes represent the three administrative divisions of the state, namely Jammu, Vale of Kashmir, and Ladakh".

The backdrop of this agitation is also the step motherly treatment to the Jammu an Ladakh region in favor of the valley. Nehru wanted to have a constitutional head from Jammu to keep the Jammuites happy, but political leadership from Kashmir so all the benefits could be directed to Kashmir. But this policy has backfired miserably now. Kashmiri pandits have been driven out of the valley. The valley has fallen prey to separatist and pro Pakistan sentiments. A non domicile of the state cannot buy land in J&K. As opposed to the fact that state citizens can buy property anywhere in India. It also means that if a girl from the state marries someone from any other Indian state she loses her right to property in her home state. All the while Kashmirs who harbor anti India sentiments get son in laws from Pakistan occupied Kashmir (POK)and they in turn have the right to own property. Obviously this is another measure to drive away Hindus and Muslims who support India away from the state.

Now fast forwarding to the present situation. The Congress-Peoples Democratic Party government headed by Ghulam [Images] Nabi Azad had instructed the forest department to transfer the land to the SASB. Within days Muslims in the Kashmir valley, led and instigated by pro-Pakistani separatists, took to the streets, insisting no land should be provided for pilgrim facilities.

The All-Parties Hurriyat Conference spread three canards: First, the transfer amounted to alienation of 'Kashmiri land'; second, it would lead to intrusion of 'Hindu culture' in Muslim Kashmir; and, third, it would cause ecological damage. It needs to be duly noted here that the Amarnath yatra happens for roughly 2-3 months in a year and the shrine board wanted to construct temporary structures for the pilgrims on this land.The PDP, sensing an opportunity to revive its pro-separatist -- if not brazenly anti-India/anti-Hindu -- image in the run-up to the assembly election in Jammu & Kashmir, joined the protest and subsequently withdrew from the government. To his credit, Azad stood firm and refused to budge from his government's decision, till N N Vohra took over as governor, replacing Lieutenant General S K Sinha (retd).
Vohra, in his capacity as ex-officio chairman of the SASB, wrote a letter to Azad, returning the land and also offering to relinquish the board's task of organising the annual yatra, thus making the pilgrimage to the Amarnath shrine subordinate to the valley's Muslims �ber alle (above all) politics and Delhi's equally odious politics of Muslim appeasement.
Vohra reportedly sent his letter to Azad at 8.30 pm on June 28. "The news of that abject surrender provoked an explosion of outrage across Jammu," says a senior member of the Amarnath Yatra Sangharsh Samiti, a broad-based organisation without any political affiliation which is at the forefront of the protest.This decision was not endorsed by atleast 5 members of the board. This was a unilateral decision and it violates the SASB Act.The Governor is also in contempt of the high court which had passed an interim order approving the transfer of 800 kanals of land to the board in Baltal.
For all his efforts to appease the Muslim protesters in the Kashmir valley by 'returning' the land that had been allotted for Hindu pilgrims, Vohra was unable to save the Congress-PDP government. The PDP pulled out from the ruling alliance on June 28; on July 1, Azad, obviously under mounting pressure from his party bosses in Delhi, reversed the earlier decision.

All this has resulted in an uprising of a scale never seen before in the Jammu region. The agitation started from June 30th and is still going strong. It is not being orchestrated by any political party. The common man, woman and even children are part of this agitation. There was a simmering resentment over so many years of neglect of the Jammu region. And the usurping of the right to pray in peace, the right to freedom of choice was the final straw.

This is the 17th consecutive day of curfew in the Jammu region. This should not be seen as a communal issue. Because it is not. The Hindus and Muslims of the Jammu region have lived in harmony and this agitation enjoys the support of the Dogra Muslims and the Muslim Gujjars.In the old Jammu city, most of the businesses are run by Muslims. They have all downed their shutters in support of the Amarnath Yatra Sangarsh Samiti protest. This is truly a people's movement.

Mr.Omar Abdullah has shown his true colors by his communally colored rhetoric in the parliament. People like him, and political parties with vested interests are working hard to portray and make this problem into the age old hindu-muslim vendetta. But this is not Gujarat, Mr.Abdullah, Ms Mehbooba Syed. And I pray that the national mainstream and the world is not fooled into thinking it is.

Friday, August 1, 2008

A Package Deal

12Th September 2004 is a very important date for me. I delivered a baby, my first, at 4:35p.m after a 21 hour long labor. 14 hours of which were without epidural. That was paisa wasool time for me. I had spent 100$ for a Lamaze class and I being the quintessential Indian had hung onto every word of the instructor and then gone home and done some more research. I was theoretically prepared. Me and hubby darling huffed and puffed and counted breaths and made enough ruckus to scare my usually stoic mother.But I have to admit I survived my jhansi ki rani act for 14hrs thanks to the very class before not so gracefully admitting defeat.I also credit my high level of pain tolerance. By the end of those looooooong 14hrs I was cursing and bellowing and had all the intent to kill those who did not heed my request. I cannot resist a post on my birthing story and will do so in future.

But my intention here is to write about the other 2 'things' that were born alongside my son that day.GUILT and WORRY. Its a package deal.I felt guilty and worried, even before my children were born but it took a different dimension with motherhood.
Actually it had begun even before conception. We decided to have children after 3 years of marital bliss. The worrying started then. I made it a project. I googled everything that had to do with 'how to conceive'. I took temperature every morning and that decided whether we were doing 'it' that night. This strategy meant we did 'it' for just a week in a month. That did not work for a couple of months. Then came Plan B. I decided we must do'it'everyday. Though my hubby was/is young and virile and found me attractive but the sight of a wife waiting for him at the door with "Do or Die" kinda mad glint in her eye was too much for the poor guy. After doing 'it' he usually found me in gravity defying positions which to my mind ensured a safe travel of his swimmers to the finish line. God took mercy on him and I was pregnant by the end of that long exhausting month.

Pregnancy was fraught with worries and guilt of all sorts. The potential damage I could have done to the fetus by not drinking milk, by drinking a cup of coffee, by watching a horror movie, by not listening to the Sundar Kaand, by driving past a sushi restaurant(what? haven't you heard of mercury in fish?)by sleeping on my back,by walking too fast,by laughing too loud,by gaining too much weight one month and by not gaining too much weight the other month, by this and by that..the list is endless.

This only worsens once you have the baby. You could be guilty of holding, bathing, burping,singing yes even singing incorrectly to the baby. Mine started crying when I first sang to him.I suffered from tremendous guilt about having a baby whose weight gain was consistently 'average'. The 'above average' rate of his height gain did not make me feel much better. The fact that I could not fight genetics also did not help. My husband and his family cannot gain weight even if they tried. My baby's father still fits into his high school pants. It makes matters worse when the mother gains weight even by gazing lovingly at a sinfully decadent chocolate cake.

I blamed myself and sometimes others blamed me, at times obviously and then again not so obviously for every major and minor hiccup in this journey. I have realized with horror that my huge over sized diaper bag is minus a tissue on a day when my son's nose refuses to stop its incessant flow. While dropping my son at school it has dawned to me he is long overdue for a nail cutting session. I have debated about taking him back home and missing school versus risking being visited by family services for negligence. I have worried about the alleged links between vaccinations and autism. I have suffered the stares of adults when my child decides to make a scene in a public place. I have been asked umpteen time when my baby refuses to stop his ear splitting, migraine inducing crying "why is he crying?" I have resisted retorting back "if you find out could you tell me" Come on moron if I knew better would I not do something and not suffer this 'I could dig a hole and bury myself' scene.

A crying baby on a plane can also be a magnet for unwanted advise. On my way from Srinagar to Jammu, I heard everything from feed her water to rub vicks on her navel???....This 'you should feed her water' bit coming from a footloose and fancy free 21 yr. old dressed to kill girl/woman. I wanted to hit her on the head with the very bottle of water I had tried forcing past my daughter's pursed lips without any success.

You worry when after 8 weeks of teaching him color recognition you stop at a red light and he screams gleefully "geen,geen" read "green,green". We almost got him evaluated for color blindness.

I feel guilty when one afternoon I decide to skip reading "The Cat in the Hat" and lie to my children about how mamma needs to read her own book because her eyes are hurting. They are still at the age where they can be taken for a ride. I know this won't last long.

I felt terrible when my son first used the word "stupid". I guiltily wondered whether he got it from the 8 yr. old girl next door or I let the word slip inadvertently while addressing his dad.

I am guilty of pretending I did not notice that my daughter had pooped in her diaper and waited for my husband to discover it. You didn't get it. He discovers the poop in the diaper so he changes the diaper.

Then there are the bigger and more important issues I worry about. How to make them a good human being. How to instill self esteem. How to make them confident, happy and compassionate people.

I still do not have all the answers. I know I will never be completely right or wrong. But the best I can do is enjoy them before they leave the nest and tell them everyday that I love them.