The barter at LoC might not offer a huge trading turnover, but it is offering interesting anecdotes that would find some place in future diplomacy. After the two countries held hostage huge truck convoys, the newest was when Pakistani traders refused to accept consignments from a J&K convoy. The reason: the Pakistani security establishment was frisking it in such a way that the entire merchandise was getting damaged. In fact 22 trucks returned back to Salamabad from Chakothi last week untouched! It was only after this embarrassment was recorded and reported that the security establishment seemed to have mellowed down a bit. The barter is on!
Kashmir born British broadcaster Mahendra Kaul was awarded byBaroness Betty Boothroyd. A former Radio Kashmir Srinagar employee, the 91 year old is known as Curry King in UK for importing the first tandoor into Britain in 1966. An editor with Voice of America (1955-60), Kaul joined the immigrants programme unit of the BBC for nearly two decades. One of his programmes Apna Hi Ghar Samjhiye (Make Yourself At Home) ran for 14 years. He has also received the award the OBE in 1975 for services to race relations, a very rare award for NRIs at that time, from Duke of Edinburgh. With stakes in Gaylord chain of restaurants, Mahendra. His daughter Kaly is a full-fledged high court judge.
This winter was different in Kashmir’s wonderland, the Gulmarg. As the ski festival started, there were around a dozen giant sculptures carved out of snow. It proved a new attraction as tourists as well as locals were seen clicking snaps with snow sculptures, some of which were 20 feet high. Snow sculpting is an organized event in European countries and Kashmir seems to be replica. It was a group of local artists Callisto Art that organised the Snow Fiesta in which 15 artists created sculptures. The sculptures included a giant snow Samovar, a traditional Kashmiri basket and an igloo. Long live the snow men.
The area not far away from Hajan-Sumbal that witnessed worst of gun rattling in last two decades, the scene of action last week was a garrison housing 13-Rashtriya Rifles. Rambir Singh was on night guard when in the middle of night he barged into a barrack and sprayed bullets on his colleagues. He killed five and then used the same service weapon to kill himself. This worst case of fratricide is the first of 2014 that happened at a time when the colleague-killing trend was managed by the armed forces through a series of interventions. It followed another gory in-house tragedy in Udhampur where a BSF sepoy from Karnataka P Prasana argued with his wife Sadhna and later strangulated her to death in the flat they were living. Seeing his wife dead, he strangulated himself as well leaving behind their one year old daughter.
It was not human rights. Army, numerically Kashmir’s major stakeholder, was caught on wrong foot twice recently. First when it sought to enforce a dress code for the scribes invited to attend a press conference. As reporters protested, the anti-Pheran pre-condition was withdrawn. The next was when it failed to involve the family of Major Pramod Purushottam, the iconic PRO who was killed in a Fiadyeen attack in 1999, when it unveiled his bust in the BB Cant. His wife, Lt Col (retd) Valsa Purushottam, his daughter Pallavi – studying abroad, and his father KM Purushottam were not invited. Slain PRO’s brother Vonod was informed four days ahead of the function to check if he could reach Srinagar. His widow was not even informed. Now Army is planning a separate function for his family!
Heard who represented Kashmir in three-day 8th Kashmir Festival Heritage of Kashmir, that an NGO organized – a group from Sopore. Called Jhankaar, the three member group of musicians sings age-old Kashmiri songs using traditional Kashmiri instruments like tumbaknaari, rabab, gada and santoor. Mohammad Shafi Sopori, the lead member of the group had to shift to Srinagar to take lessons in music from teachers like Das Muhammad Khan and Ghulam Rasul. The group is operating for 12 years now and it has participated in a show in Delhi, Ahmadabad and Mumbai.
The story of the warlord is getting mast, mast. Mast Gul, the erstwhile Hizb commander who engaged army in a month long stand-off at Charar-e-Sharief in 1995, is sought dead or alive by Pakistan. As a Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan’s new poster boy for sectarian Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, he is giving sleepless nights to Islamabad’s security grid in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Born as Haroon Khan, Gul was considered an asset of the Pakistani intelligence establishment. Now he is sought dead or alive for three terrorist acts in Peshawar and Kohat killing 24 people. Interestingly, Hizb has distanced itself from the surrogate soldier. It is interesting that when he dodged the security grid and escaped alive from a smouldering Chrar, the establishment had arranged a huge welcome ceremony in Khan’s honour on August 2, 1995 when he appeared from Chakothi with 100 gunmen in tow.
Mendhar in Poonch had 3324 buildings occupied by security forces and 1468 of them have been restored to the owners.
Army and paramilitary forces are still in illegally occupation of 66,690 kanals of land in J&K. It is official.