Briefing (March 01-07, 2020)

DELHI

It happens at the last moment. At the Crescendo, the annual cultural fest of the Shaheed Sukhdev College of Business Studies, the staging of the Alternative Space Project’s Aksariyat Akliyat, a play on Kashmir was cancelled at the last minute. The decision was an outcome of the manager’s apprehension that the 50-minute play was sensitive in nature and may lead to the scrapping of the government funding of the programme, Vikram Phukan reported in The Hindu. Written by Karan Chaudhury and directed by Vivek Tyagi, the play “takes stock of the narratives and counter-narratives that continue to colour our perspectives of the valley and its people.” After 20-odd shows, the makers have decided to put the show on hold. “The play is not a mere simulacrum of Kashmir’s tortured past, but is often incisive and revealing of the political intrigues that led to the paradise on earth becoming the veritable abode of the damned,” the newspaper reported. “Chaudhury traces a timeline starting with an ‘origins’ tale from Hindu mythology — replete with demigods, devout kings and ascetics — to the advent of Buddhism with Asoka, and the growth of Islam. It lampoons British overlords and their local lapdogs. A post-Independence set-piece it tellingly includes Machiavellian impersonations of Indian leaders (Gandhi, Nehru, Patel) and the notorious Hari Singh (Abhishek Kumar Singh making a rockstar entry). It is an interlude that is as much amusing as it is ominous. Not one ‘ruler’ of Kashmir, right down to the infamous Jagmohan, comes out smelling of roses. Another significant set-piece points to the utter farce of ‘free and fair’ elections in Kashmir over decades of misrule.”

This, however, is not the first such play that was kept on hold. In January, Kamala Nehru College in Delhi cancelled their street play festival because they discovered all the entries were ‘political’.

LAHORE

Finally, he denied everything and managed peace with the people trolling him. Actor Shatrughan Sinha had gone to Pakistan to attend the marriage ceremony of his businessman friend Mian Asad Eshan whose son Ahmed Asad married Heena Baig. Groom’s grandfather Mian Ehsan is considered the father of Pakistan’s film industry. There, he was invited by Pakistan President Arif Alvi.

“They discussed the importance of building peace bridges across the border. Mr. @ShatruganSinha endorsed concern of the President about the lockdown of occupied Kashmir for more than 200 days,” Alvi’s office tweeted. An excited actor, also a Congressman and a former minister, was excited and flashed the development. “It was a pleasant surprise that we received an invite from the H.E. the President of Pakistan, Dr Arif Alvi, on the last day of our stay at Lahore … that too just before the marriage reception of our family friend Asad Ehsan’s son Ahmed Asad,” Sinha wrote. “We were very touched by this gesture of the President of Pakistan and we reciprocated it with love, warmth, thanksgiving and an attitude of gratitude. I had attended the Honourable President’s son’s wedding a few years back in Karachi so I have known the family very well.” It landed him in a crisis and controversy. Finally, he said there was social and culture but not politics. Then he went silent on the virtual world to get out of the news cycle.

MUMBAI

There are quite a few people in the dream city that avoid mistaking reel life for real. That is perhaps why they are asking uncomfortable questions. The latest in the list is outspoken actress Swara Bhasker who is asking: why we are indifferent towards Kashmiris and their lived experiences. Recently she wrote on her Facebook: “CANNOT get over how gorgeous this Kashmiri Kaani weave sari is! Yousuf Bhai from Anantnag in Kashmir roams the big cities of India and visits the houses of his clients and buyers carrying humble bags filled to the brim with the most exquisite weaves and delicate pashminas.. even as his home is in a communication lockdown. Let’s take a moment to ask ourselves why when we enjoy Kashmiri food, Kashmiri spices, Kashmiri textiles, Kashmiri Holidays, Kashmiri kahwa.. why are we so indifferent to Kashmiri people and their lived experiences?!? #wearecomplicit #guiltyshopper.”

JAMMU

In a development that will take even birds by surprise, the UT of Jammu and Kashmir will declare Kashmir Flycatcher (Ficedula subrubra) as the UT. The Flycatcher will replace Black Necked Crane that was the bird for the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The flycatcher shares its crises with the politicians endemic to Kashmir – both are endangered species and seen in the upper reaches of Kashmir. Breeding in upper reaches, the bird migrates to south India during winters.

RAMNAGAR

Authorities have banned the poisonous cough syrup in six states after it killed nine children in Ramnagar belt of Jammu. The syrup was marketed by Himachal based pharmaceutical company, Digital Vision. It carried Diethylene Glycol, investigations found. Of the 17 children who took ill after consuming the syrup, nine died

Officials said that out of 17 children, who had been affected, nine had died between December 2019 and January 17, 2020. All children suffered from acute renal failure.

Investigations traced the poisonous substance to Chennai-based Manali Petrochemicals from where two Delhi-based traders procured it and sold to Ambala traders who eventually sold it to Kala Amb-based pharma company. Latest reports said almost 3450 bottles of the syrup of 60-ml each stand consumed by the people in Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Tiruchirapalli (Tamil Nadu), Shillong (Meghalaya) and Tripura. The particular company has a history of selling substandard medicines and it has been detected by various states.

KOCHI

Almost 400-strong Kashmiri community living in Fort Kochi and Mattancherry belts witnessed their first marriage in 30 years and it was featured by The Hindu. It was the pre-wedding ceremony, the mehandi ceremony of Janat Altaf, dominated by “a lilting, unfamiliar, melody accompanied by vigorous clapping and beats of the tumbakanari.” Janat, daughter of Syeed Altaf, married Peer Humza, son of Shaukat Peer, who also lives in the same city. The nikaah was performed at Ansar Masjid in Chullikal. The families said owing to turmoil in Kashmir, they preferred a local wedding. Women wearing Salwar Kameez replaced the traditional Kashmiri Wazas to prepare kabab, aab gosht and zafran chai.

The small community is integrated with the local society. It started with the arrival of Khurshid A Geelani in 1987 who now owns three retail handicraft outlets. Later in 1993, poet businessman, Gulshan Khatai (d 2015) established a landmark store on MG Road retailing carpets, walnut wood furniture and pashmina shawls. The poet-businessman was the face of the community until he passed away in 2015. Sajid Khatai, his son, now heads the Kashmiri Traders Association. Sajid told the newspaper that they are Kashmiri Malayalis as some of their men have married Malayali women and their children speak Kashmiri at home and Malayalam with their friends.

Syed Reza Shah Madni, the first Kashmiri to have come to Kerela in 1958, as an engineering student, was also part of the wedding. Krishna Dhar and Basanti Zutshi were the first two Kashmiri women who studied in Kerela. Krishan, a dentist, later married locally and settled in Kerela. In 2017, Krishan visited her home at Gupkar Road. Now occupied by the military, she told the newspaper, “she broke down in the office of the station commander, which used to be her bedroom.”

KERELA

Probably the outcome of the Kashmir visit by Governor Arif Muhammad Khan, there are many Kashmiri youths in Kerela these days. Almost 150 students were reported to be in Anantpur on an exchange programme promoted by Nehru Yuva Kendra Sanghatan. They had an interaction with SSBN Degree College where they talked about their fears and tensions in daily life. Another batch of 132 youth was reported from Thiruvananthapuram, also under the same programme.

1006 people including 824 men and 182 women were killed and 7718 injured in over 5800 road accidents across Jammu and Kashmir in 2019

DELHI

Lockdown not withstanding, Kashmir’s startling beauty still manages to make its presence felt, in the most unlikely ways. Last week when Ivanka Trump wore anarkali to the reception at Rashtrapati Bhavan, the Rohit Bal’s 2018 creation landed in Kashmir because the floral embroideries are endemic to Kashmir’s age-old fashion. This in itself is a story.

Ivanka’s team, according to The Hindustan Times had consulted Bal’s team throughout the procedure right up to the hairstyle. Initially, they had liked 15 outfits from his repertoire and then zeroed down to three and finally the one she wore. Bal termed it a “very pleasant experience” that lacked fuss and had “lots of civility” and then they paid every penny.

Guldastah is very close to my heart and I have used flowers of Kashmir… sunflowers, poppies, tulips, and peonies. This collection is both sensitive and ornate with an underlying sense of luxury interwoven in its many layers. It’s my interpretation of absolute beauty in its purest form,” Bal wrote on his twitter. The collection includes sarees, gowns and anarkalis embroidered with flowers that are native of Kashmir. The designer honoured his birthplace with the collection at Lakme Fashion Week in January 2019.

DELHI

An episode of the Emmy-winning Last Week Tonight with John Oliver that criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been blocked in India by Hotstar, the local platform run by Walt Disney Co, Bloomberg reported. In the particular episode, the comedian was previewing President Donald Trump’s visit to India. “While Modi may have charmed Bear Grylls, the world, and our current president, in India, he is an increasingly controversial figure because his government has pursued a steadily escalating persecution of religious minorities,” Oliver was quoted saying in the blocked episode. “The only glimmer of hope here is that for perhaps the first time in Modi’s whole career, his actions are creating a massive and sustained backlash.” Blocking critical programmes to retain larger markets is a time tested prescription for the biggies in the virtual world. Earlier Amazon blocked an episode of Madam Secretary for its references to Kashmir.

JAMMU

Finally, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has arrested a person in connection with the illegal issuance of about two lakh arms licences from different districts across Jammu and Kashmir. Identified as Rahul Grover, he is accused of being a conduit for gun dealers and officials involved in the racket. Right now he is in a 10-day remand. The  scam was unearthed by the Rajasthan Police’s Anti-Terrorism Squad in 2017 that has arrested more than 50 people. Grover was earlier arrested by the Rajasthan Police’s for the same charge and was on bail after spending a year in jail. According to ATS charges, of the 565 gun licences recovered from Grover, 93 had been granted to persons who were never posted in Jammu and Kashmir. Earlier, CBI had carried out searches at the premises of senior IAS officers Yasha Mudgal and Kumar Rajeev Ranjan. The federal investigator had filed two cases in the sensational racket.

 MUMBAI

Chandigarh newspaper Tribune has discovered Sunny Hindustani’s Kashmir connection. Sunny, a Bathinda (Punjab) based singer, whose voice resembles Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, was adjudged as the winner of the Indian Idol-11. The newspaper said that Sunny, 21, has spent many years in Baramulla’s Dewan Bagh where he was working as a shoe-shiner to support his family. “He was hard-working and had many friends here. He used to live with his mother and father,” Dewan Bagh resident, Mohammad Akbar Wani was quoted saying. “We are happy over his success and wish he touches the sky. He left Kashmir in 2015 when his father died.” He is being seen as the latest rags-to-riches story who was born in Punjab fought life as shoe-shiner in Kashmir and eventually became a singing star.

 UDHAMPUR

Army Chief Gen MM Narvane was in Jammu and Kashmir for two days during which he reviewed the security arrangements, took stock of the summer strategy and interacted with the soldiers and the officers. Accompanied by the Northern Army Commander, Lt Gen YK Joshi and Chinar Corps Commander, Lt Gen KJS Dhillon, he met various positions at the Line of Control. He was briefed about the situation on the LoC, ceasefire violations, retaliation, counter-infiltration operations and operational preparedness. The Army Chief also exhorted the soldiers to remain alert for any eventuality especially emerging security challenges.

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