Panchal Never Felt Disconnected From Kashmir

Noted poet and scholar from Rajouri, Shahbaz Rajourvi, talks to Shams Irfan about his recent book Pounpir Gath, a collection of poems in Kashmiri, and how opening of historic Mughal Road will help in promoting poets and writers from this region.

Shahbaz Rajourvi
Shahbaz Rajourvi

KASHMIR LIFE (KL): How important is the opening of Mughal Road?

Shahbaz Rajourvi: (SR) We realised our cultural heritage only after this road was opened. I vividly remember when the then Prime Minister of Indian Mrs Indira Gandhi visited Poonch in 1971. I was a schoolteacher. I stood up and read a Spasnama (Elegy) in front of her and demanded opening of the Mughal Road. It was a long cherished dream that finally became a reality.

KL: Is Mughal Road going to change Pir Panjal region for better or worse?

SR: Politicians often treated Panchal region as a potential vote bank. From Pratap Park (Srinagar) to Mubarka Mandi (Jammu), nobody heard our voices. But with Mughal Road integrating the entire Panchal region with Kashmir, we feel empowered and a part of Kashmir again. Now it entirely depends on Kashmiris that how they will respond to the different sub-cultures in these regions. Nobody wants to be dominated and dictated socially, cultural or otherwise. We both can grow together and respond to each other in a positive manner.

KL: Tell me something about your work?

SR: My works in Kashmiri language include composition of shayri (poetry) Tchene Gamech Awaaz (Lost Voices), Breaint (Illusions), Tawaaf (Circumventing), Pounpir Gath (Moth’s Circumventing), and a book of prose titled Izhaar (Express). Both Tchen Gamech Awaaz, Breaint won cultural Academy Awards. I have also worked in Urdu language. My work in Urdu includes Lamhe Lamhe (Moments), Andaaz-e-Nazar (View Point) and Aitiraaf (Confession).

KL: Is there any reflection of Kashmir in your works?

SR: In my compositions you will find symbolic reflections of the suffering that Kashmiris have gone through in the last two decades. Being a writer and poet you cannot afford to neglect such a crucial phase of Kashmir’s history. I have tried my best to pour my heart out in my latest work Pounprin Gath.

KL: How has the two decade long turmoil affected you as a person and writer?

SR: Not a single soul in Kashmir remained unscathed during the last two decades of turmoil. The only difference was the degree of sufferings varied from individual to individual. And a poet’s suffering is reflective in his work only.

KL: Does Mughal Road make you feel closer to Kashmir now?

SR: Interestingly, despite geographical barriers the people of Panchal region never felt disconnected from Kashmir. My forefathers migrated from Shopian some six generations ago, but I always felt connected to Kashmir. For me Kashmir is not only about the valley. It encompasses everything from Pir Panchal to Korakaram. I will put it this way, that the pain and longing that the people of Rajouri and Poonch have endured for Kashmiris has finally ended.

KL: Does Mughal Road mean wider audiences and greater acceptance for Panchali poets and writers in Kashmir?

SR: As per census 2011 there are more than one million people living in these twin districts of Pooch and Rajouri. Around 70 per cent people in Pooch district speak Kashmiri, while around 37 per cent in Rajouri know the language. But reaching out to Kashmiri audience through Mughal Road is historic in itself. Credit must go to Adbee Markaz Kamraz also. Such literary exchanges help in bridging the cultural void created by inaccessibility and lack of communication. But thanks to Mughal Road this is going to change now.

– Shahbaz Rajourvi’s Pounpir Gath (Moth’s Circumventing) was released at the 33rd Kashmiri conference recently held in Poonch.

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