Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The sociology of Kashmiri nicknames

Kashmiris have a nickname for everyone and everything

For past some time, film actor Anupam Kher has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. For a change one would not like to counter his campaign against Kashmiri Muslims which, according to some Pandit leaders, has already substantially damaged their cause. Let us concentrate on his name. He is Khar and not Kher. There are many Kashmiri Pandits who have a sub-caste of Khar. This word in Kashmiri means a donkey. Kashmiris have a tradition of not only giving nicknames to people but also shortening and distorting the actual names of the people in general. Ghulam is changed into Gull or Gulla. Mohammad is distorted into Mumma, Mohudd, Ahmad into Amma and Nabi into Nabba. Khadija into Khajih, Fatima into Fatih, Jameela into Jalleh and so on. Then nicknames are added because of the profession or some peculiarity of the person. Sometimes in these nicknames some object or landmark commonly associated with the person is added. The distorted names are also combined with the profession of the person. Abdul Gaffar, the carpenter becomes, “Gaffar Chaan”. Ghulam Qadir, the Mason becomes “Qadir Dasill”. Abdul Rahim, the Coppersmith becomes, “Rahim Thanthurr”, Abdul Karim, the sweeper becomes, “Karim Wattul”! And so on. 
Then there is a tradition of attaching some animal, peculiarity of character or even an inanimate object, with the name of a person. Ram Krishan Kaul has written a book “Sociology of Names and Nicknames of India with special reference to Kashmir”. The book has given a detailed background of various names, gotras and so on of Kashmiri Pandits. It is a very informative and interesting read and can even be downloaded through the internet. Because of the mass conversions which took place during the time of Shah-i-Hamadan, there are many common family names among Hindus and Muslims in Kashmir. There are Kauls, Rainas, and Bhats among the Hindus as well as among the Muslims in Kashmir. 
Kashmir Overseas Organization has a very comprehensive article on Kashmiri nicknames accessible at It would be interesting to reproduce some extracts from the article. “A nickname, says Hazlitt, is the hardest stone that the devil can throw at a man, yet the Kashmiris have shown the unparalleled endurance to bear this hardest stone Pleased with their 'devotion' he (Mr. Devil) seems to have gifted this stone to them (Kashmiri) forever. Love of nicknames is mixed in the blood of Kashmiris, nay; they have nurtured this art with their blood, for generations together. They give it without asking for and make full use of ordinary events, actions, habits and even physical feature of persons to coin new and newer nicknames”. 
“Kashmiris never lose their sense of humour. Even adversity has not killed their instinct of humour. It has on the other hand, sharpened it to boost their morale and love of boisterous life. Hamidullah, a resident of remote meadow village of Nobog Nai, has not only exposed the ruthless Sikh bureaucracy of Kashmir in his Bebujnamah, but has proved himself a caricaturist par excellence as well as a non-conformist as for as Sikh administrative system was concerned. This work contains allegorical names and characters. "It is steeped in symbolism depicting the glaring traits of bureaucracy under Sikh rulers from the Patwari upto the Nazim or Governor. According to the author, the whole lot of them was responsible for all sorts of the sufferings of the peasantry, especially their aim being simply to grease their own palms and to sustain Sikh power by force”. 
“It may not be right to say that Kashmiris have never shown an aversion to the nicknames. Pandit Anand Koul has quoted a classical example of resistance shown against a nickname by a poor Pandit whose name was 'Vasadev'. He had a mulberry tree in his courtyard, and was, therefore, called Vasadev Tul. Tul being the Kashmiri name of mulberry. In order to get rid of this nickname he cut down the mulberry tree. But a Mond (trunk) remained and he was called, ' Vasadev Mond'. Irritated Pandit immediately removed the trunk; and a Khud (depression) was caused and henceforth he was known as 'Vasadev Khud'. Continuing his battle against nickname givers he got the depression filled up and the ground became a Teng (a little elevated). Thus he was re-nicknamed as 'Vasadev Teng'. He had, however, to give in before the limitless arrows in the quiver of nickname givers and accepted gracefully his latest nickname, which has become a family name of his progeny”.
In recent times, some of the politicians too have been given interesting nicknames. Shams-ud-Din was called “Shamme Kath”, G.M.Sadiq, “Sadiq Kon”; Farooq Abdullah when he started his tenure as the Chief Minister had a number of siren blowing vehicles in his official cavalcade. People gave him the popular nickname of “Farooq pee pee”! The former Chief Minister, Ghulam Mohammad Shah imposed long curfews due to unrest on his assuming office. He is still remembered with the nickname of “Gulle Curfew”! So if Anupam Kher is desirous of returning to his motherland notwithstanding the fact that he was born in Shimla, he should revert to his family name of Khar! 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The “Kneeling” Touch!

Instead of applying the much touted “Healing Touch” to the suffering people, the PDP has gone for the “Kneeling Touch” to BJP and RSS with disastrous results for the Kashmiris!

The “Kneeling” Touch!
The “Peoples’ Democratic Party” was formed during the worst ever oppression seen by Kashmiris in the nineties. The main thrust of the party was to reach the suffering people in different parts of the valley and try to give some succor to them. Mehbooba Mufti had made it a point to visit the home of every victim of violence. She used to console the relatives of the victims. She even regularly visited the homes of slain militants. Many a time she participated in protests and demonstrations against the wanton killings by the security forces. In a number of photographs, she is shown holding placards saying, “Stop the killings”! In fact, during the first tenure of Mufti Sayed on her initiative a number of measures were taken to give some “Healing Touch”. The notorious “Task Force” was disbanded. Harassment of youth was lessened and the nocturnal raids were discontinued by the security forces. A number of bunkers were removed from different places in the city. However, in spite of the “Healing Touch”, there were still incidents of killings and harassment. Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s famous quote of solving Kashmir problem within the bounds of Humanity (“Insaniyat kay dairay main”) appeared to be taking some shape! The “Cross-LoC Bus” for relatives on two sides was started. Trade between two parts of Kashmir commenced. As a goodwill measure, there were some exchanges of traders between the two parts of Kashmir which gave good signs of a sub-continental thaw! There seemed to be some movement forward on the PDP’s Agenda of the so-called “Self-Rule”. However, the completion of the “Healing Touch” and the realization of the so-called “Self-Rule” remained unfinished as the Congress refused to concede PDP’s demand to allow Mufti Sayed to have a full tenure of six years and Ghulam Nabi Azad became the Chief Minister as per the terms of coalition agreed upon way back in 2002 when the two parties cobbled up an alliance.
The PDP which along with the Congress defeated Farooq Abdullah’s NC that had won the election with an absolute majority in 1996 was alleged by some to have been propped up by Delhi with massive financial and other assistance. It is alleged that the rule of Farooq Abdullah had become very infamous globally due to massive corruption. Moreover, allegedly Delhi considered Farooq Abdullah to be unstable and untrustworthy especially after the passing of the Autonomy Resolution in the State Assembly. The Congress-PDP coalition itself was finally swept away by the 2008 Amarnath land agitation. Farooq Abdullah with his style of an expert demagogue and the master of histrionics went back to the people for another chance. The people did give him another chance but not Delhi! They forced him to crown his son Omar Abdullah in spite of his own declaration of being the next Chief Minister of the State. Omar Abdullah’s rule was a total disaster especially because of the 2010 Intifada resulting in the killing of 120 youth by trigger-happy security forces and his alleged connivance in the hanging of Afzal Guru. The rule was finally swept away by the worst natural disaster of the century with a comic ending of the Chief Minister throwing Bananas to the marooned people from the State helicopter, giving him the epithet of a “Banana Chief Minister”!
In the meantime, Delhi had been swept by BJP and RSS. Incidentally, Narendra Modi whom Google had put in the category of the ten top most criminals of the world became the Prime Minister. Incidentally, recently he has been put in the category of the most stupid Prime Ministers of the world! Kashmir had been devastated by the worst flood in a century which had left the capital city of Srinagar in particular, in total shambles. People needed immediate succor and rehabilitation. Had the Central government been sincere towards the people of Kashmir they would have postponed the elections and directly taken in hand the rehabilitation and restoration process. However, they perceived it to be the best opportunity to realize their “Kashmir Agenda” which they had been pursuing since 1947. A massive political assault was mounted on Jammu and first time inroads were made into the Kashmir valley. This Hindutva intrusion alarmed the people of the valley and a wave to resist the onslaught was generated. PDP led by its dynamic ground leader Mehbooba Mufti spearheaded the campaign for halting the Hindutva intrusion into the valley. For the first time millions came out to vote with the sole aim of keeping the Hindutva Brigade out of the valley. They gave the largest number of seats (28) to PDP. All BJP candidates except one lost their deposits. People expected PDP to take a determined stand against the Hindutva wave. However, the reverse happened. Mufti Sahib disregarding the popular sentiment tried to bring the North and South Poles together by hugging the Delhi bear. He gambled with the idea of “Development” for which, the “Healing” Touch had to be replaced by the “Kneeling Touch”! True to a Kashmiri parable, the “Kakun Haaput”, the Delhi bear fatally mauled him.
Mehbooba Mufti having seen the fate of her father hesitated and dithered but was forced by some of her party colleagues to hug the Delhi bear even if it meant giving a “Kneeling Touch”. The immediate result has again been disastrous with the Delhi bear going berserk and fatally mauling innocent people left, right and center. NIT events and Handwara happenings are just a beginning. The worst may be still to come. However, the extreme alienation of the new generation giving rise to a new wave of militancy with common masses coming out openly in support of the militants suggests that it is not going to be honky, dory for the fanatic Hindutva Brigade of BJP and RSS to realize their long pending Kashmir Agenda! On the contrary, unless they rein in the trigger happy security forces, they may light the fuse for an unprecedented upheaval which may go beyond the borders of Kashmir!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The “Development” Agenda!

“Development” is the buzzword. By the way, what do we mean by “Development”?

After “Azadi”, the most battered word in Kashmir these days is “Development”. Almost all the so called mainstream leaders talk about “Development”. After having failed in going ahead in their attempts to address the basic political problem in Kashmir, they always chant about the “Development Agenda”!
However, the moot point is what type of “Development” has taken place in Kashmir since 1947 and where are we heading? The first important development is the mortgaging of our main resource, the power generating water! In spite of the fact that the water available in the state for generation of electric power has a potential of thousands of megawatts, we have a power famine in the state. This water is being exploited by outsiders and the state is getting peanuts, 12% of the share! This is thanks to our so called mainstream leaders. No attempt has been made honestly to exploit this potential by the state government with funding from J & K Bank which has been funding a lot of outside agencies including the now infamous Vijay Mallya. J & K Bank could have easily funded many development projects including the ones related to generation of hydro-electric power with their huge resources. Instead they have given liberal funding to motor vehicles creating a traffic mess all over the state! It is reported that over Rs.500 crore worth cars are imported into the state every year! 
Every politician in the state has been singing the tunes of Tourism claiming it to be the backbone of Kashmir’s economy. However, in reality it constitutes less than 7% of the GDP. Kashmir’s main economic activity since ages has been agriculture. Next is the horticulture which has substantially grown in recent years. Before 1947 Kashmir was self-sufficient in various items of food including vegetables, milk, mutton etc. Not now! We are now totally dependent on import of everything. Had food based industries been given the right thrust and encouragement we might have been not only self-sufficient but supplying various items to consumers outside the state. Unfortunately, most of the rulers have been singing tunes of Tourism being the back bone of our economy. Thousands of crores have been invested by the State as well as by private sector in setting up tourism infrastructure but the arrival of up market tourists that contribute to the economy is yet to fully take off! Tourism at the movement provides seasonal employment and some retail sale of handicrafts.
Then is the age old profession of handicrafts. Large scale export of handicrafts is a lucrative activity. Kashmir Pashmina and Kashmiri Silk carpets have been known for their quality worldwide. Not now. These days these too are going down with competition from other countries and sources. Moreover, the artisans are giving up the profession as they have been grossly exploited by the traders selling these items within the state and exporting the same. While they make huge profits, the workers get peanuts! 
The most important “Development” has been the creation of an army of educated unemployed youth numbering almost a million now. At the same time we have a similar number of outsiders both skilled and non-skilled attending to every job under the sun in the valley. Bihari’s, Bengalis, Punjabis, and workers from Orissa, Rajasthan and so on do all sorts of jobs here which could have been easily done by the Kashmiri youth had they not been given the addiction of a government job at the lowest possible level regardless of their educational qualifications. The dignity of manual labour has been totally lost in the valley. If the youth had been put on the vocational path, they would not be blindly running after the lowest government jobs. Kashmiris have now become totally dependent on outside help in every field. Even the rural people who had been traditionally engaged in farming activities depend upon outsiders for most of the farming activities. We have truly turned into the Ulysses’ Lotus Eaters! However, there is small silver lining among the new generation which is taking up entrepreneurship. The need of the hour is to re-orient the “Development Agenda” to provide self-sufficiency in every sphere of activity. All those leaders who keep on battering the word “Development” must re-examine their “Agendas” and give maximum thrust on the most essential items oriented towards the realisation of the points already highlighted. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Anarchy, thy name is “Kashmir”!

There is hardly any section of our society where rules and laws are obeyed. It is a virtual free for all everywhere

Anarchy, thy name is “Kashmir”!

The Webster dictionary defines “Anarchy” as, “a situation of confusion and wild behavior in which the people in a country, group, organization, etc., are not controlled by rules or laws”. The definition fits Kashmir in every way! Let us begin with the traffic. Not only people violate the rules and laws but in the first instance they do not know at all what the rules are. They get driving licenses without knowing any traffic rules. The worst violators are mini-bus drivers who stop in the middle of the road or even at turns blocking all traffic. The passengers too are guilty as they want to be picked up and dropped wherever they will. They do not have the patience to walk few steps to a bus stop. The auto-rickshaws have the entire road to themselves. They move through the traffic like racers turning and twisting everywhere. The knowledge of fast lane, slow lane, and heavy vehicle lane does not exist here. Anybody can be in any lane. Overtaking has no rules. People overtake you from all sides. Pedestrians are not counted at all. Most of the foot paths are with street vendors or the shopkeepers exhibit their wares on the foot paths leaving pedestrians no choice but to walk on the road itself. Next comes parking. There are not enough parking places so people park cars on both sides of the road. Shopkeepers park their vehicles in front of their shops and the customers have no place to park theirs. One can go on endlessly about the anarchist traffic system. In fact, there is no system. Each for himself!
In forties, Srinagar was a city of a hundred thousand people or so. Now, its population is more than a million and a half. The roads have virtually remained same with some new ones added and earlier ones expanded but the number of vehicles has grown from 45 or so in 1947 to almost a quarter million! The Kashmir valley has over a million vehicles. In spite of a number of studies conducted by experts and detailed plans given, the government has been sticking to ad hoc decisions of the rulers from time to time. Fly overs are made for convenience of rulers to reach the secretariat and airport rather than to ensure smooth flow of traffic. In every place before starting construction of fly overs, alternate routes for ensuring smooth flow traffic are made. Not in Kashmir. Everything is done on the spur of the moment causing extreme inconvenience to citizens. One can judge the capability of our agencies from the ramshackle contraptions of barbed wire, metal pieces, and plastic road dividers etc. put at various places to contain traffic in a particular direction. 
Moving away from traffic to Municipal and Civic facilities, the less said the better. Kashmir is fast becoming a “Garbage Paradise” for the unchecked population of stray dogs. It is in fact, “Dog’s Own Country” in contrast to famous Kerala Tourism slogan of “God’s Own Country”! The condition of roads and drains is a separate story in itself. Roads macadamized with 80 mm thick layers develop pot holes in less than couple of months. The electric wires running all over especially in the down town area tell their own story. It is a wonder that we do not have dozens of people electrocuted every day. One of the Russian engineers while touring through the city and knowing that no one gets electrocuted here, remarked that he had started believing in GOD!
Regarding land use, building permissions and building bye laws, the less said the better. Each in itself is a separate story! 
A question arises, what is the cause of this anarchy? The answer is simple, lack of enforcement of umpteen laws and rules and total absence of accountability of the supposed enforcers. Often the blame is put on our character. In fact, many historians have given worst surnames and epithets to us. However, some have after deep analyses absolved the common Kashmiri and put the blame on our rulers. Sir Walter Lawrence in the “Valley of Kashmir”, says, “Finally, though the character of Kashmiris leaves much to be desired, I think that it is to their credit that it is not worse, considering the few chances they have had for becoming truthful, manly, and self-respecting. A man who can be beaten and robbed by anyone with a vestige of authority soon ceases to respect himself and his fellow-men, and it is useless to look for the virtues of a free people among the Kashmiris, and unfair to twit them with the absence of such virtues. The Kashmiri is what his rulers have made him, but I believe and hope that two generations of a just and strong rule will transform him into a useful, intelligent, and fairly honest man”. Unfortunately, we have yet to see that just and strong rule!