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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A quiet triumph for humanity

Sunday, June 7, 2009



This article was also replicated on various blogs.

Comments via CounterCurrents are re-published below:

What a stupid article. It is so inaccurate.

I think this is what i call thinking of solutions which are out of the box. While if we realize the fundamental unity of creation and our divine Self there will be no space for conflict in a ideal world, I think a recognition and an awareness of the past historical facts can certainly be a movement in the right direction. This sounds a bit like lateral thinking where a divisive perspective is changed to a unifying one about the people of kashmir.
Vispi Jokhi

It is surprising to read article on this site which doesn't try to indicate that hinduism is necessarily the source of all the evils in the world.
Eternal Truth


This article was also replicated by a few online blogs (including an online education forum!). Response to the article was phenomenal and is on a par with my Jilbab article for the BBC.

Comments that were granted permission to be published are available at the following link on my daily blog:

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Open Letter to Manmohan Singh


Although this article was published on the above named blog in October 2005, it is no longer accessible (last checked: 05/12/2018). Thus I am reproducing it here:

An open letter to Shri Manmohan Singh - Prime Minister of India

...and an attempt to invoke the conscience of the world's media

This is a monologue of a British Muslim journalist of Kashmiri origin, who the tortuous Indian visa authorities in London and Islamabad have driven to monomania.

Visa Application Details:
London 08/04/05 : No:747
Islamabad 28/04/05: No: F-00415 and 30629 (Grandmother)

The first week of April this year witnessed what many people over the world considered to be the first tangible breakthrough in 57 years between India and Pakistan in the form of the Srinagar-Muzzafarabad Bus Service, linking disputed and divided Kashmir, hitherto hermetically sealed. The very same week, an announcement was made that flights from Britain to India were being doubled, to meet the demand fuelled by an historically unprecedented number of visitors from the UK to the sub-continent.

That week also corresponded with my Naana (maternal grandfather) agreeing after a seventeen-year voracious struggle on my part, to take my Muslim Naani (maternal grandmother) from Pakistani-administered Kashmr (PAK) to Indian-administered Kashmir (IAK) to visit her Hindu siblings, separated since the bloody partition of 1947.

Please refer to my BBC article for the full story, which can be found at the following link:

On the surface, achieving this objective of family re-union appeared as feasible as never imagined before, or so I thought! Today is the 7th of September and I am nowhere nearer ‘nirvana’ than I was in that first week of April.

My Naana, who specifically made the trip from the UK to Pakistan in April, just as I did, has returned despondent. Whereas I, rather less pragmatic than he perhaps, have remained here, effectively ‘setting fire to my ship’ and vowing not to return to the UK until I fulfil my quest.

Mr. Singh, I write this letter to you with great anger and exasperation (albeit condensed) at the way in which your consulates in London and particularly Islamabad have blocked and even mocked my attempt. For example, Mr. Naidu, a visa official in London, when asked whether he acknowledged the human need for family reunion exclaimed, “We Indians are not human when it comes to issuing visas!” Mr.Sunil in Islamabad, laughed out loud when I asked him to imagine himself in the predicament that I found myself in. The head of your visa section in Islamabad, Mr. Deepak Kaul conversed with me as if he were a potentate giving orders to a deferential subject. Now these are the very institutions that act as your interface to the outside world.

My dilemma is compounded when I hear widely-held rumours around your Islamabad embassy of an informal exchange of RS:5000 (c.£45) ensuring a speedy visa process. It gets more comical when I notice the promptness with which this consulate issues visas to members or friends of the Awami National Party (ANP) of Pakistan’s NWFP province, a party I come to understand, was against the partitioning of India in 1947.

If it’s of any solace to you, I feel the pain of partition (even though I was born 25 years later!). Having crafted two nation-states over the blood and bones of millions who perished in that ignominy, communal parochialism continued to define your mutually destructive strategic stance against one another. If you had both remained intact, you would have soon come to realise the folly of dismantling a centuries old co-existence with superficial borders. Crucially, both of you would have refrained from using Kashmir as a playground for your war games and one-upmanship. In short, without partition there wouldn’t have been a Kashmir issue.

Having witnessed at first-hand the terror and turmoil of partition and coming from a jovial community full of zest as you do, you would and should recognise the pain that my grandmother’s family are going through, ruefully, your bureaucracy hasn’t. I sense an air of petty vindictiveness if not rancour which your consular services apportion to those from (PAK), most of whom have little say in the goings on in the sub-continent. For that very reason, many of them make no mention of Kashmir when applying for an Indian visa.

I have thought long and hard as to why your visa authorities have created obstacles, being led to run in circles for five months does that to you! Maybe it's because they see me as young and impressionable. Perhaps, the plethora of road-blocks, a multitude of check-posts littered every few kilometres, frequent crackdown operations, which foment terror and cause resentment amongst civilians, would make me realise that a whole nation was living in an army cantonment.

Well, I already know. I've been there in 1989 when I met my grandmother’s family. It is their love and hospitality towards me, sheer yearning for their sister, which has troubled me incessantly for seventeen years. When finally, circumstances appeared favourable in me quelling this dilemma, your bureaucrats has proved to be the proverbial 'bone in the kebab', throwing ‘water over my aspirations’.

This leads me to the question of nationality and freedom of movement. If British citizens wishing to travel to India and Indians (including those from IAK) wishing to travel to Pakistan are granted visas within half-an-hour, why has your consular service forced me to make applications in both the UK and Pakistan? Initially promising me a visa upon producing a fax from India to confirm that I have relatives there, then instructing me to make a second application in Islamabad where initially I am told it would take 2 months to process, that my application would be sent to London for verification, following which your staff in London in turn inform me that they haven’t received anything. The embassy in Islamabad then sticks to a line of, “This case is with the home affairs ministry in Delhi, we are waiting for their decision, it could take up to 18 months”.

The fact that your ambassador in Islamabad Mr. Menon has reneged on a promise to hear me out has left me all at sea. Even those Pakistanis holding high office that enjoy fruitful relations with their counterparts in India have ashamedly been bereft of moral initiative.

Since the Muzzafarabad-Srinagar Bus service started, roughly 20,000 people have applied from (PAK) to visit their relatives on the other side of the divide. So far in five months only about 600 have managed to travel (the bulk of them by jumping the queue). Furthermore, the majority of people in Kashmir that have separated families since 1947, live in the Jammu/Mirpur/Kotli/Rajouri region, travelling on the above-mentioned bus service involves a circuitous journey. Opening routes in these regions was more urgent, however, despite pledges by both India and Pakistan to facilitate this, nothing appears imminent.

The only solution is to apply for Indian citizenship I deduct. After all, having British and Pakistani nationality while being born in a disputed territory is simply not enough! It shouldn’t be a problem because you grant citizenship through ancestry. My paternal grandfather sweated out most of his working life in Mumbai.

While I don’t hold you personally responsible, in fact I have great hope in your ability to appease, but this is the picture that I’m getting of India vis a vis the common citizen of Kashmir. I am confident that you will look into this issue and hopefully make clear: what is India’s policy with regards to allowing Kashmiris from (PAK) to India, because your embassy in Islamabad sure as hell won’t.
My letter to you is much less an expose than a means to address an issue, which has had scant exposure in the media. For all your emphasis of ‘people to people contact’ and ‘facilitating the creative energies of the Kashmiri people’, these aspirations have not yet filtered down to the common man.

Meanwhile, I intend to pursue my mission by putting ‘pen to paper’ and ‘mouth to microphone’. This has become my ‘Dharam-Yudh’. I’ve had to re-structure my life, forego my family/friends and promising media career in Britain to brave the heat, dust, insects and ‘shark-infested waters of the Indian sub-continent’. For the sake of maintaining two overly conscious nation states, India and Pakistan have been guilty of making the whole region’s population endure enormous sacrifices.

It may take an intrepid Kashmiri who came from Britain to try and repay an iota of love received from his grandmother in his formative years, to be used as a case study to understand the futility of borders amongst identical people. Restricting people’s movement thereby exacerbating human suffering gives weight to Nietzsche’s theory of patriotism and nationalism emanating from sickness and unreason, acting as the strongest force against culture. Maintaining these borders will be tantamount to blocking means of peaceful change. It hurts to not be able sit in a car and drive from Lahore to Delhi if one wished or Mirpur to Jammu for that matter. I really fail to see any valid reason as to why that is not possible. It’s a sick feeling that ensues when despite modern transport, one can’t travel a few kilometres based on a bureaucratic whim.

The very idea of Hindus and Muslims being separate nations is repugnant and almost as ridiculous as suggesting Jews and Muslims must cut each other off from one another. The goodwill that had been built up over centuries has faced a tough test post world war two. The advent of nation states has created many barriers for the movement of people. In the case of India and Pakistan, I would urge you both to confederate and leave the Kashmiris to pick up the broken pieces of what has undoubtedly proven to be the most bloodiest and mind-shattering period in it’s history. Furthermore, making any decision on the future of Kashmir would be premature without allowing a period of time for Kashmiris to re-live the experience of a borderless society sans military presence.

I realise that many Indians have traditionally balked at the mere mention of Kashmir but I am confident that despite my bitter experience of the past five months that significant progress will be made during your tenure. It’s changing the old mindset of your bureaucracy, which I see as the major challenge.

With spirituality being prominent in the East, you’d be well accustomed with the notion that the worst possible thing for one’s spirituality is the quest for vengeance. In that respect, I don’t seek revenge. In fact the hatred that I’ve endured from your bureaucracy, I intend to defeat with love. People can’t necessary change governments or power structures but they can work on people’s hearts. Nevertheless, my emotions over the past five months have transformed me into a weird combination of a pensive 1950’s Guru Dutt and the forever-angry 1970’s Amitabh Bachchan.

Coming to the issue of compensation, the world we live in today is an increasingly costly one. Most people in today’s world are pursuing economic prosperity while desperately trying to keep their income above their expenditure. Pakistan is hardly an exception. Your Visa Officer in London Mr. AK Kotha assured me I would obtain a visa subject to receipt of a fax from India from my relations. I APPLIED FOR A VISA ONLY AFTER OUTLINING MY REASON FOR TRAVELLING TO INDIA IN VERY CLEAR AND CONCISE TERMS.

Thus, as a resource-less man, my only means of assistance at the moment is borrowing. As people working for your government are wholly responsible for my predicament, I can only hold you responsible ( unless you want to get the particular culprits to dig out of their own pockets ). It’s just as well that I lead a frugal existence. So far, a conservative estimate would be £10,000 (UK sterling). Needless to say, the longer this issue drags on the more determined and desperate I will become, not to mention those I am borrowing from.
In all that has taken place since 1947, the Kashmiri public has been the first to lose out and the last to benefit. Kashmir shouldn’t be a hostage to the relationship between India and Pakistan. There are positive signs that you and your counterpart over the border realise that.

Finally, if my grandmother or her siblings die while I wait for a visa, who am I to blame? How will I reason with myself? What future hope will there be for people to address their issues and achieve their objectives through peaceful means?

Despite coming across numerous hurdles, I will staunchly maintain the peace and patience route despite the exigency of this issue, but what would others do if faced with a similar dilemma?

Feedback and suggestions to:

This letter addressed to Manmohan Singh has been handed over to Pakistan Foreign Minister: Kasuri and Indian Ambassador Islamabad: Menon, at an inauguration ceremony of the South Asia Free Media Association, on Wednesday the 7th of September 2005 evening by yours truly.

A redacted version of this letter was also published on the opinion pages of the English daily 'Pakistan Post' on Wednesday the 19th of October 2005.









Comments on the above link below:
(The comments on that link have disappeared, for some reason)

Dr. Abdullah Malik
India has occupied kashmir at the behest of a huge troop deployment. If India is sincere in restoring the peace in Kashmir, it should start decreasing it's military presence which will pave a way to peace. As far as the above story is concerned, I am extremely doubtful that the families will be able to re-unite. Thousands have already left this world disappointed.

Anup Nambiar
A very touching story indeed. I am sure the case is similar to what a large number of people on both sides of the LOC are facing today. I hope the governments will resolve the crisis as soon as possible and give succour to those who have suffered all this while.

imran chaudhry
i think now we should be serious to solve this problum

Very interesting article- I hope your Naani is finally reunited with her sister. Good Luck.

A very interesting and touching story. I look forward to your future articles.

A convert to the muslim religion from hindu
I wish you well and all your families - it is so good to hear we can live and survive in peace. I am very happy for you most of all that you did not bring in any view that your naani's family were hindu's and are not worth knowing.

sunil paul
It is a welcoming step by the both governments.This also perhaps the only initiative where the feelings of the people of kashmir is considered

hi im from luton and i wish u good luck

mohammed hussain
this war is a load of b*****ks.should'nt be happening. but there you go it is happening.!!!!!!

A Taxi Ride in Kabul with Sher Khan


As we climbed into the taxi, we were welcomed not only by the driver Sher Khan, but also by an array of Indian actresses whose photos were plastered all over the car. As we made our journey towards the other side of Kabul, It was an ideal opportunity to get a first-hand account of someone living in Kabul.

Our initial query was whether he knew of where bombing had taken place in October 2001, to which he replied that he was in Peshawar at the time. However, he knew of a rocket exploding on election night close to the German embassy. Indeed, Sher khan had spent a lot of time in Pakistan, travelling widely from Kashmir to Karachi.

When asked about the price of fuel, he explained that the price of a litre had rocketed from 13 Afghanis before the election to 24 Afghanis soon after (45 Afghanis=$1), common foodstuffs had become expensive too. As we drive past what have been commonly described as Russian flats, we learn that families of soldiers killed during Najibullah’s time were given them. We also pass Qila Zaman Khan (also known as cement ‘khana’) where we accompanied the British mobile patrol just the day before.

As it was the first day of Ramadhan, it dawned on me to ask whether he was fasting, to which he replied that he had fasted yesterday too. He even knew some people who had fasted the day before as we pass Kabul’s main hospital, where he tells us 400 patients can be treated at a time.

“There is peace and calm at the moment, but the local warlords cannot stay long without picking a fight with each other.”

Did he have a beard during the Taleban era I asked? “Yes and we were delighted when they came, they acted according to Shariah. However, later when he heard of hands being cut off he got frightened. “If someone steals they should be put in prison, they shouldn’t have their hands cut off.” He reasoned.

When asked about why he didn’t do anything to change the situation (as he was a Talib himself), he said what could I do by myself? The Taleban ruled well but they didn’t have any development plans. Which brought us conveniently to the subject of Hamid Karzai. “He will develop this country, although he will need the foreign forces to support him. He has a first-class brain and he knows 28 languages.” When I suggested that he travels abroad more than he does locally, Sher Khan suggested that he maybe scared but there is nothing wrong with that, rather it’s understandable.
When the question of the fare arose. “You are guests in my homeland, I am Afghani, you don’t have to pay the fare.”

Are you Afghani first or Muslim first? I questioned. “I am a Muslim first, One has to learn about Allah, then about oneself, then about their country and then the world,” he elaborately explained.

What about the election, were there long queues at the polling stations I enquired, “I don’t know as I didn’t vote, I didn’t have time and that’s all I can say on that.” Deciding to change the subject, I enquired about the photos of Indian actresses in the car to which he explained, “It is not my car, I am actually quite religious.”

In all this barrage of questioning, it was amazing that he was able to manage his way through the traffic while answering what were sometimes emotive questions. Asking him to be careful when driving, he explained that as long as his car was fine, he was fine too.