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Mufti Islah
Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Travelogue: From Naranaag to Gangabal


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Move beyond the picture postcards of Gulmarg, Sonamarg and Pahalgam and a surreal Kashmir, tucked away in the depths, is waiting to unravel itself. Those of us who are game for adventure and unafraid to test their back and legs are gradually slipping in to uncharted areas. And realising that militancy is on the wane, the footfall in these 'Alice of Wonderlands' is increasing. The nomads with hundreds of sheep, horses, cattle and dogs now greet scores of local, domestic, foreign bag packers. Gangabal - a stunning grassland perched at 15,000 feet spreads out mythically from the margins of two small almost-identical lakes, fed by the glacial melt of the Harmukh mountain ranges. The place is the latest obsession and madness for bold sight-seers. Obsession of being in the captivating green-and-sometimes barren brown hills, and madness, as the risk involved while going up a swirling feature can get real. ....


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Kishtwar explodes, leaders play politics


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Kishtwar was sitting on a powder keg and waiting to explode. A match stick was lying very near. A verbal exchange between a few people on Eid Day warped into a communal frenzy. Within hours, its two main bazaars were reduced to cinders. Smoke was billowing out of the town when columns of army marched to put an end to senseless violence that left 2 dead, 30 wounded. Next day as stunned victims started to count the loss, the local politicians also tried to do their Math, with an eye on the polls. What must have been achieved or rather could have been achieved in terms of the vote pie charts. The time to harvest on a sustained polarisation had come. The BJP which has never won the Kishtwar assembly seat smelt an opportunity. It didn't waste any time and dispatched Arun Jaitley to Jammu and later....


Tuesday , July 24, 2012

The Laila Khan murder mystery deconstructed


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Near the famous sufi shrine of Shah Mohammad Fareed-ud-din Sahib that lords the mountainous Kishtwar township, Abdul Gani Butt lent out another torrent of abuses on Amin, his son. But this time the son chose to hit back. The talk soon veered towards Parvaiz Tak, Amin's son-in-law, now main suspect for wiping out Bollywood starlet Laila Khan and her family. "You support a thief. Tell me where did he get a big car worth a crore of rupees. Where has he stolen it from," he fumed. An intelligence sleuth of Jammu and Kashmir police had climbed close to their compound wall. He hung as if he was a fly on the wall and sniffed like a starved cat. His ears tickled and his stomach lining began to itch. He needed a release. Next, he whipped out his cellphone and frantically began to punch numbers. At the other....


Friday , April 27, 2012

NRI family left all comforts and returned to J&K to set up a school


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Breswana is dusting off its inertia and making connection. And a frail 30-year-old woman is its link to outside. Sabbah Haji is the village's new hope, voice and inspiration and a key to its future. A school set up by her atop an imposing but tough hill in the midst of tall conifers is getting all the cheers. Poor kids of maize farmers, cattle-rearers and labourers, who live off lugging building material up the mountains of Doda are calling this two-storey building their own. Seven-year-old Hashimuddin Gujjar whose father takes sheep and cows for grazing uphill, is a darling among the 80 odd kids who take lessons in this English-speaking mid-standard institute. And Sabbah is holding out a promise to them. "This is my home, this is my family. These are my friends and their kids," says Haji, adjusting her hijab. "I am just returning the favour." ....


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Passion crime and the Internet


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The young and restless Kashmir has arrived big time on the web. All these years it has sliced quite a bit of the network pie. Action-filled videos are posted every day on Youtube and chats on social networking fibre are common. Also popular are Twitter and podcasts. Cyber crime isn't. It was never until Maisuma murder unfolded. A 20-year-old spurned lover allegedly bludgeoned his friend after the latter chatted with his Delhi-based girl friend on an Internet leisure space. The girl had deleted Imran, 20, from the friends' list and included Asrar instead. Jilted, Imran called Asrar to his house on Srinagar outskirts, hit him fatally with an iron rod. With a friend's help, he then dumped the body near a graveyard in Rainawari, three km from his Maisuma. The killing provoked wave of violent protests in the city and a defensive police watched helplessly as mobs....


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Kashmir's Famous Five missing in action


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The big daddies and their spunky kids will sit out of the Lower House. Six unknown faces, with no or little repute in Delhi circles, will walk into the Lok Sabha complex. In a way it portends well, given that the old and jaded have failed Kashmir and its people. Among the daddy troika of Kashmir politics, the effervescent but non-serious Farooq Abdullah will add glitz and glamour to the Upper House. He will crack a joke or sing a papa number inviting laughter from his colleagues. The canny Ghulam Nabi Azad will sit next to him and laugh too. But that is not all he will do. He has a tough job to do, months after the PDP - People's Democratic Party - and God rendered him jobless last autumn. Azad's new job, a challenging one though, is to salvage the Sonia Gandhi-headed Congress in states....


Monday , May 12, 2008

Pen martyr


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Jammu's ace lensman Ashok Sodhi's love for stills will live on even after his death. The hands that spared Rs 50,000 for a branded camera, now part of an urn, will soon be dipped in Tawi or Chenab waters. That camera will surely make its way to Jammu from Delhi today or tomorrow but Sodhi does not live to hit click with his fingers. Sodhi, according to his friends, would itch to capture and capture `good' and it was this restlessness that he sped a good distance of 50 kilometres in few minutes before he went on to become a pen martyr. ``It took him 30 minutes to be on the spot and only three to leave it ... forever,'' his close friend Zorawar Singh laments. ``All good things come to an end but this is tragic indeed,'' rues Manu Srivatsava, his longtime companion. I remember having met Sodhi....


Monday , January 14, 2008

Kashmir's wintry highs and lows


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Winter in Kashmir is music. It lives in the notes of Santoor, in the long icicles creaking down from the sun-beaten roof of the desolate Gulmarg church. On the whoosh of a fast running stream melting down from northern glaciers or the rustle of the crisp brown autumn Chinar leaves. The valley winter is a recipe. Its aroma wafts from the secret kitchens dishing hareesa (a meat dish grounded with rice) and huksun (dried vegetables prepared in oil). Or the vapour rising from the hot cup of saffron kehwa towards khatambandh (ornately-carved wooden ceiling). It picks the tiny red nose-tip of a three-year old, his or her face beaten by the icy chill from the lake water freeze. It glows on the snow-sun-tanned white face of a Taiwanese girl descending on the skis from the steep slopes of khilanmarg. Winter beneath this....


Friday , September 14, 2007

Will the small people ever move the two big nations?


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Ismatullah Jami hates tears, emotions and Kashmir's extensive hospitality. He calls them Satan's inventions. Today, as he clung hesitantly onto the state's unkempt green and white bus, his face is deadpan and voice shallow. His younger brother Afaq runs his fingers to adjust the streak of grey hair that block his eye-line but avoids contact. Seat fastened, Jami hides his face in a spotless white handkerchief to escape embarrassment. Tears have defeated his steely resolve even as he tries vainly to make amends. His left hand clutching firmly the walking stick, he uses the right to roll the soaked white cloth back into the pocket of his nicely creased navy blue shirt, tucked carefully inside the grey pant. Jami loves to dress up and look dignified and won't mind spending hours in the washroom, ensuring every lock of hair sits on the right place or the 'phoren'....


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Beauty on the fringes


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Not many sightseers know they are being cheated on Kashmir. They hear more about it but end up seeing little. Very little. Trust me, the Valley is not a postcard of the gurgling Lidder river, the rustling streams melting from the Thajiwas glacier, the snow peaks that rise seemingly to touch blue skyline or the lush green meadows linked through mountains. Kashmir is not Pahalgam, Gulmarg or Sonamarg, Kokernag. Neither the series of the Mughal gardens that lord the emerald Dal lake. It is more. It is an undiscovered wonderland, offering itself to be explored. Gradually as the plant of Indo-Pak thaw will grow into a tree of peace and trust, Kashmir would start revealing itself to the world. More enchanting places, never seen, never heard of before. To a true holiday-maker, Kashmir would unravel its dreamlands, hitherto blurred by the Line of Control. He would surely get used....


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