Elders & Youngsters

Shehjar Newsmagazine Shehjar e-magazine

errorism has played havoc across the world particularly during the last over two decades. Millions have been affected, directly or indirectly, by this menace cutting across all barriers of age, sex and geographical boundaries. However, it is wrong to assume that this monster has no specific color. The happenings in Kashmir region of the J&K state after the advent of Islam around fourteenth century, and especially during the last nearly two and a half decades, are a testimony to this fact.

It may be recalled that hundreds of households, religious places/institutions of ethnic minority of Kashmiri Pandits were subjected to large scale loot and arson in 1986 in various parts of the valley particularly in district Anantnag. The trailer of 1986 assumed the dimension of a full fledged open-air theatrical performance by gun wielding Islamic fundamentalists across the valley in 1989. And, as a consequence, nearly half a million of ethnic minority of Kashmiri Pandits was forced to abandon their homes and hearths in 1989/’90 simply to protect their limb and unique identity as well. Hundreds of them, sex and age no bar, were mercilessly killed, pre and post 1990, either individually at various places in the valley or in groups like at Naadimag and Wondhaama etc. etc.

Forced displacement of the community, from their place of origin, has naturally posed many complex challenges before it on many fronts including socio-cultural-religious. On the brighter side, as they say, every cloud has a silver lining in it. A world of opportunities is waiting for our youngsters to grab and to scale the peaks of excellence (for which Kashmiri Pandit community is known world over) and to equip themselves adequately so as to enable them to reclaim their lost roots. It would be wrong to suggest any particular field like engineering, medicine or administrative services for them to focus on as far as their professional careers are concerned as the available opportunities, beyond the just mentioned spheres, are huge and the stage to perform is vast. Our youth are expected to play a significant role not only in re-shaping the destiny of their home state (J&K) and country but the emerging ‘global village’ as well.

At the same time, to retain the peculiar identity that a Kashmiri Pandit has and ensure connectivity /return to their more than 5000 year old roots in Kashmir valley, it becomes imperative for the community, especially for our younger generation to preserve, at all costs, the great spiritual and socio-cultural-religious heritage that has been nurtured by our illustrious ancestors, against all odds, from times immemorial. The forced exodus has severely affected that great heritage. While some changes are irretrievable, yet application of the principles of ‘time management’, and making best possible and positive use of available modern day facilities and other technological resources at our command, should make it easier for us to preserve and carry forwards that great legacy.

Although the community has been making concerted efforts, at various levels, to preserve its’ rich socio-cultural-religious traditions by performing of periodic Havans or/and observing many ancient festivals like Navreh, Hayrath etc.etc., yet lot needs to be done, both at individual as well as collective level, to arrest the ‘downward’ trend that is quite visible in many areas like :- lack of interest in community affairs particularly by women ; loss of mother tongue ; negative birth rate; split-households; increased matrimonial discords etc. At the same time, feeling helpless will not address the challenges confronting our society at the moment. We need to ‘take the bull by its’ horns’. One feels, some of measures briefly listed below, if followed by the community should help, to a larger extent, in addressing these areas of immediate concern and thereby save the exiled community, now virtually on the last pages of earthly history, from extinction:

1. Active participation of women:

Our womenfolk have always played active and significant roles in shaping and upholding the rich socio-cultural-religious -literary traditions of the community down the centuries. Many of them have played exemplary roles on the political, diplomatic and military fronts as well. Nilmat Purana and Rajatarangini authenticate this claim. It is absolutely important that the women folk take an active part in the community affairs in the present difficult times as well. One hardly finds their representation in various KP bodies that are in existence today the world over. They enjoyed highest respect and attention in the ancient times and were generally treated as equals in all walks of life. No wonder, in spite of most of them being illiterate (in the literary sense of the word), our women commanded great respect and authority in the society. The counsel of elderly ladies, affectionately called ‘Dyedh’ or ‘Badd-Maej’ was much sought after in the matters of all socio-cultural-religious matters. It is interesting to learn that there was a practice of observing of a modern-day ‘valentine day’ in our society even in ancient times. The day was observed as ‘Madana-Triyodashy’. Women have to continue to play ‘motherly’ role to protect the unique identity that has been handed down to us by our illustrious ancestors, generation after generation. As they say a ‘mother’ is the first ‘Guru’ of a child. Emergence of ‘Kashmira Vaahini’, a group of enthusiastic women professionals, artists, writers, social activists etc., in Jammu recently, is a welcome step in this direction. The group needs community’s whole hearted support to succeed in its noble mission.

2. Speak in ‘Koshur’ languge:

Constant use of Koshur language as means of communication particularly in our homes and at community gatherings has to be a regular endeavor. Listening to as many as possible Kashmiri cassettes, CDs - religious or otherwise on regular basis can be useful in aiding us not only in preserving our mother tongue but our rich devotional and literary heritage as well. Playing them while driving in one’s cars would be desirable but- only to add a note of caution -to be careful while driving.

3. Focus on increasing our numbers:

Estimates and statistics reveal that Kashmiri Pandits constitute a meager 0.05% approximately of the total population of our country. Our present birth to death ratio is a scaring 14:3. Therefore, it is extremely important to counsel our younger generation to shun one or two child norm. Instead, we should encourage them to have minimum of three to four children per couple. World research has revealed that in order to sustain a community, it is essential to maintain an average of 2.7 child norm per family. Today, our community’s overall economic condition is comparatively better than what it used to be in the earlier times. We must be grateful to our older generations who, in spite of having faced great financial and other harsh conditions during their times, have managed to look after their large families with reasonable success. Baring some pockets, the conditions of procreation of present day young couples are also comparatively much better than what young couples had immediately after being hounded out of their homes and hearths in the early nineties.

4. Re-adopt joint family system:

Joint family system is one of the most effective and natural way of grooming our youngsters to become socially more responsible and well behaved individuals. Focus on increasing our numbers will surely help in ‘re-inventing’ the joint family system in our community. This will also save our older generation from facing the pangs of loneliness and separation and feeling of being un-wanted. They can be saved from the trauma of living a life in an ‘old-age home’ - traces of which have started to appear. Our respected elders are the reason of our existence. We need to be grateful to them and take their adequate care. Besides facing the serious threat of extinction , relations like a Boy or Benni; Maam-Maamaen; Maas-Maasu; Poff-Poffu; Pettar-Pechin; Pofftur/Maamtur boy-tt-benni etc. will be ‘relations of a bygone era’ in no time should we fail to address the issue of numbers and re-adopt joint-family system now.

5. Re-learning of Sanskrit language:

It is essential to nourish our roots in order to increase the life span of the community called ‘Kashmiri Pandits’. One of the important ways is to understand the importance of imparting at least the basic knowledge of Sanskrit language to our youngsters. Research suggests that learning of Sanskrit, helps in improving the ‘cerebral dexterity’ of its learners. “In the heart of London, a British school has made Sanskrit a compulsory subject for its junior division because it helps the students to grasp math, science and other languages better”. (Ref. - Hindustan Times, February 10, 2008). No wonder that our ancestors who were adept in its intricacies have left an indelible mark in various walks of life, particularly on the literary front, globally. What Kashmiri Pandits practiced previously is being adopted by foreigners now.

I am reminded of a letter dated December 18, 1940, written by late Sir Aural Stein, a highly acclaimed indologist, after arriving in Kashmir after a prolonged gap of nearly five decades to one of his friends, Madam Publious, then in England, “……had to talk Sanskrit again for an hour, thus purifying my tongue by use of the sacred language after all my peregrinations in the barbaric north and west ……” (Ref. ‘Aurel Stein in Kashmir’ by S.N.Pandita). The ‘language of gods’ and a ‘vehicle for higher learning’ is beckoning us to embrace ‘her’ once again not only to purify our tongue but the entire value system as such.

It is worthwhile to note that its is due to the efforts of that great indologist, with active help of many Kashmiri Pandit scholars, especially Pt.Govind Kaiul and Pt. Sahaz Bhatt, that six thousand old Sanskrit manuscripts (including a couple of hundred from Kashmir ) are lying catalogued in Raghunath Temple library in Jammu. What a treasure house of valuable information regarding our past can be hidden in those Sanskrit manuscripts can be any one’s /scholar’s guess.

6. Organizing of ‘Gurukuls/Paatshaalas’:

We need to open ‘Pathshaallas’ in different localities of Pandit concentration, which can focus on creating an atmosphere in their respective areas so that the community ( particularly the tiny tots) feels lured to learn Sanskrit language and introduce them to the treasure of our rich literary, cultural past traditions . That in turn will help in understanding our religious texts better and there-by develop more and more interest in learning and following our spiritual/traditional way of life besides exploring the vast treasure of our literary heritage .

7. Utilization of KP Bhawans:

KP Bhawans, wherever they have been or are being set up across the country, have to move beyond the role of performing Havans only. Apart from Havans ,which in any case are essential, and other sundry activities; these Bhawans can be utilized to facilitate in holding Sunday ‘Guru-kuls/Pathshaallas’ and thus help in achieving the objective of point 5 and 6 above.

Coaching centers can be opened in these Bhawans, particularly for adolescents, where community children can get coaching as well as an opportunity of interaction. In any case these Bhwans, involving huge financial resources, remain under utilized for want of a proper direction or a vision.

8. Say ‘NO’ to use of disposables during religious functions:

Use of disposable items like glasses, plates etc during religious functions particularly sacred Havans, etc should be totally discouraged rather banned. It will help us to contribute less towards pollution and thus save us from committing a sin. Simultaneously, it will also help the community in providing an essential-opportunity to all participants, especially our young boys and girls, to lend a helping hand in community service and to interact with each other. The opportunity will also inculcate a sprit of community brotherhood, piety and devotion in the minds of ‘active’ participants. Such functions need to be organized especially during the summer, autumn/winter breaks of schools to ensure maximum participation of youngsters.

9. Important books to read:

Apart from reading other books related to Kashmir and our past, some important books that should be read by one and all and should be available in each household are ‘Nilmat Purana’ (6th century text) ; Kalhan’s -‘Rajatarangini’ (12th century text) and Jagmohan’s - ‘My Frozen Turbulence
in Kashmir’ (a post exodus publication of early nineties). Copies of these books can be gifted to children on their birthdays etc and exchanged as gifts on other occasions as well.

The suggested measures are in no way indicative of expecting our youngsters to remain aloof from the changing world or not to keep pace with it in order to progress and achieve excellence in their chosen fields. These are only some areas that we can address at our own levels while pursuing our normal domestic, professional and other career related obligations. Fortunately, the suggested measures have almost negligible financial implications and hardly need any governmental support. The only thing needed is a strong desire to save our community from extinction and a will to act. Remember, we are ‘Kashmiri Pandits’ only in name today and as such need an extra effort to protect our worthy and hard earned identity. Yes, We Can!
*Ramesh Manvati, is a descendent from the family of late Pt. Thakur Joo Manvati, one of the great saint-scholars of Kashmir in modern times, he is an accredited opinion maker on the future of Kashmiri Pandits. For the past two decades, as a member of Think-Tank Group of Kashmiri Pandits, Ramesh Ji is engaged in deliberating issues and solutions that confront the beleaguered Pandit community. His seminal views have appeared in several national papers like The Hindustan Times, The Times of India and many other journals and important community publications of the Pandits across the country. He has participated in many conferences and seminars in the country dealing with the issues of ‘Internally Displaced’ Kashmiri Pandits and terrorism. As a core member of Panun Kashmir, he has also been actively involved in organizing historical and prestigious 1st and 2nd “World Kashmiri Pandit Conference” held in New Delhi in 1993 and 1998 respectively and also the “3rd World Kashmiri Pandit Conference” held in Jammu in the beginning of year 2009.

As a writer, Ramesh Manvati also edits the prestigious National Capital Region KP newsletter - Paannyaar. He also is a member of several reputed organizations and literary groups of Kashmiri Pandis that are engaged in Institution Building Model strategy for the post exodus rehabilitation of the ‘Internally Displaced’ Pandits. Ramesh Ji has also been an avid photographer and a keen trekker. He has trekked to most of the important pilgrim centers of Kashmir which also include Gangabal, Holy Amarnath Cave, Vishnupaad (Kongwatan), Naraan-Naag and Harishwar etc.

Ramesh Manvati has also co-authored (researched and compiled along with S.N.Pandita) a photo-heritage book titled “A Photo-Portrait of Kashmiri Pandits”, which was released in New Delhi in year 2007 by Sh. Jagmohan, former Governor of J&K State. Presently he is working on two books, including a translation work.
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