Srinagar: A monthly magazine published by government of India’s home ministry has been listing “positive developments” taking place in Jammu and Kashmir. Last March, one such development was the Bird census carried out by wildlife authorities at the Hokersar wetland.
Activities in the realm of culture, sports, tourism and job recruitments under Udaan (flight) scheme form a chunk of these developments published in the magazine, Jammu and Kashmir Update, since 2009.
The last edition has been updated in March 2016 on the ministry’s website.
“The ambit of the magazine covers all the three regions of the state with focus on achievements of the people,” it said.
In its December 2015 edition, South Kashmir Mirwaiz Qazi Yasir’s daylong Sufi conference, Aeitqad, has been featured in the magazine under the headline “Scholars promote Sufism for unity and brotherhood in Kashmir Valley”.
It said the conference was aimed at promoting Sufi values.
The report, quoting the scholars, said “Sufi culture lost its past glory due to modernisation and also due to vested interests”.
“Qazi Yasir, the organiser, said that in order to maintain popularity of the Sufism in the same manner as reported during the life time of famous past saints, deliberations were held in the conference with an endeavour to reach out to people who opposed Sufism values,” it said.
Yasir, son of Qazi Nisar, who was assassinated by unknown gunmen in 1994, is the chief of Ummat-e-Islami, a politico-religious organisation. He has served jail under Public Safety Act in 2010. His father has been one of the founders of Muslim United Front, a coalition of pro-freedom parties, which contested 1987 “rigged” elections.
“On the occasion, many Islamic scholars and intellectuals talked about Sufism and made the youth aware of the importance of unity and brotherhood,” the magazine added.
Qazi, however, said he has been organising such conference regularly but highlighting it in the magazine is part of “divisive” agenda.
In March 2011, the magazine had published a report on another ‘Sufi conference’ and headlined it “Islamic scholars gather in Beerwah to spread peace and brotherhood”.
Former bureaucrat and chairman of Kashmir Society Farooq Renzu had been described as an “Islamic scholar” in the report.
“We can unite people by spreading love. There is no scope for any criticism in this. The kind of response we have received at Beerwah conference will help spread the message of peace and love the world over,” he was quoted as having said.
In the magazine’s January 2016 edition, another report, “Scholars teach values of Sufism to youth in Kashmir valley at Qamarwari”, said, “A large number of youth present at the event demanded that such conferences should be organised more often as they create awareness about Islam and peace.”
Renzu said he was not aware of the magazine and that he has been organising Sufi conferences since 2004.
In the same issue, it said, “hawkers selling woollen garments are doing brisk business” as winter tourists “throng Kashmir valley”.
The February 2016 edition featured a report titled “Kashmiris wear traditional Pheran to counter winter chill”.
“Pheran is the most enduring look of the Kashmiri culture, which protects the people from chilling winters,” it said.
Similarly, Downtown Championship League (DCL) 2015 also figures among the “positives in October 2015”.
It said the cricket tournament was based on the pattern of Indian Premier League and was held in Srinagar city.
“The cricket league was organised with the aim of recognizing and financially supporting budding cricket players of Jammu and Kashmir. Last year’s tournament was aborted due to devastating floods,” it said.
In May 2015 edition, it said literary, cultural tradition of Kashmir were highlighted during the three-day `Sonth’ (spring) festival organised by the government in collaboration with NGO Lehar.
“Among known faces, leading poet Rahman Rahi, poet-critic Tarannum Riyaz, writers Basharat Peer, Mirza Waheed, activist Sadia Dehlvi, columnist and author Prem Shankar Jha and Rahul Pandita attended the event,” it said.
However, neither Mirza Waheed nor Basharat Peer had attended the event.
“I received an email invitation that mentioned ‘Sonth’ and I either never responded or declined politely. It’s strange because you can’t claim such a thing as Basharat or I couldn’t have attended and spoken at a festival without being seen!” Mirza told Kashmir Reader.
Peer told Kashmir Reader that he has never been part of such an event.
Another issue of magazine counted daytime weddings as a positive development, although many people count such weddings as abnormal. Before 1990, weddings were night affairs.