One community, but two very different tales

The influx of people from Kashmir into the City Beautiful took place in two batches, the first cheerful one, while the other in conditions that were nightmarish for most. In 1960's, around 125 families shifted base in search of work or were transferred.

chandigarh Updated: Oct 24, 2013 00:02 IST
Hillary Victor
Hillary Victor
Hindustan Times

Kashmiris in tricity

The influx of people from Kashmir into the City Beautiful took place in two batches, the first cheerful one, while the other in conditions that were nightmarish for most.

In 1960's, around 125 families shifted base in search of work or were transferred. Their journey has been smooth and satisfying with majority of them earning a good livelihood and owning their own houses. Most of them are working in banking, insurance and pharmaceutical companies.

At the other end of the spectrum, however, lie those who migrated from Kashmir under hostile conditions - under the shadow of the gun with the onset of militancy in the 'paradise on earth' way back in 1989-90.

They were forced out of Kashmir when militancy hit the beautiful valley, the holy land of saints like Lal Ded and Sheikh Noor-ud-din, also known as Nund Rishi.

Nearly 4 lakh Kashmiri Pandits migrated from the Valley with the onset of militancy there and around 300 families came here in 1989-90 and were over the years joined by many other migrants from the Kashmir valley. They were then promised houses, jobs and financial packages to help them reach their old level of prosperity so that after living a life of refugees in their own country, they could at least live a dignified life.

But, they say, for the past more than two decades, we are in the city and love it, but the authorities concerned despite assurances, never fulfilled the promises for their better living, which included housing for those who have lost their homes and hearth back home.

The community has received lot of love and affection from the City Beautiful that they do not miss to take apart in cultural events or festivals associated with other states. Today, the community has nearly a population of 50,000 in the tricity and they feel they are secure here as localites welcomed them with open arms and have given them lot of affection.

The two prominent associations of the community are Kashmiri Sahayak Sabha, Chandigarh, which was formed in early 60's, but has been more active after the migrant community members settled here, while Kashmiri Pandits Migrant Relief Holder Welfare Association was formed in 2007.

A handful of Kashmiri Muslims, who are in the city, are working in the grain market and transport area in Sector 26. But one thing that is common in the community is the love, affection, and tolerance they have for each other.

Squadron leader BL Sadhu (retd), who came to Chandigarh in 1974 after being transferred to join as flight lieutenant in the city, retired in 1985 and now settled in SAS Nagar, says, “Chandigarh is the safest place to live and our community feels secure in the tricity. The city has accepted us and basic amenities like health facilities and education cannot match with any other part of the country.”

On asking why he didn't go back to Kashmir, he said, the condition of Kashmir and love for Chandigarh forced him to stay back.

MK Ganjoo, a retired horticulturist from J&K government, said, “Chandigarh people have showered their love and affection on the community members and always go out of their way to help us.”

Sanjiv Hakhroo, general secretary of Kashmiri Pandits Migrant Relief Holder Welfare Association, said, “We are in the city for the past two decades and love it like anything, but the promises made to us have not been fulfilled. Only a few migrants were given space in community centres to stay and rest were told to look for rented accommodation. Also, the migrants staying in community centres were given cash assistance from 1990 but others got it in 1994.”

Kalpana Moza and Rajesh Moza, a Kashmiri couple staying in SAS Nagar, says, “We cannot even think of going back. My daughter, who is doing her schooling in city, speaks fluent Punjabi and we are going to marry her here only.”

The community does not miss the sight of Kashmir's exotic cuisine popularly known as Wazwan (multi-course meal in Kashmiri cuisines) as various hotels in city hold regular Kashmiri food festival. The traditional spices brought from the Valley even beat the taste of any non-vegetarian preparation.

The main festival of Kashmiri Pandits is Herath (Shivratri), which falls in February/March. An interesting fact about the festivals of Kashmiri Pandit is that some of these are celebrated a day ahead of their celebration by Hindus in other parts of the country.

Shivratri, regarded as the most important festival of the community, for instance, is celebrated by them on 'trayodashi' or the 13th of the dark half of the month of 'Phalguna' (February-March) and not on 'chaturdashi' or the 14th as in the rest of the country.

Ruf Dance is most famous dance forms. It has been a part of Kashmiri life from ancient times. This dance is performed as a welcome dance for the spring season.

In 1980, the UT administration allotted land to the community to build Kashmir Bhawan in Sector 24, which was finally built in 1982. All important meetings, cultural events, social gatherings are held at the bhawan only.

Tomorrow: Kannada

Know the community
Population: 50,000
Food: Rice is part of the staple diet in Kashmir. Some well-known rice dishes include mutton pulao, tursh, zarda and shree pulao. Kulcha, bread made out of wheat, is also extremely popular. Rogan josh, mirchi korma and dam aaloo are other Kashmiri cuisines.
Main festival: Shivratri, which falls in February, and Navreh (New Year), which falls in March-April.
Place to meet: Kashmir Bhawan at Sector 24 in Chandigarh.

Prominent Kashmiris in tricity
Sanjay Kishan Kaul, chief justice, Punjab and Haryana high court.
Rajiv Narain Raina, justice, Punjab and Haryana high court.
TK Sapru (retd), army commander, western command, now settled in Panchkula.
DN Pandit, former chief general manager of SBI, Chandigarh.
Dr Rajinder Sapru retired from the cardiology department of the PGIMER, Chandigarh.
VK Raina, geologist, was first one to land in Antarctica, now settled in Panchkula.
GL Kaul, retired secretary of Punjab Vidhan Sabha.
AK Nehru, pharmaceutical entrepreneur.
Kuldeep Kaul, director, Metro Exporter, Chandigarh.
Sofi Zahoor, senior director HR - India operations, Quark XPress India, SAS Nagar.
Ashwagosha Ganju, director, Snow and Avalanche Study Establishment, Sector 36, Chandigarh.
Sanjay Ganjoo, senior journalist, PTI, Chandigarh.

Info centre
Tourist Information Centre at Jammu and Kashmir guesthouse in Sector 5, Chandigarh. Phone: 0172-274355

Chicken Kanthi
Serves: 2-3

Chicken: 800gm
Onions (sliced): 200gm
Tomatoes (sliced): 120gm
Cumin powder: 10gm
Coriander powder: 10gm
Red chilli powder: 20gm
Mint leaves: 30gm
Lemons: 4
Salt to taste
Refined oil: 60ml

* Marinate the boneless chicken with ginger, garlic, yogurt and spices. Cook it in a tandoor.
* Heat oil in a pot; add onion and tomato slices. Saute till golden brown.
* Add chicken and spices once the mixture is cooked.
* Top it up with mint leaves and lemon juice.
* Serve with mirchi roti or plain naan.

Recipe: Gaurav Narayan, executive chef, The Lalit Grand Palace, Srinagar

First Published: Oct 23, 2013 23:09 IST