Inauguration of the Institute for Kashmir Studies by Her Excellency H.E. Shrimati Praibha Patil, President of India

News 26th May 2008

The Institute for Kashmir studies has been established under a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed on 21st August 2007, between SAF and the University of Kashmir. It is the latest of the eight institutions of excellence  which SAF is in the process of establishing in SAARC countries. In addition to group scholarships, it will offer fellowships to academics and professionals to undertake research, publish books, journals, working papers and bulletins, as well as organize national and international conferences, seminars of “Kashmiriyat” in a broader historical and worldwide context.

9.00 am: Arrival of the guests

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9.30 am: Arrival of H.E. Shrimati Praibha Patil, President of India

H.E. Shrimati Praibha Patil, President of India, foto courtesy of Kashmir University

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Inauguration of the Institute for Kashmir Studies, by H.E. Shrimati Pratibha Patil, The President unveils the inaugural metal Plaque

The President unveils the inaugural metal Plaque (From left to right:  Prof Riyaz Punjabi, Vice Chancellor, University of Kashmir; H.E. Shrimati Praibha Patil, President of India; H.E. Sri S.K.Sinha, Governor of Jammu & Kashmir; Hon. Sri Ghulam Nabi Azad, Chief Minister of Jammu & Kashmir; Ambassador Madanjeet Singh (SAF Founder)

Followed by presentation of SAF publications by UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, Madanjeet Singh

Presentation of SAF publications by UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, Madanjeet Singh, SAF Founder to H.E. Shrimati Pratibha Patil, President of India, from left to right: Prof Mufeed Ahmad ( Dpt of Management studies, Kashmir University);  Prof Riyaz Punjabi,(Vice Chancellor, University of Kashmir University); H.E. Shrimati Praibha Patil, President of India; Ambassador Madanjeet Singh, SAF Founder; Hon. Sri Ghulam Nabi Azad, (Chief Minister of Jammu & Kashmir); the picture on the book is Assi, the Kashmiri coolie poet.

Read more about SAF Publications >
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Welcome address by The Chancellor, University of Kashmir, Lt Gen (Retd) H.E. Sri S.K.Sinha, Governor of Jammu & Kashmir

Speech of His Excellency, Governor of J&K State and Chancellor of the Kashmir University Lt. Gen. (Rtd.) Shri. S. K. Sinha.

Your Excellency the President of our Republic, Shrimati Pratibba Devi Singh Patil, Honourable Chief Minister Jenab Ghulam Nabi Azad, Her Excellency Kumartunga Bandarnaike and distinguished delegates of South Asian Countries, Professor Riyaz Punjabi, Vice Chancelor, University of Kashmir, Ladies and Gentlement.

Today is indeed a very memorable day in the history of the University of Kashmir when Her Excellency the President of India is with us for the inauguration of our Institute of Kashmir Studies. We are also extremely fortunate that we have a galaxy of such distinguished people from all the eight South Asian Countries. This day will long be remembered as a red letter day four our University and also for the State of Jammu and Kashmir.

Some three years ago I set up a Centre for Kashmir Studies in Kashmir University. We obtained a grant of Rs 1 crore from the Government of India for the purpose. This Centre has been promoting the cultural heritage of Kashmir, in all its aspects. The Centre has been holding national and international seminars. Apart from scholars from different parts of our country, we have had participants from Pakistan and Central Asian Republics, with whom we share old historical and cultural ties. I discovered that the University of Lahore already had a Department of Kashmiriyat, before we set up our Centre for Kashmir Studies.

I had occasion to interact with UN Goodwill Ambassador and Founder of South Asian Foundation, Shri Madanjeet Singh. He was very enthusiastic about our project. We decided to upgrade and reorganise our Centre of Kashmir Studies as also expand its activities to cover all the South Asian Countries. We entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the South Asian Foundation which has promised us a grant of Rs 4 crores. The Centre has been registered as an autonomous and redesignated as the Institute of Kashmir Studies. It is our great good fortune today that the Presiedent of our Republic is here to inaugurate this Institute.

It is a coincidence that two of us who now belong to the rare breed of Eighties witnessed Kashmiriyat in action in October 1947, here in this city of Srinagar, are present in this auditorium. We sasw different perspectives of Kashmiriyat in action at that time in Srinagar. We had not met in those days. More than half a century later we met for the first time here in Srinagar, Shri Madanjeet Singh as a UN Goodwill Ambassador and I was Governor of Jammu and Kashmir. We have collaborated in setting up this Institute with new terms of reference. I have mentionned that we had a glimpse of different perspectives of Kashmiriyat in October 1947. That was the time when tribal raiders from Pakistan led by Maj General Akbar Khan of Pakistan Army, had invaded this state. They had captured the town of Baramulla a mere 30 miles from the city of Srinagar. Baramulla had been subjected to the most horrendous orgy of violence and it was feared that the city of Srinagar may be subjected to a similar fate. Shri Madanjeet Singh tells us, that in those days, there was an illiterate labourer, Aasi, who composed songs and sang them in the streets of Srinagar. His sons boosted the morale of the people of this City ant went a long way to prevent panic. I did not have the good fortune of meeting or knowing of Aasi at that time. I learnt about him much later from Shri Madanjeet Singh. We are happy to show you the picture of that labourer poet on the screen here. this Institute of Kashmir Studies is compiling a booklet of his songs so thaht they may be vailable to the present and future generations of Kashmiris.

The glimpse that I got of Kashmiriyat in October 1947 was from a different angle. As a Major in the Army, I had been involved in combating the fury of communal violence during the Partition holocaust, in which millions were killed and millions got uprooted. And then suddenly on the afternoon of 26 October 1947, we were told that the army had to go to Kashmir the next day, to recus the people from the ravages of a brutal and barbaric invasion. I landed in Srinagar with the first lot of troops as the Operation Staff Officer of the controlling headquarters tasked to conduct operations in Kashmir. Our priority task was to defeat the tribal raiders and our subsidiary task was to ensure law and order in Srinagar. The Maharaja and senior officials of the State had fled from Srinagar nd had gone to Jammu. I was sent from the airport to the city to assess the situation. There were then hardly any buildings or habitation between the airport ant the city for about 15 kilometers, till one crossed the Zero Bridge. As I entered the city I found National Conference volunteers maintaining order in the city. There was no communal tension and no communal violence. The city reverberated to the slogan of Hamlawar Khabardar, Ham Kashmiri Hindu Muslim Sikh Tayaar. Invaders beware; we Kashmiri Hindus Muslims and Sikhs are prepared.

It is pertinent to recall the words of the Father of our Nation in those dark days of the history of our Sub-Continent. That apostle of peace who was broken and disillusioned with the holocaust of that time, wrote, "I see a ray of hope in Kashmir". We have set up this Institute of Kashmir Studies to make his vision of hope into reality. Today from the ancient city of Srinagar founded by Emperor Ashoka, the unique Prince of Peace in the history of mankind and from the city where over a millenium later, the great liberal and popular Bud Shah ruled, are striving to get that light of hope, illumine the world. Kashmir has been called the Paradise on Earth. Kashmiriyat embodied in amity and brotherhood is the message of Paradise. We want to spread this message far and wide, not only all over South Asia but also all over the world. That is the ideal towards, which I urge the Institute of Kashmirs Studies to strive for over and for over.

We feel very encouraged to find that music transcends boundaries and can be used to lauch a jehad for peace transcending boundaries and bitterness of the past. The Junoon Band from PAkistan enthralled thousands at the function in SKICC grounds at Srinagar yesterday.

I once gain thank Her Excellency the President of India, participants from all over South Asia and the distinguished assemblage in this auditorium for their august presence amongst us on this historic occasion. Thank you all very much.

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Address by Hon. Sri Ghulam Nabi Azad, Chief Minister of Jammu &Kashmir pro Chancellor of Kashmir University

Your Excellency President of India, Shirimati Pratibha Devisingh Patil, J&K. Governor Lt. Gen. (Retd), Shri S. K. Sinha, Afghanistan’s Women Affairs Minister Dr. H. B. Ghazanfar, Madam Chandrika Kumaratunga Bandaranaike, former President of Sri Lanka, Shri Mani Shankar Aiyar, Union Minister for Panchayati Raj, Prof. Saifuddin Soz, Union Minister for Water Resources. UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Madanjeet Singh, Prof. Riyaz Punjabi, Vice Chancellor, University of Kashmir, dignitaries from the SAARC countries. delegates from South Asian Foundation, academicians, intellectuals, Ladies and Gentlemen,

As alumnus and Pro-Chancellor of Kashmir University, I feel great pleasure and honour to welcome you all, to this beautiful land, also known as the Paradise on Earth. I am highly thankful to you, Madam President, for sparing your precious time and being with us here today, to inaugurate the Institute of Kashmir Studies. Your presence has made the occasion all the more significant for us.

The presence of international personalities like Madam Chandrika Kumaratunga Bandaranaike and Dr. H.B. Ghazanfar amidst us here today speaks volumes about the importance attached with the launching of the Institute of Kashmir Studies.  I welcome you both on behalf of the Government of Jammu & Kashmir and on my own behalf.

I am also thankful to His Excellency the Governor of Jammu & Kashmir for his untiring efforts to have this Institute set up here. His guidance and leadership, as the Chancellor of this University, has been a source of inspiration for all of us and a motivating force to march ahead.

I would also like to profusely thank Mr. Madanjeet Singh for his support in setting-up the Institute of Kashmir Studies. He has been helping us as well in some other projects and deserves our heartfelt appreciation.

Distinguished Guests, Kashmir has always attracted poets, scholars and mystics who saw in this land a perfect place to pursue their vocation. Kings and common people have turned versifiers in eulogizing the Valley and its physical features. He who came here once, yearns to come again and again. Emperor Jahangir, when asked about his last wish while on the deathbed, drew out a deep sigh and said, ‘Kashmir, digar haich’ (without Kashmir – the rest is meaningless). His son and successor, Shah Jahan, who was ill and away from Kashmir once recited a couplet saying to the Almighty, ‘Adam ate the wheat and was driven out of Paradise, I took only barley water, O God take me to Kashmir’.

Ladies and Gentlemen, there is abundance here of what you are interested in. In the words of Walter Lawrence, there is sport varied and excellent; there is scenery for the artist and the layman, mountains for the mountaineer, flowers for the botanist, a vast field for the geologist and magnificent ruins for the archaeologist.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am sure by now, all of you have been smitten by the beauty called Kashmir.

The Kashmir University campus where we have assembled today is perhaps the most beautiful campus in the country, situated, as it is, on the banks of the famous Dal Lake which itself lies in the lap of the enchanting Zabarwan mountain range, and in the close neighbourhood of the most revered shrine of Hazratbal housing the sacred relic of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon Him). The spiritual light emanating from here adds a glow to the academic atmosphere in the University.

The University of Kashmir had a humble beginning in 1948 immediately after Independence. However, the university was formally established in 1956. Since the University of Kashmir has come a long way to its present status, where it has developed into a multi-faculty university. It has earned a name for scholarship and knowledge and is reckoned as one of the leading universities of the country. Its alumni are spread world over, serving as doctors, engineers, scientists and technocrats.

I am confident, that the new leadership in the person of the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Dr. Riyaz Punjabi, who, like myself, is the alumnus of this institution, and his team would take the university to newer heights of knowledge and scholarship. I am confident, that the University would always prove worthy of its own motto ‘Mina Zulmaati Ilun Noor, meaning ‘From Darkness to Light’.

Kashmir has the unique distinction of having the world’s oldest recorded history dating back 5000 years. The Rajatarangini, written by our own Kalhan Pandit, serves as a perennial source of information and inspiration for historians all over the world. This great treasure of ours speaks of the value the people of this land had always attached to learning and knowledge. We, as the inheritors of this great legacy, are conscious of the rich civilization that Kashmir had been.

The mountains and river valleys throw-up lot of evidence of man’s presence here, in the pre-historic era. The discovery of stone tools and implements add credence to this evidence. A few kilometers from this campus is the pre-Harrapan site of Burzahome where man lived in complete harmony with nature as a pit dweller. A little distance away from the Dal Lake is Harwan, the site of the 3rd International Buddhist Conference held by Indian Emperor, Kanishka.

In ancient Kashmir, Shaivism and Budhhism flourished in complete harmony with each other and when Islam arrived here in 14th century AD, it did not meet with any resistance as the people of this land had learnt over centuries to assimilate what is good in other religions.The interface of different religions gave birth to a new society whose defining identity was tolerance, amity and unconditional surrender to knowledge and wisdom.

This unique identity is also known as Kashmiriyat and stands for the sublime and higher values of humanity. Laleshwari and Sheikh Nooruddin Noorani are the embodiments of this identity. While the former, a Hindu mystic, was Lall Ded for her Muslim fellow citizens, the latter, a great Muslim saint, was revered by Hindus as Nund Reshi. 

It is this firm belief in the cardinal principles of tolerance and amity and the urge for seeking knowledge and wisdom, that Kashmir has withstood many a tribulation and turmoil over the centuries. People have found in these values the strength, to dispel the clouds of darkness and triumph over the odds. A whole civilizational history is on my side when I say that Kashmir has never, and would never, compromise on the principles of peace and tolerance.It is embedded in the soul of this land and has helped the people to rise stronger from every ordeal. They have again proved this by successfully surmounting the long period of violence and bloodshed spanning past about two decades.

As I said, Kashmir is an interesting subject for scholars and researchers. There is variety and richness that intrigues a seeker of knowledge. The rich cultural heritage of Kashmir beckons students and research scholars to unearth this vast treasure and build upon it in terms of knowledge and scholarship.The setting up of the Institute of Kashmir Studies is a significant step in this direction. I am hopeful, that the Institute would serve as a beacon for scholars and interested people from far and wide, to learn about Kashmir, its history, culture and the intellectual treasure of its people.

I extend my warm greetings to the Vice-Chancellor and the faculty of the University of Kashmir on this important occasion and wish them success in their striving to make this institution one of the best seats of learning and knowledge.

I once again thank Your Excellency, the President of India, Smt. Pratibha Devisingh Patil for gracing the occasion and conceding to our request to inaugurate the Institute of Kashmir Studies.

Thank you Madam President, and all the dignitaries.

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Introductory address by Prof Riyaz Punjabi, Vice Chancellor, University of Kashmir, reading of the letters by UNESCO Secretary General and The Prime Minister of India

Your Excellency Smt. Pratibha Devisingh patil, Hon'ble President of India, His Excellency the Governor of J&K state and Chancellor, University of Kashmir Lt. Gen. (Rtd.) Shri. S. K. Sinha, Hon'ble Chief Minister of J&K state and Pro-Chancellor, University of Kasmir Mr Ghulam Nabi Azad, Hon'ble Union Minister of Panchayati Raj - Mr. Mani Shankar Aiyar, Hon'ble Union Minster of Water Resources - Prof. saif-ud-din Soz, Excellency Chanerika Kumaratunga, Dr. Farooq, Esteemed Minister of Women's Affairs Govt. of Islamic Democratic Republic of Afghanistan - Dr. Hassan Bano Ghazanfer, Diplomats, Vice Chancellors and other Dignitaries from the SAARC countries, Heads of Faculties, Departments, Professors and students of University of Kashmir, and Esteemed members of Civil Society.

I heartily welcome you in this inaugural function of Institute of Kashmir Studies in our UNiversity. We are over-whelmed with the presence of Her Escellency Hon'ble President of India. On behalf of University of Kashmir, I express my deep gratitude to her for being with us today.

I take this opportunity to briefly introduce Kashmir University to you. The picturesque location of University of Kashmir has endowed it with a unique ambience. The University is situated in the lap of majestic range of hills on it seastern side ans on its northwestern side it is being overlooked by Hariparbat hillock. it is worth mentioning here that this hillock houses the temple of legendary Chakreshwari Devi on one side ant the shrine of Sheikh Hamza Mukhdoom on the other side and on its foothills is situated Guruduwara Chatipadshahi - the memorail to commemorate the visit of 6th Sikh Guru to Kashmir. The reverberations of the recitations in the name of Allah are heard here from all around from dawn to dusk. This ambience of its surrounding is reflected in the functioning of the University in every respect.

Kashmir has the tradition of great scholarship and learning. Prominent Kashmiri Scholars and Philosophers have made great contributions to Indian philosophy and culture. Kashmir has also the pride of holding international conferences and setting up Sharda-Peethas thousands of years ago. Following this tradition of knowledge and learning, the University of Kashmir has been making immense contribution in different fields of knowledge. Our University, which is more 55 year old now, while nurturing its glorious historical values of the past, has embraced new trends and is meeting new challenges of modern times in its pursuit of academic and research activities. the University of kashmir comprising 11 Faculties, 35 Departments and 15 Centres of educational and scientific research has emerged as a premier institution of learning. the University has established a network of 120 constituent, affiliated and professional colleges in the state of Jammu & Kashmir. the University offers a vide spectrum of 172 academic and professionel courses through formal an non-formal modes of education. University of Kashmir accredited as "Grade-A" University by the National Assessment Accreditation Council (NAAC) is marching ahead on the path of expansion and excellence. Th University has an academic record of excellence in research and grant of specail financial assicatance through various programmes provided by the national reserach and funding agencies provide illustration to the point. The University has signed a number of MoUs with several institutions at the national and international levels to foster close academic and cultural collaboration in various academic ventures of mutual interest. We are pledged to establish a vibrant knowledge society in Kashmir.

The Institute of Kashmir Studies which is being inaugurated today will be another vibrant centre of research of Kashmir University. it may be mentioned here that various Departments in the University have made commendable contributions towards studies on the history and culture of Kashmir. However, there has been a great urgency in setting up an Institute to undertake a focused study on varied aspects of Kashmir including its history, culture, sociology and its great contribution in strengthening the Sufi-Bhakti-Rishi tradition of the sub-continent. Kashmir has been the torch bearer inproviding a pradigm of multi-culturalism, interfaith dialogue, and has always provided a vast space for co-existence of different religions and faiths. Thus reinvigorating the spiritual strenght of Kashmir and connecting it with the similar thought processes, values and practices in South-Asia in particular and other parts of the world in general assumes a great priority. I am confident the the Institute would undertake this gigantic but meaningful task of re-connecting Kashmir with the neighbouring regions with whom it has enjoyed cultural, philosophical and commercial relations in the past.

I acknowledge with gratitude the contribution made by the Chancellor of Kashmir University Lt. Gen. (Rtd.) Shri. S; K. Sinha in taking keen interest in setting up this Institute of wider educational an research dimensions. We are equally grateful to Hon'ble Pro-Chancellor of Kashmir University, Mr. Ghulam Nabi Azad who has been always providing required assistance and guidance in not only establishing this Institute but in other ventures also which have been undertaken by the University.

I take this opportunity to express my profound gratitude to Mr. Madanjeet Singh, Founder - Chairman South Asia Foundation, and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, who, in view of his great concern for promoting the values of peace and brotherhood, provided a generous financial support in establishing the Institute of Kashmir Studies. We are equally grateful to Chirman, SAF INdia Chapter, Mr. Mani Shankar Ayar for his keen interest in setting up the Institute of Kasmir Studies. We are grateful to Prof. Saif-ud-din Soz, Hon'ble Union Minister of Water Resources and our former colleague int he University, Dr Farooq Abdullah, Mr. Mufti Mohammad Sayeed our former Chief Ministers for thier keen interests in the development of this University.

We are indeed grateful to the Hon'ble Prime Minister of India who has expressed his pleasure about the inauguration of Institute of kashmir Studies. I take this opportunity to present before you the message sent us by the Hon'ble Prime Minister.

Let me acknowledge with thanks the offer of Cooperation extended to us by Mr. Koichiro Matsurra, Directo General UNESCO in strenghthening the activities of Institute of Kashmir Studies. I may present some parts of the message which he has sent to us on this occasion.

Thank you.

Message from Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO on the occasion of the launching of the Institute of Kashmir Studies, Srinagar, 26 May 2008

It gives me great pleasure to convey my geetings on the occasion of the inauguration of the Institute of Kashmir Studies. Established undr the auspices of the South Asia Foundation, this institute will undoubtedly make a unique contribution to the promotion of research and education in the region. UNESCO looks forward to cooperating with the Institute in the framewok of its various activities devoted to heritage-based development in Kashmir, particularly in the wake of the devastating earthquake of October 2005.

UNESCO is very happy to have established a long and privileged relationship with the prime mover behind this worthwhile initiative, Me Madaanjeet Singh. In the year 2000, Mr Singh created the South Asia Foundation to promote sustainable cultural, educational and economic development throughout the region. The Institute of Kashmir Studies is the eight institution of excellence established and funded by the South Asia Foundation to date. Among Mr Singh's nnumerous other cultural undertakings in Asia, allow me to mention the establisment of the Kabul-based Madanjeet Singh Institute of Afghanistan's Cultural Heritage, whose principal objective is to provide much-needed training for Afghan presservation specialists.

Mr Singh's personal commitment to fostering culture, dialogue mutual understanding and peace has served as a great source of inspiration to people of many different nations, cultures and religions. In recognition of his generosity and untiring efforts to promote these noble objectives, which are also those of UNESCO, I had the privilege of designating Mr Singh as a UNESCO Goodwill ambassador on 16 November 2000.

I sincerely hope that the new Institute of Kashmir Studies will help reinforce the role of culture and education is ensuring a sustainable future for all peoples of the region.

I wish it much success and a long and productive life.

Koïchiro Matsuura


Message of Prime Minister - May 19, 2008 - New Delhi

It gives me great pleasure to learn about the programme being organized by the University of Kashmir on the occasion of the inauguration of the Institute of Kashmir Studies. The institute is being established in collaboration with the South Asia Foundation established by Shri Madanjeet Singh, and is primarily designed to promote "Kashmiriyat", based on Kashmir's age old "Bhakti-Sufi-Rishi" traditions and culture. This unique eclectism in Kashmiri tradition and the natural beauty of the area has not only made Kashmir a "Paradise on Earth", but also a microscosm of the secular, pluralist traditions of India.

The initiative to resuscitate the age old traditions of Kashmir, and to establish an institution which would serve as a melting pot of ideas and learning, involving young people and others, not only from the State and other parts of the country, but also from the neighbouring countries of the Indian sub-continent, is timely. I hope the Institute contributes to strenghthening the composite culture of the State.

I convey my best wishes to all those associated with the Institute of Kashmir Studies.

Manmohan Singh

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Inaugural address President of India, H.E. Shrimati Pratibha Patil

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am happy to participate in the inaugural function of the Institute of Kashmir Studies at Kashmir University. I would like to congratulate all those who have been involved in its inception and wish them success.

Kashmir has had a rich and vibrant cultural history and a tradition of learning and scholarly pursuit since times immemorial. Its enchanting beauty has attracted thinkers and philosophers, seers and sages, kings and noblemen, travellers and traders, from far and wide. Through the ages, it has been a melting pot of ideas, which have been distilled into the finest traditions of learning, tolerance and cultural cohesion. Whether be it Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism or Buddhism, all these religions have for centuries been a part of the spiritual landscape of the State.

All this has evolved into the unique concept of ‘Kashmiriyat’, the cohesive historical-cultural identity of the people of the State, which represents an ethos of liberal values, religious and social harmony, mutual co-existence and brotherhood. It reflects the contributions made by thinkers and men of letters like Charak, Bhartrihari, Bilhana and Kalhana and saints and sages called Rishis and Sufis, in whose name Kashmir is still known as 'Reshiwari' or abode of Rishis. Spiritual thinkers such as Lal Ded and Nund Rishi spread the message of love, tolerance and compassion, which left a deep imprint on the lives of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Their legacy, over a period of time has etched itself so much into the collective consciousness of the region, that it cannot be eroded. Kashmiriyat is a living legacy. It has withstood the test of time, and it is now for us to continue to nurture it so that it is preserved for future generations.

The Institute of Kashmir Studies, in a sense, continues this rich tradition of learning and scholarship. I congratulate all those who have worked towards the setting up of this Institute. I hope that it will contribute to the study and assimilation of knowledge about the history, cultural values and socio-economic structure of society in Jammu and Kashmir. It will provide a platform for scholars in the field of Kashmir studies regarding ideas on pluralistic cultures and tolerant societies. The younger generation should be involved in the studies, so as to benefit from this initiative. The scope for preservation of culture is wide and can cover a broad spectrum of activities such as finding and conserving valuable manuscripts as well as conducting research into languages, art and literature. This work, I am sure, will interest not only scholars of this Institute but also of other Universities and academic bodies in the State and other parts of the country as well.

Jammu and Kashmir is nature's manifestation in its pristine form. Its scenic beauty, its different seasons and the abundance of water, make it a paradise on Earth. Kalhana, the great poet of Kashmir, wrote, ‘Learning, lofty houses, saffron, icy waters and grapes. Things, that even in heaven are difficult to find, are common here’. During my visit to the State, so far I have traveled to Srinagar, Tangdhar, Baramulla and Gulmarg. I could not go to Bhaderwah due to bad weather. I intend to go today. I have had the opportunity to see the beauty and the culture, the friendly and hospitable people, the ethos and diversity as well as the progress and development of the State.

Building a future of hope and optimism for Jammu and Kashmir is a collective endeavour in which every person is a participant and a contributor. It requires that Government, civil society and all communities and sections of the people of Jammu and Kashmir work together. I am aware of the difficulties that the people of this State have undergone due to violence and terrorism. However, we are all proud of the resilient and strong people of Jammu and Kashmir, who have demonstrated, over the past few years, their determination to move ahead on the constructive path of peace and progress. This is the true path. Both the State and the Central Government have taken the development of the State, as a top priority agenda and enunciated policies and programmes towards this end. The objective is to secure a better life for our citizens where each one can have the opportunity to grow. The State has tremendous potential in horticulture, floriculture, handicraft, tourism and IT among others. Equally important is our determination to create a secure environment and to defeat the divisive designs of terrorism and violence.

Education is essential for nation building and for the empowerment of its people. The education system should equip students with skill sets so that they can earn their livelihood, impart knowledge so that they can contribute to their country and inculcate values that will make them tolerant individuals, concerned about the well being of humankind. Education should also strengthen the values of secularism, democracy, inclusiveness and pluralism. These values give strength and sustenance not only to our diverse multi-cultural society but also to our country. I am told that the State Government has taken a number of measures to expand the educational infrastructure. I would encourage and urge that work in this direction continues so that education facilities are available to all.

As I have said earlier, all of us must work together for peace and prosperity in Jammu and Kashmir. The State Government has taken a number of measures and initiatives to help create necessary conditions for development. I congratulate the State Government, particularly the Chief Minister, Shri Ghulam Nabi Azad for taking the State forward on the road to development. The Government of India through centrally sponsored programmes and the Prime Minister's Reconstruction Plan is committed to strengthen the economic and social infrastructure of the State. I am confident that we can all work together to create a prosperous and peaceful Kashmir. As the great Kashmiri poet, Mehjoor has written, and I quote:

    "Vwolo haa baagvaano, navbahaaruk shaan paadaa kar.
    Phwlon gul gath karan, bulbul tithe saamaan paadaa kar"

    (O Gardener! Create the glory of spring!
    Make the flowers bloom and the birds sing - create such haunts!)

The reference to spring and flowers in this beautiful composition by Mehjoor, reminds me of the occasions that I had, to meet groups of women and children who came from Jammu and Kashmir to Rashtrapati Bhavan. When I met them in the Mughal Gardens, which have been inspired by the beautiful gardens of Kashmir, I was struck by the thought that just as the many varieties of flowers make a garden beautiful, the diversity of our people has created the vibrant Indian nation. I am confident that our unity in diversity will lead the country to greater glory. I am also confident that the spirit of Kashmiriyat will flourish and the fragrance of mutual love and affection will spread beyond the precincts of Jammu and Kashmir and become a way of life.

I wish the Institute success in its endeavours, and would like to convey to the people of the State of Jammu and Kashmir my best wishes for peace, progress, prosperity and happiness.

Thank you.

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Vote of thanks by Hon. Mani Shankar Aiyar, Union Minister for Panchayati Raj and Chairman SAF India Chapter

About Chairperson SAF India Chapter >

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The visit of H.E. Shrimati Praibha Patil to see South Asian Women’s painting Exhibition in the lobby of the University Auditorium, organized by Prof Salima Hashmi Chairperson SAF Pakistan Chapter.


Prof Salima Hashmi arriving at the exhibition greeted by Sri Ghulam Nabi Azad, Chief Minister of Jammu & Kashmir;
Prof Riyaz Punjabi, Vice Chancellor and Mr Koul in charge of the security. Prof Salima Hashmi, dean School of Visual Arts Beaconhouse National University and Chairperson of South Asia Foundation Pakistan Chapter, organize the exhibition of Women's Painting in collaboration with the Kashmir University, Srinagar, Kashmir.

H.E. Shrimati Pratibha Patil, President of India
with Latefa, afghan painter

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Brief cultural programme presented by University of Kashmir Cultural Club

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Report by Dr G.W. Khawaja, Director Institute for Kashmir Studies

His Excellency, the Governor of Jammu and Kashmir State, Lt. General S. K Sinha.
Our most beloved Hon able Chief Minister, Jenab Ghulam Nabi Azad.
Hon’ ble Union Minister of Water Resources, Prof. Saif-ud- Din  Soz.
Hon’ ble Union Minister for Panchayiti Raj, Shri Mani Shankar Aiyar.
Hon’ ble Dr. Farooq Abdulah Former Chief Minister of Jammu & Kashmir, State.  

The Institute of Kashmir Studies was established as a UGC project in April 2006 on the University of Kashmir Campus under the nomenclature, Centre of Kashmir Studies. The idea and relevance of such an academic forum to study, analyse, debate and re-evaluate, various aspects of Kashmir’s rich and varied cultural, intellectual and spiritual heritage in relation to the cultures and civilizations past and present was originally conceived by our Chancellor His Excellency, the Governor of Jammu and Kashmir state Lt. General S. K Sinha and has in a small period of time come to fruition under his direct supervision and with his personal efforts and interest. In 2007, two well-wishers and well-meaning personalities, the Chancellor His Excellency, General S. K Sinha and the founder of SAF the Goodwill Ambassador Shri. Madanjeet Singh decided to transform, the Centre into an Institute of Excellence; consequently an MOU was signed between the University of Kashmir and the SAF. As per the terms of the MOU, the nomenclature of the Centre was changed, with the concurrence of the UGC, to the Institute of Kashmir Studies, subsequently it was registered with the Registrar of Societies Kashmir Division, as an autonomous legal entity. The General Body, comprising the Institute is Ex-officio (member). All those, interested in the academic pursuits of the Institute can secure its membership as per the terms and conditions laid down in its constitution. It is pertinent to mention here that the SAF has pledged to support the Institute financially for a period of five years to help it grow and blossom into an Institute of Excellence. The Institute from its very inception, initiated a process to build the awareness among the concerned circles about the past glories and present predicament of the Kashmir. Towards this end which has become our sole passion, the Institute, with its meagre Human resource, has been able to organize: One international seminar, one national seminar, one workshop and half a dozen significant symposia, local seminars and a series of lectures. The international seminar was conducted on the theme:

‘APPROACHES TO KASHMIR STUDIES’ The seminar, which was well-received and appreciated by the intelligentsia and the local and national press, was fortunate to have the favour of the participants from Pakistan, Central Asia, France, and Austria besides the eminent national scholars and more knowledgeable local audience.

The national Seminar was organised to locate and examine the alternative sources of history of Kashmir on the General theme –The Folklore of Kashmir. The three day seminar became a significant event for the debate it ensued among the scholars of the subject, who hailed from various regions of India.

Kashmir has been fortunate to possess the earlier records of its politico-cultural history in the shape of Nilmat Purana, a 6th century compendium and the Rajtarangni of Kalhana, a 12th century politico, geographical history of Kashmir.  But Kashmir does not possess, till date, any coherent, scientific history of Kashmiri Culture and philosophy. The works of Kashmir Buddhist, Shavist, Vedic ,Sufi, Rishi scholars are numerous and scattered in space in various languages and scripts like Sanskrit , Arabic , Persian, Tibetan ,Chinese, Kashmiri, Urdu, Pali and in Sharda, Brahmi, Kharoshti and Khotanese scripts. In order to collect, arrange, sift, and analyse and then compile on scientific lines a history of culture and philosophy of Kashmir, a national seminar which was attended by the scholars of international standing was held, in collaboration with the Sanskrit Department of Jammu University at Jammu. The title of the seminar was:

A Preliminary Workshop-cum-Seminar on Writing A History of Kashmiri Culture and Philosophy. On this occasion I would like to express my deep sense of gratitude to Hon. Prof. Amitabh Matoo, Vice chancellor of the University of Jammu for facilitating the conduct of the Workshop. Without his personal interest and efforts, this Workshop of greater consequences could not have been organised.
The project for writing a history of this dimension and reach is the major project the Institute has undertaken; preliminary work is in progress in this regard.

As a matter of fact Kashmir has produced a vast corpus of literature in the field of religious philosophy. There is a huge body of Tantric literature which runs into thousands of pages, that still exists although much of the literature has already been lost. Then there are works on religion and philosophy which have been as yet neither edited nor published and are in the manuscript from. Then there are those works which have been edited and published, but have not been translated neither into vernacular nor in English.

Kashmiri scholars have contributed immensely to the development of Indian aesthetics, logic and grammar but it is very unfortunate that not a single work on these subjects have been translated into the Kashmiri language.

Kashmiri scholarship has contributed a lot towards the development of Buddhism and Buddhist logic. As a matter of fact Kashmir was for many centuries the main seat of Buddhist learning. In Indian thought the negative aspect of the divine is developed and emphasized only in Buddhism; and is represented by the concept of Shunaya. The ultimate fruit of Kashmiri speculation is the monistic Shaivism which is also known as Trikmat. It is a very profound Philosophical cum Spiritual system. This system of thought is greatly indebted to the Buddhist thought and practice prevalent in Kashmir. As a matter of fact it preserves the essence of Buddhist thought and supplements it by adding to it the positive aspect of the divine.

Kashmir’s have always been radicals in the domain of religion, Kashmiri Scholars walked out of the 3rd Buddhist council at Ujain because of their deep differences with the majority of the monks, that is why the 4th the Buddhist council was convened by Kanshika towards the beginning of the 3rd century A.D. in Kashmir. When Acharya Shankar, as part of his Yatra reached Kashmir to convert the people to his version of Sañãtan Dhrama, he could not defeat Kashmiri Scholars in Shastarartha as a result he could not covert them. The Kashmiris who did not convert to the Shankar’s version of Sañãtan Dhrama instead came up with their own version of Neo-Shaivism, which is strictly mono-theistic. No wonder  Acharaya Shakar could not establish a matha in Kashmir.

Monistic Shaivim of Kashmir along with Buddhism, Jainism and Charvaka is considered as a nastika creed as it does not recognize the authority of Vedas. Being a nastika school of Indian philosophy, it has not received the attention it deserved at the hands of the bramanic elite of the country. If you pick up any history of Indian philosophy, you will find that this system of thought does not figure anywhere in the book. If the author happens to be very liberal, he may devote a paragraph or two to give a cursory account of the system.

Kashmir Shaivism does not recognize caste barriers and it is meant for all castes and all creeds. Probably this was considered a big threat by the Brahamanic Orthodoxy of our country that is why this system of thought like charvaka materialism is relegated to the margins. 

When Kashmir was enlightened with the message of Islam, Kashmiri scholars did not completely give up their intellectual and spiritual heritage. Rather they tried to preserve the essence of their intellectual and spiritual heritage, by blending it with the message of Islam. Sheikh-ul-alam Sheikh Noor-Din Nurani popularly known as Nund-Rishi in one of his Shalooka’s Says:

    If you are a seeker of the truth
    You will make efforts to curb and control your five senses
    Otherwise you may bend your body
    and claim that you have
    performed the Nimaz

    If you are capable of fusing Shiva (being) with Shunya (non-being)
    That truly is the internal Nimaz.     
The various symposia and a series of lectures organised by the Institute with the favour and intellectual contribution from the local scholars of repute and NGOs dealt with the issues and problems of Kashmiri cultural life.

The Institute envisages for the current year an academic programme which would encompass MPhil and PhD programmes, writing of monographs on the various aspects and issues related to Kashmir Studies. More significantly Institute envisages National Seminar on the focal theme:

“The Role of Islam in the transformation of Kashmiri society in the 14th and 15th century AD”

Besides a Workshop on the Kashmiri Shaivism in collaboration with the Abhinavgupta research library Varanasi is being conducted from the 18th of Sept 2008 at Nag Dandi Achabal with curtsy to Vivekanada Ashram. A seminar on the theme Kashmir’s contribution to Buddhism is scheduled to be held at Central Institute of Buddhist Studies Choglamsar, Leh in the early July 2008.

The Institute has on its agenda the translation and publication of some of the ancient texts in Sanskrit and Persian into Kashmiri and English.

Prof G. M Khawaja


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Presentation of a plate to Dr S.M.Raheen former SAF Afghanistan Chairman

Presented by Ambassador Madanjeet Singh on behalf of SAF Governing Council to Dr Sayed Makhdoum Raheen, in appreciation of his valuable contribution to regional cooperation in South Asia, the revival of Afghnistan’s cultural heritage, empowerment of women and promotion of human rights.


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Keynote address by Prof Mushirul Hassan, Vice Chancellor, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi

‘O you who believe, steer well clear of supposition,’ stated the Quran. The aim of this lecture is to take stock of the appalling ignorance about Islam and the culture associated with. Even though Islam is widely perceived and experienced as a dynamic way of life consisting of praxis and ideology, the literature on its followers in the subcontinent, who are regarded as a part of the repository of many events that make up its complex history, is woefully inadequate.

Mohammad Iqbal, the poet-philosopher, had observed: ‘It is no exaggeration to say that India is perhaps the only country in the world where Islam, as a people-building force, has worked at its best.’ Yet so little is known about India’s Muslims’ histories and contemporary predicaments. This is an example of how the twenty-first century historian sees the ‘Muslim world’. If the place of Islam in the twenty-first-century is permanent and that living with it as a political phenomenon is a certainty for the foreseeable future, we need to build a history that does not distort of misrepresent the history of Islam and its followers.

Today, vital issues impinge on Muslim lives, not least their interaction with the other communities. Globalization is another issue; it causes the old traditional points of reference to disappear here and elsewhere and reawaken passionate affirmations of identity often emerging from withdrawal and self-exclusion. Then, there is the challenge of Western ascendancy being met on a daily basis not uniformly but variously. There is, finally, the struggle between modernists and traditionalists for the Islamic heritage and the search for a place in postcolonial societies. Issues touching deep-seated chords of feelings are raised over and over again as every single Muslim-from North America to South-East Asia–is under scrutiny to either reinforce or revise the only two images that are in vogue, ‘Good Muslim’ or ‘Bad Muslim’.

The heart and soul of my concern is to articulate a vision of Islam, rather the many different kinds of Islam instead of the frightening monolith of popular perception, living in harmony with other faiths, and the Muslims, inheritors of the great Indian civilization, living in a pluralist milieu. If this effort sounds unduly optimistic, it is in part because of the vast resource of religious and intellectual tolerance embedded in ‘Hinduism’ and partly owing to the diversity in Islam. In a society where religion plays a dominant role in virtually every walk of life, it is my business and the business of every historian to bring secularism into our discussions and to affirm its validity as a principle guiding the nation. To renounce this claim is to surrender the nationalist project to right-wing ideologies, be it Hindutva or Islamist. Given that Indian is neither a centre of jihadi terrorism nor the battlefield for the future of Islam, I lay stress on India’s civilization identity against any totalitarianism, Hindutva or slamism. When all is said and done it ought to be possible to locate the diminishing value of divisive ideologies and the ultimate dissolution of primordial loyalties.

I wish to underline another point: whether or not Islamism is the ideology of Islamic internationalism which has evolved as a variety of religious fundamentalism, I consider its impact to be detrimental to the Muslims themselves. I say this as a Muslim seeking a place for Islam and for its adherents in a set-up of democratic peace based on a global civil society and its civic values. Even though its is grossly inaccurate to suggest that Islamists are ‘nourished by an Islamic tradition that is intrinsically inhuman and violent in its rhetoric, thought and practice’, there is no denying that the totalitarian forces seeking redemption through force cause grater damage to the Muslims themselves and not to the West alone.

Let me touch on three or four points. First, Islam in South Asia is a living tradition, however defined, and a dynamic force and that the region’s unique culture have moulded its traditions. Even though the social and cultural profile of its followers has undergone a fair degree of change, especially owing to the Tablighi Jammat’s influence, these traditions are inseparable from what Aziz Ahmad called the ‘Indian Environment.’ Again, even though they have their own role to play but their role must be integrated within a large complex of diversity, constituted in part by other men, more numerous and perhaps more powerful, with other values and with other roles. The future of Indian Muslims depended upon their own inner resources and creativity, and their outward relations with their fellow men.

Second, Islam persists not through rigid negation but through adaptation of the forces of change. This has enabled its adherents to survive the endless vicissitudes of history. In fact, Islam is a dynamic faith demanding continuous involvement of mind and energy in worldly affairs for fulfilling the purpose for which man was created.

A.A.A. Fyzee (b. 1899), the scholar of Islamic jurisprudence, positioned himself against the traditional belief that law and religion are coterminous in Islam, arguing that law, a product of social evolution, must change with time and circumstances. The Deoband- educated Maulana Said Akbarabadi argued in the 1960s that a distinction had to be made between those Quranic injunctions that were specific to the Arab customary law and those applicable to Muslim societies in other times. This distinction had been made, and that alone enabled Islam to pass through many stages of reorientation and readjustments. Others scholars, too, interpreted Islam liberally and reformulated some of the main premises or lslamic theology and jurisprudence. They drew a distinction between din (religion), immutable, and sharia which has been constantly changing. Today, we must make sure that the eclectic spirit of the Prophet's message is not throttled, its theology not gagged by history and its vitality not sapped by totalitarianism.

Third, public intellectuals invariably found in their tradition the ideological resources to bridge their sense of 'difference' and participate fully and actively in the anti-colonial movement. This is exemplified in the writings of Azad and Madani, who championed composite nationalism and rejected the idea of Hindus and Muslims being two different nations. Lesser men found conflict in the rich variety of Indian life. Azad, on the other hand, saw the essential unity behind all that diversity, and realized that only in unity was there hope for India as a whole. He envisaged an Islam not of sectarian belligerence but of confident partnership in a cultural and spiritual diversity where a strident divisiveness would be its betrayal.

The Tarjuman-al Quran is one of the most profound statements on multiculturalism and inter-faith understanding. It is the finest example of constructive thinking enjoined on the Muslim in his discovery of 'a new world of religious thought to redress the balance of the old’ Azad, the bridge between Deoband's ulama and the liberal modernist, shared in the effort to give the lie to the steady charge, or implication, that living without benefit of statehood world inevitably entail a slow assimilation of Muslims into the dominant ethos of Hinduism.
‘Kashmir’, wrote Jahangir (r. 1605-27), ‘is a garden of eternal spring, or an iron fort to a palace of kings—a delightful flowerbed, and a heart-expanding, heritage for dervishes.’ By far the most important observation of the Mughual emperor was on the long tradition of religious tolerance and pluralism in Kashmir, starting with Syed Ali Hamdani (1313-80) and Sheikh Nuruddin (1376-1438) in the fourteenth century. In one tale, it is said that when a baby, Nuruddin, refused to take his mother’s milk and would drink only from Lalla Deb (1320-89), the Kashmiri mystic.

A century later, Sultan Zainul-Abidin exemplified a more civilized adherence to harmonious communal relations. According to Kalhana’s Rejatarangini, he participated in Hindu religious festivals, visited Hindu shrines, and had the Sanskrit texts read to him English observers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century in Kashmir found shared popular religious traditions especially in the countryside. Thus W. Lawrence referred to the ‘delightful tolerance’ between the followers of Islam and Hinduism.

In Punjab Islam provided a repertoire of concepts and styles of authority that served to encompass potentially competing values, including the values of tribal kinship, within a common Islamic idiom. Folk poetry developed, blending the brotherhood of man with thoughts of social equality, deliverance from feudal bonds. Sufism and the Bhakti stream escaped from the cloister and joined and fermented among common people, helping to create a body of folk-poetry where the religious brotherhood of man blended with thoughts of social equality, and deliverance from feudal bonds.

Rechard Eaton’s erudite study concludes with the remark: ‘What made Islam in Bengal not only historically successful but a continuing vital social reality has been its capacity to adapt to the land and the culture of its people, even while transforming both.’ The pattern is the same elsewhere, So that the modes of though and action of thousands of people in a part of South Asia suggests that Hindus and Muslims have been living together but not in separate compartments. Indeed, the hallmark of urban life has been the sharing of a similar lifestyle, the ideology of work, tenure and public activity. Divisions among people, in order of importance, seem to be: men/women; lower-class/upper class; educated/uneducated; and then on the basis of religion, mohalla, caste, language, community, and personal compatibility. Division on any of these levels did not necessarily mean antagonism but structural similarity, as for divisions along lines of sex, religion, and mohalla.

Turning to the attitudes of literary and historical figures living through Delhi’s upheaval in 1857, we find them building bridges of understanding between religious communities and responding to the conditions of modern life with a strong and universalistic component in their thinking. They found wisdom in numerous religious traditions, and, without advocating the cultural merging of religious traditions or the dissolution of religious boundaries, they were content to let a hundred flowers bloom. Even though Islam was a necessary cultural and spiritual ingredient of their national culture, they viewed religion as a matter of personal choice and disposition. Again, they adhered to the personality paradigm of the Prophet but they also drew upon non-Muslim religious figures in order to develop a conception of coexistence between religious institutions and the men of faith in different religions.

Consequently, one of the key themes in my historical explorations is to point out that Indian civilization has been in continuous relationships with other religions, cultures and Civilizations, and that Muslims have come into contact with many religions, including Zoroastrianism and Manicheism, Hinduism and Buddhism, Sikhism, not to speak of Christianity and Judaism inside and outside West Asia. Sure enough they discovered the congruence of the basic tenets of all religions. Mujeeb asserted that, if the Muslim and the Sikh walk steadfastly on what is their true path they will discover that their paths and the goal are the same. That discovery will itself be a spiritual experience, ‘an occurrence of the heart’, a fulfillment of what God, in a story related to Maulana Jalauddin Rumi (1207-1273), the Balkh-born Persian poet, said to Moses, the Hebrew prophet: ‘You have been sent to unite, not to divide1.'

Even though British travelers viewed Islam in a binary and essentialist manner, Mir Taqi Mir has this to say in this couplet: ‘It is the power of His beauty fills the world with light/Be it the Kaaba’s candle or the light that lights Somnat.’ Let me use Ghalib, his successor in terms of greatness, to make a point that encompasses religious tolerance. The ideological element in his poetry and letters is not, of course, new; but a shift in analysis can sometimes help in uncovering new elements in the past.

According to Hali, ‘it is clear that not only in poetry, but also in his manners, dress and address, food habits, life style and even in the art of living and dying,
Ghalib disliked to follow the popular, conventional ways.’ Ill at ease with religious dogmas and discarding outward religious observance, he announced virtually from the rooftops: ‘Faith stops me, if impiety pulls me towards itself/Kaaba is behind me, the church is in front of me.’ For Muslims, this house is the Kaaba in Mecca, for others, it is the temple. Ghalib makes his meaning clearer in another verse:

        What is the temple, what is the Kaaba?
        Baffled passion for union constructing
        Myths and illusions, asylums to shelter
        Its ardour, its hopes, its dreams and despair.

The true faith can be attained only if we get beyond religion.
        Good is One, that is our faith,
        All rituals we abjure,
        ‘Tis only when religions vanish
        That belief is pure2.


Ghalib disrupted prejudice wherever he found it. He wore no sectarian badge, no sectarian colour. ‘I hold mankind to be my kin’, he told Hargopal Tufta, a devotee of Persian poetry, ‘and look upon all men-Muslim, Hindu and Christian-as my brothers, no matter what others may think.’ ‘Every son of Adam’, he says in another letter, ‘be he Muslim, Hindu or Christian, I hold dear and regard as my brother. I do not care if others believe in this or not’3 Once, while gazing at the sky, the apparent chaos in the distribution of the stars struck him. And he proclaimed, ‘there is no rhyme or reason in anything the self-willed do. Just look at the stars scattered in complete disorder. No proportion, no system, no sense, and no pattern. But their King has absolute power, and no one can breathe a word against Him.’

For the Muslim elites to which Ghalib belonged by virtue of his family lineage and his ancestor’s social status, Islam was neither the only nor in all circumstances the most important identity. Once during Ramazan, the month of fasting, his close friend, Mufti Sadruddin Azurada, visited him about midday. He was then in cell, playing chess or chausar with a friend. The Mufti found his way to the cell, and seeing Ghalib playing games in the month of fasting, said, ‘I have read in the Hadith

(Tradition) that Satan is kept locked up during Ramazan, but now I have doubts about the genuineness of this Hadith.’ ‘No, my enerable friend’, Ghalib replied, ‘the Hadith is perfectly genuine. Only, you must know that this cell is the place where Satan is kept locked up.’

Ghalib admired Hindu rituals and Hindu sites. In October 1827, he set out for Calcutta. Part of the way he traveled by river; and the final stage, from Banaras to Calcutta, he did on horseback. He reached Kolkata on 20 February 1828 - almost a full year after he had set out from Delhi. Enchanted him; hence the long lyrical Persian poem of 108 couplets in its praise. It is entitled Chiragh-e dair (‘The Lamp of the Temple’). According to him, the beauties of Banaras have ‘their coquetry in a rose garden intoxicated and brim-full of blandishment; their graceful walking embraces the hundred turmoils of judgment Day!’  By contrast, Allahabad (Prayag) was a ghost, ‘dull and uninspiring, its people unfriendly and inhospitable.’ He decided did not touch Allahabad on his journey back home.

From its alleged founding in the sixth century BC, Kashi had grown to be one of northern India’s largest cities in the early nineteenth century. With the pilgrims seeking salvation or taking part in seasonal fairs and eclipses, Ghalib enjoyed the paradise-like environment of natural beauty, the temple bells ringing, and the devotees walking hurriedly towards the Ganga, Invigorated by the salubrious climate, the forests along the river, and the streams and waterways all through the city, he reveals his patriotic revaluation of the common cultural and religious inheritance.

Preservation of customs is Ghalib’s them in yet another long Persian poem Ghalib. In this he rejects infidelity (rasm-e kufr), but not the Divine Bounty. ‘Negation without affirmation is nothing but error’; indeed, one cannot affirm God and deny His signs. Kashi was, thus, a ‘sign’ of God. Besides being a centre for pilgrimage and worship, it was a microcosm of Indian life, customs, and popular belief. It was, so wrote Ghalib, the Kaaba of India.

More than thirty years later Ghalib remembered his stay with pleasure: ‘What praise is too high for? Where else is there a city to equal it? The days of my youth were almost over whom I went there. Had I been young in those days I would have settled down there and never come back this way’. Arguments for tolerance, when not purely pragmatic, took recourse to other values, some of which, including respect for cultural diversity, play a central role in the thinking of Urdu’s greatest poet.

Without suggesting any causal relationship between Ghalib’s interest in Hindu sites and symbols, it is important to point out Ghalib’s interest in them to indicate something of the significance of these histories for composite traditions and even composite nationalism. It is not as if he did not pay sufficient attention to religiously defined cultures. The fact is that he tried to tease out the subtle ways in which conflicts could be avoided.

The message is loud and clear. Instead of the imaginary civilizational clash between ‘Islam’ and ‘the West’, the ‘latitudinarian tendencies’ should intermingle with antinomian trends in Hinduism itself to reinforce the phenomenon of Hindu-Muslim rapprochement. An average Muslim should hold, rather than abrogate, his right to hold an independent opinion about right and wrong, good and evil, and, above all, act according to his conscience and remind himself that he must be ‘sccurers of justice’ not only for his brethren but the international community, of Muslims and non-Muslims, to which we belongs. Iqbal had alluded to this in Naya Shivala. With its lyrical quality and tone of cheerfulness and hope, he had called upon the Hindus and Muslims to cultivate decent values which spring from a common tradition, to recognize each other as equals and treat the sister faiths with fundamental respect.

In his story Vettamangalam Elephant, Thoppil Mohamed Meeran (b. 1994). The great Malayalam writer, dwells on aspects of inter-community intermingling, the fusion of religio-cultural practices, its variety and richness. He describes popular singers, actors and costumes: these develop into signs whose semiotic richness evokes the spontaneous and collective jouissance of Hindus and Muslims alike. Soon, though, this sharing of a unique and long-standing experience is ruptured. The elephant procession, once a joyous occasion for all, now fills Muslims with foreboding. Saddened that this children were caught up in the communal cauldron, the Muslim narrator lamented that they would neither have access to a rich cultural tradition nor the opportunity to enjoy what he had so cherished all his life.

1 M. Mujeeb. ‘Guru Nanak through Muslim Eyes’, n Islam and the modern Age (Delhi), August-October 2003,p. 168;
2 Mujeeb, Ghalib, pp-6-7;
3 Ibid, p. 25.

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Ambassador Madanjeet Singh - Vote of thanks

UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Madanjeet Singh, in a brief speech on behalf of SAF Governing Council, conveyed his sincere gratitude to officials and staff of the University of Kashmir, the security personnel, and the young scouts and guides who worked day and night and made SAF functions a resounding success.

About South Asia Foundation Charter >
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 Vote of Thanks by Prof S.Fayyaz Ahmad, Registrar University of Kashmir


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 Inauguration of the exhibition of South Asian Women’s painters by Hon. Dr H.B. Ghazanfar Women’s Affair Minister, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, in the lobby of the Universiy Auditorium Complex

From left to right: Dr S M Raheen (Ambassador of Afghanistan in India, former SAF Afghanistan Chairperson); Hon. Dr H B Ghazanfar (Women’s Affair Minister, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan); Ambassador Madanjeet Singh (SAF Founder); Mrs Amina Afzali Advisor to the President on Children Rights, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

Group of Afghan Painters From left to right: Shela (painter); Omlbanin (painter); Ms Amina Afzali ( Advisor to the President, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan); Ambassador Madanjeet Singh (SAF Founder); Prof M Alem Farhad (Dean of Fine Arts Faculty, Kabul, University); Prof Omara Khan Masoodi (Director Kabul Museum, new SAF Afghanistan Chairman).

Group of Kashmiri painters wih from left to right: Prof Riyaz Punjabi ( VC Kashmir Universiy); Ambassador Madanjeet Singh (SAF Founder); Prof Neelofer Khan (Kashmir University).
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SAF Madanjeet Singh scholarships students from Jammu University vocational program invited to Srinagar to attend the inauguration of the Institute for Kashmir Studies.

The visiting girls from Jammu University, with SAF founder and Prof. Poonam Dhawan, in the lawns of Kashmir University, 26th May 2008

From right to left: Prof. Poonam Dhawan, Jammu University; Prof. Riyaz Punjabi, Vice Chancellor, Kashmir University; Ambassador Madanjeet Singh, SAF Founder; and Prof. Neelofar Khan, Kashmir University

Invited by the Vice Chancellor, Kashmir University, girls from Jammu University attending the Vocational training program funded by SAF, were invited to take part in the festivities held 25th, 26th and 27th May in Srinagar on the occasion of the inauguration of the Institute for Kashmir Studies. It was an exceptional occasion for them to interact with the group of girls trained at the Kashmir University as Pre-Primary School’s teacher.