DP Dhar’s son who runs the prominent school in memory of his father has been witness to Kashmir’s various highs and lows in recent years. In a long conversation, Vijay Dhar laments over the loss that the new generation is so keen to recover but feels chocked for lack of avenues
In 1990, almost everything came to a grinding halt. It was in1992 when my mother took ill and she had to under go a surgery. While she was being carried to the operation theatre, she told me: “Are we going home after the operation”. I said yes, we are going for sure. I just said it.
Once the operation was over, se was all right, I decided to keep my promise. As I started making preparations, the news went out and the Home Ministry said it was impossible. Then Prime Ministers Office intervened. I was given the impression that Pakistan has no other business other than killing me. But I said I am committed to my mother, so I have to go home. Finally we made a compromise. Our names were changed, my name, my mothers name and my wife’s name.
But once we landed at the Srinagar airport, it hardly mattered. People recognised me. But the government took no chance; they put up an elaborate security convoy – four escorts in the front of cavalcade and four in the rear of our car. As we reached home, the phone started ringing. Everybody started calling me, welcoming me back home.
It puzzled me.
I summoned my servant and asked him why he let people know I am back. He said he did not his actions did. “I had gone to the butcher asking for two kilograms of mutton,” the servant told me. “He was shocked; he said has the Sahab come? I said no. He said that I had not taken so much of mutton for all these years. That is how the news spread.”
For the next five weeks, we stayed in Srinagar, believe me, we never cooked out breakfast. People would rung me up saying do not come to us and we also are not visiting you. But we will keep a tiffin at the main gate and please pick it up. These tiffins would be sniffed by the security dogs before reaching our breakfast table. That is what Kashmir is.
After endless visits, when finally I re-settled in Srinagar, I started thinking on doing something. Education came so naturally to me. I started asking myself: if this state introduced free education as early as 1951, why is J&K second from the bottom in the all India ranking? If we have nine universities, why are 100 thousands boys and girls from Kashmir going to get education to various places across India? I started thinking about the enormous cost that it entails for this much of people in moving out of Kashmir.
Karnataka’s base to music is Kashmir music. In Tamil Nadu, the routine thread ceremony (a Hindu custom of baptising the younger boys into the faith) is interesting. They recite certain Slokas that mentions Kashmir and when it happens the boy has to stand up and face Kashmir and then walk six steps towards Kashmir and then only his ceremony is complete. This is in deference to Kashmir that has remained the epicentre of knowledge and enlightenment.
That is what the image Kashmir historically has been all about. And now we live in time where we do not figure anywhere in education. That is how the idea of creating DPS in Srinagar was conceived.
When I decided to start the school, my family did not talk to me for three months. They wanted it in Delhi instead. When the spade work started, I got so huge response that, one day, I told my wife, my support throughout, that we should not do it. She asked me why. I said there are too huge expectations from us. But somehow with the support of people, we did it and created a successful model. Mufti Sahab wanted me to open DPS in all districts, I refused. Instead, I want local entrepreneurs to join, as they did in Budgam, Baramulla and Anantnag. I am getting 150 students from Pulwama daily. It can sustain a full-fledged
It took me six months to convince DPS in Delhi to come to Srinagar. Then it took me another six months to get the CBSE recognition. That was an interesting tale. As I was waiting outside the office of CBSE boss, his deputy came. He asked me the purpose and when I told him that I am from Kashmir, he asked me if am a Muslim or a Hindu Kashmiri.
It really shocked me. This forced me to literally gate-crash the office of the CBSE chairman. After listening from me, he finally gave me a checklist carrying 29 items. It was back-breaking so I started explain what Kashmir is all about. He understood it and was gracious in erasing almost everything barring five clauses. He said for any educational institution in Kashmir, the standards will change.
Right now, Jammu has CBSC in 16 schools but in Kashmir there are only four schools with CBSE. I do not know why.
Till recently, Ms Mehbooba Mufti come to power, we had separate laws governing education in Kashmir and Jammu. I do not understand why, a fee fixation committee exists in Kashmir and not in Jammu. I still do not understand why High Court in Jammu stays a particular order and in Srinagar the High Court is unwilling to listen.
If the government decides the timing of schooling, then I believe government has lot of time. Why can not government do its own work? I visited a government school and found eight teachers for four students. Why should not government go to these areas and instead choke the private sector. They must inspect but they can use any on-line system now.
Recently we had a music competition in which lot many schools participated. One government school bagged a prize of Rs 1 lakh. When asked the boys what they will be doing with this money, they said: “Our school has only two rooms, we will use this money in creating two more.” One of the prize money winning groups was so naive that they took the cardboard prize cheque, used at ceremonies for photo-ups, to the bank! Now this system is using its powers to choke the private sector. Why?
Recently I was in Delhi and some senor official asked me about Kashmir and talked about “stakeholders”. I asked him who the stakeholders in Kashmir are. He said: “separatists and you”. I told him that I am not a stakeholder because quite a few years are left in my life. The real stakeholders are people who have fifty years of their life with them, I told him. I asked him what they are actually doing for the real stakeholders.
I told them that Kashmiris are not interested in your money. They can even pay you back the sum of Rs 15000 crore you so frequently talk about. Kashmir has changed but they do not know.
I went to Cochin and saw 300 Kashmiris there. I asked them are they doing something. They said: Aes Mara Kya Phatir Chah? (Are we mad?). They sell handicrafts and make a decent living.
Me and my wife were walking on a street in Angkor Wat in Cambodia that we were interrupted: Adaab Mara. It was a Kashmiri Muslim who instantly brought us a nun chai and then we talked. He said he operates his shop in Beijing from Angkor Wat.
Kashmiris live everywhere across the globe. They work and have proved their worth. They are the stakeholders. The stakeholders are 100 thousands Kashmiri Muslim boys and girls studying across the country.
Does anybody know that Kashmir exports saffron honey and lotus honey worth crore of rupees a year. Does anybody know that Kashmir sells walnuts for Rs 900 crore? Some people started Lavender farming and now they have created a demand for 5000 litres because no oil on earth is as fragrant as the Kashmir Lavender is. Kashmir would traditionally plant flowers on graves. We called it Mazaar Posh (grave flower). It is actually Iris and was planted to keep the rodents away. Does anybody know that its medicinal importance has linked it to some stomach cure and Kashmir is exporting it right now? Kashmir rose oil is a sensation world over.
The real unsung heroes in Kashmir are the women. They suffered a lot but they fought militancy. As they found Lala not coming to Srinagar for purchasing crafts, they pushed their males out to earn the livelihood.
Again, the society has understood the importance of education. In our school, I usually do not intervene in interview. But recently I asked a young lady who she was. She said she is the last of the four sisters. They all were working: one in bank, one in insurance, one in a university and the fourth had applied here. I asked her if any one was married, she said no. Why? “Our father is a driver. He has broken his back in raising and educating us. Now it is time to repay a bit, we are delaying our marriages just to see him in a bit of comfort,” the lady responded. That is new Kashmir youth, the real stakeholder.
The other day, I was talking to the kids and telling them about the infrastructure being raised – the tunnels, the roads and other things. Then a small kid stood up and said: “I am not going to eat your train?” I had no answers.
Only last week when Norwegian ambassador came to interact with students, a kid asked about what they should do in a state of conflict. The ambassador said: “Trust each other”. Then he talked about how Norway is driving its economy while lacking any real resource of its own.
Two years ago, Home Minister of India came and delivered a talk. Excited, the politician agreed to a Q&A session. One kid asked: “This morning, I came to my school, wearing my uniform and I card. At the gate, I was stopped and my bag was searched. When I asked why it is being done, they said, the Home Minister is arriving.” She was an eighth class student.
Then, another boy got up. “My parents tell me the entire security is around to keep me secure. But then, why these security men stop me and ask me questions?”
Home Minister cut the session short and left.
People often disagree with me when I talk about Kashmir issue. I do not see any Kashmir problem but nobody agrees with me. I see the problem of the young man who is being deprived of basics. When they ask me about solution to Kashmir, I tell them to ask this 15-16 years old child, he will tell you that he wants to be left alone, to be permitted to build his future and their lies the solution.
But what are we doing for him?
Only education department has a yearly printing order of nearly Rs 400 crore. Why can not Kashmir be a printing hub, if Singapore can be? Get 1500 boys and give them what it takes, they will create the hub.
Every year, government schools require uniforms worth Rs 100 crore, private schools need around Rs 50 crore. Then police and other forces require for another Rs 100 crore. Why cannot a cutting, stitching hub be created?
If somebody has money and four kanls of land, why can not he be permitted to start a nursing school?
How much time it takes to create an IT hub in Srinagar? All these things would require six months to happen.
(The copy is based on the observations Dhar made in a freewheeling talk with Masood Hussain)