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It's said that world witnesses similarities in almost everything and almost everything has a twin made in this vast world. It's a common saying in our part of the world that everyone and everything has a twin and one could be lucky to witness a twin or two in his lifetime.

So in that case, lucky am I, who witnessed a twin, not of himself but his motherland. Yes, I am talking about a twin of my motherland, Kashmir. I have been travelling for the past one month and after travelling to a few countries, my last destination before heading home was Tajikistan, which was earlier a part of USSR and now an independent country. After taking off from Mashhad in Iran on an Aseman Air flight, I dozed off and after the flight landed in Dushanbe, my fellow traveller woke me up with full enthusiasm saying, "Roohullah, wathu thoad Ghare ha wotukh". Which means, Roohullah, get up, you have reached home.

I got up and without looking out of the window, I pulled my cabin baggage from above and got going half asleep. But what happened next was surprising, the moment I got out of the aircraft, I literally stopped and for a second thought that I actually landed at Srinagar Airport. The same breeze, the same light, the same atmosphere, the same view and the similar surroundings. 

Since my walking out of the aircraft at Dushanbe airport, there is just one sentence making a run in my mind, "Kashmir with an asterisk". The two places are so similar that anyone would get confused and anybody can be befooled with the pictures.  The Dushanbe city reminded me of Paris, same kind of streets, same kind of shops, same kind of the style and a similar kind of the nature in people that would make you hold your head because, even if they know English, they wouldn't respond, they would still talk in their own language. 

After spending one night in Dushanbe, the next day, early in the morning we started our 200 KM long journey and the more we were going away from Dushanbe and getting closer to Kulob province, we felt more in Kashmir and not once but a few times my fellow travellers and I repeated, "aes ma watav ghare?" That means "are we reaching home?"

The surroundings, the trees, the houses, the people, everything looks so similar that it feels that we are in Kashmir a hundred years ahead or at least thirty years behind. Don't get confused with the sentence the way we got with the place, I mean to say a hundred years ahead in terms of development and cleanliness and three decades behind in terms of the house structures. The same type of houses that we witnessed three decades back in Kashmir, but with a better strength I am sure of the architecture.

The muddy houses, the smoke coming out of the kitchen chimneys, people working in their farms, ladies carrying something or the other on their heads, similar faces, similar physique, similar way of walking, similar way of expressions, similar surroundings, same chinars, similar spring flowers on trees and plants, similar willow trees, similar grass, similar spring fragrance but not the similar concrete jungles.

After staying in Kulob, one fine morning we decided to take a day tour to a place around 75 kms ahead of Kulob. I wanted to sleep but the surroundings didn't let me. Such breath taking views of mountains, landscapes and nature that would take anyone's heart away and would make anyone want to live there in the lap of nature and feel peace. One of my fellow traveller said in humour, probably the Mughal king Jahangir didn't get a chance to witness this place that he concluded in Kashmir saying " garr Firdaus baroye zameen ast, Hameen ast o hameen ast o hameen ast". Another responded saying that it has been his short sightedness thinking that there couldn't be a better place on earth than kashmir forgetting that God is great and must have made a place that's better than Kashmir and which is perfect. We witnessed this and thought it was something out of the world but surely there would be places that are better.

Tajik people have for sure maintained their roots and taken care of them with off course a better understanding of the good and bad effects of doing so. Don't even think of letting a thought come into your mind that they are decades backward, no, not at all, remember they are well advanced and well exposed than us in everything and in maintaining their way of living, they aren't 3 decades behind us but 5 decades ahead of us, because we have started to feel the ill effects of going away from our roots and culture however it would take us two more decades for the complete realisation when we would have no chance of looking back.

I was lucky enough to witness a twin of my motherland, are you? If you have the will to replace your holiday to Delhi, Mumbai or Goa with a trip to Tajikistan with a little more money, do visit this beautiful country and you would get back with loads of memories to cherish for the rest of your life.

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UDHAMPUR: Army has always been the flag bearer of peace, women empowerment and social upliftment of the society.  In persisting with these efforts and to appropriately recognise the achievements of the youth, Army unit at Kalakote, felicitated Ms Sonia Chib of Village- Barakh, Tehsil- Pouni, district Reasi for securing the first rank in the merit list of Woman Officer Technical Entry (Civil Engineering) of Indian Army. 

 

Ms Sonia, daughter of retired Subedar Jagdev Singh completed her schooling from Kendriya Vidyalaya No-1, Udhampur and further was pursuing her B. Tech in Civil Engineering from Rajasthan. She applied for Short Service Commission Women (Tech) course and after clearing the interview at Services Selection Board, Allahabad in November 2017 in her first attempt, was adjudged the merit list topper for the entry into the Indian Army. Her training will start from 02 April 2018 and will last until March 2019 at Officer Training Academy (OTA), Chennai.   

 

Ms Sonia takes pride in the fact that she hails from a small and remote village of far flung hilly area of Reasi district of Jammu and Kashmir. Having inherited patriotism as a legacy, she would be a third generation family member to don the olive green uniform and first woman officer from district Reasi (J&K). She continues the tradition of serving in the Indian Army like her grandfather Late Suram Singh Chib, Jammu and Kashmir Rifles and her father Subedar Jagdev Singh (Retired), Regiment of Artillery.               

 

Speaking on the occasion Sarpanch, Barakh and Tehsildar Pouni, applauded the efforts of Ms Sonia and wished her success in her career in the Army.  The Army Officer present for the occasion also appreciated her efforts and motivated her to do well during her training and consequent service in the prestigious Indian Army. Ms Sonia acknowledged her felicitation with due humility and herself called upon the students especially the girls present in large numbers during the felicitation ceremony to follow her footsteps and strive hard to become officers in the Indian Army.      

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  • INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY

JAMMU: As the entire world gears up to celebrate International Women’s Day tomorrow, the State of Jammu and Kashmir which is already fraught with many challenges including armed conflict and violence, is facing many other confronting situations with regard to its girls and women. A major challenge that the state is witnessing these days is the abandoning of its new born babies in Kashmir. Mrs. Gulzara Masoodi, Member, J&K State Commission for Women who is also a well known educationist of Kashmir, speaks about all such challenges, on the eve of International Women’s day tomorrow. Excerpts from her interview.  

Kashmir has seen an increase in the cases of abandoning of the babies, especially the new born girls. How do you see it?  

My heart bleeds as I hear about the number of such cases wherein newly born baby girls have been abandoned in Srinagar. This is an alarming situation. Our Kashmir, at one point of time, had no such social issues which have turned into crisis. We never had orphans as joint families would take care of such children. But now this trend is disturbing. I am shocked to see the diminished values and ethos of our culture. This is not our Kashmiri culture. I exhort people to come forward on this International Women’s Day and put a stop to such things which are giving us a bad name. This degradation has to stop.  

Jammu and Kashmir has already seen a downslide in child sex ratio in Census 2011. How do you see this and what is the Commission doing in this regard?  

Yes. We saw a decline in Female Sex ratio and despite the provision of PC&PNDT Act to check all ultrasound clinics which are indulging in the unauthorized determination of sex of the fetus, these practices are continuing. We have to act as a society. How can we forget that if we kill the girls in the wombs itself, there will not be many of them left and this would create an uneven society resulting in the increase in the violence against women and girls? Already we are seeing a sharp increase in the cases of violence against girl child. Only yesterday, a 3 year old girl who was playing with her 5 year old brother in a state, was raped in front on him. What has happened to our society? I am aggrieved.  

But what are you doing in this regard?  

I, as the Member, of J&K State Commission for Women, am doing lot of counseling of young mothers, grandparents and the other members of the society. I make them understand that this disturbing trend of female foeticide in the state would create major problems which they are not able to apprehend right now. I am trying my bit.  

What need to be done in our society?  

Such things are not allowed in Islam and that’s why I exhort the Kashmiri society to put a stop to such practices. We need to check our evils also including dowry, domestic violence and now these issues. You cannot see any issue in isolation. All such issues are interlinked. The government had already tried to take the help of religious preachers but we need to go for it at a big scale as a society. The people need to understand that when a female like Ms Mehbooba Mufti can become the chief minister, why the girls cannot achieve what they aspire their boys to achieve. Today, girls are scaling the heights worldwide. So, the girls should be allowed to be born.  

Women of our state, especially of Kashmir are among the most vulnerable groups. We have widows, half widows, unmarried girls; displaced women due to border shelling, illiterate women and girls, the issues are many. Violence against women is increasing, she has poor and low status, lack of education is a major hindrance to her empowerment and there is not much awareness, so plenty of issues.

Our hon’ble chief minister Ms. Mehbooba Mufti is the first female chief minister of the state and she is also totally alive to the situation of the women. Women empowerment is one of the top agendas of her government. She has started a scheme by the name “Laadli Beti” on the name of her late father and former chief minister of our state Mufti Sayeed sahib under which Rs 1000 is being given to the family of the girl child. This remarkable social security scheme is aimed at creating a strong positive disposition towards the girl child and reverses the alarming trend of declining child sex ratio in the State. But the sad part is that many people living in far off areas do not know about such schemes. We at Commission need to spread awareness about these schemes which addresses the concerns of girl’s right from birth to adulthood by providing financial security to them.

What is your message to the people on the eve of International women’s Day?  

I just want to say that we as a society need to work collectively and handle all issues like late marriages of the girls; dowry, domestic violence etc; the patriarchal set up has to be sensitive towards all such issues. Islam says a father with three daughters will go to heaven. Then why this discrimination with the girl child! Why she is being abandoned! Let’s take a pledge this International woman’s days to work for these little girls and women. Only then we can have a society which is at peace with itself.