As one travels westwards in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, towards Pir Panjals from Jammu or towards Uri from Srinagar, the demography and geography alters. These regions are mountainous and are inhabited by Gujjars and Paharis who have a distinct language and culture. The Line of control that passes through these regions has divided the communities.
The famous Pakistani folk singer Reshma remarked in one of her concerts “Even if you don’t give us visa, our voices will reach you without one.” Voice from across the LoC have traveled over the decades via the medium of radio. The All India Radio station at Poonch is equally popular across the LoC. Places a little higher up in the mountains in Poonch receive as many as twelve Pakistani FM stations and only a couple of Indian FM stations.
The process of cultural exchange has been strengthened by opening of Uri Muzaffarad and Poonch – Rawalakote bus services. Artists now have the opportunity to travel across LoC.
Tariq and Musarrat form a popular singing duo. They are based in Srinagar. They travelled across the LoC and performed at Pathri in Leepa Valley. The venue of the performance is outdoors and looks like a Dhok, higher altitude grazing ground where the nomadic communities travel to during summer. The opening verse captures to some extent the state of diplomacy between two nations
Har Vaile Inkaar, Eh Gallan Changiyaan Te Nahi
Bachpan De Asi Yaar, Eh Gallan Changiyaan Te Nahi
Disagreements all the time, this isn’t right
Aren’t we friends since childhood? This isn’t right
The Poonch-Rawalakote bus service started in 2006. Noor Muhammad Noor expresses his desire to visit Rawalakote and meet relative and friends across the LoC. His poem is a song of celebration.
Noor Rab Ne Fazal Kamaiyo, Hun Milan Go Velo Aayo
Duan Paase Aayi Bahaar, Khushi Manaaun Go
By the grace of almighty, the time of meeting is here
On both sides spring has returned, I will celebrate.
When poet Rana Fazal traveled across the LoC and visited his village, Ayaz Ahmed Saif, a popular folk singer and a poet himself sang a few verses to welcome him. Ayaz’s evocative poetry and his rustic voice brings many to tears. The idea of wisaal, of being united and the fear of immediate departure mark the line between what’s celebrated and what’s inevitable.
Who’s the beautiful entering the courtyard,
Who’s comforting the aching heart.
Ailing for Pir Panjal, seeking his village
a resident of Ghund Parodi, who’s here to stay for a few days.
Who has borne the brunt of separation and pain of parting
listening to our pain, who’s here to tell his tale.
Seasons have exchanged colors, and doors of mercy have re-opened;
severed from its tree, the bird of hope is here to reacquaint.
Songs and poetry have served to keep the old connections intact. Names of places which otherwise would have been forgotten are part of collective memory and imagination. Galli Nurpur or Girjan Dhok gain mythical status for those who cannot visit them. The binaries of nationalistic identities which aren’t strong in these hinterlands are further challenged by songs and music.