News arrives in flashes
over the radio.
I try fixing the antenna
before the announcement –

Occupied, noise
death a, noise

I weave a story.
Fill the noises with
cut outs from dailies –
all of them.

It takes years.
And the news isn’t
still mine.
Words envy me
and, I despise them.

Perhaps, we will
look in the eye again,
when your truth
become mine.

Songs of the Divided People

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.

Shepherds of Kashmir

Towards Panjal and beyond.  Awarded Best Film in Non-feature film category.

What I really liked about the film was that it tried to capture the entire journey. The camera travels with the caravan as it heads towards the margs of Kashmir crossing the treacherous Panjals. The scenes follow the timeline of shooting for most part of the film. Shooting in strong winds and slippery mountains is a tough task.  Director writes“The horse carrying our equipment skidded and broke the solar charger. This limited our shooting hours so I had to use the camera judiciously to save my batteries.”

The translations are a bit off the mark. “Bakarwali go zamano ni de punjabi ban ja” translated into “If you don’t want to do it go to hell.” I cannot equate being a punjabi to going to hell.

Rajesh Koul’s film on Bakkarwals got the music right. Shepherds of Paradise has Kashmiri music playing the background which is not the part of culture that film tries to depict. Its strength is in depicting life of shepherd as he undertakes the journey every year and the film does that beautifully.

There are many passes that the shepherds use to travel across Panjals. I am guessing, this film was shot along the Darhal pass.

Rajauri-Darhal-Beloh-Aliabad Sarai-Hirpur-Shopian

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Scenes from Dhok

Every year Gujjars and Bakerwals travel to higher reaches of Pir Panjal and Himalayan mountain ranges in search of pastures. These high altitude pastures are called “Dhok.”


Sultanpathri Loran


Location: Sarkari Pathri, Loran


Location: Dubjiyan, Mughal Road, Shopian


Location: Peer Ki Gali, Mughal Road, Shopian

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Mughal Road


Mughal Road Map

It all begins in history which I am not very well aware of. None the less, Mughal Road was used by Mughal Emperors to travel to Kashmir. It has a legacy of few hundred years and connects towns of Poonch and Rajouri with Shopiyan in the valley. The new vehicular road is near completion its completion( which was supposed to happen a couple of years ago). It passes through a wildlife sanctuary and has some great tourist destinations on either side of the magnificent Peer ki gali.

Noori Chamb Enroute Mughal road near Bufliaz

Journey starts at Bufliaz named after Alexander the Great’s horse. From across here the Panjals rise high up like a wall. Noori Chamb has cut deep into the rocks and now is barely visible from the road which it used to be a few years ago. Route follows Bufliyaz – Chandimarh – Chattapani – Peer Ki Gali – Aliabad ki Saran – Dubjyian – Shopiyan. Government plans no developing Peer Ki Gali and Dubjiyan as major tourist destinations.

The mighty Panjals

Near Peer Ki Gali

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Chakaan da Bagh

Jhelum ghaton parbad paase, Mirpure ti Dhakhan
Kharki mulk vich lodan jedhe, talab bande di rakan
~Mian Muhammad BakhshThis is the story of broken homes that fell in between nation, this is the story that Jhelum carries with it, the story of separation and longing. River Poonch carried on with clamor for decades. The banks of Neelum and Kishenganga never meet for the great line divides them too.
The roads did open and when they did young were old and the old dead. Fifteen days are too less for a lifetime of love, too less to see the children grow and too less to bury alongside the old dreams. But now they are the only dream.
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