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Laugh, Please: ‘Asvun Kashur’ is out to rediscover the love between Muslims and Pandits






By Hirra Azmat

Srinagar, Apr 18: On the broken entrance to an uptown café, she outstretched her hand to help me.
“Don’t panic. Hold my hand,” Meanka Handu said, breaking into a warm smile. “The only serious thing in this life is death. It will come, but till then, let’s laugh about it.”
This was my first introduction to the comedian who has taken social media by storm in Kashmir.
The Delhi-based comedian has her roots from Kashmir: she was born in a Pandit family at Rainawari in old Srinagar.
Her family left the valley in the ‘90s and settled in New Delhi, where she did her primary and secondary school to, subsequently, pursue a career in engineering.
She rose to prominence after her videos gained popularity on the social media sites especially among the Kashmiri audience.
She has her YouTube channel known as ‘Asvun Kashur’, meaning laughing Kashmiri, which has more than 10,000 followers, and counting.
“I did a fulltime job in several management companies for eight years. After a certain period of time, I realised that 9 to 5 job didn’t suit me well. I started to freelance. At present, I am a learning and development professional.” Meanka shared.
Walking down the memory lane, she described herself as a “studious” and “submissive” kid.
“I was not a very talkative kid, but I was very expressive. I used to imitate the advertisements that came on TV. Mimicry came very naturally to me. I have participated in many dramas and plays at school level. My teachers used to say, she is a natural actress. But I would do it merely for fun.”
The most cherished memory of her childhood is when her older cousins and relatives made her imitate a lady in an advertisement.
“There was this ad, ‘Lalita ji, surf lene mein hi samajdaari hai’. I used to stand and do this act in front of my cousins. They would roll and laugh,” Meanka recounted, laughing.
She said “the streak” was always there, but “I never thought I would be able to contribute to the society like this”.
Meanka treaded the path of satire and humour last year in April while making a video in Kashmiri language for the first time.
“I always desired to do something as a service to my homeland. The language and culture has suffered immensely in the ongoing conflict.
“Language binds us all together, so I thought why not use it in an informal way to reach out to people as formal way of teaching is not always the right way to do it.”
The female comedian is not inspired by anyone; the credit for her skills goes to her parents.
“My typical Kashmiri-speaking family was a boon to me. Our parents used to hammer force us to speak in Kashmiri, and they made sure that we learnt the language properly. That is how it started.”
Her videos are characterized by sharp observation and satire on everyday life presented with a conversational twist. She finds the easiest way to communicate with the audience is the anecdotes that she is familiar with.
“My videos talk about our culture, the characters that we see every day. We have these phuphis, massis, khalas, uncles, and aunties. I pick these characters and weave them in my videos. Whatever culture I have grown in and whatever I have seen my parents doing, I have picked it from there.” she said.
Meanka was in full flow recently at an event titled ‘Salaam Mahra’ held at Tagore Hall to rejuvenate the bond between various religious communities in the valley.
“This event is very close to my heart. I came here after a long gap of 28 years and got an overwhelming response from the Kashmiri audience,” she said, believing that such events could help overcome the trust deficit between Kashmiri Muslims and Pandits.
“Such events send a strong message of peace where in people of different faiths sit together and share some light moments. I hope to attend many such events in future.”
Meanka doesn’t have any plans of making her videos commercial, “I want certain things regarding our culture and language to be recorded for the coming generations. My mantra in life is simply this: The world is filled with people who talk serious stuff. There has to be someone who can make you laugh.”



Custodial killing of school teacher: Traders, politicians protest for justice

Hirra Azmat



Srinagar, Mar 21: The outrage over the custodial killing of a school Principal, Rizwan Assad Pandith is spilling across the valley.

People from all walks of life Thursday came on streets and social media to condemn the killing and urged the authorities to bring those responsible to book and avoid such horrific incidents from happening henceforth.

Many have replaced their profile pictures on Facebook with Rizwan’s photographs and profile pictures with captions like “Punish killers” and “Justice for Rizwan”.


Shazia Khan, home maker and young mother, said she did not have to think twice before joining the protest held outside her home here in downtown Srinagar.

“I rushed outdoors and joined the protest staged outside my house. A young teacher was being whisked away from a school to a torture centre. He was neither pelting stones nor was he preaching violence. He did a job of grooming young minds through his teaching. Is that a reason to kill someone?” she said.

The downtown trader’s body held a protest on Thursday of which Shazia was also a part. They held placards with “Condemn custodial killing of Rizwan” written on them.

“This protest is being held to condemn the custodial killing of Rizwan who was handed over by NIA to SOG which eventually led to his death,” one of the traders said.

“All the members of traders’ body association have assembled here to protest against the custodial killing. Without any prior criminal record or any questioning, the youth are being dragged by the police and killed in the custody. We cannot tolerate this inhuman behavior,” he said.

Another protestor said, “We will not budge till justice is delivered. Detaining the innocent youth and later on torturing to death is not acceptable at all.”

Several student groups have launched an online campaign to register their protest against the custodial killing.
“If a teacher who shapes the futures of students is killed in cold blood and with such impunity, what future can the students imagine for themselves?” said Wasim, a college student.

National Conference too held a protest against the killing on Thursday by taking to streets.

Ali Mohammad Sagar, the party General Secretary said: “This protest is quite necessary. Such kind of incident has happened after a long time.”
“This protest was held against the atrocities done on the people of Kashmir. There is a blame game being played between NIA and police over his killing. FIR should be lodged and proper probe should be initiated. As per law of land, the culprits should be punished at the earliest,” Sagar said.

Senior National Conference leader Nasir Aslam Wani said, “A youth who was a teacher was killed in custody. It is not acceptable in today’s age and time. This was normal thing in 90s but we are now way ahead of those turbulent times.”

“A probe should be initiated and the investigation should be done thoroughly. The killing of this young teacher has come as a setback to all of us. The perpetrators if not taken to task will have dangerous consequences,” he said.

Rizwan, who was picked up the police and lodged in CARGO, an SOG camp in Srinagar, according to the initial probe, died because of “extravasation of blood” — the leakage of blood from a vessel into the surrounding tissues — caused by multiple injuries.

According to the latest report published on Thursday by a national daily quoting an official said, “The blood loss in soft tissues due to multiple injuries was extensive internally, and this must have led to irreversible shock. There was no blunt injury or damage to the internal organs.”

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At 140th place, India slips in UN Happiest Nations 2019 list

Finland tops, Pak at 67, China 93, B’desh 125




New Delhi, Mar 21: In the UN World Happiness Report 2019 released by the United Nations, India has slipped down by 7 places vis-a-vis last year among the happiest nations in the world.
In what should be a matter of concern, India falls in the bottom half, ranking at the 140th spot of the 156 countries in the list. The country is way behind Pakistan (67th), China (93rd), and also trails to Bangladesh (125th).
The report was released by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network for the United Nations on March 20 which has was declared as World Happiness Day by the UN General Assembly in 2012. Check Where India and Other Countries Stood in 2018 Happiness Index Report.
The report ranks countries on six key variables that support well-being: income, freedom, trust, healthy life expectancy, social support and generosity. Finland, a mixed welfare society, tops the chart.
According to the report, the overall world happiness has fallen over the past few years, which has mostly been fuelled by a sustained drop in India, which came in 140th place this year compared with 133rd place in 2018.
The UN’s seventh annual World Happiness Report, which ranks the world”s 156 countries on “how happy their citizens perceive themselves to be”, also noted that there has been an increase in negative emotions, including worry, sadness and anger.
Finland has been ranked as the happiest country in the world for the second year in succession. The Nordic nation is followed by Denmark, Norway, Iceland and The Netherlands.
Pakistan is ranked 67th, Bangladesh 125th and China is place at 93rd, according to the report.
People in war-torn South Sudan are the most unhappy with their lives, followed by Central African Republic (155), Afghanistan (154), Tanzania (153) and Rwanda (152).
The happiness study ranks the countries of the world on the basis of questions from the Gallup World Poll. The results are then correlated with other factors, including GDP and social security.
The United States ranks at 19th place for happiness, despite being one of the richest countries in the world.

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Unlicensed private security agencies under scanner

Mudassir Kuloo



Srinagar, Mar 21: Several private security agencies have come under the scanner for operating “illegally” in Jammu and Kashmir.

Home Department has appointed the controlling authority for the issuance of licenses under the Jammu and Kashmir Private Security Agencies (Regulations), Act 2015 and has issued licenses to different persons and firms operating the security agencies.

However, as per an order of the Home Department, it has come to the notice of the controlling authority that some private security agencies are operating in the state “without permission/license” from controlling authority which runs contrary to the provisions of the Act.


“They need to be closed immediately without notice for which the process has been set in motion. All the government/semi government state/central public sector undertakings and the private security agencies are impressed upon not to hire the services of those private security agencies who are not having permission/license from the controlling authority,” the order reads.

An official in Home Department said that order has been issued in view of security concerns in the state. “Recently, government also directed district development commissioners not to issue any fresh gun licenses,” the official said.

The Home Department recently directed the district development commissioners not to issue any fresh arms licenses and submit gun licenses details since 2012.

These directives as per a government order have been issued to ensure “maintenance of law and order” in the state before the polls.

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