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

Monitor News Bureau





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.”



Pak reopens airspace

Press Trust of India



New Delhi, Jul 16: Pakistan opened its airspace for all civilian traffic on Tuesday morning, sources said, effectively removing the ban on Indian flights that were not allowed to use majority of its airspace since the Balakot air strikes in February.

The move is expected to give a major relief to Air India, which suffered a huge financial loss of around Rs 491 crore as it had to re-route its various international flights due to the closure of the Pakistan airspace.

“Pakistan has permitted all airlines to fly through its airspace from around 12.41 am today. Indian airline operators will start using normal routes through Pakistan airspace soon,” the sources told PTI.


Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority issued a notice to airmen (NOTAM) at around 12.41 am Indian Standard Time, stating that “with immediate effect Pakistan airspace is open for all type of civil traffic on published ATS (air traffic service) routes”.

Pakistan had fully closed its airspace on February 26 after the Indian Air Force (IAF) struck a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) training camp in Balakot in retaliation to the Pulwama attack on February 14. Since then, the neighbouring country had only opened two routes, both of them passing through the southern region, of the total 11.

On its part, the IAF had announced on May 31 that all temporary restrictions imposed on the Indian airspace post the Balakot strike had been removed. However, it did not benefit most of the commercial airliners and they were waiting for Pakistan to fully open its airspace.

In India, the biggest pain was suffered by Air India that conducts various international flights from Delhi to Europe and the US.

The national carrier had lost Rs 491 crore till July 2 due to the closure of the Pakistan airspace. Private airlines SpiceJet, IndiGo and GoAir lost Rs 30.73 crore, Rs 25.1 crore and Rs 2.1 crore, respectively, according to the data presented by Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri in the Rajya Sabha on July 3.

Post the air strike, Air India had to re-route, merge or suspend many of its international flights that connect India with European and US cities.

IndiGo, India’s largest airline by domestic market share, was unable to start direct flights from Delhi to Istanbul due to the closure of the Pakistan airspace.

The low-cost carrier started the Delhi-Istanbul flight in March. Till date, this IndiGo flight had to take the longer route over the Arabian Sea and make a stop at Doha in Qatar for refueling.

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Uncertainty looms large over EWS quota in NEET

Bisma Bhat



Srinagar, Jul 16:  Uncertainty looms large over the implementation of 10 per cent quota for Economically Weaker Section (EWS) in NEET for J&K students.

On June 20, Jammu and Kashmir government approved the reservation (second amendment) bill incorporating 103rd Amendment of the Indian constitution to provide 10 percent reservation to economically weaker sections in jobs and educational institutions.

The amendment will provide for 10 percent reservation to Economically Weaker Sections in educational institutions and direct recruitment in civil posts and services not covered under the scheme of the reservation for SCs, STs, and OBCs.


However the authorities are yet to issue a notification for its implementation in NEET. The reservation was not considered in the first round of counseling. Clouds of uncertainty looms large over the second round of counseling as well.

“Medical Council of India and Dental Council of India also granted approval for additional 85 MBBS and 26 BDS seats. However the state government is not issuing notification regarding its implementation which has put the career of students at stake,” said Malik Sujad, a NEET candidate.

Principal Secretary Health and Medical Education, Atal Dullo told The Kashmir Monitor that they have succeeded in getting additional seats allotted from the Medical Council of India.

“Amending rules for EWS has to be done by the social welfare department. After the social welfare department notifies the rules, Board of Professional Entrance Examination will consider those for counseling,” said Dullo.

“It will take time. We will consider EWS in counseling, once we get a nod from Social welfare and parliament,” he added.

Centre proposes to scrap NEET-PG

New Delhi, Jul 16: In a relief to medical students wanting to pursue post-graduate courses, the Union Health Ministry has proposed to do away with NEET-PG and instead the final MBBS examination results would be prerequisite for admission to MD and MS programmes.

The amendment has been incorporated in the revised draft National Medical Commission (NMC) Bill which would be sent to the Cabinet soon, official sources told PTI.

According to them, the changes have been incorporated in the bill on the directions of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).

“According to the amendments made in the fresh NMC Bill, entry into the PG programmes will be on the basis of the results of the National Exit Test (NEXT), which would be held as a common exam across the country. So the candidates would not have to appear in a separate exam after clearing the MBBS final exam for admission to PG courses,” the source explained.

The students would also not be required to appear in a separate exam after MBBS to obtain a license to practice.

However, for admission to PG programmes at AIIMS, clearing a separate exam will remain mandatory. Also, the NEET Super Speciality, which is a national-level entrance exam for admission in DM/MCh courses, will continue, sources said.

Every year 80,000 students take admission into MBBS courses in about 480 medical colleges in the country, while 1.5 lakh students appear for entrance exams for admission to around 50,000 PG seats.

The NMC Bill was introduced in Parliament in December 2017, but it lapsed with the dissolution of the 16th Lok Sabha.

After its introduction in the lower house in 2017, the Bill, which aims to replace the Medical Council of India Act, 1956 and included the contentious provision of a “bridge course” to allow practitioners of alternative medicines to pursue allopathy, was referred to a Department-Related Parliamentary Standing Committee following massive protests from the medical fraternity.

The first version of the Bill also proposed a national-level licentiate exam for all MBBS graduates for getting licence to practice in India.

But it was removed following strong protests by several doctor bodies.

The provision of the ‘bridge course’ was also strongly opposed by health bodies, including the Indian Medical Association, which claimed that allowing AYUSH doctors to practice modern medicine would promote “quackery”, although the ministry had argued that the provision seeks to address the “acute shortage” of doctors in the country.

The parliamentary panel gave its recommendations in March 2018, following which the Health Ministry scrapped the provision of ‘bridge course and also made some other changes as suggested by the committee before moving the official amendments in the Lok Sabha.

“It has been left to state governments to take necessary measures for addressing and promoting primary healthcare in rural areas,” the amendment stated and also made the punishment for unauthorised practice of medicine more severe with imprisonment of up to one year along with a fine of up to Rs 5 lakh. (PTI)

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Docs remove 25 kg cyst from Kulgam woman carrying it for 2 years

Monitor News Bureau



Srinagar, Jul 16: In an astonishing development, doctors Tuesday managed to successfully remove a 25 kg cyst from the ovary of an elderly woman in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district.

The remarkable surgery was accomplished by Dr Azad Malik and his team at Al Hayat, a private nursing home in the district.

The patient, a 72-year-old woman who hails from Kulgam’s Kund area, had visited the doctor for consultation at Dr Malik’s clinic last week.


“She was complaining of abdomen pain, breathlessness and difficulty in walking. Ultra-sonography conducted on the patient revealed a huge mass in her ovary,” news portal The Kashmir Press quoted the doctor saying.

“The patient was operated on Monday and a giant cyst was removed from her ovary. The cyst weighted about 25 kg,” Dr Malik told The Kashmir Press.

He, as per the report, said the cyst weighed more than the weight of a five year old child.

“The cyst was spread from lower abdomen to lungs and patient was living with it for the last two years,” Dr Malik said.

“It was a tough procedure. Patient during the surgery had suffered some cardiac issues but we handled it with all the care. The patient is recovering normally,” he said.

Earlier in 2016, Dr Malik, who is considered as one of the best laparoscopic surgeon in Kashmir, had removed 22 kg ovarian cyst from 16 year girl at district hospital Anantnag.

In 2015, he had performed Transurethral Resection of the Prostate (TURP), a rare surgery, on a male patient at district hospital Anantnag.

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