Briefing January 31 -February 6

GULMARG

Igloo café outside Kolahoi Ski resort in Gulmarg, first of its kind in Asia, is around 15 feet high and 26 feet round. KL Image by Bilal Bahadur

Known as India’s Switzerland, when snow transforms Kashmir into a white-carpeted heaven, it has its own charm. Burying the difficulties deep inside the pristine snow, the natives of the place come up with interesting innovations. Not new, snow sculptures are one of them. Usually done for fun at a private level, hotelier Waseem Shah decided to showcase the art at a larger level. Engaging a team of 20 members, working in double shifts for almost a fortnight, it became a social media sensation. Hit among the visitors, the interesting concept resulted in the making of a beautiful Igloo café outside his Kolahoi Ski resort in Gulmarg. Said to be first of its kind in Asia, this Igloo cafe is around 15 feet high and 26 feet round. With an arched doorway and patterns on the wall, it has space for four tables and approximately 16 guests. It has been given a cultural touch by placing the Kashmir copper samovar while the seating has been covered with sheep hides. As the pictures are generating buzz, Shah is approaching Limca Book of Records to set the record for next year.

MUMBAI

The big banners of Bollywood were on a 4-day visit to Kashmir last week to explore scenic backdrops for their future film projects. KL Image by Bilal Bahadur

Bollywood belongs to Kashmir in more than one way. Sharing bonds of decades, the glamour world is reviving the ties. Part of the initiative, a 24 member Bollywood delegation is currently on a 4 day visit to the valley. Big names in the industry are staying to explore the possibilities of capturing Kashmir. Not only professionally, this year many bollowood celebrities had fixed their date with Kashmir at a personal level Last week, a Punjabi singer Guru Randhawa’s pictures were viral on social media showing his nose bleeding while shooting at minus 9 degrees in Gulmarg. He was shooting for his new music album Abhi Na chhodho Mujhe. The revival of the sector is seen as a hope post August 2019 and later due to pandemic, the tourism industry is in shambles. Roughly, the tourism industry in Kashmir has suffered Rs 2,615 crore revenue loss and around 65000 job losses.

 SAUDI ARABIA

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

As Kashmiri shawl trade inspired the global cashmere industry, the Pashmina and shahtoos from this place have remained the fashion statement in Paris’s fashion streets for centuries. But this time the fame has crossed over to Saudi Arabia as well. Known as MbS, Saudi crown prince Mohammad Bin Salman sparked a style storm online when he donned a Kashmiri Shahtoos shawl and a quilted gilet while chairing an official board meeting. The Arab News reported that the traditional headwear or shemagh worn by the crown prince, costs $746 (2,800 SAR), adding that, a cohort of fashion lovers on the social media platform have gone wild over a quilted gilet worn by MbS. The prince showed off a $6,551 casual sleeveless vest by UK luxury cashmere brand Franck Namani.

IRAN

A local worker packing apples.
A local worker packing apples. KL Image by Bilal Bahadur

 Major support system of Kashmir’s horticulture sector, apple has been the main attraction of Azadpur Mandi in Delhi for many decades. But this time, there is strain in the business bond. Viral over the social media, Kashmiri apple producers decried illegal import of apples from Iran via Afghanistan. This, they said, will take away the share of Kashmir apples in the market, which will incur a loss of around Rs 8000 crore to the fruit industry. The import has been started as there is zero duty agreement between Indian government and Afghanistan. Desperate, the Kashmiri traders have sought help from Delhi CM  Arvind Kejrwal.

 BANIHAL

Protest Banihal after two Kashmir residents died in their truck

Known to snuff out lives while moving, the stuck Jammu-Srinagar highway this time took the lives of two travelers halted due to road closure. Identified as Shabir Ahmad Mir, 22, and Majid Gulzar Mir, 30, both residents of Kralpora village in Kupwara district, they were found dead inside a mini truck in Banihal. Reportedly, on their way back home, they were left stranded after authorities had to decide for the closure of the highway in wake of the snowfall. Found unconscious inside their vehicle, when they were taken to a nearby hospital, they were declared brought dead. Initially, it was not clear if they had died of the severe cold or asphyxiation but the preliminary investigation of police has suggested that they had kept the heater of the vehicle on and had also burnt coal in a fire pot to keep themselves warm during the night. After the incident, there were protests in the area holding the government responsible for the death of the duo.

 GANDERBAL

Aarifa Bilal, the first gold medalist from J&K in the national powerlifting championship. Source: Internet

In times of pandemic, when life is out of gear, a young girl from Kashmir got laurels. A resident of Ganderbal in central Kashmir,  Aarifa Bilal, 23, made it to the list of achievers after becoming the first gold medalist from Jammu and Kashmir in the national powerlifting championship which was held in Haryana. She lifted 100 kgs in the event. Locally known as ‘iron lady’ she is also the first female gym trainer in her district where she trains both men and women. Coming from a modest background, an undergraduate Aarifa also runs a free Martial Arts coaching for girls.

USA

screen grab from the short film A Closer Look: Transgender in Kashmir by Robert Leslie

Living in the identity crisis, over the years the community of transgenders has struggled a lot for their acceptance in the society. Kashmir is no exception. With various voices getting vocal to have them dignified life, a short time : A Closer Look: Transgender in Kashmir” by Robert Leslie for Business Insider has been nominated for an award under Outstanding online journalism-video or multimedia for the 32nd annual GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) Media Awards. Each year GLAAD recognizes and honors media for their fair, accurate, and inclusive representations of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community and the issues that affect their lives with the GLAAD Media Awards. This year, there are a robust 28 categories with some 198 nominees across both English and Spanish-language projects. The winners will be announced during a virtual ceremony scheduled for April 2021.

MUMBAI

Arav and Rajveer

Having a human heart is a virtue and the quality traverses across the trajectories. Understanding the essence to help humanity, two young boys from Mumbai came to rescue critical patients from Kashmir. Both in their teens, Arav Hak and Rajveer Mehta, have started a crowdfunding initiative to raise money so that they can provide Plateletpheresis kits for the Paediatric leukaemia cancer patients admitted in SKIMS, Soura. The duo, class 11th students of American School of Bombay, have so far raised over Rs 2 lakh with their initial target of Rs 2.7 lakhs by which they will be able to buy 36 kits. They are working under the aegis of Nargis Dutt Foundation.

 JAMMU

Krishan Dev Sethi

Witness to the history of horror during the days of partition , Krishan Dev Sethi passed away. Born in Mirpur, now on the other side of Kashmir on January 1, 1928, Sethi was the last surviving member of the Jammu and Kashmir Constituent Assembly, which framed the Constitution of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir. Part of the state assembly representing Nowshehra, Sethi played a key role in making of the Sheikh Abdullah, the then Prime Minister of the erstwhile state, and also had a role in abolishing big land holdings, besides waiving off all the debts people owed to money lenders at that time. He was also part of the rebel faction of the National Conference and later communist ideologue. Survived by his wife Kanta Sethi, son Anchal Sethi (Law Secretary, J&K Government), and daughter Dr Poonam Sethi, his death has been widely condoled.

 BENGAL

Online frauds are rampant, everywhere. From virtual violations of privacy to faking of identities, the menace is increasing every day. However, last week development was a different one. Arrested by the Crime Branch of J&K police, Selim Sekh, a resident of village Tinsatabighi Berabad, Malda from West Bengal was alleged to  upload fake application forms on National Scholarship Portal for Merit Cum Means Scholarship under Minority quota for J&K students during the year 2018-19 for district Kulgam. Interestingly, the list had many Hindu candidates in the list. As per the reports, the accused in-connivance with other accused persons have shown the fake beneficiaries to be the residents of district Kulgam and got deceitfully verified by the district social welfare officer Kulgam and managed to transfer the amount of Rs 1.34 crores from the Ministry of Minority Affairs, Government of India into the Bank accounts of 463 fake beneficiaries maintained in different banks in his home district

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