The unrest in the Kashmir Valley has caused a considerable decline among other things, of the practice, performance/ exhibition of art and culture expressions in public spaces. While the Jammu region, especially the winter capital boasted of a busy calendar with its usual pre and post-Darbar move flurry of ‘cultural functions’ by different agencies of the state led by J&K cultural Academy and the state-funded NGOs working ostensibly for promotions and development of art and culture.
Nonetheless, it was either Sarkari or the popular versions of culture spurned of by institutions and a few NGOs, many of which try to ape the practices followed in leading metros of the nation. In such a scenario of hackneyed and trite cultural expressions, the credit for innovative expressions once again rested with a few select creative individuals who fired by the calling of the heart, imaginative and creative power, dedication and hard work, succeeded in making a mark.
Before mentioning the achievers of this year let us remember those who bid goodbye to this mortal world. These include Rita Jatinder, an accomplished Radio, stage actor, Hindi writer poet, and Sham sunder Anand Lehar, the prominent Urdu writer who was also a senior lawyer. Prof. Hamidi Kashmiri, noted Urdu/Kashmiri writer and former vice chancellor of J&K University also passed away.
Awards and Honours: This years Sahitya Akademi Awards were conffered upon Inderjit Kesar, a prolific Dogri writer for his Dogri novel Bhagirath while Mushtaq Ahmad Mushtaq (Tantray) for the his book Aakh (A Scar) in Kashmiri. Anil Tikku, a senior actor associated with Natrang Theatre Group, was given National Bismillah Khan Yuva Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in the field of Acting. Pitamber Nath Sharma was honored with Prof Ram Nath Shastri Smriti Puruskar year for his Dogri novel ‘Bhagaali’. Ved Rahi, eminent writer & a poet was conferred Dinu Bhai Pant Life Time Achievement Award, for his overall outstanding contribution towards Dogri literature. Dr. Nirmal Vinod, renowned Dogri, Hindi poet/ writer was honored with Sauhard Samman by Uttar Pradesh Hindi Sansthan, Lucknow. Dr. Bharat Bhushan Sharma received Babu Ganga Sharan Singh Hindi award from Kendriya Hindi Sansthan Agra U.P. Chhatrapal, eminent Dogri writer was given the national award for a most creative person with a disability by GoI Ministry of social justice and empowerment.
State-Level annual literary awards for Best Book for 2016 announced this year, were given to Puran Chand Bargotra for his Dogri book of poems ‘Shabad Shabad Sarmath’, Taj-ud-Taj for Gojri book Khaab Saloona, Sanjeev Bhasin for Hindi book Kab Subah Hogi, Makhan Lal Pandita for Kashmiri book Saz Bonen Hund and Satish Vimal for Siyah Var, Khanpo Konchok Thupstan for Ladakhi book, Abdul Rashid Qureshi for Pahari book Likhtaan Piyaar Diyaan, Divendra Viswanagrik for Punjabi book Shabad Shabad Zindagi, Ahmad Jawan for Sheena book and Hamdam Kashmiri for Urdu book Waraq Sada. J&K Academy of Art, Culture & Languages gave annual awards for Best Play Script’ to Dr. Gian Singh for Dogri play ‘Sah Basah’, Late Sham Sundar Anand Lehar for Urdu play ‘Sarhad Se Wapsi’ and Rajneesh Gupta for Hindi play ‘Jashn-e-Zindagi.
The Republic Day Awards for achievements in the field of literature, performing arts, art & craft and life-time achievement were given respectively to Gianeshwar Sharma,(Dogri Writer), Dr. Darakhshan Andrabi, (Urdu/Kashmiri Poet), late Vijay Malla (Kashmiri Singer), Muneer Ahmad Khan (Art), and Balwant Thakur. The first Kavi Rattan Rang Samman was presented to Ifra Kak, the talented theatre director/actor. The Second Kunwar Viyogi Sahitya Puruskar for the maiden book of a Dogri writer below 42 years old could not be given for want of up to the standard entries. Amit Dutta, son of the soil, hailed as one of the most significant contemporary practitioners of experimental cinema in the world today, was honored with an Honorary Retrospective of his films by National Film Archive of India (NFAI), Pune. Umesh Singh and Kanchi Khajuria won best actor awards in annual theatre fest.
Surinsar- Mansar Development Authority: It will be befitting to acknowledge the unique public outreach campaign launched by Surinsar- Mansar Development Authority to catapult the cultural and natural heritage of the Jammu’s twin lakes, the important tourist destinations of the State. The aesthetically designed posters, brochures, series of advertisements, calling upon enthusiasts to enjoy heritage, spiritual, adventure, floral, faunal and environmental experiences around Duggar’s twin lakes through Sunday series, adventure camps, tracks to historical monuments like Babor temples and Mohar Garh. Coupled with the attraction of folk music/dance programs, bhajan sandhyas, tree talks along with nature trails, cycling, the initiative is already attracting a steady stream of tourist, pilgrims and school/college students to Mansar and surrounding areas. The exemplary networking and synergy amongst Surinsar-Mansar Development Authority and state Departments of Tourism, Education, Archaeological Survey of India, INTACH, can surely become a model for other major tourists/religious destinations of the State.
Cultural Academy: The institution constitutionally invested with a mandate to promote art, culture, and languages of the state, with Ajiz Hajani as secretary, boasted of achievements like the completion of prestigious Kashmir Cultural Center, while the construction of a long-pending project of Jammu writers club is in full swing. Its major events were holding of Theatre Olympics, a mega literary/cultural festival in which three thousand writers and artists representing all regions and sub-cultures attended, State Tabulax in Republic Day Parade, All India Urdu mushairas, at Jammu, Rajouri, and 700 hundred literary and cultural programs in the entire state. It published first ever Who’s Who of state’s important 2000 writers and artists, the first ever English-Dogri dictionary, and around 200 books/journals. Other notable publications are ‘An anthology of Dogri Short Stories in English by Suman Sharma’, English translation of Kashmiri Zuban Aur Shairy by Dr. Javed Iqbal Bhat. The translations and publications underway are Tareekh-e-Rajghan-e-Jammu by Dr. Gurudev Singh, Book on Jammu theatre by late Kavi Rattan, J&K’s Contemporary Poetry, and Short stories from J&K.
Academy’s Jammu Division office with Arvinder Singh Aman as additional secretary, organized All India Conferences in Hindi, Dogri, Punjabi, followed by Mushairas, Seminars, Kahani Ghosties. Programs of traditional music/dance were held in all districts of Jammu Province, and important local melas at Moungri, Sujan Dhar, Sankari, Bani. It organized the Children’s Summer Workshop and the Annual Drama Festival.
Dogri Sanstha: With Prof Lalit Magotra returning as its President, Sanstha’s main activities were ‘Vishaish’ Malati’ with Balwant Thakur, Duggar Folk Mela at Kathua, seminar on 21st century Dogri Prose, reading of Aruna Sharma’s translation of Dahramvir Bharti’s Kanupriya, musical evenings, poetic symposia, and book release functions of 14 books including P.L. Parihar’s ‘Geet Pataru’, Col Raj Munawari’s gazal collection ‘Haanb’, Santosh Sangra’s essays ‘Vichar Aushad’, Jagdip Dubey’s short stories ‘Sanction’ & two anthology of plays ‘Galoor’ & Dangar, Inderjeet Kesar’s novel ‘Muns’, Subhash Chander Baru’s ‘Rig Veda, Geeta te Parmeshwar’, Rajshewar Singh Raju’s ‘Sikkh Mat’ and Chanchal Narendra Bhasin’s Naani Sunao Kahani, Vijay Saraf Meenagi’s poems ‘Ehsaas Se Parae’, & Chaman Arora’s stories Ik Haur Ashwatthama.
Duggar Manch: Organized the release of poetic anthologies of C.S. Katal’s Hirkhi Chete, Kala Ram Salgotra’s Hirkhe Di Chhaan, Yogita Yadav’s Hindi essays ‘Asthaayi Arth Vyavashtha Mandiron Ke Shehar Mein’. It celebrated Madhukar Day, held a program on Dogri Sahitya and Vaishavikaran Da Prabhav’. It staged Mohan Singh’s Panch Parmeshwar.
Sahitya Akademi: With D K Vaid (Darshan Darshi ) as the new Convener of Sahitya Akademi Executive Board for Dogri, its activities included ‘Yuva Sahiti’, Katha Sindhi with Shukant Deepmala, ‘People & Books’ where I.D.Soni, an educationist, shared his life-long love for books, Seminar on ‘Dogri Sahitya Ch Prayavaran Chetna’, ‘Aasmita’a program, Symposium on ‘Dogri Shand Mukat Kavita Di Sthithi the Sabakirti, Katha Sandhi with Sudesh Raj, Literary Forum’ at Higher Sec. School, Bhaddu, Under Gramalok’ meets with local poets were held at village Bhaddu and village Kaloha, Distt. Samba. Other programs were Through My Window, a talk by Bishan Singh Dardi on famous Dogri geetkar Yash Sharma and Kavi Sandhi with Om Parkash Vidyarthi.
Kunwar Viyogi Trust: Organized Kunwar Viyogi Utsav, during which a seminar titled ‘Cheten Di Ladi’, was held & Kunwar Viyogi’s Sonnet book River Sage was released. In other programs, the number of young artistes performed and staged plays. Nami Dogri Sanstha: Another NGO with regular activity calendar organized poetic symposia, book release functions, felicitation events, musical evenings etc.
Mohan Singh, with his YouTube series Irshad on Dogri poets, has tapped into the social media to popularize Dogri literature. Om Goswami, the incessant writer/scholar penned down Dogri books ‘Jindagi Kinni Kkhoobsoorat Ai’, ‘Dogra Sanskriti Ch Anushthan Prampara’, ‘Maa’, translation of Gorky’s novel Mother, and in Hindi ‘Nagraj Vasuki’ and ‘Harae Gi Nahin Rubika’-Novel. Sunita Bhadawal edited Dogri Research journal ‘Dogri Anusandhan’ released its special issue on Om Goswami’s life and works. Veena Gupta contributed with Dogri translation of Tagore’s novel Gora under Sahitya Akademi’s publication program. Shiv Nirmohi, whose four new books in Dogri await release, was honored at JNU by Uttar Pradesh Hindi Sansthan, Inderjeet Kesar penned down a new book of Dogri short stories Dosh, Yashpaul Nirmal’s new books were Dogri Lok Kattham Te Manvikaran and Sahitya Manthan in Hindi.
Hindi: Hindi Bhasha Prachar Samiti with Dr. Bharat Bhushan as president, released new books such as late Prof Ganga Dutt Vinod’s Spiritual Light, Prof Pritam Chand Shashtri’s ‘Shringar Lahari’, and Shashi Padha’s Nirbheek Yodhaaon ki Kahaniaan. It also organized first Prof Satya Srivatsya Memorial Lecture with eminent Sanskrit/Dogri scholar Ved Ghai as the speaker.
Punjabi: Apart from J&K Academy’s journal Sheerja in Punjabi, the Punjabi literature was enriched by ‘Mere Shabad Shakti Ne’, a collection of Ghazals by Dr. Baljeet Singh Raina, ‘Mere Manchit Natak’, a book of plays by Bikramjeet,’Hoye Apne Kinj Praye’, poetry collection by Bhupinder Singh Bhargav and Surinder Singh Neer’s novel Bharam Bhulein-all released by Punjabi Lekhak Sabha. This leading NGO also felicitated Jang S. Verman, S S Sooda, & R S Wazir. It released the book ‘Quest of Life’ (English) co-authored by Dr. Bhavneet Kaur and Sumit Sharma.
Edited by young scholar Randhir Kaur, the Punjabi book ‘Changair’ came out as a maiden collection of selected poems of 25 contemporary Pahari poets from Poonch/Rajouri. Baljit Singh Raina’s new works of translation in Punjabi were Alpana Mishra’s Hindi novel Anhiyare Talchhat Me Chamka.
Khalid Hussian’s Punjabi short story collection in Shah Mukhi script, ‘Ishq Malangi’ was released in Lahore by Punjab Institute of Language Art and Culture.
Pahari: JKAACL’s Pahari section, published a special issue of Sheeraja Pahari on Mammad-o-Manajat, Laalan De Banjare on Mian Mohammad Baksh, novel number of Asta Adab, Pahari translation of well-known works of other languages like Sri Kant, Dev Dass, The Old Man & The Sea and King Lear. Pahari poets Swami Anterneerav, Liaqat Jaffari, Gursharan Gulshan, Saleem Tabish, Surinder Neer, Balwinder Deep participated in seminar/ mushaira on Punjabi/ Pothowari writing of Jammu Kashmir, organized by Punjab art council and Punjabi University Patiala. The literary piece on Pahari language by Dr. Atamjit, the well-known Punjabi playwright, anchored on his Poonch tour as a playwright, was published in India today annual issue, the Sahitya Varshiki.
Gojari: Academy’s Gojari Section, with Dr. Shahnawaz as Editor, other than its regular publications, brought out special numbers of Sheerza Gojri on Late. Haji Mohammed Israil Khatanaa, Kuliyaat e Zabhi of Moulana Mohammed Ismail Zabhi, on Late Mahmood Rana.
Urdu: With senior most poets like Pandit Vidya Rattan Aasi and Arsh Sehbai continuing to enrich Urdu poetic scene of Jammu, it was Liaqat Jafari, the talented Urdu poet from Poonch, who represented J&K in international and national mushairas at Riyadh, Dammam, Jeddah, Jubbil and Sharjah, Doha, Qatar, Dubai, and Kuwait, and many other national mushairas. Padamshree Jatinder Udhampuri also contributed with his 3rd book of Urdu poetry ‘Kehkashaan’. The JU Dept. of Urdu through its academic initiatives, literary programs, seminars, poetic meets, etc. is contributing significantly to the promotion and development of Urdu in Jammu.
Visual Arts: Thanks to the initiative of Arvind Kotwal, JMC’s former Commissioner, the otherwise non-descript undersides of the flyover on both sides of the Kala Kendra stand aesthetically transformed with large paintings based on motifs drawn from Pahari miniatures, and symbols of Jammu’s pluralistic culture and heritage. Hope the JMC’s mayor and the team of carporators continue the initiative which has already started finding an echo in beautifully embellished walls of Jammu’s private schools and other public spaces.
Coming to the creative practice of Visual Arts, which has given a new identity to cities like Kochi, Goa, just to name a few, the scene in J&K continues to be grim. One reason could be the changed priorities of the J&K Cultural Academy, which otherwise has been the main engine for initiating and sustaining the modern art movement in J&K through its Institutes of Music & Fine arts at Jammu/Srinagar and holding artist camps and exhibitions. The Academy’s atrophy can be gauged from the fact that it failed to hold its coveted annual art exhibition at Jammu this year. Much to the chagrin of veteran artist like Triloke Kaul, who along with others had laid the foundation of modern art renaissance in the late 1940s in J&K.
Nonetheless, the individual artists continued to create, exhibit their works and win accolades albeit outside the state. Some of the well-known local artists who hogged limelight were Nikhil Chopra, Veer ji Munshi, Rajinder Tikku, Suman Gupta. Others who remained active include Ravinder Singh Jamwal, Harsh Vardhan, Bishamber Mehta, Vikas Dogra, Chander Prakash, Sonu Agarwal, Sukhjit Singh Kukkal, Jasleen Singh, Amit Salathia, Rohit Verma, Milan Sharma, K.K. Gandhi, and Jang Varman.
Other notable events were Sand Sculpture at Tawi banks by Suresh Sharma & others and dedicated to late sculptor Gobind Kaur, National level Print Making Workshop at IMFA Campus, Poonch House, IMFA’s art exhibition & music program at JU, All India Art Exhibition by ‘Unknown 4’ group, Amarjeet Singh (Photography), Malti Sharma (Painting) got Junior fellowship by Ministry of Culture for 2017- 18.
Cartoonist Manoj Chopra & Chander Shekhar Bunti won honors in national cartoon exhibition cum competitions. The NGOs Viraj Kala Kendra, Kesar Art circle and, JK Creative Centre for Arts contributed by holding art exhibitions, art camps etc.
Theatre: J&K Cultural Academy has certainly given a spurt to theatre art by encouraging amateur theatre enthusiasts. Nonetheless, the NGO groups in Jammu led by dedicated theatrists have been significantly contributing towards theatre movement.
NATRANG: held more than 100 shows in the year and set a record by organizing 8 theatre festivals in which 32 different plays by the same group were staged. Its regular mega events/shows at different melas were ‘Bava Jitto’ & Mata ki Kahani. It also screened first ever film on Maharaja Gulab Singh. Its participations in national theatre festivals were ‘In Her Shoes’, ‘Ghumayee’, ‘Romeo Juliet’, ‘Aap Hamare Hain Kaun’, Natrang actor Shazia Batool has been selected by National School of Drama to undergo Post-graduation in Dramatics.
Amateur Theatre Group: With Mushtaq Kak as its mentor, the ATG emerged as an ambassador of J&K theatre by staging number of performances of plays like Ishaq Malngi in important national festivals. Young actors trained by ATG have been started making a mark as independent directors/ actors. ATG is going to hold a festival of plays in memory of Kavi Rattan, founder of modern theatre movement.
Rangyug: Under the stewardship of Deepak Kumar, held a 360 hours Theatre Training which concluded with the production of Andha Yug by its participants, organized World Dance Day Celebrations by a Kathak recital by dance maestro Priya Dutta and students. The plays staged were Mantonaama, Dr. Shanker Shesh’s Raktbeej, and began the practice of seeing theatre by payment. Its 180 hours theatre training led to the production of Hawalaat and Dheeth, and shows of Nukkad Natak Dheeth.
Natraj Natya Kunj: Group’s organized playwright workshop at Jammu, Udhampur, Ramnagar, Reasi, shows of the Garak Hoarda Manukh, held Theatre Carnival in which 6 plays were presented from Jammu, Chandigarh, Varanasi, Haryana. The play Gagan Damama Bajyo staged in Theatre Festival at Chandigarh and held Folk Theatre workshop. Its play Urubhangam was adjudged best by JKAACL and staged at SMVD University Katra, Jammu, and Srinagar. Its play Macbeth; The Crown of Blood, was awarded the best production, best direction, best music, best light awards in the Academy’s Annual Theatre Festival.
Samooh Theatre: did a number of shows of Nukkad Nataks in Jammu and outside, staged plays Final Solution, King Lear, Bachha Chor, play reading of Jee Jaise Aap ki Marzi and performance of Dakghar at Bhatinda, Kolkatta. It held interaction with actors like Janak Khajuria and C.D.Magotra, lecture on Dogri folk theatre by Dr. Sudhir Mahajan, a conference on performing arts, dance workshop, and recitation of Dogri poetry. Vomedh Rangmanch, staged Kashmiri plays Ek Aur Birbal at Chandigarh, Bombay, Mujrim Mae Nahi Par Mai He Hun, Khoya Bachpan, Gada Batah and Nukkad Nataks. It also pioneered Fortnight Terrace Theatre. Athrot, held first ever Kashmiri poetry day for youngsters, staged Navreh Thaal, organized program Kashir Kalakaar to hone community children’ talent in Singing, Dancing and creating awareness about KP dress attire and language.
The Performers: Led by Urja Singh, the group is catering to the aspirations of the urban brigade of the young. It is honing talent by organizing fashion, modeling shows, workshops on modern music, dance, acting & for show anchors.
Radio: Radio Kashmir Jammu (RKJ), enhanced its outreach and listening in hilly areas of Duggar with commissioning of a Relay Transmitter at Natha Top. With a focus on regional culture, RKJ highlighted local Melas and events. It held national level workshops; for the Producers of ‘Kisan Vani’, and on Planning and Production on Women and Children program.
Tree Talk: Kudos to Om Vidyarathi, for spearheading the movement to spread tree consciousness with unparalleled regularity and participation of civil society. He has taken ‘The Tree Talk’, to J&K’s nook & corners, city gardens, forest locations, wetlands, educational institutions, sacred groves, and highlighted tree associated traditions, biodiversity components, rare, endangered, threatened taxa, utilization, value addition, distribution, conservation, ecological concerns, ex-situ conservation in wildlife areas, in situ conservation in parks & gardens and nature interpretation.