LIFE

The Kashmir connection

``This is one of the most peaceful places," says Gulshan M. Khatai, president of the Kashmiri Cultural Association. People from the militancy-torn State of Jammu & Kashmir have managed to find a home away from home in `God's Own Country'.

"Now, there are 4,500 Kashmiris in Kerala, of which 1,800 are in Kochi itself. It is my 37th year in Kochi," says Mr. Khatai, who has various business interests in the city. Similarly, the general secretary of the Association, G. R. Prabhu, settled down here a long time ago.

The Association will be formally inaugurated in September at a formal function here. The Kashmiris here are expecting the Chief Minister of J&K, Farooq Abdullah, and the Kerala Governor, Sikander Bakht, to participate in the function.

It is entrepreneurship that has brought the Kashmiris to Kerala. About 90 per cent of the Kashmiris here have business interests while about 10 per cent are professionals or are employed in the Navy, tea companies, etc.

The influx of Kashmiris to various parts of the country started in the 90s when militancy in Jammu & Kashmir suddenly escalated. Most of these Kashmiris have raised their children here in Kerala.

An Association of some sort was formed to preserve the traditional Kashmiri culture.

The ties between Kerala and Kashmir would be strengthened if there were some cultural exchange and exposure between the two States.

Eminent people in the city like V. R. Krishna Iyer, former Supreme Court judge are associated with the Association as the patrons or figure in the advisory board.

By Shyama Rajagopal

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