This year, India looks back on 70 glorious years of its steady growth and development. Of these, for the last 69 years, the state of Jammu Kashmir has remained an integral part of India. However, in the UK not many recognise this fact.
The crowning glory of India has seen years of turbulence and ongoing unrest owing to the insurgency from its neighbours and its aftermath, resulting in the forced exodus of its native population, the Kashmiri Pandits. The current Indian government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has shown huge commitment to tackling this conflict and bringing to the people of Jammu Kashmir, a stable and prosperous abode. Jammu Kashmir, situated in the lap of Himalayas is known as “heaven on earth”, and is famous for its fabled beauty of both land and people. From the charm and heroism of the Jammu Region, the picture postcard beauty of Kashmir, the mysticism of Ladakh and the resilience of its many people, it remains one of the most under represented states of India abroad. The economy of the state is heavily reliant on tourism, agriculture, sericulture and horticulture. A small group of like-minded individuals, originally from Jammu Kashmir, India, now living in the UK have taken it upon themselves to tackle the skewed perception of this beautiful state with an immense potential for growth and investment opportunities. The Jammu Kashmir Festival is the first ever attempt to showcase the rich cultural heritage of the state and its pluralistic, varied cultural diversity to the British people. Supported by Incredible India (Ministry of Tourism & Culture of India), the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), Air India, The Montcalm Luxury Hotels, Zee TV, Here and Now 365 and Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, the Jammu Kashmir is the brainchild of Lakshmi Kaul, a Kashmiri Pandit campaigner & founder of Kashmiri Pandits Cultural Society (UK). She is supported by Lalit Sharma, a proud Dogra and Founding Member of Voice of Dogra, Manu Khajuria, a Dogra activist, writer and founder of Voice of Dogra and Manish Tiwari, Managing Director of Here and Now 365, a leading media and PR company in the UK. The festival aims to celebrate Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir in totality. She is supported by a strong team of representatives not only from communities within the state of Jammu Kashmir, but also from various parts of India, UK and the USA.
“The festival is my attempt to connect to my roots and give to our future generations, a piece of their lost heritage. I hope that it will go a long way in creating bridges and helping build confidence in the people of Jammu Kashmir to progress towards a bright and prosperous future for themselves”, says Lakshmi. The week-long festival will see the participation of regional artistes, politicians, businesses and volunteers from the state of Jammu Kashmir and other parts of India. The programme will include cultural performances by Natrang Music and Dance repertory, Dogra Martial tradition showcase by National Army Museum, a talk by Prof Andrew Kerr on the role of Dogra regiment in the World Wars, a Food Festival and an Exhibition featuring promotional videos, posters, photographs, costumes and artefacts at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, London. There will also be a Business Round Table in association with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) exploring the “Business Potential and Emerging Opportunities in the state of Jammu Kashmir” at the Houses of Parliament. JAMMU & KASHMIR FESTIVAL is the first ever attempt to showcase the rich cultural heritage of the state and its pluralistic, varied cultural diversity to the British people. Jammu & Kashmir, the northern most state of India, often referred to as “Heaven on Earth” has been a haven of tourism, adventure sports with a huge potential for growth and development. It is perhaps one of the most under-represented states of India in the UK. The variety of folk arts, traditional handicrafts and paintings, music, dance, theatre and oral story telling traditions of the region are fast moving towards extinction. Situated in the lap of the majestic Himalayas, Jammu & Kashmir is the crowning glory of India with a mysticism and beauty that remains unmatched, the world over. The festival will be an opportunity especially to showcase areas within the state that are safe for people to visit and explore. This will encourage tourists and visitors to consider J&K as their next holiday destination therefore helping revive the economy of the state.
ABOUT THE ORGANISERS
Lakshmi Kaul is a political strategist, human rights campaigner and founder of Kashmiri Pandit Cultural Society UK. The celebration of Jammu Kashmir Day and the Festival is her brainchild. She is the main force behind this initiative and the Curator of the Festival. Her passion for giving the state its due is reflected in her vision is to see Jammu Kashmir state grow, prosper and for the people of Jammu Kashmir (including the persecuted and displaced minorities) to live and progress in harmony. She wants the world to know Jammu Kashmir for the right reasons and for the huge potential for opportunities the region has.
Manish Tiwari is an entrepreneur and experienced PR guru who has to his credit umpteen events, launches and exhibitions. He is a strong Nationalist who has supported a number of initiatives for India-UK relationship building. He is known to most as the silent force who has in the background supported and backed a number of initiatives that highlight the strength of India and UK. Lalit Sharma is a founding member of Voice of Dogras in London and traces his roots to Jammu. His love and passion for his motherland connects him to anything and everything about Jammu Kashmir. Lalit aspires to showcase our beautiful state all over the world for its beauty, culture and uniqueness. In his quest to reconnect to his roots and understand history of Jammu Kashmir, Lalit sees Jammu Kashmir festival as a journey of education and awareness for the world. Manu Khajuria is a community activist, columnist for the Daily Excelsior and founder of Voice of Dogras UK. A columnist for Daily Excelsior, a newspaper in Jammu Kashmir, her love for the state of Jammu Kashmir is reflected in her writings that has encouraged more and more people belonging to the region to rediscover their roots. For Manu, semantics are very critical in shaping perception and therefore, she tirelessly emphasises the usage of Jammu Kashmir as opposed to Kashmir in all reference
to the state or region.
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