For past sometime, film actor Anupam Kher has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. For a change one would not like to counter his campaign against Kashmiri Muslims which, according to some Pandit leaders, has already substantially damaged their cause. Let us concentrate on his name. He is Khar and not Kher. There are many Kashmiri Pandits who have a sub-caste of Khar. This word in Kashmiri means a donkey.

Kashmiris have a tradition of not only giving nicknames to people but also shortening and distorting the actual names of the people in general. Ghulam is changed into Gull or Gulla. Mohammad is distorted into Mumma, Mohudd, Ahmad into Amma and Nabi into Nabba. Khadija into Khajih, Fatima into Fatih, Jameela into Jalleh and so on. Then nicknames are added because of the profession or some peculiarity of the person. Sometimes in these nicknames some object or landmark commonly associated with the person is added. The distorted names are also combined with the profession of the person. Abdul Gaffar, the carpenter becomes, “Gaffar Chaan”. Ghulam Qadir, the Mason becomes “Qadir Dasill”. Abdul Rahim, the Coppersmith becomes, “Rahim Thanthurr”, Abdul Karim, the sweeper becomes, “Karim Wattul”! And so on.

Then there is a tradition of attaching some animal, peculiarity of character or even an inanimate object, with the name of a person. Ram Krishan Kaul has written a book “Sociology of Names and Nicknames of India with special reference to Kashmir”. The book has given a detailed background of various names, gotras and so on of Kashmiri Pandits. It is a very informative and interesting read and can even be downloaded through the internet. Because of the mass conversions which took place during the time of Shah-i-Hamadan, there are many common family names among Hindus and Muslims in Kashmir. There are Kauls, Rainas, and Bhats among the Hindus as well as among the Muslims in Kashmir.

Kashmir Overseas Organization has a very comprehensive article on Kashmiri nicknames accessible at It would be interesting to reproduce some extracts from the article. “A nickname, says Hazlitt, is the hardest stone that the devil can throw at a man, yet the Kashmiris have shown the unparalleled endurance to bear this hardest stone Pleased with their 'devotion' he (Mr. Devil) seems to have gifted this stone to them (Kashmiri) forever. Love of nicknames is mixed in the blood of Kashmiris, nay; they have nurtured this art with their blood, for generations together. They give it without asking for and make full use of ordinary events, actions, habits and even physical feature of persons to coin new and newer nicknames”.

“Kashmiris never lose their sense of humour. Even adversity has not killed their instinct of humour. It has on the other hand, sharpened it to boost their morale and love of boisterous life. Hamidullah, a resident of remote meadow village of Nobog Nai, has not only exposed the ruthless Sikh bureaucracy of Kashmir in his Bebujnamah, but has proved himself a caricaturist par excellence as well as a non-conformist as for as Sikh administrative system was concerned. This work contains allegorical names and characters. "It is steeped in symbolism depicting the glaring traits of bureaucracy under Sikh rulers from the Patwari upto the Nazim or Governor. According to the author, the whole lot of them was responsible for all sorts of the sufferings of the peasantry, especially their aim being simply to grease their own palms and to sustain Sikh power by force”.

“It may not be right to say that Kashmiris have never shown an aversion to the nicknames. Pandit Anand Koul has quoted a classical example of resistance shown against a nickname by a poor Pandit whose name was 'Vasadev'. He had a mulberry tree in his courtyard, and was, therefore, called Vasadev Tul. Tul being the Kashmiri name of mulberry. In order to get rid of this nickname he cut down the mulberry tree. But a Mond (trunk) remained and he was called, ' Vasadev Mond'. Irritated Pandit immediately removed the trunk; and a Khud (depression) was caused and henceforth he was known as 'Vasadev Khud'. Continuing his battle against nickname givers he got the depression filled up and the ground became a Teng (a little elevated). Thus he was re-nicknamed as 'Vasadev Teng'. He had, however, to give in before the limitless arrows in the quiver of nickname givers and accepted gracefully his latest nickname, which has become a family name of his progeny”.

In recent times, some of the politicians too have been given interesting nicknames. Shams-ud-Din was called “Shamme Kath”, G.M.Sadiq, “Sadiq Kon”; Farooq Abdullah when he started his tenure as the Chief Minister had a number of siren blowing vehicles in his official cavalcade. People gave him the popular nickname of “Farooq pee pee”!

The former Chief Minister, Ghulam Mohammad Shah imposed long curfews due to unrest on his assuming office. He is still remembered with the nickname of “Gulle Curfew”!

So if Anupam Kher is desirous of returning to his motherland notwithstanding the fact that he was born in Simla, he should revert back to his family name of Khar! He needs to be careful with his bald head! People may start calling him like Vasudev Tul, Anupam Toni Kalle (the bald headed)!