Former Vice-Chancellor of Kashmir University (KU), Prof Riyaz Punjabi passed away in New Delhi on Thursday after a brief illness. A recipient of Padma Shri award in the category of literature and education, Prof Punjabi served as the VC, Kashmir University from January 1, 2008 to June 1, 2011.
Prof Punjabi held a degree of Doctorate in Laws. He has authored a number of books and research papers. He taught and conducted researches in Jawaharlal Nehru University New Delhi, Universities of Jammu and Kashmir, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi and Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla.
Prof Punjabi had delivered lectures in universities and research institutions in different parts of Asia, Europe, Africa, Canada and Australia. He also won the Amity Academic Excellence Award from Amity International Business School in 2009, Fazil Memorial Award in 2009 and the Adbi Markaz Kamraz award in 2010.
Prof Punjabi held the positions of professor, Centre for the Study of Social Systems, Faculty of Social Science, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi; professor and chairman, Department of Distance Education; dean, Faculty of Non Formal Education, KU; Director, Correspondence Courses; director, Centre for Adult Continuing and Extension Education; director, State Resource Centre, KU; and director, Institute of Kashmir Studies, KU.
Prof Punjabi was a visiting research fellow on human rights in the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla; visiting professor, Academy of Third World Studies, Jamia Milia Islamia, New Delhi; and visiting research fellow in the Centre for South Asian Studies, Switzerland.
Prof Punjabi was affiliated with research centres at the national level as a member, board of management, Nelson Mandela Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi; member, advisory board, Centre for Peace and Conflict Management, Lady Shri Ram College for Women, University of Delhi; member, governing council of International Centre for Peace Studies, New Delhi.
Prof Punjabi was president, International Centre for Peace Studies, New Delhi and honorary co-director, European Institute, New Delhi. He was the founding editor of the quarterly Journal of Peace Studies, New Delhi since 1994.
Prof Punjabi authored six books, contributed chapters in 12 edited volumes, and wrote more than 20 occasional papers and monographs on diverse themes and subjects. He contributed more than 200 research papers in national and international journals on diverse themes and subjects.
Prof Punjabi wrote on various topics but his main areas of work were peace studies, human rights, global terrorism, composite culture, inter-religious conflicts and rise of fundamentalism in South Asia and Sufism. His favourite subject was the projection of spiritual and cultural unity of people in South Asia as reflected in Sufi-Bakhti traditions of the region.
In his latest edited book ‘USA and Muslim World’, Prof Punjabi described the global Islamist movements and projected their declining fortunes.
In 1994, Prof Punjabi set up a voluntary research group called the Centre for Peace Studies in New Delhi to encourage research and debate on human rights, peace, spiritual unity and human brotherhood. This group later became the International Centre for Peace Studies, which has facilitated disseminating Prof Punjabi’s publications, organising public lectures, discussions and debates to promote the cause of human rights, peace and religious harmony and inter faith dialogue.
Prof Punjabi wrote extensively in the field of Kashmir studies. Through his publications, public lectures and discussions he projected the syncretic culture of Kashmir Valley. He described the spiritual continuity of different faiths in Kashmir which culminated in the form of Kashmiriyat in Kashmir.
His article “Kashmiriyat: The Mystique of an Ethnicity” published in the India International Centre quarterly in 1990 was translated in several languages and reproduced in several national and international publications.