Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Does Anybody Care? (Because you should.) Today is the Chinar Day

Today is a token remembrance of a Kashmiri icon that is on the verge of slow extinction.

While Jahangir Bukhari laments on the dying flames of Chinar, it may be that the government and general public are doing too little, too late.

Today (March 15) is Chinar Day

The floriculture department has decided to celebrate March 15 as Chinar Day here to emphasize the urgent need to save this majestic tree.

According to officials of floriculture department, the objective of assigning a separate day for the tree is to uphold the historical identity of this majestic tree in Kashmir. “We want to make the public aware how important this tree has been to our heritage,” said Dr G. Sarwar Naqash, Director Floriculture. He added, “The Chinar day will help us in apprise people about the benefits of this tree.”

According to sources, there are presently 17,620 Chinars in valley. The number has declined to more than 50 percent over the past 35 years. In the past, various departments have planted trees on March 21st, which also marks Word Forestry and Plantation Day. The chinar day, according to the department, will help in devoting more time for plantation of the tree. “The start of the drive will help us to span the plantation over a longer period of period,” said Naqash.

The department has also taken a strong note of the felling of green Chinars from various areas. “It is unfortunate that people are so callous towards this tree. We are seeing to it that no permission is granted to fell any green Chinar tree. The revenue department also has to play a vital role in saving this majestic tree,” added Naqash.

The dying flames of the chinar(S.Jahangir Bukhari)

Chinar trees or bouins, gracing the paths and gardens of exotic Kashmir, are now on the verge of depletion because of human apathy and the administration's indifference. The chinars, once abundant, are increasingly becoming a rare sight.

GODS OF nature have always taken mercy on Kashmir. If there is a heat wave there is rain immediately after. If there is drought there has been snow too, but despite this mercy Kashmir continues to suffer. That is because the cruel human hands continue to destroy what nature has given in abundance.

Cruelty with nature and human interference galore is eating up the vitals of the paradise. Take for example the environment; immense damage is done to it undermining the nature's benevolence. The natural environment is getting decayed due to rapacious interference by human beings. All its facets like rivers, jungles, pastures, gardens are on the verge of destruction. Nothing has been spared, not even its unique feature, the majestic Chinar tree. Due to the apathy of administration and lack of self-discipline of the people, this 'king of trees' is under the axe of smugglers and their mentors among the officialdom. Visit any corner of the valley, including the protected Naseem Bagh on the shores of Dal Lake, one gets the impression that the gracious chinar tree, which has added to the picturesque beauty of Kashmir for centuries is close to extinction. Every year, the number of chinars is decreasing.

The chinar trees, which flourished everywhere in the valley, is increasingly becoming a rare sight even though there is a lot of clamour about the rule of law, economic prosperity and environmental awareness. The chinar was considered to be a wealth, because it contributed not only to the beauty of Kashmir but also to its resources. Chinar wood is as good for furniture, as for making 'papier machie' items like wall hangings. It has also been one of the main sources of firewood for the rural lot whose firepots (Kangris) are filled by charcoal of red chinar leaves in winter.

Gone are the days when one would come across gigantic chinar trees. These have been and are still being cut down ruthlessly. Revenue, forest or police agencies either do nothing or connive actively. The laws are flouted. It is unfortunate that there is no government agency, which would use government land, parks or gardens or even highways for the conservation of this majestic tree. Both the state as well as citizens seem to be totally apathetic to this great loss. People shun its growth to save land. It is also normally planted in kitchen gardens for ornamental purposes. Chinar leaves engraved on Kashmiri traditional pots like 'Samavar' (tea pot) etc and other decorative items are used to adorn drawing rooms.

The chinar tree is grown in Greece, Macedonia, Armenia and Northern Persia, besides Kashmir and western Himalayan region. Chinar or oriental tree (botanical name - Platinus orientalis) popularly known as 'bouin' in Kashmir is a large, graceful deciduous tree, which is closely associated with the culture and folklore of Kashmir. It is considered to be the manifestation of nature's bounty that the valley is blessed with.

There are frequent references to the grandeur of chinar in Kashmiri literature. The famous mystic poetess Lal Ded, also known as Lal Ishwari (1320-1390 AD) made the reference to this tree in an epigram containing: "Virtuous and loving wife to the cool and refreshing shade of bouin (chinar) on a hot summer day." In the Akbarnama written by Abul Fazal, it is mentioned, "The emperor took 34 persons inside the hollow trunk of an aged chinar tree."

Similarly, emperor Jahangir, in his memoirs has made mention of a huge plain tree, in the hollow of which he and his seven companions could be comfortably accommodated. These and other references were used as a source to try and establish the date when the Chinar was introduced in Kashmir, which usually has been ascribed to the Mughal emperor Jahangir (1605-1627 AD) and Shah Jahan (1627-1658 AD) who brought it from central Asia. But history was rewritten some years ago when an investigation on charcoal remains from archeological site at Simthen in South Kashmir revealed that this tree was in existence centuries before. The history of the tree has been traced back to 500 AD and the importance of the majestic tree has increased in archaeological context. But no one has awakened to the danger to its actual existence, neither the people nor the government.

No comments: