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.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A Dream Come True: Srinagar Basks in the Glory of Tulips and Almond Blossoms

Srinagar is mending environmental damage by reclaiming past glory and creating new vistas

Badam Wa’er blooms again

Srinagar, Mar 25: Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad today presented a matchless gift to the people of Srinagar when he dedicated to them a redeveloped Badam Wa’er (almond alcove), the principal springtime leisure spot at the foot of the Hari Parbat hillock in the old city.

The re-creation of the Badam Wa’er revived pleasant memories of people, especially of the older generation, who knew the place as an explicit statement about the end of a long, harsh and suffocating winter in Kashmir.

For centuries, the almond blossoms here had been the focal point of recreation for the local people. Families with samovars of boiling salt tea and eatables would flock the place with the onset of the annual bloom while vendors made good earning from a stream of visitors. In the olden days, a visit to Badam Wa’er was the only major recreation available to the city dwellers after the snows had melted and temperature warmed up in the Valley. The tradition passed on to the succeeding generations.

However, as the garden suffered neglect and dilapidation and Badam Wa’er festival started fading out of the people’s memory, the present Government decided to revive its glory and restore to the people their rich cultural heritage.

The J&K Bank was assigned the task to recreate the magnificence of the Badam Wa’er. The Bank, under its heritage preservation initiative, restored the old Bagh-i-Waris Khan and re-established the lost aura of the Badam Wa’er.

The guiding force behind the pleasant changeover, the Chief Minister, at a colourful function this evening, unveiled the plaque to announce the inauguration of the fabulous garden. The function was also attended by Shamim Azad, Deputy Chief Minister, Muzaffar Hussain Baig, Chairman, J&K Bank, Dr. Haseeb Drabu and a large number of people from a cross section of the society.
Later, Mr. Azad and other guests walked around the Badam Wa’er to have a feel of the bewitching environs. A cultural programme, comprising musical concert by local artistes and a humorous skit, was also organised.

The restoration work was taken up in December 2006 and completed in a record time of 15 months. The garden is spread over an area of 300 kanals. Elements of traditional Kashmiri landscaping and architecture have been retained with the façade of the garden replicating the historical gate, Kathi Darwaza, of the Nagar wall raised by Mughal ruler, Akbar, around the hillock including the Badam Wa’er. Seven flower enclosures have been developed in the garden to let the Badam Wa’er bloom throughout the year.

As an added attraction, 1 km long joggers’ track has also been built on the peripheries of the garden.

Speaking on the occasion, the Chief Minister said that the Badam Wa’er was a strong symbol of rich heritage of Kashmir and stressed on its upkeep and asked people to take advantage of the revived facility.

Tulip Garden to be opened for public in first week of April

Srinagar, Mar 23: The Asia's largest tulip garden at the foot of the Zabarwan Hills, overlooking the famous Dal Lake here, is all set to be thrown open for public in the first week of April. A workforce of about 400 labourers and gardeners is working round the clock in three shifts to give final touches to the garden before opening its beautifully built gate plaza for visitors.

Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, who conceived and closely monitored the laying of the garden, inspected the ongoing work today. He was accompanied by Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir, Mehboob Iqbal and Director Floriculture, Kashmir, Dr. Sarwar Naqash.

Mr Azad expressed satisfaction over an infinitely beautiful spot coming up in the shape of the tulip garden in Srinagar and said that it would emerge as a major tourist attraction in Kashmir. He said the ambience and the setting of the garden would entice visitors to come here over and over again.

The Tulip Garden, emerging as a flori-marvel, is spread over a vast expanse of 100 kanals of land where 12 lakh tulip plants will be in bloom in the next few days. It is going to be a splendid view. In all, 60 varieties of early, mid, late and very late blooming tulips will spread a rainbow of red, orange, purple, white, pink, parrot and yellow colours on the garden. The garden has been given the name of Siraj Bagh.

"As many as 400 labourers including 150 gardeners are working in three shifts to complete the job by Tuesday", Dr. Naqash said when asked how soon the work on the garden would complete. He said majority of the labourers and gardeners have been engaged through contractors. A total number of 40 departmental gardeners are currently working in the tulip garden.

The unfinished works currently in the final stages include four fountains, gate plaza, cemented paths, landscaping and a guest house. These are all scheduled to complete by March 25, said Dr. Naqash.

The entry to the garden will be through tickets of Rs. 50 for adults and Rs. 20 for children. "The tickets will be beautifully printed which could be retained by visitors as souvenirs," adds Director Floriculture.

(Both stories from the Daily Excelsior, published in Jammu.)

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