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.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Down the Memory Lane on The Bund

Can the much needed redevelopment of the Bund rejuvenate its glorious past?

The Bund is memory lane

Srinagar: The Bund on the river Jhelum as it flows through Srinagar has always had a special place in the city’s life. After years of gradual decay, it is now being revived by the government of Jammu and Kashmir.

Gardens, paths and concrete embankments sloping to the Jhelum are taking shape. In years gone by, the most famous thing about the Bund was that it used to be a grand promenade, particularly for foreigners. Since militancy began, tourists began to keep away. Instead, encroachments crept up and some stretches became garbage dumps or safe havens for dogs. Residents along the once grand walkway, many of them boatmen with houseboats on the river, erected tin sheds and illegal hutments.

All the way from Zero Bridge to Amira Kadal, tiny beauty parlours and tailor shops have come up where the cool breezes of the river once fanned finely dressed officers and gentlemen. No wonder Mohammad Shafi Qureshi, who owns a shop nearby, is sadly nostalgic. He speaks of evocative stories about the Bund, adding that it was famous all over the world for its marvelous beauty, the fragrance of its flowers and the crystal clear water of the Jehlum. He says: “Cycles were not allowed on the Bund but now, even horses find a place on it.” His memory evidently as fresh as the morning dew, Qureshi evokes the past as he sits alone in his shop, M.S & Sons, a store for fishing goods which was established in 1880 by his grandfather. “Foreigners’ first preference was the Bund,” he says. “From 8 am to 11 am, foreigners used to walk down the Bund to shop for Kashmir’s unique shawls, papier machie handicrafts and other goods from shops like Asian Crafts, once a famous household name.” He looks sullen by he turns to the present condition of the Bund. “The flavour of scent was everywhere and the hustle bustle of foreigners. That is gone.” He says he hopes the Government is going to construct parks on the banks of the river, which may revive the Bund’s beauty.

The Bund lost its sheen soon after 1953, he asserts. Cleanliness gave way after that to dogs, horses, cows, beggars and now even rag-pickers, adds Ghulam Mohammad, a retired Government employee.

Pointing towards the Bund, he says: “Police used to fine the peopleviolating the norms of Bund but now everyone is defining his own will.” Buildings above a certain height were not allowed, adds another old-timer, Ali Mohammed. Now, he says, the architects lack the planning, order and aesthetics of an earlier generation.

The Pastonjeebuildings were famous, he adds. And the leading stores of the time were Mahad Joo, Mahatta, the photographer and the original Asian Crafts. Mohammad Shafi seems to speak for all those who pine for a return of the old glory of the Bund when he says the current development of the Bund might allow future generations too to know what the Bund once was.

(The Daily Etalaat)

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