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.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Societal Indifference Towards Heritage Promotes Public Indifference Towards Future

Neglected Ruins

Shakeel-ur-Rehman (Kashmir Images)

Although heritage is endless in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, year after year even the best is disappearing. Take the Maharaja Palace of Gulmarg. Built by the Dogra's in the 1920s the palace is in ruins. Many reasons can be attributed to it; lack of maintenance is chief among them.

Gulmarg's Maharaja Palace is not the only historic rich that is at risk, other monuments of historic importance too are under threat. Take the historic Hariparbat fort. Originally built by the Mughals, the palace was given its present shape by the Afghans. Like other monuments of Kashmir, the fort is at risk. The tragedy of the monument is that it remained under forces' occupation for nearly 17 years. And it was only in 2006 that the fort was vacated by the forces and was subsequently handed over to the state authorities for promotion of tourism who subsequently threw it open for general public. The fort which till the 90s was in a comparatively good condition had been defaced drastically. Such was the condition of the fort that it had to be renovated by the state tourism authorities before it was thrown up for the general public.

Hariparbat fort is not the only historic asset that suffered because of neglect; a sizeable chunk of other historic riches are also at risk due to official carelessness. Going by the condition of the Hariparbat fort, it is safe to say that almost all historic riches of Kashmir are either under threat or have disappeared. The tragedy of Kashmir is that though it is rich in terms of historic riches, heritage is seldom taken seriously. That is why though history in Kashmir is endless; year by year even the best is disappearing. It's a crisis, a scandal.

Kashmir is a great heritage site, a wonder of ancient temples, royal tombs and colonial mansions, but many of them are at risk. And if we don't act in time, we would lose them completely. At history's crossroads for more than 2,000 years, Kashmir is the place where great rulers arrived with empires that ruled the valley for centuries. All left their monumental marks from temples to palaces. Irony is that Kashmir's main heritage body, the department of archives, archaeology and museums is ill equipped and financially constrained.

Currently it looks after a small number of monuments and, even for these, worries remain. From Hariparbat to Pari Mahal to Gulmarg's Maharaja Palace our history is in ruins. The reason for the pathetic condition of historic relics is that we have forgotten that this is our history. And this is who we are. What in fact has led to the present state of our history is lack of resources; manpower and financial, both of which are crucial for the management of historic riches. It is an open fact that the state archives department employs no qualified architects or conservationists, and monument care is split between a confusing cluster of local and national authorities like the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). Concentration of authority in two different bodies with different set ups has led to confusion.

But history being who we are we have got to protect it. And the best way to do so would be to invest the state archives department with the needed resources and authority so that state's history could be protected.

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