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.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Stripping the Cultural Icon Naked

Tagore Hall's dilapidated condition is a proof of Kashmiri society's fall from the grace

Lack of money defaces Tagore Hall

Mudasir Amin (Kashmir Images)

Srinagar: Tagore Hall, the only auditorium worth its name in Srinagar which has all along been the hub of cultural activities in the Valley is in shambles for unknown reasons.

“Tagore Hall stands fragile and battered, unclothed and with repulsive looks, which certainly is a cause of great worry both for the commoners as well as the artists of the Valley.”

In fact, reasonably speaking, the only reason for the pathetic condition of the Tagore Hall is the unreasonable lethargy and carelessness of the concerned authorities in taking care of the repair and renovation of this historical auditorium set by in the year 1958.

Although the Jammu and Kashmir Academy of Art, culture and Languages is there to take care of the Tagore Hall, however, even this agency has been the unwilling victim of the official lethargy and unnecessary bureaucratic hassles plaguing various governmental agencies that were roped in for necessary repairs and renovation of Tagore Hall.

Three years ago, then Secretary, Jammu and Kashmir Academy of Art, culture and Languages, Dr. Rafiq Masoodi mooted a proposal for the renovation of Tagore Hall and then coalition government readily agreed to it and allocated requisite funds for the purpose.

So the renovation work formally took off and the old and dilapidated plaster was scratched off from the walls of the building. But then, after some time the work came to a grinding halt for unknown reasons.

Officials at Academy say the money that was supposed to come for the renovation of Tagore Hall never came, “so the work had to be stopped”.

And since then the Tagore Hall has been standing there fragile and battered, unclothed and with repulsive looks, which certainly is a cause of great worry both for the commoners as well as the artists of the Valley.

“This is the only big hall available for cultural activities and other important ceremonies. If proper care is not taken now, there will be only ruins there after few more years,” said a theatre artist who didn’t want to be named. “It is criminal on part of the authorities for having done this to such a cultural landmark.”

In September 2008 during the under ‘Governor Rule’, the Governor, N N Vohra following a surprise visit to the Tagore Hall, saw its appalling condition and subsequently during a function at SKICC, ordered release of funds amounting to Rs 2.5 crores for it. Although the funds were supposed to have come in, but given that the renovation work is yet to resume, it is more than obvious that the money has once again not been released.

“Tagore Hall is our cultural heritage. But, due to government apathy it is in shambles,” says Ali Mohammed, another dramatist. “If this hall would have been in Jammu, the administration would have gone out of way to ensure that it was repaired in time,” he alleged.

Talking about the delay in repairs and renovation of the Tagore Hall, Zafar Iqbal Manhas, Secretary of Jammu and Kashmir Academy of Art, Culture and Languages, says, “I have been running from pillar to post and now I am expecting funds within five to 10 days.”

He said after getting the funds, “we will pay it to JKPCC and the renovation work will start again.” Manhas while acknowledging the importance of Tagore Hall, assured every step would be taken to preserve it.

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