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.

Monday, April 20, 2009

UNESCO Listed Heritage Site in Ladakh Undergoing Improper Renovation

17th century monastery may go from World Heritage Sites’ list

Hemis Gumpha In Ladakh On Verge Of Collapse

Srinagar: Due to poor maintenance by the Archeological Survey of India, the 17th century Hemis Gumpha in Ladakh is likely to be dropped from the list of World Heritage Sites, former director general of Tourism, Muhammad Saleem Beigh said.

The Hemis monastery is on the “tentative list” of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites and a protected monument by the ASI. In 2007 the ASI started restoration work on the monastery to plug leakage of rainwater into it. “But the leakage didn’t stop and its walls and foundation were damaged to a great extent,” a source in the ASI said.

After the defective works by the ASI the monks started the work on their own but since they lacked the experience and expertise the monastery was damaged further. In August 2008 a team of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) that visited the monastery was surprised to find labourers demolishing a floor without conducting any structural analysis, said Beigh, chairman of the JK chapter of the INTACH.

Beigh said the INTACH expressed its displeasure in a letter to the director general of the ASI. “But the communication didn’t evoke any concrete response,” he said, adding, “It would be unfortunate to see the monastery de-listed.”

The superintending architect of the ASI’s Srinagar Circle, R Krishnaiah, however, said at present the monks were not allowing the ASI to do any work. “But we are talking to the monks. We have sent a status report on the monastery to the ASI and once we get its nod we would start the work again,” Krishnaiah said.

The monastery, 47 km from Leh, is believed to stand concealed inside a gorge and belongs to the Dugpa Order. It is the biggest and the wealthiest monastery of Ladakh and a major tourist attraction. The annual Hemis festival in Ladakh is celebrated in its name.

According to a UNESCO website, Hemis Gumpha is believed to have been established in 1630 by Lama Tagstang Raspa and built by Palden Sara under the patronage of King Sengge Namgyal on a site previously sanctified by the construction of a cave hermitage dating from the 12th century.

“This monastery is the oldest one in the area belonging to the Kargyu school. The Gompa is a unique example of a monastic complex of this period which manifests in its structure the geomantic principles which underlie religious constructions of this type. In addition there are also examples of construction techniques and details which are not found elsewhere,” the website reads.

(Greater Kashmir)

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