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, June 11, 2009

Preservation of Mughal Gardens

Indian National Trust of Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) is doing the right thing

State govt, INTACH kick start the preservation drive of Kashmir's Mughal gardens

Srinagar: In order to revive the pristine glory of the world renowned Mughal gardens of Kashmir valley, the state government has taken initiatives for undertaking preservation drive of the three prominent Mughal gardens of the valley.

The project, first of its kind, is a joint venture of the state's floriculture department and Indian National Trust of Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH). The tentative cost estimate of the over all project has been worked out to be Rs 16 crore.

The funding sources for the maiden project are the Union Ministry's Tourism department, the state budget and 12th Finance Commission Scheme for restoration of Mughal gardens.

Director, Floriculture department of Kashmir, G S Naqash said that no restoration work of the Mughal gardens has been ever undertaken like this at a massive scale before since the construction of gardens several hundred years ago by the Mughals.

"In the absence of any big renovation work, the condition of these heritage gardens has deteriorated over the years," Naqash added.

He asserted that the restoration of the Mughal gardens will help a great deal in not only preserving the heritage gardens but also in promoting tourism especially the inflow of foreign tourists to the valley.

"Foreign tourists usually prefer to see the old culture and heritage monuments so in my opinion this project will greatly help in enhancing the tourism here," he opined.

He maintained that a project report for the renovation of the gardens was prepared after a survey was conducted by INTACH in collaboration with state's Floriculture department and the Ministry of Tourism in 2005.

"Though we were allocated Rs 75 lakh for the renovation of Nishat Bagh soon after the survey of 2005, the work could not be started because of certain reasons. Later we approached the state government to get the permission for the long-pending project of the restoration of all the three gardens and finally started the work," the director said.

The restoration work is presently going on in all the three Mughal gardens, viz, Nishat Bagh, Shalimar Bagh and Achabal garden. "The most interesting part of the entire work is the restoration of paper machie painting of the 400-year-old monument in Shalimar Bagh without demolishing the old structure, the first of its kind in the valley. Earlier, it was done in Rashtrapati Bhawan, the official residence of the president of India in New Delhi," chairman of J&K Chapter of INTACH, Saleem Beigh pointed out.

Rather than opting for glitzy modern structures, efforts would be made to ensure the old layout of the heritage gardens under the project. "The main elements of the conservation plans supervised by INTACH include ensuring of authenticity of original layout, materials and historical fabric," Saleem Beigh said.

According to Beigh, one of the main objectives of the project is to get the valley's heritage gardens enlisted in the tentative list of the world heritage website. In this regard, a proposal is being prepared by INTACH which be later forwarded to United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) through Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) with the assistance of the state government.

The J&K INTACH chairman hoped that depending on the availability of funds the project will be completed within three years, except Achabal garden where the restoration work will be hopefully completed this year.

Built in Mughal era, the Mughal gradens of Kashmir are a combination of beautiful artifacts, rare flowers, fountains, impressive lawns and terraces. (Kashmir Times)

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