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, November 24, 2009

World Heritage Week

Saleem provides a historical on Srinagar and discusses an era when heritage meant something

(Mr. Mohammad Saleem Beg, 58, was born and raised in Srinagar. He was educated at the S.P. College and the Gandhi Memorial College, receiving his Bachelor's degree from the latter. He was awarded a EEC fellowship in 1998 which allowed him to attend study courses at Universities of Luven, Belgium, and Trinity College, Dublin. Mr. Beg entered the State government service in 1975 and retired in 2006 as the Director General of Tourism. In the 31 years of public service (which included two deputation assignments in New Delhi), Mr. Beg promoted local arts and crafts, and raised public awareness of Kashmir's rich heritage and architecture. He was a leading figure in getting Srinagar listed as one of the 100 most threatened heritage cities by the World Monument Fund in 2008. Mr. Beg has traveled extensively and has attended numerous conferences, including the 1997 UN Special Session on Environment in New York, and the 1997 Kyoto Convention on Climate Change in Japan. His articles and essays have been published in various publications. Since retirement, he has remained active as the Convener of the J&K Chapter of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage - INTACH.)

INTACH decries City settlement pattern

Srinagar: The Convener of INTACH’s J&K Chapter, Muhammad Saleem Beg, Wednesday, said urbanization had disturbed the settlement pattern of the City and its casualty had been educational and social institutions.

“The urban and social challenges went unanswered since ’50s and the rich cultural heritage of the City is being lost with every passing day. The government should introduce stringent laws to protect the heritage. In absence of law, vandalism of our heritage is happening,” Beg, said in a presentation while inaugurating The World Heritage Week at Green Valley Educational Institute.

“The aim of organising the week at GVEI was to aware the children about our rich cultural heritage. We have a four thousand year old documented history,” he added.

While divulging the history of the Srinagar City, he gave detailed presentation from Gupta Period to Dogra rule.

“Till 14th century the City was confined on right side of the river Jehlum. With the advent of Islam, it gave new impetus to the physical and cultural development of the City due to influx of missionaries, scholars and craftsmen from Persia and Central Asia, it expanded. The City was known as Shahr-e-Kashmir during Muslim rule,” he divulged.

The presentation depicted the unique built and natural heritage of Srinagar City. But the vandalisation and impact of factors like haphazard growth and depleting civic infrastructure were also revealed.

The presentation traced the heritage of Srinagar documented by the INTACH 3-years back.

The archaeological and architecture from Harwan to Khankahs, vernacular houses and other landmarks of the past were shown in the presentation.

It was emphasized that there was a need to create awareness among the City youth and other urban centres of Kashmir about the vandalisation threat to the heritage sites.

It was followed by another presentation on the conservation and management of world famed Dal Lake. The students were shown satellite images of the lake, which depicted large-scale encroachments within the water body.

The details of conservation plan presently under implementation were also given.

The Director Doordarshan, Dr Rafiq Masoodi, who was the Chief Guest on the occasion, appreciated the efforts of INTACH in its campaign for creating awareness about the rich cultural heritage of Kashmir.

“We have nothing to show to the world except cultural heritage and there is immediate need to have strict laws to preserve it,” he added.

On the occasion, the INTACH Heritage Club was also inaugurated.

The club comprises of 30 young Lead Members who work under the guidance of Club Conveners. The membership passports and badges were also presented to the members.

The other highlight of the programme was the announcement of the essay competition MY City My History. The competition is sponsored by Fox History Channel in collaboration with INTACH.

The winners of the competition will be invited to present their essay on Fox History Channel.

The other events for the week include Heritage Walks in Shahr-e-Khaas and visit to the museum.

The principal of the host school, G N Aali said vandalisation of worst order has spoiled the beauty of the City.

“We all are responsible for it. Everyone has to play his role to save it and there is an immediate need for an awareness campaign,” he said.

Besides, other guests, the chairman GVEI, Muhammad Yosuf was also present on the occasion.
(Greater Kashmir)

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