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.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Destruction Beyond Repair

Reshi says the beauty is gone

The Beauty and the Ugliness

(J.H.Reshi is a lawyer practising in Srinagar)

Almighty had bestowed us with a paradise called Kashmir. But alas it is being lost and destroyed beyond repair before our eyes. Once upon a time it was known for its breathtaking valleys, dense forests, lush green fields, snow bound mountains, magnificent glaciers, neat and clean lakes, gushing springs, deep rivers, beautiful streams and meadows and what not. The fragrance of its flowers, cool and mild breeze, sounds that the birds used to make and a clear cut blue sky are soon going to become a thing of past. What we see now are the concrete jungles coming up all over and an ocean of automobiles floating before us.

Mountains and plateaus which once used to be full of almond blossom with the beginning of every year have disappeared altogether. Saffron lands of Pampore are being fast eroded from the behind by a large scale earth excavation for filling purposes and commercial use and the lands which become available by rendering these lands barren are used for construction of residential houses and other commercial purposes. Dal lake is almost at the verge of extinction and Phalgam by now has become fully urbanized.

At the end of the year which has passed by French President Nicolas Sarkoozy while as on his official visit to India took some time off out of his busy schedule and went to see famous Taj Mahal. He enjoyed it’s magnificent glory for hours together with his wife Carle Burni Sarkozy a song writer, known model and celebrity herself but they did not take a single picture over there. Lest it may cause any harm to a simply man made monument. They had done so on purpose because they wanted to make a point and send a message around that how careful we should be in preserving our heritage. It was not just a publicity stunt but they do practice such kind of care back home. No one on earth is allowed to take a picture of nearly 500 year old Painting a masterpiece of Leonardo Davinci hanging in a de Louvre Museum, Paris, France.

Generations after generations are born but what every generation owes to the next generation is that it should leave a better world for them to live in. But what we are doing is quite reverse of what we should do. Politicians come and go they need not be blamed as they generally come with a limited agenda and purpose in their lives which most of them do achieve but some don’t. But the huge bureaucracy we have come up with over the years is not rendering the kind of service they owed to the nation either.

A long time has passed when Mugals came to Kashmir. They brought with them a magnificent gift called Chinar and laid down beautiful gardens all around us which we still cherish and feel proud of. Mission Saheb and Laurence Sahib had visited the valley and single handedly they have made an enormous and unparalleled contribution to the culture and ethos of the valley. Even Dogra Maharajas particularly Mahraja Hari Singh had tried his best to preserve the overall serenity of this place.

But that was it and thereafter we have seen nothing but a destruction worst of its kind. We have development authorities for almost all places now but in real sense what kind of development they make is for everyone to see. Srinagar city, famous Dal lake, Pahlagam, Gulmarg and Sonamarg are the few example of the kind of destruction they have made in the name of so called development.

Valley is in the shape of a bowl surrounded by beautiful mountains and forests which unfortunately are not there now. What some experts are predicting now is alarming. If the kind of development spree we are promoting both at official and at private level is allowed to continue unabated, by year 2020 we will be completely urbanised. Springs have vanished and steams and one time irrigation canals are fast being converted into drainages. Residential colonies are fast being changed into commercial centers and residential colonies are being shifted to agricultural lands in big way. On our right and left we see filling stations coming up on the same land. Brick kilns are rampant all over on the lands which once used to be lush green because of paddy fields during the summers and bloom with the mustard blossom during the springs. Valley would change its colour from green to golden rust towards the autumn with golden brown chinar leaves hovering from the above.

Laws and rules to curb this mad trend may be good to begin with but there is a lot more we can do even without these laws to stop this fast self-destruction of the valley. We are basically an agriculture society and Kashmir has a lot of potential to produce fruits, vegetables which are in high demand world over. We can have a future in tourism, handicrafts, carpets weaving, agriculture, floriculture, medicinal plants, honey producing, poultry and sheep breeding etc.

Mindless industrialization for Kashmir for dealing with the un-employment is not an option for us. We can create jobs we need in our backyards because we are bestowed with a wondrous land on the earth. We need not get influenced by western life styles and adapt to these at random. What we need to do is that we make an in-depth study of how they are planning their cities, towns, villages and farm lands etc. They keep them apart and do not try to disturb the balance between their farm lands and built up areas. In past they have successfully dealt with diseases and food shortages and right now their focus and attention is on the hazards of environmental pollution.
The kind of the housing suited for valley, we don’t get and what, we get instead is what, we don’t need. Kashmir basically is a cold place but with climate change it now gets quite hot during summers as well. We do not have means and resources to keep our places and houses cool during the summers and warm during the winters. Our forefathers were not fools when they used to make use of indigenous materials to construct their houses so that they could make these livable and comfortable. God bless the man who had invented a Kangri and a Pheran without these living in Kashmir would have been a hell for both rich and poor, alike.

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