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.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Desecration of a 400 Year Old Park

Danish reports on the sorry state of the Naseem Bagh

Where is KU’s heritage park?

Danish Zargar (Kashmir Times)

Sringar: After chopping the heritage Chinars, amid controversies regarding ‘preservation’, the heritage park at Naseem Bagh in Kashmir University is nowhere in sight.

Instead, there is the picturesque corner of the campus houses the ‘monstrous guesthouse’ constructed in violation of norms, surrounded by the scars of demolished barracks.

The decision to convert Naseem Bagh, spanning over 500 Kanals of land, was made in January last year. The Varsity claimed that the move was aimed at preservation of Chinars.

Subsequently, the authorities began pruning of Chinars amid wide criticism.

The sources within the varsity told Kashmir Times that the “ambitiously” started project has been reduced to mere pruning of Chinars and demolition of buildings.

“The announcement about the conversion of Naseem Bagh into Heritage Park was made on January 13 last year. But so far we have only witnessed denuding of Chinars and demolition of buildings (huts),” sources said. “All this was done in the name of the heritage park which is yet to become visible. A year on, the rubble of demolished huts is yet to be removed.”

The project, according to sources, was likely to take a hit due to varsity’s shortage of funds. Pertinently, the fund shortage has already forced the varsity to reduce the salaries of contractual, academic, employees by almost 40 per cent.

“The University does not have funds to pursue the project. The authorities are planning to appeal Non-Governmental Organizations for funding the project,” they said.

The design of the proposed park is also incomplete.

“The design is being constructed by a company from Delhi. After its completion the design will be discussed with the vice chancellor for its approval and it surely is not going to happen anytime soon,” sources said.

Naseem Bagh was constructed on the banks of Dal Lake by the Mughal Emperor Akbar in 1586 AD. The area was known for its dense cover of around 718 Chinars which even prevented sunlight from reaching the ground.

The area served as Engineering College before construction of a separate Regional Engineering College at Nigeen. Subsequently the huts in the area were used as classrooms and the residential quarters for KU faculty.

“Throughout the summer, the shade of Chinars was badly missed. The pruning made the trees look like lifeless electric poles. One feels sorry for the present state of Naseem Bagh,” said a student of law department at KU, wishing anonymity. “At present it does not seem to be doing Naseem Bagh any good. Who knows what the authorities are up to?”

Meanwhile, the varsity has completed construction of multi-storey guest house within Naseem. The construction of the building was started in 2007 in violation of norms, banning construction of concrete structures in the vicinity of Chinars at Naseem Bagh.

The move evoked protests from students and severe criticism from social activists and environmentalists.

The authorities, however, asserted that the project was being completed in phases. “It is not a project in which we can say with surety that it is going to take one or two years. We are completing it phase wise,” said head of the department Landscape division, KU, Prof Basher Ahmad Wafai. Wafai is also heading the heritage park project.

“Right now we are in the phase of treating diseased Chinars through pruning. We have also removed the necessary barracks from the area and around 40 to 50 families residing in them have been relocated,” Wafai admitting the design of the Park was yet to be finalized.

Asked if the scarcity of funds would affect the project, Wafai admitted that the plan was to appeal NGOs and banks for funding.

“We were to make an appeal through press last year but the circumstances did not allow it. Now we will publicise the appeal so that the varsity does not have to bare the entire load of the project.”

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