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.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Saving History

The Rising Kashmir editorial suggests that the State authorities should not destroy pristine symbols of Kashmir architecture

Save Heritage

Heritage enthusiasts have started online campaigns to save old Zero Bridge and Zaina Kadal in Srinagar city. Government wants to pull them down and erect new ones with modern concrete technology. Ironically there are various other projects involving whole or part of heritage structures that the government seeks to replace with new, more mechanical buildings.

Irony of such ill-advised policy is that the Chief Minister Omar Abdullah recently laid foundation of “new Zaina Kadal” despite the fact that new Zaina Kadal already exists that was constructed as an alternative to old Zaina Kadal built by the fifteenth century king Zainulabdin Budshah. Apart from being a tourist state, Jammu and Kashmir is a heritage region that has nurtured more than four civilizations over past five thousand years. Any ruling regime keen to develop the state should not forget this civilizational past. In many European states local authorities have set building codes that are commensurate with the cultural and civilization flavour. We have already suffered mishandling of great symbols of European, Central Asian and Afghan architecture in Kashmir. This is despite the fact that the government has a separate culture department that functions under tourism ministry. The government’s move to work out development plans for cities and towns of Jammu and Kashmir cannot be disputed but the plan should consider the socio-culture dimension of old structures that are being razed in the name of development. Let there be a heritage study commission headed by any veteran government servant with sufficient knowledge about the subject.

The bottom line for a new heritage policy should be the reconstruction not construction of the old sites such as Zero Bridge or Zaina Kadal. Civil society should also play its role in highlighting the need to adopt reconstruction of our pristine glory. The government is also planning an artificial lake in Jammu’s Tawi River, which is sacred to Jammu’s Hindu population. Progress and development should be the key concern of the government but erecting a concrete jungle should not be the motive. The chief minister or his cabinet colleagues should remain vigilant against wrong advices which are often fed at the behest of vested interests. When a five hundred year old structure is removed and new one built in its place the moneyed contractor will have his pound of flesh but onus of virtually vandalizing the heritage would lie upon the ruling regime.

If Omar government is really concerned about the development of Srinagar city, it should concentrate on Jhelum sites. The river has scores of heritage sites on either of its banks in Srinagar city. Let there be a heritage enclave beginning from Khanqa Mouallah in Fateh Kadal. Let the government devise a reconstruction plan for restoring all the old sites including Budshah Tomb and Zainalank, the Wullar Island that was once an epitome of secularism.

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