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, August 5, 2011

Death by Neglect

The State Government is turning a Nelson's eye to the situation of Kashmiri Pandits in the valley, including preservation of their heritage

170 Temples Damaged, Many Others Encroached Upon: Report

Syed Junaid Hashmi (Early Times)

Amidst Jammu and Kashmir government's reluctance to bring legislation for security, preservation and maintenance of temples in Kashmir valley, a union government report has affirmed that 170 temples have been damaged in the militancy related incidents across Kashmir valley during last 21 years of militancy.

The report has stated that there were 430 temples in the valley before migration of Kashmiri pandits (KPs) in the wake of eruption of terrorism in 1989, of which 170 have suffered extensive damages. 260 others are also in bad shape and if not taken care of, they too are likely to meet the same fate.

Report asserts that 90 temples have been renovated but they need to regular maintenance. It has also taken note of the fact that several Kashmiri Pandit organisations dispute this figure of 430 while claiming that the number is above 500. The reports accepts that a good number of temples in the Valley have been encroached allegedly by some leaders and activists of mainstream parties in collusion with the land mafia.

It maintains that land belonging to 60 percent of over 500 temples, shrines and holy springs has been encroached by leaders and activists of mainstream and separatist political parties in collusion with the land mafia. The report comes at a time when due to alleged pressure from land mafia and "influential" mainstream political parties, the coalition government has been desisting from tabling Kashmiri Hindu Shrines and Religious Places (Management and Regulation Bill) in the Assembly.

Sources maintain that state government does not have any data regarding the destruction or encroachment of the temples. They assert that 430 is a rough figure, being presented by the revenue officials of Kashmir valley to the state government. "This is not the actual figure. It is a blatant lie and an attempt to show that a small population of Kashmiri pandits lived across Kashmir valley and they had constructed a few temples," said an official of revenue department seeking anonymity.

He added that two years ago, a family from Mumbai built a temple in the lap of snow-capped mountains miles away in Srinagar. "The derasar temple carved out of teak, decked with marigolds and installed with three idols of Jain tirthankars was set up for the Jains who visit Kashmir valley every holiday season," said the official.

He maintained that in the year 2008, it was brought down by an angry mob. "A priest from Lucknow who took care of the temple returned home quietly a day after the temple was raised to the ground. A local in Trehgam village who claims of having surveyed almost all the temples located in north Kashmir told the ET team that gates of 167 ancient temples were locked after Hindus fled the valley and almost all of these are now in dilapidated condition.

He said that unlike the manner in which temples have been built across the country including Jammu, temples in Kashmir valley were a combination of wood work and architectural magnificence. "The structures were well built but when no one opened the gates for more than 16 to 17 years, they lost strength and are now in extremely bad shape. A good number of temples were damaged by subversive elements in the early days of militancy," added the local.

He accepted that violent and turbulent years of militancy saw the desecration of idols and destruction of temples in the state. "Paramilitary forces who have been entrusted with the security of all these historic temples are the ones because of whom these temples are safe. Once, they leave, a cricket match result is enough for damage of these temples," said another local from Mattan in Anantnag.

He clarified that apart from a few government employees, Pandits have been not been able to visit the temples in large numbers.

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