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, November 2, 2011

The Unholy Nexus Destroying Pahalgam

Basharat updates on the court proceedings dealing with the most prominent case among the 174 illegal recent construction cases in Pahalgam (only 3 recent constructions have been legal). The case against the Grand Mumtaz Hotel demonstrates the growing nexus among land mafia, influential hoteliers and serving bureaucrats

(Mr. Syed Basharat, 30, was born in Kreeri, Baramulla, and did his schooling in Kreeri, and later in Uri and Sopore. He graduated from the Degree College in Baramulla and completed his Master's degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from the Kashmir University in 2005. He has been a reporter for Kashmir Images, a Srinagar based daily, London based website Gaashonline.Com, and a Srinagar based journal, Globe. Currently, he is working as a special correspondent with Jammu based daily newspaper, The Kashmir Times.)

Pahalgam Illegal Construction Case

Srinagar: The High Court today allowed the residents of Pahalgam to go for renovation of their residential houses but only after they seek proper permission from the court. However, the High Court continued its ban on reconstruction or renovation of any commercial structure within the world famous health resort.

According to Mohammad Ishaq Qadri, the advocate general a division bench of the High Court comprising Chief Justice F M Ibrahim Kalifullah and Justice Verinder Singh today ordered that the Pahalgam inhabitants can go with renovation of their houses but after jointly applying for the same before the Pahalgam Development Authority (PDA).

The PDA in turn has been directed to submit the inhabitants request to the principal district and sessions judge Anantnag who will put forth the same before the High Court.

The DFO Social Forestry Anantnag has been directed to provide trees to Mushtaq Ahmad Ganaie owner of hotel Grand Mumtaz who in turn has been directed to plant at around 100 trees within his hotel premises by the end of November. However, the court directed the petitioner to file objections within a week to the application filed by Ganaie seeking court’s permission to de-seal his hotel at Pahalgam, the advocate general said.

“We find the hotel management has violated the orders of this court by resorting to construction and also by felling the standing green trees. Apart from issuing contempt notice against the owner, we feel it would be just to direct Deputy Commissioner to seal the Grand Mumtaz hotel by evacuating any guest staying in the hotel...,” the Division Bench of the High court has observed in its August 20, order.

Senior lawyer Zaffar Shah had submitted an application on behalf of the hotel owner Mushtaq Ahmad, requesting the court to review its closure orders on August 29. “The hotel owner has not cut a single tree in Pahalgam as is being alleged. And we have properly followed the due course of law before going for repair work in one the bathrooms of the hotel,” Shah had said before the division bench.

On August 27, the authorities sealed off Grand Mumtaz hotel in Pahalgam allegedly for violating High Court orders of December 24, by virtue of which the construction in the world famous health resort was banned.

The Grand Mumtaz hotel owner has not only been accused of construction in his hotel premises at Pahalgam in violation of court directions, but cutting trees in brazen violation of forest rules. In order to probe the nexus between land mafia, influential hoteliers and serving bureaucrats, which has led to brazen violation of Pahalgam Master Plan (PMP), the High Court had on May 5, constituted a high level committee to submit its expert opinion in light of a Public Interest Litigation being heard by the Court in this regard.

Meanwhile, the expert committee appointed by the High Court today submitted its report on Pahalgam Master Plan. The High Court had appointed district judge Anantnag and Secretary High Court Legal Service Committee Abdul Rashid Malik as the member secretary of the committee.

Akhtar Rashid former chief engineer was appointed as the chairman of the committee while as the members include Dr Ashok Kumar Pandita department of environmental sciences university of Kashmir, Dr Mohammad Ayub Dar from law department university of Kashmir and A R Wadoo former chief conservator of forests.

This 5-member committee had submitted a report which besides throwing light on the illegal constructions being carried out in brazen violation of High Court orders had said that the owner of Grand Mumtaz hotel had cemented the stump of Deodar (cedar) trees which had dried up around 100 trees.

Earlier a five-member enquiry committee headed by Chief Executive Officer Pahalgam Development Authority had submitted before the court that out of 177 constructions raised before the existing master plan (2005-25) 174 constructions have been raised without permission while as only three structures are with proper permission.

“Out of 174 structures raised without permission, only 41 were raised before 1980 while as thereafter 40 to 50 structures were raised during every 10 years,” the enquiry report reads. Out of these 174 structures without permission, 122 are residential, 45 commercial, six are commercial cum residential and one is has been mentioned as other.

However, about the construction raised after the approval of master plan (2005-25), the committee has found that 57 constructions have been raised in Kralpora, lower Laripora, upper Laripora and Manzimpora (hamlets of village Laripora). Out of these 57 constructions, 40 have been raised without permission and 17 posses the permission.

Interestingly, out of 40 structures without permission, 21 structures have been raised in non-permissible zone (green zone) and 19 in permissible zone.
In another case of similar nature, while throwing rules and court direction to the winds, a National Conference former legislator started constructing a hut in Pahalgam. However, PDA immediately served a notice to him, which he challenged in through a civil suit in the Munsif Court Aishmuqam.

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