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.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Heritage Day? In Kashmir it is Heritage Destruction Day

Rising Kashmir documents desecration of Buddhist heritage sites in Kashmir, followed by a report from Irfan about the pathetic condition of major historical artifacts in Kashmir

 Heritage Loot

Apart from being famous for its beautiful locales, Kashmir is also home to many sites of archaeological and geological importance. Srinagar and its outskirts has been cradle of many empires and events. Prominent among their remains are the Burzahoma excavations, located 10 KMs north-east of Srinagar and the Buddhist Stupa Monastery located in-between Harwan and Shalimar gardens of the city. How many of these historically important sites and remains are getting mauled with ignorance and apathy right now is difficult to guess? The recent report of unabated stone excavation at the world renowned Guryal ravine in Khanmoh is appalling to say the least. The site is one of the world's richest fossil sites, being rated by geologists as the World's premier site for the study of species from the Permian period (299-251 million years ago). Being located at a distance of only 8KM from the city centre and in spite of the magisterial ban on quarrying, the illegal practice is still going on. It speaks volumes about the implementation of plans regarding the preservation of Kashmiri heritage by various government agencies.

A particular section of people in Kashmir have not shown any respect for heritage of Kashmir. Expecting concern and action form them is perhaps too much to expect. In 2005, fossil remains of a mammoth skull with complete lower and upper jaws and a broken tusk was discovered at Galander, Pampore. The fossil is right now within the jurisdiction of Jammu University which inherently has been challenged by the authorities at Kashmir University. It was a rare find and might have led to similar researches in the same area. Instead, the findings were relegated to politicking, and the area is getting vandalised mostly for its fertile soil and is under constant threat of quarrying mafia. Valley’s north also hides many such historical sites. A monastery at Baramulla is in ruins. No serious effort has been made on its restoration. Similarly at Kalaroos, Kupwara, history pops up on hills and mountains, sometimes as engravings in rock locally known as Satbaari. But these are lonely stars calling us to discover their galaxies. It’s imperative upon the government to declare these sites as protected monuments and form an action force to work on and for these.

 Celebrating world heritage day in the city is therefore useless until and unless it’s practically implemented by both the government agencies and the public in particular who need to be sensitised about how and why history is important. These remains of history, if conserved, can enrich our understanding of past and clear dust around history, not just of Kashmir but also about the places it had associations with. The recent restoration of Mughal Hamam is a testimony to the fact that many a treasures lie buried, to be found or to be lost forever.

Kashmir Mourns Decaying and Neglected Past!

Irfan Naveed (Greater kashmir)

As World celebrates Heritage Day…

Srinagar: While the government brags of preserving the cultural heritage and is celebrating a ‘day’ for it, the prized and the largest heritage collections of the state are decaying in the crumbling galleries of the Shri Pratap Singh Museum (SPSM) at Lal Mandi, Srinagar.

One fails to understand why the authorities are disinterested in shifting these matchless relics into the newly constructed state-of-the-art museum besides the old structure. Although crores of rupees were spent on the new museum during the Ghulam Nabi Azad’s tenure five years ago, but the facility remains unutilized till date.

Since its completion not a single artifact of the state museum heritages has been shifted to the newly built edifice at Lal Mandi. In fact the collections, archival records, historical monuments and archaeological sites of the state continue to suffer the utter neglect at the hands of the state’s cultural stake-holders.

State museum houses about 1.30 lakh rare artifacts in its nine large but worn-out galleries. If things continue as they are, there are apprehensions that state may lose its varied and wonderful museum and archaeological collections to the dumpy stores of old museum building. In such a situation, celebrating the World Heritage Day is nothing but a callous joke to our denizens. The condition of the state museum heritage at SPSM has been worst hit because of unnecessary delay in shifting its collections to the new complex.

Well placed sources in the department informed that the prestigious museum collections worth millions of rupees are in shambles. The collections have felt prey to dust and dirt in the olden museum walls, and poor maintenances. Civil society should rise to the occasion and get the artifacts shifted to this new complex without further delay otherwise we may loose this repository forever, said a senior museum official who didn’t wan to be identified. Although the heritage preservation and its maintenance has nothing to do with politics but insiders alluded to the political and administrative loyalties prevailing in the Department of Culture. The cultural projects founded in one regime get sabotaged by the successive regime. State’s pioneer and largest cultural institution, the SPS Museum in Srinager is the victim of this political machination at the administrative level, another senior official confessed.

The cultural activists of the state also share similar views. Bilal Ahmad Qadri, a heritage activist, while lashing at the political system of the state said, “This historic museum had suffered ruthlessly at the hands of politicians of the state and has become victim of this unchanged political tradition. The museum founded here in the year 1890 AD by Dogra Maharajas has suffered at the hands of successive ‘democratic’ governments from the period of late Shiekh Mohammad Abdullah. While providing the chronology of events of various museum projects, Qadri said, “From its present Rambir Singh’s Mahal to Tahzeeb Mahal of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, Tahzeeb Mahal to Asaar Mahal of Dr Farooq Abdullah, from Asaar Mahal to Harinavas of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and then to the Ghlam Nabi Azad’s new museum complex, all these museum projects fell prey to the politics.

The fabulous structure raised during Azad’s rule is the latest fatality of the shameful politics prevalent in the department. This museum complex was completed in a record period of 18 months and was supposed to be commissioned in August 2008. Although the newly built complex has not served its purpose but it has proved a gold mine for a former Director Museums, who succeeded in getting three consecutive re-employment tenures as Chief Consultant in the state’s Tourism and Culture department since 2009. Besides the unnecessary delay in shifting of state’s treasure troves to newly built museum complex, the state’s Directorate of Archives, Archaeology and Museums, responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the state’s built cultural heritage, is also suffering from mismanagement and administrative crises.

The organization which has been left headless for last several years is in deep crises in the absence of a Director. The department has an acute shortage of human resource, necessary funds and basic infrastructure. These shortcomings not only hamper its routine work but also badly affect its maintenance and excavation works. If official figures are to be believed, the total staff strength of its protected monuments is quite less than the number of stately protected monuments. There are only 14 monument ‘Chowkidars’ (watchmen) engaged for watch and ward duty of about 20 large stately protected monuments and half-a-dozen of excavated archaeological sites scattered throughout the length and breadth of Kashmir Valley. Besides the shortage of staff, the lack of necessary budgetary allocations is also responsible for the poor working of this once prestigious government organization.

In terms of funding, the Department of Culture’s budgetary allotment under the head ‘maintenance of monuments and archaeological sites’ (Non Plan ) has never crossed the figure of Rs1.50 lakhs. During the year 2010-2011 the total funding under this head has been only 1.30 lakhs. Contrary to state’s protected monuments and archaeological sites, the archaeological sites and monuments maintained by the Central archaeological department (Archaeological Survey of India) is really much better in view of their huge funding and manpower.

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