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13th April '2008
Kashmir needs a Bud Shah not Jahangir!
(Tulips are welcome, but what about Dal?)

Chief Minister Azad has seemingly carved out a niche for himself in the history of Kashmir. With his love for Tulips bordering on an obsession, he has created Asia’s largest Tulip “Garden” and is now aiming for the biggest garden in the world leaving Holland, the home of Tulips far behind. His love for Tulips and his untiring efforts in achieving his dream deserve appreciation. He can rightly claim that in size and the variety of flowers in his garden, he has even exceeded the famous Emperor Jahangir. However, it is debatable whether it is a garden or a farm? In essence it is massive expansion of the Siraj-i-Bagh seed farm of Floriculture Department. However, one would not like to belittle his efforts in creating a newest tourist attraction in Kashmir. Mughal Kings who came from Delhi to rule Kashmir had also the obsession of setting up of gardens and constructing palaces for their pleasure. They always treated Kashmir as their pleasure garden where they would escape from the scorching summer heat of the Indian plains. Mughals were fond of natural beauty and it is they who called Kashmir the “Paradise on Earth”. In almost all scenic locations they set up gardens and constructed lodges for rest. While on one hand they enhanced the beauty of the valley by setting up these facilities, on the other they slowly drained out the entire chivalry from the Kashmiri nation and converted us into docile followers. Azad too came from Delhi to rule over Kashmir. Even though his ancestors are from Kashmir, yet he has been away from here for a long time. However, his absence from the beautiful valley has not diminished his love for its enchanting landscape and unique environment. Unfortunately, during all these years of absence and especially in last two decades, the environment of the valley has received tremendous battering and is crying for a redeemer. It is ironical that the world famous Lake on the banks of which this Tulip Garden has come up is in last stages of extinction. Its major portion has turned into a stinking marsh. The material greed of the people has made them virtually eat away the Lake piece by piece. Whatever is left is in an extremely bad state. It is decaying at such an abnormally fast pace that in a matter of years it may be gone for ever! Not only is the Lake which is the heart of Srinagar, the ancient “City of the Sun”, in trouble but the entire capital of Kashmir is in shambles. It is probably the dirtiest city in this part of the world. Water bodies are choked and teeming with filth. River Jhelum is in no better condition. Roads are full of ruts and ditches. Garbage especially plastic bags are choking every drain, open space, lanes and by lanes. Encroachments have squeezed roads thereby creating congestion on every road. There is a total break down of civic amenities and civic rules are conspicuous by their absence. Kashmir was in a similar situation almost six centuries back when Zain-ul-Abidin, popularly known as Bud Shah ascended the thrown. The administration had broken down. Corruption was at its peak and there was no semblance of any law and order. Criminals were ruling the roost. The first and foremost task for him was to bring some order to chaotic conditions. For this he motivated the old class of officials, the Pandits, who had migrated during the reign of his father, to return to Kashmir giving them every facility and guaranteeing them religious and civil liberties. The King severely dealt with all corrupt officials to ensure corruption was completely rooted out. He dealt ruthlessly with all types of crime and most of the known criminals were put behind the bars. Realizing that the unemployment and poverty resulted in commission of crime, he took a number of steps so that suitable employment was guaranteed to all eligible persons in different fields. Bud Shah was a great builder and built not only bridges, paved roads, and canals but established universities and colleges throughout the valley. One of the greatest contributions of Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin was in the field of arts and crafts. After ascending the throne, he invited a large number of competent teachers and craftsmen from Samarqand to train his subjects in these arts. Some of the handicrafts introduced include carpet weaving, papier mache, silk, paper making etc. Kashmiri artisans improved and perfected these arts to such a level that their fame spread to whole Asia and even to Europe. Azad too could have followed in his foot steps and taken decisive steps to take Kashmir out of the morass in which it has fallen. Had he the political will and the courage of conviction, he could have taken the momentous decision of handing over the entire restoration and conservation project of Dal Lake to some International Agency. Posterity would carve his name in golden letters for such an effort. He has been visiting Tulip Garden almost every alternate week but how many times has he visited the stinking portions of Dal? While taking a shikara ride to new Badamwari he had a minor feel of the dying Dal. Similar is the condition of the roads and other civic facilities in the capital city. A number of facilities created at a huge cost have similar utility as the life of Tulips, fifteen days to a month. Hajj House, a very welcome facility but it has a utility of only a month or so. The Assembly Complex, a project nearing completion at a huge cost but the utility during present situation is not more than 10 days or so in a year. Compared to this, the Chief Minister has taken some very welcome steps in upgrading infrastructure in Jammu. The roads are being widened to international standards. There are a number of bridges planned to reduce congestion and ensure free flow of traffic. Even now the mesh of fly-overs and over head roads gives traffic free flow in and around the city. New water supply scheme has been commissioned. A number of civic facilities including top class healthcare centre are in the pipeline. One wonders why people always think of Kashmir as a pleasure resort for tourists and forget that there are millions of people who live there? As the popular verse goes, “Narcissus cries for thousands of years on its blindness and it is with great difficulty that a man with vision is born in the garden!” (Hazaroon Sal Nargis Apni Beynoori Pay Roti Hey, Badi Mushkil Say Hota Hai Chamman Mein Didawar Paida!) Kashmir has always been known as the “Land of Tulips” (Sarzameen-i-Lala Gul) and reviving these is not a big deal. There will always be many Jahangirs to do that. Can we have another Bud Shah to redeem its environment and change the miserable living conditions of its unfortunate people?

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