BY DR.ABDUL AHAD
It is after treading up the time-consuming stretched out row of stairs that we enter the premises of Ziarat-i-Mukbdoom Sahib, the most venerated shrine that stands erected on Koh-i-Maran in the memory of a highly thought of Kashmiri of the yore, popularly known as Mahboob-ul-Alm. The moment we finish up the last step of long-drawn-out breathlessness causing stride we pierce through the central gate of the Asthan to stop for a brief respite at nearby courtyard called Kustoor Piend. It takes us more than a few minutes to stabilize, soothe heavy wheezing and prepare ourselves for performing our spiritual duties with ease and devotion. During the short halt an out of the ordinary feeling engulfs us completely. We start imagining ourselves to be on top of the world wherefrom we clearly see Shebr-i-Kashmir, with Nishat, Shalimar, Cheshmashahi,Parimahal and recently laid out Tulip Garden, standing majestically, amidst Zabarwun, Harmukh and Suliaman, like an enchantress putting enormous spell on the viewers, starting them with her exquisiteness and unparalleled physical configuration and; enabling us fathom out main contours that cast Kashmirs entity in a distinctive and tumultuous mould’. But this delightfully refreshing vista is immediately overtaken by a sneeringly unpleasant manifestation of missing Baba Demb, dying Dal and weedy Nigeen besides hammered Kral Sanger, forlorn Brane, despondent Ishbur and downhearted Harvun.
The scenario that opens up before our eyes undeniably makes the land look like a heaven on its onward march to hell – a land that was certainly a native’s pride and outsider’s envy; a dreamland not to be seen anywhere else in the world. The old dilapidated colossal Wall of the Mughal era”, the massive Fort of the Afghan times, the medieval mosques, the royal graveyards and a series of breathtaking monuments, encircling the Piend, greatly add to the overall ambience of the setting; bestowing gargantuan beauty and considerable historicity to the city of Srinagar on the one hand and unfolding the saga of our triumphs and tragedies on the other. But their pitiable condition is nauseatingly so distasteful to look at that it is real eyesore for us all; exposing in abundance not only our collective lackadaisical attitude towards our legacy but also of those entrusted with the responsibility of upkeep of our past relics; especially ASI, Cultural Academy and the departments of Archaeology and Tourism. The failure of designated Organizations, headed by ducks of ignorance and cats among the pigeons, to ensure their preservation is equally discernible from the sad plight of each of these historical leftovers. Huge sums of money annually earmarked for their resurrection are siphoned off by these jacks-of-all- trades and masters of none to build their own castles. The ever growing dismal picture of uncared for and often encroached upon historical vestiges of our identity is undoubtedly a cause for great concern. It is a deep source of humiliation, a huge national neglect against which every conscientious Kashmiri should voice his feelings and curse those who cry off their conservation for trivial considerations -re-employments, extensions, nominations to Legislative Councils and vote bank politics and put pressure on local and Central governments to make it mandatory for the heads of Heritage Institutions to make their qualifications public. To expose these neem hakeems and imposters -thriving in the name of so called heritage conservation by greasing the palms of those powerful to make their continuation as “noted historians”, “great archaeologists”, “prominent experts on heritage” and chief of money-spinning organizations possible-is the need of the hour; the foremost step towards the restoration and preservation of our decaying heritage.
Smelling wonderfully nostalgic, these remnants of forgotten eons tie up various knots of our history to reflect our strengths and weaknesses towards which most of us turn our back and decline to draw useful lessons. Shaping the narrative of Kashmir’s bitter centuries, they unfurl the entire gamut of its vicissitudes and whirl the fan of harsh times when its sovereignty was compromised for peanuts; never to revive again.
Encountering such an educative and revoltingly gloomy sight of the Sun City from the courtyard of the historical Asthan really makes the Kustoor Piend an Open Air School where lessons on Kashmiri thought, ethos and its waning opulence are learnt without the guidance and help of a teacher. Apart from graphic-but extremely contemptible and irritating -visual depiction of Kashmir’s archaeology, this Open Air Theatre enables us gauge the level of degradation our ecology has been subjected to. It makes us realize how ruthlessly our land is expropriated; forests nibbled; hillocks knocked down; water bodies filled up day in and day out. It shows how the Dal is spoiled incessantly by the very sons of the soil under the culture of greed and grab patronized by the powers that be and how embezzlement of huge funds is carried systematically in the name of its revival. That the Kashmiris are on a brutal spree of andalizing their surroundings by resorting to incest of Moj Kasbeer unabashedly in broad day light is unequivocally a bold message that permeates from this School down to the dales and vales of Kashmir. The message is unambiguously clear enough to swirl those perturbed at this wreckage that has almost turned the proverbial heaven into a scorpio-infested hell.
Dr. Abdul Ahad is a well-known historian of Kashmir. He presents a perspective on the Kashmir issue and talks about Kashmir’s history and individuality and personality.