Selling hope at Makai point
By Muhammad Faysal
It was a beautiful day- Sunday. Everything looks magical in the spring of Kashmir. The winter has left for the arrival of spring. The mountains are gleaming like the newly wed bride. The lakes are sparkling like diamonds during the morning sunlight. The grass with the hint of green looks soothing to the eyes with the morning dew. After a week with the same old political rhetoric and new schemes invented by the King of Gupkar, the occasional skeletons stepping out of the closet (like mummies).
The stories of corruption and scams on the newspapers is such a usual sight that young and old just skip pages to see if by any chance some nauseating leader has expired. And when the women of the house ask the men to stop buying the newspaper, well the reply is at least they can sell it to the scrap dealer or even the Masala waala (the one who sells steamed peas). Personally, I always preferred to have an article so that I can read while I relish the Masala-Lavasa (bread).
Anyway, my editor will be mad at me for making the introduction too long, you see he doesn’t have time to read. He only knows to cut. I hope the previous line sees the light of the day.
Okay, so we were talking about the Sunday. On the boulevard of broken dreams (well it sounds better) there is the famous Makai point where tourists and Kashmiris relish the Makai (corn), smothered with lemon nectar. And as the Makai Waala was fanning the flames to the tourists wearing the beautiful Pherans, there was a march. It might have been school children for the usual ‘Save the Dal’ and then ironically throwing their Rani Juice cans into the dal. But today it was something different.
Some 20-30 young men with a strong man leading the rally with a large banner, he is or was a favourite when it comes to him bashing Indian news-anchors who suffer from verbal diarrhoea when it comes to Kashmir. But then even Mustafa Kamal has these bouts of having a passion for Kashmir sometimes.
So they came into the park and every Kashmiri was waiting for the usual rhetoric. You know corruption, dynastical politics; we are different and other usual stuff. But to their dismay it was an attack on LAWDA- Lakes and Waterways Development Authority (which sounds like a curse, if you repeat it three times). Rhetoric was about how they have discriminated the dal dwellers (a big political vote bank), Discrimination. It’s not the same discrimination like any Bijli, Sadak or Pani. But not allowing them to build houses on the Green Belt.
He is quoted to have said, “The indigenous inhabitants of the Green Belt area have been deprived of their right to life of economic prosperity and dignity. The rich migrants, who include former and present bureaucrats, businessmen and politically influential individuals, are allowed to construct palatial houses in the same area.”
He is absolutely right. Anything built in the green belt is illegal if there were no political connections. You may know that a recently constructed hotel on the beautiful hills of Kralsangri took about two decades to build due to the politics involved. Well that hotel has been leased to a Capitalistic venture. The hotel going by our heritage standards will be overwhelmed by a tiny houseboat. The only good thing about it is the location.
Nobody should be allowed to build anything in the green belt. Even the Centaur is illegal but it has been made legal. It created a mess in the Dal. First, it is like a big block to the natural flow of the Dal. Second, it is one of the big reasons of pollution; it is an ecological and environmental liability. Well, yes there are tourists who stay and generate some employment. But it comes at a higher cost of environment.
The houseboats that were damaged in the recent windstorm have to be repaired. There is a houseboat yard near fore-shore road. And the government not allowing the dwellers to repair them is funny and stupid at the same time.
The dal dwellers were supposed to be shifted from the Dal. There have been demolition drives now and then. They are sent to Bemina, on the outskirts of Srinagar. There even was a proposal sent by the world famous Ashai Corp (a proud Kashmiri founded it). This was planning to shift the Dal dwellers into low cost housing, with better amenities.
For a change, it would have been planned by professionals and not by bureaucrats. But it was rejected. God knows why?
Then the strong man says that only influential individuals have been given the opportunity to plunder the beautiful mountain. He forgets that some in his family have built palatial bungalows in the Brick Belt (formerly known as Green Belt). Maybe he should show some leadership qualities and stage a protest against them first.
Then we have the world famous Royal Springs Golf Course. At a beautiful setting, no argument, but it demolished 300 acres of precious city forest on the foothills of the Zabarwan. It came at a huge cost of the environment for paltry elite.
Few years ago, world famous heart surgeon who had a heart for Kashmir came back to his homeland. He came with a promise that he was building a world-class Heart hospital (Kashmir has a very high cardio diseases and the reasons are known to everyone). Before his arrival, he was glad that the government had accepted his proposal. He was going to build a hospital of international repute. He wanted the land in the green belt. But he was denied. Allegedly the government had demanded some chai (commission). Seeing the nauseating response, he gave up on the idea. The whole Kashmir sighed together when he addressed a press conference before he left.
Every Kashmiri, be it young or old, has learnt political science on the streets. They all know the games that politicians have been playing. They have been fooled enough times. They can’t be now, they are smarter than before.
Politics or not, the Dal dwellers are known to be one of the biggest vote-banks in Kashmir. And it is no surprise that he planned the rally or sit-in or protest before the Srinagar Municipal Council (SMC) elections (which honestly nobody cares about). Well, whoever wins we are still going to have that same Shaikh sahib coming twice a week and ask for Chai. Also demand a huge amount during Eids. And we will still be the dirtiest city due to our brilliant administration in the SMC.
There is this ‘hope’ which travels with the strong man. Well, hope or not. It was co-incidentally on the April fool’s day. Kashmiris are not going fooled again.
P.S: On Twitter there was a story that they were subjected to a Laar (forced by people to flee the scene).
Original Photo: Greater Kashmir