What type of Kashmir are we leaving behind us?
Expressing your ideas and articulating ones views is not a cakewalk. You invite both friends and foes, but at the end of the day the sense of satisfaction and contentment neutralizes all negative vibes. Few days back in response to my recent article one of my friends and a longtime colleague texted an interesting, and meaningful message, showing concern for rapid destruction of once valued saffron fields of Pampore. It will be proper to put his text message in verbatim so that readers can feel the pain and anguish of a common Kashmiri regarding vanishing fields of saffron. It is pertinent to mention that my worthy reader, friend and colleague belongs to Kashmiri Pandit community and as mentioned in his text message, he preferred trouble torn Kashmir over greener pastures of relief and comfort only because of beautiful saffron fields in the vicinity of his habitation. The text message reads,
‘Respected brother, ur article today was highly appreciated. Please write again on saffron mission, identity of Pampore is in threat by land mafia by construction of houses on prime saffron land. We will be highly thankful to u if my dream project will be saved. I am worried; I keep my eyes shut when I travel from Ladhoo to Pampore. It was due to saffron I have not migrated from this area. Government is silent. ur Brother, C.L.Bhat’
The above message is an eye-opener; a wish, setting the wrong right in the best interest of once beautiful valley of Kashmir and its humble people. Two decades earlier well prepared saffron fields on either side of the National Highway in the vicinity of Pampore town would provide a unique and mesmerizing look: the whole Karewa land would make anybody crazy about Kashmir and its God gifted delicacies. Regrettably, the present look of these once enchanting fields is depressing. Wanton intervention with fragile ecosystem of the area by haphazard constructions; change in cropping pattern from aesthetic and once profitable saffron cultivation to other less remunerative crops giving a damn to traditionally accepted and time tested crop zoning pattern is simple vandalism. During last many years both federal and state governments under their flagship National Saffron Mission program spent a huge amount of millions and millions of rupees to rejuvenate the saffron crop and cultivation. But now at many places the same saffron fields instead of growing saffron grow concrete jungles of housing colonies, shamelessly titled as ‘Zafron colony’. No doubt the National Saffron Mission and the concern of people like my friend and many other like-minded people played an important role in not only rejuvenating the saffron production but discouraged the land mafia to a great extent. However, the revenue authorities who are in real sense the custodians of land have either ceased to exercise their authority or is in hand and glove with the unscrupulous land mafia. It is paramount duty and social obligation of revenue department to discourage people from changing the title of any cultivable land unless it becomes necessary for some ecological and climatic exigency or national interest. Unfortunately, in this contemporary era of science, technology and knowledge people are made to believe in brazen materialism through trickery and blame game. This is how once humble and true to their word saffron growers are lured to selling their lands. Alas! From once growing world famous saffron we have shifted to growing concrete jungles and instead of unique aroma we are encouraging dust and pollution.
Imagine, a Kashmiri Pandit preferring a torn Kashmir only because of beautiful environs of saffron fields in the vicinity of his home producing and diffusing a unique aroma! And now after more than two decades of enduring trouble just for the sake of saffron, its off-season bloom and matchless aroma he has to make a desperate call for conserving the saffron lands and save the saffron cultivation for Kashmir’s posterity. The whole of Kashmir, its administration and the polity of all hues must rise to the call of this fellow Kashmiri and make a resolution that saffron, the pride of Kashmir is saved from the cruel hands of vandals and indifferent régime. Hope the wish of a Kashmiri patriot is fulfilled at any cost with active support from all of us.