Category Archives: Pahalgam News

Pahalgam’s New Master Plan is still a Mirage

A new master plan was drafted and it is waiting for its implementation for the last nine years.
By MAJID YOUSUF ATTAR Srinagar, June 18, 2019, Originally published in Greater Kashmir
My hometown is a tourist’s delight. Guest is our soul. We sacrifice our comfort to make visitors feel home. But to my utter shock and disbelief, Pahalgam is not a virgin tourist spot anymore. My dad was a shutterbug. His frames are a historical archive to prove that Pahalgam had been married to nature.

My dear father, a veteran photographer is no more but his photographs are the real asset. Thirty years down the line, Pahalgam has lost its essence. In 2010, a PIL was filed in the honourable high court of Jammu and Kashmir to revive the 1980s master plan, full of loopholes, a new master plan was drafted and it is waiting for its implementation for last nine years. The elite and big guns from various corners of the valley have managed to build hotels and resorts while locals are being denied even minor repairs in their households. Roaring glacier’s with gurgling waters were the specialty of my place. Woods were akin to green carpet. Lush green meadows are naked now. There was no hazardous fencing around hotels and big bungalows. Why is it being done? And who is doing it? Why no action against big fish? Pahalgam was our pride but is gar ko aag lagi gar kay chiraag sai. The brazen violation and the loot in increasing ceaselessly under the nose of administration.

Established some 40 years ago with the sole aim to make Kashmir’s Switzerland picture perfect, Pahalgam Project Organization has completely failed so far. Renamed as Pahalgam Development Authority (PDA) in 2003, the organization has much to answer. New parks were demarcated in the Master Plan and large tracts of agricultural land and natural green spaces were converted into parks. Every park was fenced and people were required to pay an entry fee. The idea of making artificial enclosures in the wilderness is unfathomable. It is like holding captive, God’s creation and handiwork. Like ugly smudges across a heavenly picture.

The rich authoritarian regime of PDA spent money on ill-planned projects and unnatural obstacles. They fiddled with woods. It turned disastrous for the environment. Not even single environmental engineer, urban planner, landscaper or a biodiversity specialist was consulted to draft the plan. I fail to understand why is forest land being fenced? Why is this contractor mafia turning once virgin spot a disturbingly ugly place? Why is district administration has maintained criminal silence over the years? Landfills can be seen on river banks. Open spaces are shrinking? The construction boom has mauled its beauty. There is no concept of Sewage Treatment Plant {STPs}. For this purpose, once pristine Lidder river is used mutually. Unnecessary concrete bridges have been constructed for unknown reasons. Not a single rope-way bridge is here. The worst hit is Betab Valley. Years ago the only access to the meadow was a fallen tree that acted as a bridge. Everything else was untouched. Today it is a man-made park with pathways and gazebos.

Another meadow called Baisaran, which lies in the deep forests (around 6KM uphill walk from Pahalgam market) has been again fenced. A huge concrete entry block sits like an eyesore at the entrance. Have we any idea what we are doing with nature? Every new year is hotter than the previous one and winters are much drier then they used to be. We are moving towards an ice age. Spring and autumn season is gone. We are still in deep slumber. Untreated sewage, polluted rivers, depleting fish, shrinking forest cover due to smuggling and forest fires, Pahalgam is losing its sheen. Almost 74 percent of the waste (12 metric tonnes monthly) is generated by hotels and restaurants according to a report by Municipal Committee Pahalgam. All of the waste without even proper segregation goes to a landfill which is on the bank of river stream near Ganishbal Pahalgam.

Even our high altitude lakes haven’t been spared. The Sheshnag lake (source of Lidder) is the worst hit. It receives tons of garbage during Amarnath yatra. In 2016 alone, tons of garbage was brought down from the Sheshnag base camp. The two-month long yatra brings all forms of pollution with it. It mercilessly defiles this land, it’s air and its waters. As this was not enough, we have the rumble of helicopters tearing through the silence every fifteen minutes. This highly politicized ‘pilgrimage’ has catastrophic climatic consequences.

The idea of Shiva as a God is one of calm reflection and serenity. Of purity and silence. This yearly cacophony of sounds and contamination must make his spirit restless. It must make him angry. It is time to mend our ways and to introspect. It will be wise for us all to remember: Lord Shiva’s wrath, his third eye. At this rate, the day is not far before Pahalgam becomes another concrete jungle in the mountains. Its beauty relegated to picture books and movie scenes. Its sight and sounds lost in the nostalgic stories that we will narrate to our next generation. For them, it will be fiction. What will we do now to preserve our legacy?

The Author is a Naropa Fellow-class of 2018-19.

When the brave-heart fought wild tides for the guests in Pahalgam – the True Story

By Zishan Amiri Posted on June 13, 2019 on freepresskashmir
As a homeboy growing up playing with wild tides of river Lidder in picturesque Pahalgam, Rouf Dar was the best rafter in town. This past Ramzan, fighting the same roaring river for guests, his tide ties snapped so suddenly that it shook his hometown and gave Kashmir a new fallen hero.

Just like any other Ramzan evening, Ghulam Rasool Dar on May 30, 2019 dialled a call back home from duty to check if his wife and children had done their iftaar on time. But the unexpected response from the other side of the phone line froze him.

His eldest among the two sons, Rouf Dar wasn’t home yet and his out of reach phone was quite a rarity. A tumour patient himself, Ghulam Rasool tried to ease down his wailing wife, Tasleema, in a way to assure himself as well: “Where would he even go? He has a well-built personality. He would fight hundreds. None could do bad to him.”

Hailing from picturesque town of Pahalgam in south Kashmir, Rouf was in his late teenage years when he first romanticised with his village’s native water body, famous for its rafting amongst tourists all across.

He would find peace playing along the dancing tides of river Lidder. He had been friends with its gigantic rocks and the ever-giggling white waters. Over the years and by 2019, he was looked upon as ‘the best’ rafter to have romanticized with the beautiful river. Perhaps, this must be one of the reasons Rouf decided to go against the tides, that day – May 31, 2019.

Having had perfectly mastered all the tricks and turns of Lidder, he couldn’t say no to the repeated requests of a group of tourists from Kolkata to raft them through.

Despite having warned about the upset water flow, the tourists were adamant. They had reasoned Rouf about their departure scheduled next morning and that they cannot fly back home without experiencing Kashmir’s famous white water rafting. And the ‘kind-hearted’ boy of river Lidder, just couldn’t have disappointed them.

It was close to 5:30 in the evening, an hour past the closing time decided that day by the rafter association, owing to the bad weather conditions. Across the entire stretch, it was only Rouf and his floating raft at the start point, as the group of five tourists and a guide accompanying them made their way in.

And in case of any mishap, a rescue boat had also been arranged to ensure tourists’ safety. With that, Rouf peddled his boat as the tourists cheered in joy.Back home, Rouf’s mother had been long-preparing his favourite delicacies for iftaar.

Every day, he would finish his work and reach home by 7:00 pm, and lend a helping hand to decorate the dastarkhwan, then to break the tiring fast with his wife, mother and his younger brother – all together sharing a sumptuous smile alongside the meat feast. This had now become a routine.

But that day, when Rouf did not return even after half an hour past the iftaar time, his younger brother tried to reason with worried Tasleema saying, maybe, he must have been busy with work.

As the leader of a union of rafters, 32-year-old Rouf was always a busy man.

During the 2014 floods in Kashmir, he and his associates had peddled their raft all the way down to Anantnag, where they rescued people day and night, returning back home only after six long days.

He knew his job in-and-out.

In 2016, a tourist raft had flipped after crashing with a wooden pole of a leftover footbridge. Rouf, who was luckily present at the area of the crash, pulled his raft and rescued all the tourists back to the safe base.

On the fateful day, Rouf had again found himself in middle of another rescue act.

A sudden cloudburst had spiked the water levels in the Lidder and the subsequent strong winds had upturned the raft entirely.

Moreover, as narrated by Javed Ahmad, one of the rafters on the rescue boat, the water fury was such that the two rafts had parted away and Rouf was left all by himself.

Soon after the crash, according to Javed, Rouf got himself up on the flipped raft, held it to a steady spot, and selflessly dived into the wild Lidder to reach out to the tourists screaming for help.

For the next half an hour, he was at it: easing down the once friendly, but now, a wild river Lidder, its ever-giggling, but now ruthlessly screaming tides, only to save the lives of his guests from Kolkata, all while more than 12 hours had passed since he had last eaten anything or sipped even a glass of calm water.

Back home, his mother Tasleema was still waiting for him to join her for iftaar.“It was sharp 8:08 pm,” Rouf’s father Ghulam Rasool recalls, “I had called my wife.”

While on phone as Ghulam Rasool was still trying to ease down Tasleema, Rouf’s younger brother got a call from the villagers. The bad news had arrived.

“Rouf sahab’s raft has turned over…”

Tasleema screamed on phone, Ghulam Rasool’s heart slipped a beat, as Rouf, away from his home, lost his grip and swum to the dark ends of Lidder, as its tides took him along, once and forever.

His dead body was found next morning at 6:00 am by his fellow rafters and the team of State Disaster Response Force alongside J&K Police.Rouf’s heroics earned high respect on social media. Some termed his act as the spirit of Kashmiriyat. But many simply called it an act of Insaniyat.

However, under the shadow of praises and monetary compensation from the state, the young rafter’s untimely death highlights concerning point that has gotten broadly overlooked.

While Rouf’s heroics must be surely recognised, the fact that the incident would have not occurred had the tourist not badgered him, should also be considered.

Several white-water rafting guidelines suggest that the tourist-trips should be timed to finish at least an hour before dark, while in the case of Rouf, the closing time had been declared 4:30 pm that fateful day.


But his father reasons that his son’s ‘kind heart’ couldn’t have allowed him to say no to the tourists.

Rouf was married only four years back. A BA and BEd degree holder, he had been long trying to apply for a government job to look after his tumour-ridden father, an ailing mother, a wife, and an undergraduate younger brother.

“Maybe, this was what his destiny had in store for him…” Ghulam Rasool concludes, in a way, making uneasy peace with his brave-heart son’s tragic demise.

Pahalgam shopping complex remains undone

By Daily Excelsior – 29/05/2019
Imagine and conjecture, guess or assess whatever, one would find sixteen long years insufficient for Pahalgam Development Authority (PDA) for building and completing a shopping complex of absolutely normal size and structure in the famous tourist place of Pahalgam in Kashmir and making it fit for occupancy. The pinch of paying and waiting is felt by none other than the shopkeepers, the ultimate beneficiaries, who would have liked to occupy the spacious shops allotted to them much earlier.
The affected shopkeepers lament that while they paid “hefty” sums to the Authority, the PDA was just handing over the incomplete and faulty structures and space to them. The allotment is nowhere and the long wait of the desirous shopkeepers after having deposited the requisite monies of Rs. 20 lakh and Rs. 16 lakh respectively depending on the size of the shop, was yielding no results excepting getting “things” in dilapidated and faulty conditions. Not only this, the quality of the construction is said to be below the average levels as in rains, there are leakages and seepages in these constructed shops. The shopkeepers are, instead, asked to take possession of incomplete, defective and unfinished shop spaces which obviously they cannot as they have to keep their merchandise in good saleable condition and attract the customers. The tangle needs to be settled at an early date and we urge the authorities to have the problem resolved.

Local issue – Golf or Grazing? Or just Politics?

Prepare Pahalgam to lure tourist by way of a good Golf Course, or provide the same land so that cattle and horses can use it for grazing? This dilemma is rocking Pahalgam. Is it a really a valid local issue, or really just part of local politics? See the news coverage below, and contribute your opinion.

(Agencies) Srinagar, Jul 12  Hundreds of villagers todayprotested against the state government demanding removal of the fencing around under-construction golf course in Pahalgam tourist resort in south Kashmir.

Nearly 250 villagers assembled at the local bus stand and raised slogans against the government demanding the removal of the fencing as they use the land around the golf course for grazing their animals, official sources said.  Police tried to persuade them to disperse but when they refused, they resorted to lathi-charge and lobbed tear gas shells, the sources said.  Later the local shopkeepers also closed the market against the alleged highhandedness of police in dealing with the protesters, the sources said.    Meanwhile, a government spokesman denied the charges and claimed that the police saved PDP legislator Mohammad Rafi Mir from a furious mob which attacked his hotel in Pahalgam raising slogans against the party.

Locals turn violent over shrinking grazing lands in Pahalgam

From etalaat (Abid Gani Wani):

Pahalgam July 12: Massive protests erupted in the world famous health resort of Pahalgam in the south Kashmir’s Islamabad district on Sunday where the protestors were demanding the return of land where the government has constructed golf course three years back.

The protestors turned violent and broke windscreens of vehicles and staged a sit in near the hospital. The angry residents pelted stones on the caravan of the local MLA Mohammad Rafi Mir and also broke the window panes of Volga hotel owned by the MLA.

Local residents accused that the government has increased their worries by turning grazing land into golf course. Mohammad Amin, one of the residents told this newspaper that there is no space available for their cattle and horses to graze.

“We do not need golf course but a grazing field for our cattle and horses who are dying due to lack of fodder. The golf course will not feed the empty belly of our cattle and horses,” said Amin.

Another resident Gulzar said that most of the locals earn their livelihood by horse riding and put tjhem into the grazing lands to graze during nights.

“Now there is no place in the Pahalgam where we can put our cattle for grassing. We are passing through tough times as we have no alternative other than sell our cattle and horses due to non availability of fodder,” he said.

Six persons including five lady constables were injured when the protestors turned violent. The protestors stop the movement of vehicles and forced the shopkeepers to down their shutters.

Meanwhile police succeeded in protecting PDP MLA, Rafi Mir, when furious mob attacked his hotel and were raising slogans against him and his party.

According to Police, PSO of Mir fired from his official weapon when he realized that violent mob was advancing towards them. The mob ransacked and pelted stones on the hotel of Mir at Pahalgam.

DIG and Deputy Commissioner, Anantnag reached to Pahalgam to bring situation under control and ensure no harm was allowed to be inflicted by the protestors on Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and Mir. Mufti Mohammad Sayeed was later safely rushed back from Pahalgam.

An enquiry into the circumstances which led to firing by PSO on orders of PDP MLA while controlling the mob has been ordered.

Station house officer Pahalgam talking to this news paper said that the situation has been brought under control and traffic has restored.

Pahalgam incident, a concoction to divert attention: PDP

Etalaat News Service

Srinagar, July 12: Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has said that government is using its men and machinery for diverting attention from the unrest against the six months old government and was resorting to baseless stories against its political rivals.

Describing the government information department’s handout on the incident in Pahalgam as a fragment of imagination, a PDP spokesman said that that the tale about the protest being against Mufti Muhammad Sayeed was concocted only to offset the grim reality of Abdullah household having being stoned for the first time in history today.

The spokesman, in a statement issued here today, said that it was ironic that only yesterday the National Conference led government had accused PDP of engineering the trouble on the streets of Kashmir and today when some women of Pahalgam demonstrated against the government on some land compensation issue the spin doctors of beleaguered government have now tried to present it as an anti-PDP demonstration.

Giving the facts of the incident at Pahalgam, the spokesman said that some people, mostly women, of Pahalgam village were demonstrating against insufficient compensation paid to them for the land which the government had acquired some times back.

Instead of listening to them the police as usual resorted to brute force including firing in air to disperse the protestors. The protest demonstration was held in the market in Pahalgam market where PDP MLA Mr Rafi Mir owns a property, the spokesman said adding, the MLA had contacted IGP and asked him to hold his men back from using force against the protestors but the IGP Kashmir advised him to talk to SSP Anantnag on the issue. The SSP in-turn told the MLA that he would visit the spot which he never did, the statement said.

“Mufti Muhammad Sayeed at that time was more then a kilometer away from the spot with his family and there was no question of the demonstrators having raised slogans against PDP unless NC and police combined wanted them to do so”, he said.

The spokesman said that infect earlier in the day the NC workers had pelted stones on the house of NC patron Dr Farooq Abdullah on the highly guarded Gupkar Road. The incident, he said, is first of its kind in the eighty year old history of National conference and Abdullah household. It is obvious that the government and its political tools, police and information department, should have tried to find a way to divert attention of the people from this important happening.

The Pahalgam incident, he said, apparently came in handy and was twisted to suit the occasion. He suggested the government that instead of resorting to such tactics, it should focus on the mitigating the sufferings of the people