Sharmila Tagore in Kashmir

Sharmila Tagore in Kashmir

Reviving the good old days of glory and the Shopian town

Sharmila Tagore, a  renowned actor has visited Kashmir. She met  Governor at Raj Bhawan.  Apparently, there  is nothing  special  in the event to  turn into  a big news, or write a column on it. Nonetheless, her  visit   regenerates   memories of that  beautiful  Kashmir   spring,  in year  1962, when   she had come to Kashmir, for the first time, for shooting of film, Kashmir  key  Kali  – her debut movie  in Hindi language. That brought her, Shami Kapoor  and Pran   to  Shopian   for   filming  a  very important  song and dance  sequence, atop a nearby hillock.   It took   a fortnight to   shoot    the sequence.

The hillock  is    just  away   from   the town. The roads of   Gagran and  Memandhar wound around  the  hillock   (Lahanthoor  ) ;  they have the honor  of having   immortalized movie Kashmir Ki  Kali  that  launched Sharmila Tagore to the cinematic  heights. 

Shopian’s   historic importance  as a political and trade route was never lost.  Historic events  and the scenic geographic   terrain    as also the men of great eminence     defined it   in glowing   terms. Its Ambri  apple   spread   fragrance where ever it travelled to.  Pure ghee produced here made to every dish and sweet   spread   across  a dining table  anywhere, be  in a home or  in  a hotel. The warmth   of its   blankets kept  both pleb and a prince  going  in the chilly winter months of the Valley.   Majestic   river Ranbiara  added to its scenic  charm.   

Ranbiara, in lowered   head as a grieving witness,  still  mourns the death of   two brutally ravished   daughters  of the town.The  blood  littered  roads of  Gagran and Memandhar   no longer take pride in  having    carried Shamila  Tagore to the great  artistic heights.  They   grieve over  the death of  the  innocents   whose lives oozed out in their  laps. Adult and teenagers  dread to come out. Roads wear a deserted look.  Curfew    here  firing there,  tell  a sad  tale. This  is today’s  Shopian  – my home town.

Till  yesterday, Shopian defined itself in a very positive manner. Unfortunately, the positivity in its definition has vanished, only to be replaced by   a despair, gloom and sorrow.  Merchants of death  have given bad name to the town.

Some may ponder – what has gone wrong with the place.Well, answer is simple : same  that  has been  the case with rest of the Valley. Malaise is manifest. What adds to the tragedy is the complete  vacuum in  civilized politics. Mainstream  politics is as absent as  that of the  separatist  kind. State  as well as the non-state  actors   have a field day. The circumstances have become so bloody  that   everyone amongst us  has do something    and speak out. It will be  naive of us if the problem is considered a local one. In  the  long run, Shopian  problem cannot be  dealt with in isolation or opposite side of what happens in the Valley.  Peace, here,  has to be embedded in larger  framework that   improves atmosphere in the whole State. State government, being in a dominant position, has a great responsibility in this regard.  Fundamental changes are  required. Finding a way out in bits and pieces  put together won’t work. Relocating a CRPF Camp  from here to there is no solution. Army  General must stop  equating   public with the armed  insurgent, and  tell  his men to  discriminate between the two  while dealing with a situation.   Security forces foot print has to be reduced  in size across the  State. Local dialogue must begin ;  government has to take greater action to prevent human rights abuse   and, at least,  do the job of governance.

As said  earlier, Shopian has a vibrant civil society. It rose to the occasion  in 2009 when two young women  fell victim  to the  ravishing eyes of the brutes   and   awakened   conscience of whole world which resulted  in universal condemnation of the   gory act. The civil society will have to  act   to ensure that no innocent life is sniffed  out. And  when we talk of  a local dialogue  the government, apart from reigning  in  its forces,  must  take this civil society on board   for the restoration of  semblance of    peace  and order in the turbulent   area.  Every one of us must  put  weight behind the civil society  and  help  our home place  regain the past. Shopian  must  invoke its inherent  defining qualities.  We owe it to our birth   place. 


(B L Saraf is Former District & Sessions Judge)