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)