The KGC debate

Those days are history now when allegedly Indians were not allowed into clubs. After seven decades of empowerment, almost every British formation of exploitation has collapsed under its weight. Golfing establishments or golf clubs were the worst power centers where the natives (except the few elite collaborators) were barred. Before 1947 these social interactions and sports facilities were used as hubs of subjugation by the Raj and its agents. Kashmir Golf Club KGC was one such oldest clubs in north India that provided stealthy recreation and entertainment to the British and their supporters. But this scenario is almost over now! There was some hangover of the Raj era within these clubs until the late fifties of the last century, but with the establishment of people’s writ firmly, the situation is altogether transformed.

Anyways this was about golf as an instrument of exploitation, discrimination, and subjugation. Regrettably, most of the people even today are not having a reasonable opinion about the game of golf and golf clubs (courses). People identify these prestigious institutions as the fiefdom of the elite and relate them with their cronies who are out to hunt the poor and underprivileged. But in a real sense, the game of golf is an embodiment of etiquettes and team spirit. And the golf clubs virtual institutions of affection, discipline, and strength. For long the people’s perception about golf remained the same as the British had shaped with their deceptive practices. Now as more and more people are taking to golf as a game, source of relaxation and stress-busting golf is undoubtedly creating a niche for itself.

Kashmir, the abode of rivers, lakes, and beautiful green landscape, has been the ultimate destination of golf lovers. Virtually the whole valley is a vast golf course with unique features that provides attractive and challenging opportunities for demonstrating golfing skills. And since the British era, we have several established golf courses with best-golfing structures. Gulmarg golf course and KGC are the oldest historic golf clubs in Kashmir. KGC is not only a golf club but a repository of Kashmir history. On the greens of this course, several historic political decisions were made about Kashmir and plight of its people. Many intrigues were hatched on the terraces of this historic club for subduing Kashmiri people. Even after 1947 much of Kashmir politics was shaped here. Like all institutions, the turmoil almost decimated KGC in the early nineties but it was the selfless efforts of few visionary people that the club was restored and brought back on tracks. However, the 2014 floods left it devastated. Its tees, fairways, and greens were left barren. Politics apart it was the vision of late Mufti Mohammad Syed that JK Bank was roped in to restore this sports facility and a potential tourist destination. JK Bank spent a substantial amount to restore KGC to its glory. But with the change in JK Bank management and policies, KGC was left unattended—almost abandoned.

KGC is not only a sports field that will cater to the requirements of bat-wielding youngsters or hockey carrying enthusiasts. It is an institution that shapes the social order and provides to the recreational demands of high-end tourist traffic. In the heart of Srinagar city, it is now the only sizeable green patch that works as city lung and provides much needed green space. Unfortunately, few unscrupulous private elements within the over-lived management committee are ill advising the authorities to declare it as an ordinary playing field. Hundreds of crores were spent to restore this course not for few elite (as is being made out) but to restore a heritage; a destination that our tourist traders sell as the jewel in the crown of the tourist trade.

We need not be judgmental. But authorities can be reached out with a plea to first restore the autonomy of the KGC management by conducting AGM (annual general meeting) and subsequent elections. And then decide about the fate of this historic club. A constitution governs the KGC with well-defined provisions of tenure and authority of elected representatives of club members. The present so-called representatives of club members have lost their legal and moral authority. So any of their suggestion lacks authority. Yes, as envisaged within the constitution, the state government has overriding powers and can decide ‘the best’ for KGC of its own. But that has to be the best—not the pseudo populistic approach that can ruin an institution. After spending crores to restore the KGC should not be turned into just another playing field. It is a myth that only a few hundred elites are enjoying KGC facilities. Instead, these few hundred golfers keep a conception and destination running for more significant interests in the field of tourism. The authorities have to adopt a holistic approach in resolving the KGC mess and decide the issue on merits not out of whims proposed by a few misleading private people.