The KGC debate

Kashmir Golf Course is an institution, not a sports field!
The KGC debate

Those days are history now when allegedly Indians were notallowed into clubs. After seven decades of empowerment, almost every Britishformation of exploitation has collapsed under its weight. Golfingestablishments or golf clubs were the worst power centers where the natives(except the few elite collaborators) were barred. Before 1947 these socialinteractions and sports facilities were used as hubs of subjugation by the Rajand its agents. Kashmir Golf Club KGC was one such oldest clubs in north Indiathat provided stealthy recreation and entertainment to the British and theirsupporters. But this scenario is almost over now! There was some hangover ofthe Raj era within these clubs until the late fifties of the last century, butwith the establishment of people's writ firmly, the situation is altogethertransformed.

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 theelite and relate them with their cronies who are out to hunt the poor andunderprivileged. But in a real sense, the game of golf is an embodiment ofetiquettes and team spirit. And the golf clubs virtual institutions ofaffection, discipline, and strength. For long the people's perception aboutgolf remained the same as the British had shaped with their deceptivepractices. Now as more and more people are taking to golf as a game, source ofrelaxation and stress-busting golf is undoubtedly creating a niche for itself.

Kashmir, the abode of rivers, lakes, and beautiful greenlandscape, has been the ultimate destination of golf lovers. Virtually thewhole valley is a vast golf course with unique features that providesattractive and challenging opportunities for demonstrating golfing skills. Andsince the British era, we have several established golf courses withbest-golfing structures. Gulmarg golf course and KGC are the oldest historicgolf clubs in Kashmir. KGC is not only a golf club but a repository of Kashmirhistory. On the greens of this course, several historic political decisionswere made about Kashmir and plight of its people. Many intrigues were hatchedon the terraces of this historic club for subduing Kashmiri people. Even after1947 much of Kashmir politics was shaped here. Like all institutions, theturmoil almost decimated KGC in the early nineties but it was the selflessefforts of few visionary people that the club was restored and brought back ontracks. However, the 2014 floods left it devastated. Its tees, fairways, andgreens were left barren. Politics apart it was the vision of late MuftiMohammad Syed that JK Bank was roped in to restore this sports facility and apotential tourist destination. JK Bank spent a substantial amount to restoreKGC to its glory. But with the change in JK Bank management and policies, KGCwas left unattended—almost abandoned.

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

We need not be judgmental. But authorities can be reachedout with a plea to first restore the autonomy of the KGC management byconducting AGM (annual general meeting) and subsequent elections. And thendecide about the fate of this historic club. A constitution governs the KGCwith well-defined provisions of tenure and authority of elected representativesof club members. The present so-called representatives of club members havelost their legal and moral authority. So any of their suggestion lacksauthority. Yes, as envisaged within the constitution, the state government hasoverriding powers and can decide 'the best' for KGC of its own. But that has tobe 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 anotherplaying field. It is a myth that only a few hundred elites are enjoying KGCfacilities. Instead, these few hundred golfers keep a conception anddestination running for more significant interests in the field of tourism. Theauthorities have to adopt a holistic approach in resolving the KGC mess anddecide the issue on merits not out of whims proposed by a few misleadingprivate people.

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