From Halmatpora to ‘Hell- Met PURA’ ---- a journey called as ‘disaster’.
Sheikh Fayaz Ahmad
Halmatpora, a small village where I was born some 26 years ago, is a place much closer to the Pakistan borders than to our ‘city’ Srinagar. I was brought up in this small village and studied here till I joined JNU in 2010. Almost, away from the eyes of authorities and devoid of basic immunities of life, this small village today however reflects some ‘metropolitan’ features. Expensive cars are running rough on kacha roads, Korea and China made mobile phones have penetrated deep into this village, and more surprisingly the lifestyles have become increasingly consumerist. The ‘good life’ or precisely the ‘modern life’ is characterized by the ever- increasingly accumulation of material products, and ‘activities’ like shopping and banking. The village which till yesterday was a marvelous piece of natural beauty, a space with clean air and a place with fresh gushing water streams and ponds is now a dumping site for plastic and other non-biodegradable items. The phenomenal rise in the use of plastics, and Gujarat filled water bottles in the last few years is striking and shocking equally.
Police and Army have occupied agrarian land, playfields and beautiful forests. Small and innocent school girls are exposed to the Goa beaches under Operation Sadbhavna; Kashmiryat and Sufism is taught to us by Police using radio and TV as communication channels. This sudden intrusion of many new cultures in this small village has disrupted the local ways of life. The so called ‘urbanization’ here has rendered the old people irrelevant, relationships meaningless and the traditional values worthless.
Few years ago, everything was local, native and indigenous here. Culture was respected, local language was given much emphasis and more importantly local shared mental models or precisely local institutions where well in place. However, rush for the so called ‘modernity’ has destroyed that ‘local’ factor here. Race for the ‘private’ has intensified (private cars, private life style, private buildings and private affairs) and the communitarian values are gone. This private life and enclosure in a village like Halmatpora has deprived the village people of access to the commons. Collective form of economic life is lost, artisans, painters and farmers from other states have overcrowded this village. And, unfortunately the marginalized groups suffer the most due to this ‘new life’. They can’t afford hire ‘private laborers’. Many of the poor, marginalized classes and the subalterns thus lose out in this race and the village gets stratified with every passing day. A very large section of this village is going through severe and multiple crises: food insecurty; water shortages, inadequately fuel availability and proper health care facilities. And, this majority living at the margins has unfortunately very limited alternative options.
Natural environment in and around this village is under attack, almost destroyed. Army ‘Good will’ schools are constructed near forests to impart ‘modern education’ to our ‘backward children’. Contractors in nexus with corrupt bureaucrats and politicians are hell bent to use agrarian land for the construction purposes. Roads are widened for the smooth passage of private and luxurious cars without giving fair compensation to the farmers. This damage to our natural environment and culture precisely exposes many social, economic and political forces which are at work to cause insecurity and disruption in our lives.
Despite having all ‘metropolitan’ characteristics, ‘modern education’ and technology, city dwellers are still ashamed of rural areas like Halmatpora. Rightly so, villages are seen backward in both economic and cultural terms; a place that has become redundant in modern times. Different agencies (both government and non-government) are although trying hard to impart ‘modern education’ and ‘modern cultural values’ to the natives and the ‘unexposed people’ of this village; however instead of real development we all are heading towards a big disaster. This so called modernity and development has devoured all our assets - both the cultural and economical. Today, it is not Halmatpora; it is really a ‘HELL’ we all Halmatporians’ have met…
Sheikh Fayaz Ahmad is from Halmatpora, Kupwara and is full time Research Scholar at the Center for Studies in Science Policy, Jawaharlal Nehru, University, New Delhi. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org