In the early 1990s, a bunker was constructed in a corner of the Cattle Research Station, Manasbal. When authorities of the Sheri Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology objected to the military presence on one of its premier research facilities, the army reportedly told them that the bunker would be removed as soon as the situation normalises. Today, the 1300-kanal research centre is one of the largest counter-insurgency bases of the army. The thickest imaginable concrete wall around the military base is a jarring mismatch with the natural scenery of the place. Manasbal Lake is a stone’s throw away. If the successive governments had really been serious about promoting tourism as they appear to be in round-the-clock media publicity stunts, this place was ideal for building a world-class complex in hospitality sector. The place was lost both as a world-class research facility and a tourism opportunity obviously because the governments had no courage to defend it. A bunker became a military base. It could very well become a Corps headquarter in future and the governments “elected by 70 per cent of voters” would ensure that the word doesn’t go out. The military takeover of the cattle research station never became an issue because rather than resisting it, the governments had been active facilitators of the process. An idyllic pastoral setting is now permanently a source of anxiety for a big population.
The criminal silence that led to smooth militarisation of villages, orchards, hotels, schools, colleges and universities continues even now. Last year, media reports quoted late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed as telling a Civil-Military Liaison Conference that army can’t make excuses to delay the vacation of government or civilian land it has been occupying illegally. These reports especially mentioned Tattoo Ground camp, because army has already been allotted land on Srinagar outskirts in place of this camp, which has in its vicinity a girls school, doctors’ hostel, an orphanage and a residential colony. At the Liaison Conference, the late CM had also been informed that army and air force will vacate land in Leh and Kargil towns so that it can be put to civilian use. Now that the Kashmir divisional commissioner has announced army’s intention to vacate the land in Ladakh region, the silence on similar land in the Valley is again a reminder to its people, and its so-called representatives, that New Delhi will have its own way when it comes to problems of Kashmiris.