BY JAVEED BIN NABI
Kashmir is laced with bewitching and resplendent beauty. Gurez is one such slice of the vale’s beauty. Wedded with green and verdant carpets, the Gurez valley presents a panoramic and astonishing view. A place of solace, a kingdom for poets, a place of the Nightingale is what Gurez is for me. To be brutally honest, I believe, Kashmir is lucky to have Gurez- a meadow like none.
Back-breaking, rough and rugged terrains lead to this virgin valley. A part of Paradise, Gurez has a fair share of checkpoints, barricades, military footprints – a stark sign of the conflict. At the entrance, the visitors are scanned, registered and watched suspiciously since the region shares the sensitive border with rival Pakistan. Innumerable gun-toting Indian army men can be seen scattered across the valley. The fear is palpable. The deafening silence of garrisoned Gurez haunts.
Majestic mountains add grace to Gurez. Rivulets are romantic. Streams are soothing. The river roars. Habba-Khatoon peak is a treat to watch. It simply is arresting. Workaholic, humble and soft, people share a raw and honest smile. Modern-day disorders have not reached here yet. Gurez is an antidote. Boots have occupied a large portion of Gurez. Cultivable land in Badwan village has been submerged and new displaced colonies have emerged due to the devastating 330 MW Kishenganga Power Project.
Displaced dwellers regret giving up their birthplace. The ‘uprooted’ section believes that they have lost their home and hearth. “Hum Nay Apna Aashiyana Kho Diya.”, they narrate their take with sorrow. The haplessness and helplessness is clearly visible on their faces . The state government has buried their hopes and dreams. They has been promised employment by the authorities but nothing concrete happened so far. Non-local laborers have been hired for construction purposes. Locals earn a meager sum to meet both the ends.
Six hours drive from Srinagar, Gurez is home to 50 thousand Shina speaking souls. The sealed roads via Gurez are Gilgit (Pakistan), Drass (Ladakh) and Kashghar (China). Gurez is characterized by its unique wooden houses. I found it far better than the noisy Pahalgam and dirty Gulmarg. It is unparalleled and unmatched kind of beauty within a Paradise.
Interestingly, the people in Gurez especially the youngsters are talented, competitive and intelligent. Moreover, during my conversation with girl students at Girls Higher Secondary School Dawar, they were much confident and competent and expressed their deep anguish towards the successive regimes of the state of J&K who failed to deliver in this locked and isolated valley. In this isolated land, modern gadgetry is either used for games or music. Internet is a dream in villages. Google “uncle” has reached every nook and cranny of the world but it lacks an address in Bandipora’s beauty queen.
What Srinagar is to Kashmir, Dawar is to Gurezis. Basic facilities like Common Service Center (CSC), a branch of J&K Bank, an ATM booth have been established of late in the capital called Dawar. Tea stalls, food-outlets, educational institutions like ITI, schools and college makes it a bustling location. Undoubtedly, we can’t have the replica of Gurez. It is Kashmir’s Switzerland with a huge potential for tourism.
The state’s Tourism department should invest its resources here. Politicizing the events in the name of tourism can wait. People are generous and hospitable. More importantly, the people of this valley are well conscious and are fully aware about their own culture, heritage and the mother tongue. Yes, the words are falling short to write more and more about this stupendous, amazing, breathtaking and elegant valley of the Kashmir region.
—The author is a student at the IUST. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org