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In ordinary corner of deserted Kashmir Haat lies museum of priceless artifacts

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Srinagar, Jan 18: Kashmir Haat, government’s central handicraft market meant to attract tourists, has Jammu & Kashmir’s only Crafts Museum pushed to oblivion where even the locals seem unaware of its existence.
Located in a far corner of usually-deserted Kashmir Haat, located at Exhibition Road here, the museum, called ‘School of Designs – Crafts Museum’, is without a signboard to guide the new visitors. And the ones aware of its location cannot enter due to locked main gate to Kashmir Haat.
A majority of the latter have to ignorantly make their way back, unless they are lucky to spot the tea vendor outside the main entrance to direct them towards the secret gate.
The museum has a wide range of Kashmir’s handicrafts that can be found nowhere else.
However, in words of a senior official of the department, it has become “more of a storage centre than an art museum”.
“The museum hardly sees any visitors. And how would it? Forget about the tourists, the locals themselves are not aware of this museum,” said the official.
“A museum without visitors cannot be called a museum, right? This building has now become a storage centre that has ancient handicrafts.”
The situation is such that the official couldn’t even calculate the average daily count of the visitors.
The official blamed the lack of marketing and publicity by the officials in charge.
“There’s no promotion, no publicity, nothing. The employees here work hard, but it’s really sad to see there’s no one to appreciate or admire the crafts,” the official said.
“We have a few loyal tourists who come to the museum every time they are in Kashmir. They know the worth of these handicrafts, so they visit often,” added the official.
As per the official, the museum has ancient handicrafts that are “worth a lot of money”.
“If you keep the main entrance closed, how will a tourist enter the Haat? And without even stepping in, how will he know that there is this craft museum inside?” the official asked.
The official at Kashmir Haat, Nazir Mir, justified the reason behind keeping the main entrance closed.
“The drug addicts enter the Haat and cause nuisance, so we keep the gate closed most of the time,” said Mir.
As per Mir, the staff could access the ‘Central Market Gate’, while, due to lack of visitors, “there’s anyway no point of keeping the main gate open”.
The Kashmir Haat, apart from the fairs that take place once or twice a year, witnesses hardly any activity.
The locals come for a walk, and the kids have turned the place into a playground.


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Lead Stories

Phase II LS Polls: Srinagar PC records 14% turnout

District-wise: Srinagar 7%, Budgam 21%, Ganderbal 16% ;
Boycott, shutdown, clashes witnessed; 70% turnout in Udhampur PC

Mubashir Bukhari

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Srinagar, Apr 18: Srinagar Parliamentary Constituency Thursday sided with poll boycott as merely 14.1% voters exercised their franchise in the constituency where elections were held in tight security.

In the 2014 general election, Srinagar had witnessed a turnout of 25.86 per cent which fell to 7.2 per cent in the 2017 Lok Sabha bypoll.

Udhampur Constituency, on the other hand, witnessed 70.1% turnout during the day.

 

The polling for the second phase of Lok Sabha elections in Jammu and Kashmir “remained peaceful and incident-free”, Chief Electoral Officer Shailendra Kumar told reporters here.

Kumar said Srinagar district recorded the lowest turnout of 7.69 per cent while Reasi district in Udhampur constituency recorded the highest of 73 per cent among the nine districts where polling was conducted Thursday in the state.

Ganderbal district recorded 16.7 per cent while in Budgam district, the turnout was 21.5 per cent, the CEO said.

According to sources, as many as 90 polling booths, mostly in downtown Srinagar, saw no voting. Srinagar constituency had 1,716 polling stations.

As per reports, at least 25 youth and government forces’ personnel were injured in clashes in several parts of central Kashmir.

A constable of Armed Police Vipon Kumar of 5th battalion was injured after being hit by a stone during clashes at Charar-i-sharief in Budgam, Head Constable Hafizullah was injured at Kakaring Charisharief, Head Constable Ghulam Mohammad of IR 4th, constable Sajad, constable Rahul Malik and three CRPF men were injured in Beerwah Town.

Similar reports of clashes were reported from Machowa, Kralpora, Hafroo, Chadoora in Budgam, Srinagar’s Safakadal, Nowabazar, Gojwara, Hawal, Batamaloo and some parts of Ganderbal including Mammar Kangan and Barsoo.

The government forces deployed in these areas used tear smoke shells, pellets and few aerial shots to disperse the protesting youth during which eighteen persons including a woman were injured.

Among the injured, one youth namely Mohammad Asif Bhat sustained a bullet wound in his thigh at Hafroo Chadoora and was immediately taken to nearby hospital from where he was referred to Bone and Joints Hospital in Srinagar for specialised treatment.

Meanwhile, the internet services were suspended in poll-bound districts of Valley since Tuesday night while as the speed was throttled elsewhere in Kashmir.

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MHA suspends cross LoC trade

‘Route illegal inflow of weapons, narcotics currency’

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Srinagar, Apr 18: The Government of India Thursday suspended trade along the Line of Control at Salamabad and Chakan-da-bagh in J&K stating that the routes were used for “inflow of weapons, narcotics and currency”.

According to the order issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), the action was taken after the Ministry “received that cross LoC trade routes in J&K are being misused by Pakistan based elements. The misuse involves illegal inflows of weapons, narcotics, and currency”

It said the cross-LoC trade mechanism is therefore suspended till a stricter regulatory regime is put in place. “This is to ensure that only bonafide trade takes place, for the benefit of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, through this mechanism,” it said.

 

The trade was part of the confidence-building measures (CBMs) between India and Pakistan and was started in October 2008.

The Cross LoC routes — Srinagar-Muzaffarabad route in Kashmir valley and Poonch-Rawalakote route in Jammu division — which are being used to ferry goods between J&K and Pakistan administered Kashmir (PaK). More than 600 traders are registered for the cross LoC trade and 21 items are on the approved export and import list from both the routes.

Mehbooba, Omar flay decision

Former state chief ministers, Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah, on Thursday criticised the Ministry of Home Affairs’ decision to suspend cross-LoC trade in Jammu and Kashmir.

“Using Kashmir as a scapegoat to claw its way back to power won’t help BJP. It’s an excuse to worsen ties with Pak despite their peace overtures. By doing this, PM Modi has dismantled a CBM initiated by Vajpayee ji. Won’t be surprised if an attack on Pak is in the offing,” PDP president Mehbooba Mufti tweeted soon after the MHA ordered the suspension.

Omar Abdullah too reacted: “The Modi Govt buries another of the Vajpayee era CBM. Cross-LoC trade was a legacy of the Vajpayee Govt to facilitate greater people-to-people contact across the Line of Control in J&K”.

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‘I voted to get a passport and see my son in Pak’

Hirra Azmat

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Srinagar, Apr 18: As the elderly seemed enthused by the idea of electing a representative in Srinagar parliamentary elections, many of them had their own distinctly apolitical (and probably unachievable) expectations from the voting process.

This reporter Thursday visited various polling booths of the uptown areas here. A posse of gun totting CRPF personnel guarded all of them.

In one such booth in government girls’ higher secondary school Rajbagh, a frail woman walked in. A young man held her arm as she slowly walked towards the booth where the voting machine was set up.

 

Clad in a light pink salwar kameez and a ruffle shawl, the woman was limping her way (probably due to tender ankles or knees) to the actual booth.

She had her own motherly reason to take this painful walk. 

Misra Begum, 70, a resident of Ikhrajpora said her primary reason to vote was to get a passport and travel documents to see her son in Pakistan.

“My son crossed the border for arms training twelve years ago but he never came back and is now settled in Pakistan. More than a decade has passed and I am yet to see his face,” she said.

“I am dying to meet him. At least once before I close these eyes forever, I want to see my son again. My only purpose of casting a vote is to get me a passport and the travel documents,” Misra said.

Misra’s eyes twinkled as she stared at this reporter. It seemed she even expected this reporter could do something to end her wait and help her meet her son.

Like Misra, 70-year-old Abdul Majeed Shah too voted to bring his sons back. 

“I am casting a vote to bring my sons home,” said Majeed, heaving a sigh as he sat on his haunches in the lawn of Chanapora higher secondary school.

 “Both of my sons have finished their degrees and were jobless and in great distress. With no option left, they left Kashmir and are now working in other states,” he said.

“My wife suffers from paralysis and I also suffer from multiple ailments. We want our sons to be around us in this age but what to do? We are helpless. I am hopeful that a new CM and party will bring happiness in our lives,” Majeed said, apparently not knowing the difference between Parliamentary and Assembly elections.

Shameema Begum, 60, who seemed to have respiratory problems as she talked, had a more text-bookish answer when asked why she voted.

“Why should I waste my fundamental right to vote? We need good roads, and uninterrupted electricity supply. There are so many problems that can only be addressed by good leadership,” she said in a panting voice. 

Shameema, however, gave a puzzled look when asked about the threats hovering on Article 35-A and Kashmir’s special status.

 “I don’t know what that is. I only believe we can get our basic facilities when we cast a vote,” she said.

At the polling booth in Burn Hall school of Sonwar Constituency, Ghulam Nabi, 56, sat on the wooden bench while talking animatedly with a local police man.

“For the last four and half years, PDP-BJP has done absolutely nothing for the state. Look at the condition of the roads and how the youth of the valley are suffering in absence of any employment,” said Ghulam, who is associated with Tourism sector.

“Dr Farooq Abdullah is the only leader who can truly represent the aspirations of the people and resolve the Kashmir issue,” he said revealing that he, like many, was a staunch NC supporter.

Another man in his early seventies overheard the conversation and was desperate to chip in. He spoke in a hoarse voice, “Ghulam Nabi Sahab is absolutely right. Only NC can bring the people of Kashmir out of misery.”

 “I have come here at the break of the dawn when everyone was asleep. I have always voted for NC and will continue to do so. The love for the party runs in my blood,” the man said.

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