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Won’t vacate Kabutar Khana, it doesn’t belong to the state: CRPF

By Rabiya Bashir

Srinagar, Apr 02: Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) claims that its occupied Kabutar Khana Island Palace inside Dal Lake does not belong to the state, even as the tourism department mulls to make it a tourist destination.
Kabutar Khana is known for its serene ambiance lent by the lotus tracts and lily flowers in its surroundings.
As per the locals, it used to be a famous historic holidaying spot for the last prince of Kashmir, Karan Singh, and a prime tourist destination before armed conflict started in the valley.
The palace has been closed for tourists and has been under the possession of CRPF for decades.
The state government has, so far, been unable to retrieve it.
Rajesh Yadav, PRO CRPF, said that the prime location does not belong to the state and it is a private property of Karan Singh.
“We have not got any order for vacating the palace so far,” he said. “CRPF has occupied the location since 1990 when militancy was at its peak and operations were being carried out inside the lake as well. It was a good post to coordinate the land and water movements. And today also this water wing is operational under CRPF and whenever there is any VIP gathering in Centaur Hotel, this water wing acts as a base.”
“Let the Tourism Department talk to the government, but this is not the state’s property.”
Director Tourism Department, Mahmood Ahmad Shah, said that Singh should be in a position to take a stand.
“Property belongs to Karan Singh, CRPF cannot take any stand,” he said. “For title ship we need to go to the Deputy Commissioner to find out the ownership. If government will hand over this matter to me, I will definitely deal with it.”
He also said that Kabutar Khana could prove an attractive spot for tourists, if retrieved from the forces.
“We are willing to retrieve the place so that tourists can find it an attractive place to stay at. We will take this matter with the government to declare it a heritage site for the tourists,” he said.
Locals living adjacent to the palace said that its retrieval from the forces can increase the footfall of tourists to the famed lake.
“There wasn’t any need to handover this palace to CRPF even in ‘90s. The park and the palace, which used to be a prime location for tourists, are now in a dilapidated condition,” said Altaf Ahmad, a Shikarawala.
Ghulam Mohammad, 60, who lives inside the lake, said the tourists often expressed their will in exploring this palace.
“Before 1990, the tourists who used to visit Dal Lake would also spend some time on this island, because of its serene ambience. I fail to understand why government isn’t retrieving it and keeping it open for tourists,” he said.
The locals also said that many tourist destinations were vacated by the security forces to give way to tourism.
“The security forces staying on this island restrict the movement of locals and tourists around the lake after sunset,” locals added.
Vikramaditya Singh, elder son of Dr Karan Singh, said the property belonged to them but was occupied by the CRPF for the last 15 years.
“We are asking them to vacate the palace but they are not ready. Today the forces staying at the palace are very few, but it has become a VIP entertaining spot for the security forces,” he said.
“We have put enough efforts to make CRPF vacate the palace, but they don’t listen.”
He said the CRPF wants the state to provide them with an alternate site.
“They are giving reasons if DGP could provide an alternative accommodation then only they can vacate the palace. DGP is ready to give alternate accommodation, but they are not interested to vacate the palace,” he said.
He said the CRPF who have occupied the palace were giving excuses to stay put.
“When militancy started in early ‘90s, the security forces and top officers used to stay at the palace. The security forces completely took over the palace, which could have been a fantastic tourist destination,” he said.