Attempts are underway to complete this exercise and give names to the public assets before October 26-27, when J&K would be celebrating 75th anniversary of its accession to India and the Indian Army’s first landing in Srinagar…reports Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
Seventy-five years after Jammu and Kashmirs accession to India, authorities in the Union Territory are naming some roads, bridges, colleges, playgrounds, hospitals and several other developmental schemes after the people who have laid down their lives for the country. Some of the iconic landmarks in the capital cities of Srinagar and Jammu would be in the name of eminent litterateurs, academics, physicians, surgeons, judges, jurists, journalists and sportspersons who have made significant contribution to their fields and professions in the last 100 years.
In July, Chief Secretary Arun Kumar Mehta asked all the 20 Deputy Commissioners to compile the lists in their respective jurisdictions before the Independence Day of 15 August. The DCs in turn put different Tehsildars on the job.
According to highly placed bureaucratic sources, over 200 personalities and public assets have been shortlisted for the honours. The list would be placed before a high level committee which would finalise the personalities and the public assets. Attempts are underway to complete this exercise and give names to the public assets before October 26-27, when J&K would be celebrating 75th anniversary of its accession to India and the Indian Army’s first landing in Srinagar.
The committee constituted on 7 September 2021 has Principal Secretary Home, Shaleen Kabra, as Chairman. Administrative Secretaries of Rural Development Department, Housing & Urban Development Department, General Administration Department, Department of Culture besides Special Director General of CID and Divisional Commissioner of Kashmir/Jammu are functioning as its members.
Even as some bureaucratic sources revealed that the personalities and the public assets had been identified and their CID clearance was in its final stage, Secretary Culture Sarmad Hafeez said that the committee’s first meeting was expected anytime in the current month. “As of now, I am not aware of any list of the names”, he asserted.
According to well-placed sources, there was remarkable stress on naming several roads, bridges, parks, stadiums and other schemes after the national heroes “the people who had laid sacrifice of life in clashes with terrorists, intruders or the enemy forces from 1947 to 2021”.
Even as Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah’s National Conference (NC) claims to have lost over 4,000 of its leaders and workers for their pro-Indian colours, it did not name public places or properties after its martyrs when it ruled J&K several times from 1947 to 2015.
In 1947, NC’s Master Abdul Aziz was the first Indian-Kashmiri nationalist who was killed by the Pakistani intruders near Muzaffarabad. NC’s prominent activist in Baramulla, Maqbool Sherwani, was mercilessly killed when he misguided the intruders and failed their plan to take over the Srinagar Airport and the capital city of Srinagar.
Sheikh Abdullah’s government later christened Srinagar’s iconic street Residency Road after Sherwani but the official records never gave it that name. Even a signboard was never installed. Finally Governor Jagmohan got a signboard installed in Sherwani’s name on the road near Radio Kashmir complex in 1986 but it disappeared quickly. However, one ward at Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) exists in Sherwani’s name.
A community hall was constructed in Sherwani’s name at his hometown of Baramulla. It gutted with the onset of militancy in 1989-90. Years later in 2007, Governor Gen. S.K. Sinha got it reconstructed and inaugurated to memorialize Sherwani’s sacrifice for India.
In Jammu, one small road was named after the son of soil and former Army chief Gen. Nirmal Chander Vij.
Most of the public properties in Jammu and Kashmir have been named after the Dogra Maharajas and the erstwhile State’s first ‘Prime Minister’ Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah. In Srinagar, five bridges on the Jhelum continue in the name of Sultans, one in the name of an Afghan governor and one in the name of Sheikh Abdullah. The road connecting the two major hospitals Sri Maharaja Hari Singh (SMHS) and SKIMS stands in the name of the legendary physician Dr Ali Jan.
One government housing colony (Jawahar Nagar), one public park (Nehru Park) and one garden (Nehru Botanical Garden) are still in the name of the first Indian Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru in Srinagar. The road from Srinagar to the airport was developed and named by ex-governor Jagmohan after Indira Gandhi in 1984-85. One stadium stands in the name of the second J&K ‘Prime Minister’ Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad.
In the thick of militancy in 1990-96, letters ‘SK’ were removed from the names of all memorials under the diktats of the militants who treated Sheikh Abdullah as a ‘traitor’ and ‘the man who helped India occupy Jammu and Kashmir’. The militants got the signboards of most of the shops on major streets in Srinagar and other towns painted in green and changed the names of many places and public properties. However, the Kashmiris didn’t accept and popularise those names when the fear of the gun began receding in 1996.
Sources insist that some public properties in Jammu would be named after the legendary vocalist Malika Pukhraj, eminent Urdu writer Krishan Chander, Dogri litterateurs Padma Sachdev, Kishan Smailpuri, Ram Nath Shastri, Ved Rahi and Sitar maestro Shiv Kumar Sharma. Photojournalist Ashok Sodhi, who died during an encounter, and some security forces personnel who sacrificed their life while fighting militants in Kashmir and other places, could also be memorialised. Brig Rajinder Singh, who died in the war in 1947, reportedly tops the list.
In Kashmir, public properties could be named after human rights activist H.N. Wanchu, former director of Doordarshan Kendra Srinagar Lassa Kaul, Sarwanand Kaul Premi, Tika Lal Taploo, Abdul Sattar Ranjoor, Mir Mustafa, cardiologist Dr Sheikh Jalal, Maulana Mohammad Sayed Masoodi, Lieutenant Umar Fayaz, counterinsurgents Kukka Parray and Javed Shah as also the NC leaders Mushtaq Ahmad Lone and Safdar Beg who were all killed by militants. Over 20 officers of the J&K Police, including Inspector Arshad Khan, who died in different terror attacks or encounters with militants, besides Deputy SP Ayyub Pandith, who was lynched to death by a mob, are also being considered for the honour.
Kashmiri litterateurs Arnimaal, Ghulam Ahmad Mehjoor, Master Zinda Kaul, Dinanath Nadim, Moti Lal Keemu, Noor Mohammad Roshan, Fazil Kashmiri, Hamidi Kashmiri, Amin Kamil, Rehman Rahi, Hriday Kaul Bharti, Bansi Nirdosh, painters Ghulam Rasool Santosh, Gayoor Hassan and Masood Hussain, musicians Mohan Lal Aima, Bhajan Sopori, Abdul Rashid Hafiz, broadcasters Pran Kishore, Somnath Sadhu and Avtar Krishen Rehbar, filmmaker Bashir Budgami, Republic Day tableau designer Veer Munshi and former Vice Chancellor of the University of Kashmir Prof Riyaz Punjabi are also under consideration for the memorials.