The bitter experience of a Sanskrit scholar in J&K
The lone crusader
By R.C. Ganjoo
WHO is the enemy of Kashmiris? None, other than their own rulers. It is an admitted fact that those who genuinely wanted to the extend their helping hand to Kashmiris have always been discouraged by the state government. The practice in Kashmir has been to treat innocent Kashmiris like cattle and keep the flock under ?stick and carrot? rule. But how long will these innocent Kashmiris be kept at bay?
Just two years ago a very low profile businessman from Delhi, all alone and without any, with no political support, plunged into Kashmir to create economic interest among the people for their betterment.
Amazingly, a person having the background of a Sanskrit scholar, managed to carry forward his mission of giving an original look to Kashmir with his innovative concept of an integrated township in Srinagar; one so unique in the world where man and nature would exist in harmony.
During his stay in Srinagar for one week, Shridev Sharma could feel the acceptance of the people towards the economic zone, after having interaction with a cross-section of the people. Hopeful signs he could see for his project, but of course, with the active participation of the Kashmiris. Eventually, he decided to launch on a construction of housing complex project to house families in a composite ambience to revive the age-old tradition of Kashmir. The township was absolutely eco-friendly with a holistic design prepared by The Designers, a leading architectural?planning firm based in Ahmedabad and which has carried several infrastructure and architectural projects. So much so, his concept was well received when the Srinagar Development Authority who had issued the appreciation letter (No SDA / VC/ 3991 dated October 30, 2003) signed by Vice-Chairman, SDA to Shridev Sharma, in which it mentioned that SDA would obtain proposals from interested developers for this mega project ?and the department is shortly going for invitation of expression of interest?.
Shridev Sharma exhibited his scholarly acumen when in his impromptu speech in chaste Hindi at S.N. Das Gupta College on October 11, 2003, he said ?Knowledge-based industry is to be established in Kashmir which is the birthplace of Sharda?.
But the state government wanted to put this project on a different track. According to knowledgeable sources, Chief Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed and Housing Minister Gulam Hassan Mir handpicked one private developer, OMAXE Construction Limited from New Delhi for this mega project, obviously on mutual understanding. Thus on January 7, 2004, SDA offered 4,200 kanals of land for this project to OMAXE putting the cost at Rs 550 crore and excluding the cost of land without following proper procedures and formalities. Shridev Sharma could not raise his voice against this injustice meted out to him. However, his silence proved disastrous for the government when it had to eat humble pie in the assembly on this alleged scandalous issue. After a furore in the state assembly the Housing and Urban Development Department circulated a tender notice in leading newspapers on February 1, 2004 to save their skin.
However, due to inadequate response to the Housing and Urban Development Department'stender notice from real estate developers, this project could not take off. According to P.G. Dhar, for this project, which is in ?for the time being the project is kept in abeyance. As soon as the land is cleared from legal hazards, a fresh tender will be circulated.?
Meanwhile, Shridev Sharma'sproject has got a new life when an offer came from seasoned Kashmiris that he must contest the 2004 Lok Sabha election from Baramulla constituency. It was beyond anyone'simagination that the proposed project would introduce economic-cum-political welfare in Kashmir. It is noteworthy that in J&K, a non-state subject can contest for Lok Sabha but not for the assembly elections. As a Sanskrit scholar he can exhibited his scholarly acumen when in his impromptu speech in chaste Hindi at S.N. Das Gupta College on October 11, 2003, he said ?Knowledge-based industry is to be established in Kashmir which is the birthplace of Sharda?. Without any hesitation he said that film and fashion industries will be set up in Kashmir as God had bestowed natural beauty to it. He received an overshelming response from the people of Kashmir.