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Removing the 'dard' from Dardpura

Kupwara , Sun, 11 Sep 2011 ANI

Kupwara, Sep 11 (ANI): Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has in a recent interview held forth on keeping the developmental aspirations of the Kashmiri people apart from their political aspirations. The recently held Panchayati Raj elections do seems to be a pointer to this line of reasoning.


The massive turn-out of voters, a throw-back to the scenes at the Assembly elections in 2008 had one message which romped home; that people want solutions to their day to day problems related to infrastructure, health, education, government schemes; to a host of issues like widow's pension, disability allowance, housing support and PDS. his resounding call of the people from across Kashmir resonates in a small village 'Dardpura' in Karalpura Block, in Kupwara, a northern district on the border. Dardpura is the last village in India and lies 20-25 km from the district headquarters. The natural beauty of this village is breathtaking, majestic snow-covered mountains, gurgling streams and lush pastures.


Yet appearances may be deceptive, hiding the immense suffering in the region, especially during the height of militancy. Close to the LoC, Kupwara and in particular 'Dardpura' has witnessed countless skirmishes, attacks setting off waves of fear and insecurity amongst the locals, which became persistent and sadly a way of life.


Dardpura has literally been in the eye of the storm, with the two decades of militancy taking a heavy toll on its peace, its development. This tiny village has lost many of its young men to the violence earning it the unfortunate name of a 'village of widows. During those trying times, development was relegated to the back burner, so absorbed were the people in dealing with the conflict.


In the current environment, when there has been respite from the heightened violence, these are now being looked at. The village tucked away in the mountains is cut off from the main road with precarious mountainous paths on the craggy landscape. There is barely anything available as transport to connect them to the major towns.


Small wonder then that the vehicle carrying rations for supplying PDS outlets would bypass the outlet at Dardpura, dumping the stocks at a more 'convenient' location, downhill. For the locals to get their due rations, it meant a trek of 6-7 kilometers, which essentially meant a loss of a couple of hours. For any labourer, farmer, student or housewife, it signified a loss of their productivity, energy.


Living as they have been for generations now, the people had become inured to the remoteness, lack of development, to being neglected. Somewhere along the way, things started changing, almost in tandem with the winds of change blowing across Kashmir, bringing in a new assertion by the people in participatory democracy, ensuring responsive governance through a pro-active involvement.


In Dardpura too, locals in small groups came together to discuss issues, which needed to change, and taking these up with concerned authorities. They also learnt to use the local media to articulate their issues, a kind of a pressure from within to reach the policy makers.


After a long period of darkness and fear, this village which had become inured to violence and a lack of basic facilities, is now waking, taking steps towards bettering their lives, of penetrating the 'dard' or pain that has been engraved into its psyche, in the collective experience of its people.


The administration has been responsive. This could be a combination of the action taken by the villagers to raise the issue and policy priorities to implement programmes and schemes. It has nevertheless unleashed a participatory process, which is healthy for any system, which is meant to be geared towards the benefit of all. What is important is the heightened sense of participation in the democratic process on the ground. This dynamism seems to have caught on in Dardpura, its pool of people determined to come out of the darkness of militancy into light, to make the system responsive, to engage with it much more than earlier when they were cocooned in their lives as it was doled out to them.


There is a new bus service, which connects Dardpura to Srinagar, an answer to the countless woes of students, traders, and job seekers amongst others. Indeed this means they can access the services and facilities at Srinagar for health, education and for exploring new avenues of income.


The PDS outlet at Dardpura is now being supplied by rations, a boon for those who were forced to trek across the mountainous path to reach the outlet at another village.


There has been cheerful news on many fronts. Ironically, areas in Kupwara, in the lap of the lap of the Himalayas, fed by streams have been facing water shortage. The people in Dardpura had been faced with a grim situation, both for drinking or irrigation. Fields used to be parched affecting the yield.


They are now delighted to see that there is a dam being constructed on the river which passes through. They know that this would take about two years to complete, but what is important is that their woes are being addressed.


There is a sense of euphoria, a reiteration of the spirit of participatory democracy at the grassroots. This is reflected in people who say "This year, people participated in Panchayati elections in large numbers hoping that there will become a part of the development across Kashmir Valley."


Elders in the village hark back to the time when India became independent. They recall that since then, there has been no or little development in the region. It is only now that things have started changing, gathering momentum.


According to villagers, local leaders like the newly elected head of the village, Ghulam Mohiuddin have played a stellar role in building up public awareness and encouraging their participation. Kashmir needs a healing touch in more ways than one.


The Charkha Development Communication Network is convinced that people need a government that is pro-active in meeting their developmental needs. The scenario of good governance and responsive machinery is one that appeals to all cross-sections of society in Kashmir, right to the last village in India, Dardpura. By Khwaja Pervez Dilbar (ANI)


Read More: Kupwara | Pancha

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