Mughal Road Sets Path For Historic Integration

Mughal Road Sets Path For Historic Integration

8 July 2012
Rising Kashmir
Ishfaq Tantry

Srinagar: It has taken more than 60 years to travel a distance of six hours between Poonch and Kashmir. The opening of historic Mughal road, which connects Pir Panjal and Kashmir region, has made the dream a reality. With the road open to vehicular movement, people here are buoyed by the dividends Shahra-e-Namak, (old name of Mughal road) will bring to the region. Mughal Road is expected to be formally commissioned by March 2013. The stretch, in the last phase of completion, connects South Kashmir's Shopian district with Poonch reducing the distance between the two places to around 125 kilometers and between Poonch and Srinagar to just 180 kilometres. The route was used by Mughals while traveling from Lahore to Kashmir via Rajouri and Poonch. Mughal kings and princes preferred the route to escape the summer heat of Gangetic plains. Shabnum Ayoub, a prominent Kashmiri writer hailing from Surankote Tehsil, believes the opening of Mughal raod will have far-reaching consequences, in terms of social, economical and cultural integration of Pir Pangal region with Kashmir. “We think the opening of this historic road is the biggest thing which has ever happened to this neglected region of Poonch and Rajouri,” Shabnam said, adding that the opening of the communication link between two regions will have positive social, cultural and economical impact in the coming years. “People of Poonch and Rajouri were divided by these mighty and lofty Pir Panjal mountains, but that is a thing of past now. This road will bring new changes to this region,” he said, “Hum log bhi ab Kashmir kay rang mein rang jayeeingay,” he said. Shabnum said it was difficult for people of Pir-Panjal region to reach Kashmir via Jammu as they were forced to travel a distance of around 600 to 700 kilometers via Jammu to reach Srinagar, which acted as the biggest psychological and geographical barrier between Poonch and Rajouri. “But the Mughal road is now slowly dismantling those barriers. The opening of this road will have biggest impact on the social and cultural life of the two regions, particularly Poonch and Rajouri,” says K D Mani, a prominent historian, writer and poet of Poonch, who has written several books on the history of the Pir-Panjal region. Mani has been stressing on the need for increasing interaction between Poonch and Kashmir. “The opening of this road in the coming years will bring about social, cultural and economical integration between the two regions. Already, I see the holding of 33rd Annual Kashmir Conference of Adabi Markaz Kmaraz in Poonch a step in that direction,” Mani said while expressing happiness overt the growing contacts between Poonch and Kashmir. ‘Yeh ab ek dayemi silsila hai. Ab iss ko koi nahin rok sakhta. (This connection will be everlasting… Nobody can stop this (integration) now,” Mani said. The views and sentiments of Mani are shared by common people in Poonch and Rajouri. “This road has connected people on the two sides of Pir Panjal. The opening of Mughal road is basically realization of our dreams which we have preserved since ages. We feel that our life is now complete by this road,” says Bagh Hussain Rathore, a Sarpanch from Islamabad village of Poonch. “ Because of the opening of Mughal road after over 60 years, people of Poonch were able to buy Kashmiri apples at Rs 12 per kg, which prior to this would be sold at exorbitant prices of Rs 160 to 170 per kg,” said Moulan Syed Ahmad Banday, who is running Zia-ul-Uloom, a prominent religious educational institute in Poonch. Banday traces his ancestors to Shopian, feeling proud to call himself Kashmiri. “We want that Kashmiris change their thinking and accept people of Poonch as their own people. We have a grudge with Kashmiris that they never considered us their own part socially and politically. But that has to change now. We are part and parcel of Kashmiri society,” Banday said, appealing Kashmiri people to accept them as their own people. Shahbaaz Rajourvi, a prominent Kashmiri poet and thinker, hailing from Poshana region of Rajouri, said Pir-Panjal region has always been with Kashmiris, echoing their aspirations. “The opening of Mughal road has once again reinforced that Poonch and Rajouri people are part of a bigger civilization and culture of Kashmir,” he said, adding that till now people from Poonch Haveli to Mandi were only considered a vote bank by the politicians at Srinagar and Jammu. “That has to change now. We are a region of 11 lakh people having deep historical and cultural links with Kashmir valley. We feel we are an integral part of Kashmir and Kashmiri cultural and these linkages will be further reinforced by opening of Mughal road,” Rajourvi said. His latest collection of poems titled “Poonprun Gath” in Kashmir was released by AMK at its 33rd Annual Kashmiri Conference held at Poonch on July 2, which contains several poems depicting the sufferings of Kashmiris, especially during the last 20 years of armed unrest.