Loran-Tosa Maidan-Budgam route: This could have been a beautiful drive had this road come through!
By: M S Nazki
The best plans had been laid, the work had begun and suddenly one evening everything stopped and thus the plans came crashing down but the hopes of revival persisted amongst the people!
The landscape needless to mention is superlative. The canvas is massive with immaculate shades of green, blue, gray and in the evenings up on the horizons are streaks of red and yellow as the twilight approaches. The rivers, streams and brooks flowing downhill make the rhythmic gurgling sounds which fall on the ear drums as if some medieval instruments are playing and the impact is wholesomely magical. Add onto this the mountains, valleys and meadows. Oh! My God the colors on the massive vast locales are simply awesome. But some trekkers, climbers and walkers seeking adventure have different ideas. No matter how spectacular the valleys are, the mountains will always attract us! The Pir Panjals have that hypnotic quality. Trust me, mostly the restless people of the valleys climb the tough peaks of the mountains! The rest, the peaceful ones always stay in the valleys! Adventure is the invention of restless minds! This place is full of them but also is the fact that the government of J&K in the past did have some great ideas to develop this place but unfortunately for one reason or the other many projects did start but were left half way. One of those initiated was Loran-Tosa maidan-Budgam-Srinagar road. It did begin but so far has not ended!
Many world and nationwide adventurers have been denied to move in these exquisite locales, had they been then most would have been saying, knowing only the valleys is half wisdom; knowing only the hills is half wisdom; for full wisdom, know both the valleys and the hills! Walk down and walk up! This could have been a major tourist attraction but it was never destined to be. The reasons are many, in the past the primary one was security because these areas were infested with militants, secondly Mughal road is a special drive for the visitors but it is also a road on which trucks ferrying merchandise and fruits move but with that lot many incidents happened when drug runners were nabbed at checkpoints which definitely played the spoil sport. Another thing is the vagaries of weather that play big truants. There have been incidents when people have got stuck up in the middle of nowhere on the roads and then the onus has fallen on the security forces to extract them and put them to safety. Probably with yet another road opening up these very difficulties would have doubled up and that could be the reason as to why the road mentioned above could not be completed. By the way, speculation as reasons could be others too. Nevertheless if it is completed the people would be the happiest lot since the distance to Srinagar is bound to get much shorter.
I. The route
Loran is a small village 35 Kms away from Poonch town and is situated at the foot of high mountains of Pir Panjal range and is another attraction for the tourists. Loran Nallah which flows through this beautiful village makes the place more enchanting to the eyes. Loran was once the capital of Poonch state under Hindu rulers upto 1542 A.D. It was then known as Loran-Kote. There are ruins of the Lohar Kote fort which was once called the Gateway of Kashmir.
II. Tosa Maidan: Tosa Maidan is a meadow in Khag tehsil of Budgam district of Jammu and Kashmir, India. The name also marks the historic Tosa Maidan route into the Kashmir Valley from the Poonch Valley. In fact, the original name of Tosa Maidan appears to have been Tosa Marg. Mahmud of Ghazni and the Sikh monarch Ranjit Singh attempted to invade the Kashmir Valley via this route.
III. The meadow
Bounded by dense forests, the Tosa Maidan meadow is situated about 25 km (16 miles) from Khag at the foot of the Pir Panjal range. After crossing the upper mountain reaches of Habber, Drang, Sitaharan, Zakhora and other small villages, one reaches the pasture of Tosa Maidan. Tosa Maidan is the largest pasture in its surrounding areas. Sky-touching deodars fence this pasture presenting a view of a green carpet in summer. During the summer, the camps of the Gujjar community and shepherds with their grazing sheep in the pastures present a riveting picture. Also, the fragrance of wild flowers refreshes the whole environment.
III. The old foot or cart pathway:
The Tosa Maidan route starts from the Drang village going out from the Kashmir valley. After crossing the Tosa Maidan meadow, it ascends gently to an elevation at the top of Pir Panjal range. At the top of the Pir Panjal range, there are a number of passes leading to the Poonch Valley. The most often used pass is called Chinamarg Gali, once known as the Tosa Maidan pass, near the Danam Sar lake. It provides a steep descent into the Loran Valley, passing by the village of Sultanpathri.
- Then there is another pass called Pathri ki Gali, near the Pam Sar lake (which is also the source of the mainstream feeding the Sukhnag river). This provides a gentler descent into another branch of the Loran Valley, which meets up with the first route near the village of Loran. Both the branches of Loran streams feed the Mandi River.
- Jamia Wali Gali is another dpass, which descends into the Gagri Valley. This pass provides a longer route to Poonch.
IV. A bit of history:
- The Tosa Maidan route into the Kashmir Valley was of high importance during the Lohara dynasty of Srinagar (1003–1320 CE), as is evident from its repeated mention in the last two Books of Kalhana’s Rajatarangini.
- The ruling house of the Lohara state, based in the Loran valley, took over the reigns of Kashmir after the death of its kind Kshama Gupta, who had married a Lohara princess. Samgramaraja was the first full-fledged ruler of the dynasty. During his rule, Mahmud of Ghazni attempted to invade Kashmir via the Tosa Maidan route, once in 1003 and another time in 1021. In both the instances, he was blocked by the Lohara fort (Loharkot) that guarded the route.
- Mahmud was unable to conquer the fort itself. In the second instance, he also suffered a disruption of communications due to a heavy snowfall. Historians state that this was the first serious reverse suffered by Mahmud in India.
- Even before the time of the Lohara dynasty, the route must have been quite important. It provided the shortest route between Srinagar and Poonch as well as access to the western Punjab areas between the Jhelum and Indus rivers, which were under the control of Kashmir until medieval times.
*The route was also the easiest and safest route in that direction, since it provided easy ascent from the Kashmir Valley and was well-guarded by the Loharkot fort.
- The importance of the route declined after the Mughal rule, during which the Pir Panjal Pass was developed as an Imperial Road, and the Afghan Durrani rule, during which the Jhelum Valley cart-road was developed.
- Even so, Maharaja Ranjit Singh of the Sikh Empire attempted two invasions of Kashmir via the Tosa Maidan route in 1814 and 1819. The first time, his army was divided into two forces, one attacking the Pir Panjal Pass and the other the Tosa Maidan meadow.
- At the meadow, Ranjit Singh was blocked by the Durrani defences. He also suffered difficulty maintaining supplies and was forced to retreat. Later in 1819, all the Sikh forces were concentrated on Tosa Maidan and conquered the Durrani forces.
V. The planned project that is lying defunct:
There was a project planned to open up the Loran-Tosa Maidan-Srinagar road. The work started but suddenly. Why it so happened is not known but the people do say that if plans had been taken up they should have been brought to the logical conclusion. But the same was not to be. 8 Kms of road has been completed and for the last seven years there has been no work. BRO left work and disappeared at night. Why it happened is not known again.
*Locals want the administration should get down to nuts and bolts to get the work resumed.
*Loran to Tosha Maidan road which was supposed to connect this part of the country to the valley of Kashmir was started in 2015 by then Chief Minister Mufti Saeed and is perceived as a big gift to the people of Pir Panjals.
- The man is no more but what he started should have been completed. The former Chief Minister took personal interest in reviving this historical route once used by people of Kashmir many of whom later settled in different areas of Mandi Tehsil.
- The work on the prestigious road project, which would connect Loran area in Mandi Tehsil of Poonch district with Budgam district of central Kashmir, was started in November 2015. The road would traverse through the Pir Panchal range connecting scenic locations of Badapatthar, Jamiya Wali Gali, Basim Gali and Tosamaidan area of Budgam district.
- According to historians, decades back, the present day inhabitants of Mandi tehsil-mostly Kashmiri speaking -migrated to different villages of Poonch via Loran-Tosamaidan route.
- The responsibility of constructing this road was given to Border Road Organisation (BRO) and directed the executing agency to complete the project by 2017.
- The work started with plenty of enthusiasm after the inauguration part of it which was done by the Chief Minister himself. But great beginnings in J&K do not necessarily mean great conclusions. This one too was going to meet the same fate.
- The BRO stopped the work and fled from the spot with their machinery and equipment never to return. The locals have some more things to add on.
- In this regard, Sarpanch Loran Bashir Ahmed Kamran, former Sarpanch Khadim Hussain and social activist Qasim Jamal, expressed displeasure over the administration’s action and said that the road has caused considerable damage to the locals in the area. The reason is that their lands have been rendered in bad condition as they were the ones who had given their lands for the construction of the road. If it was started it should have been completed is their simple case and administration has all the answers to it!
- The locals vehemently say, we continued to support the administration but now that this work has stopped, it clearly seems that the administration does not want to complete the job at hand and is acting on its own whims and fancies or dancing to someone else’s drum beats.
- The villagers for sure were angry and in an unrelenting mood as they said that we will not tolerate the loss of our lands, houses and natural resources Now we will make sure that the road is started as we have lost far too much and are tired of listening to glib, sugar and honey coated tongues of the top men sitting in high offices.
- They are the ones who have taken the people for a giant wheel ride and are a hindrance for the completion of the road.
- People are well aware now and also are well informed. Education has found its roots in the areas which were considered as backward and in interiors. The administration should get its homework right which at the moment is incomplete. Ever since independence this has been the state of affairs and if action from the top is not initiated it’s going to remain like that.
*After the commencement of work on this road, the people thought that this area would be developed. This will provide employment to their educated youth and at the same time tourism will start moving here. But due to incompetence of the administration they have been left in lurch and in a state of desolation.
- Previously the excuse was militancy. Obviously the administrators were scared to go to such places, now when militancy is not there they simply do not move out of their offices. They have no idea as to which project was started, which is complete and which is incomplete. In any case most of them are incomplete in The district. Now the convenient theory of passing the buck is the menacing covid strike in the second wave and tomorrow something else will happen? What is the administration meant for? Perhaps only for their end of the month salaries!
- The locals are absolutely frustrated and desperate and have thus appealed to the Lt. Governor’s administration and district administration to get this work started as soon as possible, otherwise they are going to step up the gas on their demands.
- The people of Loren are dead certain that something wrong has happened and that is the reason as to why the work was stopped? Not that it has not been brought to the notice of the administration, it very much has been but who is bothered when the people of the interior are in distress and they have a genuine demand.
- This indeed is genuine because the work did start. It was left off in a jiffy and now is lying incomplete. Other than the administration no one has any answer to it! If this road gets completed tomorrow people from all over will be here and would be singing in choruses, ‘climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn’. These are the things which the people want but the question is how to reach there. After receiving the battering from the virus, thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people will be beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that something fresh to their body is a necessity because they have been shaken to their bones by an invisible giant in the towns and cities, that rolled the mankind like pins in a bowling alley! We saw the dreadful motion sequence with our own eyes!