The Dizzying, Dazzling and Dangerous road but still extremely valuable!
By: M S Nazki
So it finally opens up and the route from Poonch to the valley is through after the winter snow blocked it as it does year after year in winters!
- The people wanted the administration to expedite the opening of the road. Other than the usual reasons that were propagated, one that definitely held the sway was the wrath of the virus. Though private transport movement is not permitted as of now.
- Though the infections in the District are under check yet the virus has the unpredictable tendency to explode and cause death and devastation as it has been doing with unanimity by knocking off people.
*The opening of the road is bound to help the patients because the hospitals in the valley are just a four hours distance. Not that the treatment is not available in Jammu hospitals, it very much is but the distance to Kashmir from Poonch to valley is shorter and to Jammu longer.
- Thus the opening of the road this way was a wise decision. Other than that the road is also a trade route as vehicles move up and down carrying merchandise to their respective destinations and of course the seasonal movement of the nomads and their livestock.
- So everything would begin as it always does.
Travelling on this road is an experience by itself. You remain wonderstruck the moment you get into the Pir Panjals and start moving up to the snake-like winding curves having a good look at the landscape around which needless to mention is simply awesome. It is a pity indeed to travel and not get this essential sense of landscape values. You do not need a sixth sense for it. It is there if you just close your eyes and breathe softly through your nose; you will hear the whispered message, for all landscapes ask the same question in the same whisper. I am watching you — are you watching yourself in me? Most travelers hurry too much…the great thing is to try and travel with the eyes of the spirit wide open, and not too much factual information. To tune in, without reverence, idly — but with real inward attention. It is to be had for the feeling…you can extract the essence of a place once you know how. If you just get as still as a needle, you’ll be there. That is the hypnotic effect the Pir Panjals have on you as you move up from absolutely fabulous places such as Mandi, Bafliaz, Noorie Chhamb, Poshiana and so many others which leave you baffled, stunned and embalmed in magical charam spun by a magician.
At Pir Gali the experience is a bit different as you send your eyes rolling over the flushing green meadows across, under the sunlight the bees blow like cake-crumbs through the golden air, white butterflies like sugar wafers, and when it wasn’t raining a diamond dust took over which veiled and yet magnified all things just perhaps for the eyes of the beholder. It’s enchanting in fact gloriously hypnotic. Words at times do sound superfluous but if you want to have a feel of them then the reality is better be here!
Summer was on the way I awaited it with impatience. In fact my friend had called me over to Mendhar as we both had planned something this summer. Something interesting, an adventurous hike on two legs. The best plans had been laid and haversacks with mattresses, pup tent packed but the wretched virus played the spoilsport. Anyway it has destroyed families and that is the saddest part but cannot do much about it other than sitting back in grief over the loss of so many smiling and chirpy humans dying gasping for breath. But places matter. Their rules, their scale, their design include or exclude civil society, pedestrianism, equality, diversity (economic and otherwise), understanding of where water comes from and garbage goes, consumption or conservation. They map our lives. Sure this magnificent road has mapped lives of many down the ages right from the era of the Mughals.
Well I will not get into the details of the road because the same is known to everyone. Mughal Road is the road between Bufliaz, a town in the Poonch district, to the Shopian district, in the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir, India. The 84-kilometre road traces a historic route used in the Mughal period over the Pir Panjal Pass. The road connects Poonch and Rajouri to Srinagar in the Kashmir valley, and reduces the distance between Shopian and Poonch from 588 km (if you come via the National Highway No.I) to 126 km. It also provides an alternative route into the Kashmir valley off the Jammu-Srinagar highway. The road passes through Buffliaz, Behramgalla, Chandimarh, Poshana, Chattapani, Peer Ki Gali, Aliabad, Zaznar, Dubjan, Hirpora, and Shopian. A route linking Hirapur (modern Hirpora) in the Kashmir Valley with Rajouri via the Pir Panjal Pass (Peer Ki Gali) has been used since ancient times. During the period of the sultans, it was extended to Bhimber. Historian Mohibbul Hasan says it played an important role during this period. After conquering the Kashmir Valley, the emperor Akbar strengthened the route into an Imperial Road stretching from Lahore to Kashmir. In modern times, the route has been referred to as the Mughal Road. The new road was proposed in the 1950s to improve the economy of the Kashmir valley. Then Chief Minister Sheikh Abdullah took up this project in 1979 and named it the Mughal Road, but it came to a halt as terrorism took over. Bafliaz Bridge on the road was blown up by the terrorists. Actual construction began in October 2005 with a target of completion in March 2007.
A wildlife conservation trust petitioned the Supreme Court to stop construction, citing the disturbance to animals in the Hirpora Wildlife Sanctuary, especially the endangered Markhor goat and claiming the road would get early snowfall in winter and hence would not serve as an alternate route to the existing Jammu-Srinagar highway. However, the Court gave conditional permission for the construction of the road. The road was opened on 12 July 2009 for inspection by state legislators, officials, engineers, and others. It was supposed to be thrown open for light vehicles in October 2010 but the law-and-order situation in Kashmir in 2010 imposed delays. A double-lane road was completed and opened for light vehicles in August 2012. Now its one great legend in the Pir Panjals and to travel on it is an unforgettable experience.
After the snow clearance which is so very necessary on the road, the administration has decided that the Mughal Road in subsequent days will open for fruit trucks and movement of Gujjar-Bakarwals. The latter always used this route even when the road was nonexistent and only a pathway was there uphill. Deputy Commissioner Poonch Inder Jeet said that the traffic department shall decide about the one-way movement. It is being opened up for the movement of fruit trucks and Gujjar-Bakarwals only. Last evening, the Lieutenant Governor’s office in a tweet said that Divisional Commissioners shall ensure availability of movement passes in every district. The 84-kilometer Mughal Road was closed for vehicular movement in November last year and reports said that there were fresh slides en route. Men and machinery is at the job to clear the thoroughfare, a senior officer in administration said.
This surely is a great move indeed and obviously the people would welcome it more essentially the nomads who have to move lock, stock and barrel with their livestock as per the seasons. The travelers will have to wait for some time since the environment is definitely not congenial for the movement and I need not figure out the reasons because everyone knows them!