Amid Unrest Kashmir ‘Elite’ Find Solace At Amar Singh Club

Srinagar: Amid ongoing unrest in the Valley, the prestigious Amar Singh Club in high security Sonwar locality here is providing some “peace of mind” to Kashmir’s rich and powerful, otherwise believed to be running short of any space for such get-togethers.

Sources said the Amar Singh Club has come as a blessing for some of the prominent people including politicians, officials, former bureaucrats and businessmen, who have been frequenting the place in the ongoing unrest when siege and hartal have otherwise crippled life across Kashmir since July 8 when Hizb commander Burhan Muzaffar Wani was killed.

Insiders said apart from playing indoor and outdoor games, the club members have been spending good time debating Kashmir issue and the resultant unrest, which has claimed over 60 lives and left over 6,000 wounded in last 31 days. “However most of the members avoid speaking against the ruling government,” the insiders said.

A club member said had the facility not been open he would have lost peace of mind. “At least a get-together with likeminded people offers some peace of mind,” he said adding, most of the members are equipped with curfew passes and thus face no hindrance in reaching the hangout.

A prominent businessman said the club operates only during daytime; it opens at around noon and closes an hour before sunset.

“Basically, it has been observed that situation worsens after the sunset when stone pelting and counter action by police and other security forces gains momentum… So in a bid to avoid any untoward incident, it was unanimously decided to close the club before Maghrib prayers,” a club member told Kashmir Observer on the condition of anonymity. Otherwise the club would stay open till around 10:00 PM.

Insiders said though some of the members wanted the evening timings to be extended, two mysterious killings of civilians riding two wheelers in Srinagar and Anantnag in the recent past have shattered such prospects.

“We don’t want anyone to lose life. Otherwise also separatists have asked the people not to travel alone at night, so what is the fun moving around in the late hours,” said a club member.

Insiders said given the “dull life” elsewhere many others were also trying to get membership at the club. “At least one can spend some quality time here,” said a membership aspirant.

This recreation club in the foothills of picturesque Koh-e-Sulaiman here used to be a favorite spot for get-togethers with many noted personalities of their times.

The European style mansion fenced by majestic chinars, in the yesteryears was full of life amid parties, chatting and gaming activities like Squash and Billiards. From political icons like Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, the then Prime Minister of Kashmir, to his successor Bakhshi Ghulam Muhammad, the member list was high profile.

In early 1990s, however, soon after the start of the armed insurgency, the state administration surrendered the possession of the club for accommodation of troops, halting the routine club life. For the next over a decade, it remained a garrison.

Officials said in 2005 the then Chief Minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed pledged for the revival of the club and the club life subsequently resumed.

Historians say Maharaja Hari Sigh built this club in early 1933 as parallel to the Srinagar Club which was constructed by the British Residency where none except the English were allowed.

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