Thinking Ordinary: My Noble Dal-Hards

Ali Malik

Dal is dead. Elitists are debating the time frame. Ten, twenty, thirty years. It is the elitist who has far centuries, particularly in the peculiar monolithic sociopolitical hi­erarchical order, perceived, described and imposed his sense of beauty on the water body called Dal.

During the course of Dal’s recorded history we have seen the elitist Kings and Queens changing the course of its boundaries and waters to satisfy their sensory desires as per their judgement of taste and aesthetic values. We see Zainul Abidin making phys­ical inroads to create artificial islands called Char Chinars followed by the imperial Mughals pulveris­ing the surrounding hills that formed the natural guardians of the Dal to lay the “infamous” Mughal Gardens and in the process encroaching upon tens of square kilometres of Dal’s peripheral territory.

With the arrival of the white elitists, we saw another set of encroachments in the shape of huge wooden houseboats built into the very core of the Dal to gratify their grotesque cravings. Ghulab Singh and Co would not be held back with their own sense of av­arice and we see another set of hillocks destroyed to build the Palace, currently Hotel Grand, and as well the Boulevard road that effectively shrank the Dal by a few square kilometres further.

With the concretisation of Nehru Park and the erection of Centaur Hotel inside the main waterbody our modern elitists put a seal of their sensory yearn­ings on the poor natural lake. In due course of time these elitist creations of gardens, houseboats and hotels attracted generations of voracious sociopo­litical elite from all walks of life, local and non local, over the centuries whose aesthetic judgement lacked any sense of preservation for posterity. Disaster was only natural. Dal, as we see, has shrunk to just a few square kilometres and with the massive eutrophica­tion as a result of deposit of silt, organic and non or­ganic waste into the heart of the waterbody.

Alongside we see elitist poets and authors pen­ning down their perception of Dal’s beauty in rhythm on musical notes all through the Mughal era to some­one called Lawrence. “Meanwhile” we don’t find a sin­gle voice or note from the underprivileged/ subaltern who have resided within the body of the lake for thou­sands of years ever being published anywhere. It isn’t that these people have not composed committed and dedicated poetry but their persistent and historical subjugation has ensured that it is not recited, written or recorded anywhere. Yet it is these people only who are optimistic that the Dal can be preserved and can survive thousands of more years as they only know its pulse and the rhythm of its heart.

Today’s elitists including the “scientists/ schol­ars/ administrators” hold the view that the only way to preserve the lake is to shift these inhabitants away from the Dal citing verse and chapter to dis­locate them while allowing the destruction of whole natural habitat around Dal by “regulating/ sanction­ing” more and more concretisation. These days we have the LAWDA that as I have heard (correct me if I am wrong) has no representatives from the Dal residents on its “board” (if there is one).

As I see it, if Dal has a hope of survival it is through the spirit of these noble Dal_hards, its resi­dents and only if it is entrusted to their “ownership” free from the advice and manipulations of the mod­ern sociopolitical elite. This noble community ought to have been invested with absolute ownership of the Dal, its fishing rights, its lands under and above the water in a way similar to the conferment of owner­ship of land over “tenants” of agricultural land. In­ternational practice is that wherever navigating for trade and commerce is not conducted on inland water bodies, private ownership rights are conferred on the appropriate people. In case of Dal only “elementary” rights of occupation on certain strips of marshy and semi marshy land exist in practice but modern elitist rulers have banned even transfer of these elementary rights. It is so unfortunate to see that the very people who could preserve the Dal have been and continue to be subjected to wanton misery, social rebuke/ ridicule and divested of their right full ownership of Dal. Trust me my sociopolitical elite will dismiss my views with disdain. Thanks to the monolithic heirarchium.




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Ali Malik

Author is an astute Kashmir observer with an interest in and stamina to correct the wrongs of the history.

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