Bab-ul-Iqbal leads to Shehr-e-Khaas, the city of ‘filth, trash, and restrictions’

by Sheikh Saman/ Nuzhat Mushtaq

Srinagar

Nearly after seven years, the gateway, Bab-ul-Iqbal, to the historic old city of Srinagar is ready.

The work which was started in May 2011 and had a deadline of two years witnessed many upheavals and was finally completed in 2018 at a cost of Rs 1.65 crore

The newly constructed gateway to old city of Srinagar named Bab-ul-Iqbal. Kl Image by Mihir Patilhande

The look at the gateway of the old city, known as Shehr-e-Khaas, connecting it with the city centre Lal Chowk and other adjoining areas is a feel-good factor, but once a glimpse on either side of it, that is the sight of pain.

To its left is the filthy Bab Demb, which once used to be a freshwater lake but after the landfilling of this canal, the lake has totally lost its glory and is currently in highly deteriorated condition. On its right side are the city scrappers and the road is all parked with the cars that once moved on the beautiful roads of Srinagar in 1990’s and the huge garbage bin is all that is going to welcome you.

File image of restrictions in old city of Srinagar (KL Image: Bilal Bahadur)

The gateway, officials said was constructed with a motto so that tourist would get to know about the historical and cultural aspect of Sher-i-Khaas, the city of Saints.

As the history of the old city of Srinagar goes, it was settled more than 2000 years ago in 3rd century BC by Raja Pranavsarena. It’s the hub of the historical monuments made by the famous rulers of Kashmir from Shah Mir, the first Muslim ruler of Kashmir to Hari Singh, the last autocratic ruler of Kashmir.

The shrine of Bulbul Shah sahab in Ali Kadal, Srinagar

The historical monuments like Jamia Masjid, Budshah tomb, Khanqah-e-maula, Hari Parbat, Aali Masjid in Eidgah, Pathar masjid in Nawa Bazar, shrine of Sheikh Syed Abdul Qadir Jeelani(RA) in Khanyar, Sheikh Hamza Mukhdoomi (RA) in Mukhddom sahab, Sheikh Bahu-ud-din Naqshband (RA), Hazrat Bahu-ud-din Gunj Baksh (RA), and many others including a shrine in  Roza Bal in the same area.

It’s famous for its culture and the ambiance it provides to its visitors. A tourist says the feel you get while walking through the lanes and by-lanes of Maharaja Bazaar seems similar to the Misir Bazaar of Istanbul. “It’s a city with a majestic past and history.”

Nestled below the imposing Mughal Fort is the shrine of Sheikh Hamza Makhdoom.

Valleys chief cleric and chairman his faction of Hurriyat Mirwaiz Umar Farooq termed the construction of gateway as a ‘cosmetic measure’ and wrote on Twitter, “Attracting people to downtown by building some gateway, while for decades resorting to revengeful and dictatorial measures of repeatedly subjecting its residents to curfews, restrictions, harassment and what not! cosmetic measures without addressing the basic issue will not yield much”.

Dumped Waters!

Abdul Salam, a resident of Khanyar said, “The gateway is located on the bank of Brari Nambal which is filled with the entire Srinagar city’s filth and trash. Since no effort has been made to clean it. Shehr-i-Khas is going to welcome its guests with the stench of Brari Nambal and that’s how they will imagine Sher-i-Khaas. No shawls, no handicrafts, no dry fruit and all they will be left with scrapped cars.”

A teenager Sameer Ahmad while talking to Kashmir Life said, “The place is surrounded by service point, scrappers, spare part dealers, joinery mills and what not. There is no name written on the gateway, one had to stop by and get out of his car and look for it on the foundation stone. There is no recreational space where one could stop by and click some selfies with the gateway.”

While contacting SMC Commissioner, Riyaz Ahmad Wani he said the place is soon going to be developed as a recreational spot and would be given a different look.

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