Why Banning Horse Cart Is Not A Good Decision?

by Ulfat Iqbal Rather

This carriage is ecologically safer because it doesn’t emit any harmful gas neither it consumes any kind of oils.

Two workers who were part of BJP’s Tonga rally in Sopore hid their faces from being photographed. KL Image by Juniad Bhat

In the medieval era, the means of transport in Kashmir were feeble. Most people would travel on foot, boats were used for water transport and the only means to connect the remotest parts was Tonga; a wooden two-wheeler driven by a horse.

Besides being the traditional and only means of the ride, Tonga was also used as a Shahi Sawari or royal ride by Kings and royals of that era.

However, this royal ride with the passage of time became a monumental means of livelihood for the weaker section of the society. With time tonga attained an important place in the social sphere of Kashmir. Marriages were incomplete without a decorated Tonga as its utility was seen as a privilege by cross-sections of the society. It not only acted as a means of relatedness within the territory of Kashmir but also united it with other parts of erstwhile India as it was used for the transportation of salt, tea and textiles throughout the country.

However, owing to the modernization and influx of modern luxurious carriages, Tonga lost its essence and its presence throughout the valley diminished speedily. Its obsolescent nature hit hard the people who drove it; the Markhabans.

“We are a family of five. The tanga was the only means of subsistence for us,” Mohammad Yousuf, a tonga owner, said. “A broken bridge connecting Bijbehara and upper parts of south Kashmir paved the way for ferrying Tongas to and fro. However, with the construction of the bridge, the modern cars started plying on the roads and it deprived us of the business and this way tongas breathed their last in this part of Kashmir.”

The culture of Tangas started to fade in the late 1980s and its absence in main cities or larger towns of Kashmir presently is quite visible. ‘Modernization’ has impacted each sphere of life and the preference of environment polluting vehicles over a nature-friendly ride can only be seen in terms of cultural imperialism.

Sopore in the north of Kashmir used to be the only place where tongas swelled the market. However, it seems authorities are in conflict with the old age tradition and hence ordered the curbing of tongas.

The decision lacks wisdom because, in a concrete jungle where sprawling urbanization has improved the living standards of people, it has also brought more miseries and threats that has already proved fatal for the milieu. Not only people who were solely dependable on this occupation for their subsistence have been rendered jobless but other allied businesses and trade which were directly or indirectly entrenched with tongas have been hit.

Ulfat Iqbal Rather

Recently administration of Jammu and Kashmir had passed the order concerning the restriction of movement of Tonga’s in the main town of Sopore by justifying that they create traffic jams and other problems within the town. Without keeping this in view how these coachmen will run their families? There were a lot of alternatives for this situation which they had deliberately created by exploiting this section of society. They can arrange distinct parking sites, can fix asunder roads if they have a bit of sympathy for them by these alternatives they will also preserve our environment for future generations.

This carriage is ecologically safer because it doesn’t emit any harmful gas neither it consumes any kind of oils. The world health organization estimates that 92 per cent of the global population respires toxic air. For overcoming this problematic situation, many countries have started using bicycles just for the reduction of poisonous gases present in the atmosphere.

The author is a second-semester student studying at GDC, for women, Anantnag.

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