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Enchanting Keran, the Valley of broken hearts.

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 “kisne barood boyabaaghonmai”

“Sari vaadiudaasbaithihai,”

“Mosamai gull nay khudkashi ki hai.”

Halima Shabir

Kashmir has many valleys, each gifted with a unique topography. Separated by mountains and endowed with exquisite beauty, these valleys are like the pages of an exciting book, each page waiting to be turned and discovered. The wide meadows, gushing streams, lively forests, pristine glaciers are like priceless pearls, hidden in the depths, eager to be uncovered. After my memorable trip to Gurez, the desire to keep turning these beautiful pages of nature led me to the enchanting valley of Keran.

Keran is approximately 125 kms from Srinagar. My journey began with an 85 km drive from Srinagar to Kupwara. The highway cut through serene farms, dotted with scattered hills and green trees and offered a delightful company. Kupwara is the last town on the way and driving further requires special permission. Some 22 kms from Kupwara, we arrived at the Meeliyal village, also known as the gateway to Keran. A few kms up is the Filkrin Top. Situated at a height of 9634 feet above sea level, the top boasts a Helipad and provides a breath-taking view of the Filkrin village. We drove by another village called Pathra. It had only three houses on top of a hill.

The sun had set when we arrived, With the stars and moon shining brightly over us, we headed straight to the banks of river Kishenganga/Neelam. Once part of the Princely state, Keran is now divided into two halves, with Kishenganga/Neelam, ironically, forming a natural barrier between the two. The magnificent river not only divides Keran into two parts but into two countries. The village is said to have been established by Raja Ram Bahadur Khan in the 10th century. Its inhabitants who once shared the same

identity, culture and customs now belong to different countries. They are just a stone’s throw away and yet so far apart. The partition also gives the river its two different names, Kishenganga on one side and Neelam on the other. As I sat there looking across, lights shining bright, creating a lively, vibrant ambience, I could not help but feel a sadness. Many people fled to the other side during the wars and many due to militancy. The LOC does not only divides the land but separates thousands of families, who suffer in silence.

I could hear the sound of music, I could hear Adhaan being called over the roaring waters, I could see vehicles moving, I could see people chatting and laughing. I waved my hands at a group of ladies to say Hello. I wished to stay there by the river, transfixed. But as night progressed, it was time to get some rest. We opted for home stay and were welcomed with open arms by the owner of a small old wooden house. The home was simple with a cozy feel to it. She made us comfortable and served a delicious dinner, cooked on mud stove.

The music played by the flowing water was relaxing and soon enough I was in a deep, peaceful slumber. I woke up early feeling refreshed and energized. I headed out to a beautiful morning. The air was fresh and crisp and the sight to behold. I walked past abandoned houses, through open fields of corn and lofty walnut trees. It was time to harvest walnuts. I was greeted by many on the way, with a warmth that lifted my spirits. I returned back to a wholesome breakfast of makki roti, walnuts, eggs and noon chai. It was the most delicious breakfast I ever tasted.

We then set out towards the upper part of Keran known as BalaKeran. The part where we lodged is known by the name of PayanKeran. From BalaKeran, we could view the famous Neelam Valley in POK. As I looked on, my eyes absorbing the splendid sight, it was clear why the valley is said to be one of the most beautiful places. It is in this valley that the ruins of the once famous Sharada temple and its adjacent university can be found. Before the partition in 1947, the temple was a place of pilgrimage for devotees, particularly pandits from all over India. If the route to the temple through LOC is opened, as many pandits have been demanding, it will become the shortest distance to the holy site through the border and perhaps become a corridor for bringing people closer. People in BalaKeran were welcoming and hospitable. We were offered apples by the women. We met a retired BSF personal, living alone is his house, whose family is one among the many others that fled to the other side in 1990s.

The locals are very poor. There are about 200 houses in BalaKeran. PayanKeran has a population of 5000­6000 with 200 – 250 houses. The Government has facilitated installation of solar panels in every house. There is a post office, a J&K bank and a small dispensary. There is no infrastructure for medical emergencies. Such cases are referred to and flown by helicopters to Kupwara. BalaKeran has a primary school and a sheep husbandry. The region does not have any cellular towers. Mobile phones do not function here. The major crop grown is maize, mainly due to dearth of irrigation water. The devastating floods of 1992 wreaked havoc to the paddy fields.



The people here lead a tough life. The close proximity with LOC deprives people of living normal lives. People have been forced to live in sand bunkers to protect themselves from being caught in cross border fire. A community bunker hall was built for people to take shelter in during such unfortunate episodes. With increasing peace across the border in recent times, people can heave a sigh of relief and move about without fear. Return of normalcy has also put Keran on the tourism map, attracting visitors to this unique place where two nations meet and separate. Locals see this as a much needed opportunity to generate income. They have opened their hearts and homes to the visitors.

The lack of basic facilities continues to make life difficult for this small population living near the border. Absence of cellular network and internet facilities isolates the people further. In this age of globalization, most people in Keran remain unaware about the outside world and opportunities it offers. Infrastructure for better connectivity needs to be laid out. Provision of healthcare facilities and quality education at all levels is of foremost importance. Electricity and conditions relating to public health especially provision of clean drinking water and adequate sewage disposal is a basic requirement. Provision of irrigation water is essential to diversify cultivation. These are some of the pressing issues that should be addressed by the authorities at the earliest possible.

Areas like Gurez, Tanghdar, Machil and Bangas are also amongst upcoming tourist destinations. Locals believe this will generate employment and business opportunities in their district. The increased income will improve living standards. The Government needs to pitch in and provide all required facilities in these regions, not only to improve living conditions of the locals but also attract tourists to build a thriving economy. It is however imperative that nature is preserved. Construction of only single storied wooden guest houses will ensure the aesthetics remain undisturbed.

I would like to explore the regions of Bungus and Teetwal in near future in shaa Allah. The serenity felt in the beautiful creation of Almighty Allah is unmatched. It is in the lap of nature that I find tranquility.








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