By K.N. Pandita
Minister for Forests and Environment, Mian Altaf says that the much awaited Mughal Road will be thrown open to vehicular traffic this fiscal year. He claimed that work on the construction of the road was in progress on both ends. This is good news and brings relief to the people of Rajouri and Poonch districts who had to travel a long circuitous road to reach Srinagar. The demand for reconstructing the Mughal Road as the second link to valley has been there for decades but owing to several reasons, especially the security reason its reconstruction had been delayed inordinately. The link established by the militants infiltrating from Poonch, Rajouri, Mandi areas and then making it over the Pir Panchal ridges to Ramban, Kishtwar and Doda became the catalyst to speeding up the construction of this road. Apart from that the road when declared motorable will drastically impact economic and cultural life of Rajouri and Poonch districts.
The original Mughal road originated in Jhelum town of Punjab (Pakistan), and then touched Kotli (in PoK), Thanamandi (Rajouri District) and finally Chandimarh located in Pir Panchal mountains. Here one branch crosses over to Shopian via Hurpora. As per the blueprint, the road from Bafliaz to Shopian is 89 kms and it will criss-cross 11,500 to 130,000 feet high Pir Panchal mountain ranges, which is higher than Banihal pass on Jammu–Srinagar national highway and the present entry point to Kashmir valley. Maybe at a later stage a tunnel below the pass may reduce the distance further. Besides, 49 km of road is steep and 20 km rolling down mountain stretches. The road will be constructed from Bafliaz (Poonch) through Chandimarh, Dugram, and Pir Panchal Pass, Ghurd, Aliabad Sarai, Sukh Sarai and Hurpora to Shopian. The road still has several monuments constructed by the Mughals.
It was at Chingus in Rajouri District where Emperor Jehangir died while returning from Kashmir. On this road, a rest house was built by the Mughals, which still exists at Muradapora. There was another rest house at Nayn Sukh (Fatehpur), a grand Sarai at Thanamandi and a terrace at Noori Chhamb water falls named after Noor Jehan, the queen of Jehangir. A grand Mughal rest house still stands at verdurous mountain peak at Chandimarh on the Mughal road followed by small rest houses at Aliabad, Ziarat of Peer Baba at Pir-Ki-Gali, Dubjian, near Sulphur Springs and a big rest house now in dilapidated condition at Hurpura.
Apart from serving as alternative highway between Srinagar and Jammu, the Mughal Road would also create an environment conducive for greater inter-regional cultural and economic exchanges. The geographical isolation of the specific areas, which discouraged people to people contact, will go away and greater economic activity between the regions would follow especially in respect of Poonch and Rajouri districts. The construction of Mughal road forms part of state plan with support from GOI (PM’s Package). The road length of 44.5 kms from Shopian to Peer- ki-Gali in District Pulwama and 40 kms onwards to Bafliaz, in District Poonch was taken up during 2005-06. The road presents scenic view of great attraction which tourists will enjoy. Hurpora, about 12 kms from Shopian, commands a beautiful scenic view. Behramgala is situated at the foothill of 8,600 ft. high Rattan peak about 45 kms from Poonch town. It is a small picturesque spot in a deep gorge. Close by is the confluence of Thatta Pani and Parnai streams which adds to its scenic and natural beauty. Noori Chhamb waterfall like Aharbal is yet another scenic spot along the road with tremendous tourist potential.
Fascinated by the beauty and grandeur of the waterfall, Emperor Jehangir had named it Noori Chhamb after his queen Noor Jahan. Bufliaz, another beautiful hill spot situated on the foothill of Peer Rattan range is 39 kms east of Poonch town. Named after the horse Bunifales of Alexander the Great that is said to have died there, Bufliaz is situated on both the banks of River Poonch.
Ultimately, when a rail link is established between Jammu and Poonch, a link that will also connect the Mughal Road, the entire geographical, economic and cultural scenario of Jammu and Kashmir will change considerably. New markets will surface and trade and commerce will receive unprecedented boost. The over 550 km circuitous travel from Poonch to Srinagar will be reduced to just128 kilometers. Ultimately a four lane road will come up one day with tunnels running through the pass and rail connectivity will also become a reality. This means Kashmir is poised for enormous boost in connectivity which is the key to prosperity.