Rustam An untapped destination of Kashmir

Idrees Bukhtiyar
On August 27, 2023, in a remarkable display of unity and gratitude, the Rustam Battalion under the aegis of Pir Panjal Brigade of the Dagger Division held its first-ever cultural festival named Jashn-E-Rustam near the Line of Control (LoC) in the Uri sector.
This extraordinary event was organized to acknowledge the unwavering support of the local community and also as a testimony to the theme – Jawan Aur Awam – Saath Saath. According to a handout issued, the event marks a significant milestone in the Indian Army’s efforts to enhance the close relations between the military and civilian communities by promoting the untapped tourism potential of our border regions while providing local artists a platform to showcase their talent.
The event took place at a spot that was once in the line of fire during ceasefire violations, but with the peace on the borders, this event became possible. Rustam is renowned for its shrine named Rustam Pir Baba, a well-known mystic Pir. The location boasts beautiful forest cover, meadows, and a view of the other side of the LoC. The area is situated about 20 kilometers away from the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road and is located at a height of 9,000 ft above sea level.
This was the first time that such a festival was held near the LoC, witnessing a huge footfall of 15,000 visitors, including local and non-local audiences. The Army stated that enthusiastic performers and visitors came together to celebrate the spirit of India and pay their respects to the brave soldiers guarding the borders. The event was a resounding success, with people from different parts of Kashmir flocking to these picturesque mountains to participate.
The one-day festival showcased amazing performances by prominent artists such as Tariq Pardesi, Masarat Naaz, Yemberzal Cultural Group, Kohinoor Band Baramulla, Raja Bilal, Shahi Mumtaz, Team 360 (Uri), Safri Farooq, and the versatile band Aijaz Bhat, along with contributions from Army Goodwill School Boniyar and various local schools. Various stalls were also set up during the event, providing great monetary benefits to the owners. The event was organized in collaboration with All India Radio (AIR), Srinagar, and with the support of locals. Under the theme, ‘Say No to Drugs,’ the Army also created awareness among the local population, with Nambla Volunteers, a group of local villagers, playing a pivotal role in organizing the program.
An army official stated that hosting a cultural festival near the LoC for their own people is a great achievement. The locals praised the Army for organizing such a festival and expressed a desire for more such events in the future. The Indian Army, in a statement, extended heartfelt thanks to all the attendees and supporters who made this cultural festival a memorable event. “Together we have shown that our bonds are unbreakable, and our nation’s spirit is unyielding.”
It is pertinent to mention that, since the ceasefire agreement between the India-Pakistan armies is currently in place, areas near the LoC in Kashmir are becoming new tourist destinations for visitors, including examples such as Kaman Post, Keran, and Gurez. However, there is a significant demand from locals in Uri to open Rustam for local and non-local tourists. “Allowing visitors to visit the Pir Baba shrine twice a week would be great. This could also become a new tourist destination and be included on the tourism map of the J&K government, bringing employment opportunities to the educated youth of the area,” a group of locals suggested. The Rustam Battalion plans to host the festival again in 2024 at the same location and on a larger scale. Meanwhile, local and non-local visitors are eagerly looking forward to it.