A set of caves in Kashmir’s Kupwara district may be the key to an ancient, underground passage to Russia; and to archaeological secrets.
Community Correspondent Azharuddin Pir reports from Kupwara, a district caught in the cross-fire of the conflict in Kashmir. Pir usually reports on the effects of violence and military excesses on the common people of the Kashmir valley, but recently, he, along with some adventure-loving youth from his community, chanced upon a rare, exciting story- the story of the Kalaroos caves, purportedly a secret passage all the way to Russia.
Accompanying US-based cave experts Amber Fies and Eric Fies, Pir went to the mouth of the caves, a human-made structure comprising seven gates, to shoot the adventure. The mystery of the Kalaroos caves interest people from far and near and both the American adventurers and the local community, have been equally invested in knowing more about the caves.
“We have heard that our ancestors used to go into the caves but their lanterns would run out of oil before they could make it very far. Other stories claim that there are streams inside but they cannot be crossed because there are no bridges,” says Imitiaz Ahmad, a resident of Kupwara assisting the Fies in their adventure.
The caves are only navigable up to a certain point; the Indian Army has blown up a portion of the tunnel they form, suspecting that it is a secret route to Pakistan. According to Eric, the demolished section would have been the larger, main Kalaroos cave. “It’s a shame that the caves are not entirely navigable. They are very rich in mineral deposits, the archaeological significance of the Satbaran rock could also be studied through the caves as their significance could be tied to each other, ” he says. Satbaran is a rare rock at the summit of the hills the caves are in.
Fies now wants to seek permission and assistance from the Indian Army to excavate explore certain sections of the caves. He says that the findings could be shared with both archaeologists and the armed forces.
For a region already so heavily militarised, more army presence and action may not be conducive to the well-being and rights of the residents. But from archaeological and geological perspectives, the mystery of Kalaroos will definitely continue to pique interest till it is unraveled.
Video by Community Correspondent Azharuddin Pir
Article by Alankrita Anand, a member of the VV Editorial Team