In an unprecedented move, 130 prominent civil society members have sent a petition to Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha seeking preservation of two important “state protected monuments” in J&K.
The petition sent through Convener Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), J&K Chapter, M Saleem Beg, calls for preservation of Shergarhi Complex in summer capital and Mubarak Mandi in winter capital of J&K.
The signatories to the petition include academician Prof Amitabh Matoo, legendary santoor maestro, Pandit Bajan Sopori, eminent theatre and film director, actor M K Raina, eminent poet Rahman Rahi, Prof R R Sharma, senior advocate M K Bhardwaj, Maj Gen (Retd) G S Jamwal, former president Jammu Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Y V Sharma , senior journalist Anil Anand, scholar and writer MY Taing, former Director Centre for Central Asian Studies KU Gulshan Majid, former Director General, All India Radio, President Asia Pacific Institute for Broadcasting Development Fayaz Shehryar, former Chief Secretaries SS Bloeria, Vijay Bakaya, MS Pandit, Hindal Tyabji.
The petition reads: “We the signatories . . . request that no action should be taken to reverse the protected status of these buildings. Any inappropriate use of these buildings will go against . . . their status as ‘state protected’ monuments. We also demand that the process of their preservation initiated in previous years be speeded up and taken to its logical conclusion.
“Jammu and Kashmir is a rich repository of cultural properties representing its unique and layered history which include the Dogra period British/colonial monuments that functioned as public institutions.
“While rapid urbanisation and lack of concern towards these cultural assets have resulted in vandalising and loss of many significant landmarks, some of those that still exist include Mubarak Mandi, Jammu, and Shergarhi Palace, Srinagar. The architectural style and decorative elements in these two complexes are a testimony to the inclusive and composite character of J&K reflected through the medium of architecture and its decorative elements.”
Speaking with Greater Kashmir, Beg said that besides representing the finest of architectural traditions, these two complexes have met the administrative, judicial as well as residential demands of the then government and ruling establishment.
“Keeping in view their historic and cultural value and on persistent demand of the elected representatives and the civil society, the J&K government has notified these complexes as State Protected Monuments under the J&K Ancient Monuments Preservation Act of 1920 amended in 2010,” Beg said.
He said in case of Mubarak Mandi, the declaration was issued vide SRO-126 dated 26 April 2005. “Subsequently, the complex was put under the charge of a separate agency— Mubarak Mandi Heritage Society,” he said.
As per the petition, this society initiated the restoration of some of the buildings through the Archaeological Survey of India and other agencies. “However, the work on other remaining buildings has not picked up at the desired pace. Also some issues have cropped up creating a conflict situation between the residents and the society”.
The petition says that while it is a matter of pride to be living in a historic area, the genuine concerns regarding access and civic amenities for the residents have to be addressed in the right earnest. “The restoration and reuse plan, already taken up at the monument, needs to be implemented without any further delay.”
Highlighting the need for preserving Shergahi Complex, the petition says that it was declared a State Protected Monument vide SRO-207 Dated 6 July 2017.
“The complex was placed under the charge of the Department of Archives, Archaeology, and Museums. We understand that in December 2019, it was decided that manuscripts, artefacts, and other cultural material should be shifted to Shergarhi for its proper storage and preservation as well as for taking up restoration of the complex,” the petition reads.
The signatories have informed the LG through the petition that they have received “disturbing information” that the UT Administration is proposing to shift some government departments to the complex. “This will irreversibly tamper with its historic character. It is requested that no action be taken to dilute the integrity of the complex like locating government offices in protected monuments,” it reads.