“We are contemplating a long strike if it is not completed by March 2018,” he said.

Charar-i-Sharif, Publish Date: Jan 24 2018 1:32AM | Updated Date: Jan 24 2018 1:32AM

The people of Charar-i-Sharif remember former governor Jagmohan for not only the massacres that occurred during his rule but also for proposing a master plan to make the town and Jammu’s Katra as model towns.

While Katra has developed into a sort of a model town and made progress in different spheres, thanks largely to the Vaishno Devi shrine, Charar lags behind. Take the construction on the old Khanqah building, for example.

“For the past 17 years, various governments who ruled us have not completed the construction of the grand mosque (old Khanqah). To put it on record, Charar shrine is the third largest revenue earner for the Waqf board. Look at the shrine itself,” said Javaid Ahmad Dar, a local teacher.

The old Khanqah building, a heritage wooden structure, was gutted in the blaze that erupted during a gunfight between the armed forces and militants in 1995. The forces had besieged the town and the shrine for nearly a month before the gunfight began.

The Jammu and Kashmir Projects Construction Corporation (JKPCC), which is the executing agency, has missed several deadlines for the completion of the project since 2002—first 2011, then 2013 and later 2016.

“The construction of the Khanqah has seen five chief ministers. We fail to understand why it is taking so long,” said Ghulam Qadir Bedaar, a member of Alamdar Traders Union.

“We are contemplating a long strike if it is not completed by March 2018,” he said.

Locals complain that roads and buildings department and JKPCC have never allowed them to construct washrooms for ablution or other facilities for devotees, although Waqf Board possesses 65 acres of land around the shrine.

The existing washrooms on the back side of the shrine stink because they are not maintained properly.

Mohammad Iqbal Shah, Charar-i-Sharif Waqf Board president, said there is no accountability regarding the work on the Khanqah.

“From the administration to the labourers, nobody is serious,” he said.

Shah led this reporter to the under-construction Khanqah and said, “Look at this. The flooring is tattered and electric fitting is a complete mess. The JKPCC is responsible because they are not competent and then they don’t have funds. For how long do we have to endure this?”

He said that nobody “listens” to our problems.

“We face the shortage of laborers in maintaining the surroundings of the shrine and the under-construction mosque. We are not able to clean the premises of the mosque because the construction is underway,” he said.

The dome of the shrine itself hasn’t been painted for the past three years, although the tenders have been issued. The paint job has been allocated to India Steel Corporation and a Chinese firm, Alfa Company.

Imam of the mosque Amir-ud-din said although the major works have been finished, the overall project has not been up to people’s expectations.

“The mosque has four floors which can accommodate 5000 people but it lacks central heating system,” he said.

 “I sincerely appeal to the authorities that they should keep in view the historical character of Charar town. Devotees face hardships. So we want immediate completion of the mosque and proper lavatory facilities,” he said. 

Local MLA Ghulam Nabi Lone Hanjura said the lack of funds led to the delay in Khanqah construction. He said Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti recently released Rs 2 crore for the works.

“I believe the project would be completed by March or April,” he said. The lavatories would be constructing as early as possible on the backside of the shrine by the housing department.

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