J&K's historical monuments fall prey to land mafia, unauthorised constructions

GK Photo

Several Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) listed protected
monuments and historical sites in Jammu and Kashmir are allegedly falling prey to the land mafia and unauthorised constructions.

“Unauthorized constructions are going unabated at several historical
monuments across Jammu and Kashmir region,” a senior ASI official, wishing not to be named, told the Greater Kashmir.

“We have been reporting such incidents to the concerned district
administration and Deputy Commissioners, however no concrete
measures are taken, which is highly unfortunate,” the official
remarked.

He said that whenever there are any such incidents reported by the
concerned site officials, the ASI takes up the matter with the concerned
administration, “but it falls on the deaf ears”.

Sarai in Shambles Khanpur Mughal Sarai (Inn)— an ancient Mughal route, used by travellers from South Asia during Mughal period, located at Khanpur area in central Kashmir’s district Budgam is in a shambles with land mafia continuing their vandalism at the prized heritage site.

“This heritage site has been ruined and ironically the local administration doesn’t seem to be bothered about it,” Tawheed Ahmad, a local, said.

“This isn’t just the site but it is a history that is telling our story to the world. Unfortunately, the land grabbers and the local mafia have been given freehand to vandalise it and claim some portions of the site,” he said.

“If we have such a historical place in our area, shouldn’t the administration take extra efforts to make it a tourist attraction and at least save it first from getting into the hands of the mafia?” he asked.

Similarly, the pre-historic monuments at Burzahom, on Srinagar outskirts have been vandalised to a great extent, sources said.

According to the UNESCO, “the Neolithic Site of Burzahom brings to light transitions in human habitation patterns from Neolithic Period to Megalithic period to the early historic period.

From transition in architecture to development in tool-making techniques to introduction and diffusion of lentil in the north-western India, the site of Burzahom is a unique comprehensive story teller of life between 3000 BCE to 1000 BCE.”

Experts said that vandalising, encroachments and unauthorized constructions have added the “venerability”
of the site.

The experts have raised the alarm over encroachment and unabated vandalism at the 5000-year-old civilisational remnants of Kashmir.

“To our surprise, we got to know that a senior police official recently inaugurated a cricket tourney at the Burzahom site. This isn’t just shocking but it also made us believe how indifferent our officials are towards preserving our cultural remnants,” said a senior professor at Department of Central Asian Studies, University of Kashmir.

“We take sadistic pleasure in eroding and erasing our rich cultural past. That is sad indeed,” the professor observed.

Another official at ASI said that there are many sites which were handed over to the ASI under “defective” titles. “Some places were handed over to us and most of the historical sites remained with the erstwhile state government. In certain cases, some sites couldn’t be transferred fully to ASI, reasons known to the then government and officials,” he said.

He said in several places across Jammu and Kashmir, the historical sites are either encroached, roads blocked, or even the drug
addicts have taken over the sites.

Earlier in a brazen violation of environmental and heritage norms, an ancient Chinar adjacent to a 600-year old Masjid at the Khanpur Mughal Sarai in central Kashmir’s district Budgam was cut down recently.

The move evoked strong resentment from conservationists and archaeological experts who accused the locals of “vandalising” the majestic Chinar and the historical sites.

Former chairman, National Monuments Authority of India and convener Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), J&K chapter, M Saleem Beg had informed the Budgam district administration regarding the vandalising of the Chinar and a threat of encroachment to the Masjid premises.

Beg including other conservationists have expressed concerns over the axing of the Chinar.

According to ASI officials, several illegal constructions and encroachments have sprung up around historical monuments, here in the past few years.

Superintending Archaeologist, Vinod Singh Rawat told Greater Kashmir, that ASI follows the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) whenever any complaint is received.

He blamed the local administration for “not cooperating” and also allegedly giving freehand to the local mafia and encroachers.

“Whenever we receive any such report from our site officials, we immediately alert the local administration, police and the local
Mohalla and Intezamia Committee for taking any immediate steps,” Rawat said.

Advisor to Lieutenant Governor, Baseer Ahmad Khan, told the Greater Kashmir that he would take up the matter with the both the divisional administrations in Jammu and Kashmir.

He said that such illegal interventions should be immediately stopped and the violators must be punished under the law.

“Regarding the Khanpur Sarai, I haven’t received any inputs yet. But the Divisional administrations led by Divisional Commissioners and all the concerned Deputy Commissioners must take note of such incidents and take prompt action.”