Authorities fail to protect rampart of 17th century Mughal Garden at Habak

Authorities fail to protect rampart of 17th century Mughal Garden at Habak

Historical accounts reveal the garden was built by Mughal Governor Saif Khan in 17th century. During Dogra regime, the place was used as a jail.

Failure of authorities to take measures to protect rampart of 17th century Mughal Garden at Zakura here raises question marks over government claims to restore historical sites in the summer capital.  

In absence of any conservation, some unscrupulous persons have damaged walls of Saif Khan Bagh to construct road through it. 

The government in its Srinagar Metropolitan Region-2035 master plan has proposed the site as “Tourist Village-cum-Urban Hatt for the promotion of ethnic and culture tourism.  "The site shall truly be representative of ethnic architecture and rural ethos in terms of tangible and intangible components." 

The government’s objective mentioned in the plan is: “to permit low impact development in the area which is environmentally sustainable, economically viable, repository of heritage and representative of rural ethos and culture." 

It states that gardens like Saif Khan Bag are almost untampered hence a treasure to understand pristine Mughal style.  However, some persons are vandalising the historical site with damaging of heritage walls and constructions.  

Historical accounts reveal the garden was built by Mughal Governor Saif Khan in 17th century. During Dogra regime, the place was used as a jail.

Ironically, despite historical importance, Department of Archives, Archaeology and Museums, whose primary mandate is to preserve the tangible heritage of the state, has not listed the garden as heritage so far.

“Unless it (Saif Khan Bagh) is not with us as notified, we cannot do anything. Our role is limited to those sites which are someway notified with us,” said director Department of Archives, Archaeology and Museums, Muneer ul Islam.

However, convener INTACH, J&K Muhammad Saleem Beg said listing something is not precedent to save heritage.

“It is a heritage site. It is a Mughal era garden. To list something is not precedent to save heritage. This is a legalistic interpretation. When government lists it, then it becomes responsibility of the government to maintain it and protect it,” said Beg.

He added: “In this country not more than 20 percent of heritage sites are listed. That doesn’t mean there is no heritage. And then this heritage is recorded as Mughal heritage. Is something bigger than history? In Mughal chronicle it is also named as Garden. Listing is concept of 21st century. This is 17th century garden”.

Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) and Lakes and Water Ways Development Authority (LAWDA) which are among the departments tasked with conservation, revitalization and management of heritages, also seem to be unaware about the vandalisation of Mughal era structure.

“We will depute our team. Definitely action will be taken,” secretary LAWDA Sumaira Shameem told Greater Kashmir.

Similarly, commissioner SMC Peerzada Hafizullah said "as the matter has been brought into our notice, action will be taken." “We will lodge FIR if something of this sort has happened. This was not in our notice. We will send our concerned ward officer to the spot,” Hafizullah added.