Srinagar: Jammu and Kashmir High Court has directed authorities to ensure that there is no quarrying around 400-500 meters of a cave at Beerwah, away from the ‘Kohi-berru’ hilltop towards river Sukhnag, in central Kashmir’s Budgam district.
Closing a Public Interest Litigation, a division bench of Chief Justice M M Kumar and Justice Muzaffar Hussain Attar also directed Deputy Commissioner Budgam to decide within four months the issue about protection of the cave and its declaration as a heritage site after hearing all the stakeholders.
The PIL was filed in 2012 by two ‘social activists’, Vir Saraf and Tanveer Hussain Khan, seeking directions from the court to Director General, Archeological Survey of India, Chief Secretary of J&K and other eight respondents for immediate closure of Illegal stone quarrying being carried out by unauthorized persons in and around the site claimed to be known as “Abhinav Gupta” Caves situated at Beerwah, Budgam.
They also sought directions for protection of the site and declaring it as a heritage site for the purposes of its protection and perseveration under the Jammu and Kashmir Ancient Monuments Preservation Act, 1977.
Subsequently during the course of the pendency of the PIL, J&K Department of Tourism and Culture, and the Department of Archieves, Archeology and Museums filed a reply, stating that as per Hindu mythology “Abhinav Gupta” had some followers and the cave at the Beerwah was also used by them for prayers.
“It is the belief of Hindu Shiva Section that Abhinav Gupta was last seen on the tenth day of dark fortnight in the year 968 B.K. Samwat entering the cave alongwith his followers and then he observed his last prayer,” it said.
In the reply, a reference has been made to the minutes of meeting held under the Chairmanship of Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir on June 10 last year.
“The Cave is located on the top of hillock adjacent to Beerwah Town. The hillock is known as Kohi-berru, the name has been verified from revenue records pertaining to 1977 AD. The record reveals that the cave existing at the time of Shah Sahab, a saint from Rainwarai Srinagar arrived here and used the same cave for meditation,” read the minutes of the meeting.
The cave has not been declared as a protected monument or site under the Ancient Monuments Preservation Act 1920 AD as amended in 2010.
The reply further states that the stone quarrying has been going on around the cave which has been subsequently stopped.
“It has further been admitted that presently the quarrying is going on about 400-500 meters away from the hilltop towards river Sukhnag. In paras 13-15 of the reply, it has been stated that the Director of Archieves, Archaeology and Museums has already referred the matter to Deputy Commissioner, Budgam,” the division bench observed in its order.
On behalf of inhabitants of Beerwah and Anjuman Mahaz-ul-Haq, Beerwah, court observed that it has been stated that the site is known differently and, therefore, no declaration should be issued.
“Keeping in view the controversy raised in this PIL and the pendency of the matter before the Deputy Commissioner, Budgam, we dispose of the petition with a direction to the Deputy Commissioner to consider and decide the issue in accordance with law after hearing all concerned including (inhabitants of Beerwah and Anjuman Mahaz-ul-Haq, Beerwah),” the court said.
The Deputy Commissioner, court said, may invite objections for and against by issuing appropriate notice in the local press.
The Deputy Commissioner, court said, shall pass final orders within a period of four months from the date of receipt the copy of order.
“We further clarify that the stand has been taken in the reply filed by (Tourism and Culture, and the Department of Archieves, Archeology and Museums) that quarrying around 400-500 meters of cave has been stopped. It should be ensured that there is no violation of the statement.”