‘Nothing in hand to save the shrine from fire’
SRINAGAR: After the fire that threatened to destroy Khanqah-e-Moula, shrine managements are worried about the safety of these historical structures. Custodian of the Jenab Sahib shrine at Anchar in Soura, which was damaged in a devastating fire in 2008, say that no requisite fire safety measures were in place to protect the shrine.
Some of the relics pertain to first four Caliphs of Islam, and one relic, which has not been displayed for decades, is the Siyhaban, a huge cloth sheet with a sketch of Arabia that people say is shown only at times of calamity.
However, Rouf Ahmad, who works as the controller at the shrine, says six fire-extinguishers were installed to meet any emergency.
Situated on the banks of Anchar lake, the shrine houses 14 relics and claims to hold the highest number such “historical treasures” in south Asia. The relics pertain to different Islamic luminaries and were saved from the 2008 fire that engulfed the top floor of the shrine.
Following the incident, J&K Government and J&K Wakf Board issued 10 small fire extinguishers, but none among the caretakers knows how to operate the firefighting equipment. “Now only six of them are operational. There is a need for around 15 fire-extinguishers for such a huge structure,” a caretaker said.
The Sajjada Nisheen at the shrine, also known as the shrine of Mirza Muhamamd Shafi, said that the relics are at great risk due to lack of fire proof chambers. “After fire incident in 2008, there where promises that preference would be given for safeguarding this rich relic treasure at the shrine,” Mirza said. “All the talk died down and our pleas to get a fire proof chamber or a fire proof facility in place was reciprocated with the supply of 10 fire extinguishers to this shrine.”
Ordinary lockers contain the relics in the building that can’t ensure safety in case of an accident like 2008.
Mirza said that they initiated construction of a strong room in the second floor for the safety of the relics, but their pleas to get the Wakf Board to certify it after inspection from experts was never given an ear.
“Much of the effort is on politicizing fire incidents rather than providing mechanism where in fire-incidents can be detected or prevented. As such, accidents are common here and surge during dry season,” said Mirza, suggesting that persons living in the vicinity should be identified and trained in the use of fire-fighting equipment.
Local residents, who come to pray at this shrine, say that if a fire erupts, they cannot use the firefighting equipment as none of them is trained to do so, and if the government installs this type of facility, the preliminary focus should be on training so that a substantial force is in place to deal with an emergency.
“There are two fire plugs that have been set up, but they always run low on water supply. One is only partially functional. Instead, fire-tenders should be placed close by,” said Ghulam Kundoo, who lives near the shrine. He said the laid-down fire safety measures became defunct and there was no follow-up on upgrading them.
Mirza also said that a probe to ascertain the cause of fire was initiated after the 2008 incident, but findings were not made public.