SRINAGAR: Demolition is in progress of a nearly 150-year-old dispensary that was to be declared a heritage building in Maharaj Gunj area of old-city Srinagar, but neither the Department of Archives, Archaeology & Museums nor the Health Department are aware that such an old building and dispensary is being destroyed.
Made in 1865 by Maharaja Ranbir Singh, the two-storey building is made of stones, mid-19th century bricks, lime mortar, and its wooden roof is supported by bulky, round Greek pillars. The roof has already been removed. The process for the removal of walls and ceiling is going on.
The timber that was removed from the roof lies on the banks of the Jhelum. It is occasionally used by shopkeepers in the area as firewood. The dispensary, which catered to a large chunk of population of the old city, has been temporary moved to makeshift premises in a nearby place.
An engineer at the Roads and Buildings (R&B) department told Kashmir Reader that the countdown to the demolition started a few years ago, when a conservation team from INTACH approached the health department for preservation of the structure. However, the building was found to be unsafe after engineers of R&B department and experts of INTACH found that the mud plaster and bricks had lost their strength.
“We produced the case before the health department, who agreed to its demolition,” the engineer said. “R&B department also invited tenders, first at Rs 10 lakh, then at Rs 8 lakh, and again at Rs 5 lakh, for carrying out the demolition, but none of the tenders found any takers. Later the tenders were issued at less than Rs 5 lakh.”
The incumbent executive engineer, R&B Department, Shahnawaz Ahmad told Kashmir Reader that he has received formal permission for the demolition.
However, Chief Medical Officer Srinagar, Dr Dildar Mir, who is the custodian of the structure, told Kashmir Reader that he knew nothing about it. “I don’t know anything about it. I am on leave. I cannot say anything,” he said.
Secretary, Culture Department, Dilshad Khan said that she had never come across any file related to the building’s demolition. “Also, the building is yet to be declared as a heritage building. Please speak to the director of the department,” she said.
Director Archives, Mohammad Shafi Zahid, said that he was busy in Delhi. He did say that he had not allowed the demolition of the structure.
“I am in Delhi. Please speak to the assistant director, he will provide you the details,” he said.
Assistant Director Mushtaq Ahmad said that he will send his team tomorrow to see what is going on.
“I will stop the demolition. In case it has been permitted, I will go through the order. I have no up-to-date status information of it. I will also write to the SHO (station house officer of police) concerned,” Mushtaq Ahmad said.