Preserve Heritage Sites

Preserve Heritage Sites
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A hundred and fifty year old structure- that doubled up as a dispensary –in down town Srinagar is in the process of being demolished. It is being done because it is felt by the concerned authorities that the 150 year building is unsafe. However, in more senses than one, this demolition might constitute an act of vandalism. It amounts to stating the obvious that heritage buildings are the adornment of Srinagar city- especially down town which, among other things renders the old city as a locale of exotic charm. But, alas, powers that be do not view the city and its various adornments as its Unique Selling Point (USP), and thereby as a draw for foreign tourists. Tourists of this segment do not visit places like Kashmir for viewing modern gadgetry or structures; they have enough of these , in their resplendent glory , in their countries of origin. One major reason for visiting Kashmir is the actual brand “ pull” of Kashmir, which lies in the region’s pristine beauty and what may be called “ old world charms”. These include heritage sites, structures and buildings. Besides being sites of attraction for assorted tourists, heritage sites also have intrinsic value and merit, reflecting among other things Kashmir’s history, culture and socio-cultural aesthetics. In lieu of all these reasons, heritage sites in Kashmir, whatever their condition and status, must be preserved, for aesthetic, historical, cultural and educational reasons. In fact, these must not only be protected and preserved but also promoted. No, the question or issue is what if some of these present a hazard to people living around them. This is a valid concern but it can be reasonably obviated or ameliorated by modern methods in structural and other branches of engineering, which actually strengthen these structures. So important is the need for preservation of these structures, that if foreign expertise is needed to strengthen them, this expertise must and should be roped in. In every part of the world, these kinds of structures are preserved and protected. The same should apply here too. Heritage sites of Kashmir reflect the region’s history and are a testament to the various phases of Kashmir’s history, culture, politics and society. There is great value in them. They cannot then be destroyed, either by design or default. It is about time that serious notice be taken of our heritage sites and these be protected with vigor.

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