Political and Administrative Apathy in Kishtwar: Where History is Trampled with Impunity

Political and Administrative Apathy in Kishtwar: Where History is Trampled with Impunity
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Junaid Malik

There are hundreds of international organizations that are entrusted to save the rich cultural heritage of different countries and protect monuments from degradation and withering away. Every country is spending millions to accomplish this task by constructing museums, vacating forts and castles, renovating the damaged structures but there are also organized groups and mafia who are hell bent to destroy history to mint money hand in glove even with the unscrupulous elements in the government.
Though the state of Jammu and Kashmir is making assiduous efforts to save historical monuments and heritage structures like Mubarak Mandi complex, Bahu Fort, Ramnagar Fort, Hari Parbat Fort and many other historical structures but there is a complete step motherly attitude towards the peripheral districts which too constitute the rich cultural legacy in totality. This apathy has given a free hand to unscrupulous, opportunist, and construction mafia to demolish these structures along with their political bosses. This construction mafia is not only demolishing the beautiful and eloquent structures but has turned these patches into concrete jungle by unwanted structures trespassing and grabbing the state land.
One such glaring and rot image of this coterie of anti social construction mafia can be seen in district Kishtwar, a city with a rich cultural history which has not only served as small principality at certain point of time but has also played a great supportive role to the bigger kingdoms and their rulers to whom it served as a safe haven while escaping from the valley during raids and attaches from the alien powers. Kishtwar , which is known by the acronyms of saffron and sapphire valley, is endowed with so many treasures but remains a perpetual victim of political apathy.
Kishtwar has a plateau few furlongs away from the famous Sufi Shrine of Shah Farid ud din Baghdadi on the western side of the city where a few months back , we used to have a stone throne carved in beautiful miniature art design perched on the hillock commonly known as Qila top (the fort top) in local parlance. This throne belonged to the erstwhile kingdom of Kishtwar and almost dated back to 500 years old. The rectangular top sitting on four pillars was positioned in a way to accord the whole view of Kishtwar city. Folklore has it that the king used to come to this place to have closer view of his principality frequently.
But this stone throne was torn to shreds and pieces few months back when a contractor raised the compound wall of this small plateau and threw away the torn pieces of this precious throne in a heap of garbage and filth. The remnants of this historical precious throne are still lying there on the same place where a stone has been constructed.
Another glaring example of apathy and disconnect with our historical identity is the open air display of tanks belonging to kings of Kishtwar. These historical artifacts, which otherwise should have been preserved which they used to be few years Back, have been displayed on the entry gates of old DC office Kishtwar in open sky. These tanks, made up of wooden stand arms and iron barrel are lying there in open sky bearing the brunt of changing weather like snow, harsh rains, windstorms, pollution and heavy tufts of mud and dust flinging around. The day is not far when these monuments will crumble down to pieces due to neglect and desolation.
The identity of any place is its historical background which gets connected to its present and future but the authorities, at helm of affairs here are hell bent to destroy the last remains of our rich cultural heritage. Development is part and parcel of a progressive society which must be carried on with changing needs of the contemporary times but not at the cost of annihilation of historical values and cultural ethos.
The Chenab valley , which is lagging behind on all fronts, more specifically in terms of tourism can show case such art to attract tourists which could eventually promote cultural tourism to our region. This very fort top in Kishtwar could be turned into a small museum where the stone throne ,the tanks of erstwhile principality , saffron , Kishtwari blankets ,grass carpets ,sapphire and flora and found of Kishtwar could be displayed to serve as major tourist attractions more particularly during annual festivals of Sufi saints ,Machail yatra and other festivities. All that is needed is a strong will of the political class, proactive approach of all sections of society and rising above the affiliative concerns of our diverse society. This approach would be inclusive as well as progressive in terms of collective growth and at the same time would preserve our rich cultural traditions.

—The author can be reached at: malikjunaid22@gmail.com