SRINAGAR: The archives, archaeology and museums department, the sole custodian of historic buildings in the Valley, has neither a list of historic structures in the Valley nor any documenting of their architectural designs.
A top official in the department told Kashmir Reader that the mapping of the “heritage landscape” has not been done so far. He said the documentation of even declared heritage structures and ancient monuments has not been done.
“The department cannot exactly tell you how many structures are there in the Valley. And there is no question of knowing their architectural designs from the documents of the department, because there exist none,” said the official.
The department at present can only say that there are 22 structures declared as state-protected monuments, nine as JK heritage monuments, while proposals for 13 are under process. There is no mention of the rest of the plethora of structures that are scattered across Kashmir Valley.
The lax approach becomes evident from the timeline of the department’s history of preservation. As per the official documents, six structures were at first brought under the state monuments act in 1983. A small temple (Manasbal) was included in 1985, and three years later, in 1988, Mughal Haman Achabal and one structure in Baramulla was protected under the law. Between 1989, when Parihaspora was brought under the law, and 2000, no documenting was done for purposes of preservation. From 2000 onwards there has been intermittent intervention, which raises serious questions about the work of the department, which has a workforce of 208 employees across the state.
When Kashmir Reader asked Mohammad Shafi Zahid, Director of Archives, Archaeology & Museums, what work has been done for the preservation of structures under his tenure, he said, “You look for strange things.”
This lack of work on the department’s part has made the state dependent on The Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), which has listed most of the structures in Srinagar city and other parts of the Valley. Whenever there is a need for repair of any structure, INTACH is consulted. When the Dastgeer Sahab shrine was gutted in a blaze in 2011, INTACH provided the designs of the structure. Similarly in 2013, when the Shalimar pavillion had to be renovated, it was the same organisation that provided the designs.