Tuesday, December 18, 2018
 News Details
Safety audit of shrines in Kashmir - Fix accountability under a Statute

By B L Saraf

One more revered shrine has been consumed by fire, in Srinagar . A blaze struck Khankah –e Maula on 14th instant , damaging it , mercifully , in a part . This is one of the many shrines venerated both by Hindus and the Muslims in Kashmir . In 2012 , millions of Kashmiris mourned when shrine of Sufi Saint Hazrat Syed Abdul Qadir Geelani met with the same fate . Two years back Jawalji Shrine , abode of Matata Jawali Ji , in Khrew area of Pulwama district was reduced to the ashes in a devastating fire . These recurring fire incidents of the shrines have raised concerns about their safety . C M Mehbooba Mufti rushed to Srinagar on hearing about the latest fire incident . After taking stock of the situation , she announced that safety audit of all religious places in the Valley will be undertaking and measures initiated to ensure their security and safety . Though belated , this is a well come development which should gladden hearts of both believers and the seekers .
Kashmir is blessed with number of soul searing spiritual places which are respected and revered by the communities living there , irrespective of faith and belief they adhere to . This is a common belief in the Valley that these spiritual places – of any faith - apart from being religious points of reference for a particular community , form part of the common historical heritage exemplifying a composite cultural and civilization .

While as elements of nature like fire , floods etc have played a part in destroying these spiritual sign posts , human have not lagged behind in vandalizing them , nonetheless . The unscrupulous have always fixed their greedy eyes on the material assets these shrines posses . They could not , however , succeeded where the shrines were secured by a law like , Wakhaf Act and Gurdhawara Prabhandak Committees Act .

The unfortunate events of 1990 brought miseries of various kinds to the displaced community . One has been, the near obliteration of its spiritual sign posts in the Valley .As per the official records , collected at the instance of High Court , only 600 - out of the one thousand plus temples and shrines , exist ( in skeleton ) on the spot . Some have fallen to the vagaries of weather , some to the inimical forces and most of them have been plundered by those very persons who were expected to protect them. The plunder goes on unabated . Kashmiri Hindus have been insisting on the statutory protection of their shrines and temples in Kashmir , as religious places of other communities do have . A Bill was introduced to this effect in the previous Assembly which , for reasons unknown , could make into the Law . In this regard every quarter - be in the government or outside - was approached by the displaced community with facts and figures . Response is still awaited.

One has a trust that while C M insists on safety audit of the shrines in the Valley , she takes into the consideration the displaced community’s long pending demand of having a law for protection of their temples and shrines in Kashmir . This could be a one effective measure to ensure their preservation and security . Besides , it would constitute a significant C B M for the community , in forced exile , to seriously think of returning to the place of birth .

If the dwindling cultural glory of the Valley is to be reclaimed the Spiritual places must resonate , once again , with soul lifting hymns sung in praise of the Only One - who Lords over the world .

It may be easy to tame and manage the ‘ elements of nature ‘ or they may show some mercy on their own , humans need a hard measure of deterrence . We hope and wish CM Mehbooba Mufti displays a requisite political will to reign in the caretakers turned cabals : who have converted the assets of the shrines and temple into a real estate and misappropriated them , as such . We need a law for protection of all Shrines in Kashmir . They belong to us , as we all belong to them .

(The author is a Former Principal District & Sessions Judge. Feedback- [email protected] )

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