Shopping complexes, flats replace heritage buildings

Govt fails to protect ‘havelis’ raised during reign of Dogra dynasty

Shopping complexes, flats replace heritage buildingsAs the construction sector is booming in Jammu with several shopping complexes and residential flats coming up in the past two decades, in the process it is contributing to destruction of historical buildings and “havelis” constructed during the pre-independence era.
Some of the dilapidated buildings, especially in the old city area, raised during the reign of the Dogra dynasty are still surviving “demolition”. They are a witness to a glorious bygone era of the history of Jammu city, which was power centre of the Jammu and Kashmir state for 100 years (1847-1947).
The evidence of the royal cultural imprints is still clearly evident from the names of the places located well in the heart of the city, but little importance has been given to the protection and conservation of monuments, buildings and sites as done in other cities of the country.
The majority of privately owned structures have been dismantled for construction of commercial complexes because the government failed to formulate any policy to safeguard them as done by several state governments in the rest of India.
However, many experts feel that not only the government, but also people are responsible for the destruction of heritage and monuments which could have been showcased as tourist destination.
“Ignorance and who-cares attitude of people are the main reasons. But the government, too, has failed to come up with a policy to help people who live in old buildings to restore them,” said Lalit Magotra, noted Dogri poet and president of the Dogri Sanstha.
A few years ago the land mafia destroyed a portion of a heritage building, Baladari, near Hazuri Bagh, Talab Tillo, once used as the summer home by founder of the J&K state Maharaja Gulab Singh. After residents of the area raised an alarm, the persons fled from the spot leaving a JCB and other equipment at the place, but no further action was taken. Same is the situation of other structures.
However, Director, Department of Archives, Archaeology and Museums, Mohammad Shafi Zahid said the department could not intervene directly in private property. “We can only provide consultancy in case some individual approaches us, but a very few people have come forward. Some of the structures are on the verge of collapse.”
Apathy can be gauged by the fact that renovation of the historic Mubarak Mandi palace complex, a collection of palaces depicting the various phases of the Dogra rulers, is yet to be completed even after eight years. A major renovation project initiated in 2008 had gone slow due to fund shortage and lack of interest shown by successive governments.