Government, Community Work To Restore Grandeur Of Kashmir Heritage Site

Government, Community Work To Restore Grandeur Of Kashmir Heritage Site

13 April 2013
Other
Adil Akhzer

Srinagar: When the 250-year-old Dastageer Sahib shrine in old Srinagar was gutted in a devastating fire on June 25th, 2012, no one could imagine that roughly six months later, the state government would begin to restore its old grandeur. Today, people who agitated against the tragedy are pleased with the reconstruction process. Khalid Jeelani is caretaker of the shrine, dedicated to the 12th-century Sufi saint Sheikh Abdul Qadir Geelani, which is revered across the valley. 'People's anger at the time of the fire incident was genuine and understandable. Sentiments of Kashmiri people are associated with the shrine,' he told Khabar South Asia. 'Lakhs of people visit the shrine to pay obeisance. I remember how on the day of the tragedy, people's anger went out of control and they demanded strict action against the miscreants responsible for the destruction of the shrine.' Though the government began reconstruction, the process faced unavoidable delays. 'However, now it is going on the right track and has received people's appreciation,' Jeelani said. 'It was like I lost my soul' Fatima Banoo, 48, is a devotee and frequent visitor to the shrine from south Kashmir's Pulwama town. 'I remember the day when it was razed to ashes. I came from my home, which is very far from here, to see what had happened,' she said. 'That day, it was like I lost my soul when I saw the fire. 'But, I am so happy today, seeing the work going on in full pace.' Minister for Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Ali Mohammed Sagar is monitoring the reconstruction process. The shrine will be rebuilt in its former style, he told Khabar. 'We lost a heritage. Now, our main priority is to reconstruct the shrine, [in accordance with] the expectations of the people,' he said. 'We are taking every possible step to reconstruct and are roping in every department and stakeholder, to rebuild the shrine. 'We are facing some problems in the construction as there is a huge rush of pilgrims every day. We will try to finish the construction process in the next year.' Preserving Kashmir's heritage According to officials of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) Muslim Waqf Board, the new structure will be reconstructed in the ornate wooden architectural style, in keeping with the Kashmiri tradition. Mohammed Yaseen Qadri, Vice Chairman of the board, told Khabar, 'I am sure, once we complete the construction, people won't be able to distinguish between the old and new shrine. We have adequate funds for the construction and J&K Projects Construction Corporation is responsible for the same.' Caretaker Jeelani said all institutions contributing to the reconstruction process are in close co-ordination, including the Waqf Board and the Kashmir chapter of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH). 'This shrine is a symbol of Kashmir's Islamic tradition,' he said. 'Government understood the necessity to resurrect the shrine in the same old architectural style, which was reflective of Kashmir's uniqueness.' Sagar, the minister, meanwhile, told Khabar, an investigation to determine the fire's cause is ongoing. 'Government constituted a probe committee to ascertain the cause of the fire, soon after the incident,' he said. 'They are doing their work, and I hope they will come up with the conclusion soon.'