‘Barge’, a valuable heritage asset turns garbage bin in Kashmir

‘Barge’, a valuable heritage asset turns garbage bin in Kashmir

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The picture of Barge taken on April,18, the day of heritage function at SPS Museum in Srinagar . (Picture Credit Kashmir Reader)

SRINAGAR: A barge of Kashmiri ruler Maharaja Ranbir Singh preserved at SPS Museum in Srinagar is used as garbage bin.

Ironically, even on World Heritage Day on April 18, the barge, locally known as ‘Agan Boat’ was used as dustbin. When the Directorate of Archives, Archaeology and Museums here at Lal Mandi were observing the Heritage day amid tall claims of preservation of heritage, the condition of barge was exposing departments claim on ground.

Director Archives, Archaeology and Museums J&K, Mohammad Shafi Zahid while speaking on the occasion said that there was a need to explore the hidden heritage sites. He also pitched for the revival of existing cultural heritage in the Valley.

Divisional Commissioner Kashmir Baseer Ahmad Khan, who was the chief guest on the occasion, claims that despite all odds Kashmir has preserved the rich heritage.

Surprisingly, the rusted barge was an eye opener to this claim.  Khan said that the he would leave no stone unturned to look after the newly constructed museum in the heart of Srinagar. He said, “We also need to educate the students towards the heritage and culture.” But the question is then how come his seriousness neglected the historic barge.

The picture taken on the day of heritage function depicts that the historic barge has turned into a garbage dump bin with all wastes of food packets and water bottles which were given as refreshment to visitors during the function thrown into it.

Sources said that the barge was used as bin even before it catches media attention on the day of observing heritage Day. A witness told that all they were shocked to see the condition of such a historically heritage barge.

According to history this barge was gifted to Ranbir by the queen Victoria.  It was given in response to a welcome presentation by the ruler when the queen had to arrive New Delhi to meet kings of south Asia. Ranbir had spread his own carpet in the Queen’s reception, which was guarded by two guards, one a three feet dwarf and another six feet tall soldier.
This presentation of two unique men made the queen laugh and she gave the boat as a gift to the ruler.

It is pathetic at the part of the department that claims heritage is knowledge and an asset of a nation. On the day of heritage function, Director of the department said that there is a need to explore the hidden heritage sites which would further help boost the tourism sector of the state, but one may ask what about the preservation of historical valuable assets.

Pertinently, the boat was damaged in September 2014 floods, but was not repaired since then. Meanwhile some media reports have quoted Director on the issue and he said, “It was unfortunate to know that it was used as a dustbin. Action would be taken against the officials who would be found involved in the ‘callousness’.

He said that he has put in all efforts to revive the department. “Sometimes such incidents inadvertently take place but proper action would be taken to fix responsibility,” he said, adding the department is inviting tenders to repair the barge.

The SPS Museum is one of the biggest museums of the country where about 70,000 objects are preserved. A majestic museum complex has been constructed recently and almost 90% collection has been shifted to it. Huge sums were invested on the interior designing and the layout of the museum to satisfy the tourists and visitors.

According to officials JK state has 53 state protected and 58 centrally monuments and sites which if showcased shall form a part of tourism and boost the economy. They said that the department has introduced digitisation of the records for its present preservation and easy access to researchers.

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