Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Wakaf Board, formerly known as Muslim Aukaf Trust which is entrusted with the management and look after of these shrines, has failed miserably to achieve its goals
Kashmir has been abode to numerous shrines and Mausoleums which are the centers of faith and devotion for Kashmir’s. Kashmiri Muslims and Kashmiri Hindus throng these sacred sanctums throughout the year for spiritual contentment and satisfaction. Even many non-Muslim devotees visit Muslim shrines for the fulfillment of their wishes and longings which not only strengthens our secular traditions but binds us in the unprecedented bond of love and brotherhood irrespective of our religious affinities and beliefs. Devotees offer different things as an act of devotion and oblation at these shrines. Thousands of Votive threads and cloth pieces are knotted in the iron bars of the windows called ‘Daesh’
These threads are witness to our belief we have in these shrines. Most of the shrines have free public kitchens where hungry and poor are provided with meals. Even, Tehri (Crimson colored fried rice) is offered to devotees and poor at these centers. Thus, these shrines have been Centers of attraction to Kashmiris for centuries together. And these shrines are the marvelous places of art and architecture that exhibits the aesthetic sense of our rulers and the artistry of our artisans. This is not all about these shrines and sanctums but there is another beautiful side of the coin. These shrines provide a tremendous service to our economy which is badly hit by the current turmoil. These centers generate walloping amount of revenue. These shrines are the hub of pilgrimage tourism. Thousands and lakhs of local and national devotees visit these Mausoleums every day. But, most of the Muslim shrines in the valley lack proper sanitation around them.
Jammu and Kashmir Muslim wakaf Board, formerly known as Muslim Aukaf Trust which is entrusted with the management and look after of these shrines, has failed miserably to achieve its goals. On the other hand, Maata Vaishnow Devi Shrine board, which has only one Shrine to generate revenue for it, has a super-speciality hospital and a growing university, named Maata Vaishnow Devi university to its credit while as JK Muslim Wakaf board has nothing to its credit except providing its corpus fund to Islamic University of Science and technology and a nursing College. According to figures, the JK Muslim wakaf board has 2160 kanals orchard land, 99 kanals paddy land, 242 Maliyari land, 6840 kanals forest land, 32 kanals marshy land, and 1453 shops . Most of the shops are in the business hub of Srinagar city i.e. Hari Singh high Street and Boulevard road. Ironically, the board is facing big monetary deficit. The assets are enough to feed a big chunk of populace if harnessed and explored honestly. The revenue generated by the pilgrimage tourism at these shrines is a big bonus for the wakaf board. The board has probably fallen prey to political nexus and mismanagement. Let the people at the helm of affairs assure proper accountability of all the concerned. People have been demanding a thorough audit of the board portfolio holders and their personal assets. This is not enough to castigate our Muslim wakaf board. There is one more facet of it. Shrines and sanctums are losing their sheen and attraction.
Very recently, I visited Baba Reshi (RA) shrine. I was shocked to see the insensitivity and callousness of our Muslim wakaf board authorities. Let my readers learn that Baba Reshi RA shrine tops the affiliated shrines of Muslim wakaf board in revenue generation. The shrine generates almost rupees three crore annually which is more than enough to develop the infrastructure there and to provide facilities for pilgrims and visitors. Though a good number of parks stand erected there for the lodging of pilgrim tourists but the poor sanitation is a big cause of concern for everyone. The wooden barks are almost in shambles. The furnishing available there in the rooms is speaking loudly about the insensitivity and callousness of Wakaf authorities towards it. Such rooms can't win you more pilgrims and tourists. We need to have comfortable rooms which can attract international and national tourists. The stone-ladder steps leading to the shrine particularly from the back side smell very pungent. The leftover food and other edible stuff are thrown in the open space. The fetor and the stink are causing terrible inconvenience to the pilgrims and the visitors. Open drains and stinky washrooms add to the funk and the stench. The slaughter house should have been sprayed with disinfectants. One can't dare to pass by it without closing mouth and nose with a handkerchief. The washrooms lack proper sanitation provisions. If the concerned stakeholders won't take necessary measures, it will drastically hit the number of pilgrims visiting the shrine. The concerned authorities can erect washrooms equipped with latest facilities, and employ people to clean these washrooms.
The shrine is situated in the lap of green woods. Any kind of human callousness would leave it barren. Visitors and others make excessive usage of polythene there. The shrine is in the midst of an eco-sensitive area. Polythene bags, wrappers and other plastic items like empty bottles are seen piled up around the barks, and the roadside. The road from Baba Reshi shrine to Gulmarg has big heaps of plastic bags scattered alongside the road at different places. It might have dangerous repercussions for this green belt.
Authorities are in slumber. I wonder if JK Muslim wakaf board authorities have ever given a serious thought to it. If the plague of polythene is not checked in time, it will terribly hit this eco-sensitive zone. Let local and national visitors minimize the usage of polythene to preserve and conserve this green heritage for our future generations. I am not sure that our other Shrines situated in eco-sensitive areas are free from such official and public wrath. Why is not Wakaf board taking pragmatic steps to make it a polythene free zone? What are they afraid of?
Using polythene in such areas should be made a cognizable offence. If authorities will fine offenders, it will certainly prove a deterrent for others. This is the need of the hour because our so called intellectual acumen is too weak to make ourselves accountable to our own souls. These green woods, velvety Meadows, lofty mountains, crystal-clear gushing waters, noisy Brooks, foamy waterfalls are our assets. We all need to come forward to preserve them for our future progeny. Our indifferences will make our children pay heavily. Let's pledge to make our valley in general and our eco-sensitive zones in particular- a polythene free state.
(Author is a Teacher and Columnist)