The Jammu and Kashmir government slept over warnings on vulnerability of wooden shrines, mainly built of timber, in the valley and failed to put up fire extinguishers at the architecturally significant monuments.
The devastating damage to the 245-year-old Syed Abdul Qadir Jeelani shrine on Monday morning could have been avoided had the government paid attention to the warnings and put up fire extinguishers. The shrine attracts lakhs of devotees every year.
The Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) has been warning the state government for several years now to intervene and put in place a fire fighting mechanism.
Even on June 14, Waqf Board vice-chairman MY Qadri, law minister Ali Muhammad Sagar and senior state administration official, mainly engineers of the power development department, were warned by the INTACH officials about the looming danger over the shrines due to unnoticed intervention.
“At most timber shrines, electrification and architectural changes are being made by donations of private persons without any deliberation at higher level in the government or in the concerned Waqf Board. Any individual can donate and make changes in a shrine,” INTACH’s Kashmir head Salim Beg told the Hindustan Times.
“Over a period of time, façade lighting, public address system and ill-planned electrification at these wooden shrines are posing a threat,” said Beg.
Sources said the Waqf Board, which is headed by chief minister Omar Abdullah, has not deployed any fire extinguishers inside the shrine. In fact, there is no department with the Waqf Board where engineers or technical people are hired to look after the shrine wiring or electrification.
“Most electrification changes are made then and there by local caretakers. We need a coordinated mechanism in place to avoid what happened today,” said Beg.
J&K law minister Ali Muhammad Sagar said the inquiry committee, headed by state divisional commissioner, will look into the non-availability of fire extinguishers at the shrine.
“We will see into this aspect too. We will see what can be done,” said Sagar.
There are 22 architecturally important timber and wood shrines in the valley and other smaller dozens of shrines dotting Kashmir are prototype of these shrines.