An 18th century shawl is lying on the footpath for drying, precious artefacts from the 6th century and valuable manuscript have been damaged due to massive floods in Kashmir. But these national treasures at Srinagar’s SPC museum have been completely forgotten by government authorities in their restoration drive.
To highlight the dismal state of these national treasures, a conference was organised jointly by SAHMAT and the Press Club of India in the capital Wednesday where conservators, historians and performing artistes talked elaborately on the effect that the floods have wrought on the cultural heritage of the Valley.
An appeal was made to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to take action for the preservation and restoration of these precious gems.
Member of National Monument Authority Salim Beg who had visited Kashmir to assess the condition of the museum said: “It is a huge loss in terms of history and culture of that place.”
Referring to a picture where shawls from 18th century were being dried in the sun after mud was removed with running tap water, Beg said: “The dire need is to appoint an expert team which can help in the restoration process.”
“The Gilgit manuscripts, belonging to the 6th century have been totally destroyed. These rare scriptures talked about the Buddhist life,” he said.
Beg, who is a former convenor of INTACH, Srinagar, said many valuable manuscripts in Sharada and Persian script have been damaged and destroyed in floods.
“Certain papier mache objects that had distinctive motifs and designs have been lost. They offered cultural layers of Kashmir through these carvings and motif,” he added.
“This loss is beyond material loss,” he added.
According to Joyoti Roy, conservationist, drying artefacts in the sun wasn’t a good idea.
“When wet objects are put in the sun for drying they become chemically weak and disintegrate,” she said.
“One should isolate the damp object. So physical isolation needs space and expert manpower, discarding objects shouldn’t be considered because they can be documented and restored in many different ways,” she added.
Both Beg and Roy felt the need of the hour was to bring the issue of neglect before the central government so that experts from various fields could find ways to tackle this issue together and preserve cultural and heritage identity of not only Kashmir, but the entire nation.
“It is an institutional failure, and this is not a question of complaining but finding solutions,” concluded Beg.