“Education without heritage cosciousness is meaningless”

Ashok Sharma
Anil Paba, a renowned freelance archaeologist, a columnist and an efficient bank officer, needs no introduction. He owns a huge collection of antiquities, manuscripts, coins, sculptures, paintings, rare books, tools, pots, and other priceless objects of archaeological importance. He has preserved all these valuable things in his private museum named “Amar Santosh”. He frequently takes part in seminars and programmes aimed at spreading awareness in the masses about the need to preserve and conserve our heritage. He has displayed his rare collections in many exhibitions organised at national and state level, which have been visited by heritage lovers, archaeologists, intelligentia and ordinary people as well. Besides, he has discovered many ancient temples, stepwells, and archaeological sites and written extensively about them in newspapers. His work is recognised and appreciated by the National Archives of India, the Ministry of Culture,GOI and other reputed institutions. He is invited to attend conferences on culture and heritage being organised at a national and international level. He is usually preoccupied with his duties, but he pursues his passion with zeal.
Excerpts of Interview :
AS: What is the field of your work, sir?
AP:I am an officer serving at J& K Bank Ltd. But in my spare time, I like to work as a freelance journalist and archaeologist .My interests revolve around history, culture, and heritage, and my passion is to preserve and conserve our culture and heritage.
AS: Will you, please give the readers a brief account of your collection, Sir?
AP: I have a large collection of fossils, Paleolithic, Neolithic and Microlithic stone tools,besides iron tools ,terracotta objects, sculptures, weapons, instruments, manuscripts, paintings, copper sculptures, masks, swords, coins, jewellery,textiles, and other museum related materials like watches, radios, wooden objects, seals etc. Some of the outstanding objects in my collection include sculptures from Greek art, manuscripts on Bhoj Patra (12-13th century A.D), Kalhana’s Rajatrangini (all volumes), Ladies’ figurines (2nd century AD) ,Takri manuscripts and important maps etc;
AS: A really wonderful collection ! Who have been the main visitors to your museum?
AP :Many scholars from India, University of Jammu, SMVDU(Katra), Central University of Jammu, and University of Kashmir have visited the Museum for research on astrology, geometry, numismatic study, astronomy, etc. Some of the renowned visitors include SM Qadri, Director (retd) Department of Archives and Museum, Kashmir; Prof. Sindhu Kapoor, Coordinator, School of Heritage and Mgt, Cluster Univ of Jammu, Baldev Kumar from National Manuscripts Mission, Peerzada Ashraf from Department of Archives and Museum; Prof. Sudhir Singh, Jt Secretary JKBOSE; Prof. Meena Gupta, Sonia Jasrotia, Asha Singh from Univ of Jammu; and many other scholars for their work related to thesis.
AS: What would you call your extraordinary achievement so far?
My extraordinary and exemplary effort is to clean up our religious and sacred river Devika and bring it to higher forums.My enormous efforts, Prime Minister of India, P.M.O. Office, Ministry of Water Resources Management, and Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change,yielded fruitful results. The P.M.O. Office sent a team who met with me and conducted a survey. On the basis of my project, this sacred river Devika came under the National River Conservation Plan (NRCP), Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has sanctioned an amount of Rs.186.54 crore for the rejuvenation of holy Devika. .
AS: What are the most significant things that you have unearthed and discovered?
AP: I have discovered ancient sites namely Bailli, 12 kms to the north west of Udhampur where the ruins and antiquities of multi cultures have been discovered such as Stone tools, hair pin, graftle mark, bangles, chart, pottery and other objects.I have also discovered ancient remains of 9th &10th century at Village Laddan in District Udhampur. Moreover,I have discovered various fossils of flora and fauna from different places of Duggar region. It is the first time that I have discovered microlithic tools from the Udhampur area in the history of Jammu and Kashmir, which fills various gaps in the Jammu region’s history.Apart from this,I have discovered more than 50 miniature temples and other temples of archaeological importance belonging to primitive societies and from 8th century to 12th century A.D including many sculptures of tribal arts and Takri inscription.
AS:What are the main AWARDS that you have received for your work so far?
AP: I have been awarded for my work by various organisations. For instance, I have been acclaimed and won an all India competition award on the topics ‘Corruption in Major Defence Deals 1992’. Organized by Navneet journal Mumbai in collaboration with the institute of Communication and Management (Bhartiya Vidhya Bhawan Mumbai). I have received the Bureau Chief Award (Paryavaran Vahini Magazine) H.P(2008-09),Paryavaran Award 2007, Kullu (H.P) & Bravery Award 2008, Kullu(H.P). I have also been a recipient of ‘Akhand Jyoti Award’ 2015 in recognition of my personal efforts and enormous struggle to bring the Devika, River Project under ‘National River Conservation Plan’ (NRCP) through PMO (Prime Minister Office) & Freelance Journalist award for outstanding contribution in the field of Journalism in 2016 by All India Journalist Associate (J and K).I have also received CHANAKYAVARTA MAGAZINE AWARD 2016 from the then Dy. Chief Minister of J& K Dr Nirmal Singh in presence of Dr. Kuldeep Agnihotri, V.C. Central University of Dharamshala at Press Club Jammu and “Maharaja Hari Singh Samaan’,2021 by (Women Club Meri Pachan (Jammu).I have also received ‘Mahatama Gandhi Seva Puraskar, 2021’ by (Gandhi Global Family (J&K).I have also been honoured by Manika Jain Ambassador (Kingdom of Cambodia), 2018, by Rotary Club Udhampur 2022 and by J&k Tourism Department, District Administration, Archaeological Survey of India Kashmir Circle, Archives and Museology Department of (J&K), by universities, schools, colleges and many other social organisations.
AS:How has your work been appreciated by various institutions and organisations ?
AP: My work has been appreciated in the Festivals of Innovation 2016. A booklet on working of National Innovation Clubs (Institutes of Higher Learning) on P.N. 14, Sr. No. 14 published by Rashtrapati Bhavan, New Delhi.Appreciation letter by the Archives, Archaeology, and Museum Department of J and K in recognition of my work in the field of Art, Culture and Heritage and help the department to preserve the heritage and antiquities in J&K.Besides this my research work appreciated by the personalities like Padmashree Prof. Shiv Nirmohi and Sahitya Academy Award winner Prof. Desh Bandu Dogra Nutan, Prof Parkash Premi and Dr. K.C.Sharma.Scholars from various universities have been following me for research purposes due to my extensive knowledge in heritage areas.My work has been recognised as being of National and international repute and reference of my research work has been mentioned in their articles and books.
AS: Have you received any help/boost from the institutions/ organisations working for the preservation and conservation of culture & heritage?
AP: Yes,of course! My Catalogue of Manuscripts and Rare Books of Heritage has been published with the financial assistance of Ministry of Culture, National Archives of India, New Delhi. More than 1000 manuscripts dating from the 12th to 13th centuries in scripts such as Arabic, Persian, Sharda, Takri, Devanogi, Punjabi, and others have been registered with the National Manuscripts Mission in New Delhi.My Ph.D., M.Phil. scholars from various universities visit my museum for research work and my reference has been mentioned in their thesis submitted for the award of M.Phil., Ph.D., etc.
AS:What are your plans to conserve and preserve what you have discovered?
AP I have established a museum named “Amar Santosh” which boasts of having the largest collection in J&K of antiques like fossils, stone tools, iron tools ,terraco miniature s, Miniatutre paintings from Basholi, Kangra, Guler, Rajasthan and Jammu School of paintings, musical instruments, weapons, jewellery,textiles, sculptures, coins and other material from Stone Age onwards.
AS:How,do you think, can we create awareness among masses regarding the need for preservation & conservation of our heritage in J&K?
AP:Education without heritage consciousness is meaningless and heritage studies need to be incorporated at the primary level.Heritage study should be made mandatory at secondary level. Conservation of heritage should be a national policy and Governments at state level should not only create awareness through various educational programmes but also enforce it.Primarily, there is lack of awareness in the masses about the need for preservation and conservation of our heritage. Panchayats should be imparted trainings in heritage so that they could act as the focal point for creating awareness in the masses regarding the importance of conserving our priceless heritage.
AS:What, in your opinion, is the impact of social media on your life?
AP: Social media has played a great role in shaping public opinion with regard to many important issues and the formulation of various policies and programmes. Apart from the print media, we have the internet, mobiles, YouTube channels, and electronic channels through which we get a lot of information.
Social media has played a significant role in the revival of our age-old traditions, beliefs, practices, literature, and languages, and it has been extremely useful in developing cultural policies for this country.
Social media has also highlighted our ancient sites of archaeological importance, ancient monuments, temples, step wells, Baolies, shrines, wall paintings, and other important heritage-related documents, and the efforts made to conserve them all. Not only that, but people in the Jammu region were previously unaware of shrines, temples, archaeological sites, forts, palaces, sacred rivers, and other historical monuments, but thanks to social media, people all over our country and the world have learned about our rich culture and heritage sites, and a large number of tourists visit various tourist and heritage sites every year.At the same time,social media needs to be used judiciously.