Govt begins safety audit of shrines after Khankhah-e-Moulla blaze

Adil Lateef
SRINAGAR, Nov 23: A week after historic Khankhah-e-Moulla shrine in downtown city here suffered damage in a nocturnal fire incident, State Government has started safety audit of all shrines in Kashmir valley. The work on upper portion of Khankhah-e-Moulla shrine has also ensued and a lightning conductor would be installed on its spire.
A senior official, privy to the development, told Excelsior that after Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s direction last week, the safety audit of all shrines across the Kashmir has begun. Chairing a meeting, the CM had directed departments like Wakaf Board, Fire and Emergency Services (F&ES), Power Development Department (PDD) and other related departments to jointly conduct the safety audit of all the shrines and come up with whatever precautionary measures are required to protect these places of reverence.
“The concerned departments have started the safety audit. The safety audit depends from one structure to another. The cost also varies from one structure to another and an estimated Rs 5 lakh would be required for safety of the Khankhah-e-Moulla shrine,” said the official, adding that it is up to Government to carry forward the process. “In 2012, when Dastgeer Sahab shrine in Khanyar Srinagar was gutted, the then Chief Minister Omar Abdullah had also directed safety audit of shrines which was carried out but there was no forward movement except on papers,” the official said.
Sources said that safety audit of Khankah-e-Moulla, which was first built in 1395 in the memory of Sufi saint Mir Sayeed Ali Hamadani, was also carried out in 2012 but then left in papers only.
Meanwhile, the work on upper portion of Khankhah-e-Moulla shrine in Old City here has ensured and the executing agency – Jammu and Kashmir Projects Construction Company (JKPCC) Limited – would install lightning conductor to prevent repeat of recent fire incident triggered after spire was struck by lightning during night hours.
The lightning conductor is a metal rod that is placed on a building and connected with the ground below to protect the building from being damaged by lightning. The object would be placed on spire of the Khankhah-e-Moulla shrine. An official of the JKPCC said that the design of the shrine would not change and would be restored in old way. He said initial estimate for restoration of the shrine has been put at Rs 75 lakh. “The cost may decrease as well,” he said, adding that initial work like dismantling of damaged portion is being carried out and iron sheets have been placed on rooftop to prevent rain water from coming inside the shrine.
The JKPCC official said that the Government has assured on day 1 that there would be no fund problem. The Jammu and Kashmir Chapter of Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), which is providing technical guidance to the executing agency, said that the restoration work is a complex procedure and they have almost completed the damage assessment. “First of all, we are into damage assessment which have by and large completed and we have come to know how much it is.
“There are two assessments: one is damage assessment caused by fire and another by water. In case there is structural damage, we also assess that,” Muhammad Salem Beg, the Convener of INTACH, Jammu and Kashmir Chapter, told Excelsior. “Our preference would be restoration of old architecture and not replacement. The replacement is last option,” he said, adding that the restoration takes time and they have to develop protocol for the same. The sufi shrines in Kashmir Valley, particularly Srinagar, are mainly wooden structures and are prone to fires. Two revered shrines including Charar-e-Shareef and Dastgeer Sahab were completely gutted in mysterious fire incidents in 1995 and 2012 respectively.


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