It is high time to spread awareness about our rich heritage and the need to strive for its preservation as the nation celebrates World Heritage Week from November 19 to 25. So let’s recall the aims and objectives behind this cele- bration and initiate efforts both individually and collectively to achieve the set objectives and goals. The objective of the week, observed by UNESCO, is to make people aware of the rich heritage and the significance of its preservation. In India, various programmes related to historical structures, tour places and cultural and traditional heritage of the coun- try are initiated to celebrate the week. Several schools, col- leges and other institutions celebrate the Week by organiz- ing quiz, seminars and painting competitions. Similarly the Archaeological Survey of India and several other museums organize programmes highlighting the significance of ancient monuments like Qutub Minar, Kashi Vishwanath Temple, Delhi Red Fort, Delhi Darwaza, Bhadra Gate, etc. and stressing upon the need for their preservation.
Moreover, countless programmes will be organized virtual- ly through digital or online mode to expand outreach to every nook and corner of the nation. While multiple pro- grammes are expected to be organized here in the newly carved Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, it is a matter of concern that despite being one of the best heritage regions of the nation the governments of erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir failed to tap this potential for various purposes. According to recorded history Jammu and Kashmir has nurtured more than four civilizations during the past more than five thousand years and it is really an irony that the state has lost substantial heritage sites and struc- tures due to government’s apathy in this regard. With the Department of Archives, Archaeology and Museums, cele- brating World Heritage Week, it is high time to realize the value of heritage in the society and review the approach adopted by the successive governments that failed to deliv- er any commendable results on this front. The significance of heritage in the society can be well gauged from a report titled ‘Saving Our Vanishing Heritage: Safeguarding Endangered Cultural Heritage Sites in the Developing World’ that was released by Global Heritage Fund on October 17, 2010. It illuminated five accelerating man-made threats facing global heritage sites in developing countries: development pressures, unsustainable tourism, insufficient management, looting, and war and conflict. Based on these threats, the report surveyed 500 major archaeological and heritage sites in developing countries to evaluate current loss and destruction, conservation and development. It identified nearly 200 of these sites as “At Risk” or “Under Threat,” and 12 sites were declared as “On the Verge” of irreparable loss and destruction. Although the erstwhile J&K government had also identified 27 new heritage sites of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh regions for preservation and listing under erstwhile J&K Heritage Conservation and Preservation Act 2010 but mere declaration and announce- ments failed to serve any purpose most probably due to the fact that these were not followed with full technological expertise. It is an open secret that the Mubarak Mandi Heritage Complex in Jammu continues to be the much talked about heritage site among the people during the past few years but the results on ground continue to be far from satisfactory. Despite huge funds sanctioned for this ambi- tious project the development on ground is much wanting?
The Mubarak Mandi Heritage site is just one example while there are multiple heritage sites in the Valley that stand either vanished today or else stand converted into concrete complexes in the name of renovation least bothering about the aesthetic sense of a heritage sites and structures. In this regard the incumbent UT administration needs to emulate the policies and approach of the western nations be it England or other European nations where local authorities have set building codes that are commensurate with the cul- tural and civilization flavour as a result of which the people from across the world long to visit these nations to have a glimpse of the heritage sites. While celebrating the World Heritage Week from November 19 to 25 it is hoped that the incumbent government led by Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha while working out development plans for cities and towns of the UT will fully consider the socio-cultural dimen- sion of heritage sites and after thorough deliberations and discussions formulate an effective heritage plan in order to ensure the preservation of existing heritage sites for the future generations.