Muhammad Saleem Beg

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Saleem-BegA former bureaucrat of J&K state, Muhammad Saleem Beg was awarded a central posting this past week. A well known name in heritage conservation from Srinagar, Beg has been appointed as a member of the prestigious National Monument Authority (NMA), Government of India.

An official handout said Beg has been appointed as full time member of the NMA.

“The Authority has been setup as per provisions of The Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains AMASR (Amendment and Validation) Act, 2010 which was enacted by the Parliament in March, 2010,” it read.

Served state as former Director General Tourism, Beg is also the INTACH’s convener for the state chapter. He took over the responsibilities of honorary convener INTACH J&K chapter on full time basis after his retirement in April 2006.

“The Authority has eminent historians and renowned cultural personalities as its full time and part-time members,” the handout added.

Beg has a marathon experience of heritage conservation in Kashmir, particularly in the architectural sector. He accomplished projects like restoration of Aali Masjid and Thag Baab Sahib (RA) shrine apart from conservation of Mughal monuments. He is associated with many national and international organizations in the field of art and culture.

Besides, Beg has also been associated with UNESCO, World Monument Fund, Indian Heritage Cities Network as a trustee and other cultural organizations nationally and internationally.

Under his leadership, many say, INTACH emerged as a premier organization and a credible voice in advocacy and promotion of art and culture. It is said that his work with universities like Jamia Milia Islamia, Kashmir University and University of Illinios, USA has given him high academic credentials in art and heritage.

Since 2006, Beg has been struggling to seek conservation of heritage sites in Kashmir particularly Srinagar, which INTACH has listed after a marathon survey.

Pertinently, Beg is fresh in public memory for some time now. Early September, when the controversy surrounding Zubin Mehta’s concert in Srinagar’s Shalimar garden snowballed into a raging public debate, Beg was heard saying “there is no political dimension to it”.

“Now if we oppose this concert the world would not say that Kashmiri people did not allow it to happen on political reasons but the message would go that they are intolerant,” he was quoted as saying. “Let Zubin come and spread the message of peace through his enchanting music.”

Zubin did come and conducted his “peace” concert inside rings of security cover in Shalimar garden. And now it seems, his music was indeed peaceful for certain enthusiasts!

– Bilal Handoo     

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