To Protect And Preserve

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Tasavur Mushtaq takes a look at a new law which aims to conserve, preserve and restore the glory of Kashmiri heritage sites.

On April 28, 2011, the Jammu and Kashmir Heritage Conservation and Preservation Act passed by the state legislature received the assent of the Governor. The new act, constituted under Section 7, aims to provide conservation and preservation of heritage—both tangible and intangible.

This act will help in protection, preservation and restoration of heritage sites/areas, heritage precincts, buildings, artifacts, handicrafts, paintings, fabrics and other material. It will enable the construction or the making of any material changes to buildings, engineering, mining or other operations in, or over, or under land.

Atiq Banoo in the heritage palace she built

According to officials, the Act will classify heritage according to its heritage significance. This will determine the levels of intervention permissible in conserving, preserving, maintaining and upgrading the heritage in case of the tangible elements. For intangible heritage, it will determine the nature of preservation, patronage, and promotion required. The tangible heritage means any material or physical heritage which includes buildings, structures, monuments, precincts, areas/sites, artifacts, sculptures, paintings, handicrafts, manuscripts etc. Intangible heritage means those aspects of culture that are non- material and abstract like music, dance, drama, performing arts, poetry, living traditions like crafts and cuisine, traditional knowledge systems, folklore, spiritual traditions like yoga and Sufism.

Authorities will now conduct ‘heritage inspections’ to ensure proper maintenance and conservation. This physical examination will ensure conformity of the sites with environmental protection standards.“The inclusion of any heritage in a list maintained by the Government will be done through the notification of the government gazette, and also through notifications in leading newspapers from time to time. The notice period for inviting suggestions and objections given will be thirty days,” reads the Act. Something would be declared as part of “heritage” based on recommendations made after surveys, research, documentation, and grading of heritage has been undertaken by authorities.

Ali Masjid Srinagar

The Act has the provision of implementing the ‘temporary protection order’ in which if the authorities consider a property has, or may have heritage value, environmental significance or scenic beauty and is likely to be altered for any reason whatsoever, it may prohibit the owner or lessee from making any alteration to the property for a period of 120 days, subject to the conditions or requirements that the authorities consider fit. A heritage item so declared shall be preserved, promoted and patronised by the Government.

The act envisages having heritage conservation plans which include regulations for the administration of heritage, the prescription for developmental control for the conservation of heritage, specific urban/rural design proposals in order to preserve and protect the character of the area, and more.

In case a listed heritage is not maintained properly, a notice will be served to the owner, lessee or power of attorney to maintain the site within 30 days. In the event of non-compliance, the conservation committee shall take steps for repairs and recover the cost from them. “If there is the failure in making the payment, the amount shall be recoverable by the Government as arrears of land revenue,” the Act mentions.

To control the distortions of intangible cultural heritage, officials will devise techniques like scientific documentation methods, heritage patent regimes, intellectual property rights and community rights over such intangible cultural heritage.

=The Act has a provision of constituting Authority known as ‘Jammu and Kashmir Heritage conservation and preservation Authority’ for exercising powers and performing functions assigned to it under this Act.

Failure to comply to the order by concerned people will result in a penalty. “The punishment will be imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and with fine which may extend to Rs.10,000, or with both and for any subsequent offence, with fine which may extend to Rs. 5,000 for everyday of continuance of offence thereafter,” warns the Act.

Dr Abdul Majid Kak in his museum

Immediately after opening offices in Jammu, the government acted on the law passed and constituted the ‘Heritage Conservation and Preservation Authority’. The first meeting of its members was chaired by Tourism and Culture Minister Nawang Rigzin Jora. Since the authority has activities related to the public and preservation of heritage, the first meeting of members decided that a logo would be prepared through competition, and a cash prize would be awarded.

The Authority will be provided office space in the Administrative Office Complex under construction near new Museum building in Lal Mandi, Srinagar and two rooms will be kept available for the Jammu Camp Office in old High Court complex, Mubarak Mandi, Jammu.

So far, 41 heritage sites have been declared as state protected monuments, and several more are under the process of being declared.

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