Qalai crumbling—courtesy renovation by Tourism and ASI Department

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Srinagar: The historical wall locally known as ‘Qalai’ which once stood majestically as tall as 15-feet surrounding the famous Koh-i-Maraan (Hari Parbat) fort is slowly degenerating as the Tourist Department and Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) have preferred to maintain a criminal negligence towards its preservation or maintenance. 
As per KO reports, a major portion of the wall adjacent to Kathi Darwaza leading to the central Jail has collapsed. The wall has also collapsed completely at many places in the Badamwari area.
“I am really pained to see that our heritage is crumbling and no one is paying any heed to it,” Mohd Rafiq, an ex-officer with Archaeological Survey of India said. “Even though both the Department of Tourism and Archaeological Survey of India worked for the restoration of the wall, the wall started to collapse within no time after its restoration.”
A study has revealed that out of the 4.75 kilometre long Qalai, approximately 800 meters are missing while some 700 meters are badly damaged. The structure is in a deplorable state despite the fact that it was declared as a ‘protected monument’ in 2010.
The Department of Tourism had started the renovation of the wall in 2012 only to stop the work a year later citing shortage of funds as an excuse. Director of Archives and Archaeology, Mohammad Shafi Zahid said that the preservation and restoration of the wall does not lie under the control of his department. 
“During NC’s rule, the preservation of the wall was transferred to the Department of Tourism and then the funds were allocated to the Department to carry the restoration work. But now, we have all seen how that turned out.”
Dr Mushtaq Ahmad Khan, a resident of the area and the head of civil society Kathi Darwaza said, “Tourism department has once again failed at all levels. They are just useless. Though they had received huge amount of funds for the restoration and preservation of the wall, in a span of just a few months the wall has started crumbling at various places. The structure is completely unsafe and can collapse at anytime.”
Locals said a huge portion of the wall crumbled on 26th March near Badamwari, damaging a house in the process belonging to Muhammad Jaffar Latoo. However, no injuries were reported in the incident.
“Authorities have failed to undertake repairs of the wall. There can be a major mishap as the wall is close to many residential houses and the road,” the locals said.  
The Department of Tourism and Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) had undertaken its renovation in 2012. Ironically, the renovated wall, on which the said Department supposedly spent crores of rupees, has started to collapse at many places.
The failure of the authorities to take measures for conservation of the 16th century wall has pushed it to the verge of extinction. One common excuse which every department in Kashmir is well versed with is passing the buck to others and not taking responsibility. 
History does repeat itself.
Conservation of our architecture is one of the most basic steps towards preserving our rich heritage and culture. Historic buildings and architecture not only add to our uniqueness but are also a part of our identity. But when this identity starts crumbling, it not only detaches us from our roots but also robs our future generations of a chance to connect with the past and take pride in their identity. 

 

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