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Celebrating World Heritage Day in forlorn SPS Museum

By Irshad Khan

Srinagar, Apr 18: Department of Culture, headed by the Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, on Wednesday didn’t have a single top officer attending its World Heritage Day programme.
While Mufti holds the charge of the state Culture Minister, Priya Sethi, is the Minister of State in the department.
Officials at the Directorate of Archives, Archaeology and Museums (AA&M) organised an in-house, rare-shawl exhibition at the SPS Museum Lal Mandi.
The event, however, proved to be a failure, as neither the department’s higher ups nor the ministers concerned appeared at the venue.
The shawls had been kept in the dimly-lit corridor of the museum corridor for an exhibition.
A few dozen students, guided by their teachers, had turned up to have a look at the artifacts.
“It was for the first time that there was no official correspondence from the higher ups in the run up to the World Heritage Day. We did it on our own,” an official said.
The official complained that after the Director AA&M’s recent superannuation the department “does not matter to them (the higher ups)”.
“The CM is there, Priya Sethi is there, but nobody came,” added the official.
The higher-ups not attending the World Heritage Day at the directorate showed the kind of priority of the department towards the heritage, as per the official.
“It should have been a priority to them. How do they turn up for other petty events?” the official asked.
Assistant Director AA&M, Mushtaq Ahmad Beigh, however, said the event was kept low key due to the recent civilian killings.
“You know the situation these days. If we hold a function outside, people will ridicule us amid people getting killed,” Beigh said.
Asked why any higher official did not turn up for the event, Beigh said, “We had kept an open invitation this year. We had not invited any special guest,” he said.
Whether the chief minister had given a cold shoulder to the department and the event, Beigh said that there was a “lot of disturbance these days”.
“We have no director and some higher key posts are vacant as well. It is only them who could send officials here,” he added.
Beigh even said that the higher officials did not attend the event because “The museum has not been inaugurated yet.”
“Now, if we bring anybody here, they would say that the museum has not been inaugurated so why would they come,” Beigh said.
Contrary to the thin attendance at the SPS museum, a statement released by the department however claimed, “Thousands of visitors, which included the students of the reputed colleges and schools of the Srinagar city” participated in the event.
The major attractions put on the ‘Rare Shawl Exhibition’ as per the statement included a rare embroidery shawl depicting the amp of Srinagar by Ghulam Ahmad Kaloo of Amda Kadal Srinagar, Shah Pasand Kani shawls of the Afghan, Sikh and Dogra period.
Jamavars, Amlikiar shawls and rare embroidered romals were also in the list as per the statement.
The theme for this year’s World Heritage Day was ‘Heritage for generations’.