Two years before when she stopped coming to the shrine, she had thought the time would be enough for the authorities to construct the holy structure, but to her acute dismay the construction work at the shrine of Dastageer sahib at Khanyar is far from over. So on a recent day Khaeti Begum, dejected, left the shrine without greeting the management whom she knew for decades from her frequent visits to the shrine.
Khaeti (78), a resident of Budgam, was known as a passionate devotee since 1970s, who would spend days together praying at the shrine. She would often visit the homes of people living in the shrine neighbourhood to offer them dried vegetable which she had brought from her home.
But after the 2012 blaze when the entire shrine was gutted, it took her weeks together to come out of the shock. She initially visited the shrine once a month. But the sluggish renovation work left her perturbed and she decided to visit the shrine once the work had been completed. After her health started weakening in 2014, she couldn’t visit the shrine for nearly two years.
“She is here today after two years and still our heart couldn’t feel that peace. During the days of Urs, she would spend hours together here and recite some verses praising my peer Dastageer. But now when we see everything new here that too haphazardly, it disturbs us mentally,” Khaeti younger son Shabir, who was accompanying her to the shrine.
Like her, the flow of devotees to the shrine has declined immensely as the government couldn’t complete the entire project of shrine construction in the last five years. Thousands of devotees throng the shrine especially on Thursday and Friday but majority of them leave disappointed due to the “undue” delay in its completion.
“Earlier some 3000-4000 devotees would visit the shrine on average daily. But now only 1000-1500 devotees visit here. The shrine is going through renovation like interiors from past one year and still it is not completed,” said Naeem Ahmad a local resident who is a member of the management. The 250-year-old wooden landmark dedicated to the 11th-century Sufi saint Sheikh Abdul Qadir Geelani (RA) was gutted in a mysterious fire on June 26, 2012.
To douse the public anger, the government announced to complete the construction of shrine on the pattern of previous architecture in least possible time. The cost of rebuilding the shrine was Rs 16 crore and was executed by Jammu and Kashmir Projects Construction Corporation (JKPCCC).
The work on the shrine had to be halted due to the paucity of funds. The work on shrine was stopped almost for a year, which evoked sharp resentment from the people.
So far the state government has set multiple deadlines including the recent January 2017 but the executing agencies are yet to start work on some other parts of the project. The main compartment of the shrine has been built, including a portion of Khatamband .
“The Hujra is incomplete even, which is annoying every devotee visiting here,” Naeem said.
At the entrance of the shrine, two temporary doors made of plywood have been installed by the authorities.
Similarly, the mosque inside the shrine is yet to be completed that is without doors and proper electricity arrangement. “We are made to offer prayers here which lacks proper flooring and no proper arrangement of electricity. This compartment can accommodate some 40 devotees only,” said Abdul Majid a local resident.
Coming to the second storey of the Shrine, it construction is in initial stage with no electricity arrangement and artwork on wooden walls. The entire storey is filled with dust and wooden blocks are seen scattered on each compartment and corridor. All the construction material including wooden blocks are lying in a haphazard manner.
“During annual Urs, the shrine cannot accommodate the devotees. Wakf board and state government needs to complete the entire project as immediately as possible,” said Gulzar Ahmad a devotee. “How much more time they (Wakf) require now. This entire process has depicted the work culture of our state government,” Ahmad said. Moreover, the authorities have not begun any work on the construction of the building adjacent to the shrine to accommodate the female devotees.
The locals said that the areas have been demarcated years before and the residents were also compensated.
The Managing Director of JKPCC, Dileep Thusoo, hinted that the construction of the second phase is likely to take some time as the government had not released the required funds yet.
“We prepared a Detailed Project Report (DPR) and sent it to the civil secretariat. The construction work of second phase will begin after funds are released by the government,” he said.
Vice Chairman of the Jammu and Kashmir Wakf Board, Peer Muhammad Hussain, said that JKPCC was looking after the interiors of the shrine. He said that that Wakf would hold a review meet with JKPCC members to discuss future strategy to ensure its speedy completion.
“It is being looked after by the JKPCC and we are after them to ensure speedy completion of the entire project. Besides the construction of another building near to the shrine will also take off very soon,” Hussain said. The foundation of the Shrine of Syed Abdul Qadir Jeelani (RA) was laid during the reign of Noor Khan Bamzai, an Afghan governor of Kashmir in 1767 AD. The shrine was then constructed by Syed Ghulam-u-din Azad whose grandfather, Shah Sakhi Muhammad Fazil, had come to Kashmir from Sindh during the Mugal reign of Aurangzeb.