In ordinary corner of deserted Kashmir Haat lies museum of priceless artifacts
Srinagar, Jan 18: Kashmir Haat, government’s central handicraft market meant to attract tourists, has Jammu & Kashmir’s only Crafts Museum pushed to oblivion where even the locals seem unaware of its existence. Located in a far corner of usually-deserted Kashmir Haat, located at Exhibition Road here, the museum, called ‘School of Designs – Crafts Museum’, is without a signboard to guide the new visitors. And the ones aware of its location cannot enter due to locked main gate to Kashmir Haat. A majority of the latter have to ignorantly make their way back, unless they are lucky to spot the tea vendor outside the main entrance to direct them towards the secret gate. The museum has a wide range of Kashmir’s handicrafts that can be found nowhere else. However, in words of a senior official of the department, it has become “more of a storage centre than an art museum”. “The museum hardly sees any visitors. And how would it? Forget about the tourists, the locals themselves are not aware of this museum,” said the official. “A museum without visitors cannot be called a museum, right? This building has now become a storage centre that has ancient handicrafts.” The situation is such that the official couldn’t even calculate the average daily count of the visitors. The official blamed the lack of marketing and publicity by the officials in charge. “There’s no promotion, no publicity, nothing. The employees here work hard, but it’s really sad to see there’s no one to appreciate or admire the crafts,” the official said. “We have a few loyal tourists who come to the museum every time they are in Kashmir. They know the worth of these handicrafts, so they visit often,” added the official. As per the official, the museum has ancient handicrafts that are “worth a lot of money”. “If you keep the main entrance closed, how will a tourist enter the Haat? And without even stepping in, how will he know that there is this craft museum inside?” the official asked. The official at Kashmir Haat, Nazir Mir, justified the reason behind keeping the main entrance closed. “The drug addicts enter the Haat and cause nuisance, so we keep the gate closed most of the time,” said Mir. As per Mir, the staff could access the ‘Central Market Gate’, while, due to lack of visitors, “there’s anyway no point of keeping the main gate open”. The Kashmir Haat, apart from the fairs that take place once or twice a year, witnesses hardly any activity. The locals come for a walk, and the kids have turned the place into a playground.