Srinagar, Nov 16: The fire damaging the minaret of 632 year old Khanqah Mouala shrine in Srinagar’s old city has once again put the question mark over the functioning of the Muslim Waqf Board, which manages shrines and masjids in the Valley.
Sources told Precious Kashmir most of the fire extinguishers in the shrine were defunct and failed to come handy when the fire broke out in the shrine two days ago. “Thousands of devotees throng this shrine every week and offer donations. It seems the people managing the affairs of the shrine are only concerned about the donation boxes and nothing else. Plight of the fire extinguishers and no fire fighting measures being at place, have exposed the Waqf Board to the hilt,” they added.
An analyst said that it seems the Waqf Board has learnt no lessons from the blaze which broke out at Sheikh Syed Abdul Qadir Jelani (RA) shrine at Khanyar in 2012. “In 2012, the then NC-Congress regime had constituted the panel headed by then Divisional Commissioner Kashmir to inquire into the Sheikh Syed Abdul Qadir Jelani (RA) shrine fire. Apart from seeking a detailed report from the investigating agencies the committee had suggested a slew of measures to prevent recurrence of such incidents in future,” he said.
The analyst added that panel had pointed out that heritage shrines and masjids in Kashmir are mostly built of wood and a special care should be taken to protect these from natural and manmade disasters. “It looks like that Waqf board did not pay any heed to suggestions which were put forth by the panel and slept over the recommendations. Had the Waqf board acted on the recommendations fire extinguishers would have been in working condition. There would have been smoke alarms at place,” he said.
Even the National Minority Commission had asked the JK government in 2012 to put in place adequate measures for fire protection of shrines of historical importance.
A social worker said that Waqf board rather performing its duties remains busy in appeasing the politicians. “It’s unfortunate that despite having enough funds and money Waqf board has not done anything which it can project as its achievement. Even the devotees who visit the shrines have to face hardships due to no facilities available within these shrines,” he said, adding that if the Jammu and Kashmir government wants to safeguard these shrines and masjids of the historical importance then it should dissolve the Waqf board and handover the management of the shrines to local mohalls committees.
“It’s unfortunate that a few people who have been associated with Waqf board for years together have started believing that these shrines are their fiefdom and they are the heirs. Due to lack of accountability these people have become so powerful that they don’t care for anything,” the social worker added.