Heritage Preservation for Enhancing Tourism Potential
A case of ethno-religious conflict zone
Heritage leads to the evolution of culture and monuments that bear testimony to the particular time period from where they originated. It highlights the customs and religious inclinations of a particular social group or community. Culture and heritage are closely intertwined. There can be no two thoughts about the fact that the community possessing a rich culture is bound to have a even greater heritage to look back.
Heritage should be a source of enrichment and empowerment. It should not be the source of conflict socially and politically. Thus leading to the eruption of emotions, which in turn pave the way for the exploitation by the political establishments that are ever ready to hijack sophisticated heritage and historical issues for misusing them for polarizing the society in terms of vote banks.
This aspect is more important in this state of J&K which is already divided on ethnic and communal lines, the seeds of which were sown in the 1931 and since then this unfortunate state has witnessed tremendous strains and vandalizations.
The beautiful state of J&K has never witnessed uniform and even growth of economic activity - the tourism being the primary one. The reason being the lack of comprehensive policy and planning that should have integrated the state so that the resources would have been exploited to generate sound economic atmosphere in the state.
Thus, prompting the investors to contribute from outside the state in the infrastructural development. The state of J&K is a cultural mosaic appropriately called the Crown of India. It comprises of three main regions Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. Ladakh covers 96,000 square kilometer, Kashmir 19000 square kilometer and Jammu 26,000 sq. km. But all of these regions have never performed uniformly and generated economy, as should have been the case, in terms of tourism. The reason being the lack of planning, infrastructural development. And above all the adhoc policy that is devoid of integration of all three regions of the state administratively. Whenever, the Kashmir tourism gets the fillip, the Jammu region feels neglected and Ladakh feels that it has been given the step-motherly treatment. The political uncertainly and the eruption of armed conflict that the state is witnessing since early 1990s has had an impact of vast magnitude on the state’s rich culture and heritage. The ethno-religious conflict that has engulfed this beautiful and diverse land has exposed many fault lines viz a viz social, religion and political.
Terrorism and social unrest has lead people to be less sensitive towards the interpretation and preservation of heritage. Religious places and historical structures belonging to a particular community have been the victims of vandalizations. Encroachment is another lethal factor that has shrinked the domain of heritage. The prevalence of ethno-religious conflict has led to the definitions of heritage that are neither scientific nor rational. Thus, in such a situation interpretation and sympathetic reuse of heritage becomes utmost important. The heritage interpretation becomes unique and complex in this state of J&K in comparison to the rest of India because the threat is not from the outside elements but unfortunately from within as the ethnic and communal divide is doing the immense damage. One region’s heritage is pitted against that of other. It leaves the preservation and conservation in abeyance. The 14th century, historic structures of Mubarak Mandi have witnessed 36 minor and major fires, the cause of these fires and their impact on the archives has never been properly reported. This urban historic area has shrunk to great extent due to the disappearance of open spaces and outer ring of buildings surrounding the area. Then another aspect is the weather that has played the devastating role as moisture has affected its foundations leading to the growth of unwanted weeds. Besides the earthquakes have also ruptured the structure. The impact of the recent earthquake in October 2005 is still clearly visible. The nonsympathetic reuse is another factor that has altered its heritage character. The use of incompatible material further enhances the process of demolition and devastation. The great problem that heritage faces in J&K is the same as in India that is the process of preservation and conservation only starts once the structure has already lost its part or whole. Before that the public gaze is never attracted towards a tangible heritage structure. The impact of such an instantaneous hysteria is immense and negative as it evokes the emotion of the people on wrong lines, protests are led in haste and decision taken by authorities are half-baked thus, lacking the proper planning and implementation strategy. The state of Mandi Mubarak is too critical but it can act as a standard from where the heritage conservation and preservation should gain a substantial momentum. What emerges out of the vandalization of structures like Mubarak Mandi can be listed as follows :
I. That there is a need for the documentation of heritage sites and monuments.
II. That people should be sensitized about their heritage.
III. That vandalization of heritage structures should not be allowed to be the source of public hysteria as it leads to adhoc policy and planning.
The focus should be on early documentation and collection of data for the policy makers so that these structures are not allowed to be subjected to political misuse. It only adds to the already existing faultlines which makes it further difficult to accommodate the aspirations of a particular region.
The urgent need is to define heritage in this state with its proper interpretation keeping in view the onslaught from the ethno-religious conflict that has not only degraded heritage but at the same time brought about demographic change due to the internal displacement of religious minorities from one region to another, prominent being the ethnic-cleansing of the minuscule minority of the Kashmiri Pandits from their homeland, Kashmir in 1990. That has left a vacuum as far as the Kashmir’s culture is concerned. Various temples and shrines of the community, left in the valley, having heritage character have suffered utter neglect and hence, destruction thus altering the heritage of the Kashmir itself, which has been the fountainhead of Shaivism and Buddhism, that spread beyond the borders of India. That gave it a recognition of intellectual hub. The need of the hour, in the modern times is to recognize the value of heritage in terms of broad humanism and economy.
And above all the need is to see how heritage can create value addition for tourism products thereby, generating customer value. J&K offers vast and diverse belt for heritage tourism that needs to be exploited for reaping the dividends in terms of the multiplier effect. Keeping in view the multi-ethnic character and political faultlines there is an urgency to derive a common heritage plan. That should include both tangible and intangible heritage e.g. architecture, art, music and the value of civilization.
This can only be done by adopting the multi-pronged strategy that involves the following :
iii. Preservation and conservation
iv. Market segmentation and marketing
The identification process should focus on the projection of heritage in terms of commonality. Dogra heritage should not be pitted against the Kashmiri heritage. No political points should be scored from the heritage identification. Heritage is evolution so there can be nothing like Muslim and Hindu heritage. Heritage should mean refinement and humanism injected into the society from any religion or social group. Documentation should involve the professionalism covering all aspects of historicity and time frame.
Keeping in view the neglected state of the heritage buildings like Samba Fort, Mandi Mubarak etc., the emphasis should be laid on the preservation and conservation. So that heritage tourism product is capable of sustaining the market demand. The juvenile ideas of using cable car from Mandi Mubarak and Bahu Fort should be put to halt at once as these ill thought projects can add to the devastation of the heritage monuments.
Market segmentation and marketing should be made keeping in view the kind of heritage product that is to be marketed. No heritage product should be marketed without proper analysis. When Mubarak Mandi caught the public gaze due to all bad reasons like the Fire that engulfed the Toshakhana on 16 December, 2006; it was the case of negative marketing. People thronged to see the complex. It laid a tremendous stress on the structure which is already in a dilapidated condition. It leads to thefts and mutilation of the tiles and other items that can give clue to its magnificent architecture and history. Jammu Festival created a virtual stampede at Mandi Mubarak as no care was taken about the carrying capacity.
For Heritage Tourism, the preservation and conservation should be the primary area for creating heritage circuit in J&K.
Encroachments, non-sympathetic reuse, vandalization pose great threat to heritage structures. To evolve, heritage conservation and preservation plan heritage task force or body like that should be constituted for all the three regions of J&K. This should be utmost priority as unfortunately J&K has no Ministry of Culture. It is a paradox that a culturally rich state like J&K is devoid of such a policy making body. This has led to a state of confusion as to who is the custodian of heritage and culture in this state. This often leads to conflicts as far as decision making is concerned and eventually, no proper strategy is made for preservation and promotion of heritage.
The heritage task force at all three regional levels not only needs to devise a plan but sensitize the people regarding heritage. As it is the people, who are the real stake holders and beneficiaries of heritage as far as its economic effect in terms of economy is concerned. The key areas of the focus for heritage preservation and enhancement of tourism should be
iii. Constitution of Ministry of Culture/HTF (Heritage Task Force)
iv. Sensitising the people
v. Emphasis on sympathetic reuse
vi. Development of common/ shared heritage
This should not be an exclusive effort but inclusive one that includes, tourism professionals, historians, conservators, conservation architects, policy makers. So that customer value with innovation from all professionals as mentioned above should be utilized for creating heritage tourism product and circuit. So that Crown of India shines with pride and confidence, paving the way for national integration by making it possible with the movement of heritage tourists from India and abroad into the land of cultural mosaic - that is J&K.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Heritage Preservation for Enhancing Tourism Potential
Posted by heritageinitiative at 11:42 PM