Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha on Monday took a comprehensive tour of the Mubarak Mandi heritage complex -the seat of Dogra power for 101 years. He issued on the spot instructions for improvements in restoration works including world class heritage lighting systems. He is also reported to have called in a central team of experts for further advice. This was Mr Sinha’s first visit to this crumbling block of buildings caught between a glorious past, indifferent present and uncertain future. We are not sure whether his Secretariat informed LG that in the last 18 years every Chief Minister, Governor and Lieutenant Governor (including Mr Sinha’s only predecessor) have made a point to visit Mubarak Mandi to reiterate their ‘commitment’ of restoring its pristine glory. The progress achieved, so far, has been personally examined and assessed by Mr Sinha. We have hardly any further comment to make on that. The story of Mubarak Mandi deserves a book-length writing but for the purpose of an editorialised comment, following would suffice. After a six-year long absence of democratic regime, when the people’s government returned under National Conference in 1996, it was a Kashmir heavy dispensation. Even as the National Conference had 20 of the 37 Assembly members from Jammu (including four who had won on Janta Dal mandate and later switched over to the NC) but the structure and outlook of the government was highly Kashmir oriented. The Farooq Abdullah government was reminiscent of the regimes of the 1950s and early 1960s. During this time an intellectually well-informed identity politics in Jammu reached its zenith. Even without any significant presence in the legislature, the Jammu groups appeared morally powerful for their organic, native and culturally rooted political vehicle which was not driven by any national political party -the role currently being played by BJP in Jammu is again reminiscent of the Congress approach in late 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s. Therefore, when Mufti Sayeed’s coalition with Congress and independent members came to power in 2002, the government was highly sensitive to the sentiments of Jammu even as its core agenda was centered in Kashmir. Mufti visited the Mubarak Mandi complex -which then housed a number of offices including some courts -a couple of times which earned him respect among the Dogra people. It was his successor Ghulam Nabi Azad (Nov 2005 – July 2008) who made Mubarak Mandi restoration his most ambitious project. At the initial stage, an amount of Rs 162 Crore was set aside. If one sees the amount of progress made in the last 14 years, it would not be unfair to say it sarcastically that if the Dogra regime ruled a mighty state for a century, it might take half of a century to restore the buildings of their headquarters to some shade of their originality. There is no denying the fact that the Kashmir dominant regimes have remained thoroughly indifferent to this historic complex, but this will have to be said even at the cost of inviting criticism that Dogras themselves, including the first family of rulers, did show very little interest in their glorious heritage. No government will ever be able to rekindle and restore a heritage without active and emotional participation of stakeholders.
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