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Official neglect turning historical tomb into ruins

July 22, 2015

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The Shah Baharo tomb.—Saeed Memon
The Shah Baharo tomb.—Saeed Memon

LARKANA: The tomb of Shah Baharo, the great general of the Kalhora period, is in dire need of preservation and restoration, but the Sindh culture department’s apathy towards it persists despite the fact that under the 18th constitutional amendment it has to look after the historical site, sources said.

Meanwhile, it is heartening to note that the Larkana Cadet College has a hostel named after the great general inaugurated on April 21, 1997 whereby the college administration wants the youth to study their region’s history and especially before the monument vanishes.

The tomb of Shah Baharo is one of the monuments that has been neglected in the past for various reasons and failed to attract the attention of its new caretakers until recently. It is crumbling fast and its boundaries have already been encroached upon by greedy encroachers who have so far succeeded in evading legal action. Moreover, the most robust structures, exposed to the harsh weather, may eventually collapse if they are not properly maintained.

Very unfortunate is the situation where decay of the monument continues and the culture department along with other stakeholders is indifferent to vanishing history. Encroachers are busy grabbing and maintaining their occupation of the land around the monument under the nose of the department.

It is not that nobody has reported the illegal activity to the department’s high-ups or police, but the complaints, appeals and concerns of the aggrieved stakeholders including various organisations working for the preservation of monuments have in fact fallen on deaf ears. The inaction has only encouraged the encroachers and resulted in the gradual reduction in the area of the site — which includes the tomb and the graveyard it stands within is 4.15 acres — said sources in the culture department.

Houses being constructed on the historical site

Henry Cousins in his book Antiquities of Sindh has made mention of the monument and details of its construction especially the doors. “The Shah Baharo tomb is said have been built by Ghulam Shah Kalhoro in AD1774 as Shah Baharo held a military command under Noor Muhammad Kalhoro and died in AD1735,” said Ali Hayder, an engineer in the culture department, giving a historical background of the mausoleum.

Jamil Gaad, the convener of the Sorath Saqafati Sangat, warns that Sindh culture department’s indifferent attitude towards this and other monuments poses a serious threat. Unchecked encroachment of its land and frequent digging of its various portions for sewerage lines is causing damage to the site, he said. “The tomb of the winner of 84 battles against invaders looks to the present-day rulers for its preservation and maintenance,” he added.

A number of demonstrations have been held by activists and social workers over the years to draw the attention of the authorities concerned to the fast decaying monument but to no avail, according to him.

The culture department continues to look the other way while people have even started building their houses within the vicinity of the graveyard, he said.

“The Sindh government under the 18th Amendment has acquired 129 small and big archaeological sites but so far failed to pay attention to any of them. Right from the huge site of Moenjodaro to the Shah Baharo monument in Larkana district, each one it seems is being ignored,” said Gaad.

Tomb can still be preserved

General Baharo had built a fort when he was the commander of his force. The present day Bahar Shah locality, two kilometres from his tomb, was also named after him, said Ahmar Phull, a researcher.

He added the remains of the fort were present within the Old Railway Colony close to an old irrigation channel called Bambar Wah. “The watch tower of the fort gradually reduced to remains and finally vanished as no attention was paid for its preservation,” said the researcher.

According to Ali Hayder Gadhi, the acting curator of Moenjodaro, the two Persian inscriptions fixed on the main entrance of the tomb gives just the date of its construction as ‘A.H. 1188’. He, too, lamented the poor condition of the tomb but he said that it could still be preserved if due attention was paid.

Sources in the culture department said that the Endowment Fund Trust for the Preservation of the Heritage of Sindh, had two years ago approved a plan for the conservation of Shah Baharo’s monument. It offered to undertake the preservation and conservation work and had also started working on the tomb of Ghulam Shah Kalhoro in Hyderabad and some monuments in Khairpur Mirs. However, the culture department’s apathy caused a delay in the launching of the work on Shah Baharo monument by the organisation. The approved plan still awaits an initiative by the department.

Published in Dawn, July 22th, 2015

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