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Quarrying at 1000-year-old Pandit cave: HC grants 2 weeks to Govt for response
SRINAGAR, Nov 24: The High Court has granted two weeks to state government to file response in unabated quarrying operation around an oldest Kashmiri Pandit cave, popularly known as ‘Batta Goff’ in Beerwah in Budgam district.

A division bench of the High Court comprising Justices Mansoor Ahmad Mir and Muzaffar Hussain Attar granted time after the matter came up for hearing.

The bench also allowed the government two weeks to explain regulations framed by it to control quarrying operations from Srinagar to Anantnag.

On October 22, the Court had issued show cause notice to state government to explain reasons for not stopping the quarrying operation questioned by the petitioners through a Public Interest Litigation (PIL). The PIL was filed by by Vir Saraf and Tanveer Hussain Khan of Roots in Kashmir (RIK) seeking protection of the oldest Pandit cave in Kashmir.

The petitioners have sought directions against the state government for immediate closure of illegal stone quarrying being carried out by unauthorised persons in and around the site commonly known as “Abhinav Gupta” caves situated at Beerwah in Budgam district.

In their PIL the petitioners have alleged negligence on the part of the concerned authorities who have failed to fulfill their duty regarding protection of ancient caves at Beerwah town of Budgam district. They have said that during a visit to the 1000 year old Abhinav Gupta cave (locally known as Batta Goff), they were astonished to see that quarrying activities are being carried out in the vicinity of this ancient cave.

“Since the quarrying activity is being carried out in very close proximity of these caves, therefore, there is every apprehension that the same would cause irreparable damage to the same, thereby making it extinct in near future,” the petitioners have said.

They have said that immediately being a conscious citizen and belonging to Hindu faith, they invited the attention of general public living in the vicinity about importance of the caves and its religious significance. The locals of the area immediately gathered and extended their support for preservation of a religious structure in the interest of larger public good but unfortunately the activities were neither restrained nor stopped by the Respondents. They have said that illegal quarrying activity taking place in and around of the cave poses serious damage to these caves and this act will surely have later adverse repercussions on these caves of symbolising great cultural heritage of Kashmir.

They have further said that there has been no mandate in the form No Objection Certificate from either Archeological Department or Forest Department and Geology and Mining Department Kashmir. “This shows callousness on the part of ASI and local authority to look into illegal excavation of this site which is violating rule 31, Chapter VII of Ancient Monument and Archeological sites and remains rule, 1959 as also the Central Government has failed to declare these caves an ancient monuments and prohibiting it from mining and other related activities. Apart from this, according to Sec.10-A of J&K Ancient Monuments and Archeological sites and remains Act, 1977 the Government has the power to control mining etc. under ancient monuments, which has not been properly taken into account while such illegal quarrying was taking place for past 20 decades,” the petition reads.

They have said that despite many oral as well as written representations were made by the Petitioners to the respective authorities of J&K Ministry of Tourism to declare Abhinav Gupta cave to be ancient monument of cultural and religious significance as per Article of the convention for the protection of the world cultural and natural heritage, that include caves as monuments of cultural heritage. But on the contrary, not much affirmative action was taken to protect and maintain it as a tourist site, which would be very helpful in terms of providing better employment as well as a source of income if exploited in a correct manner.

“It is most respectfully submitted that even the Government Website of the State of Jammu and Kashmir admits that these caves have a significant religious values and, therefore, are required to be preserved as the heritage sites in order to satisfy the faith of the devotees,” the petitioners have said.
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News Updated at : Saturday, November 24, 2012
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