‘Most of the weapons that are present here were used in World War II.’
The armaments of mountain martials who fought for the honour of the sun-setting British crown in 1940s have now become a forgotten war relic in an abandoned abode of artefacts of the valley.
With warriors long waned from oral legends, their weapons are now biting dust, if not bullet, while chronicling the change provoking some of those bravehearts to challenge the status-quo with the fall upheaval of partition year.
But the epic of World War-II weaponries along with the cultural and civilisational pieces has failed to woo masses in Kashmir despite some art-patrons resorting to craft-collaborative projects every now and then. And this reality is making a guide of Kashmir’s new history house a bit grumpy today.
The man in his early-50s sends visitors on solo-history-exploration trips. His grumpy nature is ostensive, so is his lack of engagement with people showing least interest for their past stored in a gallery on the ghats of Jhelum.
But beyond his taciturn treatment, some stirring antiquity is at the display in the museum named after a Dogra monarch whose moniker stands institutionalised despite name-changing becoming a new normal in contemporary Kashmir.
From war and peace, Sri Pratap Singh (SPS) Museum is a rich repository of history. But there’re hardly any takers of it.
“The depository’s desolation is disturbing,” says the guide, who prefers anonymity due to sanction on media-briefing. “This is the prime institute of history and yet it faces public indifference.”
The institution’s inability to rebrand and promote its past is said to be a root cause of public apathy. “Some occasional school trips and researcher visits apart, there’s hardy any footfall,” the guide continues. “It goes on to show how eager we are about our past.”
In this icy fall day, the museum is mostly bereft of footfall. The corridor full of writing takes one back to the olden times. One of the write-ups is about the rulers of Kashmir.
“Most of these things are archaeological structures,” the guide continues.
“Some were the gift to the rulers of Kashmir but then a proposal was offered to the king in 1889 and it was decided to make a museum in the valley where all these things will be kept and then it was built in the 1900s. It took more than a hundred years to get constructed.”
Eventually, in 2015, that historic house was replaced with a new building. But the revamp hardly brought any major community change.
“This desolation is perpetual,” the guide says. “And it’s sad because this place houses archaeological things as old as of the 4th century, replicas of Burzahama’s caves, old death sites and various other things such as old ornamental delights, utensils etc.”
There’re several sections in the museum, like Cultural, Archaeological and Arms, full of replicas of old Kashmiri houses, utensils, clothes and old weapons.
“Most of these weapons were used in World War-II,” the guide informs. “Besides that, replicas of animals that used to inhabit in Kashmir are some of our treasure trove.”
The museum also houses some historic furniture and decorative art like paper mache, brass ornaments, metal work, wood work, leather, grass and willow work. There’s a numismatic gallery consisting of the collection of silver, copper and silver coins of separate periods.
“The place may be sheltering some great civilisational signs,” the guide says, “but the lack of public interest makes it a boring history. It needs a collective effort and promotion to click.”