Jammu’s precious art treasure on way to Kashmir, can the Jammu leadership save it

Namita Sharma

Precious art treasure stored at Kala Kendra in Jammu is being shifted to Kashmir on the pretext of inadequate storage space and better climate in Kashmir but art collectors and expert allege that this was a conspiracy to devoid the region of its rich cultural past. Whatever the Kala Kendra Jammu had collected in last 60 years is being shifted to strong rooms of Cultural academy in Srinagar.

The items being shifted are a veritable treasure trove that includes paintings and art work by top artists in the country. Miniature art, Basohli paintings and sculptures that define the evolution of art in the last 60 years.

The authorities issued a formal order in this regard few days ostensibly due to lack of space in Jammu for storing these valuables and also due to the harsh climate in Jammu. It is a different issue altogether that the strong rooms of the J&K Art and Culture Academy were flooded in 2014 and were badly damaged beyond any reapir. Many historic manuscripts and paintings were destroyed during floods and this is the reason art historians and cultural activists and artistes are questioning this decision.

Also critics argue that this art work could be kept safely in Jammu by installing air-conditioning systems as taking them away to Kashmir will not only make them prone to floods but will also remove the vestiges of culture and social history that this art depicts. The art work being taken to Kashmir includes 300 paintings, 91 miniatures, eighty sculptures and also pristine photographs.

Government officials said that art work was being shifted to Kashmir because of lack of space in Kala Kendra which was needed for other art and culture related activities. This art work will be transferred to Kashmir along with the Durbar move, officials said.

However, when this matter was raised with MoS culture Priya Sethi, she assured that art and other materials from Jammu would not be allowed to be transferred.

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