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Pearls Before Swine, Part II:
The Crumbling Anglo-Sikh War Memorial & Museum

by PRABHJOT SINGH

 

 

 

Continued from yesterday ...

 

Ferozepur, Punjab

It is not only the Guru Tegh Bahadar Memorial Museum in the city of Anandpur Sahib that is in a state of neglect, the only Anglo-Sikh War Museum - located at Ferozeshah, 30 km. from here - also seems to have been confined to history.

The iron tripod bearing plaques that announce the mute testimony to the Anglo-Sikh wars fought at Ferozeshah, Sabraon, Misriwala and Mudki has rusted beyond recognition. Written in Punjabi, Hindi and English, it is a dedication of the museum to the nation on April 11, 1976.

The state of neglect is despite the Rs 8.5 million purportedly spent last year by the Punjab Heritage Tourism Promotion Board (PHTPB) on its renovation under a Centrally-funded scheme for “revitalisation” of the Anglo-Sikh battle sites in the state. The work was undertaken by Lime Centre, New Delhi.

Both the Guru Tegh Bahadar Museum and the Anglo-Sikh War Museum are under the administrative control of the Department of Cultural Affairs. Inadequacy of maintenance funds, shortage of staff, and lack of basic amenities at the sprawling complex are cited among the reasons for its neglect.

This is in contrast to the current government having spent lavishly on raising new memorials to Baba Banda Singh Bahadar, Chhotta Ghallughara and Wada Ghallughara - amidst a lot of well-publicised fanfare on the eve of elections - inviting charges of suddenly adopting a “religious agenda” on the eve of Assembly elections.

Broken glass panes have turned the artistically designed double-storey memorial into a convenient nesting site not only for birds but also nasty brown wasps. The foundation stone too tells the tale of official apathy towards the building located on the Ludhiana-Ferozepur highway.

Some rare artefacts, including weapons, were stolen from the museum a few years ago. These have not been recovered thus far, though a police case was registered.

Till last year, the museum bore the look of a haunted place, with thick vegetative growth blocking not only its entrance but nearly the entire building. Fountains on the 4.5-acre complex had become dysfunctional. Cannons on display at the entrance rested on decaying wooden mounts and broken wheels. A visit by the then Deputy Commissioner of Ferozepur had led to the repair of cannon mounts as well as the sanction of a tubewell connection.

A new kitchen and dining hall were constructed on the premises six months ago, but the facility to serve visitors has yet to be put to use. Sources said the department had not been able to decide who would run the canteen. While the new structure has been built at a huge cost, no money has still been allotted for the maintenance and upkeep of the main museum.

Paintings of Maharani Jind Kaur, Sham Singh Attariwala, Faquir Azizuddin, Dewan Mool Chand, Lord Hardinge, Lord Gough and Lord Dalhousie - the main characters related to the two sides of the wars - besides battle scenes, adorn the walls of the museum. However, the display would hardly enthuse a visitor, for the dilapidated or broken pieces of furniture lying in the exhibition hall hit the eye first.

Almost all paintings on display have been done by Kirpal Singh and Devinder Singh. The artefacts on display, including some weapons of historical importance, too are crying for attention.

Director of Cultural Affairs and Tourism Karamjit Singh Sra says there is a need for a “composite plan” for the upkeep of museums and memorials, without which some museums, including one at Sangrur, may be headed for closure.

“But we are working out plans to attract more visitors, by ensuring they get an informative glimpse of the history and rich heritage of the state in general, and Sikhs in particular,” he says. Guided tours and arranging connectivity of the museum with nearby towns is among the "proposals".

 

[Courtesy: Tribune]

December 30, 2011


 

 


 

Conversation about this article

1: Harinder (Uttar Pradesh, India), December 30, 2011, 6:29 AM.

Both the empires ... of Ranjit Singh and of Brtian ... are gone. Time is a great leveler, and destroys all ... except Waheguru's glory! Wars are a mere tiny blue dot in the universe, but Waheguru is universal and timeless.

2: Baldev Singh (Bradford, United Kingdom), December 30, 2011, 9:01 AM.

Why should the locals be interested in Punjab history when the only agenda is acquisition of wealth, and how can anything be kept in good state of repair, etc., when there are virtually no courses or training for acquiring skills for this type of work?

3: Lakhvir Singh Khalsa (Nairobi, Kenya), December 30, 2011, 1:05 PM.

Gurbani toh(n) tuttay nu ithihaas toh(n) tutnaa koi hairaani di gull nahin. Jo gurbani naal jurrhiya hoya hai, ohi Sikh ithihaas sambhaal sakda hai.

4: Ajay Sodhi (Columbus, Ohio, U.S.A.), December 30, 2011, 2:51 PM.

i remember visiting the museum when it was in a pristine state. It was so inspiring. The politicians are shameless. I have no expectations from them. "Those who forget history are condemned to repeat it!" That's why preserving the past for the coming generations is so important.

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