On January 8,Omar Abdullah paid a surprise visit his first after becoming Chief Minister – at the Lal Ded Hospital in Srinagar. On February 17,he visited the hospital again. Abdullah visited many other places as well. But only a few yards across the road from Lal Ded hospital,a decrepit building escaped his notice.
Once the hub of the cultural activities in the valley,Tagore Hall now lies in shambles a memorial to the apathy of the state towards art and culture.
“To see Tagore Hall in this condition hurts. It was a temple for us artists,” said Mohammad Amin Bhat,a playwright. “Our government doesn’t bother about culture and art”.
Tagore Hall was built in 1958 to mark the Tagore Centenary Celebrations and it has been a home to the artists of Kashmir since. But years of neglect set the decay in the auditorium and the structure started crumbling.
The state government finally woke up to the need of renovating the structure after repeated pleas by the artistic fraternity of the valley and put aside funds for the repair work. The Jammu and Kashmir Academy of Art,Culture and Languages (Cultural Academy),which is responsible for the upkeep of the auditorium,entrusted the renovation work to Jammu and Kashmir Project Construction Corporation (JKPCC) nearly three years ago. JKPCC set to work immediately and removed the plaster layer from the building.
The promised funds for the renovation,however,never left the government coffers and work stopped. Tagore Hall now stands naked,weaker and uglier,leaving the artists and many who pass by it everyday heartbroken.
Tagore Hall has now been virtually shut for any cultural activities.
“We had asked a theatre group from Baramulla,Mehboob Cultural Society to stage a play about the Preservation of Dal Lake but there is no place to stage the play,” Bhat said. “The group spent two months doing rehearsals but the hard work got wasted”.
He also said that if the renovation work doesn’t start soon,the artists will stage a play at the Press Colony on March 27,World Theatre Day,as a mark of protest. “Every year we stage a play at the Tagore Hall on the World Theatre Day (March 27),” said Bhat. “We will stage this year’s play at the Press Colony if work is not stared immediately to repair Tagore Hall which is in ruins”.
The artists,who could not stand to see their temple in shambles,made many pleas to the administration to restart the renovation work. Their efforts finally bore fruit when Governor N N Vohra visited the auditorium on November 17 and ordered immediate release of the funds amounting to nearly Rupees 2.50 crore.
The bureaucrats and clerks,however,wouldn’t listen and the funds are yet to be released.
“We hope to get the funds in 5 10 days. After getting the money we will pay JKPCC and then the renovation work will start again,” Secretary,Cultural Academy,Zaffar Iqbal Manhas said.
The artistic fraternity of the valley and Tagore Hall are waiting.