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Outburst against tomb police

Manersharef, Nov. 3: Members of the minority community and wakf board members are up in arms against the Archaeological Survey of India over a monument built here during Jehangir’s time.

Intricately patterned towers, precise arches and domes in a leafy rural backdrop highlight Mughal art in Maner Darga, 30 km from Patna. However, the condition of the tomb has deteriorated over the years and the monument is now decrepit.

The sorry state of the darga has incited the wrath of the people who have drawn swords against the ASI, which was responsible for the monument’s upkeep since 1929. Wakf board members allege that the ASI has not fulfilled its responsibility and has also kept the monument under lock and key.

“The ASI has been making a travesty of its role to protect the monument from the ravages of time. A major part of an imambara situated in front of the tomb has been destroyed. The marks of bullets fired by a British soldier during the revolt of 1857 have been removed,” claimed S.S.N.A. Firdausi, one of the members of the Maner Darga Trust Board.

“We cannot wipe out history. Protection and restoration should not blot out the past from our memory,” he added.

While the ASI is tasked with looking after the monument, it is not authorised to control the tomb and the tank, according to an agreement between it and the darga trust, points out Firdausi. However, both remain closed to pilgrims who visit the place, he said.

“A part of the structure has been converted into a godown for concrete materials. The access to the tomb has been restricted by the ASI, which has built a wall around it,” said Sajjada Nashin, another member of the trust.

Maner Darga is a symbol of the ancient Sufi spirit of Muslims. The darga was constructed during Jehangir’s rein by his governor, Ibrahim Khan Kankar, in the memory of Hazrat Mokhdoom Shah Daultat Maneri in 1661.

“Hazrat Mokhdoom was one of the earliest Sufi saints who had left behind the legacy of mystic Sufi culture in the subcontinent. He inspired this oldest Sufi edifice,” says Gulam M. Zafri, a resident of the area. The way the tomb is subjected to neglect is woeful, Zafri adds.

The ASI, however, differs. Urmila Saint, superintendent of ASI’s Patna chapter, said the monument had developed cracks during an earthquake in 1934 and since then, the building remained decrepit though the ASI has been trying to repair it and restore its glory.

“Whenever the ASI has tried to carry out restoration work, there has been resistance from the locals,” Saint said.

Some restrictions have been imposed on the entry and exit of pilgrims, considering the unsafe nature of the building, the ASI superintendent admitted. However, the tomb remains open for pilgrims from 8 am to 5 pm, she added.

A ban was also imposed on using the land adjoining the structure for burial purposes, Saint said, but the move have drawn criticism from residents of the area. This order, however, cannot be reversed as the digging would jeopardise the monument.

ASI sources, however, admit that the restoration of the monument could not gather steam because of administrative and financial reasons.

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