Family living inside a Mughal era Hamam for past 45 yrs
For more than four decades a poor family has been living inside a 17th century Mughal-era Hamam on the slopes of the hill of Makhdoom Saheb’s shrine, but authorities never bothered to rehabilitate them for saving and preserving the heritage site.
The Hamam, an extension of Mulla Akhoond Saheb Masjid was built in 1649 AD by prince Dara Shikoh, son of the art-loving Mughal emperor Shah Jehan for his tutor Akhun Mulla Shah, according to a chronogram and an inscription still there on its doorway.
The Masjid on the upper terrace is built of limestone, with a stone lotus finial over the pulpit which many believe is the only example of its kind surviving in Kashmir. The Hamam is on its lower terrace.
Some 45 years back, one Muhammad Sikander Shah of Kupwara, who was an employee of Muslim Auqaf Trust started living inside the Hamam. Shah is no more, but his family of seven members continues to live there.
“We originally hail from Kupwara. We are a family of seven members. I was born here in 1979. You can verify it from the whole area,” said Bilal Ahmad, Shah’s eldest son.
Ahmad acknowledges the importance of the heritage site, but says poverty forces them to live inside the Mughgal-era Hamam.
The family is ready to vacate the neglected heritage site if an alternative was made available to them.
“I know this not my warasat (ancestral property). We have been living here from past 45 years. It’s not a joke,” said Ahmad, praising the Mughal who built the Hamam hundreds of years ago.
“Jannat-ul-Firdous asin teamis badshahas”, may God accord him a place in paradise. At least he was not like the governments of today that don’t bother about their people.”
Ahmad says the family could have encroached upon the whole site if they liked, but all that the family need is a few marlas of land for building a small house, adding without a bathroom women of the family are forced out under the open sky.
“We are not asking for something huge.”
An official, speaking to Greater Kashmir on condition of anonymity said some two years earlier the site was handed over to Archaeological Survey of India(ASI), but department didn’t take it over as the family lived inside.
“We were ready to take over the Hamam. However, there was a family living inside it. Why to take unnecessary issue on ourselves. We categorically told the government let you take the family out from there. We will do the necessary paper work,” the official said.
Since then the site was handed over to Tourism Department. However, officials of the department feigned ignorance about the case.
“We will take appropriate action,” Divisional Commissioner Kashmir, Baseer Ahmad Khan told Greater Kashmir, acknowledging this was the first time the matter was brought to his notice.