An estimated 300 monuments in Gujarat have been completely destroyed or defiled in the recent communal riots and conservationists warn that unless restoration work on these sites starts soon, they may be lost forever.

Although the Gujarat government has said it will act upon the NHRC’s recommendations to restore these monuments, no work has yet started on this.

For all practical purposes, the final resting place of Vali Gujarati never existed. Nearly two months after the tomb of this 18th century poet widely regarded as the father of Urdu poetry was desecrated, all traces have been covered by tar. In fact, this is the case with around 300 monuments across Gujarat.

While places of worship have been more common targets, cultural places like graves of poets, writers and musicians have not been spared either.

Even wayside shrines revered by people from Hindu and Muslim communities have been destroyed. The irony is that while the nature of these attacks are clearly communal, the architecture of many of these monuments in Gujarat reflects the synthesis of different cultures.

According to Prof. RJ Vasawada, an architect, “Historically speaking, the city represents a very strong synthesis coming out of different cultures. This synthesis is really the strength of the region. What is happening right is that people are simply talking in terms of two different religions but nobody is talking of the strength which came out of this synthesis of cultures.”

Turbulent Times

Conservationists say that although many of the sites have been completely wiped out, they must be rebuilt as a symbolic reminder of the unity that has existed through the years.

“The reconstruction needs to be done in consultation with people who have tended to these places. Many of these places are religious places and even if they cannot be restored, they need to be repaired to remind us that such places existed and that we care for them,” said Ashok Chatterjee, INTACH.

Moosa Suhag Dargah, dedicated to the 16th century Sufi saint, is yet another symbol of the close ties the two communities have shared in the state. By restoring sites like these, the state government can send out a symbolic message of peace, which is urgently needed in Gujarat.

Mistrust rules

Though no incidents of violence have been reported from Gujarat today an indefinite curfew has been placed in Bhavnagar and the army deployed in different parts of the city.

In Ahmedabad, six people were injured when the police opened fire to disperse fire to disperse two groups in the curfew bound Vejalpur area of Ahmedabad last night.

In the last few weeks, the nature of violence in Gujarat seems to have changed. Although there has been no large-scale rioting, there is an atmosphere of deep and persistent mistrust in which even the slightest provocation can trigger trouble.