Why are we defacing our heritage monuments?

Posted by Imran Ali Buth
August 5, 2017

Does scribbling names on the walls of heritage monuments epitomize emotions for someone? Or does it deepen feelings for someone? I would like to pose this question to those friends who visit the historical places to ruin them; using walls to inscribe names, numbers, slogans, and causes defacement to these beautifully built monuments.

Visit any heritage site, it gives a glimpse of scruffiness; scattered walls reprimand the devastation they went through. Those who do that don’t care to preserve these historical marvels; rather they felt joy to deface these assets. They are using walls as sloganeering hoarding; some felt joy to express love for their partners by inscribing heart shapes and wrote beginning letters of their names within the shapes, and some tries to express anguish over government policies by inscribing curses for politicians.

Last week I visited famous Mughal garden Shalimar, located in Srinagar. The garden is among the six heritage sites which are on tentative list of UNESCO and in process to be declared as World Heritage Site soon. It was enjoyable time for me to be there but what annoys me, to saw the defaced walls of the porticos; scratched, and scribbled, names and numbers, heart shapes and slogans appears blemishes and blots on the face of walls.

Historical monuments are our cultural assets, our heritage which needs special care because it describes our identity and symbolizes our legacies in terms of architecture. These monuments attract numberless visitors of different states and countries; help us immensely to promote tourism within the region, and provide benefit to the locals as well.

People who scribble on these monuments avoid thinking they are damaging their own culture. They are practically damaging the beauty of those historical monuments, causing them to deteriorate before time and portray a blemished face of culture in front of people came from other places.

These monuments, in a way bring to the forefront, the grace and grandeur of the bygone eras and gives glimpses of our past. With their elaborate embellishments and wonderful architecture, these monuments represent one of the most outstanding facets of our multi-faceted culture.

Vicente Fox said, “Monuments and archaeological pieces serve as testimonies of man’s greatness and establish a dialogue between civilizations showing the extent to which human beings are linked”.

Every community and society possesses a precious heritage which needs to be transferred to the next generation. The responsibility is upon every citizen to care and transfer heritage to the next generation, maintaining its form of construction.

There are laws existing to protect the sanctity of the historical sites within the country. According to the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958 ( No. 24 of 1958), if someone destroys, removes, injures, alters, defaces, imperils or misuses a protected monument s/he shall be punishable with imprisonment which may extend to three months, or with a fine which may extend to five thousand rupees, or with both. But laws alone can’t protect these sites; the need is to make people aware about preservation and try to develop a sense of consciousness among citizens.

GoUNESCO, a UNESCO supported umbrella, listed some 5 interesting reasons why we should preserve Heritage Sites:

  1. Evolution of human consciousness is a continuous process. History here serves as a laboratory and the past serves as a demarcation to understand the regional laws and social structures. This understanding helps in our progress towards an ideal society.
  2. We are not born capable of judging fairly and wisely. However, learning about various cultures helps us be a good global citizen and improve our critical & analytical thinking.
  3. Every historical site has an important story to telland these stories have inspired many people to strengthen their convictions and commitment to fight injustice and oppression.
  4. Heritage sites are our connection to the past. Heritage sites are living monuments & record of certain happenings and this is our real connection to our past. It proves the existence of our ancestors.
  5. Heritage sites are great for economics! Heritage conservation has proven to be a thriving place for entrepreneurship & innovation. It has also shown increases property values. Also, since the work is very labour intensive, it actually ends up creating more jobs! 

In a civilized society, it is our collective responsibility to preserve our cultural assets, our heritage monuments, and protest on every action which deteriorates the beauty of these structures; stop the hands which try to scribble on monuments and try to counsel them.