SRINAGAR: In an exemplary act, the Sikh community in Kashmir on Thursday agreed to the demolition of a 72-year-old gurudwara to make way for a national highway connecting Srinagar with Baramulla which had been stuck for over a decade, an official said.
According to a settlement reached between the Sikh community and the Srinagar district administration, a new gurudwara will be built at an alternative site nearby.
Established in 1947, Gurudwara Damdama Sahib mainly served migrant families from Pakistan.
It organised langars and undertook many social service initiatives such as flood rescue.
The gurudwara was one of four bottlenecks in the road project, most parts of which were completed in 2013.
Further, a litigation in the Jammu and Kashmir High Court had kept the matter related to the relocation of the gurudwara lingering for years.
Srinagar Deputy Commissioner Shahid Iqbal Choudhary swung into action to break the deadlock and personally intervened in the discussion process.
He reached out to the Sikh community to devise an amicable solution to the issue.
Choudhary held a series of meetings over the past week to examine a range of options to resolve the issue.
"Finally, today in the presence of the deputy commissioner and the gurudwara management, the demolition of Gurudwara Damdama Saheb was started. The gurudwara will function from a makeshift space till a new one is constructed at the agreed location. The state public works department (PWD) has been entrusted with the construction of the gurudwara as per the design provided by the Sikh community," the official said.
Giving details, he said that the government of India started construction of the national highway from Srinagar to Baramulla in 2006.
Later, the project was funded under the Prime Minister's Development Plan.
The stretch of the road where the gurudwara stood was executed by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO), while the Anantnag-Srinagar section was constructed by the National Highways Authority of India.
The road was completed in 2013, but the four bottlenecks remained.
In 2014, the owner of the site proposed for relocation of the gurudwara objected to it and obtained a stay from the Jammu and Kashmir High Court.
Besides the gurudwara, the three other bottlenecks were a power line, a petrol pump and water supply lines.
The official said the work on the demolition of the petrol pump and shifting of power lines and water supply lines has also started.
The work is likely to be completed in the next 10 days, he said.
"BRO will start construction of the road stretch this month. The administrative outreach of DC Srinagar to resolve this 13 years long pending complex issue is an example of a proactive approach for an efficient resolution aimed at public welfare," he said.
"The act and gesture of the Sikh community here have created a history in Kashmir and will be remembered for ever," Deputy Commissioner Choudhary said.