The resting place of last independent king of Kashmir, Yusuf Shah Chak, in Bihar lies in ruins and faces a threat from local land grabbers, a media report said today.
According to a report in The Hindu, the cemetery’s caretaker in Biswak village of Nalanda district has written over 200 letters to the state government, seeking protection for the monument. “But the encroachment has continued, with villagers building homes on the graveyard land,” the report said.
Yusuf Shah Chak ruled Kashmir from 1579 to 1586 and was one of the last native rulers of independent Kashmir. Yusuf Shah, who succeeded his father Ali Shah, was imprisoned by the Mughal emperor Akbar and later exiled to Bihar.
He was given land in the Islampur block of Nalanda district and permitted to maintain a cavalry of 500 soldiers. The place where the Kashmiri king settled was known as Kashmir Chak.He died in 1592 in Odisha and his body was brought back to Bihar to be buried in Biswak, adjacent to Kashmir Chak.The report said the cemetery, where Kashmiri king, lies is spread over nearly five acres in a corner of Biswak.
“A discoloured boundary wall encircles around 10 unattended graves of Yusuf Shah Chak, his wife Habba Khatoon, and other family members. The wall was erected in 2016 by the mutawalli Khalid S. Chak, and rebuilt by his son Yasir Khan Chak, who claims to be a descendent of the royal family. Inside, the graves are covered with torn, faded green chadars as goats, buffaloes and dogs bask in the winter sun,” the report said about the condition of the graveyard.
Quoting Yasir Khan Chak, who claims to be descendent of Yusuf Shah, the report said a primary health centre and a public road have been constructed on the cemetery land.v“We want the government to protect the area and remove these encroachments,” it quoted Yasir Khan Chak as having said.
“This cemetery is not about religion. It is a historical place and we should preserve its history. I’ve written more than 200 letters to the Chief Minister, the Deputy Chief Minister, District Magistrates, and other officials of the State, the Centre and even the Jammu & Kashmir government, asking them to intervene, but no one has responded so far,” he said.
Yasir Khan confirmed that the eight bigha land of the graveyard was even registered with the Bihar Rajya Sunni Wakf Board in 1963 but the “encroachment continued”.Every year, on December 28, people assemble in large numbers at the grave of Yusuf Shah Chak to celebrate Urs and honour him on his death anniversary, the report said. “Interestingly, in the year 2016-17, the State government spent ₹47 lakh to strengthen a crumbling mud fort of King Mann Singh, located a stone’s throw from the Yusuf Shah Chak cemetery,” it said.
The report said that Bihar’s Tourism Minister Pramod Kumar was not aware about the cemetery and Yusuf Shah Chak. “Where it is located? I’m not aware of any such place. You may get some information on this from the Art and Culture department.”
The report further said but the State’s Art and Culture Minister Krishna Kumar Rishi was equally clueless. “You mean the King of Kashmir was buried here in Bihar? In a village of Nalanda district? No, I’m not aware of it. But since you’ve brought this to my notice, I’ll get the details and do the needful,” he said.
The report said there have also been some interesting visitors to the Yusuf Shah Chak tomb. In 1977, the then J&K chief minister Sheikh Abdullah, along with the writer and historian M.Y. Taing, had visited this grave. He had also assured support for development and preservation of the place.
Following his visit, one of the roads connecting the cemetery to Biswak village 2.5 km away was named Sheikh Abdullah Road. But little else has changed on the ground. The J&K government in 2015 was said to be considering a move to reclaim the mortal remains of the king, but nothing has moved at the government level, and land-grabbers continue to have a field day.
“If the government does not take care of this encroachment,” Yasir Khan Chak said, “the day is not far off when all the graveyard land will have turned into a hamlet.”