PESHAWAR: Welcoming the launch of work on the project for conserving the cultural heritage, religious and historical places of the Kalash community, the activists working for the welfare of the ancient tribe termed the development as the first drop of rain.
Wazir Dad, a Kalash community member and manager of Ayun and Valley’s Development Programme, said that for the first time any government had approved funds for a project to conserve the cultural heritage of their community.
He said the graveyard and the Jashtakhans, the places where the people of Kalash community usually dance during their religious festivals, had run out of space due to unplanned construction activity in the three Kalash valleys. “The people are placing the caskets in the foothill of mountains due to lack of space in the cemetery. They also lack space for dancing in the Jashtakhans,” he added.
He said modernisation was also threatening their cultural heritage and historical houses as old structures were being demolished to construct modern houses. “There was a need for such a project to conserve the historical structures and preserve the local culture of the Kalash community,” he pointed out.
A local journalist Mohkamuddin said the Birir, Rumbur and Bamboret valleys inhabited by the Kalash were under-developed and needed immediate attention. He said agriculture, rearing cattle heads and selling firewood were the primary source of income of the people.
“Now the government is also providing jobs to Kalash people from the quota for minorities,” he added.He said that 60-70 percent of the new generation was educated despite lack of proper educational facilities in the area. There was only one high school for girls in Bamburet, he said, adding girls were forced to get education at schools for boys in the other two valleys.
He said children, particularly girls stopped going to school after matriculation as there was no higher secondary school in the three valleys let alone any college.He said the project would help preserve the cultural heritage and historical places which were of great intrinsic value.
Luke Rehmat, a young Kalash activist, termed the project a step in the right direction.The Directorate of Archaeology and Museums, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has launched the project worth Rs60 million to preserve the unique culture of Kalash community.
Living in Birir, Bamburet and Rumbur valleys in Chitral, the Kalash are at risk of extinction as their numbers are fast shrinking due to a number of reasons. Currently, the total number of the community is little over 4,000.
Nawazuddin, a research officer at the directorate, said that three Jashtakhans and six houses would be conserved and taken under government supervision as part of the project. Acquiring more land for the graveyard of the community was also part of the project, he added.
He said the religious places, houses and land to be acquired for the graveyard had already been identified.The district administration had imposed Section-IV of the Land Acquisition Act to pave the way for taking possession of these places, he informed, adding, the sale and purchase of property in the area identified under the project has been banned.
Nawazuddin said the houses and other structures of the Kalash people were primarily made of carved wood and its architecture was unique.He said Kalash valleys had vast potential for tourism. “The government has initially allocated Rs10 million for the conservation of religious places, a graveyard and other structures of historical importance. The houses would be used for tourism purposes,” he informed.
An official of the Chitral Museum said though they had launched work on acquiring the houses and religious places and land for the cemetery had been identified earlier, physical work on the project was not possible in the weeks to come.
“The winter is at its peak and snowfall has pushed the mercury below the freezing point. In such harsh weather conditions, the launching of physical work on the project in the coming weeks is not possible. The people are confined to homes in the winter as heavy snowfall restricts their movement,” the official elaborated. He added that work would be undertaken once snow starts melting and temperature becomes warm.–The News