It came as a shock to many when Tosha Khana was opened on December 21, 2006 after the recent fire incident in presence of government officials and prominent citizens with a purpose to verify each single artifact before shifting them in a strongroom at the Civil Secretariat. Some senior citizens felt betrayed at the hands of government, which, they alleged, failed to preserve these precious antiques of Dogra heritage.
Every eye remained stunned to see the precious articles of the Dogra rulers when the doors of the Tosha Khana inside the historical Mubarak Mandi Complex were opened to showcase the same to mediapersons before their shifting to the strongroom in the Civil Secretariat.
The highly decorated two thrones of Maharajas and two palkis (one for male and another for female) were the main attraction in the Tosha Khana, where the Dogra rulers used to keep all the precious things. It has been said that the palkis were brought out of the Tosha Khana only when they were required by the Maharaja and Maharani while the special chairs always remained in the darbar.
Though every article had accumulated dust, the glitters of gold and silver articles could not be overshadowed. Every article was so attractive that everybody wanted to see them again and again. On the very entrance of the Tosha Khana there was a portrait of Maharaja Hari Singh and then articles one-by-one.
?For what purpose were these artifacts kept in Tosha Khana for so long? It doesn'tmake any sense. These things should have been in a museum for the art-lovers, obviously under proper security arrangements,? the art-lovers said.
Recent fire incident apart, worn-out condition of timeless artifacts, antiques and weaponry of erstwhile rulers of the state, losing their sheen in Tosha Khana over the years, exposed criminal neglect on the part of successive regimes.
Gathering rust in a dilapidated structure ?Tosha Khana?, which officials claimed remained safe from the fire, these artifacts, particularly weaponry including old guns, pistols and revolvers of European make have turned into mortal remains of immaculate work done by their creators.
Similarly, gold-plated palanquins, silver utensils, silver chairs, gold-plated chairs, photographs and about three kilogram gold brick, though kept in tin containers and wrapped in gunny bags, speak volumes of despicable contempt on the part of the government.
Art-lovers also rued the government decision to shift these artifacts and valuables worth crores of rupees from Tosha Khana to the strongroom at the Civil Secretariat saying, ?Instead of shifting these antiques reminding of rich Dogra culture heritage, the government should put them on permanent exhibition either at the Kala Kendra or at the Dogra Art Museum on minimal charges.? ?By doing so, the government would have easily attracted tourists and visitors and at the same time would have been constantly generating some revenue,? they added.
But amid protests and slogan shouting by the Jammu-based political parties, the government shifted the heritage treasure of the Dogra rulers from the historical Mubarak Mandi Complex to the Secretariat under a heavy police cover. CRPF and armed police personnel were deployed in strength in the area.
These artifacts, which had been stored in the Tosha Khana for the past over 59 years, survived a recent devastating fire in the building. Thereafter, the government decided to shift these artifacts to a strongroom in the Secretariat.
Activists of the BJP, the Shiv Sena and the Dogra Liberation Front raised slogans against the Congress-led coalition government as porters loaded the treasure in three trucks of the police. However, a strong contingent of the police kept the protesters away.
Dogras, the natives of Jammu region, are agitated over the shifting, calling it a conspiracy. They see the collection a part of the heritage of their ancestors. The government has already moved several items, including a golden throne, palanquins, utensils and idols worth millions of dollars from Rani Charaki Palace building.
But the decision is seen by many Dogras as ?manipulative? to take away Dogra heritage from its people to the Valley. Smelling a rat in the fire incident of Tosha Khana, people of Jammu apprehend that the fire was a result of a conspiracy to create a strong ground for shifting of treasure of Dogra'sheritage from the historical Mubarak Mandi Complex to Secretariat.
?It is nothing but an attempt to take the treasure to Srinagar,? said Ram Paul Sharma, a social activist. His fears were rooted in the fact that a part of the treasure trove taken to Srinagar by the Sheikh Abdullah government in 1975 has not returned to Jammu in the past over 30 years.