A rare pictorial documentation of the hill state’s journey to progress over last four decades has ironically fallen victim to development concerns.
Displayed at ‘Himachal Darshan’ photo gallery for 20 years in Mandi district for free access to locals, tourists and researchers alike by Mandi based photographer Birbal Sharma, the precious photographs are being dumped backside in a hall.
It is the only such photo gallery in Himachal Pradesh.
The building housing the gallery is to be razed anytime now, to pave the way for four-laning of National Highway-21 from Nagchala to Manali.
Established under the banner ‘Puratatva Chetna Sangh’, the gallery is situated at Bindrabani, four kilometres from Mandi towards Manali, on the left bank of river Beas.
Sharma tried to save the gallery at the original place, representing to authorities time and again against alleged faulty procedures being followed to carve out four lane till Manali, but to no avail.
“I gave my blood and sweat for this treasure. I am losing it. I ran from pillar to post since last year when they drew up the plan to raze it for national highway. Neither the previous Congress government, nor this government has listened to me. I have no option but to dump my pictures, till I find someplace to keep them properly,” said Sharma.
Upset over the development, he said, “They have given me some compensation….I worked so hard and it took me 15 years to on establishing the gallery. Will any money compensate that? While the cost of re-location is also very high, I won’t be able to relocate the gallery with same spirit and aura now.”
Sharma, 61, clicked all these photographs passionately, documenting the natural, traditional and cultural bounty and development of Himachal Pradesh, while trekking to toughest and inaccessible areas for more than 40 years.
He has a collection of over one lakh photographs lakh photographs clicked over the last four decades from every nook and corner of HP.
‘Himachal Darshan’ gallery’ had over 350 of them on display, along with some antique tools and olden books.
His photographs on nature and life from inaccessible belts like Bara Banghal and Dodra Kwar (it now has a road), Chandernahan (origin of Pabbar River), Beas kund (origin of Beas River) and Kibber (the last village on Indo-Tibetan border in Spiti) trace and conserve the history and heritage of Himachal Pradesh.
Many of these pictures are not found even in the state museums. The Language and Culture department too has not shown serious interest in helping out the ‘preservation effort’, except for one letter of concern that they sent him last year, with no follow up.