The Sindh Culture and Antiquities Department is under fire on Twitter for its restoration of the historical Hingorani Mariyoon Mosque in Tando Fazal, but experts believe the government did the right thing.
On Wednesday, the department uploaded photos of the mosque after restoring it, but a mosque wall that appeared to be painted white angered many users.
They criticised the department for "destroying Sindh's heritage" and even made the situation into a meme.
BEFORE AFTER: pic.twitter.com/RBAsipLjv5— sugar kaka (@sugar_kaka) August 12, 2020
Restored by Govt of Sindh pic.twitter.com/P213UQfDTe— D (@Le_Sabre54) August 12, 2020
Restored by Sindh govt. pic.twitter.com/VLnJTVDFfP— Ali (@Bhuut_) August 12, 2020
Later, Culture Minister Sardar Ali Shah posted a report containing details of the restoration process on Twitter, explaining that it wasn't paint but lime paste.
The report states that first gypsum (chiroli) was applied on the brick masonry, then a mixture of lime with jute and hill sand was put over it. The workers then applied lime paste with soap stone powder (sangejirat) to tighten the structure.
"Since all work was performed without adding any chemical or artificial colour, the look of the preserved monument appears white," the report explained.
Architect and heritage consultant Marvi Mazhar seconds the move. "Everybody is saying it's white paint.. but it is not.. it's a lime plaster. They just sealed the structure with lime and there is nothing wrong with it," she told SAMAA Digital on Thursday.
The department took down its post from social media when the photos drew criticism, and Mazhar wasn't impressed.
She feels the government will be reluctant to share a comprehensive report of any project in the future due to such a reaction from people who are merely "keyboard warriors and don't have any idea of the field".
Mazhar added that people cannot declare the department's methodology wrong unless the Conditional Survey Report is published. The expert suggested that the department should announce tenders on open call to encourage fair work and transparency and avoid such chaos in future.
Historian and heritage expert Dr Kareemullah Lashari has a similar take on the provincial government's move. "Isme koi aib nahi ha [There is no flaw in it]. You need to appreciate it," he said while speaking of restoring the ancient mosque.
He said the government might have used a traditional method that involves using kalai choona to restore places. This helps make the lime whiter and shinier, hence, people thought it was a chemical paint.
Note: There have been conflicting statements from experts on the Sindh government's restoration process so far. We spoke to BBC reporter Riaz Sohail who did a story on the restoration of Nagarparkar's Gori Temple and the Hingorani Mariyoon Mosque. We concluded that the truth can only be ascertained once we visit each restored site because most experts are basing their opinions on photos. There are five or six temples that have been restored across Sindh and the government has only explained the restoration process of the Hingorani Mariyoon Mosque.