The Shiv Sena has always opposed the declaration of the Shivaji Park precinct as a Grade-I heritage site,but the Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee (MHCC) has ironically cited the partys first rally in 1966 and its founders funeral procession at the park as reasons for justifying its heritage tag.
In an affidavit recently submitted to the Bombay High Court,the MHCC stated: The Shiv Sena led by the late Balasaheb Thackeray had its first rally here. Balasaheb Thackerays funeral procession culminated here,witnessed by hordes of his followers. The affidavit was in response to a petition filed by senior citizens Arun Chitale and Damodar Nayak,residents of the over 70-year-old Peso Villa in the precinct,who had challenged the Grade-I heritage tag proposed for the park. Shivaji Park was one of the 868 proposed heritage sites published in a Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) notice of July 31,2012.
While the Sena has maintained that the heritage tag would inconvenience residents of old buildings in need of repair,the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) had opposed the heritage status saying the precinct contained no monuments but uniform residential structures. While the Sena headquarter Sena Bhawan is located in the Shivaji Park area,Thackerays estranged nephew and MNS chief Raj Thackeray is a resident of the Shivaji Park precinct.
The affidavit filed by MHCC member Cyrus Guzder also cited Marathi Manoos the pet political trump card of both the regional parties as a reason to protect the precinct with the heritage tag.
Quoting Mustansir Dalvi,professor of J J School of Architecture,the MHCC wrote in its affidavit: The buildings around Shivaji Park,Five Gardens and the Dadar-Matunga estate were predominantly designed by the pioneering Marathi Manoos. The affidavit stated further,The architecture represents the socio-cultural adaptations by Marathi architects who chose not to sacrifice either global or local influences but developed a blend of both.
Pointing out the historical importance of the Shivaji Park ground and the need to conserve it,the MHCC stated,Socially and historically,Shivaji Park has always remained the symbol of mass protests and mass gatherings,an important part of any democracy. The Samyukta Maharashtra Chalval where Acharya Atre spoke to large crowds was held at Shivaji Park.
It also claimed that the park is the only true open park that can adapt itself to any sport that children might want to play. From global sports like cricket and soccer to indigenous sports like mallakhamb and kho-kho,one will find them being played here.
The MHCC also stated that the mayors bungalow is located at the northwest corner of Shivaji Park. Shivaji Park has always epitomised the civic mindedness and the urban struggle in Mumbai. It defines Mumbai and has to be preserved in its true form for future generations, the affidavit mentions.
In their petition filed through lawyer Sanjay Kadam,the petitioners stated that since there are no lifts in the buildings,senior citizens find it very difficult to climb up the higher floors. Moreover,the buildings do not have sufficient open spaces between them leading to parking of vehicles on both sides of internal roads.
Political meetings and rallies at the Shivaji Park ground,religious processions,etc. add to the gravity of the problems of the residents, they contended.
In its affidavit,the MHCC has,however,stated,The MHCC has previously granted permission for repairs and renovations of heritage buildings and has permitted installation of lifts inside and outside the buildings. The MHCC balances convenience of residents and other such considerations with preserving the heritage value of that building.