Though Alllan Octavian Hume,the legendary British civil servant who founded the Congress in 1885,will always remain a part of the history books,his home in Shimla,Rothney Castle a heritage building where he had lived and founded the party may be lost forever. With Humes death centenary on July 31,there is a proposal to convert the majestic complex into a luxury hotel.
With the earlier Congress government backing out from taking over the property and setting up a heritage museum at the spot,the current BJP government also has not stepped in to preserve the complex,which is located above the Ridge.
It was during the Congress centenary year in 1985 that the then government had proposed to preserve the property. But nothing was done and the government decided to build a 28-room luxury hotel called Castle Inn at the site. The hotel never came up. Now,the proposal has been revived.
Meanwhile,a consistent campaign by historian S R Mehrotra to persuade the government and also the Congress to acquire Rothney castle and convert it into Humes memorial,is yet to pay off. He has recently written to Himachal Governor Urmila Singh,government officials and Congress leaders saying that the proposal to convert the castle into a resort be scrapped so that the government can take over the complex. He had also written to Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
The building and its 17,500 sq m-complex is the finest piece of architecture with intricate wooden and glass works. But due to lack of maintenance,it now paints a picture of neglect. While its backyards and foundations are crumbling,wooden panels have rot due to seepage of water.
When contacted,Chief Secretary Sudprita Roy said there was a growing demand to convert Rotheny castle into a heritage site,museum or Humes memorial. I have asked the director (Tourism) to submit a report on the status of the castle, Roy said.
However,the owner of the property,Rajesh Mohan a Shimla-born businessman who stays in Delhi is opposed to the idea of it being acquired by the government. In 1987,his negotiations with the government had failed,as it refused to pay Rs 3 crore for the property. The best thing that can be done is to allow me to undertake urgent restoration work under expert supervision. A portion of the property can also be converted into a heritage hotel to make up for its maintenance cost, he said.