5 heritage structures gone

Flooded with heritage buildings,Delhi is losing sight of many such sites in its ‘development’ run. While conservationists fear many monuments have disappeared...

Written by Sweta Dutta | New Delhi | Published: March 3, 2009 1:57:39 am

Flooded with heritage buildings,Delhi is losing sight of many such sites in its ‘development’ run. While conservationists fear many monuments have disappeared,or razed in the mission to become a new-millennium city,Newsline zeroes in on five important heritage structures,mostly in Mehrauli area,that have gone ‘missing’ as departments look at each other to address the issue.

All five structures,part of a list of heritage structures in Delhi compiled by the Indian National Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) in 1998,have been demolished and replaced by apartment blocks.

* Shahjahani building,a late Mughal-era and early 19th-century structure taken over by the MCD as a veterinary clinic,now has residential flats and shops on the ground floor. The address: 882,ward 6,Mehrauli.

* A Lodhi-period tomb near 12-B/1 Mehrauli is also history,though locals recall the structure existing till recently.

* Similar is the fate of Kala Gumbad,a Tughlaq-era tomb in DDA Park,near Tughlaqabad Institutional Area.

* A 19th century wall of a mosque in ward number 1,in Mehrauli,is to be found no more.

* A Lodhi-period mosque at the intersection of Mehrauli-Badarpur Road and Aurobindo Marg is being renovated by the local Imam who resides there,though nothing of the earlier structure is being retained.

Some local residents identified the erstwhile structures when shown pictures of the monuments — they confirmed that the structures,though dilapidated,existed as recently as three years ago,but have been knocked down once residential buildings nearby first encroached upon,and later demolished them. Completely.

Whose heritage,whose responsibility?

INTACH’s 1998 list,prepared in association with the DDA,listed 1,208 monuments in the Capital. But they cannot be protected by law unless the government declares,or “notifies”,them as precisely such: heritage.

Alarmed at monuments being razed,INTACH filed a Public Interest Litigation in 2005. In response,the Supreme Court ruled that a heritage conservation committee should be set up.

A G K Menon,member of that Supreme Court-appointed committee,says,“The list was given to MCD and NDMC — they issued advertisements inviting public objection following which the list was finalised. This was further verified and approved by the conservation committee two years ago.”

But that’s where the ball has stopped since then,Menon says: the list has been doing the rounds of different government offices,with no department ready to notify or acknowledge the heritage structures. “We do not have the authority to notify the list,” MCD spokesperson Deep Mathur says. “It rests with the Delhi government.”

But Menon counters: “If the municipal corporations of Kolkata,Hyderabad and Mumbai can notify (heritage) lists in their cities,why can’t the MCD do so in Delhi?” He also says MCD had declared in a meeting of the conservation committee last month that it had sent the list to the Delhi government and was awaiting response.

Menon says these third-tier heritage structures are the responsibility of the local civic body. “The first-tier monuments are protected by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI),and the second-tier by the state department of archaeology. Being the third tier of the government,MCD and NDMC have the authority to take responsibility of these structures.”

Needed: more coordination

The Delhi Assembly passed the Delhi Ancient Historical Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Bill in December 2004. Giving teeth to the till-then-powerless state archaeology department,the Bill provides for “protection of any structure,erection or monument… of historical,archaeological or artistic interest (that) has been in existence for not less than 100 years”.

But the problem,Swapna Liddle,co-convenor of INTACH’s Delhi chapter,says lies in that the government clarifies the heritage structures to be considered under this Bill. “Until the list of heritage structures is notified,many such monuments will be wiped out,” Liddle says.

Ratish Nanda,conservation architect who had spearheaded the move to restore Humayun’s Tomb,says,“Lack of coordinated action by different government agencies has led to the loss of our heritage. Owners of heritage buildings need incentives before penalties can be imposed for damage or destruction.”

Veterinary Clinic
882,ward 6,Mehrauli

This Shahjahani building dates back to late-Mughal period (early 19th century) and was initially used as a residence. The MCD later took it over for a veterinary clinic. The heritage structure had Shahjahani columns in an otherwise colonial building. The highlight of the structure were its capitals of the Shahjahani fluted columns and the colonial mouldings on the main house.


The building now is completely demolished and renovated into residential apartments with shops on the ground floor. Kedarnath and Company,a property developer that also runs a realty outlet on the ground floor,is one of the building’s developers. Residents and neighbours told Newsline that several developers built the new apartments — part by part.
Banwari Lal,a resident for the past 60 years in a house opposite the building,says: “I remember putting up the corrugated shade in front of the main building — the animals were nursed here. But the structure deteriorated over the last few years due to neglect and was demolished about three years ago. New flats have come up now.” Meenakshi Sharma,who owns a flat and a departmental store in the building,says,“We bought the flat from the property dealer here and moved in three years ago.”

TOMORROW: Structures that were,now gone

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