More than a month after Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said the conversion of a Tughlaq-era tomb into a temple in Safdarjung Enclave’s Humayunpur “should be handled with zero tolerance”, the Gumti stands as it is — painted white and saffron and named Shiv Bola temple, with idols placed inside. The only difference: A plastic sheet covers the gate of the tomb now.
As first reported by The Indian Express on May 4, the 15th Century tomb — which was to be restored by the Delhi chapter of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage — was turned into a temple in March, with authorities saying they were unaware of who did it. This is in violation of the Citizen Charter of the Archaeology department, which states that one “cannot paint, draw or whitewash any wall in and around the monument”, and “cannot hamper or spoil the originality”. The state-protected monument falls under the Delhi government’s Art, Culture and Languages (ACL) department — headed by Sisodia.
As per a source, the ACL has written to the Home Department, requesting that the matter be presented before the Delhi government’s Religious Affairs Committee. “The letter was written 10 days ago… if it was a matter of encroachment of a heritage site, the district task force would have handled it. But in this case, a heritage structure has been turned into a religious site. We need the Religious Committee to get possession of the monument, take a decision on when the ACL should go in and with how much force,” said the source.
Manoj Parida, principal secretary (Home), said, “The job of the Religious Committee is to decide on removal of encroachment on government land, when it is in the form of a temple, mosque, gurdwara or church. We come in when illegal structures are required to be demolished… that’s when we provide police protection.” There is no allegation of encroachment in the Humayunpur matter, so the committee has no role to play, he added. Conservation architect AGK Menon said: “The longer the delay in restoring a monument after an incident like this, the harder it gets. This is a case of land grab… it’s unlikely politicians will meddle in this matter since it’s about two communities now.”
(With inputs from Sourav Roy Barman)