While the National Forum for Aided Institutions Employees (NFAIE), Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), have claimed that the Malabar Hill residential bungalow of Dr Homi J Bhabha was 100 years old and so can be declared as a protected monument, the state’s Directorate of Archaeology and Museums has said two letters in its possession reveal that construction of the bungalow was going on in 1941 and hence it cannot be termed as one of “historical importance” under existing regulations.
According to the Maharashtra Ancient Monument & Archaeological Sites & Remains Act, 1960, a structure could be said of “historical importance” only if it was constructed at least 50 years before the Act came into commencement.
The DAE Forum had written to the state government and PM last month, stating that the city’s Development Plan of 1915 showed that the house on Little Gibbs road was built in 1911.
“We have obtained two letters from Jehangir Bhabha, brother of Dr Homi Bhabha, addressed to his mother, from the Tata Central Archives. The first one is dated February 17, 1941, in which he writes ‘I am eagerly looking forward to being with you again and seeing our home completely finished’. In the second, dated October 31, 1941, he writes, ‘Mehrangir is a beautiful name and has a deep significance because of its association with the loving care you took over the construction of the house’,” says a letter to the state Tourism and Cultural Affairs Department.
It further says that from the two letters, it can be surmised that construction was going on till the end of 1941 and got completed sometime after it.
“This clearly indicates two possibilities. One is this that the entire construction of this bungalow got completed in 1941. The other possibility is that there was already a structure in that place, which got modified by the Bhabha family. Even assuming the second possibility, the building existing today cannot be dated before 1941 as the original structure ceased to exist in that year in its originality… Therefore, the said building cannot be declared as state protected monument,” said the Directorate.
The Directorate has further told the state that the criterion of 50 years before 1960 is just one of the conditions under which a structure can be declared as a “protected monument”.
“The building or structure of this bungalow in itself cannot be said to be a unique and remarkable specimen of a particular type of noteworthy architecture. The bungalow got historical significance because Dr Homi Bhabha resided here. Therefore, the historical importance begins only after he started staying there… This building cannot be protected just because it is an old building and it received historical significance; that date seems to be of no significance,” it said.