In a last-ditch effort to preserve as a heritage monument the Malabar Hill residential bungalow of Dr Homi J Bhabha, the architect of India’s nuclear programme, the National Forum for Aided Institutions Employees (NFAIE), Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), has written to the Prime Minister, Maharashtra Chief Minister and the municipal commissioner of Mumbai pleading that the house is over 100 years old and so it classified as a historical monument and could be converted into a museum.
The NFAIE is a forum of employees working in various institutions under the DAE.
“The house was constructed in 1911 and it is over 100 years old. We are sending proof of the same to your office. We appeal to the Centre to take custody of the house and give it to DAE to convert it into a museum. Bhabha disappeared in a plane crash in 1966 and we couldn’t find him. We had appealed that he should be given Bharat Ratna. We appeal for the same again,” says the letter addressed to PM Narendra Modi, sent last month and signed by Forum president Raam Dhuri.
The house was sold for Rs 372 crore by the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) in June 2014. Eminent scientists have been saying there was a need to preserve the bungalow as a monument.
In similar letters to CM Devendra Fadnavis, the Forum says that the city’s Development Plan of 1915 shows that the house on Little Gibbs road was built in 1911. It says information on the same was sought under the Right to Information (RTI) Act and it has been submitted to BMC Commissioner’s office.
“He is the architect of the country’s nuclear programme and his father had bought the house in 1937. It is necessary to include the house in the heritage list. Take appropriate action and include it in the list,” it appeals.
The letter to the municipal commissioner says that in 1954, Bhabha used to live in this house, and had his office and lab on the third floor, from where he laid the foundation of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR). “The city survey number 4/441 of 1915 mentioned that this house was constructed on January 11, 1911. The proof is available with BMC’s Estates Department. Hence, the Directorate of Archaeology and Museums should look into it,” it says.
A statement released by NCPA on the bungalow last month said there was a “PIL filed in the Bombay High Court by two office-bearers of the BARC Employees’ Union, on June 13, 2014, a few days prior to the auction date, seeking cancellation of the auction process and declaration of the bungalow as a heritage structure or historical monument, which the court did not agree to. The High Court finally disposed of the petition on September 17, 2014. The petitioners moved the Supreme Court through a Special Leave Petition in an appeal against the HC order, which came up for hearing on January 30, 2015. The Supreme Court too disposed of the SLP.”
The statement further reads that both the Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee (MHCC) and the state Directorate of Archaeology and Museums had concluded that the “bungalow does not classify as a heritage structure or a historical monument only on account of its association with late Dr Homi Bhabha. Subsequent to this, the municipal commissioner vide his letter dated March 10, 2015 to the Urban Development Department, concurred with MHCC’s recommendation.”