Saturday, August 29, 2015

Bhopal Notes -11 - Uncaring of heritage

The portion of Shakat Maahal that fell off. One can see the cracks
The other day while coming down the VIP Road I noticed that some civil construction work was going on at what, if I am not mistaken, is known as the Sikandra Gate or Baab-e Sikandri Gate. It is a heritage site for sure and a report had appeared in the Hindi press that the Municipal Corporation was going to try and restore it. One might add, heritage walks also cover this site and it was indeed in bad shape, more so because of the motor cars that are either repaired there or are just parked there. The area in front of the Gate towards the lake side is not looked after and any and everybody would use it. I have seen urchins playing cricket there.

It is a good move if the Corporation has decided to undertake repairs and restoration of the area. The Gate itself is in reasonably good condition needing, perhaps, some cosmetic job. That it has occurred to the Corporation to undertake this work itself is something praiseworthy. If such initiative had been displayed in respect of Shaukat Mahal before it lost its distinguishing feature from top of the fa├žade it would have probably saved a beautiful heritage site. After all the crack at the top was visible for a long time and there was enough time for taking appropriate action. Alas, no one paid attention to it in time; only the demolition work was taken up promptly after the top of the building collapsed.

 My young friend and heritage lover, Sikander Malik, kept crying about it, writing letters to the government, the municipality and all and sundry but none was prepared to do anything. The local MP wanted Sikandar to meet him. It was a typical officious way of doing things. After all, Sikander would have told him nothing new or anything other than what he had already put down. Later the Archaeological Department seems to have told the Convener of Bhopal Citizens” Forum that as it was a private property government couldn’t have taken any action. I suppose, heritage structures belongs to the community whether it is owned privately or by the public and needs to be saved for posterity.  The loss of the beautiful facade of Shaukat Mahal will be a lasting blot on the city and its administration. It also is going take something away from the Royal Ensemble of Bhopal of which all of us are justly proud.

One wonders whether the Archaeological Department which takes care of the local heritage structures is considering restoration of Shaukat Mahal. The portion that has fallen off perhaps can be replaced taking the several owners into confidence. Simultaneously, the Department needs to think of looking after the Moti Mahal which too is in bad shape. A former Secretary of Urban Administration Department had plans to set up a Pari Bazar or even food court in the Royal Quadrant. Perhaps that proposal could be revived. The point is if a property is in use it gets maintained and taken care of; in disuse, it degenerates and degrades.   

Photos from the internet

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