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Sunday, July 12, 2015

Bhopal's historic Shaukat Mahal facade brought down: Destruction of heritage due to apathy of government, civic authorities

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Shukat Mahal palace, a unique example of Indo-French structure, built during the reign of Nawab Qudsia Begam nearly 180 years ago, was in the need for restoration and it was repeatedly brought to the notice of authorities.

Yet, there was no attempt to save and strengthen the heritage building and when a crack developed on the facade of the structure this week, the civic authorities instantly went and demolished the portion--crown and two storeys on the front.

This shameless display of apathy towards heritage is common place in the country, despite growing awareness about need to conserve the past and save the heritage structures.

Bhopal--City of Lakes, Palaces, Monuments, Mosques

Bhopal is among the few cities that have have such abundance of heritage structures--palaces, historic structures and gates.Take for example, the royal complex near Moti Masjid, you will be overwhelmed by the grandeur of imposing buildings of the era when Bhopal was a princely state.

On one hand, you have Gauhar Mahal, the beautiful Baab-e-Sikandari gates, while adjacent to it is Moti Mahal. Further, the Shaukat Mahal, Sheesh Mahal, Sadar Manzil and Humayun Manzil, along with the Moti Masjid and Minar-e-Iqbal, turn the place majestic.

But successive governments and civic authorities have turned a blind eye to the restoration of these structures.

The city of lakes has so much for tourists, yet, authorities have failed to even project it as a tourist destination.

In fact, despite monuments, lakes, museums, mosques and dozens of tourist attractions, government has totally failed to harness the potential.

Demolition easier than restoration!

Worse, the structures are crumbling and there is no attempt to save them--either on one pretext or the other.

If one structure can't be protected because it is either Waqf property, or it can't be saved because it is not under a particular department's jurisdiction.

There are so many bahaanaas, the pretexts--for yet another monument there is 'lack of budget' or a particular monument is 'private property'.

The truth is harsh. Successive chief ministers and civic administrators have no vision and as a result the monuments are being destroyed.

Citizens do share a part of blame. But this is also a fact that people came on the streets to save structures in the past, which government wanted to demolish.

Especially, in the case of Jumerati Gate and Old post Office. Majority of officials and ministers have little interest in saving heritage.

Hence, handful of activists and protesters' voice or demonstrations are just not enough to shake the babus.

The heritage is being ravaged by careless civic officers, land grabbers and the illegal encroachers.

What can be more tragic than the fact that we are all witness to this shameless destruction of heritage.

[Photos courtesy, news link as well: Dainik Bhaskar]
[Shaukat Mahal was built during the reign of Nawab Qudsia Begam, as wedding gift for her daughter Nawab Sikandar Jahan Begam]


Bhopale said...

It is shameful the way Bhopals heritage structures are being destroyed. Falkhuma gate, Benazir Palace, Tajmahal all are waiting for restoration. Shaukat mahal also joins the list now.

Anonymous said...

1. what would public get if these structures are restored?
2. why should public money be wasted on these useless structures?
3. why they were built in the first place?

editor said...

The structures are part of history and hence they should be preserved, as it happens in every country.
Financially government earns huge money from these buildings by tourism and turning them in museums, our precious ancient objects are kept and saved.
Structures like Taj Mahal, Qutub Minar and such buildings are the biggest foreign exchange getter for India, and the money is used for citizens, in the end. They are the biggest investments, the money spent on building these structures in those days, is earned every day from foreign and domestic tourists. There are many other reasons but of course you can imagine and believe whatever you like, everyone is free to do so.

Anonymous said...

1. just because a building is old does not mean it is historic.

2. if government was earning anything, why would government demolish the building.

editor said...

Yes, but this was historic building and secondly it fell down because of poor maintenance--different authorities--lack of coordination between civic body, archaeology, district administration et al.

Anonymous said...

1. You have failed to give any proof of any historic importance of this structure.

2. The fact that there was no public outcry, proves that it was of no use to public.

3. public money should be spent on public affairs , not on restoration of useless buildings.

editor said...

If you don't believe anything, just ignore. Already the structure is gone. If you are still interested, find any book on Bhopal's history and archaeology. Also, you will find it on Archaeological survey of India's books, and websites of Tourism, Culture department. There was public outcry too.