In Pics | Once a symbol of nationalist defiance, Lucknow's Rifa-e-Aam club continues to wither away
Rifa-e-Aam club in Lucknow is where Mahatma Gandhi delivered his thunderous speeches on Hindu-Muslim unity in 1920. And it was here that the acclaimed Hindi writer Munshi Premchand addressed a meeting of the Progressive Writers' Association in 1936.
However, the building which was once a symbol of nationalist defiance, Lucknow's Rifa-e-Aam club, is lying neglected today and is used by scrap dealers to dump waste while the ground is used as an open parking space.
This forgotten building located in Qaiserbagh, which has been encroached upon by vehicles and people alike, was built in defiance of British elitism. During those days, when the likes of Mohammed Bagh club had signboards saying 'Dogs and Indians not allowed', the Rifa-e-Aam club was open to every commoner.
In fact, as the building's name suggests, it was constructed to provide 'Happiness' to the oppressed 'aam aadmi' of colonial India. Naturally, the place gradually turned into a hub of anti-British defiance, becoming the site of several vital moments in India's freedom struggle.
One of these moments was the signing of the famous Lucknow Pact between the Indian National Congress and the Muslim League in 1916, which happened in this very building that stands as a forgotten relic in Independent India.
Family of caretakers have appealed several times for the place's renovation
The Pandey family, that resides in one area of the building, have appealed numerous times for the place's renovation. Siddhant Pandey, belonging to the caretaker's family, says that his grandfather Chakrapani Pandey was a poet who joined the Progressive Writers' Movement.
Speaking to Knocksense, he mentioned in a dejectedly tone, ''We have sent multiple letters to the Nagar Nigam for the renovation of this place but to no avail. All we want is for this historic place to be preserved and saved from any further ruin".
His mother, Sushma Pandey, who claims she has been at the place since 1979, also seemed heartbroken to see the place sink further into ruin over these years. "Even though the place is now under ASI jurisdiction, nothing is being done to stop encroachment, destruction, and general disregard this place has undergone over the years", she mentioned.
Several attempts to restore the building, gone in vain
Over the years, several citizen groups have also shown their support by starting petitions for restoring this heritage structure, however, that never turned out to be fruitful. A total of 5,000 people signed a 2020 petition intended to seek the attention of the concerned authorities towards Rife-e-Aam club's preservation.
The wilting away of a nationalist and literary community space of such significance in a city that prides itself on heritage and culture is nothing but painful irony!
Location: Near Christian college, Wazirganj, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh 226018