One of Lucknow's iconic attractions, the Chhota Imambara now stands 'scarred' by the Lucknow Police that has established a police outpost at its facade. This massacre of the city's tourist magnet is a major violation of the rule of the Archeological Survey of India and Hussainabad Allied Trust.
Vandalism of a historical monument in Lucknow
The officials of authoritative Archeological Survey of India (ASI) and the Hussainabad Allied Trust (HAT) which hold the ownership of the monument have labelled this action as a case of 'extreme illegality and brazen violation of the Ancient Monument and Archaeological Sites and Remains (Amendment and Validation) (AMASR) Act, 2010'. This listed Act strictly prohibits any work of construction or renovation within a 100-metre vicinity of a protected monumental building.
An interesting revelation also highlights that the restoration of this 1990s established police outpost, locally known as Satkhanda police chowki, is also in violation of the Allahabad High Court's order that directs the HAT to fund and the ASI to ensure restoration of the Chhota Imambara Gate. This order was initiated by the Principal Secretary, Department of Culture in May 2014 following the verdict of the 2013 PIL filed by a corporate lawyer and heritage activist, S. Mohammed Haider. This petition requested the court's intervention for the repair, maintenance and removal of encroachment within the premises of the monuments.
Manoj Saxena, deputy superintending archaeologist, Lucknow Circle, ASI said, "It is a purely illegal act. We have served notice on the police station to stop the work immediately." From the other side of the spectrum, I. P. Singh, Assistant Commissioner of Police, Chowk area, under which the said police outpost comes, said, "The matter is in our knowledge. We have ordered a probe into it."
The course of events
According to the timeline presented by the HAT officials, the first occurrence of illegality came to the foreground 4 days ago when a party of masons was found busy razing the shade of the gate to pave the way for a new one to suit their own requirement and design. "By the time, we got the information and rushed to the spot, the entire shade, all made up of red lakhauri bricks, was demolished by masons. On inquiring, they simply responded that "Chowki prabhari sahib ka adesh hai (It is the police outpost in-charge's order)", an official of the Trust stated. At this point, the team concluded that there was no illegal act done to the monument, however, "We also found that the interior of the chowki had all been changed. In place of the old lakhauri walls, there were new cement walls," the official added.
When this construction and renovation was objected, the on-duty police personnel assured them that they would stop the work immediately and apply for permission for the same. "But overnight, they re-started construction work and completed the structure. They got it painted so that it gels with the remaining structure," the official further said.
The HAT has reached out to the district administration with a letter addressed to the City Magistrate. The post also absorbs the role of the secretary of the trust that was formed by King Mohammed Ali Shah in 1839 to meet the religious and charitable needs of the community and to maintain the Nawabi-era structures owned by the trust. However, the City Magistrate and secretary of HAT, said, "I am unaware of this illegality. If this is so, we would serve notice and will initiate maximum action against the erring person."
-With inputs from IANS