A Scar on Lucknow’s Cultural Heritage

Uzair Hasan Rizvi

Uttar Pradesh have got the dubious distinction of housing the largest number of encroached monuments in the country and its capital Lucknow is matching with the footsteps as every second protected monument in the city is under encroachment.

As per Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), Lucknow circle data (tentative list), out of 59 centrally protected monuments in the city, 25 are encroached. The list includes Bada Imambada, Chhota Imambada, Asafi Masjid, Picture Gallery, Shahnajaf and many more. The encroachments are both residential and commercial and those done mainly by the trusts or the caretakers.

Shahnajaf Imambada in the heart of city is occupied by the family members of the trustees who have been residing in the cells and have carried several constructions of residential houses. In 2011, after hearing a PIL, the Lucknow bench of Allahabad High Court directed the district administration to remove the illegal occupants from inside and encroachments around the monuments and restore them to their original positions. A drive was conducted and the occupants were asked to vacate the premises. The occupants however challenged the order in the court, which stayed vacancy orders. The matter was passed onto the Hussainabad and Allied Trust (HAT) to which the property belongs. Another drive was conducted which failed to yield the desired results. Mohd. Nasir, a resident inside Shahnajaf said, ìMy forefathers served and lived in Shahnajaf, I will fight for my shelter.î (Name changed on request)

The entrance of both Bada Imambada and Chota Imambada are encroached by shops and eating joints. Many families live inside Bada Imambada and some in underground cells in the Asafi mosque. Shameem Alam, a resident in Bada Imambada says, ìI have been living here for years, leaving this place will take away my shelter.î Other monuments like Tomb of Jana-e-Aliya in Golaganj and Imambada Sibtainabad are heavily encroached and for years, new constructions have taken place. The 150-year old Neil gate or Sher Darwaza suffers heavy encroachment as rooms inside the gate have been occupied for the residential purpose.

Rapid urbanization and allotments made by Hussainabad Trust within the monument premises is the chief reason for encroachments. There is no written agreement between the ASI and the Hussainabad Trust. However, section 6(1) of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (AMASR) Act, 1958, states an agreement between the owner/trustee and Central government within a specified period for the maintenance of the monument. Under the AMASR Act of 1958 and 1959, the superintending archaeologists of the circles concerned have been delegated with the powers for removal of encroachment. However, ASI says they have to depend upon the state government or local administration for initiating any legal action against illegal occupants. Protection of monuments comes under ASI’s jurisdiction; it can only request the state or the district authorities to evict illegal occupants. An official from the district administration says some protected monuments are also centres of religious activity, tackling communal face of this issue is always extremely tricky.

In 2013 a PIL was filed in the Lucknow bench of Allahabad High Court by Mr. Mohammad Haider, a corporate lawyer. The petitioner demanded removal of encroachments and their protection forthwith. Upon the court’s directives a high-power committee was formed. However, little has been done by the committee regarding the issue of encroachments.

In February 2015, ASI sent a notice to HAT directing it to evict illegal encroachments from Picture Gallery in Hussainabad and further directed the district administration to rehabilitate the occupants, however Mr. Nasir Naqvi, OSD, HAT alleged that there is no mention of rehabilitation clause either in ASI notice or high court order, we have ordered occupants to evacuate, but we won’t rehabilitate them.

Under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains, which was amended in 2010 and now known as AMASR Amendment and Validation Act, 2010, a prohibited area is 100 metres from the edge of the monument and the regulated zone is a further 200 metres beyond the prohibited area. Violations can be punished by fine of Rs 1 lakh and a two-year jail term. While ASI claims to have deployed guards at some monuments, even then, there is little change in the extent of encroachments plaguing the heritage monuments.

Encroached Monuments in the city

  • Bada Imambada (residential and commercial) 8 shops and some 6 families reside in the premises. Hussainabad Trust coughs up the revenue.
  • Asafi Masjid (residential) Underground cells of the mosque encroached by locals.
  • Rauza-e-Kazmain (residential) 30-odd families living inside the premises.
  • Shahnajaf Imambada (residential) Occupied by ex-trustees and family members. Primary school is also running.
  • Picture Gallery (Residential) Office of the Hussainabad trust. A school running on the first floor.
  • Amjad Ali Shah Tomb-Sibtainabad (residential and commercial) Side wings in the premises and first-second gateways allotted by Lucknow Improvement Trust (now LDA) for residential and commercial purpose.
  • Qaiserbagh Gate (residential) Inhabited by tenants.
  • Dargah Hazrat Abbas (residential and commercial) Several families residing inside the premises and building portion also houses some shops.
  • General Wali Kothi ñ Office of the Nagrik Suraksha Niyantrak

Other Monuments encroached for residential and commercial purposes

  • Cemetery at Kaiserpasand, Qaiserbagh
  • Kalan-ki-Lat at Aminabad
  • British Cemetery at Sapru Marg
  • Two Cemeteries at Lucknow-Faizabad road, miles 4&5.
  • Tomb of Janab-e-Aliya, Golaganj
  • Jama Masjid, Hussainabad
  • Tahsin Ali Masjid
  • Neil’s Gate
  • Karbala Talkatora
  • Dianut-Daula Karbala
  • Malka Jahan Karbala
  • Nasir-ud-din Haider Karbala
  • Nagram Mound
  • Paharnagar Tikuria Mound
  • Sikchawali Kothi

(Source- ASI Lucknow as per the list of encroached monuments)

Writer is a freelance journalist and journalism student at Jamia Millia Islamia

(Published in The Lucknow Observer, Volume 2 Issue 14, Dated 05 May 2015)

Tomb of Mustafa Ali Khan, elder brother of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah

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