Saturday, 21 April 2018

Disappearing heritage home in Kolkata - once a "Nationalists' Hub"!!


Residence of Raja Subodh  Mullick sSri Aurobindo Institute of Culture
India being a land of one of the oldest civilizations  in the world, obviously we a rich historical, religious and cultural legacy which is well reflected in tens of thousands of fascinating monuments of  beauty and   splendour and of various ages scattered across the country. Ours is a land of unbroken history of more than 4000 years. We have a variety of monuments related to ancient history, religions, culture, colonial period, etc.  A monument is a sort of three - dimensional and time-honored structure  nicely  built  to commemorate a  religious order, a person or event,  that may have a heritage value  due to its artistic, historical, political, technical or architectural importance. Examples of monuments include statues, (war) memorials, historical buildings, archaeological sites, some religious places and cultural assets. If there is a proven  keen public interest in its preservation, a monument can, for example, be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site provided it meets certain  criteria set by them.  Historical, political and cultural events of a specified  past period are frozen in the monuments.  So, "past is  always relevant to the present". These monuments provide us an opportunity to glimpse into our past history etc., and their link can not be ignored.

Unfortunately, since independence the governments - both state and central have paid  least attention to such monuments  for various reasons - financial crunch, lack of interest, etc.,  as they are bogged down with other  pressing social problems that need to be addressed first. Since such monuments are not  protected from trespassing and encroachments by way of erecting barricades, etc, anti-social groups and hooligans can access them and either destroy them or deface them beyond repair. Our monuments in many places have a pathetic tale to tell.

 According to a recent report, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) 35% of the ancient relics and monuments under their control  have disappeared due to negligence. No periodic surveys and maintenance and most importantly, no stringent laws to protect them are the main reasons. There are cases of vandalism and abuse  of ancient  monuments by irresponsible people. Some have become haven for punks, drunks and drug peddlers. Many monuments  have turned into  garbage dumps. Irresponsible shop keepers have encroached upon some of the sites in the prime areas of the cities and towns.

 The poor attitude of the people  towards  our monuments and the apathy of the authorities need to be  rectified, to begin with. This can be done only with public cooperation and good support from the governments. The fading glory of innumerable places across the country is a fact and has to be taken seriously. Our glorious history will have lots of holes if  our old monuments  disappear from our landscape like the willow-the wisp.   Our monuments are vast and valuable  and  if they are properly taken care of  it will improve the flow of foreign tourists to India. It  is imperative for the state and central governments to preserve them from further degradation by allocating enough funds to repair, restore and conserve them for  our posterity.

Residence of Raja Subodh  Mullick sriaurobindoinstitute.org
Above image:  The hub of Indian Nationalists, Kolkata. Sri Aurobindo usually resided in this house as a guest of Raja Subodh Chandra Mullick on his visits to Calcutta. 12, Wellington Square thus became a center of the Nationalist movement and a silent witness to various events, meetings and discussions that shaped it. On his return to Calcutta in 1906 as Principal of Bengal National College, he continued residing in this house until he shifted to make himself more accessible to the 'common people'.....................

The palatial house of Raja Subodh Mullick, is a historical  place in Calcutta. This residence was once the beehive of  freedom movements and played an important role in  the Swadeshi movement and discarding of foreign stuff. Well known people passed through the portals of this house, a silent spectator to the repressive British rule. Eminent personalities like Rabindranath Tagore, Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Chittaranjan Das had visited the house when  Subdah mallick was just 4 years of age. Shri Aurobindo stayed here from 1906 to 1908. Unfortunately this heritage building (declared in 1998) is crumbling down as it is caught in a court ligation. It has fallen into disrepair as the legal  battle continues with no solution in sight in the near future. Added to this hurdle is the lethargic nature of our judiciary and its move at snail's pace. 

Mullick's residence. The Hindu
 Built between 1883 and 1884, this U-shaped house at 12 Raja Subodh Mullick Square, the main gate of the three-storeyed house is  permanently locked. With the large growth of tree causing root-wedging due to intrusion of thick roots into the building, the structure is in a dilapidated state.  The nauabatkhana is in ruin with only the staircase intact. Parts of the terrace have collapsed. The house  that was declared a heritage structure in 1998 is in the middle of a long-drawn legal battle.

The legal wrangle is over the "will" made by Nirad Chandra Basu Mullick, Subodh Mullick’s cousin to whom he sold his share. Nirad Chandra' s will dtd. March 4, 1932  states if his son (Hambir Chandra Mullick) has no issue, the beneficiary of his estate is  the University of Calcutta for advancement of learning. In the "will" there is no provision for adopted son and legal heir issue.  After Hambir Chandra's death on November 18, 1976, his caretaker Mahadeo Prasad Mishra claimed a share in the house. The university took possession of the ground and the first floors of the house on September 19, 1977, but Mishra occupied the second floor. The university moved Calcutta High Court the same year. The university plans to construct a  building  for academic purpose.
Rajah Subodh Mullick ...
As the issue still remains unresolved, the building that has not seen any repair work for decades, is in a  dangerous condition. As for lovers of monuments, this historical building may become a thing of the past as the parties involved have  failed to solve the legal battle amicably. The university's plan to demolish the heritage site is not in good taste.

 http://www.sriaurobindoinstitute.org/saioc/Sri_Aurobindo/calcutta/12_wellington_square
https://www.telegraphindia.com/1070401/asp/calcutta/story_7579252.asp