Lal Mahal to come under ASI protection

Lal Mahal, one of the oldest documented Islamic palaces which was being destroyed by unauthorised construction and encroachment here in Hazrat Nizamuddin area, is set to be declared as protected by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

The Culture Ministry has given its approval to a proposal of the ASI for inclusion of the 13th century palace in the list of centrally-protected monuments which once gave shelter to Moroccan traveller Ibn Battuta in 14th century.

“The ASI has taken necessary action to declare Lal Mahal as protected. As soon as the land acquisition issue pertaining to the site of Lal Mahal is sorted out, the ASI would bring out the protection notification under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958,” the Ministry told a parliamentary panel, which submitted its report on the “upkeep of various monuments” in Parliament recently.

The palace, also known as Kushak-i-Lal, was built by Ghiyasuddin Balban of the Mamluk dynasty in 1255 AD.

Lal Mahal, a part of which was demolished by some private builders allegedly to make way for construction of a multi-storey complex in 2008, continues to suffer encroachment and threats of destruction by illegal construction works around.

Ignorance flayed

The parliamentary standing committee, though it appreciated the Culture Ministry for giving in-principle approval to a proposal to declare the ancient monument as protected under the Archaeological Survey of India now, it rapped the government for remaining ignorant towards the issue of its protection so far.

“The committee noted from the Lal Mahal’s case that when a monument was being encroached and destroyed, all authorities turned a blind eye and allowed that to happen. They do not stop it for the reasons best known to them,” the House committee said in its report.

Stressing on the need to take speedy action to protect the monument from destruction, the panel asked the government to show no laxity in removing the encroachers from the palace.

“They should be removed with the help of police force,” the panel suggested, noting that “land grabbers and various authorities were conniving with each other”.

Access denied

The Archaeological Survey of India told the committee that encroachers were denying access to its authority even to photograph the destroyed monument. “In such circumstances, it is difficult to start the work relating to revival and renovation,” it said.

The panel, however, took serious exception to the Archaeological Survey of India’s statement.

“There is no authority to stop it with force either from the state government or central government. And when things come to notice and pressure is put, it is argued that they do not have access to encroached monuments. This nexus and keeping eyes shut is a serious cause of concern,” the penal noted.

Even if some important monuments were privately owned, it did not authorise private owners to alter, deface or demolish the monuments, it said.

“Appropriate legal and institutional mechanism need to be put in place to make such private persons accountable and face severe legal consequences for destroying such monuments or ancient sites,” it added.

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