The Jinnah House in the posh Malabar Hill area of south Mumbai, which is proposed to be refurbished on the lines of New Delhi's Hyderabad House, became a bone of contention between India and Pakistan on Thursday.
The property is being transferred from the Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR) to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), after Prime Minister's Office (PMO) gave its nod.
Islamabad reiterated its claim on the palatial bungalow where Pakistan's founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah lived in 1930s. The Foreign Office of Pakistan Government strongly reacted to New Delhi's recent move to renovate Jinnah House and turn it into a venue for hosting foreign leaders and meetings.
No locus standii
The Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi quickly responded, saying Pakistan Government has no locus standii on the issue.
Ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar's comment was in response to his counterpart Mohammad Faisal's statement that Pakistan government had not relinquished its claim on Jinnah House.
Belongs to Pak
"We do not accept anyone trying to take custody of it. They (Government of India) have already accepted that it belongs to Pakistan; we have record of it,” Faisal told journalists in Islamabad.
Faisal was reacting to media reports on External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj's recent letter to Maharashtra BJP legislator Mangal Prabhat Lodha, informing him that Prime Minister Narendra Modi's office had instructed to renovate and refurbish Jinnah House on the pattern of Hyderabad House.
Islamabad has for long been insisting that Jinnah House be turned into the office of Consulate General of Pakistan in Mumbai.
Jinnah's daughter Dina Wadia had moved the Bombay High Court in August 2007 staking her claim on the bungalow. After her death on November 2 last year, her son and Wadia Group chairman Nusli Neville Wadia is pursuing the legal battle.
"This is our property and if somebody contests, then I think we will have to fight,” said Kumar.
Believed to have been built under the supervision of Barrister Jinnah, who was then practising at the Bombay Presidency High Court, the mansion has a built-up area of 1,694 sq metres and a garden spread over 4,358 sq metres. It was designed by famous British architect Claude Barley.
Cost Rs 2 lakh
The mansion came into existence in 1938 and was built at a cost of nearly Rs 2 lakh.
An intangible pre-Independence era old charm pervades the majestic structure. The momentous Gandhi-Jinnah talks were held here and a host of nationalist leaders, including Jawaharlal Nehru and Subhas Chandra Bose, were among the distinguished visitors to this place.
Historical records reveal that Jinnah wanted this house to be occupied by a “small European family or a refined Indian Prince" and expected rent of Rs 3,000 per month. He made his wishes known to then Bombay Province Governor Sri Prakasa who had been deputed by Nehru to find out what he (Jinnah) wanted to do with the property after Partition. However, after Independence, it was declared an “evacuee property” and was let out to the British Deputy High Commissioner in 1955. The office functioned till 1982.
Controversies started dogging it and in 1977-78, when the Janata government proposed starting a Pakistani Consulate, there was a hue and cry and the idea was dropped. From 1985, the Central Public Works Department used to take care of this mansion, but in 1997 it was put under the care of ICCR.