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When contacted yesterday, the DG said she would comment on the matter after getting the inspection report
The historic Bhawal Raja’s residence in Old Dhaka could be turned into a beautiful heritage site if it was enlisted as a protected archaeological site at the soonest, officials said yesterday after examining the site.
Following a report published yesterday in the Dhaka Tribune titled “Govt blamed for destruction of Bhawal Raja’s residence,” both the Department of Archaeology and the Court of Wards under the Land Ministry on Bhawal Raj Estate sent separate teams to the site.
The archaeology team visited the site – situated at Nalgola, Imamganj near Mitford Hospital – to verify whether it could be eligible to be enlisted in line with the Antiquity Act, 1968.
On the other hand, Manager SM Roisuddin Ahmed at the Court of Wards said he sent a team to the spot after the report had been published. “Our team informed me that the lessees are violating the conditions of the lease agreement. We will take necessary steps soon. If needed, we will cancel the lease agreement.”
The one-acre area, leased out to some 70 people in 2011 for commercial use, has gradually being damaged and demolished by the lessees who have constructed new tin-shed houses on the compound.
The archaeology department also questioned why the Land Ministry had leased the land without acquiring any clearance certificate from it and ignoring the Antiquity Act.
Roisuddin said: “This place was neither enlisted in the protected list of archaeological sites nor the list of Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (Rajuk). Hence, our office permitted the lease appeal since we have no adequate manpower to verify whether the lease appeal is applicable for this place.”
He said they would investigate the matter whether any official had been involved in the lease process without any inspection or proper examination.
Earlier, Director General of the Department of Archaeology Shirin Akhter said: “Actually, I have no idea that there is a historic building. We will soon send a team to verify the place whether it should be protected or not in line with the Antiquity Act.”
After the inspection, field officer Nasima Shaheen told the Dhaka Tribune that the historic site had not been enlisted due to lack of coordination and proper survey around the Dhaka city.
“If preserved, the residence has the potentialities and historic values to be turned into a beautiful heritage site. It will attract many tourists since it is situated just beside the Buriganga River.”
When contacted yesterday, the DG said she would comment on the matter after getting the inspection report.
According to the authorities concerned and the Chawkbazar police, now no construction activities are taking place at the site.
On July 28, architect Taimur Islam, the CEO of Urban Study Group, filed a general diary with Chawkbazar police station against one of the lessees Alauddin Sarkar to stop demolition of the house.
He mentioned that as the protected heritage list was not updated yet, any kind of construction on this 100-year-old historic residence would be a clear violation of the interim period of a Supreme Court order.
The Supreme Court in an order in October 2012 asked the government to update the list of protected heritage sites. It also questioned why the Urban Development Committee had been lying idle for years.
On the other hand, the officials of archaeology department are worried whether they would be able to protect the residence after learning that the lessees had connection with some musclemen who are blessed by the government.
Asking not to be named, an officer said: “We are yet to acquire the historic Ruplal House in Old Dhaka since several police cases are pending. We are very much weak to fight in protecting the country’s historic places and structures.”
The official said: “The Bhawal Raja’s residence is not out of such fear. We have to work tactfully as we have found strong connection of some influential people with the lessees. There are also possibilities of facing cases which will create huge obstacles to protect the land.”
Earlier, when this reporter visited the spot it was found that the main gate could not be recognised as the walls were reconstructed, while a number of small and big tin-shed houses, shops and storage rooms were seen on the premises, constructed by the lessee. The compound also houses recycling factories.
Though some parts of the walls are damaged, still there are signs of some rickety steel columns, huge wooden doors, marble tiles and well-curved arches to bear the testimony of the history.
According to the officials of archaeology department, they found the existence of several government offices including land registry office and councillor’s office on the compound. They said it would be tough for them to remove those offices from the site unless people of different strata raised voice to protect this historic residence.
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