The Qaiserbagh heritage walk -- an ambitious project of the state government to give people a feel of the rich glory of the area -- has got stuck in a ‘secret passage’, literally.
Reason: A narrow underpass on the heritage walk route connecting the Raushan-ud-Daulah Kothi to Qaiserbagh Gate (West) has become a bone of contention between the tourism department, which conceptualised the walk, and the owners of Raja Salempur House (through which the underpass passes).
While the tourism department maintains that the underpass was a ‘secret way to Qaiserbagh’ (as mentioned on the route map), the owners of the sprawling mansion -- Salempur House next to the Qaiserbagh Gate assert that it is their property.
As a result, the walk, which promised to offer visitors a morning stroll through the narrow bylanes of the heritage-rich Qaiserbagh circuit, has been put on the back burner yet again.
The secret way is one of the 21 landmarks on the route of the walk.
“We can’t start the walk on this route unless Raja saheb allows us,” said RS Yadav, joint director, tourism. More importantly, the hurdle has appeared in the way of the walk when its route, proposed in 2010, has been finalised.
After an encouraging response to its first heritage walk in Old City, the tourism department had in October 2010 announced this walk - from General Kothi to Qaiserbagh Circle. After much delay, the department finally announced that it would be started in May this year.
But now when Raja Mohammad Sajjad, one of the owners of the huge mansion, has started some construction work in the nearly 100-meter stretch, the tourism department presents this as a hurdle. The officials said they tried persuading the owners to allow use of the underpass, but in vain.
“Some of the officials met the owners of the Kothi. They said the portion under discussion belonged to their relative Raja Mohammad Sajjad,” added Yadav.
In sharp contrast to the claims of tourism officials, Raja Mohammad Sajjad said that the portion where he was constructing an office was his property. He said he was in possession of records and maps that would support his claim. He, however, said no one from the department came to him.
“They met my nephew and not me. I am open to any compromises that promise to promote our heritage. But I won’t let my privacy be affected,” said Raja Sajjad. Amidst controversy over the secret way, Yadav said, “The department would try to persuade the Kothi owners, failing which they would find an alternative to it.”