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Nivedita Khandekar, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, May 03, 2013
An inspection at the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI)-protected Lal Gumbad monument, off Chirag Dilli, on Thursday revealed unauthorised occupation. The occupants and unauthorised encroachers, however, had fled the spot before the inspection team reached. The inspection was prompted by an “incorrect” reply by the ASI to a query under Right to Information (RTI) by senior advocate Rajiv Dutta. The ASI had replied saying, “No person has occupied/residing in the monument”, whereas, Dutta claimed, he and others from the area had regularly seen people residing there at night too.

On Dutta’s other question about the expenditure on maintenance and upkeep of the monument, the ASI said it was R8,26,458 in 2010-11 and R79,380 in 2011-12. When Dutta asked for an inspection of the site to cross-check what maintenance or repairs had been carried out, he received a corrected reply on April 12, saying that Rs. 44,630 was spent in 2010-11 and R1,45,018 was spent in 2011-12.

An ASI official was deputed for the joint inspection with Dutta and three other residents. The inspection revealed — HT has a copy of the report — “The long hall, with several doors, all locked, has ceiling fans, a working clock, several bedding sets that could be seen through the windows. Iron doors were locked. There were shanties and jhuggis with utensils around. They even have a toilet outside the monument.” 

Sources said, “Similar cases are common across Delhi with court cases pending for many of them. Removing religious encroachments has always been difficult.” A senior ASI official said the monument was freed of encroachment in 2007 following a court case. “Then, we had demolished as many as 11 rooms. But one we couldn’t as it had a copy of holy Quran.”He expressed ignorance about the difference in the RTI reply and the ground situation. “If he (Dutta) is not satisfied or finds something not matching, he can always file an appeal.”