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Lal Mahal a political hot potato

The Lal Mahal demolition issue seems to be one that no political party wants to touch. The Union ministry of tourism and culture is trying to distance itself from the issue ahead of the Delhi Assembly elections.

delhi Updated: Nov 03, 2008 23:06 IST
Neelam Pandey

The Lal Mahal demolition issue seems to be one that no political party wants to touch. The Union ministry of tourism and culture is trying to distance itself from the issue ahead of the Delhi Assembly elections.

The 13th century monument was demolished partially in the Hazrat Nizamuddin area on October 30. The local residents, however, have maintained that they were constructing a mosque and not a high-rise building.

“Of course there is political pressure on the ministry, too, as the locals in the area have been claiming that they were constructing a mosque. With Delhi elections just round the corner no one wants to take any decision that can influence voters negatively. But this spells doom for the city's monuments,” said a senior ASI official requesting anonymity as the matter was extremely controversial.

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) are also busy passing the buck regarding the maintenance of the monument. The civic agency has now claimed that as the monument was listed in the INTACH’s list as ‘protected’ hence the MCD had not included it in their heritage list. Union tourism and culture minister Ambika Soni was supposed to visit the site on Monday, but the visit was called off later on. “The minister couldn’t visit the site as she had to attend an urgent meeting. Once ASI submits its report to the ministry future course of action will be taken,” said a source in the ministry.

“We had not included Lal Mahal in our list as INTACH’s list claimed it was protected. We have already sent the list of 768 heritage buildings to the Delhi government for notification but they have not notified it. As we are carrying out a fresh survey we will include the monument in our list,” said city zone deputy commissioner Vijay Singh.

The ASI on the other hand claimed it was not protected. “It is not a protected monument and hence it does not come under the purview of ASI. However, as the monument falls within 300 meters of other protected monuments therefore the owners should have taken requisite permission,” said a senior ASI official.

Director General of ASI, additional director general and MCD Commissioner had visited the site on Monday. The future course of action to be taken would be decided after a meeting is held between MCD Commissioner and ASI officials.