Union Culture Minister Ambika Soni has lobbed the responsibility for failing to protect Lal Mahal —the 13th century monument demolished in south Delhi’s Nizamuddin Basti —into the Delhi government’s court and called for Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit’s intervention to get the state agencies cracking.
“I request your intervention by issuing strict instructions to the agencies concerned, in particular MCD (Municipal Corporation of Delhi) and the local police to ensure constant vigil,” Ambika Soni wrote in her letter to the Chief Minister this week after a private builder partially pulled down parts of the monument.
On their own, Soni suggested both agencies were sitting on their hands though they were alerted about the possibility by the Archaeological Survey of India.
“Although both the local police and the MCD have been seized of the matter for the past several days, it appears not enough was done by them to prevent damage to the heritage structure,” she said.
Lal Mahal —also known as Kushaki Lal — was said to have been built by Ghiyassudin Balban between 1266-1286 in south Delhi’s Nizamuddin Basti.
Soni said the monument was not classified as protected by either the central or state archaeological departments but “it indeed forms an integral part of our heritage”.
Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) —a non-profit organisation set up in 1984 to protect and conserve India’s cultural heritage — however, classified it as an “A” category monument.
Incidentally, Sheila Dikshit and Ambika Soni – both senior Congress leaders — are not known to be on the best of terms.
Under a complex regime of sharing of powers between the centre, state and local bodies in Delhi, Dikshit neither has a direct control over the municipal corporation nor the police. The municipal body has its own set of elected representatives and a Mayor at the top; the police come under the Union home ministry through Lieutenant Governor Tejendra Khanna.