A city chasing the blinding glitter of progress has chosen to trample on its history. The Haryana Urban Development Authority on Monday razed a monument dating to the Mughal period during a land acquisition drive for Metro tracks.
All that remains of Dhauli Pyau, a well built for travellers on the Shahi Rasta in the Mughal era in the 18th century, are mounds of dust and rubble. The monument was restored by the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) in 1998.
Not too many people in power are apologetic about this destruction of the past. HUDA officials shrug off the matter by saying that the relic was not on the list of monuments protected by the Archeological Survey of India. "The structure was not part of the ASI’s list of protected monuments. Nor was there any signboard that could have showed us its historical importance," said HUDA administrator SP Gupta.
The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation also washed its hand of the matter, saying that it was HUDA's responsibility to acquire land and transfer it to DMRC. “Acquiring land and removing encroachments is the responsibility of the state constituent state, not DMRC,” said Anuj Dayal, chief spokesperson for DMRC.
INTACH officials are, however, planning to take up the matter at the appropriate forum.
Dhauli Pyau was one of the 50 listed manmade monuments of historical importance in the district. "In 1930, someone got a pucca structure made on it for serving water to passersby. Conservative architect and INTACH member Navin Piplani reported this and tried to revive the well. In 2002, the monument was restored with the help of the district administration," said Shikha Jain, co-convener INTACH (Haryana).
The trust also restored a park around the monument. On Monday, all the good work was undone. "All of a sudden, we got to know of the demolition of Dhauli Pyau on Monday. The authorities did not bother to inform and issue us a notice despite the fact we had clearly mentioned the historical value on two signboards on the monuments," Jain said.
The HUDA administrator was unruffled by the protest. “There was no need to give a notice to the INTACH as HUDA has acquired land for Metro under forceful acquisition clause,” said Gupta.
For conservationists, the hair-splitting over rules is no compensation for the loss to Gurgaon’s heritage.
"Few realise that beyond the modern façade of the millennium city of Gurgaon are significant heritage monuments that are the only remnants of its past. The built heritage of Gurgaon exists more as individual structures as opposed to the clusters found in the Walled City areas of medieval settlements. Hence it becomes all the more important to conserve and restore these scattered monuments, as they are the only symbols of Gurgaon's heritage,” said Nandita Lahiri, convener of Gurgaon Chapter of INTACH.
The city of the future might not need the past but surely, Dhauli Pyau deserved a better requiem than the rumble of bulldozers.