Post the discovery of buried subterranean storeys of Chhatar Manzil and Kothi Farhat Baksh, archaeologists are still scratching their heads as to how they got buried in earth. But the answer to what the archaeologists termed as an ‘unexplained mystery’, lies with the officials and experts at work.
UPRNN officials and experts blamed the Central Drug and Research Institute (CDRI) for distorting the original structure of Chhatar Manzil. They called it CDRI’s atrocious behaviour towards a structure that was part of the city’s heritage.
In 1950, the expansive structure was allocated to CDRI, the multidisciplinary research laboratory, to carry out research work. But while allocating the building , the government was perhaps least aware of the consequences.
Those engaged in the ‘trenching’ work said while digging they found plastic pouches of pan masala that were not in vague when both the structure came into existence. “It’s a glaring example that the ground level was elevated decades later,” said an employee engaged in the excavation work.
He said it is also found that debris was used to bury the storey. “While digging we found gravel, and modern bricks, another proof that the debris was dumped later to bury the storey of both the structures or to elevate the ground level,” he added.
Another excavator alleged, “It was the CDRI that filled the debris into the storey to elevate the ground level, apprehending flood in river Gomti, that is just a few metres away.”.
Substantiating his stand, he said Chhatar Manzil had flood markings, a general practice in the British era. On the Chhatar Manzil, the first flood line is marked in the 1870s, then in September 1894, October 1958 and in September 1915. “CDRI officials, fearing flood, elevated the ground level at the cost of the Chhatar Manzil and Kothi Farhat Baksh’s storeys, up to the flood marking. And this is still visible,” he said.
He said that the CDRI laid water and electricity lines underneath and also constructed underground water tanks, putting the structures in jeopardy. He said the burial of the storeys not only marred the beauty of the structures but also weakened them.
S Mohammed Haider, a corporate lawyer and heritage enthusiast, also blamed the CDRI for violating the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act (AMASR Act). “At the time when CDRI was trying its best to destroy the structure, it used to be a protected monument,” said Haider.
ASI’s records say it has delisted around 11 nawabi era architectural marvels in 1962. These includes the iconic Chhatar Manzil, Lal Baradari, Kothi Farhat Baksh, Kaiser Pasand and others.
This information came in response to an RTI, filed by S Mohammed Haider, asking about the total number of centrally protected monuments (in Lucknow circle) that the ASI de-listed during the post independence era.
The protected status was granted to all the aforementioned monuments in the 1920s.
The status was given under Ancient Monuments Preservation Act 1904 that was passed on March 18, 1904 by British India during the regime of Lord Curzon of Kedleston as Viceroy of India.
Haider said strict action should be initiated against the wrong doers, as it was a clear attempt to crush the city’s rich heritage.