Jalandhar Central Jail, which once housed several freedom fighters during the times when the British ruled the country, is being demolished to make way for a commercial complex. This has raised the hackles of many who cherish its historical importance.
Punjab Infrastructure Development Board wants to build the complex on the 23 acres of land under 'optimum utilisation of vacant government lands scheme of the Punjab government, which had at the fag end of its last term went on a spree to inaugurate memorials.
More than 25% of the demolition has already been carried out. Prisoners have been shifted to the newly constructed modern jail at Theh Kanjala near Kapurthala.
"Historians have documented that Maharaj Singh, a soldier of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, was captured by British soldiers near Adampur and was imprisoned in this jail," said Chiranji Lal Kanganiwal, a researcher associated with the local Desh Bhagat Yadgari Hall.
"Several freedom fighters with allegiance to several freedom movements were imprisoned here. Some of them were even executed in this jail."
During the demolition of the cell where the prisons were hanged till death, a 2-feet high and 1.5-feet wide tunnel was found at the rear end. This could be a passage to evacuate bodies after capital punishment or could have been an emergency exit. The other end of the tunnel could not be traced as it was choked with sand during the demolition process.
"Freedom fighters Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru were hanged at the Lahore Central Jail before the scheduled date. Their bodies must have been evacuated through a similar passage due to presence of public at the entry points to the prison. I am sure a similar tunnel must have been used for such controversial and unethical evacuations," added Chiranji Lal.
"In India, we have failed to remember the sacrifices of our freedom heroes. Had it been any other country, they would have preserved the site as a heritage building. The building should never have been demolished," said Gurmeet Singh, a member of Desh Bhagat Yadgar Hall committee.
"The government should not value everything in terms of money. Historical importance also creates value," said Hans Raj Sachdeva, a local resident.
"The government should preserve the site and other sites for the benefit of researchers of history, like they did for the cellular jail at the Andaman Nicobar islands," he added.