Part of 18th century gateway collapses on car in Delhi, agencies pass the buck
A day after part of a 18th century gateway in East of Kailash’s Garhi village came crashing on a car parked underneath it, residents of the area are confused about which government department to approach for the maintenance of the age-old structure in an attempt to ensure public safety.
While Archaeological Survey of India (ASI),the state department of archaeology and the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) are unclear about whose jurisdiction it falls under, DDA said it will take care of it since it is situated in their park.
“The monument does not come under the purview of ASI,” an ASI official said. The state department of archaeology has refused to take responsibility for it.
DDA vice-chairman Tarun Kapoor said, “Generally in such cases, parks are maintained by DDA while monuments are taken care of by the ASI or the state department of archaeology. However, if it is not protected by either of them, we will look after it.”
Residents of Garhi village say this disaster was waiting to happen as all government agencies have turned a deaf ear to their repeated requests to repair the monument. “We had written to the ASI and the DDA several times in the past three-four years, seeking repair of this monument,” said Sanjay Besoya, a member of the Garhi Residents’ Welfare Association.
“Every time we ask about the monument, the DDA says it’s the ASI’s responsibility and the ASI says it comes under the jurisdiction of the DDA,” said Devidas Khatri, an artist at Lalit Kala Academy, which has its studio in the premises of the monument.
Residents explained the portion of the terrace that collapsed had been bending for the last four years and showed a gap of approximately six inches. The collapsed wall measured four feet in height, 15 feet in length, and two feet in thickness.
Residents say the biggest menace being faced by the structure is that of the foliage growth on its terrace. “We have been asking the DDA horticulture department to clear the vegetation on the terrace. These are big trees and their roots are seeping into the structure,” said Besoya.
“If it is neither a protected monument nor owned by private trust, naturally it is the responsibility of the government since it is on their land,” said Ajay Kumar, director of projects, INTACH.
While very less is documented about the history of the structure, locals believe the gateway and the adjoining structure, an arched veranda, were built in 1742 by the family which established the Garhi village — two brothers named Jharia and Maria.
However, heritage activist Vikramjit Singh Rooprai said while there are many folklores explaining the past of the structure, there is hardly any evidence. “None of the well-known historical texts of the 18th century says anything about it. However, the architecture is of the Mughal period and is a kilometre away from Kalka Garhi, where Ashokan edicts of the third century BC were found,” he said.
“The monument has writings in both Devanagri and Naskh script. We need to retain such structures as evidence of a history of communal harmony, he said.