Millennium Post

Slipping into oblivion

Is it possible for a magician to disappear any protected monument from its base? The magician may astonish his spectators by disappearing flowers, boxes and sheets of papers through his tricks. Or some may even put a girl in the box to make her invisible and then bring her back to life, but they possibly can’t incorporate such tricks with heritage monuments that are standing tall at one place for ages and protected by the Archaeological Survey of India.

A recent report highlighted, ‘92 monuments stand missing as per the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) audit report’.  It is learnt that the CAG could physically verify only 45 per cent of the total protected monuments across the country. The figure may be much more had it been a comprehensive audit.

There are 1,468 protected monuments in the country and no full time security guard has been deployed by the Archaeological Survey of India as of now. The case of missing monuments could signify negligence on the part of authorities as it is next to impossible to disappear any monument or heritage building of historical importance.

As per the CAG report, 15 monuments in Delhi including Hauz-i-Shamsi at Mehrauli are also missing. This is a cause of deep concern to all those who caring to preserve the country’s heritage.
There is one monument which is locked for the last one decade and more. It is not locked due to any fear of being lost or risk of being taken away by certain land grabbers but it stands locked to avoid recurrence of an inhumane incident of a gang rape that took place inside the monument in December 2002.  A medical student, who was raped by three youngsters sparked a series of protests and unruly scenes in the Parliament. The locked monument of Khooni Darwaza is standing mute to witness the expansion of an underground Delhi Metro route apart from feeling disturbed due to
unending flow of traffic.
The Khooni Darwaza or Lal Darwaza, whatever one may like to call it, is of historical significance as three Mughal princes were shot here by the Britishers during the first independence struggle. The princes belonged to the last Mughal emperor, an eminent Urdu poet and the commander of the first war of independence, Bahadur Shah Zafar, who spent his last days at a jail in Rangoon and took his last breathe while aspiring for a piece of land measuring just two yards in his country to be buried there after the death.

Immediately after the Britishers got the last Mughal emperor to surrender and decided to send him away to Burma, he aspired to get the direct descendents to follow him. They were asked to surrender on the next day at Humayun Tomb. The two sons of Zafar, Mirza Mughal and Khizar Sultan and one of his grandson Mirza Abu, accompanied by the large army and rebels gathered at Humayun Tomb, were declined to surrender before William Hodson. Hodson instructed his soldiers to disarm them to facilitate their surrender. The princes after being disarmed were left with no other choice than to surrender. The three were captured to be taken to the Red Fort.

On way to the Red Fort, Hodson ordered the princes to get down at a lonely place where Khooni Darwaza stands today?  They were stripped naked and shot down by Hodson. Their bodies were rudely taken to Chandni Chowk and put up for display near the Kotwali. The place is also known as Lal Darwaza as the red blood of the princes fell down after being shot at point blank range. The place is also known for the killing of refugees moving towards their camp at Purana Quila in 1947.  
The Khooni Darwaza stands tall at 15.5 metre. The place is situated between Ferozshah kotla Cricket Ground and Maulana Azad Medical College and is in the central verge of the Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg. One may see the two Shaheedi parks, offices of various newspapers and a Parsi Temple nearby.

There is one more place of historical importance nearby, though it remained unknown to the most of Delhiites. The unknown place situated near the Khooni Darwaza, is associated with the Harding bomb case dated 23 December 1912.  The revolutionaries threw bombs over the procession of the Viceroy Harding who got injured in the attack. The three freedom fighters of Delhi Bhai Bal Mukund, Master Ami Chand and Master Awadh Bihari, were pronounced death sentence.  They were hanged on 8 May 1915 in the then old jail situated over the land where Maulana Azad Medical College is presently situated. Another revolutionary Basant Kumar Biswas was hanged in Ambala Central Jail on the next day. A humble Shaheed Smarak has been constructed over the place of gallows.

The city government has been organising every year a solemn function to pay floral tributes to the martyrs of Harding bomb case. Nobody takes care of the memorial on rest of the 364 days of the year.  
Similarly most of the monuments remain neglected resulting in their disappearance to become headlines in national dailies.
The author is a communication consultant

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