India’s Oldest Surviving Islamic Palace in Danger

SM Fasiullah for Beyondheadlines

Lal Mahal, an oldest surviving Islamic palace in India, has been increasingly facing threat from unauthorized construction and stands in a dilapidated condition exacting attention and restoration.

Located in the congested Hazrat Nizamuddin area of Delhi, the 13th century monument has unfortunately not been recognized as a protected structure after Independence.

India’s Oldest Surviving Islamic Palace in DangerLal Mahal was left at the mercy of public. But some unscrupulous people have been trying to damage the relic of the Delhi Sultanate era for petty gains.

In 2009, a four-member team of the Supreme Court-appointed heritage conservation committee went to inspect the structure in response to the media reports and the observations in the Parliamentary Committee report. The team, however, returned empty handed  as Lal Mahal was completely sealed off.

One of the committee members, Prof AGK Menon, then said that the team went to visit Lal Mahal on reports of its partial demolition to assess the situation.

“However, the area has been completely sealed off and we were unable to see it. For now, we have been unable to give a feedback to the committee,” stated Menon.

In a latest development, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) last week issued a show-cause and stop-work notice to the property adjacent to Lal Mahal, which was built in by Ghiyasuddin Balban.

A senior ASI official was quoted by The Hindu as saying that the Islamic structure is not Centrally-protected but the latest action was taken as the illegal construction falls within 100m of the prohibited area of Barakhamba.

“Technically speaking, Lal Mahal does not fall under our jurisdiction yet we have issued a show-cause notice to property No. 291 because the construction taking place at Lal Mahal falls within the prohibited area of Barakhamba, the nearest Centrally-protected monument” said the official.

“Only those monuments which are of national significance fall under ASI. Before Independence, this monument, like many others, was not declared a Centrally-protected monument. We can conserve only those monuments or collaborate with private organisations like the Agha Khan Trust for Culture to do restoration work if they are managed by us.”

The Parliamentary Committee report noted that Lal Mahal is not a notified building despite being 800 years old. Structures like Lal Mahal are vanishing because they are not notified heritage buildings.

“There was utter lack of coordination and confusion between various agencies of the Union as well as the state government and the local bodies,” the report concluded.

“The committee is perturbed to note that the concerned agencies are shying away from their responsibility and passing the buck to blame each other.”

To save this historical monument, concerned people have created and signed the petition on requesting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other concerned authorities to declare it a monument of national importance. If you want to join the movement, please sign the petition (click here).


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