By Rupali Rakheja:
I am a student of history and there is one cause I feel very strongly for – Saving and preserving our valuable heritage. There is a concern I would like to share with each one of you through this article. This is regarding a monument called Zafar Mahal in Mehrauli, which is being encroached even as I write this. A very powerful builder is using the walls of the monument to build another building, which as per the rules of the ASI is illegal.
I visited Zafar Mahal, last month and noticed this disaster. Firstly, this beautiful palace now lies in a state of tragic ruin and on top of that the illegal construction that’s robbing this monument of its sanctity disappointed me thoroughly. Since then, we have been paying regular visits to Zafar Mahal, interacting with the locals trying to get to the root of this issue. I have written regarding this to the PMO, along with the MLA of Mehrauli, MP of Tughlaqabad and even to a few heritage activists including Vikramjit Singh Rooprai and Narayani Gupta. I wrote a mail to the Aam Aadmi Party as well.
Vikramjit sir has assured us that he will look further into the matter and with the help of Narayani ma’am, we have managed to get an article about the plight of Zafar Mahal published in The Indian Express, a few days back. Also, the Aam Aadmi Party spokesperson replied telling us that this issue would come under the Centre and there is not much they can do to help us out in this regard. However, the others did not bother to reply and no help whatsoever came from the ASI.
From what the locals told us, many have apparently been bribed and threatened. In fact, a similar incident happened with us as well. We got into an ugly spat with two men appointed by the builder at the site to check that nobody clicks pictures of the constructions under process. The builder’s men threatened us by asking us to call whoever we wanted to call (in typical dilli wala tone) and even followed us till our next stop. Luckily, we still managed to click few pictures.
Our monuments are the Gateway to our past. As citizens of India, it automatically becomes our moral duty to preserve our rich heritage and culture. If we can’t preserve what we already have then what’s the point of seeking more? As they say, if you don’t know where you have come from you don’t know who you are.
Zafar Mahal is the final resting place of Shah Alam and Akbar Shah II, Bahadur Shah Zafar’s grandfather and father. This is the place last Indian Mughal emperor visited every year during the festival of Phoolwalon Ki Sair. This is where Zafar himself wanted to be buried along with his ancestors, but as we all know, he died in Rangoon and was buried far away from home.
India needs to create Heritage Awareness and stand against all those destroying our past and the beautiful assets of our nation. If we stand united against such encroachment and against such mentalities we can reach the authorities and fight for our shared past together. Creating awareness through social media is also important. Thus, there is a campaign that I have started recently, where we have asked people to post their pictures on their Facebook walls, saying, ‘I stand for Zafar Mahal’.
I run this initiative called Explore.Excavate.Enjoy through this we try to create heritage awareness. We have recently collaborated with Delhi adventures (another initiative to create heritage awareness). We recently conducted a heritage walk leading to Zafar Mahal on May 14th – called Muttahid Barai Zafar Mahal or unite for Zafar Mahal. We are planning to make these walks to Zafar Mahal, a regular feature. And we want to spread the word so that more and more of you join us.