SGPC alters protected monument, draws flak

Tuesday 13th August 2019 16:46 EDT

Chandigarh: The Punjab Archaeology Department has criticised Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) for allegedly tampering with Diwan Todar Mal’s historic Jahaz Haveli in Fatehgarh Sahib.

Historically, Todar Mal had sold his house (known as Jahaz Haveli) to buy a small piece of land to perform the last rites of Guru Gobind Singh’s two sons who were martyred by the Nawab of Sirhind. The monument has immense historical significance for Sikhs and was declared protected in the 1980s under the Punjab Ancient and Historical Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1964, but the state’s Department of Cultural Affairs, Archaeology and Museums did not acquire the land and was owned by private individuals for decades. It raised many eyebrows when Mohali-based Punjab Virasat Charitable Trust, run by the family of the former Director, Department of Cultural Affairs, Archaeology and Museums, Navjot Pal Singh Randhawa, purchased the land along with the monument in 2007.

The SGPC acquired the land from the trust in 2008. However, all these years the building was lying without much conservation work. A few years ago, instead of conserving the structure which has been crumbling, the SGPC first constructed a room inside the compound. It recently laid foundation stone for another structure comprising three rooms, which doesn’t gel with the historic structure.

Last month a team of the Archaeology Department was fumed to see the construction in full swing around the monument. On July 20, the Director, Archaeology, shot off a letter to the SGPC manager and asked him to stall the work immediately as it amounted to tampering with the protected monument. The rule 29 (2) of the Act prohibits any construction in 100 metre from the protected monument.

Karnail Singh Panjoli, member of executive committee of the SGPC from Fatehgarh Sahib, under whose supervision the work was being carried out, confirmed that they had stopped the work. “The construction wing of SGPC is following up the matter with the department,” he said.

Historical importance

The government declared 2 kanals and 17 marla and Todar Mal’s Jahaz Haveli on it as protected monuments on June 17, 2003. It was built in the 17th century and was the residence of Todar Mal, a trader of Sirhind who served as diwan in the court of Nawab Wazir Khan, governor of Sirhind under the Mughal Empire. As per Sikh legend, on December 13, 1705, Mal performed the cremation of Sahibzadas Zorawar Singh and Fateh Singh and Mata Gujari. Mal paid for the land required for the purpose with a large number of gold coins.

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