Disappearing heritage sites may dent Hyd’s claim for UNESCO tag

 Hyderabad: The recent restoration of the Moazzam Jahi Market or MJ Market, one of the famous landmarks in Hyderabad, reopened the debate on the long-pending demand for UNESCO heritage status for this historic city.

The MJ Market was reopened last week after two-year long restoration work and is all set to be transformed into a cultural hub.

The majestic triangle shaped stone structure was built in 1935 as a fruit market during the times of the seventh Nizam Mir Osman Ali Khan, the last ruler of erstwhile Hyderabad state.

At the event organised to mark the opening of the renovated MJ Market, Municipal Administration and Urban Development Minister KT Rama Rao said the state government would intensify its efforts in securing UNESCO’s heritage city status for Hyderabad. The city has both an old world charm and a new age vibrancy, said Rama Rao.

Rama Rao, who is the son of Chief Minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao, said the state government will do its best in restoration and conservation of heritage structures like Golconda Fort, Katora Houz and Murgi Chowk.

“The Telangana government is dedicated to preserving and showcasing the state’s heritage. Hyderabad is a blend of old world charm as well as new age vibrancy. You can find people of all faiths, regions and states here. The city is a symbol of cosmopolitan culture of the country,” he said

Heritage activists, however, say there is contradiction between what the government says and what it is doing.

According to Anuradha Reddy Convenor INTACH  said that Only a few days before the restoration of MJ Market, the city lost another heritage structure. Saifabad Palace, one of the 10 blocks at the old Telangana secretariat, was demolished to make way for the construction of a new complex.

The government went ahead with the demolition of the heritage structure despite the objections raised by the concerned citizens and heritage conservationists.

Saifabad Palace, one of the finest examples of Asaf Jahi architecture, was built in 1885 by the sixth Nizam, Mir Mahabub Ali Khan, and served as the seat of power for the princely state of Hyderabad and subsequently for undivided Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.

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The city convenor of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), P. Anuradha Reddy, believes the demolition of Saifabad palace was a major blow to the heritage of Hyderabad.

Steeped in history and endowed with rich architectural legacy and vibrant culture, Hyderabad is considered by many as a natural choice for the global status but the city is fast losing its built heritage which may dent its claim.

The landscape of this 427-year-old city, now a leading information technology hub, has changed a lot with many heritage structures vanishing over the last few decades.

The activists point out how the government was bent upon demolishing the nearly 150-year-old Errum Manzil to build a new state legislature complex. Chief Minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao had even laid the foundation stone for the complex last year but the legal fight by some heritage conservationists saved the key landmark.

Errum Manzil is a palace built in 1870 by Nawab Fakrul Mulk, a noble of the erstwhile Hyderabad state. Built in Indo-European style of architecture, it has 150 rooms and is located on a hillock in the heart of the city.

Earlier, the government’s proposal to demolish heritage building of Osmania Hospital had also triggered a huge row. The activists, historians, concerned citizens and eminent people from various walks of had joined hands in opposing the move.

The heritage conservationists question the government’s commitment to work towards getting heritage status for the city when it was busy pulling down the heritage structures.

There is long pending demand for United Nations Educational Social and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) status for Hyderabad, famous for its pearls, palaces, minarets, rich culture and lip-smacking cuisine.

It was nearly a decade ago that the proposal was submitted for including Charminar, Golconda Fort and the Qutb Shahi tomb complex in UNESCO World Heritage Sites list.

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The activists say the neglect of heritage and official apathy in proper documentation denied the city monuments a certain place in UNESCO list.

While the Government of India submitted a nomination dossier to UNESCO for securing the much-coveted tag for these monuments, the world body had termed it incomplete. The proposal was not re-submitted, say the heritage activists.

The three monuments are the most significant heritage sites in the city and are visited by hundreds of tourists every day.

Built in 1591 by Hyderabad’s founder Mohammed Quli Qutb Shah, Charminar is the symbol of Hyderabad.

The majestic Golconda Fort was built by the Kaktiyas of Warangal during 10th century as a mud fort. They ceded it to Baihamnis in 1363. The fort was later fortified by the Qutb Shahi kings, who ruled from 1518 to 1687.

Qutb Shahi tombs complex comprises 72 monuments including mausoleums of rulers of Qutb Shahi dynasty. Historians say there is no other site like this in the world as it offers a huge diversity of architectural styles.

Jaipur was last year declared UNESCO world heritage site because of its Hindu-Muslim and European architecture and culture. Anuradha Reddy pointed out that Hyderabad also has the same rich diversity and in addition to this it also has its own style Osmanian.

The best example of Osmanian is Arts College on Osmania University campus. It has Chinese Buddhist, Hindu and Islamic Qutb Shahi architecture incorporated in it.

“If we don’t care for our heritage we stand to lose the opportunity of getting recognition as world heritage status. In many cases it is the government which is responsible for safety of built heritage but they are demolishing. I fear for my city and my heritage,” she said.

Rathna Chotrani

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