'Bankipore Jail, Patna Collectorate should have been saved, celebrated on Azadi fest'

By PTI

PATNA: A historic jail in which numerous freedom fighters were imprisoned, Dutch-era Patna Collectorate that witnessed the 1857 Mutiny and other landmarks in the city associated with India’s struggle for ‘Azadi’ should have been preserved and celebrated today, many heritage lovers said on the eve of Independence Day.

As India is all geared up to mark the 75th anniversary of Independence on Monday, many people, including commoners and domain experts, on Sunday lamented that the 19th-century Bankipore Central Jail, 1885-built Anjuman Islamia Hall, centuries-old Collectorate, among other heritage buildings, in the Bihar capital, have been demolished in the last decade or so.

Identified with its characteristic red-brick structure and turrets serving as watchtowers, the landmark jail, located on Fraser Road near the Patna Junction, was razed in 2010 to make way for the sprawling Buddha Smriti Park.

Amid an outcry from a few quarters, a small portion of it was preserved in the verdant surroundings of the park.

A plaque installed near it reads, “Remains of the Bankipore Jail – First reference in archival records 1895. Shifted in the year 1994. Many freedom fighters were imprisoned here.”

Many nationalist leaders and freedom fighters were incarcerated in it from time to time, including during the Quit India movement that began in August 1942 on Mahatma Gandh’s call.

Congress leader Rajendra Prasad, who later became India’s first president in 1950, was also kept in this jail by the British government.

His granddaughter Tara Sinha in his biography, has a chapter on his life in Bankipore Jail, and says Prasad was imprisoned there from “August 9, 1942 to June 5, 1945”.

“Prison life is bound to be irksome in so far as it deprives one of freedom, but I should say that I did not, after all, have a bad time in Bankipore Jail,” Rajendra Prasad: A Brief Biography quotes Prasad in the chapter.

According to the book ‘Builders of Modern India – Rajendra Prasad’ by renowned scholar Kali Kinkar Datta, when members of an official committee visited the old jail in Patna and asked if he wanted to be released, Prasad had replied, “Not, until and unless all the others were released”.

Heritage lovers from Delhi to Patna, including scholars and conservation architects, said the preservation of built heritage is essential to “keep these stories of freedom struggle alive” and demolishing the jail or other structures having an association with it, was a “grave mistake”.

Some suggested that the Bankipore Central Jail could have been turned into a tourist attraction on the lines of the historic Cellular Jail in Port Blair.

Patna native and research scholar Pushkar Raj said he felt distressed over a “wave of demolition” of heritage buildings that have taken place in the city in the last 10-12 years, the latest being the historic centuries-old Patna Collectorate, a cluster of old buildings from Dutch era as well as British period, located on the banks of Ganga.

“The Collectorate’s buildings had seen the Dutch trade and the British rule here. Its walls, literally have heard those stories and seen and witnessed so much history in the past few centuries. These buildings should have been preserved and celebrated today by both the government as well as people, especially when India is celebrating 75 years of Independence and the legacy of freedom fighters, ” he said.

The Collectorate has also been a silent witness to the 1857 Mutiny — India’s First War of Independence; it has seen the birth of Bihar and Orissa as a separate province when Patna turned into its capital; its buildings have seen two World Wars, weathered deadly earthquakes and witnessed the “dawn of Independence on August 15, 1947”, when the Union Jack on its top was replaced with the Indian tricolour, heritage lovers said.

On this 75th anniversary of Azadi, citizens must also pledge to work together to “reverse this trend of demolition” in Patna, they said.

But, it was not just the central jail where so much of history happened during the freedom struggle that Patna has lost, as the Anjuman Islamia Hall on the Ashok Rajpath was demolished in December 2018 for a new complex.

“Anjuman Islamia Hall was a historic building, established when even the modern province of Bihar was not born. So, many legendary personalities associated with the freedom movement have visited the Hall and addressed people, and many key conferences and other events had taken place in it. It was a priceless heritage. The new building will carry its name, but not its legacy,” said Bihar-born Md Umar Ashraf, a heritage enthusiast.

A senior government official said Independence Day will be celebrated with great patriotic fervour and spirit, and many public buildings will be lit up such as Patna DM House, Patna Commissioner’s Office Building, both British-era structures; Gyan Bhawan, Bapu Sabhagar, and S K Memorial Hall.

Short videos on some of the freedom fighters from Bihar have also been released by the state government on the occasion.

Conservation architect Amrita Jena said Patna is a historic city, and built heritage has to be preserved as they are our “windows to the past” and “tangible remains of an era gone by”, and demolishing them means closing those windows forever.

“Demolition of the historic jail or the Patna Collectorate was definitely a lost opportunity, as these could have been preserved, restored, reused and showcased today when India marks 75 years of its Independence. New projects could have been built elsewhere, but not at the cost of heritage, ” she said.

PATNA: A historic jail in which numerous freedom fighters were imprisoned, Dutch-era Patna Collectorate that witnessed the 1857 Mutiny and other landmarks in the city associated with India’s struggle for ‘Azadi’ should have been preserved and celebrated today, many heritage lovers said on the eve of Independence Day.

As India is all geared up to mark the 75th anniversary of Independence on Monday, many people, including commoners and domain experts, on Sunday lamented that the 19th-century Bankipore Central Jail, 1885-built Anjuman Islamia Hall, centuries-old Collectorate, among other heritage buildings, in the Bihar capital, have been demolished in the last decade or so.

Identified with its characteristic red-brick structure and turrets serving as watchtowers, the landmark jail, located on Fraser Road near the Patna Junction, was razed in 2010 to make way for the sprawling Buddha Smriti Park.

Amid an outcry from a few quarters, a small portion of it was preserved in the verdant surroundings of the park.

A plaque installed near it reads, “Remains of the Bankipore Jail – First reference in archival records 1895. Shifted in the year 1994. Many freedom fighters were imprisoned here.”

Many nationalist leaders and freedom fighters were incarcerated in it from time to time, including during the Quit India movement that began in August 1942 on Mahatma Gandh’s call.

Congress leader Rajendra Prasad, who later became India’s first president in 1950, was also kept in this jail by the British government.

His granddaughter Tara Sinha in his biography, has a chapter on his life in Bankipore Jail, and says Prasad was imprisoned there from “August 9, 1942 to June 5, 1945”.

“Prison life is bound to be irksome in so far as it deprives one of freedom, but I should say that I did not, after all, have a bad time in Bankipore Jail,” Rajendra Prasad: A Brief Biography quotes Prasad in the chapter.

According to the book ‘Builders of Modern India – Rajendra Prasad’ by renowned scholar Kali Kinkar Datta, when members of an official committee visited the old jail in Patna and asked if he wanted to be released, Prasad had replied, “Not, until and unless all the others were released”.

Heritage lovers from Delhi to Patna, including scholars and conservation architects, said the preservation of built heritage is essential to “keep these stories of freedom struggle alive” and demolishing the jail or other structures having an association with it, was a “grave mistake”.

Some suggested that the Bankipore Central Jail could have been turned into a tourist attraction on the lines of the historic Cellular Jail in Port Blair.

Patna native and research scholar Pushkar Raj said he felt distressed over a “wave of demolition” of heritage buildings that have taken place in the city in the last 10-12 years, the latest being the historic centuries-old Patna Collectorate, a cluster of old buildings from Dutch era as well as British period, located on the banks of Ganga.

“The Collectorate’s buildings had seen the Dutch trade and the British rule here. Its walls, literally have heard those stories and seen and witnessed so much history in the past few centuries. These buildings should have been preserved and celebrated today by both the government as well as people, especially when India is celebrating 75 years of Independence and the legacy of freedom fighters, ” he said.

The Collectorate has also been a silent witness to the 1857 Mutiny — India’s First War of Independence; it has seen the birth of Bihar and Orissa as a separate province when Patna turned into its capital; its buildings have seen two World Wars, weathered deadly earthquakes and witnessed the “dawn of Independence on August 15, 1947”, when the Union Jack on its top was replaced with the Indian tricolour, heritage lovers said.

On this 75th anniversary of Azadi, citizens must also pledge to work together to “reverse this trend of demolition” in Patna, they said.

But, it was not just the central jail where so much of history happened during the freedom struggle that Patna has lost, as the Anjuman Islamia Hall on the Ashok Rajpath was demolished in December 2018 for a new complex.

“Anjuman Islamia Hall was a historic building, established when even the modern province of Bihar was not born. So, many legendary personalities associated with the freedom movement have visited the Hall and addressed people, and many key conferences and other events had taken place in it. It was a priceless heritage. The new building will carry its name, but not its legacy,” said Bihar-born Md Umar Ashraf, a heritage enthusiast.

A senior government official said Independence Day will be celebrated with great patriotic fervour and spirit, and many public buildings will be lit up such as Patna DM House, Patna Commissioner’s Office Building, both British-era structures; Gyan Bhawan, Bapu Sabhagar, and S K Memorial Hall.

Short videos on some of the freedom fighters from Bihar have also been released by the state government on the occasion.

Conservation architect Amrita Jena said Patna is a historic city, and built heritage has to be preserved as they are our “windows to the past” and “tangible remains of an era gone by”, and demolishing them means closing those windows forever.

“Demolition of the historic jail or the Patna Collectorate was definitely a lost opportunity, as these could have been preserved, restored, reused and showcased today when India marks 75 years of its Independence. New projects could have been built elsewhere, but not at the cost of heritage, ” she said.