Drug addicts and garbage are hindering efforts to restore Sher Singh’s Baradari, which was torched during riots here in 1992 in a misdirected reaction to the razing of Babri Masjid.
Afzal Khan, the deputy director of the archaeology department, said the government had released funds for the project in December 2011, the first major restoration work to be undertaken on the building since it was declared a protected site under the Antiquity Act of 1975.
“It was in a good condition before the 1992 mishap,” said Khan. The structure has been used as a dumping ground for many years and archaeology officials say a 10-marla dump site on the premises will have to be moved if the government wants people to come and visit the place.
The dump site was built by the Solid Waste Management department, now the Lahore Waste Management Company, five years ago.
Anjum Saleem Qureshi, an Archaeology Department officer, said the department had written to the Shalamar Town Municipal Administration asking it to relocate the dump site. A case in this regard is also currently pending at the Lahore High Court.
Shalamar Town Municipal Officer Harris Jaleel denied receiving any request to relocate the dump site.
Waseem Ajmal, the managing director of LWMC, said there was no other place for the dump site. “People were just dumping garbage inside the baradari before. At least it is being dumped in a contained space now,” he said.
He feared that if the courts ordered the LWMC to relocate the dump site, locals would again start dumping waste in the baradari. He said that the LWMC had started door-to-door collection of garbage and if the initiative was successful, it would be able to demolish the dumping site in a year.
Drug addicts are another problem. “They sleep inside the haveli every night. Once they are booted out in the morning, they relocate to the garden behind the shrine of Saint Allama Mirza Syed Bilawal Qadri,” said Zain, a contractor who has been working with six masons at the site for the last two months. “I kick five or six men out every morning. They return shortly after. They are always around in some corner of the garden smoking up. Sometimes they steal cement and bricks and sell them to buy drugs,” he said. A well at the entrance of baradari was repaired two weeks ago. It is now covered with an iron mesh lid to prevent waste dumping. “We removed a lot of garbage from the well before starting the repairs,” said Zain. “The lid is essential to keep dump trucks of the waste management company from dumping waste in it, he added.
Funds and conservation work
About Rs22 million has been allocated for fixing the haveli and Sher Singh’s samadhi (a structure where the ashes of the dead are kept under the Sikh custom). About Rs10 million has been given to the Parks and Horticulture Authority to construct a boundary wall and develop picnic facilities.
During the first phase, underpinning (a method of consolidating the base) of the structure will be finished, and the wooden roof will be laid. During the second phase, which will begin after August, the fresco decoration on the structure’s exterior façade will be restored. The project will be completed in two years.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 18th, 2012.