PESHAWAR: The birthplace of Bollywood legend Raj Kapoor was partially demolished by its owner here on Saturday.
Officials of the archeology directorate said they made an eleventh-hour attempt to save the historic building located in Dhaki Munawar Shah area of the walled city but by then, the top floor of the four-storey structure was pulled down.
They said rest of the building was badly damaged.
The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government had earlier announced to declare the houses of Peshawar-born Bollywood actors Raj Kapoor and Dilip Kumar as heritage to protect and preserve them.
The officials told Dawn that they learned about the demolition of the house on Saturday morning and went to the Khan Raziq police station for help to ensure the immediate halt to work.
They said instead of stopping the demolition, the police officials got into formalities and asked them to produce a written application for the purpose.
“After much haggling, two Raj Kapoor’s birthplace partially demolished police personnel followed us to the site and for the demolition stopped,” an official said.
He said the directorate had demanded the registration of an FIR against the house’s owner but the police had yet to do so.
The official said the current owner claimed to have a notice of the municipal authorities asking him to pull down the structure, as its condition was too precarious and it could collapse anytime.
He said despite the damages, the structure was stable.
“We will watch the building closely to save it from further destruction,” he said.
An official at the Khan Raziq police station said the police didn’t register FIR of the house’s demolition.
He said four labourers working in the building were taken into custody but they were later freed.
Town-I area councillor Mian Zulfiqar said the building in question was in very precarious condition and could collapse anytime.
He said the area residents demanded the authorities to take notice of the fragile structure insisting it threatened their lives.
The councillor said the recent earthquakes had badly shaken the old building.
“We’ve heard about a notice issued to the owner by Town-I directing him either to reduce the building’s height or to raze it.
“The archeology department woke up only when it heard about demolition. It never bothered to check the structure for stability and damages following the earthquakes,” he said.
Mr Zulfiqar said if it was a heritage building, then the directorate should have taken care of it earlier instead of waiting for it to cave in.
In a statement issued here, provincial secretary for archeology Azam Khan directed the relevant officials to lodge FIR against those responsible for damaging the structure under Sub-Section of (i) of Section 20 of KP Antiquities Act 1997.
It said upper portion of the building had been badly damaged during demolition and that the department’s staff members managed to reach the site and stop work.
Also, the Sarhad Conservation Network said the demolition of 98 years old building had shocked the civil society and heritage lovers of the city.
In a statement issued here, it said the historic ‘Kapoor Haveli’ would soon become history if the government didn’t take immediate measures to protect it.
The SCN called for the early approval of the KP Antiquities Act 2015 by the assembly and said the inordinate delay in the passage of the important legislation was causing threat and irreversible loss to 200 other priceless assets besides ‘Kapoor Haveli’ listed by the KP government.
Published in Dawn, January 17th, 2016