The Hindu Gymkhana was was built between 1925 and 1927 — Whitestar/File photo.
Karachi The Sindh Minister for Culture and Tourism, Sassui Palijo toldthe Sindh Assembly here on Thursday that a notice has been issued to themanagement of the NationalAcademy of Performing Arts (Napa) to vacate the premises of HinduGymkhana, rented out to them by Culture Department in 2005.
Answering a question posedby Arif Mustafa Jatoi, she said the Hindu Gymkhana, situated opposite to ArtsCouncil on M R Kiyani Road, Karachiwas a protected heritage building under the Sindh Culture Heritage PreservationAction 1994. It was built during 1925-1927 under the sponsorship of aphilanthropist, Seth Ram Gopaldas Goverthandas Mohatta, for cultural activitiesand social gathering of Hindu community.
The HinduGymkhanaBuilding was declared asan Evacuee Property and allotted to Federal Public Service Commission in 1991,where it housed its offices until 1978. These offices were shifted from Karachi to Islamabadand the possession of building remained with Pak PWD.
She said in August 1990 theMinistry of Education communicated the Prime Minister's orders for the transferof Hindu Gymkhana to the Department of Culture, Government of Sindh, for theestablishment of a center of Sindh Arts and Craft. The building was transferredto the Culture Department and possession was taken over by the department on 19December 1993.
A scheme for theestablishment of the 'College of Arts & Design' was approved at a cost ofRs19.20 million and included in the Karachipackage, but it could not be implemented. The department, however, took measuresto maintain and restore the building.
Later on, in September 2005in pursuance of the directive of the then president of Pakistan, the Hindu Gymkhana was rented out toZia Mohiuddin for a period of thirty years for establishment of National Academyof Performing Arts (Napa).An agreement was signed by Zia Mohiuddin on behalf of Napa and Secretary Culture on behalf of the governmentof Sindh on 23 September 2005. The Napaagreed to pay Rs50,000 as lease charges per month.
In 2006, Napa began construction of atheater/auditorium within the premises of Hindu Gymkhana. Since the buildingwas declared a protected heritage site under the Cultural Heritage Act 1994, Napa was required to getpermission/NOC from Advisory Committee for cultural heritage.
The Napa, instead of seeking permission fromAdvisory Committee, got NOC from KBCA for purpose of additions and alteration.The Napa inviolation of permission of KBCA and the terms & conditions of agreementstarted new construction.
Of late, the civil society,the members of Hindu community and culture-friendly people have beencriticizing on the present use of the Hindu Gymkhana. They are of the view thateither Gymkhana should be restored to its original position for use of socialand cultural activities of Hindu community or it should be reverted back todepartment of culture and tourism for establishment of Arts & CraftCenterand a museum.
The Napaby constructing a theater/auditorium within the premises of the Hindu Gymkhana,which has already been declared protected heritage under the Sindh CultureHeritage (Preservation) Act 1994, has violated the agreement dated September23, 2005 between culture department, government of Sindh and Napa.
The aforesaid act of Napa has committed breachof the said agreement on one hand and on other, way has violated the provisionsof the Sindh Culture Heritage (Preservation) Act, 1994 on the other.
On the advice of the Lawdepartment and in pursuance of clause eight of the agreement executed between Napaon 13 September 2008 three notices was given to Napa regarding termination ofthe said agreement dated September 23, 2005, the minister told the assembly.
The management of Napa has filed a suit No.1646/08 in High Court of Sindh and obtained order restraining the CultureDepartment on acting on notice issued on September 13, 2008. Parawise comments in the suit have been filed. Last date of hearing was on 6thMarch 2009, when case was adjourned to date in office.
To another question, SassuiPalijo, said that the Plot No 24, RB-10, Robinson Road, Karachiwas declared as protected heritage under Sindh Cultural Heritage (Preservation)Act 1994.
Proudnations, having roots in ancient civilization, preserve their heritage withutmost care. Considering the importance of heritage, the Sindh Governmentenacted the Sindh Cultural Heritage (Preservation) Act 1994 to protect andpreserve premises and objects of architectural, historical, cultural prnational value, she said. — PPI