Jahaj Bari in old Dhaka demolished on Eid night
12:00 AM, June 08, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 08:19 AM, June 08, 2019

Old Dhaka’s Jahaj Bari demolished on Eid night

“Jahaj Bari” -- the ship-shaped building on Old Dhaka’s Chawk Circular Road famed for its aesthetic value -- was demolished on Wednesday night, the night of Eid-ul-Fitr.

The demolition was done allegedly by a local lawmaker who also tried to demolish the building around two months back.

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The demolisher violated a High Court order and did not take permission from Waqf Estate even though the land belongs to it (a charitable donation that cannot be sold).

A general diary was filed by Taimur Islam, chief executive of Urban Study Group (an organisation working to protect Dhaka’s architectural heritage), at Chawkbazar Police Station on Thursday against the demolition. But even after the GD was filed, it continued on Thursday night.

Officer-in-Charge of Chawkbazar Police Station Shamim Or Rashid Talukdar said the demolition was done on the night of Eid and they sent forces upon receiving information. Demolition was, however, done by that time.

The OC said Haji Salim, local lawmaker of Awami League, was present during the demolition and informed them that he bought the two-storey building.

When asked about the land belonging to Waqf Estate, he said no one from the organisation came to him with papers.

Haji Selim could not be reached for comments despite repeated phone calls.

Sohel Ahmed, personal assistant of Haji Seliim, said they have no idea who demolished Jahaj Bari. He said Haji Selim is now abroad and will get in touch upon return.

Only rubbles were found where the building once stood while visiting the site yesterday morning.

Aftab, who had two shops on the first floor of Jahaj Bari, claimed  that Haji Selim’s men demolished the building. “I’m counting Tk 20-30 lakh loss due to the sudden demolition [of the building],” he said.

Eight traders whose shops were in the building lamented that they were not informed about the demolition earlier, he said.

“I failed to save any of my goods in the shops and now I have no money to continue my business,” said Aftab who took possession of the shops from the building’s mutawalli (caretaker) in 1996.

The previous attempt to demolish the building in March was stopped after Taimur Islam filed a GD.

This time around they chose Eid night for the demolition to avoid resistance and used bulldozer to tear down the building overnight, said locals. Shop owners, who were forced to vacate the building around four months back, were also not properly compensated, they added.

The High Court on August 13 last year issued a directive on Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (Rajuk) to not approve or allow construction on, demolition or modification of 2,200 archaeologically significant buildings, listed by USG, until Rajuk prepares an amended list of its own, scrutinising the USG list.

Moreover, the land belongs to Waqf Estate and no one has taken any permission for the demolition, according to a Waqf administration official.

Md Abdul Quddus, assistant administrator of Bangladesh Waqf Administration, had earlier said it is mandatory to take permission from them for handing over or selling a Waqf land, or doing any development work.

Haji Abdul Haque is the current mutawalli of the charitable trust. Haji Selim took a part of the land from another successor but demolished the entire building, said a frustrated Aftab. Abdul Haque also did not respond to repeated calls made by this correspondent.

Taimur Islam said the two-storey building was built in the late 19th century or early 20th century, following neoclassical architectural style. The building is called Jahaj Bari for its triangular shape resembling a boat, he said. The nearly 100-ft long building was built as a trading centre.

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