Here is the special feature edited by Anas Khwaja
1872 :Background History
Abdul Ghani, the nawab of Dhaka built the Nohbat Khana presently known as Nawab Bari Gate in 1872 during repairs of the Ahsan Manzil. The 136-year-old archway is 15 feet wide and 30 feet high. This is situated on the Isampur Road and on the northern side of the Ahsan Manzil palace.
The literal meaning of Nohbat Khana or Naqqar Khana is Drum House. A costly Portuguese Band Party was maintained by the Nawab Family. They entertained the guests on festive occasions with their European tunes from the Nohbat Khana. The last time the band played was during the visit of Lord Curzon. Later on the band was disbanded due to financial difficulty.
The once beautiful gate made of brick and lime on the northern side of the palace, edging the Islampur market, fell into ruin only because of neglect, although it is archeologically protected under the Antiquities Act, 1968. Many banners are hanging with the weed-covered, peeling structure.
October 19 1985
The National Museum proposed to acquire additional lands measuring 7 kathas in order to widen the Ahasanullah Road from Islampur.
November 3 1985; Acquisition
The govt acquired Ahsan Manzil and adjacent land measuring 5.6506 acres through martial law act #4/1985 from Court of wards. Construction and the repair job were assigned to the Ministry of Works.
Noverber 4 1986 :Municipal Market
.6886 acre land was reassigned to make a municipal market through Martial law promulgation number 10. Thus the master plan to renovate the Nawabbari Gate got buried under the selfish act of the mayor and the few opportunists who got shops allotted in their names for few takas.
September 26.2003: Nawab Bari gate defaced : Daily Star
Islam Plaza owners of a shopping mall have demolished part of the historic Nawab Bari gate to the Ahsan Manjil in Old Dhaka to clear space for the multi-storey commercial building in an alleged underhand dealing with some officials of the archaeology department.
The archeologically protected archway lost its left side to construction of the shopping mall that began two years ago or so. To the right of the shopping complex stands another market, and several shops were constructed at the foot of the.
“They (market owners) did not seek permission from the archeology department for construction. We came to know about it but could not stop construction,” said Dewan Delwar Hossain, director of the archeology department. He reasoned out that the archeology department is too understaffed and cash-strapped to protect the site.
A notice of the archeology department bans any change, damage and graffiti on the archway and warns violators of a maximum punishment of one year in jail. Still, the owners of the shopping mall went ahead with their plan.
“We are worried. It may collapse anytime. Sometimes, the government officials visit the archway, but no repair was done yet,” said a clothes trader who has a shop near the site.
January 2008 :Moulvi Abdullah Welfare Trust
In the Q&A session of the annual meeting Syed Rehan Hussain raised the topic of repairing the Nohbat Khana. He mentioned that the Nawab bari gate is on the road with Daag number 720 which belongs to the MAWT. The secretary assured him that the Nawabbari Gate is now under the control of the Archeology Department. On behalf of the locals he will write to the newspapers drawing govt’s attention in this regard.
Department of Archaeology
As per the architects and conservationists-incompetence, poor management and lack of institutional capacity, skilled manpower and proper legal framework are some reasons holding back the Department of Archaeology (DOA).
Over the years the Department has consistently ignored and overlooked hundreds of historical sites in the city on the excuse of lack of funds and manpower.
DOA is unable to protect even those sites listed as protected.
Whenever the DOA was allocated funds to preserve historical sites, in most cases the money was spent to demolish the old structures, experts alleged. I hope DOA will not seal the fate of the Nohbat Khana through demolition. If we allow it to be destroyed then we will remain accused in the eyes of the next generation.
The Cloth Merchant Community
The place adjacent to the Nawabbari gate has grown into a major business centre because of its close proximity to the waterway. The two sides of the roads are jam packed with cloth stores. The local business community, especially the Bikrampur Bostro Baybsayi Somity can play a vital role in the reconstruction project. They need the mindset that businesses should payback the society when needed. The merchants had earlier transformed the Nawab Bari Jame Masjid. It is a proven fact in Bangladesh that most of the development initiative was taken on private instead of the public sector.
ConclusionNow it is high time that the family members, environmentalists, architects, conservationists and the business community come together. “The history of Dhaka is related to the Nawab palace and the Nawab Bari gate is a rare archway. It reminds us of our glorious past,” said Shamsul Wares, a leading architect. “We could not preserve much of our heritage due to lack of awareness. Now we need to protect the remnants.”