Published:  12:07 AM, 09 June 2019

Old Dhaka's 'Jahaj Bari' demolition sparks anger

Old Dhaka's 'Jahaj Bari' demolition sparks anger Remnants of 'Jahaj Bari', a ship-shaped ancient building in Old Dhaka's Chawkbazar after being demolished on the night of Eid-ul-Fitr. -AA

Most of the 'Jahaj Bari', a ship-shaped ancient building in Old Dhaka's Chawkbazar, has been demolished.Local businesses say people of Awami League leader Haji Mohammad Salim tore down the building on the night of Eid-ul-Fitr on Wednesday, reports"Haji Salim's people started demolishing the building without notice," one of the businessmen in the area, Aftab Uddin, told on Thursday.

Haji Salim could not be reached for comments. Chawkbazar Police Station OC Shamim Al Rashid said police stopped the demolition of the building after hearing about the incident. He said he heard Haji Salim had bought the two-storey building. "He may have plans to build something else on the place. But the demolition work has been halted following agitation among businessmen and residents of the area as the building has archaeological values," the OC added.

Dhaka Metropolitan Police Deputy Commissioner Md Ibrahim Khan said the building is on a Department of Archaeology list of significant structures."A general diary was also filed on the building's demolition. It cannot be dismantled by any means," he said. Images of the building after the demolition show only the staircases of the building are now intact while the rooms on the two sides of the staircases have been demolished.

Taimur Islam, Chief Executive of Urban Study Group that works to protect the rich architectural heritage of Dhaka City, expressed ire over the demolition of the building. "The 'Jahaj Bari' of Chawkbazar was bulldozed when everyone was celebrating Eid last night," he said.

The activist said he has filed a GD at Chawkbazar Police Station over the incident. The High Court in 2017 ordered a ban on destruction, modification, and extension of 2,200 heritage sites in Old Dhaka following a writ petition filed by Taimur's group."There had been efforts to tear down the building violating the High Court ban since March. Those were stopped by the filing of a GD at the time. Now they have chosen a time when no-one would be there to stop them," Taimur said.

He said volunteers of his group stopped demolition of several buildings in Old Dhaka in past few months but some other buildings have been brought down."But the demolition of a significant structure such as the 'Jahaj Bari' is truly unbelievable!" he said.Built in mid-nineteenth century, the building is considered the first commercial building of Dhaka.

Businesses that had shops in the building said it was being supervised by a Waqf estate and they were regularly paying rents to the Waqf administrator's representative, 'Haque'.The representative, Haque, is in Saudi Arabia to perform Umrah, businessman Aftab said.Haji Salim's phone was unavailable on his phone when tried to contact him.He did not answer text messages either.

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