Hyderabad city is home to several heritage properties dating back to the colonial era. Several were owned by Hindu families before the subcontinent’s divide in 1947. After Partition, as many Hindu families left for India, their left-behind properties were declared as protected heritage sites.
Many families who migrated from India and settled in Hyderabad were believed to have been given ownership of some of these properties in ‘claim’. Other properties declared as protected heritage still exist though in poor shape and desperately in need of preservation— which doesn’t take place for want of funds by the provincial department of culture which is the custodian of these sites.
One such building is the Dial Das Club, named after Seth Molchand Dial Das (1922). The site was misused for commercial gains by the club’s management for several decades until some of its members moved the Sindh High Court in 2016 on the ground that being a protected site it could not be used as a commercial venture.
In December that year, Sindh High Court Justice Salahuddin Panhwar ruled that the club cannot be used for commercial purposes since it is a heritage property.
Likewise, the 1928 Khiani Mansion off Tilak Incline is another such property. Half of it was demolished by its owners who had in turn bought it from different occupants in the last several decades. The present owners apparently want to launch a commercial-cum-residential project which is why half of it was razed to the ground recently.
The building is covered under heritage laws and is on the list issued by the government — thus prompting a report on BBC Radio about the new plans which brought it into the spotlight.
Sindh Building Control Authority (SBCA) had taken notice of the plans and went into litigation. During the hearings, when claims were made as to whether the property is even a heritage site, the local administration corroborated SBCA’s stance that that was indeed the case.
Mukhtiarkar and City Survey Officer Taluka City, in a September 15 letter addressed to Assistant Commissioner (AC) City as part of the proceedings, said a report was sought from City Surveyor Ward “B” Hyderabad who, after verifying the record, reported that city survey number 1835 admeasuring 3,570 square yards originally belongs to Hindu evacuee owner (said to be some Narain Das) and transferred to various persons.
The AC mentioned that the transfers/subdivisions of the property took place in August 1964, December 1971 and February 2006. The report stated that the property’s portions were transferred to Mohammad Nasimur Rehman in 1964 and then in 1971. It was sold in portions of around 400-500 square yards as a house and then a hospital. The AC disclosed it was last sold to Syed Gulab in November 2012.
A culture department official informed that the building remains partly demolished and no further progress has been made to preserve it.
He said the department could not conserve heritage properties as it lacks the necessary resources, primarily money.
“In some cases properties are owned by multiple people who don’t let the government conserve it and open it for the general public under a public-private partnership approach,” he claimed.
The official referred to a property on Station Road, a couple of buildings in Gari Khata and one on Risala Road that could be chosen for conservation and opened for visits by the public — if funds were available.