A platform for positive and constructive discussion on ways of looking at history, architecture, archaeology, and conservation
Many Friends of the ASI (FrASI), ASI officials, residents of Begumpur Village and children of Mother’s International School (MIS), assembled at the entrance of the Bijai Mandal at 10 am. The students, some of whom were leading a heritage walk and had been trained by some members of the FrASI, had come in T Shirts that they had designed, profiling the Begumpur Mosque. As the walk moved from the Bijai Mandal to the Begumpur Mosque, more people joined it and many locals shared their thoughts, particularly the women of the village.
The entire event, including the Photography Exhibition planned at the foyer of the mosque, was truly an exercise in the kind of participation that the FrASI is working towards. The MIS lent their display boards for the entire duration of the Exhibition; the ASI Delhi Circle organised large prints of photographs, and ensured the security of the exhibition for its entire duration by deputing extra staff; the photographs themselves – documenting rare views of the area from the 1950s-60s – were the result of combined discussions between the ASI Photography Department and some Friends of the ASI.
Also on display were samples of drawings, writings and posters by MIS students, depicting their understanding of the monuments. By afternoon there was a steady stream of people from the nearby areas, including local school-children.
There was a lot of interaction and exchange of ideas between various groups. Shri A.K. Pandey from the ASI Delhi Circle and Shri Raghubir ji, an elder from the village addressed everyone in the Mosque courtyard. A pledge was taken by all to protect our heritage. The ASI provided hot samosas to eat, which the children especially seemed to enjoy.
What we learnt from the event and interactions before and after:
The event and the discussions that precede and succeeded it brought new insights and also the common perceptions and perspectives of the local stakeholders and visitors. The event itself was very successful, and most people who attended came away with an increased appreciation of the monument and the ASI. However, on a long-term basis, the monument can only be attractive to locals, visitors, researchers, heritage enthusiasts when it is accessible and safe.
The main concern of the residents of Begumpur Village is the overflowing manhole right in front of the main gate of the Mosque. It begins to overflow from about 5 am (since overflow from the DJB leaking pipes has also apparently been diverted into the sewage system or finds its way in it). Therefore diluted sewage begins to flow into the street. The land naturally slopes in front of the main gate and rises on both sides and later rises. The maximum collection of stinking sewage thus happens right in front of the main gate of the Mosque.
The MIS students and the other residents also find the site unsafe and unhygienic – the sewage is one aspect; apart from this, there is no real provision of garbage disposal by local authorities, leading to the open area around the Bijai Mandal and the Mosque being used for such purposes. Because of the unhygienic aspect of the site, the people who most frequent it are those who have no other place to go – those with no shelter, those who want anonymity to drink liquor, or take drugs without supervision, etc.
What we propose should be done:
The first effort has to be to ensure the cleanliness and safety of the site and its surroundings. For this:
The problems of sewage and services such as garbage disposal have to be addressed
Since the villagers have tried unsuccessfully for many years to rectify the sewage and water supply problems, the ASI as the official custodian of the Begumpur Mosque and Bijai Mandal must lend their support in this aspect, and meet with the Local councillor and the relevant officials of DJB to prevent the daily water logging. The FrASI propose that we meet with senior ASI officials at site and some Village elders, (Shri R.D.Sharma, Raghvir Singh and Rohtas Kataria) in the first week of May and visit the local councillor to initiate this process.
2. There is some open land in the form of a DDA park on the other side of the village towards the MIS School. A designated area inside this park could be used for composting wet vegetable waste, for which the ASI officials could with help from FrASI interact with Delhi Government and its relevant departments as well as students of MIS to develop a project of recycling/water-harvesting as an example of people participation in environmental improvement.
3. Simultaneously with this, information on the site should be collected (through accessing and analysing ASI records, recording oral history through interviews of people residing in the area since a long time, documenting social and typological structure of the village and its surroundings etc.