Dispute rules remains of heritage home

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By A hub for freedom fighters is now in ruin, report Nabamita Mitra and Shabina Akhtar
  • Published 1.04.07

The palatial house of Raja Subodh Mullick, which played a major role in the Swadeshi movement, is crumbling down, mired in legal disputes and disrepair.

The U-shaped house at 12 Raja Subodh Mullick Square was built between 1883 and 1884. Subodh Mullick was about four years old then. The place became a major political hub during the freedom movement. Eminent personalities like Rabindranath Tagore, Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Chittaranjan Das had visited the house. Shri Aurobindo stayed here from 1906 to 1908.

The main gate of the three-storeyed house is locked. Trees have taken root inside. The nauabatkhana is in ruin with only the staircase intact. Parts of the terrace have collapsed.

The house was declared a heritage structure in 1998. But no restoration has been possible because of legal hassles.

The dispute started with the will made by Nirad Chandra Basu Mullick, Subodh Mullick’s cousin to whom he sold his share, says Subodh Mullick’s second son, the 93-year-old Samir Vasu Mullick. He stays in Gangadhar Babu Lane behind the house.

Nirad Chandra’s will on March 4, 1932 stated: “If my son (Hambir Chandra Mullick) has no issue, however distant or adopted son or any issue of such adopted son, my estate shall go to the University of Calcutta for advancement of learning.” Hambir Chandra died on November 18, 1976. Next year, his caretaker Mahadeo Prasad Mishra claimed a share in the house.

The university took possession of the ground and the first floors of the house on September 19, 1977, but Mishra occupied the second floor. The university moved Calcutta High Court the same year. “We just wanted to have the property that legally belonged to us,” said registrar Samir Bandopadhyay.

The issue is still not resolved. “There was one clause in Nirad Chandra’s will that said if Hambir Chandra does not dispose the property then it will go to the university. But there was a registered agreement between my father and Hambir Chandra that says that we have the right to this property,” said K.S. Mishra, son of Mahadeo Mishra.

The dispute stalls the university’s plans to develop the house into an “international-standard” conference venue. “The Governor inspected the place,” said Suranjan Das, pro-vice-chancellor (academic) of Calcutta University.

“After the police informed us about the dangerous condition of the house we submitted a petition to the Supreme Court so that the case is resolved as soon as possible,” Samir Bandyopadhyay said. “The final hearing in the Supreme Court is in the end of May or early June of this year.”

There were also reports of the civic body’s plans to demolish the house. “No such thing was planned by the CMC in the past year,” said Alapan Bandyopadhyay, commissioner, CMC. The municipality says that it has lost the file on the house.