The house of Armenian merchant Nicholas Pogose, a 200-year-old building that is a part of Old Dhaka’s historical heritage, is undergoing demolition despite conservation activists’ efforts to save it.
Locals in Armanitola, where the building is located, said its current owner, Enayet Hossain, started demolishing the historical structure a day or two ago.
Members of Urban Study Group (USG), a non-profit voluntary organisation that is dedicated to protect the historical sites in the old part of the capital, have been working to stop the demolition process.
They also organised a human chain event in front of the site on Wednesday as protest, but that did not deter the owner from knocking the building down, said Taimur Rahman, chief executive of the USG.
The government has yet to help in this matter either, the activists complained; neither the government’s Department of Archaeology, the office that is responsible for conserving establishments with historical value in Bangladesh, nor the Rajdhahi Unnayan Kartripakkha (Rajuk), the Dhaka city development authority, has stepped in to stop the demolition work, they said.
A portion of the building, where Nicholas Pogose used to live with his family, has already been brought down.
“At this rate, it will be gone completely in the next one or two days,” Taimur told the Dhaka Tribune on Thursday.
The building, also known as “Nicky Shaheber Bari (Nicky Sir’s House),” was constructed in early 19th century by Armenian merchant and landlord Joachim Gregory Nicholas Pogose who played a significant role in trade and commerce in the 19th century Bengal.
He is also the founder of Pogose Laboratory School and College, the first private school in the country, established on June 12, 1848.
The two-storey Pogose house is built on 19 decimals of land in Armanitola, Old Dhaka and is considered to be of high archaeological importance by the heritage activists.
Yet, the house was not listed as a historical site by the government authorities, said the USG activists.
When contacted, owner Enayet Hossain said he had purchased the land on which the house was built from the government in 2005, and now wanted to build a modern building there.
He declined to speak further when asked about the building’s historical significance.
USG chief Taimur Islam said it is illegal to demolish buildings that are historical heritage sites.
Even when the government has tried to protect old buildings by law, many such structures have been demolished in the past, he added.
Earlier, following the collapse of a house in Shankharibazar in 2004, at least 90 old buildings had been identified to be demolished due to their dilapidated condition.
The USG has been working to preserve some of the historically and archaeologically important establishments at Shankharibazar, Tantibazar, Armanitola and other areas in Old Dhaka.
The government declared Shankharibazar a heritage site in 2013, which met with resistance from the residents of the area who wanted to expand and renovate the buildings. In 2014, a mosque built in 1707 was demolished, resulting in a widespread criticism.
In 2016, Azimpur Graveyard Shahi Mosque, a 300-year-old building, was brought down to make way for a new structure.
Activists said many buildings have been demolished because they were not listed as protected sites by the Department of Archaeology.