A century-old building in Khamarbari, Dhaka, which housed the first research laboratory of Bangladesh Agriculture Research Institute (BARI), has been demolished despite a restriction imposed by the High Court on Wednesday.
There are complaints that the demolition process of the historic structure was sped up after the court imposed the restriction.
The workers who were tasked with the demolition claimed that parts of the building had already been knocked down on October 27-28.
However, Md Moinuddin Ahmed, senior secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture, told Bangla Tribune that all formalities had been taken care of before bringing the the building down.
“We took permission of every officials concerned, including the officials of Ministry of Cultural Affairs, Department of Archaeology and Rajuk," he said.
Asked about the writ petition to stop the demolition, he said: “The demolition was facilitated under open tender. If a writ is filed after the demolition of a building, what can be done?”
On the other hand, lawyer Ashik Al Jalil, who filed the writ, said: “The court gave a verbal order to halt the demolition of the building until a verdict was issued. Only 20% of the building had been demolished at that time. The office of the attorney general was also informed about the stay on demolition. Yet, it was knocked down in the next two days.”
Asked whether this incident qualified as a contempt of court, the lawyer said the matter would be brought up in the next hearing.
He further said there would be an inquiry in the next hearing on why the demolition of the building was sped up.
The Ministry of Agriculture completely tore down the British-era building that used to house the first BARI research laboratory on November 3, 2017, even though the High Court verbally issued a stay on the demolition just two days before | Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune
Meanwhile, responding to a query, Attorney General Mahbubey Alam said by the time his office had gotten in touch with the officials concerned, the building had already been demolished.
“The court contacted one of my subordinates and directed the person to inform the officials concerned not to demolish the historic building until further notice," he told Bangla Tribune. "My subordinate did contact them, but said officials claimed that the building had already been demolished as it was facing a serious risk of collapse."
Environmentalist organisation Poribesh Bachao Andolon (POBA) Chairman Abu Naser Khan, who had been protesting the demolition, said: “We must preserve our heritage. When they started demolishing the historic lab building in Khamarbari, we protested. But the demolition was carried out anyway.”
He added that an investigation should be launched to identify those who facilitated the demolition, as the building was a 118-year old and was a historical heritage.
Eminent architect Mobasher Hossain also vehemently protested the demolition.
“These structures can educate the future generation about the heritage of Dhaka city. These structures signify our struggles and achievements as a nation. One of them have already been demolished, but we must try to protect the remaining ones,” Mobasher said.
The High Court on Wednesday issued a ruling asking the government to explain why demolition of the historic building in Khamarbari should not be declared illegal, and gave a verbal order to halt the demolition that was already in progress.
The court further asked the authorities concerned to explain why they should not be directed to prepare a list of heritage structures.
This article was first published on Bangla Tribune