Police intervened and stopped the demolition before the 19th century building was completely torn down
Ignoring a High Court order that banned the demolition of buildings of archaeological importance, owners of “Jahaj Bari,” a ship-shaped building located in the Chawkbazar area of Old Dhaka, has demolished parts of the historical building.
Before it was torn down completely, police suspended the demolition work after Urban Study Group (USG), an organization working to protect Dhaka's architectural heritage, filed a general diary with the Chawkbazar police station on March 29.
However, by the time police intervened, almost half of the second floor of the building’s extension had been demolished, and the rooftop of the original two-storey building had been partially demolished.
On August 13 last year, the High Court ordered the Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (Rajuk) not to allow demolition, modification, or extension of any of the buildings enlisted in the USG’s list of heritage sites until an amended list is prepared. The list for Dhaka includes 2,793 buildings.
Jahaj Bari is now a Waqf Estate – a charitable donation that cannot be sold.
When contacted, Waqf administrator Shahidul Islam said: “We appoint a mutawalli (caretaker) to look after the Waqf property. To demolish such type of buildings, approvals from the Waqf Administration as well as the Ministry of Religious Affairs are needed. It is a complex process. After the approval, we appoint a third party developer for the construction work.”
However, before demolishing the building, no such procedures were maintained, he said.
The USG is concerned that the Jahaj Bari may be fully demolished if Rajuk fails to respond on time, he added.
Taimur Islam, chief executive of the USG, said: “We are not getting proper response from Rajuk, despite having contacted them several times.”
Dhaka Tribune could not reach the Rajuk officials concerned regarding the heritage site, despite repeated attempts.
However, Md Sayeed Noor Alam, a member of the planning department in Rajuk, said the authorities did not give any approval to demolish the building.
According to the USG, the two-storey Jahaj Bari was built in the late 19th century to be used as a trading house. “It is probably the oldest trading house in the country,” Taimur Islam said.
The building is called "Jahaj Bari" because of its triangular shape resembling a boat.
Another floor was added to the building in 1960.