On hearing the news
of declaring Dilip Kumar’s house a national heritage of Pakistan, the
veteran Bollywood actor in his blog ‘On My Ancestral House and Childhood’
fondly talked about his childhood memories: “The news that the house where
I was born (1922) and where I spent a good part of my childhood in
Peshawar’s Qissa Khwani Bazaar, then in Undivided India, will be given the
honour of being a part of the national heritage of Pakistan has sent my mind
racing back to memories of happy days spent in the spacious home and its
surroundings. I am at once full of fond remembrances of my parents,
grandparents and numerous uncles, aunts and cousins who filled the house with
the sounds of their chatter and hearty laughter.”
But that was then, in early
2012, now the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has dropped the idea of
rehabilitating and preserving the family house and turning it into a heritage
site, due to a row over ownership of the property.
The cultural department had
announced in Feb 2012 that it would purchase the house and would preserve its
old structure, where Yusuf Khan (Dilip Kumar) was born. By giving it a
heritage status, the government had planned to promote cultural activities of
A walk down the narrow and
dingy street of Domba Galli in Mohalla Khudad of the old Qissa Khwani Bazaar
shows the three-storey house built over five marla land in shambles due to
lack of maintenance. This old house is being used as a store for hosiery
items and the entire locality has become a hub of commercial activity.
Though nobody in the area
is able to claim having seen Yusuf Khan as a child there, some old people
remember the renowned Indian actor once he came in 1985 and stood in the
street to see his house. They recalled he had brought some gifts which he
distributed among the neighbours.
“I remember when he came
to Qissa Khwani Bazaar. He stood in the street for some time and kept looking
at the house. He went back without entering his house,” said an old
shopkeeper Haji Salimur Rahman, who sits at his shop flaunting Dilip’s
posters. He was 12 years old when his family moved to India and never
Azmat Haneef Orakzai,
provincial Secretary for Information and Culture department of the Khyber
Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) government, tells TNS that the government had almost struck
a deal with the present occupant of the house, Haji Lal Mohammad when another
man, identified as Fawad Ishaq, claiming to be the real owner of the property
“I had visited the house
along with Minister for Information and Culture Mian Iftikhar Hussain and we
held a meeting with the present occupant and informed him about the
government’s plan. After a few meetings, the occupant agreed to sell it to
the government at Rs30 million. We finalised the deal and the chief minister
also approved it. The government was going to release the amount when this
man claiming to be real owner of the house surfaced,” he said.
Azmat Haneef says Fawad
Ishaq claims to be a relative of Dilip Kumar and real owner of the property.
He says the man had obtained a power of attorney from an Indian court,
claiming that Dilip Kumar had sold the house to him and he was owner of the
“And we have to stay away
from the deal at the moment as they made it difficult for the government to
ascertain who is the real owner of the building,” the official says.
Through a special branch police, the government investigated the issue and
declared it a disputed property. Now the provincial government has
constituted a high-level committee headed by Hussain Zada Khan, member Board
of Revenue, to determine its real proprietor.
Interestingly, the KPK
government had also decided to renovate Raj Kapoor’s ancestral house in
Peshawar and turn it into a heritage site.
“The government has
decided to preserve the old family house of Raj Kapoor and wait for
settlement of Dilip Kumar’s. Raj Kapoor’s house is comparatively in good
condition and is located near the Lady Reading Hospital (LRH) Peshawar,”
Azmat Haneef Orakzai says.
Meanwhile, the current
owner of Dilip Kumar’s house, Haji Lal Mohammad, claimed he had bought the
property in 2005 at a cost of Rs5.1 million.
Talking to TNS in his
hosiery shop in Mohalla Khudad, a 70-year-old Lal Mohammad argued he had
bought the house from Badshah Khan, son of Mohammad Yaqub Qureshi, through
the legal means and had all relevant legal documents of the property. He says
Yaqub Qureshi had bought the house from Dilip Kumar’s father in 1943.
“Dilip Kumar’s father
was a dry fruit dealer and had suffered losses before moving to India.
Qureshi had first given him Rs3000 in 1943 and then Rs2000 more when he came
back from India to take his family. Qureshi was issueless and adopted a boy
named Badshah Khan. He registered two marla in the name of his daughter in
law and one marla each in the name of his three granddaughters,” the
present occupant explained.
Why did Fawad remain silent
during all these years when Qureshi had been living in the house since 1943?
“I never heard of him,
even in 2005, when I bought this house to build a shopping plaza here. It was
actually after he learnt from the media that the government has purchased the
house at Rs30million that he surfaced and claimed ownership of the
property,” Lal Mohammad says.
He argues if Fawad was the
owner, he would have gone to the court by now. The occupant claims he
didn’t know the film star Dilip Kumar had once lived in the house when he
It is a case of ownership,
one will have to wait and see if Dilip Kumar has something to blog about now!
History has no
religion. This is a simple truth that we in Pakistan seem to be unaware of.
For 65 years the government strived very, very hard to give it a religion and
the sad thing is it succeeded. Consequently, now the history of Pakistan is
only what is Islamic. Hard put to ignore Mehrgarh, Harappa, Moen jo Daro and
Taxila, we simply try to wish away all relics of our built heritage if they
did not originate under a Muslim patron.
Now, we cannot deny that
Maharaja Ranjit Singh (Nov 1780-Jun 1839) was a great warrior king of Punjab.
Astute, highly intelligent and possessed of immense cunning to boot, this man
used his mental faculties to turn the divided Sikhs into one great community.
Upon attaining the throne after his father’s death in 1799, Ranjit Singh
found himself ruler of a small part of Punjab. Within a few years, this
remarkable man whose prowess in the battlefield matched his acumen as a
statesman and diplomat had increased his sway from Kashmir to Multan and from
the Jumna River to the Khyber Pass.
The Maharaja himself said,
“My kingdom is a great kingdom: it was small, it is now large; it was
scattered, broken and divided; it is now consolidated: it must increase in
prosperity, and descend undivided to my posterity.” Sadly, however, within
nine years of his passing away in Lahore, Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s kingdom
had fallen to the British juggernaut.
At the apex of his power,
the Maharaja built a beautiful home just outside the village of Ramnagar —
originally Rasulnagar, as it is again; it had been re-named after the Sikhs
defeated the Muslim Jatts of the town. Sitting right by the banks of the
Chenab, the house took its inspiration from European architecture, which had
flooded Delhi some years earlier. It was a bungalow much like any Raj
building of similar size.
Here were verandas on two
sides, a number of side rooms and one large audience room which may also have
served as the Maharaja’s living and working quarters. The east façade had
a marble plaque installed by some thoughtful British civil servant after the
country had been annexed. It read in English, “Residence of Maharaja Ranjit
Singh, AD 1830-1837.” Underneath, the same was repeated in Urdu.
In November 1991, working
on my book ‘Gujranwala, the glory that was’, I saw this house for the
first time. I was impressed by the rafters holding up the roof and the window
and door jambs — every single timber being first-class teak. Outside, a
veritable orchard of mango and jamun trees all but covered the beautiful
From the roof of his summer
house, the Maharaja would have watched the Chenab flow languidly by or strain
at the banks in monsoon frenzy. But now, there was a high flood protection
embankment blocking the view. Nearby was a set of graves recalling the
British dead of the Battle of Ramnagar fought on 22 November 1848. It was on
this battlefield that the empire that Maharaja Ranjit Singh hoped would pass
in its full glory to his descendents died.
Recently, I was in
Rasulnagar again to digitally photograph the Maharaja’s house. 21 years is
a very long time between the writing of my book and the present. In this
while, I had thrice returned to Rasulnagar, the last time being in 2000.
Until then the house was as it had been for more than a century and a half.
But the upheavals of the past twelve years were apparently too severe for
The house of the greatest
Punjabi ruler since Raja Paurava (Porus) was a ruin. The exterior was smeared
with cow dung patties. The timbers, every single one of them, had been
wrenched out, the roofs had caved in, the windows were gaping holes and the
plaster on the arches and pillars was damaged. The brickwork floors were now
covered with the debris from the roof. Only the marble plaque commemorating
the building remains in place. Much of the work was clearly done in a
destructive frenzy by who but some spiteful louts who despise the history of
But the sad part is that no
one evidently tried to stop the vandalism. The people of Rasulnagar where a
young Ranjit Singh cut down an Afghan force much larger than his paltry band
watched in silence. Here at the famous ford of Rasulnagar, having humbled the
Pathans in fair battle, the seventeen year-old future Maharaja deprived the
highlanders of the cannon Zamzama they were attempting to carry off to Kabul.
But no Rasulnagar native
moved a finger. The corrupt and inefficient police remained mindless of the
carnage. The worthless assistant and deputy commissioners, who should be
hanged for negligence, cooled their worthless behinds in their air
conditioned offices as a priceless Punjabi monument was laid waste.
I wonder how many images of
the house as it once stood, are preserved in private archives. So far as I
know, there is only one in my book on Gujranwala. In another few years, the
hulk will collapse. The last remaining memory of a great king will be lost
But we do not care. For
Maharaja Ranjit Singh was not Muslim. And so far as we are concerned history
should only be Muslim.