Heritage at risk: Outcry to stop demolition of a 157 year old Army Public School at MHOW

Several concerned citizens,have expressed their anguish at the wanton destruction of Army Public School, MHOW, an indelible heritage landmark of the city and have appealed that the demolition be halted till a satisfactory resolution can be arrived at.

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The loss of the heritage buildings of the military hospital in MHOW (Military Headquarters of War, a small cantonment town in the Indore District of the Malwa region of Madhya Pradesh state) in 2017 was a great loss to the rich architectural legacy of this town, which has always had a significant place in the military history of India. However, in May 2018, when a group of concerned citizens in the sleepy cantonment town of MHOW near Indore in Madhya Pradesh, home to several of the India Army’s premium training establishments, managed to halt the demolition of the heritage building of the Army Public School, MHOW, they thought that they had won the war to preserve a significant part of their architectural heritage.

Heritage at risk: Outcry to stop demolition of a 157 year old Army Public School at MHOW 1
Photo by Das Kumar Vasudevan

Little did they know then that five years down the line, the demolition squads would be back in full force. This weekend, on the auspicious occasion of Lohri, the presence of demolition equipment in the precincts of the Army Public School, MHOW, purportedly to demolish the 157-year-old heritage building came as a rude shock to the town’s residents, including the Armed Forces Veterans community of MHOW. The heritage building was first constructed as a military hospital at MHOW in 1866. Historical maps suggest, in fact, that a building existed in this location even as far back as 1821, when the MHOW fort came up subsequent to the Treaty of Mandsaur in 1818. Later appropriated as the All Arms Wing of the Army Signal Training School, this building subsequently housed the Headquarters of the Army Training Command (ARTRAC) from 1991 to 1994. Since 1994, this building has functioned as the premises of the Army Public School (APS), MHOW.

A board with a vivid account of the historical significance of the building was prominently displayed outside the school until it was removed just prior to the slated demolition in 2018. However, the architecturally uninspiring new building that has come up behind the heritage building has not even found its way to the website of the APS MHOW (www.apsmhow.edu.in), which continues to display the old heritage building. The demolition of the heritage building was stalled in 2018 by the then GOC-in-C Central Command as per the advice of the Commandant of the Military College of Telecommunication Engineering (MCTE), MHOW, who is also the Patron of the School. This cessation was a result of concerted protests organized by several concerned residents of MHOW as well as the distinguished alumni of the school and several Armed Forces veterans who had a strong emotional connection with the building.

That the Indian Army, as a repository of the heritage and traditions of this country, should decide to demolish this historic heritage structure, a witness to our vibrant architectural heritage, is indeed surprising. It is a fact that most of the legacy structures in cantonments are extremely well preserved because of the active involvement of the Indian Army, Navy, and Air Force; the Sitabuldi Fort at Nagpur and Fort William at Kolkata are significant examples. This trend of destruction would set a precedent, which would have wider adverse repercussions.

The reason being cited for the demolition is that the contractor of the new APS MHOW building had reduced his bid for the tender for construction of the new building, keeping in mind the value of the profit he would make while destroying this heritage building. The earlier protests had halted the process, but the issue of compensation and the closure of the contract have been hanging fire for a long time now. Financial losses incurred by the contractor have been cited as a reason for the current demolition. Heritage is, however, priceless, and a negotiated solution should be arrived at to avoid the destruction of this significant historical landmark. A recent visit by a senior military officer has apparently exacerbated the issue, as orders have been issued to demolish the heritage structure and close the long-pending contract. The building has apparently been handed over to the contractor, and machinery is positioned for demolition. Messages to the Principal, APS, MHOW, the Patron, Commandant, MCTE, MHOW and the GOC-in-C, Central Command, were unanswered at the time of submission of this article.

Several concerned citizens, including Col. Preet Bedi, who originally initiated a petition to save the building way back in 2018, which stalled the demolition then, and Mr. Dev Kumar Vasudevan, Ms. Trupti Mishra, Mr. Milind Mahajan, Convenor, INTACH Indore, and Mr. Himanshu Dudwakar, Co-Convenor, INTACH, Indore, have expressed their anguish at the wanton destruction of an indelible heritage landmark of the city and have appealed that the demolition be halted till a satisfactory resolution can be arrived at. Vaneshree Vidyarthi, an archaeologist with Cambridge University and a distinguished alumna of APS, MHOW, stated that the historically significant building needed to be preserved for posterity.  A hasty and irreversible demolition will result in the destruction of a rich architectural legacy, the loss of which will be felt by our future generations.

Heritage is our legacy from the past, what we live with today, and what we pass on to future generations. Our cultural and natural heritage are both irreplaceable sources of life and inspiration.

UNESCO

23 Responses

  1. @UNESCO @UNGeneva @UN
    The demolition of this Architecture Marvel of British Era situated in Mhow, Indore, India, has started now, which must not be done. This is more than 150 yrs old still can rock solid for next 150 yrs exactly same as Heritage Buildings in South Bombay.

  2. Sad to hear about the demolition of the heritage building of APS Mhow. I am sure they can restore it for the safety of the students.These buildings have a lot of history attached to it. I am sure it is pride of the city and also of the students.

  3. The opinion of the people of Mhow should be taken,in taking decisions that change the face of our town .. what connection or knowledge of the history of the place would a disinterested outsider have anyways!

  4. APS Mhow is a historical & architectural edifice. NEVER TO BE DEMOLISHED. Contractor & his handlers must feel Indian

  5. Heritage building must remain intact. The present day contractors cannot dream ever to make such a magnificent building. They can only make great money out of the contract.

  6. I know that the building from inside is weal bhu it can be renovated and preserved because I used to study there the “good old days”but sadly they decided to demolish it

  7. I used to study there it’s sad the memories won’t be there because they already destroyed the old primary wings classes

  8. There can be no plausible reason or justification for demolishing any historically or culturally significant structure, especially one that has stood the test of structural soundness for almost two centuries. Significantly, it has been in continuous usage all along since construction. This building has to be saved.

  9. Pulling down Old yet Sturdy, Functional and beautiful Buildings should be a Criminal Offense. This is part of our Heritage and History.
    Pray to all citizens to come forward and protest against such demolitions.

  10. Stop the Demolition of this Heritage Building by all means . These buildings are to be protected under relevant laws and regulations.

  11. We must preserve our architectural heritage, whose demolition would be irreversible. A country with rich heritage, must put in extraordinary efforts to save these .
    Special compliments to Col Preet Bedi and his associates who undertook efforts to raise the matter.

  12. From the write-up, it appears the contractor is only interested in the remunerations he is likely to receive…. He does not have ANY link to the building nor the way in which it touches the heart of those who had once had so much to do with it, and that has thus generated so many memories and thus a forever bonding. It could very easily be likened to a person disposing off his/her parents, once they cease to be of any further use. This is a ridiculous situation and I personally think the voices of the majority should be taken into account.

  13. Very sad to hear Indian Army’s decision to demolish the heritage building ..Sad to see the protector’s becoming destructor’s . It is the duty of the Indian army to restore the heritage building . The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) should intervene in this matter and a favourable decision not to demolish the heritage building should be taken.
    Jai Hind

  14. It’s really sad to hear that the Indian army who are protector’s have become destructor’s. The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) should intervene in this matter and help revert the decision to demolish the heritage building and restore it. Hoping for a favourable decision
    Jai Hind

  15. I am a kid I am studying in APS MHOW I am of 4th c in tagor block but what about class 1,2 where will they study?

  16. If structurally safe, there is no reason to demolish any heritage building. If not, suitable steps can be taken to make the building safe without changing the beauty of the structure.

  17. It’s so shocking that they want to bring down this heritage building, which I am sure is safer than many of the ugly new constructions!
    It should be preserved under all circumstances. It should not be, that some, in power can decide to destroy according to their whims and fancy. Maybe for gain or otherwise…but definitely not to be allowed.

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