HL Deb 19 March 1901 vol 91 cc385-8

My Lords. I wish to ask the Under Secre- tary of State for India who it was that sanctioned the vandalism at Bijapur, described by Lord Stanmore on page 204 of the Imperial and Colonial Magazine of December:— I hear that this fine monument has now (1895) been turned into a house for the deputy engineer, cut up and ruined by lath and plaster partitions and ceilings, divided by floors, and its arabesques defaced by wall papers. The oratory is a lady's bedroom, and its delicately-carved mihrab, with a door fitted to it, is converted into a cupboard for hanging up dresses. I am glad that the first occasion of my making the acquaintance of the noble Lord the Under Secretary for India should be through the medium of a question which is of an entirely non-contentious character. I say non-contentious because it is well known that the Viceroy has done all in his power to discourage the destruction of ancient monuments; and when I gave the question in I was assured of the sympathy of a high official in the India Office. The monument to which I refer, and which has been almost destroyed, was that of an ancient historical tomb near Bijapur. It has not only been the subject of vandalism, but also of desecration, for this fine monument has been turned into a house for the deputy engineer, and the oratory into a lady's bedroom. It is a misfortune that this article was not published sooner, so that the attention of the India Government could have been drawn to what was going on. The article was written in 1873, but only published this year. In the concluding words of the article Lord Stanmore says:— They are terrible vandals, too, are some of these officials. I was driving with a high functionary at Ahmedabad and complimented him on the excellence of the roads where there was so little road metal. 'Yes,' he said, 'there are plenty of tombs and temples here. I do not know what we shall do when they are used up.' Before I sit down, I would venture to say that I read with much satisfaction the able and candid reply of the noble Earl the Under Secretary for India to the captious remarks that were made on his appointment.


My Lords, the question which the noble Lord has placed on the Paper is based upon an extract taken from an article written by Lord Stanmore in 1873. Lord Stanmore, in that article, refers to a visit he paid to Bijapur, and to the night he spent in a certain mausoleum. He published this article in December last, and, I presume, desiring to be accurate, he put a foot-note at the bottom of the page in which these words occur: "I hear that this fine monument." etc. The noble Lord, I understand, has no further evidence that there has been any act of vandalism committed than the statement of Lord Stanmore that he heard that this had happened. It is possibly the case that a deputy engineer lives in this particular tomb, but I do not know whether this is so or not. In Bijapur there are hundreds and hundreds of tombs, and if the Indian Government had to preserve every tomb that exists in Bijapur it is very questionable whether the resources of India would be equal to the task. In 1872 the India Government decided to make Bijapur a civil station. They have since that time had an archæological examination made of all the mausolea and tombs. and they decided in 1890 that forty-four should be maintained in good repair, and that a further forty-six should be saved from decay. So far as the other tombs are concerned, I think it is more than probable that various inhabitants of the town are using them as living-houses. I do not think that the particular tomb to which the noble Lord has referred—namely, Khawas Khan—can be a very important one, because it does not occur in either of the two lists that the Indian Government have had made of the tombs that they mean to maintain in repair; but it is quite possible that Lord Stanmore may have been thinking of what is known as the mosque of Khawas Khan. If that is the case, I am happy to tell the noble Lord that this is on the list to be maintained in good repair, and that the Indian Government are paying every attention to the matter. I am sorry I have not been able to give the noble Lord more information. The India Office communicated with India when the question was first put down, and the only reply we have had has been a telegram to the effect that every inquiry has been made, and that full particulars will be received by the India Office, regarding the rooms referred to in the question on the Paper, in the course of next month. If the noble Lord wants further information, I shall be pleased to give it to him later.