Historians and heritage experts, including those from the ASI, have called for a scientific study to be conducted into a tunnel under the sprawling Delhi Assembly building, which has once again captured the imagination of the people.
The ”mysterious tunnel”, first reported around 2016, has sparked multiple speculation, and experts said it will be too early to draw any conclusions unless the structure is thoroughly examined from an archaeological point of view or some documentary evidence is found. found it.
The mouth of the underground structure is located just below the auditorium floor of the iconic building (Old Secretariat), which was built by the British in 1912 after the Imperial capital was moved from Calcutta to Delhi, and it is planned to be open will be thrown to the public next year.
The Delhi Assembly chairman Ram Niwas Goel had said on Friday that the tunnel’s historical significance has yet to be determined, but it is believed that the tunnel will connect the Congress Building to the Red Fort.
He also claimed that there was an “execution chamber” in the place where Indian revolutionaries were brought by the British.
However, many historians and heritage experts, including those who have extensively researched Delhi’s multi-layered history, have expressed skepticism about the claims and suggested scientific examination of the structure and site.
A senior official at the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) said theories and conjectures abound in the absence of research.
“So, the structures underneath need to be examined archaeologically first. And even if there are obstacles due to subway and overpass piers, technology is there to explore to test the theory. Without research, it wouldn’t be wise to comment,”, he told PTI.
Also, the Red Fort link theory seems a bit improbable as the distance between the 17th century Mughal monument and the British era monument is more than 6 km, and with a low height a tunnel so long would be hard to imagine as it would also be difficult to navigate, the official said.
There are also multiple passages to reach the Yamuna River from the Red Fort. Without research, it’s hard to say whether the purpose of the tunnel in question was for escape or storage, and whether it was built before the early 20th-century structure that stands over it, experts said.
Another ASI official said the Archaeological Survey of India has not received any notice from Delhi Assembly authorities about conducting archaeological surveys of the tunnel.
Designed by architect E Montague Thomas, the current Congress Building initially served as the secretariat of the Imperial Government while the New Delhi capital was being built.
Located in the prime Civil Lines area, the handsome white-colored monument also housed the Central Legislative Assembly when it was moved to the new parliament building near Raisina Hill in 1927.
Historian and author Swapna Liddle also believes that the Red Fort link theory remains a speculation as there is no archaeological or documentary evidence for it.
“Another possibility is that this was a ”tahkhana” (a cellar) for storage or hiding, as the British had become wary of the natives after the mutiny of 1857. So there may be a safe passage or hiding place built under the building,” she told PTI.
Ms Liddle, author of “Connaught Place and the Making of New Delhi” and former chair of the INTACH Delhi Chapter, also said that a suspicion that the tunnel predates the Congress building also doesn’t seem very plausible, “because why would the Brits take the tunnel in the Ridge area”.
The Delhi ridge region was a site of major action during the First War of Independence in 1857.
Rana Safvi, historian and author of ”Shahjahanabad: The Living City of Old Delhi”, believes it was “very unlikely” that such a long tunnel connected the two buildings from two different eras.
“The British have meticulously documented everything and if there was such an arrangement, an archival record or map must have proven it. Logically, there also seems to be no reason why they should build such a long underground passageway,” she said.
However, city-based architect and urban planner AGK Menon said that if it was a secret tunnel, “of course there will be no record of it”.
“The tunnel is visible, now it must be thoroughly and architecturally examined before any conclusion or theory is advanced,” he added.