Dalrymple seeks law to protect city's old buildings from

Eminent Scottish historian William Dalrymple said he likes to wander through the by-lanes of Kolkata that are dotted with old buildings, many of which are crumbling and need legal protection from demolition.

On a visit here during the launch of his latest title 'The Anarchy', Dalrymple told PTI that the city's history may fade into oblivion if proper measures were not taken to preserve the old private buildings.

"I walked to see the Clive's House at Dum Dum, I walked to Victoria Memorial, I walked down Chowringhee.... I have been to Chandernagore (in Hooghly district) where my family came from. I have Bengali blood," he said.

In a 2016 interview, the historian said his great- grandfather Walter was born in Kolkata as recently as a century ago, and so he is "part-Bengali".

Dalrymple, the writer of 2009 non-fiction bestseller 'Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India', said there was never any central planning in Kolkata in the past.

The city was a chaotic place during earlier times too, said the 54-year-old author of 'White Mughals'.

He said he loves going through the city streets, especially in north Kolkata, during Durga Puja and other times, and over 100-year-old private buildings should not be destroyed.

"In most countries, buildings which are over 100-year- old have a listing system whereby even private buildings cannot be destroyed.... In modern India, if you have a heritage building, you should not destroy it by building (a) shopping mall. Most countries in the world just don't allow that," the author of 'City of Djinns: A Year in Delhi' said.

"In Britain, France also Belgium - if you have a heritage building it comes with responsibilities. Say I have a very old house in London and that is great - which means I can't alter the facade and interiors," Dalrymple said.

He rued there is no similar system in India and one "can just knock it (a privately owned old building) down. I think it is a great tragedy that Kolkata has so much history" which may not remain if adequate steps were not taken.

A listing system should be introduced very quickly in Kolkata, he said adding that Old Delhi has a similar problem and it is being destroyed in the last 15 years.

Dalrymple lives in a farm outside Delhi with his family.

Talking about 'The Anarchy' during its city launch, he said the book tells about the collapse of the Mughal Imperial system and the militarisation and rise of power of the East India Company.

He said the reason behind the East India Company's success in the 18th century, was "its use of new artillery techniques, the cavalry operations," which had been used during battles of Buxar and Plassey.

'The Anarchy' chornicls the history of the Indian sub-continent from 1739 to 1803.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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