Jinnah House has ever been an apple of discord between India and Pakistan. The neighboring country has been demanding its possession since quite a while to set up its consulate in Mumbai, however, India does not seem to be agreeing to it.
The building has once again hit the headlines as Mangal Prabhat Lodha, BJP leader and legislator of Malabar Hill area, demanded the dismantling of its structure and creation of a cultural center to showcase the culture and tradition of India and Maharashtra on that very land.
The palatial structure situated in the Malabar Hills of Mumbai is spread across an area of 2.5 acres. Mohammed Ali Jinnah spent Rs.2 lakh to build it in 1936. It is held that the Muslim leader personally supervised its construction brick by brick and used it as his residence till India was partitioned in 1947.
Ever since then, this majestic construction is seen as the “symbol of partition” since all the meetings between Jinnah and Gandhi took place in that very mansion.
The building was leased out to the British High Commission after independence and served as the residence of the Deputy High Commissioner until early 1980s. Following this, it remained unoccupied and was maintained by the Public Works Department.
In 2010, Ministry of External Affairs submitted an affidavit in the Bombay High Court stating
The property vests absolutely with the Central government and there is no residuary right or reversion in favor of either evacuees or their heirs
Countering the suggestion by the BJP leader, Pakistani cricketer-turned-politician, Imran Khan, termed it as “disturbing” and said that “history cannot be washed away by demolishing buildings”.
Several other history enthusiasts are supporting preservation of the structure since it is witness to many events, Jinnah-Gandhi talks being one of them.
Apart from Mahatma Gandhi, the bungalow was also visited by Subhash Chandra Bose and Jawaharlal Nehru.
Since Jinnah had helped Lokmanya Tilak in the freedom struggle and the two had a strong friendship, Prakash Silam, a representative of Lokmanya Tilak Swaraj Bhoomi Trust, has expressed the desire for handing over the bungalow to them. The trust intends to build a memorial in honor of Lokmanya Tilak.
On the other hand, Jatin Desai, secretary of the Indian chapter of Pakistan India People’s Forum for Peace and Democracy, said that even though Jinnah was a supporter of partition, he did not wish to settle down in any other city and was a Mumbaikar at heart. He said
Even as he moved to Karachi after partition, Jinnah wished to spend his last days in his beloved house in his beloved city Bombay. However, he passed away few months after Pakistan’s creation.
Desai suggested that the bungalow be used as a center for promoting healthy relations between India and Pakistan or a SAARC cultural center.