Bradlaugh Hall, hub of Indian freedom movement, now a crumbling ruin in Lahore

Children play near Bradlaugh Hall in Lahore, Pakistan, on July 25, 2019. (Save Bradlaugh Hall, Lahore/Facebook)
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Updated 15 August 2022

Bradlaugh Hall, hub of Indian freedom movement, now a crumbling ruin in Lahore

  • Named after British MP Charles Bradlaugh, Hall has birthed many political movements and anti-colonial revolutionaries
  • Since partition, building used as shelter for migrants, warehouse for iron merchants and grain silo for food department

LAHORE: When you take a left turn on Lower Mall Road in Lahore and go down Rattigan Road toward the ancient city’s district courts, you pass by an imposing red-brick building, a picture of neglect with its peeling paint and raggedy doors.

A plaque outside the desolate structure reads: “This building was called Bradlaugh Hall.”

Indeed, though the structure that was once Bradlaugh Hall is still there, the buildings’ grandeur and stature as a host to the veritable “who’s who” of the movement for the independence of India is a thing of the past. The resplendence of a great political history is today only a memory.

“For almost half a century, this hall would play host to Indians of all cast, creeds and religions and their political sessions, receptions, literary sittings and even mushairas (poetry conference),” Wajahat Masood, a veteran journalist and historian, told Arab News.




The pictue shows an inscription on a plaque made of stone in Bradlaugh Hall in Lahore, Pakistan, August 15, 2020. (Muhammad Imran Saeed/Facebook)

Seed money of Rs10,000 for Bradlaugh Hall was collected by Indian banker and activist Dayal Singh Majithia through a fundraiser at the Indian National Congress party’s annual session in Lahore in 1983, according to noted historian Dr. Tahir Kamran. The Congress party was the first modern nationalist movement to emerge in the British Empire in Asia and Africa.

“At the time, there were only two halls in Lahore, the Town Hall of the municipal office and Montgomery Hall in Lawrence Garden, which were owned by the government and not available for political events,” Kamran said.

Bradlaugh Hall, built at the tail end of the 19th century, was named after British MP Charles Bradlaugh (1833-1891), a notable freethinker of his era and a staunch supporter of the Indian struggle for independence from British rule. Bradlaugh wished for political activists of the time to have an administrative center where they could gather and discuss their political future.




The undated photo shows British MP Charles Bradlaugh. (Save Bradlaugh Hall, Lahore)

“Bradlaugh was a radical liberal of his time who vehemently advocated women voting rights, birth control laws and independence for Indians,” Kamran said. “Bradlaugh’s daughter wrote her father’s biography, in which she recalls him as an Indian.”

The Hall, which comprises several rooms, a pavilion and a vast area for public gatherings, was completed in 1900, nine years after Bradlaugh passed away in 1891. It was inaugurated by Congress President Surendranath Bannerji.

“PROMINENT POLITICAL HUB”

In its early years, the Hall “helped facilitate the labor and peasants’ movement, especially the influential movement of the peasants (known as “Pagri Sambhal Jatta”) of Lyallpur (Faisalabad), in 1905,” reporter Aown Ali wrote in 2015 in daily Dawn. 

“Later, in 1915, the ‘Ghadar Party’ also had its base in Bradlaugh Hall. By the 1920s, it had become well-known across India as a prominent political hub.”

Among those who visited and delivered speeches at the Hall are Allama Muhammad Iqbal, one of the subcontinent’s most celebrated poets, Maulana Zafar Ali Khan, a key member of the Pakistan Movement and widely considered ‘the father of Urdu journalism,’ and Jawaharlal Nehru, who would go on to become the first prime minister of India.

Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan and the leader for the movement for an independent homeland for the Muslims of India, also delivered at least one speech at Bradlaugh, on May 24, 1924, during the Khilafat Movement, a pro-Islamic campaign in the subcontinent to salvage the Ottoman Empire and its ruler after World War 1.

According to Haroon Khalid, author of the book ‘Imagining Lahore,’ Bradlaugh Hall was home to the National College, set up by Indian author and politician Lala Lajpat Rai “to prepare ‘intellectual revolutionaries’” such as Bhagat Singh, the famed hero of India’s freedom struggle. It also hosted the Indian National Congress’s historic 1929 Lahore session that culminated in the declaration of Purna Swaraj, or full independence, on December 31, which the party would celebrate as India’s symbolic Independence Day until 1947.”

In March 1926, young proponents of freedom from all over India, especially Punjab, formed the “Naujawan Bharat Sabha” with the objective of transforming their ideology into action. The left-wing association chose Bradlaugh Hall as its headquarter. 




The pictue shows exterior view of Bradlaugh Hall in Lahore, Pakistan, August 15, 2020. (Muhammad Imran Saeed/Facebook)

On October 7, 1930, when freedom fighters Singh and two others were sentenced to death, the Sabha party was declared illegal. However, it was revived as a legal defense team for Singh and others under the name of the “Bhagat Singh Appeal Committees,” with sessions carried out at Sabha’s office in Bradlaugh Hall.

The building also served as a center of cultural activity.

“Apart from being the center of political activities, this historic hall also served as a center for activities related to literature, culture and arts,” historian Masood said.

To commemorate their victory in World War 1, the British organized a mushaira at the Hall in 1919 where Iqbal recited his famous poem Shoa’a-e-Aftab. It is also at Bradlaugh that during the first session of the Lahore Students Union, the poet Josh Malih Abadi recited his famous revolutionary poem: “Suno ay Bastgaan e Zulf Gaiti, Nida Ye Aa Rahi hai Aasman Se/ Kay Aazadi ka ik Lamha hai Behter, Ghulaami ki Hayaat e Jawidaan Se” (Listen! You slaves of the times, such is the order of the day coming down from skies/ A moment of independence is far better than the eternal life in slavery).

The Parsi Theatrical Companies of Cowasjee and Habib Seth were very popular, and both used to perform at Bradlaugh Hall. In 1903, Narayan Prasad Betab’s drama Kasauti was played here. Legendary singer and dancer Gauhar Jaan Kalkattewali performed to a sold-out Hall in 1912.

But the building’s golden years came to an end in 1946 when the All-India Muslim League, formed out of the need for the political representation of Muslims in British India, won majority in the 1946 provincial elections, which is believed to have laid the path for Pakistan. After that, the rival Indian National Congress stopped meeting at Bradlaugh.

“NEGLECT AN INSULT TO REVOLUTIONARIES”

The Hall was managed by the Bradlaugh Hall administrative committee till the 1947 Partition of India, and for a decade after independence was used to provide shelter to migrants from Amritsar, as a warehouse for iron merchants and as a grain silo for the food department.

“The Government of Pakistan handed over the hall to the food department and it was converted into a wheat storage center,” Wasif Naqi, a historian and journalist who grew up in a neighborhood located behind the Hall, told Arab News. 




The pictue shows Bradlaugh Hall in Lahore, Pakistan, August 15, 2020. (Muhammad Imran Saeed/Facebook)

“For a long time, the hall also served as a car workshop. We would hear the din of hammers used by mechanics all day,” Naqi said.

Flooded in a rain storm in 1956, Bradlaugh Hall could no longer be used for food storage and was turned into the National Technical Institute in 1957. The Institute had the building until the 90s, which writer Aown Ali described “as the worst period for this historic building, as it was in this period that all the land grabbing and illegal interventions took place … the area was being exploited all for personal and monetary interests.”

Since 1997, the building has been sealed.

This April, however, the Walled City of Lahore Authority (WCLA) and the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) said they would join hands to restore the original façade and the internal and external portions of the structure to return Bradlaugh Hall to its former glory. 

“Ideally, a library should be built within Bradlaugh Hall, including a space for political activity,” Kamran the historian said. “But what we have done to our other libraries is no less shameful to what we’ve done to this historical building which once helped bring revolution and thus independence.”

“More important is to return to the ethos this building once embodied, though restoring the structure is also vital,” journalist Masood said. “This act [of neglect] is an insult to the efforts and sacrifices of the revolutionaries who broke the chains of slavery for us.”


Saran Inam murder: Pakistan investigators to search bank accounts over extortion accusations against suspect

Updated 6 sec ago

Saran Inam murder: Pakistan investigators to search bank accounts over extortion accusations against suspect

  • Victim’s father says daughter was “trapped” into marriage by Shahnawaz Amir to fleece her out of money
  • Mobile phones of both suspect and victim sent to the Federal Investigation Agency for forensics analysis

ISLAMABAD: A police official who is leading an investigation into the beating death of a Pakistani-Canadian woman allegedly by her husband last week has said investigators had sought the court’s permission to obtain bank records of the suspect to prove accusations he had been extorting his wife.

Sarah Inam, a 37-year-old economist who worked in Abu Dhabi, was murdered with dumbbells, according to police, by her husband Shahnawaz Amir at a suburban Islamabad home last week. Inam got married to Amir of her own choice on July 18 in his hometown of Chakwal. The parents of the couple were not present at the event.

Amir is currently under arrest and being investigated by police.

At Inam’s funeral on Wednesday, her father Inam Rahim said his daughter had been “trapped” into marriage by Amir to fleece her out of money.

“We know the relevant bank account of the suspect in which he was receiving money from her wife Sarah Inam,” Habib-ur-Rehman, who is leading the investigation, told Arab News on Thursday. “The suspect has confessed during the investigation that he received around one million rupees from her wife, but we have yet to corroborate it with the banking transactions.”

Under Pakistani law, police cannot directly access the bank accounts of suspects but need to seek permission from a relevant court.

“We have filed an application in the Islamabad High Court for this,” the inspector said.

Investigators have also seized the mobile phones of both the suspect and the victim and dispatched them to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) for forensics analysis.

“The suspect has shared his mobile phone’s password with the police, while experts will open the victim’s phone with the help of certain softwares to look for the relevant information,” Rehman said.

A 1996 model Mercedes car was seized from the home where Inam died, the inspector said, which the victim had paid for but whose ownership was transferred fraudulently to the suspect. Police were also investigating the incident, he added. 

Rehman said the suspect had torn up Inam’s Canadian passport also, which investigators needed for their probe.

“Her passport was torn into pieces, and we have yet to put it together,” he said. “The police would know from Sarah’s passport how many times she traveled to Pakistan after her marriage.”

Rehman said a police team had also visited Chakwal, Amir’s hometown, to verify the couple’s nikah and question witnesses and others who participated in the ceremony.

“The nikah of the couple is verified,” the investigator said. “It was done at the residence of one of Shahnawaz Amir’s friends in Chakwal city.”

Meanwhile, a district court in Islamabad on Thursday extended the custody of Amir for another four days to allow police to complete the investigation. 

No member of Inam’s family or lawyers representing them appeared in the court to plead the case.


Industry stakeholders say more local content, training needed to sustain Pakistan movie business

Updated 6 min 4 sec ago

Industry stakeholders say more local content, training needed to sustain Pakistan movie business

  • Ban on Indian movies left ‘void’ that needs to be filled with more local content — film distributor
  • Filmmakers, directors urge stakeholders to take ownership of films to ensure industry's success

KARACHI: Pakistani cinema owners and film distributors say Pakistan needs to produce more local content to fill the void created by the ban on Indian movies and ensure the country’s film industry recovers from its slump.  

Pakistan’s film industry and cinema theatres across the country are finally limping back to normalcy post coronavirus as films slated for release a couple of years earlier are finally seeing the light of day.  

While the hustle and bustle of crowds have indeed returned to Pakistani cinemas and crowds once again queue in line to watch their favorite stars on the silver screen, box office reports haven’t been as promising.  

Two of the most anticipated films released on Eid ul Adha 2022, ‘London Nahi Jaunga’ and ‘Quaid e Azam Zindabad’ failed to surpass previous records. Movie buffs are now keenly awaiting the release of ‘The Legend of Maula Jatt’ which is said to be Pakistan’s most expensive film to date. It is scheduled to be released on October 13.   

Movie distributor and cinema owner Nadeem Mandviwalla told Arab News movies that have hit theatres recently had “piled up because of COVID-19”, adding that Pakistan cannot make more than 15-16 movies a year.  

“Cinema needs content. We need to fill the void created by the ban on Indian films,” Mandviwalla said. “The industry was running well for 12 years when 100 films [a year] came from India, 100 came from Hollywood and 15-20 used to be Pakistani,” he added.  

“The total requirement was 215 but the number has shrunk to 115 due to the ban on Indian films,” he said. “We either need to bring Indian films back to Pakistani cinemas or produce additional 50-60 local films each year to fill the gap.” 

Following heightened tensions with India, Pakistan banned the screening of Bollywood films in February 2019. After over a decade since Pakistan witnessed the revival of cinema, thanks mainly to the critically acclaimed 2007 film ‘Khuda Kay Liye’, Pakistan’s film industry was thriving till 2018.  

Then came the ban in 2019 and cinema business in the South Asian country witnessed a drop of over 50% in sales.  

Mandviwalla said the government restricted Indian films hence it should come up with a solution to the declining cinema business. “They should offer grants to make films. If the government does not have the strength to offer grants to filmmakers, then [it] stop crying,” he added.  

Over 30 Pakistani films were scheduled to release in 2020, which would have made up for the losses suffered by the cinema industry due to the Bollywood ban. However, the advent of the coronavirus pandemic meant cinemas in Pakistan were robbed of life and films meant to enthrall audiences were shelved till 2022.   

Four films released on Eid ul Fitr 2022, namely ‘Ghabrana Nahi Hai’, ‘Dam Mastam’, ‘Chakkar’ and ‘Parde Mein Rehne Do’ were unable to earn profit. The movies’ shows were reduced after a week while Marvel’s blockbuster Dr Strange was released in cinemas across Pakistan on the first weekend after Eid ul Fitr.  

“A lot of money is going to waste because the 25-30 films made each year are not fit for cinema,” Irfan Malik, a filmmaker and distributor, told Arab News. “The cost of these films is going down the drain which, in turn, discourages a first-time investor to make more films. All of the money is misguided.” 

He said Pakistan’s film industry does not have enough writers and that the entire pool of talent comes from the TV industry. Malik said there is a dire need to have an authority or organization, comprising members from the private sector and the film industry.  

This authority or organization should provide guidance in terms of investment, scripts and filmmaking, he said. “The industry needs 15-20 filmmakers to stand on its feet. The day we do that, it will be a total restructuring for the industry,” he added.  

“If 15 filmmakers make one film each, the industry needs 15 hit films a year to survive.” 

A panel discussion on the topic ‘Restructuring Pakistani Film Industry’ which was part of a two-day film festival, was held at the National Academy of Performing Arts (NAPA) in Karachi on September 24 and 25. 

Pakistani filmmaker Sabiha Sumar—known for her independent documentary films in Pakistan and abroad—spoke during the panel discussion, saying that filmmakers should focus on digital platforms to open their movies to wider audiences.  

“Now we need to take the control into our hands instead of asking the state to support us, which they should have in 75 years,” Sumar said.  

“We have YouTube and other digital platforms so we should make content and upload whatever we like,” she added.  “One does not need to learn or see anything to become a filmmaker anymore, you learn by doing.” 

Actor and director Mohammed Ehteshamuddin said the industry needed to take ownership of its films collectively. “In our industry, channel rivalry hinders the promotion of films after one channel acquires the rights,” he added.  

He said ticket prices should be discounted, particularly for students and the youth, to less than 50% of their current prices. “If they watch stories, only then they will be able to tell stories in the future. Cinema is a powerful tool and the process needs to go on,” he added. 


Three million children may miss a semester in flood-hit Pakistan — officials

Updated 29 September 2022

Three million children may miss a semester in flood-hit Pakistan — officials

  • In southern Sindh province, Pakistan’s worst-hit area, flooding has damaged about 15,000 schools
  • Pakistan, UNICEF and other agencies have set up temporary learning centers in flood-ravaged areas

ISLAMABAD: Almost 3 million children in Pakistan may miss at least one semester because of flood damage to schools, officials said Thursday, following heavy monsoon rains likely worsened by climate change.

Unprecedented deluges since mid-June have affected more than 33 million people, inundated millions of acres of land and devastated infrastructure, including education facilities.

Local authorities have set up temporary learning centers in flood-hit areas to enable children to keep studying. However, officials say these measures are not enough, given the scale of destruction.

In southern Sindh province, Pakistan’s worst-hit area, flooding has damaged about 15,000 schools, where 2.4 million children were enrolled, according to the local education department.

It has raised fears that at least 2.8 million children across the country may miss a semester, officials at the Planning Commission and National Disaster Management Authority told The Associated Press. Pakistan, UNICEF and other agencies have set up scores of temporary learning centers, they said.

On Thursday, Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal told journalists at the military-backed National Flood Response and Coordination Center that the deluges have caused so much destruction that relief and rehabilitation work will continue for two years.

The floods have killed 1,666 people, and damaged 643 schools in Balochistan, 109 in Punjab and 287 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces. The majority of those killed or affected by the disaster are women and children, according to data released Wednesday by the National Disaster Management Authority.

A World Bank report released Wednesday said the flooding had heavily impacted schools. The Government High School Ahmadani, in Punjab’s Dera Ghazi Khan district, had served generations of students since 1916. But it was no longer functional because of flood damage, it said.

“An estimated 3.5 million children have had their schooling disrupted,” the World Bank report said.

It quoted Gohar Abbas, an education activist, as saying many schools have been transferred to emergency shelters where families have temporary accommodation.

The new government data comes as UK-based charity Save the Children estimates that almost half of flood-affected families are sleeping outside in tents or makeshift shelters.

It surveyed 1,200 households in the four worst-hit provinces. Most of the families surveyed had lost their homes and were living in squalid conditions near roadsides, using pieces of cloth or tarpaulin for shelter from monsoon rains.

Save the Children’s country director in Pakistan, Khuram Gondal, said Pakistan was now in the grip of a major health emergency.

“In Sindh province, I saw hundreds of thousands of people living in filthy conditions in makeshift camps – some with only a plastic sheet to protect themselves from the heavy monsoon rains,” Gondal said. “We’re seeing children dying from waterborne diseases every day, and things will only get worse the longer they go on sleeping outside without shelter, food or water.”

He said teams on the ground were doing everything they can to ensure people have food, shelter, and clean drinking water. “But the reality is, there aren’t nearly enough funds to meet the desperate level of need.”

The charity has so far reached over 28,000 people, including more than 14,000 children, he said.

On Aug. 31, the United Nations and Pakistan issued an appeal for $160 million in emergency funding to help flood victims.

UNICEF last week renewed its appeal for $39 million to help the most vulnerable, saying only a third of the sum had been met so far.


Pakistani former prime minister’s daughter acquitted in ‘Avenfield Reference’

Updated 29 September 2022

Pakistani former prime minister’s daughter acquitted in ‘Avenfield Reference’

  • Sharifs accused of embezzling public funds to offshore accounts used to purchase four luxury Avenfield properties
  • Graft case also implicated Sharif’s sons, Hassan and Hussain, Maryam Nawaz and husband Safdar Awan acquitted

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Thursday acquitted Maryam Nawaz, the daughter of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, and her husband Muhammad Safdar Awan in a case popularly known as the Avenfield Reference that relates to the purchase of a number of upscale properties in London. 


The Sharifs were accused of embezzling public funds to offshore accounts that were used to purchase four high valued Avenfield properties, an apartment block on Park Lane in central London. The graft case also implicated Sharif’s sons, Hassan and Hussain.

The Sharifs say the case is politically motivated.

In July 2018, an accountability court sentenced former PM Sharif to 10 years in prison in the case and gave his daughter Maryam Nawaz seven years for abetment. Sharif’s son-in-law Awan got a one-year sentence for not cooperating with the investigation. 

Th ex-PM and his daughter subsequently filed an appeal against the jail sentence with the Islamabad High Court, asking it to annul the verdict of the accountability court.

"This is how lies come to end," Nawaz said after the acquittal hearing, lauding her legal team for fighting her case for four years.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, the younger brother of Nawaz Sharif, took to the Twitter:

“The edifice of lies, slander & character assassination has come crumbling down today,” he said.

“Maryam Nawaz's acquittal in the Avenfield Reference is a slap in the face of so-called accountability system that was employed to target Sharif family. My congratulations to Maryam Beti [daughter] & Safdar.”

 

 

 

Sharif was also sentenced in a separate case to seven years in prison in December 2018 and fined $25 million on corruption charges. An anti-corruption court in Islamabad ruled that Sharif was unable to prove the source of income that had led to his ownership of a steel mill in Saudi Arabia.

Sharif left the country to receive medical treatment in London in 2019 and has since not returned.


Pakistan fast bowler Naseem Shah tests positive for COVID-19

Updated 29 September 2022

Pakistan fast bowler Naseem Shah tests positive for COVID-19

  • Shah was discharged from hospital on Thursday after being diagnosed with pneumonia
  • Shah played only one game in 7-match series against England at Karachi before being rested

LAHORE: Pakistan fast bowler Naseem Shah has tested positive for COVID-19 and will miss the remaining two Twenty20s against England, the Pakistan Cricket Board said on Thursday.

Shah was discharged from hospital on Thursday after being diagnosed with pneumonia and the PCB said the fast bowler was feeling “much better.”

“Shah is back in the team hotel where he will follow all COVID-19 protocols,” the PCB said in a statement.

Pakistan is due to leave for New Zealand next Monday to participate in a triangular Twenty20 series also featuring Bangladesh.

The PCB didn’t clarify whether the fast bowler will accompany the team to New Zealand.

Shah played only one game in the seven-match series against England at Karachi before being rested. He returned expensive figures of 0-41 off his four overs in the first match, which England won by six wickets.

He was admitted to hospital late Tuesday night in Lahore with a chest infection and fever.

Pakistan leads the series 3-2 with back-to-back narrow wins at Karachi and Lahore in the last two games as England couldn’t chase down below-par totals.

The remaining two matches will be played on Friday and Sunday at Lahore.