Shimla, June 22
Raising voice of concern against a recent development wherein plastic sheets have been erected to fence the view of the historic Annadale ground from the northern side (market side) of it, former deputy Mayor of Shimla Tikender Panwar has written to the MC Commissioner Ashish Kohli. These plastic sheets have been erected right from the Annadale Bazar to the main gate of the ground, he claimed. Demanding action in the letter the former deputy Mayor has stated that this cannot and is not permissible under the Shimla Municipal Corporation bylaws and as per law the valley view cannot be obstructed.
Panwar said that the Annadale ground is owned by multiple parties, wherein Shimla Municipal Corporation is one of the largest shareholders in it. The Indian Army has the property on lease, he added. “And the lessee cannot erect structures, either temporary or permanent, on their own fancy will,” stated Tikender.
He further added that one of the reasons normally cited at such places is security concerns. “However let me share an anecdote with you, he stated. Adding,” This is during the period 2012-17 when I was serving the town as a deputy mayor. The ARTRAC had erected some tin sheets outside their bungalows thus blocking the valley view,” stated Tikender. Adding,” Both the mayor and I went to the site and got them removed. This infuriated the then army commander and a meeting was set in where we told the ARTRAC leadership that laws of the land apply to everyone and these were his words to his officers: “The law of this hilly town must be respected and one must remember that we are not in a state of war.” Panwar added that not only this development looks extremely ugly, but it is also against the aesthetics of architecture in the hilly towns.
Pertinent to mention that till early nineties, public was allowed in this 121-bigha dale, surrounded by thick forests just 4.5 km from the Ridge of Shimla, with permission. The ground even hold the legacy of hosting the first Durand cup soccer tournament in 1888. The ground was was once a abode for cricket and soccer lovers, wherein most such local tournaments used to be organized here. However, later the Army citing concerns completely took over the ground, thus barring entry of even locals. In the passage of time, it was converted into a golf course for army personal and members. Also a museum is built here for public viewing. Once a major centre of activities during the British rule as well as a race course the ground was first leased to the Army during World War II to be used as a training camp.
Tikender in the letter, mentioned that when around a decade before, a proposal was moved for converting it into a cricket stadium and a hotel beside it. The move was vociferously opposed by the citizens of Shimla and voices from different corners of the country were raised to protect this green meadow, informed the former deputy Mayor. However later due to large scale opposition and efforts put in by the then MC representatives (Which was Sanjay Chauhan Mayor and Tikender Panwar Dy Mayor), eventually the ground got saved. “The then army commander in fact acknowledged our role, and of course of the citizens in ensuring that the green meadow remains,” mentioned Panwar in his letter.
“Annandale ground is owned by the people and cannot be alienated from them,” added Panwar. Besides no one has the right to violate the law of the land else it will become meaningless, concluded the Deputy Mayor.
Some background about the ground (Source Wikipedia)
The region in which Annadale is located was first documented in 1834, in the East Indian United Service Journal. When British officers saw the area for the first time, they found it similar to the Annandale valley in Dumfriesshire or County of Dumfries in Scotland, and decided to name it after the Scottish location because most of the officers hailed from the Scotland’s Annandale.
According to another story, Charles Pratt Kennedy, the political agent of the British government who was assigned to find a suitable place in India for selecting the Summer Capital, came to Shimla hills in 1822. He was so impressed by the beauty of the dale that he named it after “Anna” his lady love back in England. It is perhaps for this reason, that it has been spelt as both ‘Annandale’ and ‘Annadale’ in documents pertaining to Shimla.