BEHRAMPORE - From a distance, it looks like the ruins of a castle. As you come closer, the first thing that strikes you is an imposing gate, with a royal emblem above it. But thanks to the apathy of the authorities, few are aware of the glorious history behind the house. It belonged to Iskander Ali Mirza, former Pakistani president and grandson of Mansur Ali Khan, the Nawab of Bengal.

Iskander Ali Mirza was the first president of Pakistan. But his house at Kutubpur in Lalbag, lying in a dilapidated condition, speaks little of his illustrious career. Citizen Forum on Human Rights, a human rights organisation, wrote to Indian President Pratibha Patil on Monday last, demanding immediate restoration of the house. The organisation also wants the house to be declared a national property.

Afzal Hossein Khan, state president of the human rights organisation, said, “I wrote to Pratibha Patil regarding the issue. I stated in the letter that if Pakistan can take care of LK Advani’s house or Bangladesh can reserve Jyoti Basu’s house, why should we be indifferent to the house, rich in history, for so many years? We request you to declare it as national property and protect it for future generation. Government must free the house of encroachers and prevent demolition of the building.”

“We have come to know that thieves are taking away bricks and even doors of the house, nearly every day. Why is the administration so indifferent?” questioned Khan while talking to Times of India.

Born in 1898 and educated at Elphinstone College in Mumbai, Iskander Ali Mirza was the son of Muhammed Fateh Ali Mirza and grandson of Nawab Mansur Ali Khan. After passing out from the Royal Military Academy and a six-year stint at British Indian Army, Iskander Ali Mirza joined the Indian Political Service. In 1954, he became the governor of East Pakistan and in 1956 he was declared the first president of Pakistan.

On a visit to the decrepit house of Mirza, it was found that two families had encroached upon the whole property. Hens and goats were also found within the premises of the house.

Gora Sheikh, an old resident of the house, said “We have already demolished the decaying roof and repaired another part of the house.”

Amir Hossein, another resident, said “We are here and as a result no thieves could steal bricks and other things from the house. One of Mirza’s relatives gave us the permission to live here from my grandfather. We have planned to set up a madrassa here, but we need money.”

“We had repeatedly asked the government to restore the house, but they turned a deaf ear to us. This house can be used as a tourist spot and the government can also earn from here. Lastly, we requested the Indian Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee to look into the matter and are waiting for him to take some action,” said Biplab Chakraborty, councillor, Murshidabad municipality.