Monday, August 31, 2009

Jinnah House


Jinnah House was the residence of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan; in Mumbai, India. It was built in 1936 at a then exorbitant price of 2 lakh (200,000) rupees when Jinnah returned to Mumbai from England to take charge of the Muslim League. Jinnah House was the residence of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan; in Mumbai, India. It was built in 1936 at a then exorbitant price of 2 lakh (200,000) rupees when Jinnah returned to Mumbai from England to take charge of the Muslim League. Now worth around $60 million the house is the subject of a dispute between India, the government of Pakistan and Jinnah's daughter Dina Wadia. The bungalow is located on Mount Pleasant Road (now Bhausaheb Hirey Marg) in the upmarket Malabar Hill area of South Mumbai. Its opposite neighbour is the residence of the Chief Minister of Maharashtra.

Designed by architect Claude Batley in the European-style architecture, the sea facing palatial bungalow was constructed using exquisite Italian marble and walnut woodwork. Specially imported Italian stone masons were employed for its construction with Jinnah personally supervising the construction "brick by brick". The property encompasses an area of 10,000 square metres (2.5 acres). The mansion, with its pointed arches and impressive columns, is currently in a dilapidated state, and much of the walnut panelling has rotted.

The historic building was also the venue for the watershed talks on the Partition of India in September 1944 between Jinnah and MK Gandhi. Ironically on 15 August 1946, exactly a year before India gained independence, another round of talks was held here between Jinnah and Jawaharlal Nehru which altered the course of Indian history.

Mansion inhabitants

Jinnah was extremely attached to his house. After India was partitioned, Mumbai remained a part of India and Jinnah left his abode as he became the Governor General of Pakistan. He requested to Nehru, the then Indian Prime Minister to allot his house to any foreign consulate, preferably European, as he wished it to be given to a European family who would appreciate the architecture. Nehru acceded to Jinnah's request and offered him a monthly rent of three thousand rupees. Unfortunately Jinnah died in September 1948 before the deal could be finalised.

As a personal favour to Jinnah, Nehru did not declare the property as Enemy Property, as was done to most properties held by emigrants to Pakistan. In 1955, in a Cabinet speech he suggested it be gifted to the Government of Pakistan, but could not gain the sanction of the Cabinet. Though India's Foreign minister and the Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan suggested that the mansion be handed over to Pakistan in 1956, the suggestion never materialised.

The premises were leased to the British High Commission as the residence of the Deputy High Commissioner from 1948 to 1983. The first floor of the building also held the offices of senior Commission officials. It remained vacant until 2003, when a part of it was given to the Indian Council for Cultural Relations to be used for cultural activities. In March 2005, India's Minister of State for External Affairs, E Ahemad reiterated that the house would remain as a cultural centre.

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