The dilapidated building that stands on the main road at 20B Karl Marx Sarani in Kidderpore area, with a private diagnostic centre, allegedly running illegally on its ground floor, was once the residence of Michael Madhusudan Dutt, one of the greatest personalities of the Bengal Renaissance.
Rajnarayan Dutta, father of the poet, purchased the building in 1831, when he was practicing as a barrister at Calcutta High Court. During that time, the address of the building was 20 and 20B Circular Garden Reach Road. Rajnarayan lived here with his wife, Janhabi Debi, for a long time and both of them died there. Even Harakamini Debi, the stepmother of the poet, also lived in the house. Michael Madhusudan lived there for around 17years and wrote Virangana and Meghanad Badh Kabya, during that time. After the death of the poet, Mokshada Debi, wife of Harimohan Bandyopadhyay, the caretaker of the property, secretly mortgaged it in 1875, for a paltry sum of money. After that it shifted hands twice, between 1920 and 1940. In 1942, it was again sold through the court. In 1990, Sudhir Kumar Nanda of Syambazar purchased the building for 700,000 Rupees only. However, it is evident from the Calcutta Corporation assessment record of 1840 that the building belonged to Rajnarayan Dutta.
In 1998, Mohammed Salauddin and his family submitted a plan to the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) to demolish the building located on 20B Karl Marx Sarani to construct a five storey residential complex. The plan was stalled, as the 19th-century Bengali poet and dramatist Michael Madhusudan Dutt’s house at Kidderpore was listed as grade II (B) heritage structure in KMC’s records and according to law, the present owner does not have the right to demolish the structure or rebuild the property.
However, according to the rules, a new construction may be allowed in the open land on the premises in a compatible manner with Grade II (A) heritage building, but it should not obstruct the view of the heritage building. It was argued on behalf of the present owner that, Mohammad Salauddin had bought the property in the 1990s and there was no proof to confirm that this was the house where the poet lived. So, the commission had no power to overrule the present owner’s decision to rebuild the property.
In fact, though the building was listed as a Grade II (B) heritage structure in the KMC records, there was no authentic documents with them to substantiate the claim.
However, the confusion regarding the property has been cleared, following the letter issued by the DG of the Project Management Unit, which clearly pointed out that earlier the house was listed as Grade II (A) but now it has been given Grade II (B) rating and certain changes within the main structure of the building with a Grade II (B) tag can be made, if necessary.
Now, the building can be saved only if the State Government takes initiative to take up the matter in the right spirit. Anyway, it can be hoped that the ancestral Kidderpore House of poet Madhusudan Dutt will finally be saved, as the school of Sister Nivedita in Baghbaza was saved by the State Government.