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Home > News > Report

Residency turns into fortress as British tourists visit Lucknow

September 25, 2007 18:02 IST

Security has been tightened in and around Residency and other places in Lucknow on Tuesday following the visit of a British group to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the first war of Independence in 1857.

Taking into account the protest by the Bharatiya Janata Party and other groups, the Uttar Pradesh government has already banned the group from holding any function in the memory of their forefathers.

The 29-member group, under the banner of Palaquin Historian Tour, which reached here last night from Gwalior, faced some protest at the Charbagh railway station. But security forces deployed at the station escorted them to their hotels.

Sir Mark Havelock, a descendant of General Henry Havelock, one of the commanders of the British army in 1857, is among the visitors. Dr Rosie Llewellyn-Jones, an architectural historian and writer who has written two books on Lucknow, and Hugh Purcell are leading the delegation.

Lucknow district magistrate Chandrabhanu said that the authorities will not allow the British group to hold any ceremony at the historical site. "We will only allow them to offer their condolences at the Residency and other places in as little time as possible,'' he said.

Earlier in the day, Shiv Sena and some other groups staged a protest against the group's visit and raised anti-British slogans. Former member of Parliament Aas Mohammad also led a protest against the UK group at the Residency, saying their visit was an insult to the Indian freedom fighters who lost their lives in the first war of independence in 1857.

Tension ran high at Residency when demonstrators chased a foreign couple who were on a tourist visit at the site. However, due to heavy security measures, the duo was saved from the hands of the protestors and whisked out of the heritage site through the back door.

Meanwhile, brushing aside the protest, the British group issued a brief statement on Tuesday stating, ''We are a group of international historians and tourists with a long association and deep affection for India. We are here to see some of the great heritage sites of Indian history and to find out about the events of the uprising 150 years ago that provided such a watershed in the history of both India and UK. In particular we want to understand the Indian point of view and to remember brave deaths of both sides.''

The British group is likely to stay in Lucknow till Wednesday before leaving for Kanpur and Jhansi.

Earlier, the state BJP had declared that at no cost will it allow the British group into Lucknow. The British group had to face severe protests at Gwalior, Agra [Images] and Meerut during their recent visit.

Samajwadi Party has also opposed their visit, terming it an insult to the countrymen who lost their lives in the 1857 uprising.

However, state principal secretary (Home) J N Chamber had said that there was no problem if someone wants to pay homage to his forefathers in a peaceful manner but the administration will not allow any function. Ruling out any effort by the state government to ban the delegation's visit, Chamber said they would only ensure that the group pays homage in a peaceful manner, without any celebrations.

Officials of the Archaeological Survey of India, who control the Residency, also confirmed that no prayer or function would be allowed at the site, which is now a protected historical monument.

The group reportedly intends to present two portraits of General Havelock and a plan of the route soldiers took to recapture the city to a local museum. They are also likely to visit the tomb of General Havelock at Alambagh in Lucknowl.