A slice of history is sought to be swallowed by land sharks
Vol 1 | Issue 15
It is a slice of Indian history that not many might have heard about. Mahatma Gandhi launched a Ladies Club (Baz-e-Khawateen) and a ‘Women Only’ Park (Zanana Park) on July 23, 1934 in Lucknow. He even addressed a congregation of women for two hours in the park, into which entry of men is banned, even now.
But today, nearly 76 years later, the park in Aminabad, which was once set up in three acres of land, has not only been reduced to rubbles due to neglect but has been encroached upon by land sharks who have just left about an acre of the land. The Ladies Club, which started the park, however, is still functioning with over 50000 members and 89 chapters.
The Ladies Club is waging a relentless battle to save the 3-acre park from encroachers
Now, Shahnaz Sidrat, the present chairperson of the club has launched a struggle to save the park – possibly the nation’s only all-women’s park maintained by a local body. Sidrat is the daughter-in-law of Begum Sultan Hayat, the founder of the club. Hayat, daughter of a freedom fighter from Meerut, Maulana Najamuddin, was instrumental in bringing Gandhi to inaugurate the club. Even the three acre land was bought by a rich man called Ganga Prasad for Rs 15,000 at the behest of Gandhi and handed over to the club.
Later, in 1945 Hayat handed over the park to the Lucknow Municipal Corporation. The encroachment started after the Corporation started neglecting the park since 1980.
Even some efforts were made to convert the park, situated in the middle of a commercial hub, into a college, says Sidrat. "I have taken up the issue with all competent authorities but no one has taken any action. It is as if they are aiding the encroachers who have eaten up the park. I had conveyed the problem to the then prime minister Ata Bihari Vajpayee, who had even included the park in the list of national parks of the country. Still it is hard to get anything done for the park," she says. Ironically, while this park has been neglected, several thousands of crores of rupees have been earmarked for developing new parks and monuments in UP, which is presently ruled by a woman. "My only desire is that the park regains its pristine glory and the encroachments are removed," says Sidrat.
Besides being a place for relaxing, the park also serves other purposes. Not only can women sit and discuss things away from the gaze of men, it has been a venue for other activities of the club. It has once even been a venue for Muslim women to offer Namaz.