City poorer by another British-era structure

Conflicting claims over Maxwelton estate

Staff Reporter

Shillong, Nov 1: The fire at Maxwelton Estate, Kench’s Trace yesterday did not just ravage several houses and leave their inmates without a roof. It also erased a part of the city’s rich history tracing back to the British era.

Pawan Bawri, the owner of the estate, said the Assam type heritage building, which was occupied by his tenants, existed since the British period.

The ownership was earlier with Pawan’s father, JN Bawri.  

“We do not have many details about the house, but we do know that the structure existed since the British time and only historians can reveal more about it,” he said.         

A day after the fire, only charred structures of the building and other wooden houses remained to remind of what was proud heritage.

The displaced residents from seven families have put up in a temporary shelter on the sprawling estate.

“We are getting food supplied by some NGOs,” they said.   

As many as 31 persons belonging to families of Pratap Sinha, Lison Marak, Molan Narzari, Nirmal Boro, Rajesh Thapa, Baptu Marak and Risha Sawain were affected.

Bawri had allowed the tenants to stay for free.

There are some more families who, however, were not affected by the fire.

“They have been staying for the last 60-70 years,” Bawri said.

According to Bawri, the fire started from the MCB (miniature circuit breaker) switch in a fabrication unit adjacent to the house. The switch was defective and the workers were told to repair it but they did not pay heed. 

The fire also spread to the nearby godown where plastic materials were stored, he said.

“The fire did not spread to nearby cowsheds otherwise it would have been disastrous,” he said.

The residents ruled out any foul play and said that the incident was due to short-circuit in the MCB.   

Bawri assured assistance to the affected people.

When asked about constructing proper houses for them, Bawri said, “We have a plan.”

The affected residents said that they would be sleeping in the houses of nearby tenants or their relatives.

“But we need to rebuild the houses and for this, we may seek legal redress as the government is not able to help us since it claims the area,” Golapi Narzari said.

Other residents said they have been staying there for several years and hence there should be proper rehabilitation.

While Bawri claims that the plot belongs to him, the state government says it is under its possession.      

Last year, the state cabinet had approved construction of a public park at Maxwelton Estate over 7.8 acres.

The government had said though the area was earlier claimed by Bawri, it was now under its possession following a court case.

The government had also planned to provide alternative accommodation to the residents once the public park came up.

However, Bawri rejected the claim of the government and asserted that the land belongs to him.