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Posted at: Apr 15, 2018, 1:23 AM; last updated: Apr 15, 2018, 1:23 AM (IST)

Multiple claimants for ‘Jinnah House’

Shiv Kumar in Mumbai
Multiple claimants for ‘Jinnah House’
Former Pakistan minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri at Jinnah House. File

Shiv Kumar in Mumbai

South Court, the palatial bungalow built by Mohammad Ali Jinnah in South Mumbai, a few years before the Partition in 1947, never fades out of news.

Jinnah's daughter Dina Wadia fought a long battle to gain control of the property till her death at the age of 98 last year. Pakistan has been demanding that the property be handed to it for housing its consulate in Mumbai. Assorted nationalist organizations and Hindu groups have been opposing such a move on the grounds that the country's Partition was planned in the same building.

The story of South Court, or Jinnah House as it is popularly called, has taken a fresh turn with industrialist Dina's son Nusli Wadia of Bombay Dyeing moving the Bombay High Court to take her place as petitioner in the matter. The union government had opposed Dina's petition on the ground that only Jinnah's sister Fatima was his legal heir. The founder of Pakistan is reported to have disowned Dina for marrying industrialist Neville Wadia, a Parsi.

Meanwhile, the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), now headed by RSS ideologue Vinay Sahasrabuddhe, says the property will be a cultural centre managed by it. Earlier this year Sahasrabuddhe, along with builder and Malabar Hill MLA Mangal Prabhat Lodha, said they could consider setting up a 'South Asia Cultural Centre' at the compund. Lodha had last year kicked up a controversy by demanding that Jinnah House be demolished because "the conspiracy of Partition was hatched here."

Shortly after Lodha called for the demolition of Jinnah House, another organization called the Lokmanya Tilak Swarajya Bhoomi Trust (LTSWT) demanded that the building be turned into a memorial honouring Bal Gangadhar Tilak.

Legend has it that Jinnah hired a British architect, Claud Batley, to design his luxurious bungalow spread over 2.5 acres built at the then astronomical cost of Rs 2 lakh. Jinnah lived in the building for just a few years before moving to Pakistan after Partition where he died in 1948. The Wadia family has opposed the name Jinnah House preferring to call it South Court.

During his stay at the Malabar Hill bungalow, Jinnah oversaw the Muslim League press for the creation of Pakistan. Pakistan held talks with Gandhi and Nehru on the question of Partition and transfer of power at this bungalow where the Indian National Congress finally bowed to the inevitable and accepted the vivisection of the Indian sub-continent.

After the Indian government took control of the building in 1949, it was leased out to the British High Commission which operated here till 1981. Since then, the Pakistan government has been demanding that the building be handed to it. South Court or Jinnah House has also been caught in a political storm with BJP leader Subramanian Swamy weighing in favour of the Wadias. A few years ago, Swamy suggested that PM Modi intervened and hand over the property to Dina Wadia “who refused to settle in Pakistan”.


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