Near the Vishwavidyalay metro station (Delhi University’s north campus station) lie a set of “minor” historic structures. These small structures, along what is now Brig SK Majumdar Marg, were ammunition stores constructed by the British in the early 19th century, when they (partly) moved out of the Kashmiri Gate area of Shahjahanabad to create the Civil Lines and cantonment (where DU’s north campus is now located). These ammunition stores would have been in or near the cantonment area at the time.
The ASI/INTACH board in front of the first of these structures says that there were seven of them, all in a row on the side of Brig Majumdar Road. I walked along the road till the Timarpur army base and could count only four (or three, depending on how one sees it – details follow). There was a lot of open area in the army base, and I could not spot any more there either.
What’s interesting about the four remaining structures is their condition and immediate surroundings. The first one, closest to “Mall” Road and with the ASI/INTACH board in front of it, is within the premises of an apartment complex. This is the best maintained of the lot and easiest to access (requiring just requesting/circumventing the apartment premises guard and the hangers-on around him – they were pretty helpful once I was in). The structure is at the corner of the premises, and has a bit of garden/open area nearby.
.First of the 19th c. ammunition stores
A little bit further is the second structure, within the premises of some government-type compound, behind a fence and locked gate, surrounded by thick vegetation.
.Second of the 19th c. ammunition stores
Further along is the third structure, this time within and occupying much of a small garden in a government housing complex. I would have just loved to be a fly on the wall of the discussions regarding the building of that government-modernist two-storied apartment block, and what to do with the 19th century ammunition store that had so obtrusively positioned itself right in the path of the new apartments coming up along the road! As it is, the structure was allowed to stand, juxtaposed so sensitively with the new construction.
.Third of the 19th c. ammunition stores
Which brings us to the fourth ammunition store, or what used to be the fourth ammunition store, or at least I think it was. All that’s left of this one, which is right next to the entrance of the army base, is the small vaulted entrance ante-chamber that led to the circular storage area. The circular room has been replaced with a more practical rectangular one, and the vaulted entrance blocked to form an enclosed part of the room.
.Fourth of the 19th c. ammunition stores (?)
This progression (or regression) of structures is a perfect examples of our general apathy for historic monuments, and how they disappear because of that apathy. Though not as important as other historical structures in the area (leave alone the city), they are still nearly 200 years old, and it would have been relatively easy to devise ways of displaying them and maintaining them better. However, if we look at how so many large and small colonial bungalows (some from the 19th century instead of the usual early-20th century New Delhi bungalows) in the neighboring Civil Lines area have being torn down to make way for newer construction, we’ll know that the condition of these ammunition stores is nothing surprising.