‘Hanging’ room in Delhi Assembly building can be opened for public: Speaker

New Delhi: Speaker Ram Niwas Goel said the Delhi Assembly building could once again open to the public when the “hanging” rooms found on the premises are renovated.

The building was constructed in 1912 and housed the Central Legislative Assembly between 1913 and 1926. Goel claims that the building became unusable after 1926 and that British administrators decided to conduct tests for “revolutionaries” in the building. He said that touch-screen kiosks are also running, giving details of the freedom struggle and the Central Legislative Assembly. Facilities will be set up to show films on the history of the Assembly and its members from 1912 onwards.

He said that a tunnel, whose inauguration is at one end of the Assembly Hall, could also be opened to the public. The horseshoe-shaped tunnel with the assembly hall was cleaned up and lights were installed a few years ago. Goyal said the tunnel carried “revolutionaries” from the Red Fort to the building that then served as a court under the British. The prisoners were tried inside the hall and the convicts were hanged. Where Goel said the gallows stood, is now a room full of files and papers.

He said that the PWD has prepared a design for the renovation of the room and it is likely to be ready by August 15 next year. The Legislative Assembly is currently open to the public on Independence Day and Republic Day.

He said that as far as the tunnel is concerned, the horseshoe shape will be retained. The cover of “Tunnel” opened on Friday. Situated across the room from the speaker’s chair in the assembly hall, there is a pit, high enough to enter. It seemed to branch off in three directions, none of which was high enough to stand up or go in. Goel said that of the three branches, one comes from the Red Fort, the other leads to the gallows, and the third is towards the entrance to the assembly hall, which probably served as a court.

Other officials in the Legislative Assembly, however, speculated that the “tunnel” may have been a horse-shoe-shaped structure installed by the British for insulation. The distance between the Red Fort and the Delhi Vidhan Sabha is now a little over 6 km.

Rana Safavi, the historian and author of the city, said that it was highly unlikely that a tunnel would connect the Red Fort and the Vidhan Sabha. “The British then had sufficient power and did not need tunnels to hide and transport prisoners. Although it is difficult to comment without seeing the structure, the ‘tunnel’ may have had a more mundane purpose,” she said. He said that the construction of the Red Fort was completed in 1648, while the assembly was constructed only in 1912.

The building, though about 109 years old, is not protected by the ASI. ASI sources said Delhi government officials had not recently contacted them to study or ascertain the details of structures found in the building.