The Sardasmriti Bhaban, an auditorium on the bank of the Surma River, was built at Chandnighat area in Sylhet city.
With an aim to facilitate cultural activities, a traditional business family of Sylhet built the auditorium, popularly known as Sarada Hall, in the style of the Kolkata University Institute on a 39-decimal land in 1936.
Since then, the first auditorium in Sylhet has hosted various political, social and cultural events, including musical soiree and drama.
Later, the auditorium came under the management of Sylhet City Corporation (SCC).
However, the SCC has turned this traditional building and its premises into a deserted spot where wrecked vehicles of SCC and various machinery have been dumped.
A pile of books has been left inside the Sarada Hall. As a result, cultural activities have been stopped for a long time in the auditorium.
Due to the negligence of authorities concerned, the traditional building is decaying day by day.
This deliberate negligence towards heritage has created anger among the cultural activists in the city. Even after urging different government organizations they are not getting any fruitful results.
Foreign Minister and lawmaker from Sylhet-1 constituency AK Abdul Momen also has sent a DO (Demi Official) letter to the SCC mayor, urging to remove the rubbish from the Sarada Hall premises to pave the way to cultural activities again, but in vain.
Two other traditional establishments in Sylhet, Keane Bridge and Ali Amjad's Clock, are located next to the Sarada Hall. The city corporation has occupied the area adjacent to these establishments, and is using it as a car parking space.
Different service vehicles of the SCC are parked in this area throughout the day. As a result, the tourists who come to visit here fall into misery. People who come to enjoy the natural beauty of Surma River in the afternoon also face an embarrassing situation due to garbage carrying vehicles of the SCC.
The city dwellers said demolishing the old Nagar Bhaban of the SCC at Bandarbazar area of Sylhet city, the construction of the new building started in 2012. At that time, the SCC's office was temporarily shifted to the Pir Habibur Rahman Library, run by the city corporation, at Topkhana area on the bank of the Surma River. Thousands of books of the library were then brought and kept in piles inside the Sarada Hall. In addition, several offices of the SCC were shifted to the small buildings next to the main auditorium building.
At that time, the SCC officials said that the Pir Habibur Rahman Library would be reopened after the completion of the new Nagar Bhaban and the Sarada Hall would also be reopened for cultural activities, once books of the library are returned to the shelves.
In January 2018, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the new Nagar Bhaban of the SCC. After the inauguration, the SCC office was permanently shifted to the new building from the Pir Habibur Rahman Library. But, ironically, even after three and a half years, the library has not been reopened yet. All the books of the library are out of reach of the readers as those are still piled up inside the Sarada Hall which also is waiting to be reopened for cultural activities again, as assured by the SCC.
Visiting the area recently, this correspondent saw a number of wrecked vehicles of the SCC dumped inside the Sarada Hall complex. Water carts and bulldozer parts were scattered all over the hall premises. Accommodation for some SCC employees has also been arranged there. Most of the books brought from Pir Habibur Rahman library have already been ruined after being left in the hall room for a long time. Once a hotbed of cultural activity in Sylhet, the Sarada Hall has now become a garbage dump. The main building is also being decayed due to negligence.
City Corporation authorities have randomly parked cars on the banks of the Surma River, occupying the Keane Bridge and Ali Amjad's Clock areas next to Sarada Hall; although almost a decade ago, the Roads and Highways Department made a beautiful arrangement at this place for the city dwellers to roam and entertain by evicting the illegal structures on the river bank.
Rajatkanti Gupta, general secretary of the Sammilita Natya Parishad, Sylhet, said the hall was built and donated by an individual for cultural purposes. It is immoral to use this building for any other purpose. It is also a traditional building in Sylhet. It is the responsibility of all of us to protect it.
He said, "I have been demanding to renovate this building and make it a cultural complex on the whole area. Former Finance Minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith and current Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen have also agreed with our demand. The foreign minister sent a DO letter also to SCC Mayor Ariful Haque Chowdhury to take initiative in this regard."
Rajat said "The SCC mayor has also agreed with our demand and promised to remove SCC's rubbish from the traditional building. But, he is just wasting time."
"There is only one government auditorium in Sylhet named Kabi Nazrul Auditorium. Its rent is much higher and it is used for various government events throughout the year. As a result, many cultural organisations do not get the opportunity to use the auditorium. In this situation, I demand that Sarada Hall be opened for cultural activities as soon as possible," he added.
In this regard, SCC's Chief Executive Officer Bidhayar Roy Chowdhury said the SCC has no parking area of its own. As a result, our cars are parked at the river bank area. We have plans to acquire a place for our own parking lot. The DPP will be sent to the ministry soon. Once we have our own parking place, there will be no more garbage along the river.
Sylhet City Mayor Ariful Haque Chowdhury said, "We have a plan to build a full-fledged cultural complex around Sarada Hall. However, due to the ongoing pandemic, the initiative is being delayed a bit."