The century-old Bradlaugh Hall in Lahore, which bore witness to
the freedom struggle and valiant leaders like Lala Lajpat Rai,
Surendranath Banerjee, Jawaharlal Nehru and Bhagat Singh, is in a
dilapidated condition now and has become a sanctuary for criminal
The building which was a centre of cultural activity for over half
a century, has seen a complete turn of fate. What should have been
preserved as a museum of political revolution in Lahore now lies
in shambles, a feature in the Daily Times said.
Closed since 2009, the building has become a sanctuary for
criminals. There are around 25 to 30 families living there, and
there is also a printing press.
The issue of preserving the hall has been raised in the Punjab
assembly, and the government has been asked to take concrete steps
to preserve the national asset.
Named after Charles Bradlaugh, a British parliamentarian, it was
inaugurated in 1900 by Surendranath Banerjee, the then president
of the Indian National Congress.
Bradlaugh was a staunch supporter of the freedom movement.
Unlike his fellow British conservatives, Bradlaugh belonged to a
different school of thought. He was one of the most famous
atheists of his time who refused to take oath on the Bible when
elected to parliament. He was also one of those parliamentarians
who said Indians should be allowed to choose their own fate.
The British government could not appreciate his sympathy for
Indians, and so they initially took away from him the contracts of
laying down railway tracks. Later, it ordered him to leave the
Perhaps the greatest contribution to this hall came from Lala
As part of Mahatma Gandhi's non-cooperation movement, he founded
inside the hall the National College to impart quality education
to Indians who did not want to join British institutions.
Former Indian prime minister and freedom fighter Inder Kumar
Gujral described the hall in a different tone. He said this was
where his political journey began, where he and others formed
their first students' union, and where they had heard the
revolutionary speeches of Jawaharlal Nehru for the first time.
After Partition in 1947, the famous hall reopened as the Milli
Technical Education Institute. However, because of a dispute
between the directors, one of them took possession of the hall and
rented it out to private academies.
Finally, the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB), claiming to be
the legal owners of the property, took possession of the building
and it has been closed since 2009.