Special Reports

Petition to restore Lucknow's historic Rifa-e-Aam Club


Rifa-e-Aam Club, Lucknow was constructed around 1860 by the Nawabs of Awadh. It was a spot for holding events to bring ‘rifa’ [urdu for happiness] to all, including 'aam' [aadmi]. Mahatma Gandhi visited the building to give a speech on Hindu-Muslim unity on 15 October 1920. 26 April 1922 Jawaharlal Nehru and Vallabhbhai Patel made speeches at the club encouraging local people to intensify the Swadeshi movement.

When the signboards outside several clubs and gymkhanas signalled 'dogs and Indians' to stay out, Rifa-e-Aam welcomed dissenting voices, credit for which goes to the Raja of Mahmudabad.

The Progressive Writers Movement [Anjuman Tarraqi Pasand Mussanafin-e-Hind] was created in 10 April 1936 under the leadership of Syed Sajjad Zahir and Ahmed Ali. Soon a number of eminent progressive litterateurs like Saadat Hasan Manto, Ismat Chughtai, Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Mulk Raj Anand, to name a few, joined the movement. To cap it, presidential address was delivered by Munshi Premchand. In an address at the club in 1936, Munshi Premchand gave a call to speak and write about different types of oppression prevalent in British India.

Governments and bureaucracy has not taken any interest in preserving it. Reportedly, Archaeological Survey of India said it is not their mandate to look after the building as it is not listed as a protected monument.

The Rifa-e-Aam Club is now a garbage dump and a ragpickers delight. The building is deteriorating and the structure has developed ever-widening cracks. Vandals have etched their names on the walls and even cart away material. Weeds stick out of the walls from which the plaster is crumbling. There are two families who have occupied a few rooms and the terrace.

Several activists, organisations and associations have staged demonstrations and written letters to the authorities on the issue, appealing that the heritage structure be restored.

The famous Lucknow Pact of 1916 between Muslim League and Congress is wrongly believed to have been signed here. Actually was signed at Mahmudabad House, Kaiserbagh, Lucknow, according to Mohammed Amir Mohammad Khan, the son of the Raja of Mehmudabad.

To save the club, change.org has started a petition to Government of Uttar Pradesh, Local Citizens, Ministry of Culture UP, ASI, Union Minister, Archeological Survey of India, Uttar Pradesh State Archeological Department, Historians.

To sign the petition please click here: https://www.change.org/p/government-of-uttar-pradesh-local-citizens-rifa-e-aam-club-lucknow