London: The India Club in London, a hub for Indian nationalists in the UK during the Indian independence movement in the 1930s and 40s, is facing partial demolition of its building. The Club, which has its roots in the India League which campaigned for Indian independence in Britain, had applied to Historic England for a listing as a historically important landmark to prevent the demolition.
However, the application was turned down this week on the grounds that there were similar organisations operating for the Indian community at the time.
“We are deeply disappointed with the decision which undervalues more than 50 years of India Club’s historic, social and cultural importance,” said Phiroza Marker, the manager of India Club.
“The rejection of the listing application is not only a personal blow to us as proprietors of 143 Strand, but also to the multitude of people who are intrinsically linked to the building through generations of their family history,” Ms Marker said.
“India Club has played a key role in immigrant history in the UK, as indicated by accounts from immigrants of the sub-continent that it was their first port of call and a home away from home,” she said.
The club, which has functioned as an Indian restaurant on The Strand in the heart of London since 1946, is located on the first floor of the 26-room Strand Continental hotel.
The freeholder of the building, Marston Properties, has put in an application with Westminster City Council for the “partial demolition and extension of existing seven-storey building with alterations at ground and basement levels” to create a new hotel.
The application has attracted an unprecedented 26 public appeals against such a move, with the club being categorised a “secret gem” and as having “unique historical value to Londoners and visitors”.
“We would urge Westminster City Council to reject the planning application and preserve India Club for future generations,” said Phiroza Marker, whose family has also collected over 21,000 signatures on an online petition for the council titled “Save the India Club”.
Her father Yadgar Marker is the director of Goldsand Hotels Limited, trading as The Strand Continental Hotel which houses the India Club. The family has been campaigning to prevent demolition since the news first emerged last year.
The Club is the contemporary incarnation of the India League established by Annie Besant in 1921 and then revived by Krishna Menon, India’s first High Commissioner to the UK, in 1929.
A number of Indian and British parliamentarians, including Lord Karan Bilimoria and Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, have backed the ongoing campaign to save its legacy.