Red Fort upkeep sparks battle between right wing and Marxist historians
The government’s decision to hand over the historic Red Fort to leading corporate group Dalmia Bharat for maintaining tourist amenities under the ‘adopt a heritage’ scheme has not only stoked a controversy among political parties but also sparked a feud among historians with contrasting ideologies.
Last week, opposition parties had questioned the government on the decision.
The Indian History Congress (IHC), a body of leftist historians, issued a statement on Wednesday demanding suspension of the deal with Dalmia Bharat till “the whole arrangement is impartially reviewed by the Central Advisory Board of Archaeology or any other recognised body of experts.”
While right wing historians have rubbished the IHC’s allegations, tourism minister KJ Alphons said that IHC has not read the memorandum of understanding (MoU) it has signed with Dalmia Bharat.
“It is greatly perturbed at the announcement that Dalmia Bharat, a cement company with no known experience of maintenance of monuments is being made the custodian of the Red Fort of Delhi, a major national monument,” Prof R Mahalakshmi, secretary of the IHC said in a statement.
Calling the conditions of handing over Red Fort to Dalmia Bharat ‘disturbingly broad’ she said, “The company can “construct” as well as “landscape”, and it will run an “interpretation centre” as well.”
The IHC further apprehends that “to attract tourist traffic it may propagate false or unproven interpretations of particular structures in the complex.”
“Once such claims are set afloat, especially when they are of a sectarian character it is found extremely difficult to get rid of them,” said the press statement.
Tourism minister Alphons dismissed the IHC’s fear as completely unfounded and said that IHC hasn’t read the MoU the government signed with and Dalmia Bharat.
“Had they studied the MoU, they wouldn’t have made such statements,” said Alphons.
Historians with allegiance with the right wing also rubbished IHC’s statement and alleged that it is spreading rumours.
Well-known historian Prof Makkhan Lal says that hundreds of monuments were buried along the Yamuna in the passage of time in Delhi and UP but IHC never bothered about them and when the government was trying to bring public participation in improving tourism amenities at Red Fort, IHC was misinterpreting it.
“Any government can only save monuments when public participate in the exercise. See what has happened to Tughlaqabad Fort. Two-third of the fort has been encroached. Can IHC issue any statement on that?” asked Prof Lal.
Another historian Prof Kapil Kumar from the Centre for Freedom Struggle and Diaspora Studies, Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) criticised IHC for expressing imaginary fears.
“I am surprised that Indian History Congress had no resolution to pass when the former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had ordered excavation for finding a treasure on the dream of a so-called baba,” said Prof Kumar.
He was referring to an excavation project at a fort in Daudiyakheda village of Unnao district of Uttar Pradesh by the Archaeological survey of India in 2013, ostensibly to find gold after a local seer Shobhan Sarkar claimed that 1,000 tonnes of yellow metal was buried there.
“The issue of heritage Protection, Management and Marketing need to be looked professionally in Modern context rather than spreading rumors that the Red Fort has been kept in mortgage,” Prof Kumar added.