20 September, 2020

Tomb Raiders

Heritage conservation in India is a noisy Babel, and history and its many signposts are the worst victims

T. Narayan
Tomb Raiders
Is it the Big Conservation Fight in its uncut version? Or is it an elite rendition of 'fish market' squabbles? The babel of voices emanating from the various lobbies involved in protecting heritage monuments is getting louder and uglier. Ideology, personal agendas and acrimonious polemics on the basics of conservation have made 'heritage' a contested term in India.

With the army deciding to move camp from Delhi's Red Fort after a century and a half and pass the monument in its entirety to the Union culture ministry, temperatures are likely to soar in an already raging conservation debate. Focus has been squarely on this 350-year-old monument after a PIL was filed by a group of experts in the Supreme Court against the ASI, which is under the ministry.

The dispute has only gone on to show that in the absence of synchrony between the ideology and practice of heritage conservation, everyone in the war zone—conservation architects, NGOs, self-appointed guardians of heritage, bureaucrats, ministers, and culture czars and czarinas—has his or her two bits of wisdom to...


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