The Director General (DG) of the ASI has decided to take the seat once forcefully vacated by the unfortunate Last Grand Moughal, Bhahdur Shah Zafar. The DG is the new Sarakri Mughal, a new habitu, who has turned Red Fort into a habitat.
TILL DATE we have seen fake god-men, squatters and land grabbers occupying the prime lands in cities and towns. We have also seen the public occupying government lands. However, populating the historical monuments by ASI officials in the name of better services and protection of an old edifice is a new phenomenon, a new depth to which our bureaucracy could fall. It is like the old adage – Rakshak bane Bhakshak.
Now the Director General of the Archaeological Survey of India has decided to take the seat once forcefully vacated by the unfortunate Last Grand Mughal, Bhahdur Shah Zafar. The DG is the new Sarakri Mughal, a new habitué, who has turned Red Fort into a habitat.
Inside the colonial buildings at the 17th Century World Heritage Site, the ASI DG Gautam Sengupta and senior officials have developed two-bedroom sets. The Mughal building of Naubat Khana has been turned into an office. These quarters have undergone a makeover. Fancy tile-work, granite flooring, wooden interiors and air-conditioners are few of the facilities at their disposal at the new residents now.
These are the officials who are supposed to implement the policy of renovation and protection of historic sites.
If the memory of the public is not too short, let them recall the recent amendment in the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (Amendment and Validation) Act 2010. The amendment states: “No permission including carrying out any public work or project essential to the public or other constructions, shall be granted in any prohibited area on or after the date on which the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (Amendment and Validation) Bill 2010 receives the assent of the President.”
In 2003, the Army was also asked to vacate the Red Fort. There are guest houses located inside the historical building, but they belonged to the British period. It is interesting to note that all annexes for the concerned officers of Archeology, around the world, are temporary in nature.
According to Gurmeet Rai, conservationist and Director, Cultural Resource Conservation Initiative, “The spirit of the monument and its historic value should never be compromised when changes are made to it. Monuments should be put to adaptive reuse, officials should not abuse it.” The Comprehensive Conservation Management Plan for the Red Fort passed by the UNESCO says while the colonial structures can be used by officials, the Mughal buildings should be left untouched.
In violations of established precedents and an insult to the sacred memories and public interests, Naubat Khana, which houses the site manager’s office, has been redone with latest gadgets and new lavatories. Will these new incursions and innovation not damage the structure? They have put up a huge transformer next to the Hammam. Will it not pose a huge threat to the building in case of any malfunction?