It is the year 1911. The British Indian government has just decided to shift the capital of their prized colony, India, from the inconveniently placed Calcutta to the far more accessible and significant seat of power- Delhi. Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker have been tasked with the significant duty of creating an all-encompassing seat of power. The power corridor in Delhi, also known as the Central Vista, is designed to be pleasing to the eye, the history of India, and to assimilate the various influences within this multicultural country. The Rajpath connects India Gate to the Rashtrapati Bhavan, a grand residence for the head of state in India, and is the ultimate power corridor in India. The Secretariat, the various Bhavans and Houses representing the federalist structure of India, and most importantly, the Parliament. The building of the Indian Parliament witnessed the birth of our country, with Jawaharlal Nehru giving his famous ‘tryst with destiny speech’ in this hallowed arena. The Parliament House has seen famous and infamous bills being passed, defections and bipartisanship across the parties and is irrevocably interwoven with the history of our people. This is only a fraction of the significance of the Central Vista, which this government wants to redevelop.
There are plans to raze the Parliament and the Secretariat, and to deforest the green areas that are so pleasing to the eye around India Gate. The monument is dedicated to the bravery of Indian soldiers shown in World War II and the India Pakistan War of 1972. It was designed as a memorial for recognizing the sacrifice and the bravery of our countrymen by the King of the United Kingdom, and generations have been inspired by this symbol. It has also served as a spot for people to gather and protest against the excesses or the inadequacies of the government, which, when considering the bravery required to pick a cause and cause social change, is very fitting. Construction orders have been given for buildings in the area around India Gate. The government has passed orders that no building must be taller than the India Gate itself- what a comforting thought. I have had the privilege to salute the ‘Amar Jyothi‘ without wading through government parking lots and security posts. It saddens me that many other may not experience this moment of inspiration, respect, and recognition.
Enough has been said on the immense waste of money and resources this redevelopment is, and the irreparable damage that it can cause. I am infinitely more concerned about the larger issue- that of a government that seems so keen to erase history and substitute it with their greying, concrete, soulless cronyism. Why does awarding contracts to some ‘close’ companies have to come at the cost of these once-perennial symbols of India? More importantly, what does it speak about us as a nation when there is no respect for permanence, for history, for a holistic depiction of our shared past and our common future?