The road leading up to Purana Qila
A slice of ‘modern history’ in the capital may have been permanently erased by authorities, with the demolition of a part of the old school building on the Purana Qila premises. The demolition, carried out around 10 days ago, is part of an extensive facelift exercise being undertaken inside the complex by the Archaeological Survey of India, in collaboration with the National Buildings Construction Company.
A public sector enterprise, NBCC had adopted the monument for upgradation and facelift under the Centre’s Adopt a Heritage scheme last year, a Ministry of Culture official said. The Rs 27 crore facelift project started a few months ago, with an October deadline.
In June, amid reports about the possible demolition of the Partition-era school building, several archaeologists and heritage experts raised a voice against the move. Former ASI director general BB Lal said, “The building was built after Partition, when refugees came to Purana Qila, as a school for their children. Even if it’s not Mughal or British, the structure has its own importance in modern history.”
Neera Misra, chairperson-trustee of the Delhi-based Draupadi Dream Trust, which promotes arts and culture, sent letters to the ASI, Ministry of Culture and PMO, asking them to intervene and stop the demolition of the “1947 Partition history-linked building”. Misra said, “I was assured at the time that the demolition will not happen.”
Even though ASI officials were unavailable for comment, when The Indian Express had contacted them in June, ASI had said in a written reply: “The earliest reference to imparting education to children of those who migrated to India after Partition relates to the… corridors and gardens of Quila-e-Kuhna mosque inside Purana Qila from August 1948 to December 1949. The said school was just a temporary arrangement for some time after 1949…”
An ASI archaeologist, who did not wish to be named, said, “The said building was not blocking the view of the fort, nor was it jarring in any other way. The ASI will demolish a building only if it’s an encroachment in the protected area or entails any illegal occupation. This wasn’t the case here.”
Meanwhile, the National Green Tribunal sought a report from NBCC on the revival of the iconic lake, after a plea alleged the project was being undertaken in a manner that would damage the environment. A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel directed NBCC to submit the report by September 24, when the matter would be heard next.
The direction came on a plea filed by Delhi-based R K Gupta, who contended that both the NBCC and ASI have put a plastic sheet on the bed of the lake, preventing groundwater recharge.
Also, the use of a JCB machine near the main entrance of the fort by NBCC had raised eyebrows. Experts contend that earth-moving equipment can’t be deployed in or close to heritage structures as it may damage them. The ASI said in the statement: “The elevated road leading to the main entrance of Purana Qila has been made of several layers of concrete in recent times. Removing those layers manually would have taken a lot of time; so we had to employ the equipment.”
“In the ASI guidelines, it’s not mentioned whether we can or cannot use the JCB. It has to be decided on site, as per the circumstances,” said an official, adding that “a British-era pathway has been revealed at the entrance after the removal of the concrete road, and it will be retained as it is”.
with the Express Morning Briefing