Eminent historical buildings, including The National Museum, the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA), as well as the National Archives Annexe situated in New Delhi, are soon going to be disappearing vestiges of culture, after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government’s multi-crore Central Vista Project begins demolition as part of the redevelopment.
Other buildings designated to be demolished include the Shastri Bhavan, Krishi Bhavan, Vigyan Bhavan, Vice President's Residence, Jawahar Bhavan, Nirman Bhavan, Udyog Bhavan, Raksha Bhavan, making the total area to be demolished 4,58,820 square metres.
The National Museum holds several thousands of of invaluable artefacts, including rare statues of idols, original sculptures, priceless coins, paintings and artworks and jewellery dating back to the significant periods of the country’s rich political and cultural history.
These include the famous dancing girl of Harappa, Nataraja in Chola Bronze, relics of Buddha, Ganjifa cards, Tanjore paintings, and wood carved doors. These objects will be shifted to North or South Block, NDTV reported.
The main building of the National Archives will remain untouched, however, the annexe structure will be torn down and a new building will be constructed. The archival records kept here include 45 lakh files, 25,000 rare manuscripts, over 1 lakh maps and 1.3 lakh Mughal documents. The shifting of these documents is fraught with risk of loss or mishandling.
The Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts, which houses an opulent collection of heritage pieces, manuscripts and an extensive library will also be temporarily moved to the Janpath Hotel.
Last week, over 70 public intellectuals and scholars from India and all across the world, including eminent historian Romila Thapar, critic and scholar Gayatri Spivak and Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk penned an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, urging for a reconsideration of the government's Central Vista project, saying: "It is especially troubling that this extravagant project is moving ahead in the midst of a devastating pandemic. The current escalating health crisis calls for a pause and a reset. In the short term, all priorities and resources should be directed at combating the pandemic. In the long term, there should be public consultations so that the future of India's institutions, heritage architecture, and historical collections can be determined through a democratic process... The details of the Central Vista demolition are opaque. It is unclear, for example, how the National Museum art objects will be stored and eventually displayed."
Earlier this year in February, the centre had claimed that all Heritage buildings, marked to be affected by the projects, would be protected and renovation work would be undertaken following an approval of Heritage Conservation Committee (HCC). However, architects have questioned these claims.
Architect, urban planner, and conservation consultant AG Krishna Menon has said, "It is wrong from a town planning point of view that the original intent of the capital is being changed. The government claims that it is still conserving the heritage. Again, it is wrong because it is conserving a few buildings and that also the skeletons of the buildings. So in other words, what they're doing is the heritage is being conserved by conserving the building but hollowing out its meaning," NDTV quoted.