Be a Part of the Movement: Join Aligarh Historians in the Fight to Safeguard our Built Heritage!

The Tomb of Humayun built during the reign of Akbar and the Red Fort of Delhi are amongst the two jewel built heritage sites in the country and both are being tampered with: the first by handing it over to a private firm: The Agha Khan Trust, which “rebuilt” it; while the second is in the process of being handed over to another private group, the Dalmias.

Humayun’s Tomb and Agha Khan Trust

Agha Khan Trust before starting their work should have read the small book on Conservation by Sir John Marshall, considered the Bible for conservationists. The work of conservation does not translate to rebuilding, remaking or beautifying: it simply means to arrest the rot and arrest the decay. Completing the whole is not a work to be attempted by conservationists.

No doubt HT has been sparklingly “renewed” with replastering of interior surfaces, dome and finials. They may have also “authenticated” designs and patterns and tried to use (as closely as possible methods of making plasters- though full details in this regard are not fully known or described in Mughal sources; they may be known for the Ottomon empire); but none of this qualifies as per the rigour prescribed by John Marshall.

What they have virtually done is that they have completely scrapped the original and after replastering they have repainted. Howsoever “authentic” it is not Humayun’s – but a modern endeavour of a modern-day architect!

Mirza Ghiyas has now a partner with whom he shares the credits!

Nizamuddin Basti and Sundar Nursery

The whole of Nizamuddin Basti is going to suffer the same fate, as has the Tomb of Humayun, the Monuments in the so-called Sundar Nursery and the Adil Shahi Tombs and other structures in Bijapur and Golcunda. The Tomb of Khan-i Khanan is similarly being “renewed” (and vandalised) by Agha Khan Trust.

In spite the breast-thumping by Ratish Nanda of Aga Khan Trust, the professional body of Indian historians, the Indian History Congress has opposed the recently carried out preservation at historical monuments, as Humayun’s Tomb. “Preservation” does not translate as “modernization” or “rebuilding”. In spite of claims, many changes have been introduced in the design at the site which we condemn.

The Agha Khan Foundation has in fact played a lot with the original design and decoration in the interior of the monument. The Indian History Congress too has passed a strong resolution condemning it! I adviced R Nanda to have a dialogue with historians and those who are in the knowledge of Mughal design! Increase of footfalls in the monument is no proof of authenticity to original design. Nor is “beauty” which he claims to have bestowed on the said monument!

The IHC Resolution on Humayun’s Tomb ‘Conservation’ by Agha Khan Trust

The 75th IHC adopted a resolution on preservation of monuments and opposed the involvement of private agencies in restoring monuments. “We have opposed the involvement of private agencies like Aga Khan Trust and INTACH. No private agency has given any research on what scheme they are adopting or how they will preserve monuments.”

The resolution passed at the Annual Session of the 75th Session of the Indian History Congress held at JNU on 30 December 2013 is as follows:

Resolution 2

Preservation and Conservation of Monuments

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has adopted a document containing rules for conservation of monuments and archaeological sites and remains (“The National Conservation Policy”). There are, in addition, international practices governing preservation and conser-vation of ancient structures as well as detailed norms adopted by the Archaeological Survey of India itself. Many of these basic rules, however, appear to have been violated in the case of such conservation projects assigned by the ASI to private agencies. One notable example is Humayun’s Tomb. Here two principles, namely, strict use only of materials that were originally employed in construction and repair, and clear demarcation of the current additions in the name of restoration, have been clearly violated. Even colour-schemes appear to have been changed. Moreover, facilities are being provided to tourists in a manner that threatens to damage the environment of the monument.

The Indian History Congress is disturbed at what has happened at this World Heritage Site, and hopes that a full report on the so-called restorations and a fresh colour-scheme that have been devised by the private agency concerned, and how the lapses made can now be rectified. At the same time, until the matter is settled, no preservation and restoration work on other monuments by private agencies should be permitted.

Handing over of Fort of Shahjahanabad to Dalmia Group and IHC Resolution

As recently as May 2018, expressing serious concern over the maintenance of the historic Red Fort here being auctioned out to the Dalmia Bharat Group, the Indian History Congress (IHC) has called for an “impartial review” of the arrangement by “the Central Advisory Board of Archaeology or any other recognised body of experts”.

“The Indian History Congress is greatly perturbed at the announcement that Dalmia Bharat, a cement company with no known experience of maintenance of monuments, is being made the custodian of the Red Fort of Delhi, a major national monument. It has also been announced that other monuments, including the Taj Mahal, are also in line for being handed over to similar private parties,” said a statement issued by the IHC.

“The terms on which the Red Fort is to be handed over to Dalmia Bharat are disturbingly broad. The company can ‘construct’ as well as ‘landscape’, and it will run an ‘interpretation centre’ as well,” the statement added, picking holes in the MoU.

The IHC recalled that it had also “expressed dismay” over the permission offered to the Aga Khan Trust “to interfere with the basic structures, decorations and ornamentation of Mughal monuments in the Humayun’s Tomb complex and surrounding areas”.

“The way the Red Fort is being entrusted to Dalmia Bharat is still more troubling for the company has no claim to any experience in maintenance, conservation, preservation and interpretation of monuments,” it said.

“There is ample room for the fear that in order to attract tourist traffic it may propagate false or unproven interpretations of particular structures in the complex. Once such claims are set afloat, especially when they are of a sectarian character, it is found extremely difficult to get rid of them,” it added.

Appeal to All

We the Aligarh Historians, the members of the Centre of Advanced Study Department of History, as well as the Aligarh Historians Group condemn the attempts to play with our Monuments. A large number of other historians from Delhi to Hyderabad have joined hands to raise our voice against such blatant vandalism. Join us on 5th June and be a part of the Movement!