The Indian History Congress, a professional and academic body of Indian historians, on Wednesday said it was greatly perturbed by the government’s decision to let a private company adopt the Red Fort under its heritage preservation scheme.
“The terms on which the Red Fort is to be handed over to Dalmia Bharat are disturbingly broad,” the organisation said, noting that the company did not have any known experience of maintaining monuments. “The company can ‘construct’ as well as ‘landscape’, and it will run an ‘interpretation centre’ as well.”
The organisation of historians said that it was afraid that the company might “propagate false or unproven interpretations of particular structures in the complex” to attract tourists. “Once such claims are set afloat, especially when they are of a sectarian character, it is found extremely difficult to get rid of them.”
The Indian History Congress said that the Central Advisory Board of Archaeology or any other recognised body of experts should review the deal, and till then the government’s decision to lease out the fort should remain suspended.
The organisation was founded in Pune in 1935 with the aim of promoting scientific study of Indian history.
The Centre on Sunday clarified that Dalmia Bharat’s decision to adopt the Red Fort did not mean that the monument had been handed over to the company. The Ministry of Tourism said that the ‘Adopt a Monument’ scheme was essentially a non-revenue generating project that was meant to develop “responsible tourism” in India. Opposition parties such as the Congress and the Trinamool Congress, however, criticised the government’s move and accused it of mortgaging India’s symbol of Independence.
Meanwhile, the Centre has decided to hand over the maintenance of Kaziranga National Park and three other historical monuments in Assam’s Sivasagar district to JTI Group, a travel company, The Assam Tribune reported on Wednesday.
The monuments in Sivasagar district proposed to be handed over to the firm are Rang Ghar, one of the oldest amphitheaters in Asia; Ahom palace Kareng Ghar; and Sivadol, located on the banks of Sivasagar river, and built in the Ahom era.
The “Adopt a Heritage” scheme was launched in September to allow private and public sector corporations to adopt most of India’s top heritage sites. The companies will be responsible for building, operating and maintaining tourism infrastructure at 105 monuments and natural heritage sites up for adoption.