(India Shall Not Brook the Dalmia Deal over Lal Qila)

The Modi government has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Dalmia Bharat group whereby the latter will ‘adopt’ the iconic Red Fort for a period of five years in lieu of a sum of Rs 25 crore. The government justifies this agreement as a commercially beneficial move which will yield some revenue to the government while the company concerned will look after the maintenance of the monument as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility under the government’s ‘adopt a heritage’ or ‘Monument Mitra’ scheme. The Modi government also attributes this decision to a policy adopted by the previous government and to a parliamentary committee headed by TMC MP Derek O’Brien which has identified a list of dozens of monuments for such corporate adoption.

The explanation offered by the government has hardly answered any of the questions. The Red Fort is the most historic of India’s monuments that has been so intimately associated with glorious moments of India’s freedom movement. Why should it be left to corporate care at all? Why cannot the state look after such iconic heritage sites? Talking about the Red Fort, there is a crying need for urgent measures of conservation while the MoU is apparently only about maintenance. Why should a cement company be allowed to use a monument of the stature of Red Fort to advertise its brand by simply maintaining a few toilets and canteens?

The Dalmia group has absolutely no experience or expertise in maintaining any historic monument. If anything, it is infamous for deserting the Dalmianagar town of Bihar, closing down its own factories and leaving its own workers without jobs and wages. Of course it has the right credential in the eyes of the Modi government for the role of the group patriarch Vishnu Hari Dalmia as a leader of the Viswa Hindu Parishad and as a sponsor of the Ayodhya agitation which incidentally led to the demolition of the Babri Masjid, a relic of history from the early 16th century. It is no secret that the Sangh-BJP establishment is bent upon distorting and damaging the entire Mughal era architecture in India, the iconic Taj Mahal not excluded.

The ‘adoption’ of the Red Fort by the ‘Dalmia Bharat’ group can therefore only be seen in the context of the BJP’s continuing assault on history. On the 161st anniversary of the great revolt of 1857, India must say a loud NO to this dubious Dalmia deal for the historic Lal Quila.