On 10th May, the anniversary of India’s First War of Independence of 1857, citizens of Delhi came together to march from Rajghat to the Red Fort in Delhi – to protest the Modi Government’s shocking move to give the iconic Red Fort to the corporate Dalmia Group for ‘adoption’. Civil society organizations, cultural-literary groups, teachers & students associations, intellectuals, artists, historians, students, children and activists joined the procession in large numbers.
With the slogan “No ‘Company Raj’ Again!”, this Padyatra was a protest against Narendra Modi’s BJP Government’s decision to involve a private enterprise, Bharat Dalmia Group for the “maintenance” of Red Fort. The MOU allows Bharat Dalmia Group to place their company’s name on signages inside the fort, and to establish interpretation centers in the name of providing brief history of the monument. The Right Wing ideological leanings of the owner of Bharat Dalmia, said the protesters, made it clear that the purpose of these “interpretation centres” will be to “misinterpret” the history of India. In line with RSS’s efforts of rewriting History and erasing History according to their whims and fancies.
The Red Fort is not merely a symbol of the Indian freedom struggle against the colonial British rule — the 1857 War of Independence was led by Bahadur Shah Zafar, as a leader of all Indians from this place, which is why the first Prime Minister of India Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and every Prime Minister since has addressed the nation from its ramparts each year on August 15 to mark our Independence Day.
Historian Sohail Hashmi, known for his intimate knowledge of Delhi’s architectural and cultural heritage, spoke at Rajghat, pointing out that while a Parliamentary Standing Committee was considering a proposal for corporate participation in the “maintenance” of several other monuments, Red Fort was not among those proposed monuments. Where, then, was the decision taken to give it to the Dalmia Group, and why?
Dipankar Bhattacharya, General Secretary of CPIML joined the procession and said “1857 marked India’s first war of independence – waged by Hindus and Muslims unitedly against the ‘Company Raj’ of the East India Company. Today, the Modi Govt like the British are playing Divide and Rule, spreading communal hatred, and are handing over our country’s land and resources and even the Red Fort – from where the PM addresses the nation – to the Company Raj again!”
Maimoona Mollah of CPI-M said: “In its ill-founded zeal for privatisation, this government is doling out the Red Fort which is an icon of India’s freedom struggle. Also, anything associated with the M word is an anathema to the RSS masters.”
Ovais Sultan Khan, social activist and Managing Trustee of Anhad said “Our ancestors fought against the ‘Company Raj’ of East India Company and British Colonial Empire and we will also struggle against the divisive politics of hate, bigotry and violence, allowing corporate companies to re-establish a new Company Raj. We say ‘No Company Raj Again!’”
Kavita Krishnan of AIPWA, Sucheta De of AISA, Sanjeev from Janwadi Lekhak Sangh, Ram Naresh from Jan Sanskriti Manch, Sangwari and several other groups and activists also participated in the march.
The procession was organized by Anhad, AISA, Aman Biardari, Centre for Dalit Literature and Art, Dalit Lekhak Sangh, Democratic Teachers’ Front, IPTA, Jan Sanskriti Manch, Janwadi Lekhak Sangh, Progressive Writers’ Association, SFI, and other groups.