Periods of glory and loss have often passed without marking a record in the public memory. Sometimes sung and sometimes unsung, like the tides of time, they have been lost, leaving behind footprints for coming generations to decode. These footprints lie scattered all over, and to speak specifically of Delhi, they lurk in the old cities and the old walls running parallel to the new sites of modern Delhi, the capital of the almost 71-year-old nation-state, India.
The old Mughal parks, tombs of the great kings and queens sometimes turn into places where the young, away from the gaze of the patriarchal society, find space and time to fall in love. While walking under the minar of the Qutub, the not so young-lovers too “accidentally” graze each other’s hands, breaking barriers of heteronormativity, caste and religion. The ruins opposite Purana Quila on Mathura Road sometimes transform into a playground for the neighbouring children where the old forgotten sounds of “run-run”, “hide-hide”, echoes against the walls of the Khair-ul-Manazil, a mosque built in 1561 and commissioned by Maham Anga — the chief nurse and political advisor to the teenage emperor Akbar, whose tomb lies north of Qutub Minar.
Laws governing the monuments
The silhouette of the Red Fort, the warmth of the winter sun softly glowing from across the Humanyun’s tomb, the rare visits of the peacocks in Lodhi gardens, the sprawling, beautiful chaos of the Jama Masjid, the deserted Adham Khan’s tomb, and many more such sites are governed by Acts aimed at conserving and protecting these heritage monuments. Article 49 of the Indian Constitution states:
“Protection of monuments and places and objects of national importance It shall be the obligation of the State to protect every monument or place or object of artistic or historic interests, declared by or under law made by Parliament to be of national importance, from spoliation, disfigurement, destruction, removal, disposal or export, as the case may be.”
Article 51A(f) says how we must work “to value and preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture”.
However, the law on conservation of monuments goes all the way back to the British era. The first Act to be implemented was Bengal Regulation XIX of 1810, which was followed by Madras Regulation VII of 1817. Later repealed, private property was not governed by these Acts. This was resolved by the Ancient Monuments Preservation Act, 1904 (Act No. VII of 1904) that provided for effective preservation and authority over the monument, particularly those, which were under the custody of the individual or private ownership. It had provisions for land acquisition for protection of monuments under Land Acquisition Act 1894. It also included restriction of mining, quarrying, blasting, etc.
In 1951, The Ancient and Historical Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (Declaration of National Importance) Act, 1951(AHMASR Act) was enacted. All the ancient and historical monuments and archaeological sites and remains protected earlier under ‘The Ancient Monuments Preservation Act, 1904′ (Act No. VII of 1904) were re-declared as monuments and archaeological sites of national importance under this Act. The Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958 (AMASR Act) provides for preservation of ancient and historical monuments and archaeological sites and remains of national importance. The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) functions under the provisions of this Act.
The ASI has been entrusted with the task of looking after almost 4,000 of monuments — on a meagre budget of a little over Rs 120 crore, routed through the Ministry of Culture. The Act prohibits construction in the “prohibited area”, an area of 100 metres around the protected area. Establishment of National Monuments Authority redefined 100 metres as prohibited and 100 to 300 metres asregulated area around the monument. Lok Sabha passed an amendment to AMASR Act in 2018 to allow the government to take up construction for loosely defined “public purpose” within prohibited areas.
Ministry of Culture has categorised monuments into 8 categories: World Heritage, Tentative World Heritage Sites, Sites identified for inclusion in Tentative List, Ticketed Monuments, Sites with an adequate flow of visitors identified for levying tickets, Living Monuments, Other Monuments in Urban/Semi Urban limits, and others – Heritage Zones, Archaeological Parks.