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Jallianwala Bagh fast losing its historic character to pace of urbanisation

Jallianwala Bagh fast losing its historic character to pace of urbanisation

Commercial buildings with their windows facing Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar on Monday. Photo: Sunil Kumar



Tribune News Service

Neeraj Bagga

Amritsar, January 1

Even as demands to restore the heritage structure of the Jallianwala Bagh to its original form faded long back, now people who are raising hotels around it are altering its surroundings.

A stroll in the Jallianwala Bagh does not connect with its colonial-era past but to a green garden full of expensive construction material used in contemporary structures. If that was not enough, now four to five storied hotels have come up with their windows opening towards the Bagh.

Gurinder Singh Johal, president of the Amritsar Foundation, said many hotels have come up around the martyrs’ memorial and it was a matter of serious concern that hotels had windows opening towards the Bagh. He said efforts to change its character from a memorial to a picnic spot should immediately be stopped. “If hotels put up display boards toward the Bagh, even then it is a sheer insult to the martyrs.”

Internal surroundings of the Jallianwala Bagh are no longer commensurate with the body of literature and information presented in old pictures, journals, newspapers, documentaries and movies. Experts are of the view that the present and future generations will have difficulty in relating with the past.

Originally, there was an arch at the narrow entrance over which ‘Jallianwala Bagh’ was written in red colour, symbolising the blood of Indians spilled over the land. It was removed before the commencement of beautification drive.

Conservationists feel that the change of historic character of any monument is against national and international rules. They point out that the report of the National Commission on Urbanisation, published in 1988, categorically stated that neither an elevated road nor a flyover or a road widening scheme should be allowed in the historical towns.

Also, the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), with its headquarters in Paris, stated in its guidelines issued in 1987 that any activity that destroys the historic character of the town should not be allowed by the government.

Kulwant Singh Ankhi, retired school principal, said several historic features of the Bagh had already been lost. For instance, a marble plaque replaced the pedestal which described the point from where General Dyer had ordered to shoot innocent people. The Amar Jawan Jyoti, which was originally in the centre of the Bagh, had been shifted to a corner. The original character can now only be seen in old pictures. Efforts to maintain the remaining character should be maintained, he said.

Amritsar DC Ghanshyam Thori refused to comment on the matter saying it was under the jurisdiction of the Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial Trust. Trust officials stated that they have been taking up the matter with the authorities concerned to prevent the trend.

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