Special Reports

161st anniversary of 1857 observed with a march against "sale" of Red Fort

New Delhi (10 May 2018): On the occasion of 161st anniversary of first War of Independence (10 May 1857), Anhad organised a joint public procession ‘Padyatra’ from Rajghat to Red Fort here in Delhi today protesting the “sale” of Red Fort.

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, convinces us 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 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.

In the long arc of its 370-year-old existence, the Red Fort has just gone from being an iconic symbol of India’s resistance and independence – to also becoming a world heritage site, one of the three in Delhi. So why such a symbol is handed over to a private corporate entity?

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.”

Sanjeev from Janwadi Lekhak Sangh was agitated at this move of the Modi government. He reacted by saying “It is irresponsible behaviour of the government. The Dalmia Group will have new construction, and landscaping rights in Red Fort, which is not acceptable. Our history and national heritage both cannot be given in the hands of a corporate.”

Ovais Sultan Khan, social activist and Managing Trustee of Anhad said “The very idea of India is under ultra right-wing corporate siege. The people, history, heritage, monuments, and livelihood all are under severe fascist communal attack. Red Fort is a symbol of our national sovereignty, we can’t agree with the idea of giving it to the corporate hands. 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!’".   

Anhad jointly organized this procession with 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.

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