‘It’s Not a Garden’: Historians, others condemn Jallianwala Bagh makeover

Historians have condemned the makeover of Jallianwala Bagh memorial, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugrated virtually on August 28. The recreation was a distortion of history of the site where the British troops massacred Indians, historians said.

PM Modi on Saturday, had inaugrated the renovated complex of Jallianwala Bagh a year and a half after it was closed for the revamp with four new galleries.

The renovation of the historic site, where hundreds of Indians had been killed by General Dyer of the British Army in 1919, has drawn widespread criticism.

While many have shown objection to the setting up of light and sound show at the site of great tragedy, several others have expressed disappointed for the covering up of bullet holes in the walls. The drastic renovation has lost buried the historic significance of the narrow entrance with sculptures.

Historian S Irfan Habib, historian and scholar Kim A Wagner, musician Vishal Dadlani and several others have condemned the renovation.

Reacting to the development, Historian S. Irfan Habib said that he was not opposed to additions like better toilets or a cafe for visitors, but the changes made had been “at the cost of history, cost of heritage”.

“It is absolutely gaudy…Why should there be murals on the wall? Changes the whole idea of the place from where Dyer entered to kill. Adding glamour to the little corridor changes the whole visual history. History itself is being re-written and renovated. This is the corporatisation of monuments,” he said.

Mr. Habib said that the well shouldn’t have been covered and the changes made were unnecessary and cosmetic in nature. “It is a very sad trend,” he added.

Taking it to Twitter, Kim A. Wagner, a London-based professor of history and author of Amritsar 1919 – An Empire of Fear and the Making of a Massacre, tweeted on August 28 that the revamping of the site “means that the last traces of the event have effectively been erased”.

Historian and former Jawaharlal Nehru University professor Chaman Lal said it was a “distortion of history”. The project had tried to “mystify and glamourise history”, he said.

“People visiting Jallianwala Bagh should go with a sense of pain and anguish. They have now tried to make it a space for enjoying, with a beautiful garden,” he said.

Jallianwala Bagh was not a beautiful garden, but a site where Indians gathered as they had on that fateful day when Dyer and his forces entered and fired on a peaceful crowd. Instead of restoration, the Centre has renovated the place, adding new features, he expressed disappointment.

The Archaeological Survey of India and NBCC, and developed by Ahmedabad-based Vama Communications had carried out the renovation project of Jallianwala Bagh Memorial.

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