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Netaji Bose statue in space vacated by King George V not appropriate, say heritage activists

Bose is our great hero, and his statue could have been installed elsewhere in Delhi. But, to give him a space earlier occupied by a British ruler of India, and that too which was a memorial built after the king's death, is not suitable by any stretch of imagination

Kunal Dutt | Updated on: Sunday, January 23, 2022, 11:20 PM IST

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New Delhi: Nearly 50 years after a statue of Subhas Chandra Bose replaced that of King Edward VII in Old Delhi, 'Netaji' is set to take the hallowed space left behind by his son King George V under an ornamental canopy facing the India Gate.

In 1939, an imposing marble statue of King George V at the site near India Gate was unveiled by the then viceroy as a memorial to the British monarch under whose reign the capital of 'New Delhi' was built, according to archival records. However, both statues were ousted in the late 1960s.

The canopy at the India Gate, which has been lying empty since 1968, will now house a granite statue of Netaji, with official sources saying its installation will be a case of India "reclaiming" its history.

A section of historians and heritage activists, however, have lamented the "sudden transition" of "this sacred landscape", and said, any change in this heritage precinct should have been done only after "due deliberations and proper public consultations".

Historian and author of "Connaught Place and the Making of New Delhi", Swapna Liddle, feels, the canopy should have "remained empty" as a "symbol of the end of the Raj".

"Statues inspire curiosity, and with time can assume a controversial nature. And, while removal of George V's statue was done in a nationalistic wave seen post-Independence, I feel the canopy should have been left unoccupied. No, one person only belongs there, there are too many heroes who made our India free. It's not appropriate to install any single leader's statue," she said.

Other historians also recalled the time in the late 80s when there was a proposal to install a statue of Mahatma Gandhi in the vacated canopy, but it faced a lot of opposition, and eventually the planned statue was moved to Parliament House complex.

Heritage activist Sohail Hashmi who conducts heritage walks in the city, underlined that a project of such dramatic a scale, should have been undertaken only after "proper and due consultations with the public, including experts and not suddenly announced, as if, it is some magic trick being performed".

"Bose is our great hero, and his statue could have been installed elsewhere in Delhi. But, to give him a space earlier occupied by a British ruler of India, and that too which was a memorial built after the king's death, is not suitable by any stretch of imagination," he argued.

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Published on: Sunday, January 23, 2022, 11:20 PM IST