| Ol' Danny, who regularly breaks wind is mostly harmless
| in omparision. How many laws were broken in all?
| anyone counting? Who "recognised" Raj Rewal (wasn't he
| an "eminent" architect until recently?
|
| -- Admin-IN, who moves incognito and is mostly unrecognizable

http://plan.architexturez.net/site/profession/awards/akaa/041129

Aga Khan Award ceremony at Humayun's Tomb, 27.11.2004
In Delhi on 27 November 2004, flagged by astrologers for rare confluence
of favourable signs for weddings and alliances, ostentation
unembarrassed by riches raged in Saturday night fever. The party to
humble all parties was hosted by no less than the Aga Khan at Humayun's
Tomb, a celebration that history has no choice but to flag for rare
humiliation.

Use of land and buildings in Delhi is governed by Delhi Development Act,
an Act of Parliament, through stipulations of Delhi Master Plan
(revised, 1990) about activities permissible in various types of
premises. Activities not permitted - such as commercial functions in
residential farmhouses or private functions in historical monuments -
attract penalties. Historical monuments in India are governed also by
the Ancient Monuments & Archaeological Sites & Remains Act, 1958, also
an Act of Parliament, that guarantees public access and prohibits
holding, except in pursuance of a recognised religious usage or custom,
of any meeting, reception, party, conference or entertainment except
under and in accordance with a permission in writing by Central
Government, permission that obviously cannot be granted in contravention
of other law. Moreover, access after sunset, otherwise prohibited by
law, presumably cannot be permitted even under this rule. It has taken a
special Supreme Court intervention to open, for the first time this
weekend, the Taj for viewing on Full Moon night, subject to several
restrictions being monitored by the Apex Court. Any use of historical
sites, in any case, must be respectful of history. Humayun's Tomb is
tomb, not pleasure pavilion, of the Indian Emperor Humayun. It bears
historical association with the summary execution of three Indian
princes, sons of Indian Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar, by the British -
surely a national tragedy if not national humiliation. The Americans
would not tolerate a private banquet on WTC site; President Bush would
not preside over a private award ceremony in Ford Theatre where
President Lincoln was assassinated; even the British would not allow a
private banquet at Tower of London or BBC to telecast live its occasion;
the Japanese would not permit such a thing in Hiroshima; South Koreans
would not allow revelries at Samjeondo. But at Humayun's Tomb in Delhi,
a celebration not allowed by sovereign law or national sentiment was not
only hosted - by a party not only private but also foreign, His Highness
the Aga Khan - but also attended by, among others, Lieutenant Governor
of Delhi and, as chief guest, Prime Minister of India, and telecast live
by DD-News, the government's news channel.

The Lieutenant Governor was not even mentioned by name, not even by
DD-News commentators, and only shown seated in front row in the audience
as it waited for the host and his chief guest to arrive. Though the
official press release from PMO starts, "The Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan
Singh gave away the 9th Agha Khan Award for Architecture", His Highness
had already given away the first of his awards before he remembered to
give the Prime Minister seated besides him on the stage any cue and for
several moments Dr Manmohan Singh was visibly confused about what was
expected of him.

The celebration was purportedly for awards for excellence in
architecture, but let there be no mistake - excellence in architecture
was not honoured. Sure, His Highness rewarded seven projects, but what
was celebrated was only his empire and agenda of the consortia in which
it is business or cultural partner. His speech, like the media run-up of
five days including his interview telecast on DD-News after the
ceremony, waxed eloquent only about his worldview and the business of
his Network and the processes of his Award for rewarding excellence in
conformity therewith. He clearly said that presence of international
guests who have "prominent and responsible positions at home" was his
honour and to "recognize" winners of his awards was his pleasure.

In a press interview of the same day his Secretary General "recognized"
by name all of three Indian architects, all of whom have been serving on
the independent Master Jury for His Highness's awards. Other Indian
architects and others "recognized" by His Highness's Development Network
were presumably also invited. Other Indian architects were stopped from
entering Humayun's Tomb, open to public from sunrise to sunset by law.
Mr Neehar Raina, Delhi-based architect of the last of seven Indian
projects to win the Award was not even invited - even though the
circumstances in which that award was won (only to extent of
certificate, after a "controversy" that arose from lapse on part of
independent Master Jury leading to an NGO claiming - in name of barefoot
architecture - the trophy and cash prize, besides honour, at the 8th
cycle award ceremony at Citadel of Aleppo, Syria) did call for the Aga
Khan to felicitate Mr Raina in this award ceremony even if it was not
being held in Delhi. Instead, Mr Raj Rewal, "recognised" Delhi-based
architect who was on the errant Master Jury of the 8th cycle, was
honoured with privilege of giving the curtain raiser interview telecast
just before the live telecast of the 9th cycle award ceremony.

None of the seven projects that won the 9th cycle award being celebrated
in Delhi are Indian. References were made to the 7 Indian projects among
the 97 awarded in the last 27 years of the award. Three of these were
inconsistent with sovereign law. The honouring of an NGO for Mr Raina's
professional work in the 8th cycle is inconsistent with Indian
Architects' Act. The two projects honoured in Indore - Slum Networking
(7th cycle) and Aranya low-income housing (6th cycle) - involve Indore
Master Plan violations. At the 9th cycle ceremony, Tilonia's
barefoot-architecture and Aranya were not mentioned. Slum Networking,
however, was - by Mr Rewal, by DD-News commentator, and by Prime
Minister. Prime Minister and Mr Rewal mentioned it in appreciation of
the range of the award (with Mr Rewal erroneously describing the
city-wide project as improvement of a slum area). The commentator's
mention included name of the awardee, Mr Himanshu Parikh, and was
accompanied by a visual - of a cluster of squalid jhuggis along a nullah
and two grubby half-naked children - as incongruous in a dossier of
awarded projects as was the specific reference to Madhya Pradesh in news
reports about President's request to the Aga Khan to expand his
Network's work in India, reiterated in the hope, expressed by the
commentator at the end of the telecast, about India receiving awards in
future for projects as in Indore and Bhopal.

This Indore incongruity might mean little to most. To me it represents
most extreme professional humiliation and to explain that I need to
digress to make the connection between the award given in 1998 and what
was, in effect, its reiteration in 2004.

DfID funded city-wide slum upgrading in Indore affected directly 80000
slums families and the city as a whole and was nothing short of civic
disaster - with choked drainage, ground water contamination, disease and
deaths - as established by the impact assessment study commissioned by
none other than DfID. In 1997 I had done that study as senior
consultant, reported my findings to city, state and central governments,
lodged my protest with DfID, agencies that had identified the project as
Indian best-practice to be selected as global best-practice at
Habitat-II in 1996 and to UN-Habitat, also on account of Habitat Award
in 1993, and quit the mainstream in protest against all-round
indifference to tragic truth. In 1998 the project got the Aga Khan
Award. I protested to all again, with reference also to Aranya (which is
practically non-existent), wrote an article in The Hindu and made
presentations at Indian Institute of Architects' (IIA) annual convention
at Vizag and, in early 1999, at Institute of Town Planners (ITPI) in Delhi.

The last, a power point presentation in context of Indore Master Plan,
Madhya Pradesh Patta Act and HUDCO / state policy land reservations for
the poor (all disregarded in the two winning projects) was also made as
public presentation in Indore with help of a small NGO called Deenbandhu
/ Jhuggi Basti Sangharsh Morcha (JBSM) that had carried out an Oxfam
survey in 1997-98 that also found no evidence of city-wide slum
improvement. The public presentation led to an invitation to meet the
press and access to local newspaper archives, where I was able to
unravel the project history or, rather, scam. My paper based on this was
published (and also given prize for best paper of the volume) by Habitat
International (the professional journal, not civil society coalition HIC).

In 1999 schools on prime sites were being closed in Indore by opening
schools in community halls built under the slum project and I provided
professional support (booklet and exhibition) for Deenbandhu / JBSM to
protest and when I sat in protest against the IIA and Council of
Architecture outside the IIA's next convention in Indore after they
refused to visit Aga Khan awarded projects, Deenbandhu / JBSM joined me.
We also collaborated in the protest against closure / demolition of TB
Sanatorium housed in a Patrick Geddes building near Indore, while Delhi
based “eminent” architects were sourcing British funds to set up a
Patrick Geddes Centre, to make way for unplanned IIM on excessive site,
a case that I included in presentations in architecture colleges, etc,
and assisted Deenbandhu / JBSM in finding a lawyer (who later became
counsel for most of my clients’ Master Plan implementation litigation in
Delhi) to take to Supreme Court, where it was lost only after they lost
interest in it.

When DfID's Indore model was extrapolated to draft national slum policy
I drew attention to the policy's source in whatever way I could, on one
occasion, with Deenbandhu and their friend from HRLN and mine from
CIDCO, at Mr Himanshu Parikh's presentation in Mumbai on a platform
where, incidentally, Mr Rahul Mehrotra (Mumbai Architect and Urban
Planner on the 9th cycle Master Jury) was also present. On another
occasion, at a meeting of professionals that Mr Jagmohan had called when
he was urban development minister, I reacted sharply and at length to
the support, uncalled for by the discussion on hand, that Mr Romi Khosla
(who also works for the Foundation in some responsible capacity)
extended to “their”’ project.

Much of the foregoing is chronicled in my book (Slumming India, 2001) in
a chapter called The Emperor's New Clothes. I do not know exactly how or
why, but the proposal to extrapolate Indore to state-wide project in
Madhya Pradesh as well as draft slum policy were back-burnered then.

By 2001 (by when I was in the midst of my self-imposed task of
diagnosing anomie in urban development by tracking Master Plan revisions
in context of twin dynamics of atrophy in professional institutions and
political parties and ascendancy of para-professionalism and
civil-society and by devising and testing, in Delhi, rigorous mechanisms
for democratic citizens’ participation in Master Plan processes),
Deenbandhu had got FCRA clearance and was participating in regional /
national civil society policy discourse, including with DfID,
UN-Habitat, HIC, COHRE, HRLN, Action-Aid, Delhi groups engaged in
activism against Master Plan, etc. We collaborated no further.

In 2002 its convenor, Rajiv John George, became convenor of a national
forum for housing rights (NFHR, mentioned in 2000-2002 activity report
of COHRE). In 2003, Action-Aid (whose regional director Mr Harsh Mander
was, incidentally, Chief Secretary to Madhya Pradesh Government when the
Indore slum project was underway) arranged for Ms Shabana Azmi and Ms
Arundhati Roy to release a book by the Delhi group in NFHR that
abrasively sets out their anti Master Plan position, most identified
with one Dunu Roy. In January 2004 all of them were together at World
Social Forum in a housing rights event that criticized Indian planning
law and profession. Public debate on their position was demanded in a
statement signed by qualified professionals, and aegis for this
requested from organisers of WSF and parallel anti-imperialism forum MR
and from various constitutional authorities and professional
institutions. The statement was forwarded by President of India to
Secretary MoUD on 11.02.2004. On 13.02.2004 Pushta clearance, imminence
of which was evident at time of WSF but apparently not taken up by the
housing-rights-activist discourse there, began.

In April, while Pushta was being evicted, Rajiv John George visited
Delhi - to speak, along with DfID, Action-Aid, etc, at some discussion
on the Oxfam Lukhnow slum study. On 01-04 October NFHR held its second
“big” event, after WSF, the India Habitat Campaign for UN World Habitat
Day - in Delhi, ironically based next to Humayun's Tomb. It demanded
from UPA government, curiously in name of its National Common Minimum
Programme, the (DfID) draft slum policy of NDA government, gathered on
Gandhi Jeyanti to mourn Pushta eviction, and specifically protested only
the so-called eviction of Action-Aid night-shelter from NDMC property,
about which NFHR gave statements, Ms Azmi and her groups met PM, UN
Special Rapporteur Miloon Kothari reported to UN, etc. For the rest, the
impression somehow conveyed was that evictions had stopped under UPA,
which is not true. At the time a s.11A Public Notice inviting objections
and suggestions for proposal to modify the Master Plan to regularize the
metro IT Park under construction on the riverbed since start of Pushta
clearance in name of court orders for clearance of all riverbed
encroachments was out and citizens groups were using it to raise issues
about Pushta evictions, implementation of Master Plan entitlements for
housing, industrial and commercial space, etc. Rather than engage on
this, NFHR preferred to stay with fuzzy rights events in its habitat
campaign, just as the Left wasted the following week its massive rally
to protest closure of industries on making fuzzy political speeches.

In October 2004 Dunu Roy and Rajiv John George were together also on
restricted public domain web-sites of Tehelka and Combat Law special
issue on planning. They have been saying what is needed for housing
rights and slums is well researched Supreme Court PIL (read “unbundled”
uni-perspective rights tirade to obfuscate holistic statutory solutions
for conflict resolution in pursuit of backdoor legislation to downsize
statutory entitlements, as played out already in the industries PIL,
hawkers PIL, free seats and beds PIL, etc). The “debate” for and against
the Master Plan is now being circumscribed in institutionalised
para-professional dissent space.

In Dunu Roy's corner is already the weight of, besides agreeable
“eminent” Architect-cum-Planners, book launched by Ms Azmi and Ms Roy.
ITPI (which has not lent any support to the rigorous efforts for seeking
accountability on the slum project in Indore or for Master Plan
implementation in Delhi, etc, had hosted in 2002 on its dais Mr Roy,
etc, is embroiled in a starting reference in the World Bank study
document for Delhi that begins with a statement to the effect that the
Master Plan is outdated concept, has a key HRLN operator appearing as
counsel for a Mumbai chapter member and against a signatory of the
professionals’ statement at WSF in a professional matter becoming
definitional matter in Supreme Court, etc) will be holding a conference
on Master Plan implementation in December - in Indore. Timely weight -
of honour - has just been added in Rajiv John George's corner on 24th
November with global award for defending housing rights through, if you
please, Master Plan implementation activism (complete with ubiquitous
reference to implausible use of GIS on their 1997-98 Oxfam funded
survey), with a citation conspicuously quiet about the sterling work of
Deenbandhu / JBSM in 1998-2000 to demand accountability about the
celebrated slum project.

This honour connecting housing-rights-activism and Master Plan
implementation was bestowed in Geneva by COHRE (Centre for Housing
Rights and Evictions), which set up / promoted NFHR and "has a long
history of assisting NGOs ... in using the UN Committee on Economic,
Social and Cultural Rights to promote and protect human rights" (by
reporting to it against their governments). The Geneva-based Aga Khan
Development Network is also member of the Geneva Environment Network
(GEN), "a cooperative partnership between over 40 environment and
sustainable development organizations and units based in the
International Environment House and elsewhere in the Geneva area,
including United Nations offices and programmes, specialized agencies
and NGOs" that "aims at improving information dissemination and public
outreach, and at developing other joint activities".

The Indore incongruity in the 9th award cycle sits not on chance, or
even considered forgiving, references to Madhya Pradesh by President and
to Indore slum project by Prime Minister, but on well-founded confidence
about modifying, through professional space manipulations, the
legitimate demand for accountability. Whether this manipulation emanates
from the Foundation or from others in the consortia of which it is part
that are abusing its award is rather irrelevant for us. Sadly, in either
case it can hardly emanate without complicity of our own and the
possibility that the references by President and Prime Minister were
also manipulated cannot be discounted.

Although the seven projects awarded in Delhi were not Indian, they were
not alien. Only the deaf would have failed to hear the harmony between
His Highness's strident advocacy of civil society, private enterprise,
compassion for the vulnerable, and despair about growing slums, etc, and
the Bhagidari-tune to which free-wheeling mis-governance has been
unleashed in Delhi since 1999-2000. And only the blind would have missed
the resemblance between the collective vision of the awarded projects
and the vision of Delhi being aggressively pushed since 1999-2000 under
the garb of a wholly illegal Master Plan revision. The first and last on
the list of honours (revival of legendary ancient Greek library as world
class landmark and the world's tallest buildings in Kuala Lumpur's
mixed-use city centre complex) provide images to match slogans of
world-class-city and mixed-use-flexibility in sundry vision statements
about Delhi. The fourth and fifth (old city revitalization and weekend
home in spot of beauty, tranquillity and seclusion) provide images for
slogan of global-capital-for-all-sorts-of-tourism. The second and third
(village school and sandbag shelter prototypes) provide they-can-do-it
ideas for the bewildering amount of ongoing abdication of state
responsibility in favour of supposedly empowering do-it-yourself and
less-is-more options for the people. If front page report of same
morning about imminent consideration by DDA Advisory Council of a draft
of revised Delhi Master Plan based on visions with no basis in planning
law or sense but finely tuned with the collective vision of the projects
honoured in the evening is coincidence, then it is a remarkable one.

References to planning in discourse on cities built from pretty pieces
with nowhere to fit are irrelevant because planning operates at levels
of the frameworks, not of the pieces. Frameworks have to be holistically
designed so needs can be met equitably, capabilities used efficiently,
conflicts resolved in space and across time. They cannot be extrapolated
from any one piece. Single-cause crusades that use portions of statutory
Plans in pursuit of their agendas rather than of Plan goals (like
housing-rights-defence of Rajiv John George or Mr Jagmohan's
clean-green-culture-by-bulldozer) can not be considered support for
Plans. Nor can frameworks be rejected on basis of criticism that fails
to develop as far as plausible alternative, as with shoddy anarchist or
anarcho-capitalist counter-arguments-with-no-end (like those constructed
with prolific but dubious statistics by Dunu Roy or with well dressed
imagery crafted for His Highness by his "recognized" ones).

The plannerly position that Prime Minister appeared to take in some
recent speeches also disappeared in the resource allocation reference,
rather use of phrase resource allocation for dole, in his speech (a
reference selected from it by the Foundation for inclusion in its press
release). Expressing gratitude to the Foundation for its magnificient
work on the gardens of Humayun's Tomb, Prime Minister said, "This effort
has been an instructive example for us in finding new and creative
solutions to the age-old problem of allocating scarce resources in a
developing country to the preservation of our heritage. I hope that more
public-private partnerships can be evolved."

As far as I know, this magnificient work cost just Rs.50 lakhs and there
was neither comparative appraisal nor competitive tender (required in
any democratic public-private partnership in general and, in case of
heritage, irrespective of who pays because we are all only custodians,
as also stated by both His Highness and our Prime Minister) to ascertain
either investment optimality or priority vis-à-vis other sites. What a
systematic cost-benefit appraisal might have thrown up then no one
knows, but an unfortunate calculation that must now be made is of net
worth or damage of allowing (with gratitude), in lieu of magnificent
work of Rs.50 lakhs, the Aga Khan to violate sovereign Indian law. In a
matter no different in principle, Hon'ble Delhi High Court has issued
notice the previous week to authorities to explain their “policy” to
allow misuse of farmhouses for wedding parties against a fee.

It is also noteworthy that under the very law violated on 27th in lieu
of magnificent work, both jhuggies and hawkers were evicted in 2002-2003
in name of worthiness of said work. Indeed, distortions in
intra-generational equity guarantees on mere promise of
inter-generational equity is becoming rampant, regardless at times even
of deaths of children, the posterity for whom the past is being
preserved. The possibility that even a future controlled by the fittest
that survive in this equity-at-cost-of-equity paradigm might find
inheritance pickled in flavour of unlawful charity wilfully bestowed and
gratefully accepted somewhat humiliating cannot be altogether discounted.

The connection, or rather the inevitability of dis-connect, between
ad-hoc heritage initiatives and slum interventions was brought to the
attention of the Foundation, with reference to, on one hand, the
honoured Indore slum project for riverfront slums and on the other
Pushta clearance for Mr Jagmohan's extended plan for Red Fort inspired
by the work in the gardens of Humayun's Tomb. This was in a mail about
"controversies" about the Indian awards and use of monuments in India,
sent following news reports early this year of plans to hold the award
ceremony at Agra. In May the Award Director was in Delhi and invited me
for a chat and I went over. I declined offers to be nominator in next
cycle, do commissioned review of the awarded projects, etc, and offered
instead simple suggestions for tightening up the award process. I
thought he was persuaded that I was not blaming the Foundation for the
projects but only for slackness in its award process, neither to
embarrass the Foundation nor to blackmail it for any favour but only
because the Award happens to be an institution of the profession and
should not be seen to be protecting errant jury members, taking
advantage of other investments, etc.

What happened on 27th suggests I might have been mistaken, but on 24th I
did receive a call from the Foundation to invite me, as a friend of the
Foundation, and to confirm my postal address, inquire if my husband
would like to come, etc. Perhaps because I declined to join the banquet
and also inquired if Mr Raina was invited, or perhaps because some
"recognized" one declared me unfit for an imperial gathering, I did not
receive the card. It did, nevertheless, become a fact that the
Foundation became aware on the 24th that both the venue and the omission
of Mr Raina's name in the guest-list remain contentious.

Meanwhile, following the reports of 23rd about the award ceremony Mr
Raina (on suggestion of his children) invited professionals to join /
arrange a party at his house on the occasion. I volunteered to be
secretary and in that capacity wrote on 25th to invite the Prime
Minister. In explanation of what would obviously have seemed an odd
invitation, I set out the reasons for the venue in terms of Mr Raina's
experience of the award, for my sending the invitation in terms of mine,
and for it being addressed to him in terms of, besides him being chief
guest at the other celebration, what I think the support of Indian Prime
Minister to the award meant, together and separately, to global and
Indian professional fraternity in view of GATS, etc.

On 26th my call to PMO was returned and I was told protocol did not
permit the PM to attend a private party and I pointed out that the same
should apply to the ceremony at Humayun's Tomb. The point seemed to be
somewhat conceded and I pressed further that my letter be read carefully
by someone responsible to brief the Prime Minister so that no further
embarrassment or humiliation occurs. Had I known then the list of
honours, especially the project at the centre of it, I would have been
far more insistent. At the centre of the list of honours is a project
that I believe an Indian Prime Minister should not have joined in
honouring - the restoration in Yemen of a 800 year old mosque "on the
remains of a pre-Islamic shrine or temple on a site considered sacred
since ancient times". I think this especially in view of the very
persuasive criticism, with contemporary reference to Muslims and
Kashmiri Pandits, of (civil society led) interpretation of secularism,
and the fact that Mr Raina is a Kashmiri Pandit.

For once I am extremely glad of the currently mutual pre-occupation of
the Left and BJP with each other, that has very fortunately kept the Aga
Khan out of abominable politics of fuzzy secularism. Mr Advani in his
speech at BJP National Executive Meeting at Ranchi accused communists,
etc, of conspiring to destroy the Hindu ethos, to which CPI-M reacted in
Politburo statement of 27th saying, "Notwithstanding Advani's claim that
the BJP is a "chosen instrument of the divine", the record of the BJP as
a pro-imperialist and pro-rich party is well established. Such a party
can never aspire to represent Indian nationalism, or, defend national
sovereignty. The Left and democratic forces are prepared to meet this
new challenge to the secular democratic edifice in the country".
(Afterwards, in a statement of 29th, CPI-M Politburo also disapproved of
violation of secular principles by a minister who conducted a public
religious ceremony in government office). Others might or might not be
curious about how our laid-back poor Communists are managing to destroy
anything or which rich and imperial entities is BJP pro. All I am
curious about is if, in their opinion, the secular principle was
violated and any pro-rich pro-imperial disregard of national ethos
reflected in the Prime Minister’s words, deeds and choices on 27th
November 2004.

In comparison with meagre magic I had hoped might happen as a result of
the phone call returned by PMO, the Prime Minister's speech seemed to me
like a rap on my knuckles. He went beyond expressing privilege and
honour about His Highness's decision to host his award in India, to
reverse cause and effect and appreciate "this gesture of support" since
the "event puts our Capital city in a league with some of the great
cities of the world, which have hosted these prestigious award
ceremonies". Beyond expressing gratitude for the work in the gardens of
Humayun's Tomb in implicit defence of His Highness's privilege to use
it, perhaps in justification of the lavishness of it all, he spoke of
our "embarrassment of riches" as something getting in the way of
preserving our heritage for posterity. He mentioned the awarded projects
in India as benefits of the support of His Highness and though he named
only four, the Indore slum project was one of them. And he even said,
"every right-thinking citizen of the world bears a debt of gratitude"
for His Highness’s efforts.

While I was staring in bewilderment at Prime Minister on DD-News,
feeling like I was being scolded, Ms Smita Datta Makhija called to say
security personnel had dutifully scolded her for wanting to enter
Humayun’s Tomb precinct (not party). She is a conservation architect
(and was, incidentally, a classmate of Mr Raina at the School of
Planning and Architecture in Delhi), who takes school children to
monuments in an initiative she started six years ago as a parent with
the school that her children attend and in which the next visit is to
Humayun’s Tomb on 30 November. She has well-placed clients and is
regarded highly by MP from Walled City who was senior counsel in the Red
Fort PIL in which she was one of the petitioners. Had she wished it she
could have arranged an invitation to the party but did not and was
turned away from a heritage site that she not only cherishes but
endeavours to ensure that others cherish as well.

The “eminent” ones among co-petitioners in the Red Fort matter,
incidentally against the work started there by Mr Jagmohan who was then
connecting it to the initiative at Humayun’s Tomb to which he was party
as Minister, have not demonstrated either for Red Fort or for Humayun’s
Tomb any such sentiment. In fact, one could be forgiven for confusing
their shrilly expressed shallow affection for heritage for some tool-kit
for personal business development, at times in disregard of present law
in name of saving the past for the future. For consistency with the Aga
Khan’s worldview of their propensity to traverse from past to future on
some by-pass around the present, it is reasonable to assume that his
Network would have “recognized” them and invited them to his party.

The guest-list of a private party is unlikely to become public, but it
would be interesting to know which Indians were at this imperial
gathering, especially which Architect-cum-Planners – since those can
serve the Aga Khan’s efforts on both heritage and housing. It would be
even more interesting to know which others aspired to the same imperial
honour and which, if any, declined it or would have declined it, besides
the ones that were at the very small and very special party at Mr
Raina’s place, details of which I will not divulge, for parity between
parties, beyond the fact that PMO, the only place to which a formal
invitation was extended, was not present in any form, not even a note,
perhaps on account of protocol.

At Mr Raina’s party I received a call about a demolition.

It seems that as His Highness's guests and security personnel arrived at
Humayun's Tomb, bulldozers and police force had arrived at a settlement
near Minto road. While concern and ideas for housing the poor were
expressed and screened and telecast at an illegal party at a historical
site, illegal Pushta-like demolition was going on - for a twin-tower for
our municipal corporation, a project for which tenders had reportedly
been advertised in Wall Street Journal last year but which might well
need to reviewed in light of the recent decision to split the
corporation into smaller parts. While those who had chosen to be
unembarrassed by riches and more settled down to a candle-light banquet,
those forcibly unsettled by bulldozers made arrangements for the night
with no choice but to be unembarrassed by lack of riches. On Sunday,
when the city savoured the stuff of page-3 party-stories migrated to
main pages by Prime Ministerial grace and mysterious-techie legitimacy
of prestigious professional award, demolition near Minto Road resumed...

With this demolition, the National Common Minimum Programme, already
quite comprehensively flouted in Delhi, was most graphically demolished
- on half-anniversary of its adoption on 27 May, making the celebration
at Humayun's Tomb also that of the betrayal of the mandate of the nation.

At a personal level I am extremely grateful to His Highness. It was his
award to the Indore slum project that had made me feel humiliated enough
to change my life as a professional altogether and it is his award
ceremony that has completed for me the circle of that humiliation. I do
not, however, bear any debt of gratitude to him because he owes me an
explanation about why I did not receive a card after having been very
cordially invited, as friend of his Foundation, on phone on 24th. On
larger questions of accountability he owes me nothing any more because
it is no longer my responsibility to carry their burden, now that all of
those with authority to raise them have forgiven him.

I also do honour His Highness – for his forthrightness and his
capability, qualities that I greatly value. Unlike all the others in
this chronicle, there is no doublespeak about what he says and does, he
does what he likes, he does it openly and he does it in style. That is
the way I aspire to be. Like a game of chess I have played my work of
six years. In one swift pattern, that seems to hang around the Aga Khan
whether or not it be his will, all my constitutional pieces seem reduced
to pawns and all the pawns on the other side unconstitutionally elevated
to queens. I salute the competence (and him if and to whatever extent he
is responsible for it) reached in a game that I seem destined to lose.

For the rest, nearly none of what is in this chronicle is exceptional in
it self. What I do take serious exception to is what is in effect a
Prime Ministerial diktat to be unembarrassed by riches, to honour
illegalities and inefficiencies in this endeavour, to be grateful for
opportunities to be able to practice it, and to feel indebted to
instruments of such opportunities.

Nothing in the Constitution of our sovereign nation either requires this
of us or allows a Prime Minister to suggest it to us. By our
Constitution we are entirely free to entirely disagree with this, free
to express our disapproval, free to expect our authorities and our
representatives to take note of our sentiment and address it to our
satisfaction. And if our democracy falters for a moment in history, we
are still free to feel not forced to concur and free to hope that the
faltering moment will pass.

We are free – and that is why history had no choice. It is flagging 27th
November 2004 for rare humiliation. Here, it has done it.

Gita Dewan Verma | Planner | 29.11.2004