NEW DELHI: It took nearly seven long years, but the wait was worthwhile for the Red Fort. The capital’s landmark has got rid of all “unwanted” structures that came up after Independence inside the iconic 17th-century Mughal citadel in Shahjahanabad.
The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) had identified 400 such buildings, which were built by the Indian Army after it took over the fort, when the British left the country. The British forces had stayed put in the Red Fort for 90 years.
As the clearance began, the open land reclaimed after the demolition drive was converted to open green space giving more panoramic views to tourists. “It took almost seven years. We have removed all structures raised by the Indian Army. Landscaping is being done on retrieved land. Open green space inside the fort complex has been increased to 55 acre from 15 acre. Walkways are being laid and new ornamental lamp posts are being installed replacing the old ones,” said ASI superintending archaeologist, Delhi circle, NK Pathak.
The British forces had taken over the fort after they quelled the Revolt of 1857. Soon, they began building barracks, bungalows and houses inside the fort as per the requirement of their officers stationed there.
Till 1857, there were 360 Mughal era structures, including small palaces, residential quarters, mosques, and space for royal administrative personnel inside the Red Fort. Several Mughal-era buildings were razed in an act of vengeance.
When the Indian Army took over the Red Fort in 1947, it built as many as 400 barracks, residential quarters, storerooms, shops, canteens, washing units, toilet blocks, and workshops inside the ramparts. The Army vacated the historic fort in 2003 when restoration and beautification work were initiated under the aegis of then union and culture minister Jagmohan.
Cut back to 2019, the ASI retained the British Army barracks made of stone that have high ceiling, arched corridors, and wooden floors. After removal of all additions and alterations introduced in quarters of soldiers and other colonial buildings by the Indian Army, they are being converted into museums.
Four such facilities — the Subhash Chandra Bose museum, the Yaad-e-Jallian Museum, the Museum on 1857, and Drishyakala-Museum on Indian Art — were inaugurated by PM Narendra Modi in January. Last week, Culture minister Mahesh Sharma opened a new museum, ‘Azaadi Ke Diwane’ at the Red Fort.
An ASI official, who was associated with the restoration work, said these barracks were never accessible for visitors and remained mostly locked. “The fort witnessed desecration on several occasion, particularly during Aurangzeb’s reign. Many changes took place during the 1857 revolt and under the British rule. The survey has retained buildings, including 10 barracks, built by the British considering their heritage value. They were built about 100 years ago,” said the official.
Iconic structures not touched
Though the ASI carried out an extensive demolition of unwanted structures, the officials took care that some of the historic buildings were not touched. Diwani-I-Aam, Mumtaz Mahal, Rang Mahal, Chatta Bazar, and Moti Masjid are some of the structures that were carefully conserved by the ASI