Monday, December 12, 2011

Happy Birthday New Delhi

Yesterday (12 December 2011), New Delhi celebrated 100yrs as India's capital.

Here's an article from "The Telegraph" (UK) about the event:

British-built Indian capital New Delhi marks 100th anniversary

New Delhi, the British-built capital of India, marked its 100th anniversary today in a series of low-key events which played down its colonial origins.

By Dean Nelson, New Delhi
3:20PM GMT 12 Dec 2011

The capital's chief minister had originally planned a series of landmark events, including the recreation of the 'Coronation Park' where King George V convened the 'Delhi Durbar' as King-Emperor of India and announced his decision to build a new capital to replace Calcutta.

The 1911 Durbar brought together more than 200 of India's princes, nawabs and mahajarahs, in an extraordinary demonstration of colonial pomp, complete with caparisoned elephants, model railways, and a city of tent palaces for the royal guests.

But the plans to recreate the original ground as a history park and museum to celebrate India's links with the commonwealth and English-speaking nations, were delayed and scaled back amid criticism by opponents who described it as a 'celebration of slavery'.

Instead, the city's chief minister, Sheila Dikshit, was on Monday night planning to launch a book commemorating the 'seven cities' of Delhi, which do not include New Delhi.

The celebrations, including a photographic exhibition of the city's historic monuments and a showcase of its ancient culture and local food, will use the centenary as a reminder of the city's ancient buildings and culture which preceded the creation of 'New Delhi.'

'Dilliwallahs' are proud of their capital, including Sir Edwin Lutyens' unique garden city and original 'colonial' bungalows. But while many of its leading figures had felt India had reached a point where it could be more relaxed about its colonial past, they underestimated the enduring sensitivity of empire.

O.P Jain, a leading conservationist and one of the leading advocates for recreating the Coronation Park, said it was important to mark the centenary of New Delhi, but it could not be 'celebrated.'

"To call it the 100 years of New Delhi is OK but Delhi has been a capital all along. We're not celebrating the slavery of our country. The coronation park was an important event in the history of Delhi and should be preserved, but it is not something which has to be celebrated. I feel everything is part of history, good and bad moments. It's not a great memory because the wounds of 1857 [The Indian 'Mutiny' and its defeat by British-led forces] were still alive," he said.

Some Indian newspapers, including The Hindu questioned 'what are we celebrating?' with critics complaining that New Delhi's growth from a small, leafy town to a sprawling, polluted metropolis of more than 14 million with poor sanitation left little appetite for rejoicing.

C. Raja Mohan, one of the country's leading commentators, said it was time for India to face up to its colonial legacy. "The British Raj is part of our history and modern India can't simply disown it," he wrote in the Indian Express.

He said India's current foreign policy aims to extend its influence from Suez to the South China Sea, its resistance to foreign interference, and its protection of smaller nations in the region, all have their origins in British India

"A rising India will find that her emerging foreign policy priorities are not entirely different from those of the Raj," he said, but modern India will only succeed "if it recalls the legacy of the Raj, accepts it as an integral part of our history, and above all, is willing to learn from it."

Here's a link to a selection of articles from "The Times of India":

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