Kolkata stands up against the demolition of its architectural heritage, it is time for us to join
Kolkata, the ‘City of Joy’ is undoubtedly the most soulful place to be in when you are in India. With a magical charm of its own, the city boasts of a rich heritage and a valuable culture. However, the city’s architectural heritage has been under enormous threat recently with mindless and massive demolition and the spirited Kolkata crowd won’t let that happen.
April 18th, The World Heritage Day, saw a large crowd gather outside Subodh Mallik Square to march as a protest against the same.
The march, organised by CAL, INTACH and PUBLIC, three organisations engaged in protecting the environment of the city, both built and natural, ended at the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) office, where the mayor, whom the protesters wanted to meet, remained invisible.
Writer Amit Chaudhuri read out a letter signed by prominent individuals of the city that was to be submitted to the CMC. He started CAL (Calcutta Architectural Legacies) to talk about the city’s architectural heritage, which is not necessarily about landmark buildings.
Aparna Sen, Jawhar Sircar, chairman, Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Supriya Chaudhuri, professor emeritus, Jadavpur University, artist Chittrovanu Majumdar, writer Kalyan Ray, G.M. Kapoor of INTACH, Pradip Kakkar of PUBLIC and conservation architect Manish Chakraborty were some of the notable names in the march.
The placard held by the protesters said that the Kolkata should not turn into a city of shopping malls. The placards also stated that the architectural heritage of the city should not go on sale.
“This is perhaps the first citizens’ march on heritage in the city,” Amit Chaudhuri said.
Many voices emerged, including those of other citizens’ initiatives. Swarnali Chattopadhyay of Purono Kolkatar Golpo, a Facebook group with 40,000 followers, spoke about how the group’s timely intervention has at least temporarily put a stop to the demolition of Metropolitan Institution, the school attended by Vidyasagar.
A former member of the CMC heritage committee pointed out the casual way in which the heritage buildings of paramount importance are being demolished. Speaking of the same he said that an architect of a highrise that has led to the demolition of an old heritage hotel is part of the CMC heritage committee.
However, the march expected in an unfortunate way. Though the letter was accepted, the protesters were kept away from meeting the mayor and the municipal commissioner inside the corporation building by the police.
Having said that, let us come together and join the bravehearts who are standing tall against the demolition of these heritage building. Let us spread the word and save our city from being a city without its soul.