July 18, 2021

Public Meeting against Central Vista Re-development Project

Ashok Dhawale/ Tikender Singh Panwar

“INDIA needs hospitals and not the central vista, more houses for the poor and not a mansion for the PM,” these were the strong pronouncements that reverberated in a public meeting held on July 10, 2021, in Maharashtra Sadan at Delhi.

The meeting was called by a group called ‘Central Vista Virodhi Bharat’ originating from Mumbai, Maharashtra. This group comprises different secular political parties, civil society groups, and such others championing the cause of people’s issues in varied ways.

The Delhi chapter of the campaign was launched through this meeting and it was decided that such chapters will be formed in different parts of the country. These chapters will build a narrative that this government led by PM Modi is more interested in vanity projects like the central vista spending more than Rs 20,000 crores rather than mitigating the pandemic crisis, which the people are facing in the country for want of hospitals, oxygen, etc. The meeting also decided that there will be a large mobilisation of the people at the famous August Kranti Maidan in Mumbai on August 9, from where the Quit India movement call was given by Mahatma Gandhi. Similar demonstrations will be worked out in other parts of the country on the same day.

The meeting was initiated by Vandana Chavan, MP Rajya Sabha who welcomed the delegates and said that despite the fact that the central vista redevelopment project is taking place in Delhi, but in all the distant places the people are facing the pinch of this wasteful expenditure. She said that as the parliament is about to begin its session from July 19, an appropriate day will be decided to raise a concern on this issue along with other members of the parliament.

Right at the inception Anya Malhotra and Sohail Hashmi who had filed a petition in the Delhi High Court recently seeking court’s intervention to stop the central vista work for the time being during the pandemic invoking sections of the disaster management act to ensure that the workers are protected were felicitated. They were fined by the court for filing this petition. The petitioners explained how prudent and genuine their petition was; it was for protecting the lives of the workers who were literally forced to work as bonded labour during the height of the pandemic in the second wave.

Sohail said that it is not clear where the artefacts and manuscripts which are as old as 5,000 years will be kept. Or do they want to destroy it? All of this belongs to us and speaks of the diverse civilization that we have inherited, he said. He laid the fear that there is a concerted effort to ensure that all the material that is available in the museum and the archives may get damaged and ruined in this process.

Tikender Singh Panwar, former deputy mayor of Shimla and who had followed this redevelopment project since the beginning said that this is a completely illegal project where the law has been taken for a ride. Secondly, the driving force for this project is the prime minister himself who is guided by stupid vastu prophecy that in a circular parliament building he cannot return back to power since the circularity of the current parliament building means zero. He quoted this from the dialogue between a vastu expert, Ashwinie Kumar Bansal and the Manohar Joshi, the then speaker of the Lok Sabha. Bansal surveyed the building and recommended remedies to “rescue India”.  Tikender also pointed out how this project is going to usurp the open spaces of the people and a massive 16.5 lakh square metre of construction is going to place. This project also has an ideological presupposition and that is that the government wants to build structures where it remains at a distance from the people thus showing its sheer power.

Anything connected with Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi is a prick for this government and it intends to raze it. That is why Jawahar Lal Bhavan which houses the ministry of external affairs built at a cost of more than Rs 220 crores in just 2010 is also being razed to the ground.

NilotpalBasu from the CPI(M) said that it is a people’s fight and they will have to come forward to reclaim their spaces. He said that this project is anti-constitutional as it has violated its basic norms. It has violated the provisions of the 74th Constitutional Amendment where the local bodies were supposed to be empowered to approve building plans. In the central vista project, the NDMC(New Delhi Municipal Council) which is supposed to approve building plans in this region was bypassed and CPWD, a building contractor and agency of the government was considered as a local body. This goes against the constitutional procedures and this is what is happening in various other projects where due diligence of the constitutional bodies is kept at bay.

Basu further said, this narrative of exposing the government to spending wastefully whilst people are demanding basic health facilities is correct and must be carried forward. He said that CPI(M) will be a strong partner in these meetings taking place across the country.

Ashok Dhawale, president of the AIKS, pointed out that though the initiation of the movement began from Mumbai, it must be spread out to different corners of the country. Full throttle campaign using social media and other forms must be utilised to expose this government for its sheer hypocrisy. He said that in Delhi a single-day protest must be held at Jantar Mantar after July 19 as the parliament session starts. And the demand to cancel the central vista project can be raised all over the country on August 9.

Fauziya Khan MP (Rajya Sabha) said that the central vista project must be linked to the larger failure of the government. She said that this slogan: “Loot Jhoot aur Phoot ki Sarkar nahichalegi” (the government of loot, lies and dividing people should not be allowed to run). She said that the redevelopment of the central vista is against our historic legacy and hence we have to launch our campaign with the people’s concerns and slogans like “vista versus vaccines’, “kisan versus PM ka makaan”(farmers versus the PM’s mansion), etc., must be articulated.

Hardik Patel, leader of Congress from Gujarat said that the people of the state know the ‘Gujarat model’ of PM Modi which is based on lies, and draws its strength by fattening the corporates and creating fissures amongst the people. While exhorting that he would be more than happy to start the Gujarat chapter of this movement he said we must be guarded against the tricks of the prime minister. It is not just a new parliament building that he is building but he may even advance the delimitation exercise in the country. This may happen even before the next general elections. What PM Modi wants to do is to increase the number of seats in the north vis a vis the south and especially in the Hindi speaking states. Through this Modi wants to create a divide between north and south, he said.

Abu Asim Azmi, SP MLA and one of the initiators of the campaign from Mumbai said that his party will initiate efforts to ensure that this campaign is unleashed in different parts of the UP.

Suneet Chopra, vice president of AIAWU drew a comparison between developments in Germany during the rise of Hitler and the current rise of the Sangh in India. He said in Germany it was made loudly campaigned by Hitler- “For the Nation”. Likewise in India we are witnessing a campaign unleashed by the present regime and a binary is being created between those who support the decision as ‘nationalists’ and those who oppose as ‘anti-nationalists'.

Vidya Chavan, ex-MLC from Maharashtra, and another of the main initiators of the campaign, outlined how it began and stressed the need to take it all over the country so as to expose the thoroughly anti-people nature of the Modi regime.

Shailendra Kamble from the DSMM said that the spirit of the old parliament building which produced the Indian Constitution drafted by Dr Ambedkar is haunting the BJP and the RSS. They want to get rid of the idea of an inclusive Bharat and also intends to get rid of the structures that were linked to creating such an idea, thus a new building of the parliament which is linked to their vision of Hindutva Bharat both in spirit and in structure! 

The other prominent speakers included: AAP MLA Vinay Mishra, NAPM leader Sunilam, Lok Sangharsh Morcha leader Pratibha Shinde, AIDWA general secretary Mariam Dhawale, SFI joint secretary DineetDhinta, DYFI Delhi state treasurer Anusha, recently released UAPA detenu Asif Iqbal Tanha, DSMM Maharashtra convenor Shailendra Kamble, Gurmeet Singh and others.

The meeting concluded by:
1.  Deciding to form chapters of Central Vista Virodhi Bharat in Delhi and in different states.
2.  To hold protest demonstrations both inside and outside parliament on a given date which will be finalised soon.
3.  To unleash mass campaign to ensure that this government is exposed thoroughly with its blatant lies.
4.  To include the demand for scrapping the central vista project in the nationwide protests on August 9.