"So far, we have been looking at the city as a monument. But with the amount of insight we have gained from our research, it has forced us to look at the city as a city" said A.G.K. Menon, convenor of INTACH
The preoccupation to find a compelling argument weighs heavily on the table around which sits A.G.K. Menon, convenor of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage's Delhi Chapter, and his colleague. Focussed arguments go back and forth between them inside the cool interiors of their office in Lodi Estate.
“Let us concentrate on criteria 4,” Mr. Menon's sharp voice is the only thing breaking the sleepy post-lunch lull. “Criteria 4 refers to excellence in town-planning although you should get the exact definition from UNESCO's website,” he cautions.
It is based on this criterion (to be an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates (a) significant stage(s) in human history) that INTACH's preparing its final dossier containing the proposal for nominating the Capital as a World Heritage City.
“We need a powerful compelling argument to show that the heritage we have is of universal importance,” says the convenor, about a project that the Delhi Chapter has been dedicated to since August 2008. While earlier four areas were identified – Shahjahanabad, Lutyens' Delhi, Nizamuddin and Mehrauli – now only the first two will be nominated.
The arguments are quite straightforward. “No other city has two such diverse examples of heritage in one place – Mughal and British and both are being used today with almost the same intent as it was initially built for,” he says. “They also prove excellence in town planning. For instance, New Delhi is the fusion of the garden city movement and the city beautiful movement.”
A week ago, at a meeting of stakeholders presided over by Delhi Chief Secretary P. K. Tripathi that included representations from the Delhi Development Authority and the Archaeological Survey of India, there was strong endorsement that Delhi should become a World Heritage City.
After Ahmedabad's nomination to gain heritage city status in 2011, Delhi's nomination, the second in the country, also appears in the ‘tentative list' updated by UNESCO on May 22, 2012.
Yet, for the team at INTACH it has been a struggle to dispel some misconceptions among people where many perceive heritage to be an impediment. “Nominating the city is a celebratory act and this does not mean it needs to be restrictive,” says Mr. Menon.
"We know that the heritage tag will however not solve all the problems that the city faces,” he adds.