INTACH: Preserving India’s heritage over the last 25 years by Amandeep Madra on January 10, 2010

Gurpreet K. Maini writes a review of India’s leading heritage conservation NGO, on its 25th anniversary in the Sunday Tribune.

If today graffiti is diminishing our monuments, particularly the unlisted ones, there are fewer ‘pan’ splurges; they are no longer open-air urinals or defecating hubs, we owe it to the pivotal catalyst INTACH, a concept which coalesced into an NGO, seeded by Rajiv Gandhi and Pupul Jayakar in 1984. Over the years, it grew by leaps and bounds under the aegis of the present chairman, S. K. Mishra, who has given it a global facade and articulation.

Undoubtedly, the ASI as a government functionary in this sphere has aimed at conservation, restoration and preservation, but INTACH has addressed and traversed the unlisted terrain.`A0It has fine-tuned the vital role of dissemination, thus invoking an awareness of the hazards to our heritage even in the remotest landscapes and addressed a totally oblivious clientele.

INTACH in the 25th year of its existence through the publication of their journal is stepping beyond the confines of its normal activities and addressing the broader canvas of conservation.`A0The launch of a journal on heritage studies is another endeavour of INTACH to bring to the fore inter-disciplinary issues to the attention of a cross-section of people, particularly those at the helm of affairs, for making decisions and policies.

From salvaging monumental heritage to generating a public awareness, INTACH’s ambit of addressal has widened and it intends a foray and incorporates global conservation work undertaken in the subcontinent as well as China, Japan, Middle East and South East Asia.`A0Man and nature, flora and fauna, history and heritage are integral components of conservation which they feel merit research and resolution.`A0 INTACH heralded a new chapter in heritage and conservation and brought it to the people as an accessible point of association.`A0
Similarly, the journal is not in the run of the mill garb of a staid publication which would be daunting to the general reader, but it is in a pleasant and colourful dust jacket with the daily beat of the inhabitants of Delhi, i.e., Lodhi Gardens.

As the editor of the journal espouses the aims and objects of this series, the crunch lies in this that the journal “will help foster dialogue with, and create awareness among an audience which could be catalysts for positive change. `85 The journal seeks to be a bridge between research scholars and the rest of the civil society that needs to be alive to such heritage concerns.”`A0It endeavours at creating a platform for networking for groups and individuals involved in heritage concerns, eventually these journals will have a sustainable value with their articles as future reference material.

The contributors include A.G. Krishna Menon, Dr Sethuraman Suresh, Dr Meera I. Dass, Priyaleen Singh, Bulu Imam, Dr Ranju Hasini Sahoo, Samit Das, Manu Bhatnagar, S.P. Shorey, Dr Sunil Gupta, Dr Om Prakash Agrawal, Dr Alok Tripathi, Kanchana Mukhopadhyay and film producer Shyam Benegal.

The opening article by A.G.K. Menon delineates the catalyst role INTACH has played after the Indian Antiquities Act in 1862 and the Ancient Monument Preservation Act of 1904 by the British, which took under its umbrage a limited number of monuments. Decades later in 1984, a body emerged and focused on the innumerable number of unprotected monuments and made their protection its mandate.`A0″INTACH also drew attention to the need to protect the non-monumental heritage like historic cities.`A0 The presence of INTACH decisively changed the conservation scene in India.”

`A0David J. Brown presents the endeavours of the National Trust for Historic Preservation in the US. This point of view brings to the fore the aim of the journal as a networking forum so he interacts with his counterparts at INTACH.`A0Interestingly, their pressure group, like INTACH, drew inspiration from the British National Trust and goes back to 1947.`A0Currently, they have more than 3,00,000 members, a budget of approximately $52 million and are actively pursuing heritage legislation in the Senate.

An interesting fact emerges on recent instances of preservation implemented by the body: “In 2006, plans at Ground Zero—the site of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center—called for the demolition of the last remaining physical vestige of the twin towers. Preservationists highlighted the threat with a national call for action, and two years later the ‘survivors’ staircase’—which served as the way out of the horror of the falling towers for hundreds of survivors—was moved to temporary quarters and will be restored and maintained as a memorial to the courage we all saw on that terrible day.” The work undertaken by them that he delineates bears a striking similarity to the path traversed by INTACH.

From the broader modalities, the journal focuses on specificities and localities which are significant case studies like the study of conservation of Chola paintings in the Brhadisvara Temple`A0by Dr Sethuraman Suresh; the Integrated Development Plan of Mahakal Virasat Kshetra at Ujjain by Dr Meera I. Dass and Priya Saxena, fighting for flowers along the Damodar River; the Zonal Anthropological Museum and the Tribal Painters of Bastar by Dr Ranju Hasini Sahoo; the Development of Santiniketan Architecture by Samit Das; and the System of Traditional Weather Forecasting in Jaisalmer district by Manu Bhatnagar.`A0In Part III, specific conservation and restoration projects have been compiled by Divay Gupta done by INTACH.

Amidst these specific case studies, there are generalist studies on conserving historic gardens, world heritage cities, salvaging roads, under water cultural heritage and last but not least, there is an article by Shyam Benegal on ‘Cinema, Television and Social Responsibility’.
This valuable tome has two books reviews and Part IV delineates a biographical timeline of INTACH.`A0It is remarkable that within 379 pages, there is a diverse range of expertise which converges on conservation and preservation.

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