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Plea to stop Police Memorial construction

By Our Staff Reporter

NEW DELHI, JULY 13. Determined to save Lutyens' legacy, artists, activists, architects and senior police officers have sent a petition to the President, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, and the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, appealing to them to stop construction of the controversial Police Memorial at Shantipath immediately.

Initiated by the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), the citizens' petition with more than 100 signatories underlines the importance of keeping the character of the Shantipath vista intact for future generations. Copies of the petition have also been sent to the Union Minister for Urban Development, Ghulam Nabi Azad, and the Union Home Minister, Shivraj Patil.

"Rajpath and Shantipath are the two vistas that offer the long distance view of the Rashtrapati Bhavan dome, which is an integral part of the Capital's visual structure. If we can't contribute to enhance the character of the area, we should at least protect it and not mar it by building something that is completely out of context, especially at a time when we are working on a proposal to include the Lutyens' contribution on the UNESCO World Heritage List,'' stated convenor of the Delhi chapter of INTACH, O.P Jain.

Demanding removal and relocation of the structure to a Police Academy or another suitable site, the petitioners have suggested that a national architectural competition be held and the winning design should be commissioned as a memorial. "The structure is made of nuts and bolts and can easily be shifted out of that place,'' said Mr. Jain.

Besides expressing concern over the aesthetics or the lack of it in this case, the charter also highlights the ineffectiveness of statuary bodies like the Delhi Urban Arts Commission, which were, in fact, set up to guard against such ills. Interestingly, the Police Memorial has also drawn flak from senior police officers. While the former Director-General of police, Gautam Kaul, has signed the petition; super cop K.P.S Gill has expressed his reservation against the location of the memorial. "I think the structure coming up does not suit the architecture of the area. It is much too obtrusive. I think a memorial should be more understated. I have not signed the petition as I don't believe in operating like that,'' he said.

Eminent artist Anjolie Ela Menon, senior journalist Mark Tully, Justice Leela Seth, former Home Secretary N.N. Vohra, former Lieutenant-Governors P.K. Dave and Tejendra Khanna have also signed the petition.

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