How Scroll and Firstpost falsely blamed Modi for acts of an NGO

Last night, an “opinion” piece, by the blog called Scroll.in was making waves mild ripples on Twitter. It talked about plans to rename to areas of Delhi, and how this plan by “Modi’s Government” revealed an “Imperial Mindset”. Midway during the Social Media outrage, the blog chose to change the title of the story within a few hours of posting it:

xBut they forgot to edit the content, which said the Modi government is planning “to rename Lutyens’ New Delhi as the “Imperial City of Delhi” and the walled city that many call the Old Delhi as the “Imperial City of Shahjahanabad”

It quoted this Firstpost report dated 6th April 2015 & at the same time said “no confirmation of the news reports has come as yet“. Scroll then went on to give some half-assed pseudo-intellectual logic to defame the “Modi Government”, while mentioning in passing that this move may be aimed at attracting tourists & obtaining the UNESCO heritage city tag .

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It even went on to say “Perhaps the idea here is to present the Modi government as the “new imperial” power, which will dislodge or “bleach out” the work of the previous governments and once and for all appropriate the imperial city of Delhi.

Coming to the Firstpost report, it said Modi Government (is) in a rush to “change everything“. Luckily Firstpost devoted some time to the reason behind this, i.e. securing the UNESCO heritage tag, but eventually couldn’t stop itself from taking pot-shots at Modi again. The author says this “mania for renaming” reminds him of “Stalinist-era revisionism“. The piece goes on to say “And now a proud Hindu nationalist comes along and wants to put “Imperial” back into Delhi.”

Firstpost on its part, quoted this The Hindu report. Amusingly, this report mentions clearly that this renaming was “a proposal from the Delhi government“. Then why have Scroll.in and Firstpost blamed Modi for all this? Why does Scroll.in say “no confirmation of this news”? Apparently, a simple Google search revealed much more than what Scroll.in “journalists” couldn’t confirm.

One of the earliest news reports on renaming parts of Delhi, came way back in July 2013. It said that the dossier, containing the proposed division of the city into ‘Imperial Cities of Delhi’, among other things, was submitted to the Delhi Government by INTACH (Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage). It said the dossier has been given to Delhi Tourism, the Nodal Agency. It would then be scrutinized by the government, Archaeological Survey of India and then by world heritage apex committee and this verified dossier will then be submitted by the end of January, 2015. INTACH is a Non-Profit NGO.

The above is corroborated by this news report from September 2013 which says “the dossier has been prepared on these by INTACH”. It further says “Pitched as “Imperial Cities of Delhi”, the dossier highlights the contrasting lifestyles, cultures and architecture of two differing time periods in Delhi.

Another report from The Hindu from April 2014, quotes an INTACH official as saying “In the dossier, we have highlighted the fact that New Delhi and Shahjahanabad are two imperial cities.”

All three of the above stories are from pre-Modi era. And all three of them conclusively say one thing: An NGO floated the idea of dividing Delhi into two “Imperial cities”, and it was done only to get a UNESCO Heritage tag, to increase tourism in Delhi. The change in names, was to be carried by Delhi Development Authority, only to ensure no that the plan to get the UNESCO heritage tag, goes without a hitch. If at all any politics is to be played on this, one could “blame” the AAP Government or the UPA Government, but any unbiased reader would observe, there is no Politics here.

There are more recent news reports, like this in Indian Express and this on a Travel News site,  from February 2015 which clearly say the Central Government has approved the Delhi State Government’s proposal, with the idea of having the “Imperial Cities”. The clincher though is this Government of India Press release from February 2015 itself, which says:

The State Government of Delhi has proposed UNESCO to include ‘Delhi’s Imperial Capital Cities’ among the World Heritage Cities. The nomination dossier of ‘Delhi’s Imperial Capital Cities’ had been forwarded to UNESCO in 2014 for the purpose of its inscription in the World Heritage List

Looking at all the above facts, some questions emerge:

1. Why did Firstpost decide to blame Modi for this proposal? In fact the report from The Hindu, which they themselves relied on, says it was a Delhi Government proposal.

2. Why did Scroll.in, which relied on this Firstpost report, say that “no confirmation of the news reports has come as yet”? As you can see, a simple Google search threw up at least 6 different links from 6 different sites and sources clearly stating the facts. Are the so called “journalists” at Scroll.in so ill-equipped that they cannot even search the net for information?

In fact, this point was raised by an astute twitter user, to which a journalist from Business Standard called Mihir Sharma replied, saying it was a “good practice“:

If Mihir Sharma considers hiding behind the burqa of “unconfirmed reports” and “unnamed sources” as a “good practice” then we can judge what quality of “journalism” he approves of. And in a hilarious twist, Business Standard, the very publication Mihir Sharma works for, published a story on this issue which said:

The Delhi government has done its groundwork well. The Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (Intach), which has prepared the Unesco nomination dossiers on behalf of the state government, has proposed the “Imperial Cities of Delhi” comprising two components – the walled city of Shahjahanabad, or Old Delhi, and the area of New Delhi designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens – for inclusion in the list of World Inhabited Historic Towns

Thus Business Standard directly contradicts the very Scroll.in article (based on unnamed sources) which Mihir Sharma was vehemently defending. It also shows Mihir Sharma’s deep ignorance of what his own site publishes.

Lets come to the actual Idea of renaming some parts of Delhi to help in boosting tourism. It may sound like a stupid, farcical idea, but if it does help in getting a UNESCO tag, and help tourism in Delhi, then we are all for it. Irrespective of whether it sounds “Imperial” or “Colonial” or Modi-fied.

(Thanks to Rahul Roushan for tipping us off on this)

co-founder, OpIndia.com

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