Udayavni Special

Farmers’ Protest: Guards restrict entry of visitors to Delhi’s coronation park, Official says no order issued


PTI, Dec 15, 2020, 8:33 PM IST

Heritage enthusiasts and other people visiting the historic Coronation Park in northwest Delhi’s Burari area in the past few days, have not been allowed entry, with security staff citing “lodging of paramilitary personnel” on its premises as the reason. The massive heritage site falling under the Delhi Development Authority, sits next to Burari grounds, also owned by the DDA, where a large number of farmers protesting against the new farm laws are currently camping amid heavy security deployment. The main protests are happening at Delhi border areas.

Historic Delhi Durbar was held on the very site of the park, here King George V and Queen Mary were coronated as the emperor and the empress of India on December 12, 1911, and the British monarch had also announced the shifting of the capital from Calcutta to Delhi. On December 15 in 1911, the King and Queen had also laid the foundation stones of the new imperial capital which later was christened ‘New Delhi’.

The site was given the shape of a park post-Indepedence, which for decades has been termed as a “graveyard of statues” as iconic Raj-era statues, including that of King George V and four Viceroys, were unceremoniously dumped here post 1960s, after which they were subjected to defacement and decay amid thick vegetation. The park is popular among young couples and history buffs, who visit it as part of a heritage trail, especially on December 12, every year.

However, on this Saturday, which marked the 109th anniversary of the Delhi Durbar, visitors were turned away by DDA security and ground staff, citing “presence of paramilitary personnel on the park’s premises”. “These security personnel have been lodged here soon after the farmers’ protest had begun. Because of security reasons, visitors are not being allowed,” said a security staff of the DDA on duty.

However, a senior official of the DDA, when contacted, said, “no such official order had been issued”. “Yes, there are some security personnel on its premises, who have been lodged there, but the lawns of the park are open to public. It is a public park and meant for them only. We will convey it to the ground staff to not stop anyone from entering the park. There should be no confusion,” he said.

A local college student, who did not wish to be identified, had visited the park with his friend a few days ago but had to return from the main gate in vain. “We know about the history of this place, where the great Coronation Durbar had taken place, and two more Delhi Durbar before that in 1877 and 1903. Our idea was to do some photography of the statues and the Coronation Pillar but we were told by the guard that public entry is currently restricted,” he said.

The Coronation Pillar is a monumental obelisk that commemorates the Coronation Durbar. It wears a defaced look as couples had etched their names and drawn hearts on it. The heritage park saw decades of neglect until it was taken up by the Sheila Dikshit regime to be redeveloped and work was to be completed by 2011 to coincide with New Delhi’s 100th anniversary.

But the DDA, after missing several deadlines since then, has only managed to landscape the area, even though the grass has lost its sheen, while the history walls erected in front of the statues of the four viceroys – Lord Hardinge, Lord Irwin, Lord Willingdon and Lord Chelmsford – lie neglected, incomplete and defaced. The majestic and tall marble statue of King George V faces the Coronation Pillar, standing forelorn, with its face disfigured, while marble statues of viceroys are also in need of maintenance.

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