Ramachandra Guha, prominent historian and author, has ended his fortnightly column, Past and Present, in the Hindustan Times after six years. The reason: the top English daily spiked his latest column criticising Narendra Modi’s redevelopment of Delhi’s Central Visa as a vanity project.
The censored article has since been published on news website . In a foreword to the article, Guha wrote, “Six years ago, the then editor of the Hindustan Times invited me to write a fortnightly column. I agreed, on the condition that there would be no censorship. While occasionally some changes to my text were made without my consent, there was no attempt to get me to rewrite my column or change its arguments. Until this week, when the Hindustan Times declined to print the column I had sent, which was scheduled to appear on Sunday, April 19. I am grateful to The Wire for carrying this column in its entirety.”
Guha’s article draws on a pair of essays published by Newslaundry in March. The essays, by veteran journalist Alpana Kishore, explain how the Central Vista project is yet another way for the “super elite” to capture land from ordinary citizens. Kishore also questions why beautifying Lutyens’ Delhi is a bigger priority for the Modi regime than, say, tackling the capital’s catastrophic air pollution.
Read Kishore’s pieces:
Guha agrees that redesigning the Central Vista, at a reported cost of around Rs 20,000 crore, is a disastrous decision, especially now that India has been laid low by the coronavirus pandemic. He concludes, “In his speeches to the nation since the pandemic broke, the prime minister has asked Indians repeatedly to sacrifice – sacrifice their time, job, their lifestyle, their human and cultural tendencies to be gregarious. Now the citizens must ask the prime minister to sacrifice something for the nation as well. His project to redesign Central Vista was always controversial. It is now absolutely untenable. He should drop it.”