Heritage Policy as Colonial Legacy

The legal framework governing the preservation and management of heritage sites in India often creates a social schism between the state and the local communities inhabiting those sites. By reorganizing the spaces around monuments as “prohibited” and “regulated” areas, the state and its institutions often deny local communities access to sites that have intimately shaped their lives for years. Moreover, contemporary heritage policies severely disrupt the cultural practices of such communities by incorporating almost every use of heritage sites into a highly bureaucratized and intensely regulated system of checks and approvals prescribed by the government.

The Heritage Policy as Colonial Legacy Project seeks to understand the root causes of such a dissonance between heritage policies and the rights of local communities by investigating the origin and historical transformation of the former, together with the manner in which they have traditionally excluded the latter. On the basis of both archival research and ethnographic fieldwork, the project will analyze how current heritage legislation in India continues to be shaped by its colonial origin and the biases inherent to such a historical context.


August 2019 - TBD


This project is independently funded by Heritage Walk Calcutta

Blog Posts

The Saga of the Taj Committee Part I

Published: 10 Feb 2020

The first of 3-part series on the Taj Committee set up in 1808 by the East India Company kicking off start the first systematic conservation effort undertaken in the subcontinent.

The Saga of the Taj Committee Part II

Published: 7 April 2020

The second of 3-part series on the Taj Committee focuses on early conservation efforts by the committee and its deep rooted corruption & delusions of grandeur of the British official in charge of the project.

The Saga of the Taj Committee Part III

Published: 14 June 2020

The final of 3-part series on the Taj Committee focuses on the Colonial Government's hare-brained and fortunately unsuccessful attempt to demolish the Taj Mahal and sell its marbles for profit! 

The Project Leader

Sraman Sircar

Sraman Sircar studied History at Hindu College of Delhi University and subsequently pursued a masters in Sociology at Ambedkar University Delhi. Later, in his role as an Oral History Apprentice at the 1947 Partition Archive, he interviewed Partition refugees and survivors in Delhi and Kolkata. While completing his second masters in Sociology and Social Anthropology at the Central European University, he also worked for the Blinken Open Society Archives in Budapest as a film archivist. He is currently interested in issues and practices of urban heritage conservation in India.

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