In December 2020 the Government of India began what it called the Central Vista Redevelopment Project in New Delhi. This massive restructuring will see the demolition and relocation of the National Museum of India, the Indira Gandhi Centre for the Arts, and the National Archives Annexe.
The project was undertaken hastily and implemented unilaterally without consultation with stakeholders; it remains opaque, with different messages about the plans being offered by the principal designer of the Central Vista project, the Union Minister of State for Housing and Urban Affairs, and various media outlet. What is clear, however, is that the archival records housed in the National Archives Annexe – 4.5 million files, 25,000 rare manuscripts, 100,000 maps, 280,000 premodern documents and more – are in jeopardy. Without a clear plan for protecting these artifacts during the transition, they risk damage or loss. Without temporary housing during the transition, the public remains barred from accessing these documents for an indeterminate length of time. Without a clear management structure, there is no accountability for any potential losses.
The decision to go ahead with the Central Vista Redevelopment Project jeopardizes the historical records of a nation. The Canadian Historical Association joins organizations around the world in urging a halt to the demolition of the National Archives of India in the midst of an ongoing pandemic and, when appropriate, encourages a more consultative and transparent process in going forward.