Chandra, Aditi. “Potential of the ‘Un-Exchangeable Monument’: Delhi’s Purana Qila, in the time of Partition, c.1947–63.” In International Journal of Islamic Architecture, Volume 2, Number 1 (pp. 101-123), edited by Mohammad Gharipour, Bristol: Intellect, 2013.
During the Indo-Pakistan Partition, the exodus of Muslims and the influx of Hindus and Sikhs indelibly transformed Delhi. Both groups occupied some of the city’s Islamic monuments as refugee camps, of which the longest running was the sixteenth-century Purana Qila (Old Fort). If there is one indelible act that symbolized the Partition, it was the mass movement of people and the exchange of movable property. It was through exchange that India and Pakistan acquired accoutrements of nationhood such as citizens, land and a bureaucratic apparatus. At a time when trivial objects like furniture and something as vital as human life were considered exchangeable, the very object that had long been considered the repository of a nation’s identity – the historic monument – became an un-exchangeable asset. Using the Purana Qila as an example, this essay suggests that during the ‘long partition’, the modern tourist-monument carefully fashioned by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) ceased to function as such. The actions of these refugees and their refusal to leave transformed the tourist-monument into a space of protracted negotiation and resistance. At a time when everything was exchangeable, the potential for resistance came precisely from that which could not be exchanged.