Don’t overrule Corbusier,Nehru wrote to Kairon in 1960 letter

UT has placed on record a letter written by Jawaharlal Nehru to the then Punjab Chief Minister,Partap Singh Kairon.

Written by RAGHAV OHRI | Chandigarh | Published:February 10, 2012 1:39 am

To back its opposition to Camelot,UT submits to High Court late PM’s letter to then Punjab CM

To strengthen its case for scrapping of the Tata Camelot housing project,the Chandigarh Administration has brought late Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to its rescue. The UT has placed on record a letter written by Nehru to the then Punjab Chief Minister,Partap Singh Kairon. On November 4,1960,a letter was shot off by Nehru to Kairon after Le Corbusier,the French architect of Chandigarh,complained about the setting up of a cantonment area in the North of the Capitol Complex. Nehru advised Kairon not to “overrule” Corbusier,who described the area as “sacred”.

This letter was annexed with an application filed by the UT in the Punjab and Haryana High Court today. The UT submitted that the Tata Camelot project would be “disastrous for the ecology,environment,basic heritage,character of Chandigarh”. The application has been filed in the PIL filed by Advocate Aalok Jagga.

Nehru had written to Kairon,“I have spoken to you about Le Corbusier’s complaint about the Cantonment being built on the other side of the Lake in Chandigarh. He has written to me again on this subject and sent me a sketch. I am enclosing these papers. I do hope that you will not overrule Corbusier. His opinion is of value”. Corbusier had written to Nehru on November 2 1960,complaining about the then proposed construction of a cantonment area in the North of the Capitol Complex.

Corbusier’s letter,a copy of which is with Newsline,reads “I permit myself to send you a copy of my telegram of September 9,1960,from Paris and a copy of my letter of September 8,1960,from Paris; the two document my concerns about the cantonment at Chandigarh under discussion since some months. A meeting with a General is to be held here at Chandigarh on November 10. My point of view cannot be changed. It is my duty to be very firm. Your paternal feelings towards Chandigarh will be of utmost value.”

Corbusier further wrote,“I send you a small sketch of the part of the lake which is menaced. This sketch was made this morning. It expresses the limit of the city and shows the landscape which must be preserved”. A week after Nehru’s letter,the proposed construction of the cantonment area was shelved. On November 11,1960,Corbusier sent a letter to Kairon expressing his “happiness”. “I am extremely happy to note that the sacred area around the lake will now be preserved and will continue to be agricultural land. The agriculture in this area has to be modernised (without any suburb) directly on the limit of the city,” he had written.

Corbusier had further written,“I take the opportunity of expressing my gratitude for the personal interest that you have taken in this matter and for anxiety in preserving the fortune of the city”. All these letters have been annexed by the UT Administration with its application in the High Court today.

‘Not just vision,like unwritten constitution’

“The Edict of Chandigarh cannot be termed only as vision but has legal sanctity akin to an unwritten Constitution. Chandigarh was not only a dream project of Corbusier but also of Nehru and Kairon. All these stalwarts wanted to preserve the city and its periphery for all times to come. Punjab,while preparing the development plan for Naya Gaon and Mohali,has not taken this into consideration and has rather ignored the existence of the Sukhna Wild Life Sanctuary. It has not taken into consideration the catchment area of Sukhna Lake as well as the Capitol Complex”,reads the application filed by the UT in the High Court.

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