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Tajganj, a cluster of ‘bastis’, (neighbourhoods), is a 400-year-old market district in the North Indian city of Agra: home of the Taj Mahal. As a government funded regeneration scheme in Tajganj commences, a major focus for politicians and press is the ‘protection’ of the area’s ‘cultural heritage’. However, it is hard to pin down what is meant by ‘cultural heritage’, and what it needs protecting from. The possibility that perceived dangers such as unregulated construction, or cottage industries are not outside or counter to ‘heritage’ has not been adequately explored.
Tajganj owes its unique urban condition to accidental isolation. Developing in the space between two main roads, it has until now escaped major state intervention: with mixed results. As this ‘heritage’ of autonomy is abruptly ended by the regeneration scheme, the matter of ‘what to keep’ is fraught with complication. ….