Online petition against HC annexe triggers debate

Activitsts seek reversal of HC order on 7-storey building in Cubbon Park

Karnataka State Bar Council Building, Old Election Commission Building at Cubbon Park. DH Photo

Should a heritage building be demolished to make way for a seven-storey concrete structure right inside Cubbon Park, the city's most iconic green space?

Articulated through an online petition on Change.org, this query by outraged heritage and green activists has sparked a huge debate.

The activists are clearly upset by the Karnataka High Court's go-ahead for the demolition and its green signal to build a new annexe building there. The petition, seeking a reversal of the court order, has already garnered over 2,500 signatures.



The petition, drafted by seasoned heritage activist Priya-Chetty Rajagopal, contended that the October 17 order had gone against a 2001 ruling, which emphasised preservation of the city's nature, its historic spaces such as Cubbon Park in particular.

For years, the activists and thousands of citizens had fiercely guarded against any attempt to dilute the park's stature. An earlier online petition against an attempt to fell 120 trees in the park for the controversial elevated corridor had garnered over two lakh signatures.

 



The current petition drew attention to the park's vulnerability and the encroachments that had already taken place. "Cubbon Park is an emotive and beloved city landmark for Bengalureans, and this (the new order) hurts." 

Countering the latest move, the activists' contentions were manifold, articulated thus: "A seven-storey building within the radius of the Vidhana Soudha and Raj Bhavan is disallowed as a security risk. Public parks are sacrosanct and cannot be used like this. It is not a commercial area to be developed. Has the area been denotified?" 

On the critical 'heritage' question, the petition noted that the Public Works Department plans were not available in the public domain. Without these, it would be impossible to understand how the proposed building would follow heritage norms, and what would be its spatial contiguity to other buildings, heritage space and historical structures.

However, the activists, who have often campaigned under the banner #HeritageBeku, were confident that the court would address the concerns raised.

The petition noted: "We have no doubts at all that the honourable high court will definitely address this issue and we also know this inadvertent error that has allowed this will be speedily brought to notice and quickly actioned to preserve our city." 

The Draft Revised Master Plan for the city had a strong coverage on heritage, the petition reminded. "#HeritageBeku via its Heritage RMP2017 inputs has specifically covered this kind of arbitrary and forced construction to protect the city." 

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