Protect, preserve Tipu’s armoury

A little over a year after an armoury built by Tipu Sultan was shifted to a new location, the 200-year-old monument lies in a decrepit condition. The armoury is a mess, overrun by weeds and bushes and strewn with empty alcohol bottles and trash. It is being used as a public toilet; the stench in and around the monument is unbearable. The armoury is also being used by anti-social elements for illegal activities. The armoury was used by Tipu Sultan to store gunpowder and weapons during his battles against the British. The monument thus stands testimony to the sterling role that the ‘Tiger of Mysore’ played in fighting British colonial rule. One would have thought that the government would have realised the value of this monument and gone out of its way to protect it. It seemed to do so for a while. When the construction of a new railway line between Bengaluru and Mysuru and running through Srirangapatna threatened the armoury, the Siddaramaiah government swung into action and put in place a plan to relocate the armoury some 500 metres away. This was not easy; the 90-tonne armoury was partially underground and had to be excavated carefully. Around Rs 14 crore was spent on relocating the armoury. The government’s action to preserve the monument was widely appreciated, coming as it did at a time when Tipu Sultan and his legacy were being systematically undermined and questioned by Hindutva elements in the state. Given the way the government ‘celebrated’ Tipu Jayanti this year, with Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy and other ministers staying away, one wonders if the event itself is held merely for political gains and not as a way to remember and preserve our history and heritage.

The immense effort and investment that went into preserving the armoury is now going down the drain. Surely, at the very least, the government can deploy a few security personnel to ensure that the monument is not misused. While the public should be allowed in during the day, any attempt to deface or disrespect it must be dealt with sternly.

If this is the fate of an Archaeological Survey of India (ASI)-protected monument, one can imagine the condition of other historical sites in the state. Karnataka is fortunate to have a large number and variety of historical monuments. Sadly, many of these are in a derelict condition. It is not uncommon to find walls of monuments defaced by tourists carving their names on them. Idols and entire pillars are missing from places of worship. This monumental neglect of our heritage must end. The ASI, Karnataka’s archaeology department and other stakeholders must work together to preserve the state’s monuments.

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