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The protest against the proposed demolition of Devaraja Market received a royal touch with the titular maharaja of Mysuru expressing support for its conservation on April 20.
Yaduveer Krishnadatta Chamaraja Wadiyar, who is vocal on issues related to heritage and culture, is against demolition of Devaraja Market and Lansdowne building saying that it amounts to effacing the identity of Mysuru. Addressing tenants of Devaraja Market, who are against the proposed demolition, he said that he is with them in their struggle for conservation of the market and the heritage of Mysuru.
‘’This is the Mysuru we have all seen, grown up and lived in. The Devaraja Market is not only a commercial space or a building, but a tradition for all Mysureans, and it has to be passed on for posterity,” he said.
He questioned the findings of the heritage committee. ‘’We are appealing to the Karnataka Government to restore and conserve heritage structures. We have opinion of experts who insist that it can last for another hundred years,” he added.
One of the justification for the proposed demolitions is that the market is over 125 years old and is structurally weak. Mr. Yaduveer countered by questioning whether the same logic will apply to the palace, which is also over 100 years old.
Some heritage buildings are in public domain. “It is the responsibility and duty of the Karnataka Government to conserve them,” said Mr. Yaduveer. “Merely constructing a new structure with the same façade does not lend it a heritage tag, as it is devoid of any history.”
He cited the example of a temple which would have been submerged by construction of the KRS dam. The temple was relocated and reconstructed in the same pattern. In 2012, experts from France had visited Devaraja Market and opined that it could be conserved, said Mr. Yaduveer.
When told that a portion of the structure had collapsed and posed a threat to safety, Mr. Yaduveer said ’everyone knows how it collapsed’, hinting at the prevailing speculation that it was triggered by vested interest groups to expedite the demolition.
Mr. Yaduveer wants the expert committee to be reconstituted saying, in the present committee, only two members — Prof. N.S. Rangaraju of INTACH and Ravi Gundurao, a conservation architect — have expertise in conservation whereas the majority, who ruled in favour of demolition, are civil engineers without any knowledge of heritage or conservation.
The district heritage committee recently ruled that both Devaraja Market and Lansdowne building have to be demolished. Its view will be submitted to the High Court of Karnataka, which is hearing a petition related to the issue and had sought the opinion of the committee.
More than 800 tenants of Devaraja Market downed shutters on April 20 in protest against the heritage committee’s recommendations.