Heritage Beku translates to ‘We want Heritage’. Heritage Beku evolved as a citizen’s initiative in Bengaluru in 2018, when a government administrative body decided to pull down the Krumbiegel Hall in the Lalbagh Botanical Garden. The old building, which perpetuated the memory of German botanist and garden designer Gustav Hermann Krumbiegel (1865 – 1956), who breathed life into the Lal Bagh Botanical Gardens among other things, was left to rot by the authorities and then marked for demolition.
Priya Chetty-Rajagopal, one of the founders of the organisation, talks about how the organisation came about and offers a glimpse into its activities. She has been involved across financial services, strategy and CXO executive search for the past 30 years and heads several industry fora like TiE, BCIC while pursuing her passion in areas like heritage, civic issues and animal welfare.
What is Heritage Beku? How did it come about?
The city was always concerned about heritage.. But somehow, we kept our heads down, while our hearts broke when heritage came crumbling around us.
The iconic steel Flyover Beda Campaign (of which I was one of the founders) put a huge filip into other campaigns and civic projects in the city. It gave us the belief that citizens could not only feel, make a difference, but also intelligently impact outcomes and city development.
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Krumbiegel Hall in Lalbagh was the trigger. Despite all assurances that it would be maintained, the building was bulldozed overnight with the promise that a better and stronger building would come up in its place.
Better? A 120 year old icon? It left us horrified, cheated - but this time around - refusing to be helpless.
Heritage Beku emerged as a citizen’s initiative from great pain, but with great hope, great citizens and great dreams. If our city heritage could not speak, we decided we would be its collective voice.
What are some of the unique projects that you are involved in?
#KillBill, Traffic Free Cubbon Park, Revised Master Plan 31 with significant policy suggestions, many were accepted.
Our original petition on what needed to be done on structure was incorporated into the proposed BDA and BBMP rules, and heritage started featuring more prominently in government discussions on land use and town planning.
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What has been the public response to the initiatives?
We are a strong voice now and we have a seat on the table. We are viewed as protectors, champions and collaborators - not activists.
Situations such as Cubbon Park being opened to traffic or reviving the Janatha Bazar can happen in any Indian city. Your efforts at preservation/conservation can be a lesson for others. Do tell us briefly how you went about the same and what is the situation now?
Janatha Bazar is now safe and Traffic Free Cubbon Park is work in progress.
I think focus in such conservation projects must be to collect data, gather expert opinions, enumerate and address stakeholders and decision-makers, make a compelling case, follow it up with a strong online petition, generate media, and if necessary, in extreme cases, approach the courts.
The idea is to combine our hearts and concerns, with an analytic and outcome oriented work approach. Events and discussion connect the dots as well. The fact that there are several diverse, expert and highly visible citizens in Heritage Beku adds to its stature and impact.