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ASI move to showcase a slice of history suffers setback

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Heritage lost: The weekly market has been shifted to the ASI land adjoining the fort and the Jamia Masjid in Srirangapatna.
Heritage lost: The weekly market has been shifted to the ASI land adjoining the fort and the Jamia Masjid in Srirangapatna.

R. Krishna Kumar

Land near Thomas Inma’s dungeon at Srirangapatna has been ‘encroached’

SRIRANGAPATNA: Nearly three acres of land adjoining the historical Thomas Inma’s dungeon and Jamia Masjid, which is under the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) for landscaping and development, has been “encroached” upon to hold weekly market much to the chagrin of the conservationists.

The town municipality sought no permission from the ASI to shift the market to the vacant space close to a few ruins overlooking the Cauvery. The land is owned by the Wakf Board which has issued a no objection certificate to the ASI for developing and landscaping it to promote tourism.

But the move by the civic authorities to occupy the vacant land to hold the weekly market or fair has put paid to the plans of the ASI to develop and showcase it to tourists.

ASI officials at Srirangapatna told The Hindu the land was fenced recently at a cost of Rs. 9 lakh. The ASI was in the process of handing over the land to its horticulture branch for development and landscaping. Unless the issue is resolved and the market shifted to other place, the move to showcase a slice of history associated with Thomas Inma’s dungeon – which is masked from tourists and the general public – would get further delayed.

It is believed that Tipu Sultan used to imprison his enemies here, but the dungeon fell into disuse after the fall of Srirangapatna in the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War in 1799. It was discovered by Thomas Inma, a French traveller, and it has been named after him since then.

What has incensed the conservationists is that months of efforts to clean up the area for landscaping have been nullified and the area is strewn with garbage.

The site overlooks the Jamia Masjid and the ramparts of the Srirangapatna Fort. Hence, the ASI fenced the area to prevent encroachment and retrieve a slice of history for posterity.

The local authorities ostensibly shifted the weekly market to the ASI land as the earlier location caused inconvenience to the public and hindered the movement of vehicles.

Srirangapatna’s weekly market is held every Saturday and is popular for a variety of traditional objects and farm produce.

The local authorities decided to shift the weekly market last year, but the ASI expressed its opposition stating that a temporary weekly affair would crystallise in a regular affair with permanent structures close to the monuments thus, marring their importance while encouraging proliferation of temporary residential areas whose relocation would become difficult in future. But the local authorities ignored the ASI opposition.

The shifting of the market flouts the ASI norm which prohibits any development activity within 100 metres of a protected monument and also provides for a buffer zone around. The ASI has plans to construct a pathway to Thomas Inma’s Dungeon from the ramparts of the fort.

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