Heritage Beku that translates to We Want Heritage, 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 unattended by the authorities and then marked for demolition.
Priya Chetty-Rajagopal, one of the organisation's founders, spoke to Outlook Traveller about how the organisation came about and offers a glimpse into its activities.
"The city was always concerned about heritage, but somehow, we kept our heads down, while our hearts broke when heritage came crumbling down around us. The iconic #SteelFlyoverBeda Campaign (of which I was one of the founders) gave a huge filip to 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," said Chetty-Rajagopal.
"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. It left us horrified, cheated—but this time around, we refused 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. We are a strong voice now and we have a seat on the table. We are viewed as protectors, champions and collaborators—not activists."
Heritage Beku's members come from all walks of life—there are conservation experts, policy researchers, lawyers, environment activists, corporate players, artists, journalists and architects. While they belong to different professions, what binds them is a common love for Bengaluru and a zeal to protect its unique character.
While Bengaluru is growing a breakneck speed to become a "world class city," there is a growing threat to its heritage. And it is this aspect that Heritage Beku aims to address through its preservation/conservation efforts.
"In conservation projects, the focus 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 attention, and if necessary, in extreme cases, approach the courts," said Chetty-Rajagopal.
"The idea is to combine our hearts and concerns, with an outcome-oriented work approach. Events and discussions connect the dots as well. Having several diverse, expert and highly visible citizens in Heritage Beku adds to its stature and impact."