We are turning to you in our hour of need as the heritage of Belgaum is now in grave danger !
The Income Tax Department, despite all our protests in 2010, is now determined to go ahead with its plans to build a huge office-cum-residential complex in a strip of land that starts from in front of the main gate of Belgaum Fort, and stretches to the wholesale vegetable market in the West.
Our beautiful Belgaum Fort was built by the Jains, the Hindus, the Muslims and the Christians. Each of these four faiths ruled from Belgaum Fort for almost equal periods of time over the past 1000 years. It is perhaps the only fort in India to have been built and maintained by people of four different faiths.
It is also unique because it still has ancient monuments corresponding to all four epochs. Tourists from all over the world come to Belgaum to admire this Fort and its archaeological treasures.
The Belgaum Fort is a ‘bhui kot’ (or a ground level fort). Such Forts need a deep moat and a strip of land in front of the moat (called the ‘skirts’ of the Fort). Only by standing on this clear space can the Fort walls and the bastions be admired.
The Karnataka State Government plans to develop this space all around into a garden with lights to illuminate the rampart walls and clean out the moat, which once had pure water but is now a stinking garbage pit in which even dead bodies of animals are dumped. Once the moat is cleaned, boats will be provided and the two bridges to the two gates will be LED illuminated
On 29th February 1982, the Cantonment Board of Belgaum sold this entire 4.2 acres of public land to the Income Tax Department for a mere Rs. 16.02 lakhs.
In 2010, the Income Tax Department, suddenly took possession of this strip of land and decided to put up an office-cum-residential quarters complex on this land. No one was shown their plan, nor has the Income Tax Department, till today, ever applied to the Cantonment Board for planning or building permission.
Once this massive complex of government buildings and quarters comes up here, our beautiful Belgaum Fort will completely disappear from view on the Western side. On the other sides there is a railway track and a slum starting from the moat of the Fort.
The Fort and its lake are the very entrance of Belgaum. They are in urgent need of beautification. If this huge government structure is allowed to come up at this entrance door of Belgaum and in front of the main gate of the Fort, it will be an eyesore . . . like a big ugly wart on the nose of a beautiful lady.
Imagine if they had proposed to build this complex on the land in front of the Red Fort in Delhi or the Taj Mahal in Agra. Would the ‘aam aadmi’ there have permitted them to do it ?
In 2010, the then D.C., Dr. Ekroop Caur, tried her best to gently persuade the Income Tax Department to shift their proposed complex of buildings to the 5 acre piece of government land near Laxmi Hill. The Income Tax Department has adamantly refused.
The Central Bus Terminus (CBT), and Ashoka Circle area is the most densely trafficated area in all of Belgaum. Quite often traffic gets completely jammed over here. During the Legislative Sessions, smooth VIP movement over here becomes almost impossible.
Honestly, what we need here is not more “development”, . . . we need decongestion.
This strip of land outside the Fort also falls partially in the ‘prohibited area’, and, partially in the ‘regulated area’ of the new Act which is intended to protect our national monuments against mindless developmentalism.
The Belgaum Fort, as a whole, is a National Monument. Much blood has been split on its strong rampart walls. Even Col. Munroe could not pierce these walls for 22 days from 20th March 1818 to 12th April 1818, and had to lay a siege to the Fort.
All these stones, not just those stones which have images of gods on them, are sacred to us. They must not be allowed to be obscured from our sight permanently.
We owe this much to our future generations.
We need to have the entire Belgaum Fort declared first as a ‘State Monument’, then as one of the Country’s ‘ancient monuments’ so that it is protected by the A.S.I. under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (A&V) Act 2010.
The Belgaum Fort which has protected us for about a thousand years, now itself needs our protection !
Please don’t waste any time in coming to the defence of our Fort in its hour of need !