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Tipu's armoury runs to seed 

He is fondly remembered as the radiant patriot, an epitome of religious tolerance and a ruler of great self-esteem, who single-handedly fought the British and was a nightmare to them.

Memories of this great martyr are only too familiar, now that the Tipu Sultan death bicentenary is on. Eloquent speeches are being made on Tipu's strength and valance. Cultural programmes and exhibitions are being organised in his honour, in the presence of ministers, MPs and cine artists.

Yet, the dignitaries and ministers caught up in these frenzied activities are blissfully unaware of one of the many contributions of Tipu Sultan - the world famous armoury in Kalasipalyam behind Bangalore Medical College.

This armoury, which once stood in all its splendour and glory, and housed huge quantities of ammunition, gun powder, muskets, rockets and missiles, that inflicted heavy losses on the British army, is now in a state of ruin and neglect, and is a den for pimps and prostitutes. Local counselors have also considered converting this armoury into a gymkhana. It is encroached on three sides by housing complexes.

This armoury has been blocked from public view by a Corporation Nursery School and a transformer. "Tipu Sultan was a person of undaunted adventurous spirit. Under his leadership, the Mysore army proved to be a school of military science," says Prof.B.Sheik Ali, an authority on the history of Tipu Sultan.

Ironically, the armoury bears scant resemblance to an archeological monument. It certainly does not look like a force to reckon with - the walls are blackened by motor vehicle pollution and are chipped off in parts. They also bear testimony to the visits of lovers who have scrawled their names on them. The iron gates and wooden gates are missing.

The growth of moss and wild plants in and around the armoury make it very difficult to get in, and will result in its dilapidation sooner or later. "There was an armoury built by Tipu in the Tara Mandal area of Chickpet about 15 years ago. Now it no longer exists. If the armoury is left unprotected, it will also meet with a similar fate," says photographer Azmathulla Sheriff.

The armoury, once of paramount military significance, is now a dumping ground for garbage and rubble. one wouldn't even feel like entering the place, because of the stench emanating from within. However, what's remarkable about it is that although it's about 50 feet long and 20 feet wide, it stands without the support of a pillar.

An ASI bylaw states that no building must come up within 300 metres of a protected archeological monument. Jeetendra Das, Superintending Archeologist of Bangalore Circle, says, "This armoury is not a protected monument because there is no evidence of its structural stability. Even if measures are initiated to conserve the monument, we wouldn't be able to demolish the nearby buildings due to inadequacy of funds to compensate for the demolition."

"The armoury was visited in October 1998 by Roshan Baig, the then Minister of State for Home, Pramila Nesargi, BJP MLA and Jeetendra Das from the Archeological Survey of India, but no action has been taken as yet," says a government official.

Asked to comment, Roshan Baig said, "Operations to remove the transformer in front of the armoury are on. We will then get the city corporation to clean up the place. The work should be completed in two months."

When Khaleel, a resident of the area, approached the concerned authorities and voiced his opinion about the need for the armoury's conservation, his pleas fell on deaf ears. The least our leaders can do in commemoration of Tipu's martyrdom is to protect and conserve the monuments he's left behind. "This is the last remaining armoury of Tipu Sultan in Bangalore, and hence the urgent need to protect it," says photographer Azmathulla Sheriff.

---- The Times of India.