Hesitations on heritage
While there are some movements to protect these sites, it is not the goal of all Bangaloreans to do so. Achal Prabhala, a researcher and writer, published an essay suggesting that heritage concerns only the elitists.
“Bengaluru’s heritage hysterics are a smokescreen: what the fine people are fighting to protect is class control,” he wrote in the essay. “Make no mistake. In a city where you can move from being working class to middle class in the space of a day, where, at long last, opportunity actually exists, this is a war against mobility.
“Heritage is the ultimate revenge of the rich: history reflected in a fun-house mirror and dipped in liquid nitrogen to make the distortion last,” Prabhala continued. “Heritage is a means of denying that history is made—and remade—every minute of every day in every part of the world.”
But Prabhala isn’t against heritage preservation altogether.
“I’m against heritage when the people for it are silly, thoughtless and heartless, as they unfortunately often are, both in India and the rest of the world,” he wrote via e-mail, adding that he is less interested in what the heritage lobby is trying to protect than in why.
The heritage lobby, he wrote, elevates the vanities of the rich to a moral virtue and is a history lesson with a simple moral: to have been rich is to have been good.
“I care about public space that is well-designed, welcoming, democratic, and widely used by people across every income group who live around that space, and beyond,” he wrote. “This almost never happens.
Prabhala said public parks are an example of how publicly owned heritage is a “disgrace.”
“They’re kept open for four hours in the morning and another four in the evening for middle-class people to enjoy the facilities,” he wrote. “They’re kept closed all through the day and night, which is coincidentally exactly when the non-middle-class could really use them; to sleep in the afternoon, to love in the evening.”
Prabhala is not at odds with INTACH.
“For the most part, I think INTACH is a fine group doing fine work, and believe it has grappled with some of the issues I talk about in that piece—high heritage vs. low heritage.”