MANGALURU: Bunder police station, the landmark brick-red heritage building on Azizuddin Road in Mangaluru, is looking fresh and new, its coat of old-world charm intact. Located near the Old Port, the 132-year-old police station is the city’s last standing police station established during the colonial era, and is built in typical colonial-style architecture, with a gabled roof and high ceiling. The busy Azizuddin Road and the adjoining lanes make up the busy commercial area of Bunder, where buildings and walls are built in grainy Mangalore brick. You can smell the sea salt here.
Of late, the building had become dilapidated -- paint had worn off, walls were chipped, the roof leaked, some tiles were broken, and the 2019 anti-CAA protests had left a few scars. Govindaraju B, who was inspector of the station -- also called Mangaluru North station -- from February 2019 to June 2021, decided he should do his bit for the classical structure.
“The walls were worn out and roof was leaking, damaging computers and documents. Moreover, several tiles were damaged due to stone-pelting during anti-CAA protest,” he said, adding that the building lacked maintenance. He set the ball rolling for its renovation, turning to locals and philanthropists for help, and managed to have it completed during his tenure. It was a successful crowdsourcing exercise.
Govindaraju, transferred to Central Crime Branch (CCB), Bengaluru, as inspector, told TNSE that he had sought the help of the department and philanthropists. “I wrote to the department seeking permission to have the old building renovated,” he said.
He wanted to give it a new look, and at the same time, preserve its aesthetics and architectural style, and also make it “people-friendly”. “In police stations, people should feel comfortable to approach police with their grievances. The station is situated in the heart of the city and handles many cases. Also, there are documents of many pending cases which need to be protected,” he said.
There was no question of demolishing the building or any part of it, as it still standing strong. Besides which, they had become very attached to it. “We started off with replacing tiles and repairing the walls. The City Centre Mall authorities and a few other philanthropists helped with painting and other patchwork of the walls. Due to overloading and power supply issues, our computer systems had got damaged. With help from a few banks, we replaced them with new ones, including wiring and plugging,” he said.
To preserve the heritage look of the building, Govindaraju said they decided to repaint the structure with the old red colour which dons buildings built during the British Raj. “The structure also depicts the working environment of police in the British era,” he said. The proposal sent to the department included construction of restrooms for both men and women staff, washrooms and other facilities, which were approved.
Mangaluru City Police Commissioner N Shashi Kumar and Hariram Shankar, DCP (Law and Order), visited the renovated building a few days ago. Shashi Kumar said that repairs of the building roof, electricity work, re-plastering and painting is completed. “This is the oldest police station in Mangaluru. We will take up more work to preserve the station as a heritage building,” he said.
Built in 1889
Interrogation wing built recently
It is said that 18th-century ruler Tipu Sultan used to visit Mangaluru through the Old Port and stay in this building. Some locals and senior police officers say that Tipu used to rest in this building, and the place was also used as a horse yard during his stay.
M Ahmed Bava (76), a former municipal councillor of Bunder, said the police station was earlier a tax collection centre of the British. “Ships and vessels carrying pulses from Kutch and Karachi used to arrive at the Old Port as Mangaluru was even then a major trade centre.”
Being a historical structure, Bava feels it should be declared a protected monument, like Sultan Batheri. “I have seen this building since my childhood and it stands tall as a symbol of unity among people from all communities,” he reminisces.