The 250-year-old Jantar Mantar in the heart of the capital bore the brunt of the lawlessness that prevailed on Thursday.
During the protest outside the centrally protected monument, some of the sugarcane growers broke away from the gathering to enter the Jantar Mantar complex and resorted to vandalism.
The official manning the ticket counter outside the monument was threatened and had to flee as a dozen small groups sat huddled inside and drank on he green garden of the monument. Some of them even urinated and defecated inside the structure.
As the rally officially came to a close, the vandals severed many of the iron railings marking its perimeter.
“I’ve seen rallies get out of hand earlier, but this is something that I never imagined in my wildest dreams,” said Niharika Gupta (24), an MNC executive.
The mid-18th century heritage complex, which has some masonry-built astronomical instruments, is very much a functional observatory even today.
“Jantar Mantar is a unique monument as it offers scientific and astronomical heritage. It is not just any other architectural heritage monument, it is beyond that,” said Anisha Shekhar Mukherji, a conservation architect involved with the restoration project of the monument.
Urbanisation and commercialisation has already taken a toll on the monument, as in there is very little space around the monument.
Since it is an astronomical observatory, the height of the boundary wall cannot be raised much.
“That makes it more vulnerable because of the small area around it,” said Mukherji. “It (protests and vandalism) is basically a law and order problem. It is equally important that people realize the significance of the heritage monument.”
“It is about time that the government thought about re-locating this sort of a forum to some other place,” said Atul Bhargava, president of the New Delhi Traders’ Association.