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Last Updated:  Friday, 4 April, 2003, 15:33 GMT 16:33 UK
Row over Madras Raj college
By Sampath Kumar
BBC correspondent in Madras

There has been a public outcry in India at plans to demolish a building constructed under the British Raj.

Madras street scene
Madras has many buildings from the Raj
Opposition parties, students and consumer groups in Madras have united in protest at plans to tear down the 110 year-old Queen Mary's College.

Chief Minister Jayalalitha announced on Friday that the British structure would be bulldozed and replaced by a large, modern building.

Queen Mary's was one of the first colleges, started by the former British rulers, to offer higher education to women.

The state government says the old building, which is seen by some as a monument of British heritage, needs to be replaced with one that can accommodate the government's secretariat.

Other college

The secretariat currently operates from another British Raj structure - St George's Fort - which also houses St Mary's Church. The church is where the founder of the East India Company, Robert Clive, is buried.

The college, which was started in 1917, is one of two Queen Mary's colleges in India. The other one is in Calcutta.

A history teacher of the college, Mrs Rajeswari, said: "The decision to demolish this heritage building is unfortunate and the education of the 4,300 students studying here will certainly be affected. It is a decision to destroy a glorious history."

A trustee of a local consumers protection group, Thara Murali, said that students, public and the alumni were united in opposing the move.

"This college was set up to empower women in education and so has a place in the history of the women's movement and it is one of the very few buildings of an earlier era still left."

A similar proposal a few years ago, by the same chief minister, to demolish another former British structure was halted by the courts after a petition was filed against the move.

The building was home to the police headquarters.

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