THE VILLAGERS of Rakhigarhi have put conditions for any move to relocate them from the site, described as the largest Harappan site yet. Opposing any idea of relocating them immediately, they say that the government first should develop the area as a tourist hub and then consult the proposal with them.
The site, the archaeologists believe, belongs to at least a 5,500-year-old human settlement, an important centre of the Harappan Civilisation in the Indus Valley and can unlock mysteries of people of ancient India.
Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has recently written to the Haryana government, requesting that the site be made available for a more comprehensive excavation and has asked to relocate the people of Rakhigarhi. Confirming that the state has received such communication from ASI, Haryana Principal Secretary (Archaeology and Rourism) Sumita Misra said they have planned to seek a report from the Hisar district administration in this connection.
But, at the ground, the villagers were unaware of any such idea. “How can this happen?”asked a visibly upset Vazir Chand Saroae, known as the “most knowledgable person” in the village on archaeological issues.
“Listen, if the people are allowed to live here, then tourists from the world would have an idea about the lifestyle of two civilisations – modern society and Harappan Civilisation. With the help of latest findings, they may be able to compare houses built thousands of years back with the latest buildings,” said Saroae, who likes to be recognised as “Friend of Archaeology”.
“As of now, the village even lacks basic amenities. If the government develops it, then it can be a major source of income for us. See the example of Varanasi, where people earn thousands every month by offering services of paying guest. The villagers here also can offer similar services to visiting tourists,” he added. Varanasi, the spiritual capital and the cultural centre of north India, is situated on the bank of Ganga in Uttar Pradesh.
Opposing any “hurried” attempts to acquire the land, Saroae said, “As of now, archaeologists have not even explored the entire available land available for excavation here.”
Echoing similar sentiments, a youth, Sandeep Kumar, said, “Look, I am a graduate but without any employement. If some development happens here, then I may get some job opportunity like that of a guide.”
Now, Ashok Kumar, who is known as chairman in the village, though in reality his wife is chairperson of the Block Panchayat Samiti, tries to offer a feasible offer in case the government finally opts for relocation of the villagers.
“The government should give us adequate compensation so that we may move to agriculture fields while the government can construct flats for those who don’t have any agriculture land,” said Kumar. “But, before any such move, the government has to take the villagers into confidence. The villagers will agree to such a dialouge only when they will see concrete development at the site. What’s the benefit of getting the land vacated now and keeping it without any work for decades?” he added.
Kumar warned that if there was any attempt at forcible land acquisition, the khap panchayats would oppose it.
Even junior officials of the department don’t find such a proposal practical. “How can they get the entire village vacated when they (government) is not able to handle just a few encroachers?” asked a junior officer of the department, requesting anonymity. “We already have a list of 120 encroachers. How would they be able to provide land to the villagers. There are two panchayats – Rakhi Khas and Rakhi Shahpur. Rakhi Khas may have about 10 acres of panchayat land but Rakhi Shahpur doesn’t have even one acre,” he added. Population of both villages is about 13,000.
Rakhi Shahpur sarpanch Rajbir Sheoran said, “The villagers will be happy to relocate only if they are consulted and given enough compensation.”
Misra said, “Before any move, the villagers will be consulted. That’s why, we have decided to seek a report from the local administration first to know different aspects. The local administration can hold dialogue with the villagers on such issues.”