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Illegal mining erasing historical sites

The rampant illegal mining going on in and around Allahabad is posing a serious threat to important archaeological sites and areas with immense historical significance.

Written by Prashant Pandey | Allahabad |
June 27, 2011 2:52:59 am

The rampant illegal mining going on in and around Allahabad is posing a serious threat to important archaeological sites and areas with immense historical significance. The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI),however,is finding itself helpless to rein in the deterioration and has cited various reasons for it.

Apart from the ASI-protected sites like Bhita in Allahabad and Pagosha Hills in Kaushambi,the region has been throwing up archaeological evidence from pre-historic period,including rock shelters with cave paintings. But illegal mining,carried out mostly through blasting,may sound a death knell for these archaeologically rich areas.

Expressing concern over the present situation,Prof J N Pal,head of department of history and archaeology at Allahabad University, said a small “island” in Yamuna at Bhita,which was used as a “port” during ancient times and a fair was held on “Yam Dwitiya” till recent years,has all but disappeared.

“There is also an ancient idol of Yaksh Bhadra Mani and the place was an important Buddhist centre. But now only the idol of Bhadra Mani remains on the bank of the river,” said the professor.

The situation in Pagosha Hills is no different. Known in ancient times as Prabhas Giri,the site was a big city in sixth century BC. Gautam Buddha too had visited the city twice on the invitation of Udayan,the city’s koshadhyaksh (in-charge of the treasury). “Here too,the hill has been severely damaged due to mining activities,” said Pal.

Besides,there are several other areas in the region,including Chitrakoot,Mirzapur and Sonbhadra,where archaeologists have come across rock shelters with cave paintings dating back to pre-historic period. “Apart from the natural rock shelters,there are man-made rock shelters. The dwellers used what is known as rock-cut architecture — carving out caves from rocks to live in them,” said Pal. “But for an illegal miner,it is all just any other rock,which is to be blasted,” he added.

The UP State Archaeology Department (UPSAD) too has expressed the same apprehension. “There are several areas in the hills of Vindhyas,which have the archaeological potential. But we are unable to go there because the illegal miners have captured the place,” said Ram Naresh Pal,head of the Allahabad Unit of UPSAD.

When contacted,Superintending Archaeologist of ASI (Lucknow Circle),C B Mishra,conceded that there was a problem in Pagosha Hills. “We had written to district administration and also got an FIR lodged more than six months ago. The mining activity was stopped there. We are committed to protect and conserve such sites and take action as and when we come to know of such activities,” said Mishra.

Mishra also said that the administration did not always take effective action. Staff crunch and instances of offenders being in collusion with officials are some of the other problems that hamper efforts to conserve important archaeological sites,he added.

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