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Friday, February 26, 2021

Odisha: ASI seeks inquiry into ‘illegal demolitions’ around Lingaraj temple

ASI officials, during a scientific clean-up exercise near the temple, had discovered remains of a statue and the base of a temple and other remains last week after BDA had demolished structures on the 2-acre land around the temple.

Written by Aishwarya Mohanty | Bhubaneswar |
Updated: February 3, 2021 2:26:41 am
The structure was discovered during a preservation exercise in Old Town area of Bhubaneswar. (ASI)

Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) officials in Odisha have written to the organisation’s director general and sought inquiry into demolitions by Bhubaneswar Development Authority (BDA) around the 12th century Lingaraj temple.

ASI officials, during a scientific clean-up exercise near the temple, had discovered remains of a statue and the base of a temple and other remains last week after BDA had demolished structures on the 2-acre land around the temple. The demolition was undertaken by the Odisha Bridge and Construction Corporation Ltd.

“We have written to the state government, asking them to undertake no further demolition drives without prior consultations with the ASI. We have also communicated the same to the ASI D-G to investigate it. Based on probe, further actions will be taken,” Superintendent of Archaeologists (Bhubaneswar circle), Arun Malik, said.

An eight-member team of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) had visited the site on Sunday. Following the visit, the team observed that there were glaring examples of violations in protection and conservation of monuments. The team has observed that the civic body did not carry out a ground-penetrating radar (GPR) survey before the demolition — a must to assess what lies beneath the surface.

According to the ASI, it is the custodian of the Suka-Sari temples — the Lingaraj shrine is part of the same complex, which are protected under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act (AMASR Act), and that municipal officials did not take permission before carrying out the demolitions. According to the AMASR Act, the 100-metre area surrounding a monument is declared a prohibited zone and another 200 metres in the periphery a regulated area for construction, reconstruction, repairs and renovation work. Any construction or repair work in that periphery requires permission from the National Monument Authority and ASI.

“From the beginning, I told them that they should stick to Central laws and even submit detailed reports on such drives. But we have not received any such report, either before or after the demolition drive,” Malik said.

Bhubaneswar municipal commissioner Prem Chandra Chaudhary, who is also the BDA vice-chairman, said they would respond to the allegations only after receiving the letter. Asked about possible violations of AMASR Act during the demolition drive, he said: “So far, we have only acquired land. We have not started any development activities. OBCC has been directed to seek permission from ASI as and when we go ahead with any development activities in the area.”

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