On the International Day for Monuments and Sites, as the Archaeological Survey of India holds nationwide celebrations, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India is ready with a performance audit report that says 81 protected monuments are missing in the country
In 2006, the figure stood at 35. Seven years later, the figure has more than doubled and stands at 81. The numbers might look very insignificant looking at the sheer scale of everything else in this country, but when it is attributed to missing monuments, it does make one sit up and take notice. According to the performance audit of preservation of monuments and antiquities by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG), the number of missing monuments protected by Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has gone up from 35 to 81. The report has been sent to ASI for comments following which will be tabled in the next session of Parliament.
ASI, whose primary concern is the maintenance of ancient monuments and archaeological sites and remains of national importance, is responsible for the upkeep of around 3,678 monuments in the country. For its audit, the CAG visited a sample of just 1538 monuments and from these alone, it has found 81 missing. The audit teams were accompanied by ASI officials and sources say the joint inspection is documented and signed by both ASI officials and the CAG audit team.
Covering 17 circles, the report alleges that monuments like cave temples, rock inscriptions, pre-historic sites, kos minars, rock carvings, siege batteries are missing. While Assam and Arunachal Pradesh in the earlier list of centrally protected monuments/ sites had two monuments, guns of emperor Sher Shah at Na-Sadia in Tinsukia and ruins of copper temple, missing, according to the new report, the Guwahati circle of ASI has added the tomb of Lt. Cresswell, sculptures in Chummery compound in Tezpur, sculpture of Bhairavi, Kamakhya Hill and stone memorial of U-Mawthoh-Dur, Shillong, to the list. The Mumbai circle makes an entry with an old European tomb at Pune, a burj at Agarkot, a Portuguese monastery over the cave and a large watch tower on the adjoining hill at Mandapeshwar, Borivali. Lying in a state of sheer neglect, it is believed the European tombs (German and French tombs dating back to 1817) fell prey to encroaching.
B.R.Mani, Additional Director General, ASI, hasn’t seen the report yet but is aware of it. “We have to give a reply. Our monument section needs to verify the details and get back. But not all the monuments out of the 35 that have been said to be missing for long are missing. The monuments have been inundated in water, eaten up by new construction but the site exists. For instance, the site of Siege Battery is still there. The plaque that the British had put has gone but it doesn’t mean the site has ceased to exist. The copper temple in Arunachal Pradesh has been washed away.”
Identifying a host of challenges ASI is faced with in relation to the upkeep of the monuments, Mani points out, “These sites are protected and declared to be of national importance but the land on which they are, doesn’t belong to us. The land is owned by the State government. Joga Bai mound in Jamia Nagar was declared protected monument in early 20th Century but the land was never transferred to ASI and slowly colonies started coming up and it vanished.”
Joga Bai mound figures in the old list of 35 monuments where Delhi accounts for 12 missing monuments. In the new report which is yet to be in the public domain, besides the Moti Gate of Sher Shah’s Delhi, Mauza Babarpur Bazidpur, Pool Chadar in Mauza Chaukri Mubarakabad, tomb of Capt. Mc.Barnett and others who fell in an attack on Kishanganj, two sites of Siege Battery and Inchla Wali Gumti in Mubarakpur Kotla among others, the site of Seige Battery at Qudesia Mosque garden and Sat Narain Bhawan on Roshanara Road are fresh entries.
But even if the land is transferred to ASI what can it do, asks A.G.K. Menon, INTACH Delhi Chapter Convenor. “It doesn’t have police power. It can only point out illegal encroachments but doesn’t have the powers to prevent any wrongful actions. If police doesn’t do anything, then it can’t do anything.”
That apart, you can’t absolve ASI of its responsibility. Negligence by ASI, according to Menon, has played its part. “Monuments are not being looked after well. Imagine, if this is happening to those monuments which are protected, what about those which aren’t? Rapid urbanisation has swallowed up the monuments.”
Woefully thin budgets and shortage of manpower are other factors responsible for the disappearance of the monuments. Mani agrees. “Even if you count Qutub and several other monuments which have several structures within its compound as one, we would need three watchmen plus one reliever to guard the 3,678 structures round-the-clock. That creates the need for around 20,000 people whereas we have only 2000 people to man these spaces,” he points out.
It is not possible to reclaim all the lost sites but wherever possible, ASI, Mani says, is doing its bit. “It is one of our projects. At a pre-historic site there were just boulders which vanished after colonies came up but we are trying to locate the site.”
Not just ASI, Menon says the responsibility of our cultural heritage also lies with the civil society. “Why is society so callous towards these monuments? In England, they take care of 500,000 monuments and here, we have just a few thousand. The civil society needs to play an important role.”
Some of the monuments mentioned in the report prepared by CAG
Agra Circle, ASI - 7
1) Site of Aonla railway station, Bareilly 2) Tomb of Lt. Col. John Guthrie, in mud fort, Farrukhabad 3) Ancient sculpture, carving, images, bas relics, inscriptions, stones and like objects, Mathura 4) Portion of Katra Mound which are not in the possession of Nazul Tenants on which formerly stood a temple of Keshav Dev which was dismantled and the site utilized for the mosque of Aurangzeb, Mathura 5) Monument of Kila Chandpur fort, Bijnor 6) Monument near Kila railway station, Hathras 7) Old British cemetery, Bijnor
Aurangabad Circle, ASI — 5
1) Jarasangh Nagri at Jorve, Ahmednagar 2) Stone Circle at Arsoda, Gadchiroli 3) Group of 20 Cromlechs or Kistvaens at Chamorshi, Gadchiroli 4) Stone Circle at Nildho 5) Stone Circle at Takalghat, Nagpur
Hyderabad circle, ASI — 8
1) Ancient Buddhist remains and Brahmi inscriptions on the mound, 2) Sculptures, carvings, images or other like objects 3) Hills of Nagarjunakonda with the ancient remains 4) Sculptures, carvings, images on the ancient mound 5) Sculptures, carvings, images other like objects found in the vicinity of the mosque 6) Large Dolmen 7) Mounds-Dibba no. 1 to 5 8) Mound, Nagulavaram
Kolkata circle, ASI —7
1) A Mound and a statue of surya 2) A Mound with a Jain statue 3) Image of Durga slaying Mahishasura under a tree 4) Temple site now represented only by a mound 5) A mound with an image of Nandi on it 6) A mound with statues of Ganesh and Nandi on it 7) Ruins of fort Nadia, West Bengal