Expressing a deep sense of indignation over the Dundiakhera “treasure hunt” fiasco in the Unnao district of Uttar Pradesh last September, the Indian History Congress has come down heavily on the Archaeological Survey of India for abusing archaeology instead of preserving it.
At a general body meeting after the completion of its 74th session here on Monday, the IHC in a resolution has called for an enquiry to identify those responsible for making the ASI complicit in such an enterprise, and to determine the amount of taxpayers’ money lost in the process.
In search of about 1000 tonnes of gold buried under the palace of a 19th century king, the ASI supervised a digging operation reportedly based on no better piece of evidence than the dream of a local seer.
“The long continuation of digging by the ASI, under the eyes of foreign and Indian media, has brought considerable dishonour to the ASI,” the IHC resolution said. The excavation was “illegal” as no proposal for it had been brought before the standing committee of the Central Advisory Board of Archaeology — an essential prerequisite.
The IHC was equally critical of the interference of bureaucrats in the administration of professional institutions undertaking historical and archaeological researches.
In another resolution, it condemned the appointment of civil service officers to head institutions like the ASI, the National Archives, the Indira Gandhi National Council of Arts and the National Museums. “It has been noticed that the Government of India consistently fails in taking timely steps to fill up the heads of these institutes as and when they fall vacant and, instead, civil service officers having no necessary qualifications are appointed to head such institutions.” The resolution said all the four institutions are now in this unenviable position without any convincing reason.
“The Dundiakhera fiasco ... would not have happened, if the ASI had a competent DG to give proper advice to the powers concerned,” the resolution said. It strongly recommended that the Government of India rectify the lapses and return the said institutions to the stewardship of professionally qualified persons.