Other States

Harappan settlement razed to expand farmland, build houses

The 5,000-year-old Indus Valley settlement,discovered in Baghpat district of Uttar Pradeshin 1957, stands abandoned and unprotected. Photo: Parvez Khan  

A 5000-year-old Indus Valley settlement located in Baghpat district of Uttar Pradesh, stands abandoned and unprotected.

The archaeological site, discovered in 1957 in Alamgirpur village of the district, is regarded as one of the most historically significant finds in the country as it showed for the first time evidence of habitation pertaining to the Harappan period in the Upper Doab region between the Ganga and the Yamuna.

However, at present the settlement, which lies just 70 km. from the national capital, faces destruction by the villagers who have flattened the centuries-old structures to expand their cultivable land.

Worse, some of the villagers have built houses, memorials and temple-like structures on top of the settlement, where excavations till last year had given crucial insights about life and society during the Harappan period, also known as the Indus Valley Civilization.

During excavations of the site which dates back to the Harappan period of 3300-1300, the ASI archaeologists found ceramic items like roof tiles, dishes, terracotta cakes and figurines of a humped bull and a snake.

After its discovery the site was declared “protected.” But it is anything but that now.

The chief of the ASI Agra Circle, Bhuvan Vikram, underlined the importance of the settlement but also accepted the complications which led to the encroachment by the villagers.

“The settlement marks the eastern most limits of the Harappan culture and belongs to the late Harappan phase, a period starting around 1900-1800 BC when the Indus Valley Civilization, popularly known as the Harappan Culture, began to decline,” he said.

The civilization, which is known for its superior urban planning, is believed to have flourished in the period between 3300 BC and 1300 BC in what is today Pakistan, northwest India and parts of Afghanistan and Balochistan.

With the continued encroachment by the villagers, the overall area of the protected settlement has been reduced from 28 bighas to just 6 bighas now.

“It is true that the area is protected but the land rights of the place are still with the farmers and the villagers cannot be stopped from farming on the land.” The ASI, he said, was making efforts to ensure that there was no further encroachment.

‘Harm already done’

“Whatever has been encroached, we cannot take back from the villagers. Our priority now is to prevent further encroachment,” he added.

However, a senior ASI official in Meerut told The Hindu on condition of anonymity that given the construction and flattening of the protected mound, there was a likelihood that the ancient heritage might have already suffered great harm.

“The farmers and villagers have in the last few years cut the mound and reduced the protected area at a disturbing pace to increase their farming land. I am afraid that important articles of the ancient heritage might have already been destroyed,” he said.

He also said that the ASI had written to the State repeatedly to prevent encroachment and fence the area off to prevent further encroachment. But there was lack of awareness in bureaucratic circles about ancient heritage. ASI officials also expressed helplessness.

The ASI notice warns the inhabitants against any kind of construction within a radius of 100 metres of the protected site. But the warning has never been heeded.

Locals recall how they built, one by one, four samadhis, on top of the mound without any objection from the administration or the ASI.

“The four samadhis were built in memorial of the great souls of the village,” said Dharmendra Raghav, a villager in his late thirties who had seen the mound since he was born. While pointing to the huts, built atop the protected mound, he said it was “good” that the “old structure” was of some use to the villagers.

“We got to know that old things were found during excavation in this mound. But, you tell me, is archaeology more important than farming. How can you ask a farmer not to till his land and grow crops. What will he eat if he doesn’t get the land to do farming,” said Raghav, who works at a construction site in Delhi, while questioning the logic of not flattening the mound for farming.

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Printable version | Sep 18, 2021 4:39:26 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/harappan-settlement-razed-to-expand-farmland-build-houses/article7648832.ece

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