Saving world heritage Indian monuments - vandalism and encroachments must be curtailed

Hampi monument, Karnataka.
Among the countries across the globe, India with the oldest  civilization and a long  chequered history  is endowed with a variety of monuments and heritage structures  that may baffle a visitor to this country.   There is a need to establish a new cultural object oriented paradigm focusing on the management of  such rich monuments, their preservation,  restoration and  conservation. 

A media report in Feb. 2019 mentioned about the statement made by  Dr Mahesh Sharma, Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Independent Charge) for Culture and Minister of State for Environment  in the parliament. He pointed out the 321 centrally protected monuments/sites in the country that  are encroached upon, 48 are in Karnataka. Uttar Pradesh Uttar Pradesh tops the list with 75, followed by Tamil Nadu with 74 and Maharashtra with 46. Environment in Feb. 2019.

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI)  was highly criticized for its role in the preservation of various monuments across India, notwithstanding the fact they had to take care of a vast number of them with limited funds released by the government. In February, 2019  the ASI  was bombarded with so many severe remarks in the wake of a release of a video showing a bunch of men - rather bums  vandalising ancient pillars at the world UNESCO heritage site (since 1986) in Hampi, Karnataka. 

Vandalism at Hampi monument, KA

In the first week of February, 2019 some youths were seen vandalising the pillars at the historic site in Hampi. In the video, one can see the youth pushing the pillars and overturning them. The pillar, part of a valuable ancient structure, tilts and falls before breaking into piece

Vandalism and monuments.

Indeed, it was a sad sight and one might wonder how men in this civilized world would stoop to such a low level as to  destroy our symbols of culture and ethos The video became  viral on the social media and got the attention of the Union Government.  This also had put the spotlight on such monuments in Karnataka,  which has several ancient structures, crying out for attention. The onus is on the state Archaeology and Museum  to save them for the posterity. 

The state of Karnataka is home to the second largest number of ‘centrally protected monuments’ under the jurisdiction of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI)  after Uttar Pradesh. Besides, 844 monuments are under the department of Archaeology and museum and the officials seem to be at a loss when it comes to preservation and conservation of historical sites.  Thousands of monuments across India  are poorly being managed primarily because of   bureaucratic morass and redtpism   presided over by the politicians of different ideology.

It reminds me of what the National award winning artist, photographer and history buff  Mohammed Ayazuddin Patel has said, ...''in India we are lagging in terms of conservation. The adminThe administration and politicians have failed to protect the  monuments, temples, arches, minars and domes. Take for example the baolis or step wells.  India has such  several intricate wells, which were created with a lot of hard work. Today most of them have turned into dumping yards. The administration, tourism department or even the Waqf board, State and Central archaeology department who have a role to play in conservation have failed to protect India’s rich history.  Even government supported organisations don’t do anything at the grassroots level.”

Ayazuddin Patel,National has been  demanding conservation of monuments in the Hyderabad-Karnataka region, He is particularly sore about ASI's failure to preserve the longest  cannon in the world  located in the Bahmani Fort and  installed  during the reign of Bahamani Empire in the 14th Century.

Part of the problem is these sites are  away from the towns with no connecting roads in many places. Being aloof, they are not well protected from  hooligans and trespassers by way of installing tall barricades  around them. In some monuments in the towns and cities, houses are built close to them, violating the monument laws governing the sites. 

The agency under the ASI takes no action on them.  For example at the old city of Thanjavur, Tamil nadu  near East gate (Beerangi Medu) on the remnant  of an old  fort wall close to the main road is installed one of the oldest cannon called Rajagopal swami Beerangi. Apparently it came up during the Nayak rule in the 17th CE. One can see many houses close to the historical site in spite of the  warning board put up by the government. The houses hinder the clear view of this historical site. 

Encroachments by the public on the heritage sites can be very much restricted  by installing CCTV cameras, security guards and protective fences around them.  Apart, the public must cooperate with the government and take equal responsibility to safeguard them. Further, the govt. must introduce stringent laws and give severe punishment to the violators.