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Modi govt proposal would "undermine" archaeological sites, monuments to become "susceptible" to damage

Counterview Desk
The Union Cabinet decision to amend the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 2010, to allow centrally-funded projects to be set up in the prohibited area of the nationally-protected monuments is likely to adversely impact historical structures of national importance.
Pointing this out, the Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust (SAHMAT), a politico-cultural group formed in the memory of young theatre artiste Safdar Hashmi, who was brutally murdered for performing a street play in Jhandapur, UP, in 1989, has said the amendment allowing new construction in the immediate vicinity of protected properties of national importance would make monuments “most susceptible to heavy vibrations, chemical effects or mechanical stresses.”
The “prohibited areas”, under the current law, is the designated area up to hundred metres from the delineated boundary. Those who have signed the statement include members of the National Monuments Authority (NMA) M Saleem Beg, Meera Das, Bharat Bhushan, Shalini Mahajan, and Pukhraj Maroo, several historians including Romila Thapar and Irfan Habib, well-known theatre and cinema personality MK Raina, art historian Geeta Kapur, well-known artist Vivan Sundaram, and senior economist Prabhat Patnaik.
SAHMAT said, “In most sites, unexcavated structural remains that open up avenues of further research also fall within these prohibited zones. Construction activity of any nature will inflict irreversible damage to the monument as well as to the prospect of future study and understanding of the historic context of the site.”
Safdar Hashmi
Appealing parliamentarians belonging to various political parties to show their “continued resolve to preserve and protect the monuments and sites of national importance”, the statement said, “These are significant part of the soft power of India as also collective universal cultural assets and physical memories of our glorious past.”
The 2010 Act has the stated objective to “preserve, conserve, protect and maintain all ancient monuments and archaeological sites and remains declared of national importance, and their surrounding areas up to a distance of 300 metres (or more as may be specified in certain cases) in all directions”.
The Act replaced an ordinance, promulgated that year on January 23, 2010. A committee report, which formed the basis of the Act, had said that “it is no question of expediency or feeling whether we shall preserve the buildings of past time or not.”
The committee had insisted, “We have no right whatever to touch them. They are not ours. They belong to those who built them, partly to all the generations of mankind who follow us.”
Constitution of India, in seventh Schedule declares built heritage as a significant public good.

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