The Division of Archaeology continues to battle to save lots of one of many nation’s and area’s most vital archaeological websites, Mahasthangarh in Bogura, because of the delay in buying 393 acres of land within the fort metropolis.
Native villagers have constructed homes and different constructions similar to wells and drains on the land of Mahasthangarh over many years, regardless of these being a violation of the Antiquities Act-1968 and a 2012 Excessive Courtroom order.
They’re additionally instantly damaging the positioning and its archaeological antiques by taking bricks from the traditional constructions, in response to DoA officers.
The officers say they’ve been making an attempt to impede new constructions there however locals managed to construct round 1,000 constructions together with homes on the web site through the years, making the most of poor monitoring by the division which has a manpower scarcity.
Following the Excessive Courtroom order, the DoA beefed up vigilance and have been in a position to halt the development of recent buildings. However its vigilance weakened once more amid the pandemic and several other unfinished brick homes have been accomplished whereas development of recent constructions started over these months.
Solely 42.78 acres of land in Mahasthangarh fort metropolis really belongs to the DoA. The remaining small components of land embody 22.78 acres which represent the fort metropolis’s boundary partitions, 5 acres which belong to the district administration, and three.70 acres which belong to the Shah Sultan Balkhi Mazar.
Nearly all of the land — 319 acres — belongs to native villagers since Partition in 1947.
Mahasthangarh was declared a protected monument below the Historic Monuments Preservation Act-1904 by the then Bengal authorities in 1920.
Naheed Sultana, regional director of the DoA, Rajshahi and Rangpur divisions, mentioned Mahasthangarh homes necessary steel, stone and earth artefacts from the pre-Maurya, Maurya, Shunga, Gupta, Pala, Sen, Mughal, and even the British, durations.
“The place incorporates useful archaeological proof from the 4th century BC to the 19th century AD — such a chronological historical past of human civilisation is discovered nowhere else in Bangladesh,” she mentioned, including that Mahasthangarh has been on the record of possible Unesco world heritage websites since 1999.
“Subsequently, buying the land for preserving this archaeological proof instantly is essential, not just for Bangladesh but in addition for the remainder of the world.”
She mentioned era after era of villagers have been utilizing useful historic bricks from the positioning to construct homes and digging deep tubewells and drains, damaging the archaeological web site. “As soon as these artefacts are misplaced, we are going to by no means get it again.”
In 2012, the Excessive Courtroom dominated that the federal government instantly purchase all non-public land inside the fort metropolis and likewise directed that in this buying interval, no new development happen.
The Antiquities Act, 1968 (amended in 1976) states new buildings, partitions, demarcation marks, drains can’t be constructed and no hurt be carried out to archaeological websites.
Over time, no less than 987 homes and different constructions have been constructed within the fort metropolis in violation of the antiquities act, in response to the DoA.
Razia Sultana, custodian of the Mahasthangarh Archaeological Museum, informed The Day by day Star they filed 13 complaints with the Shibganj Police Station this yr, in opposition to 26 individuals developing unlawful constructions within the fort metropolis, in violation of each the Excessive Courtroom order and the antiquities act.
Contacted lately, DoA Director Common Md Hannan Mia informed the Day by day Star, “We despatched a proposal to the Ministry of Cultural Affairs on December 29 final yr on buying the land instantly. As a result of coronavirus pandemic, it’s taking extra time.”
The 393.31 acres of land would require an estimated Tk 739.5 crore to amass, the DG mentioned.
Morium Begum, 35, of Garh Mahasthan village, which is contained in the fort metropolis, mentioned, “The federal government is neither shopping for our land nor permitting us to construct new homes. As our household will get bigger, we’d like new houses and infrastructure.”
One other resident Dulu Sheikh mentioned for the final seven to eight years, the villagers haven’t been allowed to construct any new homes, tubewells, drains, arrange irrigation machines, or dig a graveyard within the space.
“If we take any step to do new development, the native archaeological division file case after case on the police station and police are stopping us from constructing new homes and harassing us,” he mentioned.
Nevertheless, DoA officers refuted the allegation that they impede agricultural work and digging of graveyards within the space.
On visits to the positioning this yr — in February and November — this correspondent discovered many new brick homes being constructed, violating the Excessive Courtroom order.
A number of villagers — requesting to stay nameless — additionally claimed police officers in alternate of bribes permitting individuals to construct new homes.
Contacted, SM Baziuzzaman, officer-in-charge of Shibganj Police Station, refuted the allegation.
Mosharaf Hossain, one other villager, mentioned, “The Excessive Courtroom ordered the archaeology division to amass the fort metropolis land instantly, however seven to eight years have handed with out the archaeology division or the federal government taking any initiative to amass the land.
“We villagers are dealing with many issues to assemble even a small drain for irrigation.”
Manzil Murshid, president of Human Rights and Peace for Bangladesh (HRPB), which filed the writ petition for the preservation of the positioning resulting in the HC order, informed the Day by day Star that the villagers went to the courtroom this February for a established order, in order that they’ll construct new infrastructures within the space.
“However the Excessive Courtroom denied them and ordered the division involved, district administration and police to guard the positioning from unlawful constructions.”
On December 29, 2019 the DoA despatched an utility to the secretary of the cultural affairs ministry urging all the mandatory steps to amass all 393.31 acres of land within the fort metropolis.
The appliance, which The Day by day Star has obtained a duplicate of, states that Mahasthangarh and its adjoining archeological websites are into account as a Unesco world heritage web site and the land will not be acquired quickly, the federal government will lose management of the traditional fort metropolis and necessary archeological proof is already being occupied by native villagers.
The appliance additionally warned that pressure between the villagers and the native DoA is rising and violence would possibly get away if the land will not be acquired in time.