Hyderabad: Several prehistoric, megalithic sites, whose land value is worth thousands of crores of rupees, exist only on paper in the list of protected monuments and historic sites of the state archaeology department. These sites have either vanished or have been partially grabbed as archaeology departments watched as mute spectators. The department meanwhile, is gearing up for centenary celebrations in June 2014 as it completes 100 years from the day of its formation under Nizam’s rule.
According to archaeology experts, around 12 sites, including Moula Ali Cairns & Cromlechs, do not exist at all and even the top officials of the department admit this. It’s mostly the cairns, which are prehistoric, megalithic and neolithic burial sites situated in several parts of the city, which are being encroached upon.
Buildings have come up on the sites and adjacent to the monuments like Malkajgiri Fort, which is not visible and has now turned into a distillery.
Experts say the archaeological sites’ encroached land value today will be around Rs 4,000 crore. Kukatpally cairns, Gurrumguda cairns, Begumpet megalithic sites are some of the worst affected places. For some of the sites, the department doesn’t have proper documents or maps.
The security set up at these sites is appalling, giving scope for the encroachers. Out of 604 ancient monuments and archaeological sites and remains in the state, only 200 are properly guarded, leaving 404 sites without any protection and several of them are in a state of utter neglect. The department has given a contract to a security agency and payments are being made for 120 security guards.
The amended Act says the director and other officials of the archaeology department and revenue authorities who are responsible for protecting these valued sites and who fail in their duty, shall be liable for punishment and the money lost has to be recovered from their pockets.
In most cases, revenue officials fail to aid the archaeology department in removing the encroachers. Working on legal loopholes, the encroachers are even entering into litigations. In this state alone, around 90 legal cases are pending over historic sites in the state. Despite this, the department doesn’t have a legal cell or advisors and it depends solely on government pleaders.
Mohammed Safiullah, managing trustee of the Deccan Heritage Trust, says, “As the land value has gone up hugely, there are massive encroachments of these sites and they are erased easily from the city map. All these cairns have to be protected as they are history, and they tell us about burial practices prevalent in this city in ancient times. There used be sheds on the top of these cairns but now they have all vanished.”
Due to lack of maintenance, trash and rubbish has been dumped in several sites and some of them have turned into a safe haven for anti-social elements like gamblers and boozers. The police department also turns a Nelson’s eye towards them.
Intach convener and technical committee member of AP State Archaeology Department Anuradha Reddy says, “The sites are in different stages of encroachments. The cairns are vulnerable to encroachments. There is not enough security as there is not enough funding.
The department is short staffed. We need to have technically qualified and well trained staff. There is need of lots of money for restoration work. It’s not an easy job. Proper demarcation of the sites has to be done, so that encroachments can be avoided. The department has to be given full support and cooperation by revenue officials.
She says,”I tried to trace the Malkajgiri fort. At last after a lot of trouble I found it. All the walls are enclosed by constructions. In the inside there is still a Baradari but modern buildings have come up. I was told the government leased it to Shah Wallace Company for their distillery.”
The situation of the Uppuguda Armenian cemetery of the Qutub shahi period and Khairath Khan’s tomb at Chandrayanagutta are also in a pathetic state. Buildings have come up in the proximity of the Hayath Bakshi Begum mosque at Hayathnagar, which is a violation of the act that prohibits any structure in 100 metres and 200 metres of the monument.
Anuradha Reddy said, “The Uppuguda Armenian cemetery is in a horrible condition. All trees have grown there and the board has fallen. Even the Patancheru tombs are full of garbage and encroachments. At Khairath Khan Tomb people are gambling and drunkards set the gate afire.”
She says there should be more vigilance and surprise roaming checks at least once a week at all these sites. “What is left over needs to be protected, for which more staff is needed. Archaeology department alone can’t do it, we need revenue and police support. Corporate social responsibility is another aspect where the big companies should step in to protect the monuments of our city of Hyderabad,” she said.
State Archeology department director K P Rao opined, “We are going to utilize the centenary celebrations as an opportunity to promote Archeology in the State and inculcate the culture to protect the monuments at grass root levels.”
He said, “I have taken up the post of director recently. One of the measures we are now taking is to make a proper inventory of all these sites so that we know the actual position on the ground. One of the problems of the protected sites is that some of them have been inherited from the Nizam’s government. “Unfortunately what happened is that land records didn’t come to the archeology department.
He said ,”I tried to visit Moula Ali cairns and cromlechs earlier as a researcher but I couldn’t find these dolmens on the hill. There are problems involved at certain sites on unauthorized occupations.”
“Wherever records are available and with proper claims, we are defending the cases in court,” he said.
He said that the department is regularly updating the list of new monuments identified and declared under the act. He added, “Recently we have added kethavaram paintings.”
Stolen artefacts not yet recovered
Hyderabad: The cops and Archaeology Department failed to recover precious stolen artefacts from Shamsheer Kota, in Golconda. The complaint was lodged with Golconda police in December 2012 that hundreds of Nizam’s armoury artefacts were stolen.
State Archaeology Department director, K.P. Rao said, “There is no progress in this case. At least 100 artefacts of Nizam’s weaponry are missing.” Golconda inspector of police, Syed N. Javed, said, “Cannon balls were among the artefacts lost. But the department has no proper records. So we couldn’t make any progress with the case,” said officials.
At Shamsheer Kota, the damaged artefacts kept in the store room were also stolen. There are instances where such artefacts are stolen and in some cases the staff faced allegations for being involved.
Sajjad Shahid, city heritage expert said, the state government should be blamed for the present condition. The administration and police are aiding and abetting with the land grabbers.
They have also failed to release promised funds to the department, following which the sector has no money to even pay salaries to the employees, leave alone security guards. In a way, the Archaeology Department needs to be held responsible as well for not pursing the matter, as the sector is not taken seriously.