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State Drags Feet Over Protecting Heritage Sites
December 29, 2011
State Drags Feet Over Protecting Heritage Sites

It has been four years since the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transportation, Culture and Tourism submitted a report to the Centre expressing its grave concern over the rampant encroachment of Centrally Protected Monuments in Karnataka.


29 December 2011

Raju S, Dharwad:

But nothing has been done except some letter correspondence between the departments concerned.

Encroachment of monuments and huge tracts of open land surrounding them is going on unabated in North Karnataka in general, and Bijapur in particular. There are more than 100 Centrally Protected Monuments here.

Tabling the report in Parliament in 2007, CPM leader and chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee Sitaram Yechuri had said: “It is a matter of grave concern that Karnataka stands second among the states that are losing their priceless monuments to encroachments. Fifty-six monuments, including 43 Centrally Protected Monuments in Bijapur, are in the grip of encroachers.”

The Centrally Protected Monuments in the State are managed by the Archaeological Survey of India’s (ASI) two circles, headquartered in Dharwad and Bangalore. While the Dharwad circle takes care of the heritage sites in the 11 districts of North Karnataka, Bangalore looks after the historical structures of national importance in South Karnataka.

But the Dharwad circle has a daunting task, as the maximum number of monuments in the State comes under its jurisdiction and also because of the encroachments. All the 56 monuments that figure in the Parliamentary Standing Committee’s encroachment list come under this circle.

There are 299 Centrally Protected Monuments in the Dharwad circle, with Bijapur and Bagalkot having the highest number of sites. Gulbarga and Bidar have 10 monuments built by Bahamani kings and there are more than 175 monuments in Bijapur and Bagalkot, constructed by the Adil Shahis, Chalukyas and the Rashtrakutas.

These sites were safe and managed better till some years ago. But as population increased and new residential layouts started coming up, encroachers and land grabbers slowly started occupying monuments and prime open land around them.

The fact that a majority of the sites do not even have a single guard protecting them, gave the encroachers a free hand to move aggressively.

The problem has come to a flashpoint, especially in Bijapur, where almost all the protected monuments are built by Muslim rulers and residents here consider it their right to encroach upon the land around these monuments since “they were built by our rulers”.

Though the Standing Committee has identified only 56 sites as encroached, reliable sources in the ASI confirm that more than 100 heritage sites have been encroached upon in the circle.

Expressing concern over the rampant encroachments, the Standing Committee had said:
“The Committee is more concerned about the inability of the ASI to get back the land from encroachers. Therefore, the Committee strongly recommends a complete assessment and deterrent action against the encroachers with the help of the State government and the local administrations. The matter should be pursued at the highest level.”