People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
September 11, 2005
Saffron Archaeology Jolted
THE first meeting of the Central Advisory Board of Archaeology (CABA) found the BJP archaeologist lobby totally exposed and isolated with clear cut reports of wastage of funds and non-scientific use of archaeology to serve saffron agenda during the NDA regime emerging from the meeting. The union information and broadcasting and culture minister S Jaipal Reddy, who sat through the entire meeting, found to his chagrin a key BJP historian S P Gupta objecting even to the authority of the minister.
The minister on his part kept his cool and on more than one instance had to ridicule some of the suggestions made by the BJP archaeologists. What came out of the meeting were examples of patronage, forms of honorariums and attempts to continue with the old forms of functioning, which were forcefully negated.
This information was revealed by eminent historians and archaeologists, Suraj Bhan, Shireen Musvi and others at a press conference organised by SAHMAT at Constitution Club in New Delhi on September 2.
Some projects which required archaeological investigations to prove the Hindutva’s Aryan theory were outrightly rejected and in one instance despite the overall composition of the reconstituted CABA, which is still packed with many non-professionals, the BJP archaeologist found himself having only his vote.
the key issues discussed in the meeting were the decline of ASI over the past
few years, the prevalence of non-scientific archaeology as was evident in the
Ayodhya excavations – in fact, it was pointed out that the main body of
arguments were contradictory to the conclusions arrived – improvement in the
quality of ASI’s publications and reports etc.
Following is the text of the statement released by SAHMAT on September 2 at the press conference
In view of the mounting criticism of the constant deterioration of the work of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and the blatant misuse of the organisation by the saffron forces, there had been a general demand that the Central Advisory Board of Archaeology (CABA) be convened to review the entire work of the ASI and suggest improvements. The CABA has not been convened since December 19, 2001 and all the key decisions in its name have been taken by a “standing committee” convened from time to time, where Dr S P Gupta, the leading light among saffron “archaeologists” has been a constant participant.
It was, therefore, a welcome step when the present government decided to convene a meeting of the CABA, with some new nominees of its own, on September 2.
There are, indeed, many things that happened in the last four years that need to be explained by the ASI: eg the wanton destruction wrought by the ASI in the Red Fort, Delhi (caught on the camera), the manipulations through excavation and “restoration” at Fatehpur Sikri, the huge wrongful expenditure in the name of the Saraswati Heritage Project, the biased denials and approvals of licenses for excavation/exploration, the grant of Rs.10 lakh in 2003-2004 to S P Gupta’s Archaeological Society, the lack of professionalism in the Ayodhya report submitted to the High Court, to mention a few. Notes on these matters have been sent to ASI by some CABA members, but would perhaps, only filed away.
It has been proposed by CABA members that the practice of IAS officers being made Director General of ASI instead of professional archaeologists with regular appointments, should immediately cease, since it has been most detrimental to the ASI: it has further sapped its autonomy and made it totally subservient to wishes of the ruling regime.
The ASI staff should be increased, and open recruitment at all levels should be allowed along with departmental promotions. There is need to stop inbreeding.
Monuments should be properly protected and comprehensive lists of protected monuments be published. What has happened at Red Fort, Delhi, should be enquired into, and the results of the inquiry published.
The quality of ASI’s publications and reports should be improved. The criticisms of the Ayodhya report should be carefully scrutinized the defects of bias and lack of professionalism revealed should be corrected.
The Grants policy of ASI should be thoroughly reviewed.
these matters and others demand proper attention. It is necessary that decision
on these matters should not be left to the same Administrative Service Officers
and their backers who carried out the saffronisation policies and tarnished
ASI’s name. (INN)