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A UP Man Wants ASI To Conserve 2600 Year Old Village Site

Ram Vishal Paswan approaches Allahabad High Court which has issued notice to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and the Uttar Pradesh government.

The discovered site being investigated at Nibi Shana
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In March 2016, Ram Vishal Paswan was overseeing MNREGA work in his village Nibi Shana when some labourers at the site drew his attention to some unfamiliar bricks.

Nibi Shana is located in Chail tehsil of Kaushambi, one of the most backward districts in Uttar Pradesh.

The labourers were digging a pond when they stumbled upon some old pottery and bricks on the western end of the dry water body. Curious to find out what lay underneath, Paswan, whose wife Anita was the village Pradhan, dug further at the site. To his amazement, they discovered a brick wall at the site. “The wall was not two-three feet but 100 feet long and curved after a point,” he recalls.

After discussing the find with regional experts, Paswan was convinced that the site belonged to either the Mauryan or Shunga period and dated more than 2,000 years old. The site, he claimed, included ancient baths, rooms and Buddhist stupas of archaeological value. The wall was more than 10 feet high, he claimed.

Paswan, who is an Ambedkarite, then dispatched letters to the district administration, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), the Uttar Pradesh Archaeological Department, the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh and the Prime Minister requesting their intervention. He wanted the ASI to dig at the site and find out if indeed the ruins were of archaeological value.

However, despite his sustained campaign to get the site in his village notified for conservation, nothing much happened in the last seven years.

Though ASI and state archaeological department officials conducted a spot inspection in 2016 they did not find any merit in Paswan's claims that the ruins needed conservation.

“I don't have any personal greed. I just want them to unearth the history and culture of the place,” explains Paswan, who heads a local NGO Akhil Bhartiya Buddha Ambedkar Shiksha Evam Samaj Kalyan Samiti.

Not willing to give up on his claims, earlier this year, he approached the Allahabad High Court. In a writ, he requested the court to direct the ASI to notify the archaeological site situated at the village and also direct the district magistrate to carry out beautification, plantation and maintenance of the site.

A division bench of Justices Surya Prakash Kesarwani and Anish Kumar Gupta on May 16 said that “considering the facts and circumstances of the case,” it was directing the government, Regional Director Archaeological Survey of India, and Director, Uttar Pradesh, Archaeological Department Lucknow to file a counter affidavit by means of their personal affidavit. The court directed them to “show cause” for not taking any action with regard to the structure in question “which is stated to be more than 2,600 years old.”

The Director, UP Archaeological Department, Lucknow, informed the court that the site was not under the department's conservation. The site was inspected by the regional archaeological officials of Prayagraj and based on the inspection of the ruins it was not worthy of conservation.

An official of the Prayagraj unit of the UP state archaeological department, under which the site falls, Ram Naresh Pal repeated this explanation. Although the remains in Nibi Shana were ancient, it was common to find such sites in the region, he said. “How many sites will we conserve,” he asked. Pal said the site did not have anything unique to conserve.

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Every third village will have sites from the Sunga or Mauryan period, he added. “We don't have enough funds and staff to even conserve the sites that are important or under us,” he said.

Pal also accused Paswan of trying to garner publicity so that the government would develop roads in his village and beautify it. Paswan, however, is adamant and says that the officials are trying to shed their responsibility.

“Carry out digging at the site and find out if it is worth archaeological conservation. That's all I ask. If it is not, finish the matter. But how can they reject everything without digging at the site,” asks Paswan.

The Allahabad HC will take up the matter again in July, as Paswan continues his quest to get archaeological conservation of the said pond in his nondescript village.

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