India's archaeological treasures "disappearing" due to red tapeism

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London, November 28 (ANI): Reports indicate that red tapeism is threatening India's archaeological treasures, with an audit finding that 34 monuments, including a cave temple, have "disappeared" recently.

According to a report in The Times, questions tabled in the Rajya Sabha recently showed that several protected heritage sites had been buried under illegally constructed buildings.

Others had been submerged by reservoirs or looted by art thieves.

Officials admitted that the whereabouts of some had simply been forgotten because of poor record keeping.

"Most of these sites were declared protected under the British," said Ashok Kumar Sinha, the head archaeologist of the Archaeological Society of India (ASI), the body responsible for protecting monuments.

"But the original notifications did not detail their exact locations. Many are missing," he added.

The monuments that the Indian Ministry of Tourism and Culture admitted were untraceable included several sites from the days of the British rule, including a tomb in Kishanganj in Delhi that housed the remains of Britons killed in the Indian Mutiny of 1857.

In the northeastern state of Assam, weapons belonging to the 16th-century Afghan conqueror Emperor Sher Shah are missing.

In Arunachal Pradesh, close to the border with China, the ruins of an ancient copper-plated temple dedicated to the Hindu god Lord Shiva could not be accounted for.

A complex of ancient cave temples in the northern town of Basohli, which had yielded artefacts dating back as far as the 10th century, has also been lost.

The catalogue of untraceable monuments supplied by the ministry may indicate an inconsiderate attitude to record keeping.

It lists as missing a statue of Brigadier-General John Nicholson, an army officer for the British East India Company who led the charge on Delhi in 1857, a mission on which he was killed.

A statue of Nicholson was erected at the Kashmiri Gate in north Delhi by the British but was taken down when India became independent.

The ministry said that it did not know where it was.

However, it was taken to Nicholson's school, the Royal School Dungannon, in Northern Ireland.

According to Shashi Misra, the chairman of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage, "Huge numbers of idols and statues are disappearing and are being sold on the international art market."

"Too much of India's heritage is being transported out of the country and nobody is taking notice," said Misra. (ANI)

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