SRINAGAR: The famous Neolithic site in Kashmir, continues to be in neglect, despite official assurances to Kashmir Reader earlier this year that the site would be secured and maintained.
Kashmir Reader has earlier reported that cattle were grazing openly without any restrictions on the site of immense historical importance.
While the officials from Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), which is responsible for maintaining the site, had then promised immediate steps to secure the site, the situation on the ground reflects otherswise .
While, cattle continue to have a free run on the karewa and cow dung can be seen littered all over the site, including at excavation spots, a cricket tournament has been organized by youth near the site.
The organizers have set up tents for spectators, without inviting any ire of the authorities, who seem to have no problem with the defacement and damage to the historical site.
Bamboo poles have been dug into the earth for the tents, while smaller stick hold the boundary rope for the match.
A hut-shop has also set up to sell eatables to spectators and participants. The trash generated is dumped in the open.
Even the cars are parked in a prohibited area that falls within “100 metres limits” of the protected monument site.
Situated on a ‘karewa’ (wudder) between the banks of the Dal Lake and the Zabarvan hills, Burzahom is the first Neolithic site to have been excavated in Kashmir. It was nominated for inclusion as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2014, which is still awaiting approval.
The first excavation here was in 1939 by a Yale-Cambridge expedition headed by the archaeologists, Helmut de Terra and Dr. Thomson Paterson. Subsequently, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) made detailed investigations here between 1960 and 1971, carried out by T.N. Khazanchi, the first Superintending Archaeologist of the ASI’s Srinagar Circle.
After the discovery and excavation of Burzahom, other Neolithic sites were also unearthed at several places, all of which are located on karewas, mainly in the south-east parts of the Kashmir Valley.
Ironically, the artefacts that were excavated at the Burzuhom site were taken to Kolkata, West Bengal, by ASI promising that they will study them and bring them back to Kashmir which, as per Director State Archaeology and Museums Department, Mohammad Shafi Zahid, were never returned. “Even nobody among the ASI officials bothered to take measures for the preservation of site,” he said.
Interestingly, all the government’ departments returned to the Valley after the Darbar Move to the summer capital this year, except the Srinagar circle office of the ASI.
Superintending Archaeologist, ASI Srinagar circle, Vasant Kumar Swarnaka says that he made a surprise visit to the site on September 5 following complaints regarding the defacement of site.
“Then, the site was clean and no waste was found there (near the site). But yes, due to absence of proper fencing, animals were roaming near the site and that’s the main issue for us. The fencing that was started by the department, couldn’t be completed due to opposition from the local population,” Swarnaka said.
Locals of Burzuhama and other localities, he said, are claiming that a few portion of the site belongs to local Panchayat body and that’s why they are halting any process initiated for the preservation of site, especially fencing.
“It is a sub-judicial matter now. The case is being seen by lower court of Srinagar and we hope that the judgement will be in our favour as we hold all the documents establishing that the entire area belongs to Burzuhom site which ASI has already marked,” he said.
Swarnaka said that he was unaware about the tents being erected close to the site, and assured immediate action against this. “We will immediately take action against this move,” he said.
To develop Burzuhom as a tourism destination, Swarnaka says that they have prepared a comprehensive plan which includes glass-framing of excavation sites, all-round fencing and display boards besides, a museum where artefacts that were excavated here could be kept for the display to attract tourists within and outside state. “We will accelerate our efforts for speedy execution of plan,” he said.