Bulldozers loom large on Ranjit Singh legacy

The spot in the Shivalik Hills, earlier notified as a heritage site by the Depart ment of Culture and Archaeology is thus , under threat of being levelled. The area adjoining it has already been bulldozed.

The passage to the heritage site has been closed, and sheds are being con structed right next to the flag replica. There are ecological issues too (see box on page 11).

Hindustan Times was denied a visit to the site on Monday morning by company officials.

While Swaraj Mazda general manager (personnel) P.K. Bhardwaj, whom HT managed to meet after much persuasion, refused to talk, the “seniors” in Chandigarh he referred the team to could not be reached.

Punjab Heritage and Education Foun dation is the Chandigarh-based NGO that is currently in a court battle with the government to protect the site. Four years ago, it had installed a revolving metal replica of Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s flag measuring 4 feet x 8 feet on a 50-foot-high iron pole along with a memorial stone.
Seeing the site threatened by Swaraj Mazda’s expansion, the foundation sought the Punjab and Haryana High Court’s intervention, which on April 20 last directed the state government to demarcate the heritage site by April 30 and notify it as “protected area” under the Punjab Ancient and Historical Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1964.

Punjab Chief Secretary Ramesh Inder Singh directed Nawanshahr Deputy Commissioner Bhawna Garg on April 25 to take necessary action. A meeting followed, in which officials and the foundation agreed that the façade of Shivalik Hills as viewed from Rupnagar Boat Club would be maintained along its length while its breadth would be determined by the contour of the hills.

To determine the exact khasra numbers, a survey was conducted on April 26, and around 12 acres measured for notification as “protected area”.

However, the draft notification issued on April 30 had the area reduced by more than half. It had also been shifted, thus excluding the spot where the flag replica is currently installed, says foundation member Col Jatinder Singh (retd), who was present during the demarcation along with archaeological, revenue, forest and soil conservation officials.

Col Jatinder says in the interest of an amicable solution, the foundation had agreed to shift the site slightly but after the draft , notification allotted only 41 kanals 15 marlas, the foundation rejected the proposal and is now insisting on not shifting the replica.

Foundation president Gurbax Singh Shergill says: “The draft notification belies the government’s assurance of preserving Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s legacy .” Trying to play down the controversy Chief Secretary Ramesh , Inder Singh says since nobody knows the exact location where Maharaja Ranjit Singh hoisted his flag, the plan is to earmark a suitable spot in the general area to commemorate the historical moment in a befitting manner.

Regarding the decrease in the proposed notified area, he says the measurement differs in uneven hilly areas. Instead of seeing any trick in this, we should appreciate that Swaraj Mazda has agreed to give away a portion of its land for the heritage site.

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