Restoration work begins at Harappan site


afortIn view of the historic significance of the site, the tourism department is raising concrete structures near the historic Akhnoor Fort at the Harappan site on the right banks of the Chenab. Although the fort is a shambles, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has recently taken up the restoration work .

However, the department has started constructing a “sarai” (lodging facility) at the foot of the fort. As per historians, the fort, which was constructed by Raja Teg Singh in 1762, holds significance as the place is the northernt site of the Indus valley civilisation on the Indian subcontinent. ASI sources disclosed that the department had excavated the area inside the fort in 1977 in which remains belonging to pre-Harappan and Harappan or the Indus valley civilisation were recovered.

The ASI is already struggling to restore the pristine glory of the historical building and has mooted several proposals for the removal of encroachments from there. As of now, the fort houses the office of the SDM, government staff quarters, a police post, a mobile transmission tower, a school, an overhead water storage tank and a reservoir of the PHE department.
At the site of the restoration work, a foreman (works), pleading anonymity, said the seepage from the reservoir was causing damage to the fort. Such is the negligence of the government towards the historic building that a toilet complex is adjacent to the fort wall while all drainwater seeps into the wall causing great damage to it.

Although the Ancient Monument Act, 1958, prohibits any concrete construction within an area of 100 meter from the historic site, the department is executing construction along the fort.
“Our department raised objections with the chief secretary, the subdivisional magistrate, Akhnoor, and the tourism department, but did not get any response,” said sources in the ASI.
The sources said the department had not sought any technical expertise from the ASI or the department of history, Jammu University, and the work was being carried out by a local contractor.

During the construction of concrete staircase along the right banks of the Chenab, an ancient well was earthed while the brickwork also undermines the historic value of the fort as the latter is in contrast with the previous construction. The department has also erected concrete pillars on the right banks at the foot of the fort for constructing the lodging facility. “We had asked the tourism department to construct the complex away from the ancient dockyard, Jia Pota, but to no avail.”

The sources alleged that the department of tourism by sidelining the ASI was befooling people in the name of beautification of the site for reasons best known to them. They said the restoration work using cement instead of mortar was causing harm to the building. On the other hand, director, tourism, Sarita Chouhan, said, “The construction is going on the banks only. It is being done for the beautification and protection of the fort.” She refuted the allegations and maintained that the work was going on in consultation with the ASI.

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