Condition of the Protected National
Monuments under the Archaeological
Survey of India (A.S.I)
- The Constitution of India, Article – 49
- The Archaeological Survey of India (A.S.I.) (a) to (c)
- The Act of 1904
- The Act of 1958 (a) to (c)
- Rules – 1959 (a) to (c)
- Unauthorised Permanent Closure of Protected National Monuments (a) to (g) / Links 6/1 to 6/9
- What happened to 45 Basic Drawings of the Taj Conservation Report (1942) (a) to (f) / Links 6/10 to 6/13
- The A.S.I. and the Information Commissioner changed the Law (a) to (n) / Links 6/14 to6/20
- How the A.S.I. itself is :
- ALTERING and
the Protected National Monuments (a) to (o) / Links 6/21 to 6/33
- The A.S.I. is defacing the Taj Mahal by a ‘Mitti’ called ‘Multani-Mitti’ (a) to (c) / Links 6/34 to 6/41
- Archaeological Jugglery : Restoration of UNPROTECTED Structures by the A.S.I. (a) to (j) /Links 6/42 to 6/54
- How the A.S.I. undid its own CNBs ! (a) to (i) / no links
- A.S.I’s Connivance in the Disastrous Taj Heritage Corridor Project (a) to (m) / Links 6/55 to 6/68
- The Information Commissioner decided these cases in contravention of the R.T.I. Act, 2005, to placate the Govt. (a) to (k) / Links 6/69 & 6/70
- Plug the Holes of the A.S.I. Act 1958 and R.T.I. Act – 2005 (a) to (f) / no links
- A.S.I.’s Restoration Work has come to a standstill (a) to (h) / Link 6/71, 3 figs & 4 pls.
- Recent Nationally Important Matters related to the A.S.I. (a) to (c) / no links
Condition of Protected National
under the Archaeological Survey of India
(2). The Constitution of India, Article-49
Adequate provision for the protection of our architectural heritage was, therefore, made in
“It shall be the obligation of the State to protect every monument, or place, or object of
(a). The credit for establishing a Department of Archaeology, for preserving India’s unique architectural heritage, goes to the British Government of India. Alexander Cunningham was appointed ‘Director of Archaeology’
(b). Cunningham retired in 1885 and was succeeded by James Burgess who retired in 1889. The A.S.I. was divided into five circles in 1899, viz:
- Madras (with Coorg),
- Bombay (with Sindh and Berar),
- Punjab (with Baluchistan and Ajmer),
- North-Western Provinces (with Central Provinces), and
- Bengal with Assam,
practically covering the whole of British India. Native states of Kashmir, Rajputana and Punjab were added to the charge of the Punjab-Baluchistan-Ajmer Circle, in 1901.
(c). The new Viceroy, Lord Curzon who arrived in 1899, was genuinely interested in this matter, and he laid down a policy for:
(4). The Act of 1904
The Ancient Monuments Preservation Act, 1904 was promulgated by the British Government:
“to provide for the
It had 24 sections, mainly dealing with protection of monuments, sculptures and other antiquities, and archaeological excavations.
(5). The Act of 1958
(a). The Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act was enacted by the Parliament, after the Independence, in 1958. In fact, and in effect, it is only a revised, expanded and updated version of the Act of 1904, and is as vague, ambiguous and, more than that, as enormously deficient as was the Act of 1904. There can be an excuse for the Act of 1904 which was enacted in a primitive stage, for a colony. The Act of 1958 was drafted, in imitation of the Act of 1904, without incorporating the experience of archaeological work of more than half-a-century, in a clerical way, with minor changes, corrections and additions.
(b). For example, theAct of 1904, did not name an ‘Archaeological Survey of India’, but only a ‘Central Government’ which denoted the British Govt and conferred executive powers upon a ‘Commissioner’, who was also a civil servant of the British Govt. The Act of 1958 also mentioned ‘Central Government’ as the functionary under this Act: that the ‘Central Government’ created the A.S.I. department for this purpose, or delegated this power to the A.S.I., has not been laid down. Precisely. The Act of 1958 did not create an ‘Archaeological Survey of India’ and continued to vest the entire authority in the ‘Central Government’ which was not defined : whether this authority was to be wielded by the Prime Minister, or any ministry, or any secretary? It inserted the word ‘Director-General’ instead of ‘Commissioner’, but it did not categorically lay down that protected monuments are placed under the CUSTODY of the ‘Archaeological Survey of India’, in trust, for preservation/maintenance/conservation.
(c). The composition of the A.S.I. has not been explained in this Act, and it does not lay down its constitution; how the DG, directors and other Class-I and Class-II officers make up its structure; their powers, duties and functions have not been prescribed, and their rights and obligations have not been defined. This omission leaves enough scope for any mediocre and dishonest presiding officer and a conservation assistant, incharge of a large monument to ride roughshod and float his own private agenda for self-glorification as much as for money-minting. As liabilities of the A.S.I.’s circle officers have not been fixed, protected monuments are virtually placed at the mercy or sweet will of the presiding officer, and there is no law to prevent him if he treats them as his personal fief, as has been adequately illustrated hereinafter.
(a). The Act of 1958 has 39 sections, also dealing with protection of monuments and archaeological excavations, like the Act of 1904. And, it also has Section-18 on the ‘Right of access to protected monument’, and Section-30 on punishment to ‘whoever’ destroys, removes, injures, ALTERS, defaces, imperils or MISUSES a protected monument also like the Act of 1904. But while the Act of 1904 had no rider and did not provide for making any ‘Rules’, a longish Section-38 of the Act of 1958 authorized the ‘Central Government’ to make ‘Rules’: “for carrying out the purposes of this Act.” These ‘Rules’ were made in 1959.
(b). It is amazing that, some of these ‘Rules’ supersede, override and, in effect, negate the rights and benefits granted by the Act. For example, Section-18 of the Act of 1958 grants right of access to the public into any protected monument, but Rule-4 overrides it as follows;
“The Director-General may, by order, direct that (any protected monument or specified part thereof) shall not be open permanently or for a specified period…..”
This is anomalous and conflicting. The spirit of Section-18 is that public will have access into a protected monument which, or part thereof, can be closed only temporarily for repairs and conservation only, and it can NOT be closed permanently, for the simple reason that the A.S.I. protects a National monument for conservation, not for permanent closure. There is no sense in acquiring and protecting a building just for locking and closing it permanently, nor is this a function of the A.S.I. and Rule-4 is ultra vires as far as its application for permanent closure is concerned.
Unfortunately, this provision has been largely misused and protected monuments and parts thereof have been permanently closed, more often than not, without the DG’s written order, at the convenience of the circle officers.
(7). Unauthorized Permanent Closure of Protected National Monuments
(a). R.Nath made an application d. 29 January 2007 (6/1) under the Right to Information Act 2005 (R.T.I.) Section-6, to the Archaeological Survey of India Agra Circle (ASI/AG) for copies of the orders by which the following protected national monuments or parts thereof had been permanently closed:
- Moti Masjid and Shish-Mahal in Agra Fort,
- all basements and upper floors of the buildings of Agra Fort,
- all basements and upper floors of the Taj Mahal,
- all upper floors of Akbar’s tomb Sikandara Agra,
- all upper floors of the Tomb of I’timad-ud-Daulah Agra and
- all upper floors of the monuments of Fatehpur Sikri.
As there was no reply from the ASI/AG, this application was sent again on 9 March 2007.
(b). The A.S.I/AG replied by its letter No. 802 d. 16 March 2007 (6/2) but it did not send copies applied for. It was, instead a stock reply in respect of each monument, repeated parrot-wise six times, that it is “closed due to the administrative reason, and also security & safety of the monuments as well as the visitors under section 4 the Ancient Monument and Archaeological Site Remains Rules 1959 (sic).”
It was deliberately evasive inasmuch as Rule-4 of Rules-1959 itself laid down that the monument can be closed only by order of the DG/ASI, copies whereof had been applied for.
(c). R.Nath, therefore, sent his letter d. 23 March 2007 (6/3) and requested again to send copies of DG’s order. There was no reply and a reminder was sent to the ASI/AG on 23 April 2007 (Para-II) (6/4). In its reply, No. 1259 d. 27 April 2007, (6/5) Para-II, the ASI/AG again raised similar bogus pleas, but did not send the copies. In fact, the ASI/AG has No order of the DG to close the monuments. Its reply also contained the astounding information that some monuments are closed for 20 years and more, making a mockery of ASI’s very raison d’etre: does the A.S.I. protects a monument for permanently closing it for 20 years and more ? R.Nath’s letter d. 7 May 2007, Para-C (6/6) reiterated his stand in reply to ASI/AG’s letter of 27 April 2007.
(d). Ultimately, on 23 July 2007, R.Nath made his complaint of this matter to the Central Information Commission (CIC) under Section-18 of the RTI Act 2005 (6/7). The decision of the Information Commissioner Ms. Padma Balasubramaniam (abb. Padma B. hereinafter) is discussed below in sub-section (15) below.
(e). It may be noted that closure of monuments in the Agra circle was at its peak during the period from 2001 to 2003 without DG’s order. The Shish-Mahal in Agra Fort was not only permanently closed, its tanks were also filled in with mortar and stone debris, and the original form of the palace was altered. Large scale iron rod doors (junglas) were inserted to close all the upper floors and basements. Barriers were placed even inside the monuments, preventing the tourists from visiting them because Shri K.K. Muhammad, the New Superintending Archaeologist (SA) of the Archaeological Survey of India Agra Circle (abbreviated ‘KKM’ hereinafter) declared in a press-statement (6/8):
पर्यटक सैकड़ों साल पुराने स्मारकों को देखना नहीं जानते हैं
(the tourists do not know how to view centuries-old monuments),
condemning the tourists, as a whole, as uncivilized and rustic!! The ASI did not disclaim or disown this damaging statement.
(f). It is important to note that No conservation is done in the monuments, or parts thereof, if they are permanently closed, locked and bolted, leaving them at the mercy of natural elements such as rain-water, dust and vegetation. This is plain negation of the purpose of protection and the primary function of the A.S.I. There are exquisite jalis, dado-panels inlaid with semi-precious stones, sometimes sculptures of birds and beasts, and other antiquities including loose fittings in the monuments which are permanently closed. These antiquities are damaged and loose fittings are conveniently stolen, if a monument is closed permanently. For example, two large cauldrons, one of brass and other of copper, each roughly weighing more than a quintal, large enough to accommodate four persons sitting cross-legged, which were there in the Ḥammām-i-Shāhī of Agra Fort, have been stolen, since it was permanently closed. Is it that Section-30 of the Act of 1958 is only for the outsiders and not for the officials of the A.S.I. ?
(g). The usual plea for closure of monuments advanced by the A.S.I., that the A.S.I. has no staff to man these monuments owing to paucity of funds, has no substance at all, and is false and misleading. The enclosed newspaper report (the Amar Ujala Agra of 9 December 2009) (6/9) shows that the A.S.I. is a very rich department, and even a class-III conservation assistant of the A.S.I. is a multi-millionaire. It is reported that when he was appointed in the A.S.I. around 1999, he was living poorly in a rented house in Loha Mandi Agra and had only a bicycle. Now he has a large Kothi, a farm-house and other properties, and four-wheelers, all made in about a decades’ time ! No other government service is so lucrative ! Though this matter was reported in the press, it seems to have been ultimately hushed up, as usually happens in post-Independence India.
(8). What happened to 45 basic Drawings of the Taj Conservation Report, 1942
(a). The Government of India appointed an expert committee named : ‘Advisory Committee on the Restoration and Conservation of the Taj Mahal at Agra’ which surveyed and studied the monument extensively and, after scrutinizing the data, submitted its First Report, along with 25/45 detailed drawings in 1941, Revised Second Report in 1942 (entirely incorporating the recommendations of the First Report and its 45 drawings), and the Final Report in 1943 (fully concurring with the 1942 Report). Precisely, it is called Taj Conservation Report 1942. It is a huge document covering 71 pages with numerous appendices and tables which have been explained with the help of 25/45 drawings submitted with the Report (6/10). These drawings are basic and essential for the conservation of the Taj Mahal, and it was, in fact, with the help of these drawings that conservation of the Taj Mahal was conducted by the A.S.I. under M.S. Vats whose report (1947) is on record in Ancient India (Journal of the A.S.I.) No.6 January 1950 pages 91-96.
(b). R.Nath, by his letter d. 21 March 2007 to the ASI/AG u/s 6 of the RTI Act 2005 (6/11) applied for photostat copies of these drawings a list whereof was also attached for ready reference. The ASI/AG replied by its letter No. 972 d. 9 April 2007 (6/12) that the “original drawings must be with the CPWD and you are requested to contact the CPWD,” and did not give the copies.
(c). The ASI/AG’s plea was altogether misleading : when the Report itself is with the A.S.I. and nowhere else, the 45 drawings which are its annexures must also be with the ASI/AG and it was a wilful refusal. R.Nath reiterated his stand vide Para-I of his letter d. 23 April 2007 (see 6/4 above).
(d). To all this, finally, ASI/AG gave a wonderful reply, vide its letter d. 27 April 2007 (Para-I) (see 6/5 above) that:
“Since drawings in question are of more than 60 years old and also intellectual property of the department, these cannot be part with.”
Thus, the ASI/AG changed its stand and now admitted that the 45 drawings are in its possession. But the claim that these were intellectual property of the ASI/AG, meaning thereby that the ASI/AG owns their copyright is altogether false and misleading. These drawings were prepared by the Central Public Work Department under the British Crown, by spending public money, and were printed in the Taj Conservation Report 1942, much before the Copyright Act of 1957 and the Act of 1958 were enacted. The A.S.I. does not exist within the purview of the Act of 1958, and it has yet to be proved, legally, that:
- a copyright subsists in these 45 drawings of the British Raj;
- and that it is owned by the A.S.I.
Even if the Government owned copyright in this work, it subsisted only for sixty (60) years from the date of publication, vide Section-28 of the Copyright Act 1957 which is obviously, not known to the ASI/AG. On the face of it, the claim is absurd and R.Nath tried to explain it, once again, by his letter d.7 May 2007, Section-B (See 6/6 above).
(e). But, ultimately this matter too had to be complained to the CIC under Section-18 of the RTI Act 2005 by R.Nath’s complaint d. 27 July 2007 (6/13). The decision of the IC Padma B. is discussed in sub-section (15) below. Notwithstanding this judgement, an inquiry must be instituted in the interest of this great monument, to ascertain:
if these priceless drawings are really in existence and in possession of the ASI/AG ?
if not, have these drawings been stolen, smuggled out of the country, or lost otherwise ?
if so who is responsible for that ? and
most importantly, whether the conservation of the Taj Mahal is being done in accordance with the recommendations of the Taj Conservation Report 1942, with or without the help of these 45 drawings. For example, the Report recommended (p.20, Para 1-b):
“The 104 bench-marks carved on the floor of the building and shown on Drawing C.E. 8445 should be checked every year and subsidence of foundations cautiously watched.”
Is this being done ???
(f). Obviously, this is not being done; 104 bench-marks have been forgotten and no subsidence of foundations is being annually checked and ascertained; the river having completely dried up, the natural thrust of running water viz. ‘Praghāta’ is no longer available to it to buttress this huge monument on the river-side and it may collapse into the river, without any warning ! Nothing will remain except the question: did we at all deserve the Taj Mahal ? ( For details, see R.Nath’s The Taj Mahal (History and Architecture) (Agra 2010)
(9). The A.S.I. and the Information Commissioner changed the Law
(a). The Right to Information Act (RTI) 2005 was passed by the Parliament on 11/12 May 2005 and received assent of the President of India on 15 June 2005 (and published in the Gazette on 21.6.2005) when it became the Law. Its section-4(1)(a) laid down:
4. Obligation of public authorities
(1) Every public authority shall-
(a) maintain all its RECORDS duly catalogued and indexed in a manner and the form which facilitates the right to information under this Act and ensure that all records that are appropriate to be computerized are, within a reasonable time and subject to availability of resources, computerized and connected through a network all over the country on different systems so that access to such records is facilitated.”
Precisely, it casts an obligation on every Govt. department to post its records on internet.
(b). Its sub-section (b) has different provision as follows:
4. Obligation of public authorities
Every public authority shall:
“(b) publish within one hundred and twenty days from the enactment of this Act: (17 items (i) to (xvii) related to its structure and functioning).”
(c). Though it was mandatory to publish these 17 items in 120 days/4 months i.e. by 15 October 2005 the ASI/AG had not published them even after 18 months, when, on 12 April 2007, R.Nath applied for published copies of information u/s-4(1)(b) of the RTI Act 2005 (6/14).
(d). The ASI/AG did not give any information within 30 days as prescribed u/s 7 of the RTI Act 2005 and, in fact, there was no reply from ASI/AG for more than three months. Hence, R.Nath by his letter d.30 July 2007 (6/15) complained this matter to the CIC u/s-18 of the RTI Act 2005 with the simple prayer to direct the ASI/AG to :
“I. publish the documents prescribed u/s-4(1)(b) of the RTI Act 2005,
sub-section (i) to (xvii); and
“II. to give me copies of these documents as applied for, vide my aforesaid
(e). Ultimately, R.Nath received ASI/AG’s two letters d. 22 August 2007 addressed to him (6/16) and d. 24 August 2007 addressed to the CIC (6/17), offering comments on R.Nath’s complaint d. 30 July 2007. The ASI/AG informed in the former that R.Nath’s application had been sent to the legal counsel and he has submitted his legal opinion that the documents requested “are not specific but also voluminous and numerous” hence R.Nath may” visit the office in person.” This was just a ruse to escape the legal liability, and a malafide exercise to find ways and means to scuttle and circumvent the Law. The Legal opinion that information may not be given if it is voluminous and numerous is wrong and violative of the Law, as there is no such provision in the RTI Act which distinctly lays down u/s 4(1)(b) that the department will PUBLISH these 17 items of information, copies whereof were applied for, and “update these publications every year.” Section-4 subsection-2 specifically laid down:
“It shall be a constant endeavour of every public authority to take steps in accordance with the requirements of clause (b) of sub-section(1) to provide as much information suo motu to the public at regular intervals through various means of communications, including internet, so that the public have minimum resort to the use of this Act to obtain information.”
(f). The ASI/AG’s letter d. 24 August 2007, addressed to the CIC, tried to explain the inordinate delay of more than four months on the same plea. It also contained blatant lie that information had been provided to R.Nath earlier nine times : in fact it had not given information even in one case and the ASI/AG had either refused or evaded to give any information, which is why all these matters had to be forwarded to the CIC for necessary action u/s-18 of the RTI Act. By his letter d. 5 September 2007 (6/18), R.Nath again asked : “Have you, or have you not, published these 17 items in compliance of Section-4 of the RTI Act 2005”, copies whereof had been applied for and had not been given. Obviously, the ASI/AG had not published them, in flagrant violation of the Law, but in its reply d. 27 September 2007 (6/19), the ASI/AG did not honestly admit it and tried to evade the point.
(g). The case was decided by the IC Ms. Padma B. on 30 November 2007 (6/20). It was an altogether exparte judgement inasmuch as R.Nath (75 and a Senior Citizen) could not travel to Delhi for personal hearing and it was decided only on the pleadings of the other party. She did not bother to read the record on the file to know the other side of the case, and she did not apply her mind. She accepted the illegal contention of the ASI/AG and allowed the ASI/AG to change the law, and the official bullying (‘dhīngamushtī’). The IC Ms. Padma B. practically rescinded, annulled and cancelled Section-4 (1) (b) (mandatory obligation of a Govt department to publish 17 items of information) of the RTI Act 2005 and, instead, enacted a new law that if the information was huge and bulky, it may not be published and the applicant may be asked to visit the office and collect free copies, which provision is not there in Section-4 (1) (b). Thus, the IC Ms Padma B. rendered this Law inoperative, useless and defunct, and destroyed the principle of transparency, accountability and easy accessibility of information to the public, so piously enshrined, in the Act (e.g. Section-4/2). By virtue of the powers vested in the CIC by Section-18, 19 and 20 of the RTI Act 2005, the CIC is the custodian and guardian of the RTI Act 2005 and the CIC has to ensure that this law is obeyed, implemented and enforced, in letter and in spirit, It is not known why the IC Ms. Padma B. acted so unlawfully.
(h). It is also noteworthy that :
(I). the ASI/AG has not published the departmenal information since 15 October 2005 in compliance of mandatory obligation prescribed in Section-4 (1) (b) (i) to (xvii) of the RTI Act 2005. But the IC Ms. Padma B. condoned this offence.
(II). The ASI/AG did not give any reply and did not send any information within 30 days, in compliance of Section-7 (1) of the RTI Act 2005, but the IC Ms. Padma B. did not impose any prescribed penalty for the delay and condoned this offence.
(III). The ASI/AG sought legal opinion on R.Nath’s application, without any legal authority, and then acted in accordance with this perverted and illegal opinion, but the IC Ms. Padma B. condoned this offence too.
It is absolutely necessary for the health of the RTI Act 2005 that a judicial inquiry is instituted to ascertain why the IC Ms. Padma B. was so generous to the other party, and so hostile to the Law.
(i). The decision of the IC Ms Padma B. was perverted and patently ultra vires and R.Nath filed writ Petition No. 4728/2008 in the Delhi High Court under Articles 226/227 of the Constitution of India, the Public Cause Research Foundation (A Parivartan Initiative) agreeing to bear all expenditure of litigation. For several years, after this petition was filed, the respondents craftily evaded to reply, the legal procedure being what it is. The case came up for hearing in 2011. The ASI/AG pleaded that the required information is on their website, prints-out wherefrom have been submitted to prove that the ASI/AG has fulfilled its statutory obligation u/s-4(1)(b) of the RTI Act 2005.
(j). This is quite wrong and altogether misleading inasmuch as it fulfilled its obligation only u/s-4(1)(a) and not u/s-4(1)(b) which casts the obligation to PUBLISH, within 120 days of the enactment of the RTI Act 2005, 17 items of information on the structure and functioning of the Department. This simply means that this information shall be printed on paper, in black-and-white, and its multiple copies, bound or stapled, shall be readily available to the public. This is different from the computer prints-out down-loaded from the internet-website.
(k). It may be explained further that internet is accessible only to a few, for whom provision is made in sub-section (a) of Section-4(1) of the RTI Act 2005. Printed/Published copies are for all, and the general public, which is why its provision is made SEPARATELY under sub-section (b) of its Section-4(1). To submit, a few irrelevant web-site prints-out to prove that it has fulfilled its statutory obligation under sub-section (b) of Section-4(1) of the RTI Act 2005 is to throw dust into the eyes. The ASI/AG has not published this basic information, even after seven (7) years of the enactment of the RTI Act 2005, despite R.Nath’s petition (4728/2008) being pending in the Hon’ble High Court Delhi for almost five years. NO feeling of grace or guilt has remained.
(l). It is noteworthy that the ASI/AG has extremely important historical and archaeological information in its possession, which it is not publishing. For example, as discussed above in Para (8) and its sub-sections (a) to (f), 45 drawings essential for the conservation of the Taj Mahal have been suppressed by the ASI/AG: There is no information about them on its website, nor these have been published, inspite of the law prescribing publication of ‘Records’ under 4-(1)(b) and ‘Documents’ under 4(1)(b)(vi) of the RTI Act 2005, for which, it seems, the ASI/AG cares a fig !
(m). The ASI/AG, originally the Northern, the Central and the most important circle of the A.S.I., possesses a large treasure of architectural drawings and photographic negatives (Glass-Plates) of the protected National monuments. But their information is not available on the website, nor it has been published, as prescribed by the above-cited laws. Is there a list, register or index of these drawings and glass-plates? Is the ASI/AG possessing them, under their secret custody, for use, misuse or abuse? Are they not of any archaeological use ? If they are only of archival value, why this priceless collection is not being transferred to the National Archives or the National Museum? Its information is suppressed and not given to public; though it is public property, public is prevented from using it; public even does not know about it inspite of the RTI Act 2005 which the ASI/AG does not honour.
(n). The Hon’ble High Court is not pleased with the respondents. The HC admonished them and imposed a fine of Rs 5000/- by order d. 29 March 2011, and the DG of the ASI was ordered to be present in the court by order d. 9 May 2011 “for disobedience of the Court’s order.” The Hon’ble HC’s displeasure is also shown in orders d. 12 May 2011, 22 Nov 2011 and 13 Dec 2011.
(10). How the ASI itself is :
(II). ALTERING, and
the Protected National Monuments:
(a). (1). Section-30 of the Act-1958 lays down as follows:
30. Penalties (1). “whoever–
(i). destroys, removes, injures, alters, defaces, imperils or misuses a protected monument…..
(iv)…….shall be punishable with imprisonment which may extend to three months, or with fine which may extend to five thousand rupees, or both.”
(2). Section-31 prescribed the jurisdiction of a Presidency or First Class Magistrate to try those offences.
(3). These are deemed to be cognizable offences under Section-32.
(b). It is noticeable that :
- The term ‘whoever’ of the Law includes the officials of the ASI, and it is applicable, not only on the outsiders, but also on the officers and staff of the A.S.I.; and
- it is a criminal offence.
- A fine of Rs.5000/- was prescribed in 1958 when the entrance fee was 20 naya paise. Now the entrance fee is Rs.10/- and the fine must also be enhanced to Rs.2,50,000/- proportionately.
Few illustrative examples of ASI’s malfunctioning, in this respect, may be cited.
(c). The Supdtg Archaeologist of the ASI Agra Circle (KKM) made a public announcement in early June 2003 that fountains of the Khas-Mahal Tank in Agra Fort will be restored to their original glory and grandeur, and invited the press and TV channels. An eloquent show of the event was made and his photos were flashed on TV and published in press (6/21). But only 5 (out of 37) fountains worked, only for one hour, and never worked thereafter and it became clear that this grand show was staged for a photo-session only.
(d). All this was done for self-publicity and self-glorification. This event was not archaeological conservation, and it was in no way related to ‘Archaeology’, or to any function of the A.S.I. As if, the juggler played his ‘dugdugi’, collected a ‘majma’ and staged a ‘tamāshā’! This was the SA’s private agenda. It was gross misuse of the protected National monument, in violation of Section-30 of the Act-1958 and Rule 7(1) of the Rules-1959 which lays down:
7. (1). “No protected monuments shall be used for the purpose of holding any meeting, reception, party, conference or entertainment except under, and in accordance with, a permission in writing granted by the Central Government.”
But who cares for the Law: “law-kī-aisī-kī-taisī”?
(e). R.Nath, by his letter d. 18 April 2007, applied for information related to this one-hour restoration of Khas-Mahal fountains (6/22). The ASI/AG replied, by its letter d. 27 April 2007 (6/23), that no estimate was prepared and no expenditure was incurred “as per the records available in this office.” No information was given. It is amazing that no expenditure was incurred on such a cumbersome exercise ! This seemed to have been done by magic (jādū), so R.Nath, by Para (A) (1-4) of his letter d. 7 May 2007 (see 6/6 above), applied for copies of these ‘records’ of jādū. To this the ASI/AG did not give any reply and complaint of this matter was made to the CIC by R.Nath letter d. 8 June 2007 (6/24).
(f). The SA (KKM) of the ASI/AG in collaboration with the Tata Group of Companies, made structural changes in the Eastern Khawaspura of the Taj Mahal (shown by No.18 in the lay-out plan, Link/Annexure (6/25) and converted it into a modern Tourist Facility Centre (6/26), in spite of Section-30 of the Act 1958 which prohibits any alteration, or misuse of a protected National monument, and in spite of Rule-10 of Rules-1959 which prohibits any construction within the protected area. It was built originally for residence of the attendants of the Taj Mahal as the contemporary historian ‘Abd’ul-Ḥamid Lahaurī recorded in his Persian history the Bādshāh-Namah (Vol.II. 328-329):
“mutaṣṣil dīwār bāgh do khawāspurāh ast-yak-e dar ṭaraf sharqī Jīlū-Khānah dīgar-e dar jānib gharbī har yak ba-tūl haftād-va-shash (76) Zirā va ‘arż shast-va-chār (64) maḥtawī bar sī-va-do (32) ḥujrah paish har ḥujrah aiwān-e ki bajahat khwādīm āṇ mạhżufah raḥmat alhī murattab gushtah”
(Adjacent to the wall of the garden are two khawāspurās, one on the eastern side of the Jīlū–Khānah-Forecourt-and the other on its western side. Each measures 76 zirā’= 203 feet in length and 64 ‘zirā’=171 feet in width, and contained 32 rooms. In front of every room is a dālān. These were meant for the residence of the Khādims of the Taj Mahal).
(g). The Law, cited above, prescribed that the original form and fabric, and use of a protected National monument cannot be altered and the ASI, as its Custodian in trust, has to honour and enforce this Law. But the ASI itself did ‘amānat-men khyānat’ (misappropriated the sacred custody) and betrayed the public trust, and the ASI is answerable for this breach of Law. Press Report of 22 August 2002 (6/27) distinctly mentions that the ASI’s presiding officer of the Agra Circle (KKM), who was otherwise vociferously vocal, refused to comment on this subject.
(h). It was a commercial venture, undertaken for ‘profit’. Otherwise the Tatas would not have been involved with it.
This leads us to the following irresistible conclusions :
- In view of the magnitude of the breach of Law, the Tatas must have adequately greased some palms-whose? ;
- ‘Dastūrī’ system works in the A.S.I. ; and
- This is alarming : our National heritage is not safe under the custody of the ASI !
(i). Similarly, the SA ASI/AG (KKM) built a pucci, stone-masonry Exhibition Gallery in the south-western dālān of the Taj Mahal (shown by No. 15 in the lay-out plan of the Taj, Link/Annexure 6/25 above). Its stone piers were embedded in the floor of the dālān and it was a permanent construction as also reported by the press with photographs (6/28 and 6/29). This was done in total defiance of Rule-10 of the Rules-1959 which prohibits any construction within the protected area; and in complete violation of Section-30 of the Act–1958 which prohibits any alteration or misuse (i.e. any other use except the original) of the protected monument. It was not conservation, by any stretch of imagination.
(j). There was no need or justification of such a permanent exhibition of photographs in the Taj Mahal where tourists come to see this world-famous monument, not a show-piece of the ASI. In fact, the ASI has no such function, it was the private adventure of the presiding officer, KKM the SA. Most flagrant abuse of his position was the contract of Rupees seventytwo lakhs (Rs.72,00,000/-) given to M/S G.M. Stones, his favourite contractor, for this work. How far this enormous expenditure is justified in proportion to the work done has not, however, been scrutinized so far. A high level inquiry must be instituted in this, and dozens of other cases, in which too, millions of rupees, all public money, have been expended, or shown to have been expended by the ASI, in order to establish “a reasonable proportion between the money spent and the work done”. It is amazing if expenditure of the A.S.I., a government department, is not audited, and if audited it is more amazing if this expenditure of rupees seventytwo lakhs on the construction of this Exhibition Gallery which is not related to archaeological conservation or any other function of the ASI, was not questioned by the auditors!
(k). The trick was to create new, non-conventional work, to mint tons of money, of course in the name of conservation, with which these gimmicks were not even remotely related. Complaints after complaint were made to the DG/ASI, including R.Nath’s massive:
‘TREATISE ON THE MALFUNCTIONING OF THE A.S.I. AGRA’
d. 29 December 2003 (with 72 annexures). A copy of its forwarding letter of the even date is given herewith (6/30). Several articles in English and Hindi press, including R.Nath’s ‘Agra-puratattva-vibhag-ka-Rajnitikaran’ (6/31) were also published. But this SA who has no knowledge of Archaeology, his own subject, and of History still less, is master of practising the fine art of keeping the Delhi bosses in good humour; and, this one-and-a-half centuries old ASI Department has become too old, senile and decrepit, and is not able to move it limbs, in order to save the LAW !
(l). Additions, involving large scale funds, were recklessly made to the Nationally protected monuments, in violation of Section-30 of the Act-1958. Due to pancity of space, only one example may be cited: eight heavy iron ‘junglas’ were newly inserted on the eight ground floor openings of the octagonal Tomb of Ṣādiq Khan on the Sikandara Bye-Pass Road Agra. It was blatant alteration of the original form and fabric of the monument.
(m). A Writ Petition (Civil) No. 483 of 2003 was filed in the Supreme Court of India (Rajeev Sethi versus the ASI and others) on the extremely shoddy conservation work done in the Red Fort Delhi by the ASI. R.Nath was nominated on the high level Advisory-cum-Supervisory Committee but when he visited the Red Fort, he was greatly disappointed and disassociated from it by his resignation letter d. 5 December 2003 (6/32) which speaks for itself. The matter was also reported in the press (6/33).
(n). Z-Salam is an Islamic channel telecasting religious events and sermons related to Islam. It is alright and several other channels are also telecasting songs and bhajans of Bhakti and ‘pravachanas’ (Hindu, Jaina and Sikh), and religion-and-philosophy is a popular subject of Indian TV. But Z-Salam has a peculiar feature. For quite some time, and off and on, a clean-shaved man, in typical Sherwani-Pyjama Muslim dress, named Waris Beg, is portrayed singing songs in Urdu, in praise of Islam, Allah and Muhammad, invariably with a protected National monument in the background, e.g. the Qutb-Minar at Mehrauli, Old Fort (Purana-Qal’a), Humayun’s Tomb and other monuments of Delhi, and of Fatehpur Sikri. While he walks, the monument is highlighted and he sings eulogies in praise of Islam and Allah that all these have been bestowed upon us by their grace (karam) which word (karam) he repeats ad-infinitum. Sometimes, a few boys in long costumes with long caps, masquerading as Sufis, also accompany him. Its meaning and purpose cannot be missed and, obviously, this show gives the message that these were built by the grace of Islam and these are Islamic monuments. Precisely, this is Islamisation of our National heritage.
(o). Some questions look straight into our face: Whose idea is this? Who began it and who is organizing these shows? How the ASI granted permission for such a religious portrayal of our National heritage as this ? Can we allow either commercialisation and sectarianisation of protected National monuments, and brand them as belonging to a particular creed, community, caste or class? Is this not misuse of a protected National monument within the meaning of Section-30 of the Act-1958? Beginning with the Yanni’s show, attempts are being continuously made to misuse the protected National monuments. Our National heritage is sacrosanct and we have to honour its chastity (for which see R.Nath, The Taj Mahal (History and Architecture) (Agra 2010) Chapter-21: ‘Chastity of the Taj Mahal’ pages 149-153). Otherwise, it is a dirty can of worms and, once opened, there would be no end, such a vast multi-cultural, multi-lingual, multi-social and multi-religious country India is !
(11). ASI is defacing the Taj by a ‘mitti’, called ‘Multani-Mitti’
(a). A cosmetic facial treatment of the Taj Mahal by ‘Multani–Mitti’, in the name of its conservation, was announced by the ASI in early September 2007 (6/34), and the work began with fanfare, as reported in the press d. 30 October 2007 (6/35). ‘Multani-Mitti’ (also called Kaolin, Beutonite and Fullers’ Earth) is a clay with bleaching properties (for its chemical properties function and physical composition, see Link/Annexure–6/36). In India, elderly ladies used it for washing hair but there is absolutely NO HISTORY OF ITS ARCHITECTURAL USE in India, where innumerous temples, palaces and chhatrīs were built of white marble since 10th – 11th century A.D; or in Greece, Italy and other countries where white marble buildings were raised for more than two millennia. ASI’s own Conservation Manual (by Sir John Marshall, 1923) does not prescribe ‘Multani-Mitti’ or any such bleaching agent for cleaning weather stains of white marble in Sections 237, 264 and 265 which deal with this subject. Whose idea was this and was it scientifically tested ?
(b). There was tough opposition, in the press and otherwise, by the people whose heritage it is, but the ASI, its custodian and technically a ‘Care-taker department’ went ahead with this programme, such a profitable business it was (6/37). The ASI officers always do ‘manmani’, without checks and balances, and treat the protected National monuments as their personal fiefs, and the colonial mindset continues to linger disastrously. Hence, R.Nath by his letter d. 31 October 2007 (6/38) under Section-6 of the RTI Act 2005, applied for basic information related to this ‘mudpack’ treatment of the Taj Mahal. The ASI’s replies to his queries (6/39) were evasive and irrelevant and, sometimes, false and misleading, and, it is pity that, instead of realizing the gravity of the matter, truthfully and honestly, the ASI resorted to tricks and lies which are discussed, in necessary details, in R.Nath’s final complaint to the CIC, dated 3 December 2007, made under Section-18(e) of the RTI Act 2005 (6/40). The Times of India editorial dated 26 November 2007 is also an important document in this respect (6/41).
(c). This so called ‘mudpack’ treatment of the Taj Mahal by ‘Multani-Mitti’ is, in fact, defacing and disfiguring the Taj Mahal (punishable under Section-30 of the Act-1958) and three most dangerous effects of this ‘novel’ exercise are/will be as follows:
(I). It is destroying the Taj Mahal’s original protective polish and exposing its white marble surface to dust, fungus and weathering.
(II). Its repeated use may leave a dull yellowish-brownish colour on the white marble surface of the Taj, proving this ‘fantastic remedy’ to be worse than the ‘real malady’ !
(III). It cannot be applied uniformly on such uneven surfaces as dado-reliefs, framed panels, cartouches, stalactites, turrets, pinnacles, chhatrī–pillars, chhajjās and mīnār-brackets and this treatment will leave a leukoderma appearance of the building as a whole, forever.
If not stopped in time, this Wonder of the World is, thus slated to be killed by the ASI’s pseudo-scientists and ASI’s pseudo-archaeologists! What a fate ! When this happens, Shah Jehan will rise from his grave and lament : ‘Vāh, Saputo, Vāh’ !!
(12). Archaeological Jugglery : Restoration of Unprotected Structures by the A.S.I.
(a). It is amazing to read the news that National monuments, protected by the A.S.I., have been disappearing, also from Delhi, the Capital where the Central Government and the ASI have their Head-Quarters. Maulvi Zafar Hasan, in the List of Muhammedan and Hindu Monuments, 4-volumes (1916-20) (ASI Delhi) described 1317 monuments of Delhi and 299 Persian inscriptions (texts and translations). These were mosques, tombs, graves, houses, havelis, inns, gardens, gates, wells, step-wells, tanks and other historical buildings, both of the Sultanate (1192-1526) and the Mughal (1526-1857) periods. Now hardly 300 monuments and 85 Persian inscriptions have survived, and all others have disappeared, either demolished for land, or modernized irrecognizably, mostly after the Independence (1947). The case of the large and magnificent Masjid-Akbarābādī-Mahal, situated in the Faiz Bazar, now Netaji Subhash Marg, is most illustrative. Such a huge mosque, whose sketch, measurements, inscription and detailed description of architecture in Persian histories are on record, has so completely disappeared from earth that not even a faint trace of it has remained ! (For full details, reference may be made to R.Nath’s paper: ‘Two Extinct Imperial Mughal Mosques of Delhi: Akbarabadi and Sirhindi – c. 1650 A.D.’ in the Indica :Journal of the Heras Institute of Indian History and Culture, Mumbai, Vol. 40 No 1, March 2003, pp. 53-66, illus and Persian texts). The fate of Mughal monuments of Agra (the Mughal Capital, the Dār’ul-Khilafat) has been worse : out of some 270, hardly 40 have survived and one has only to look at the Map of Agra, prepared in 1722 by order of Sawai Raja Jaisingh-II (when he was appointed Governor of Agra) (now preserved in Sawai Mansingh-II Museum Jaipur), to know how grand and glorious Agra’s Mughal heritage once was !
(b). A press-report d. 19 January 2002 (6/42) informed the public that the ASI/AG has identified and restored Akbar’s ‘Ibadat-Khanah at Fatehpur Sikri. R.Nath by his letter d. 30 May 2007 (6/43) applied for information related to the cost of restoration, u/s-6 of the RTI Act 2005. ASI/AG’s reply d. 25 June 2007 (6/44) informed that it was not a protected monument and that no expenditure was incurred on its restoration. It was astounding: while numerous protected monuments are crumbling down owing to lack of any care and conservation, and the ASI is not able to protect and preserve this National heritage, the ASI/AG had the will, the wisdom and the wherewithal to repair and restore this unprotected structure which was just a small, open, three-tiered ruined, private tomb-bārahdarī with only 12 pillar-bases (suggesting that, originally, there were four pillars and three openings on each side). It had no foundations, no walls and no ceiling. Is there any law to restore unprotected ruins, and is there any authority to inquire how all this could happen : just for fun, self-glorification or money-making ?
(c). The SA ASI/AG (KKM) had issued several press-statements (e.g. 6/45 & 6/46). Though work went on for six months and more, ASI/AG claimed that no expenditure had been incurred on its restoration. This cost-free work could have been done either by ‘jādū’ (magic) or by jugglery. R.Nath again sent his application d. 9 July 2007 (6/47) for further information, but the ASI/AG did not reply at all, and the matter was finally forwarded to the CIC by R.Nath’s complaint d. 22 August 2007 (6/48). This explains the matter in necessary details.
(d). Its identification as Akbar’s ‘Ibadat-Khānah on the misinterpretation of a painting is absolutely wrong and misleading, as has been discussed by R.Nath in his paper: ‘On the Identification of Akbar’s ‘Ibadat-Khānah at Fatehpur Sikri’ (Indica Mumbai, Vol.39 No.1, March 2002, pages 51-60) (6/49); and in fuller details in D.V.Sharma’s work : ‘Archaeology of Akbar’s ‘Ibadat-Khānah at Fatehpur Sikri (1576-1582 A.D.)’ (Agra 2003) which exposes the lies, both black and white, of the SA (KKM) of ASI/AG and knocks the bottom out of his fictitious claims (pp. 36-46). Sharma’s conclusion is:
“…. He has not only squandered public money on this so-called restoration of the ‘Ibadat-Khānah, he has also committed an academic fraud upon the people of India.”
Its 1984 photographs (ASI negatives Nos. 2496, 2327 and 2949 of 1984) (Sharma’s plates 45, 46 & 47) show that it was a small ‘chabutarah’ (platform) which could not have been divided into four aiwans and could not have accommodated 100-200 dignitaries sitting separately in four distinct groups of Amirs on the east, Sayyids on the west, Ulemā on the south and Shaikhs on the north along with the king, for the whole night, as contemporary historians Abū’l Fazl and Badaoni have recorded. It is out of orientation (neither N-S nor E-W) and against the basic axis of the town-planning of this Royal habitat, and it is awkwardly situated in the vicinity of the toilets of the Raniwās (Ḥarem), on a cross-road outside the Royal parkoṭa. It is all absurd, to say the least, but the presiding officer (KKM) went on drumming up his fake discovery more eloquently and more assertively than Goebbels could have afforded to do. He acted as a jādūgar (magician) and it was all ‘jādū’ (magic); he said: ‘Ibadat–khānah-ho-ja’ and ‘Ibadat–khānah-ho-gaya’, without any historical rationale whatsoever.
(e). The fundamental question that is yet to be answered is, how is it that the ASI’s HQs/the DG’s office at Delhi, which controls the circles, was looking the other way when (KKM) the SA of ASI/AG was staging his private drama on an unprotected structure ? Has this one-and-a-half centuries old government department really become so senile and decrepit ? And if so, are 4000 and odd protected monuments under the ASI’s charge safe ??
(f). Perhaps, the most sensational of this series of ‘novel’ discoveries was the ASI/AG’s (KKM’s) identification of a ruined octagonal tomb situated at the village Churiyari, 5 kms north of Fatehpur Sikri. It was a small octagonal domed structure, measuring 8½ feet side, of crude and rough rubble masonry, with an attached porch on its western side (for full details, reference may be made to R.Nath’s ‘Mysteries and Marvels of Mughal Architecture’r (Gurgaon 2010) (heeinafter MMMA) chapter entitled: ‘Is it Akbar’s or ASI’s Gung-Mahal’, pages 89-96 & illus). Four pieces of its dome are lying there. There also are two monolithic tombstones, obviously removed from the tomb. One bears Quranic verses in carved stone. There also was a Persian inscription dated in A.H. 900/1494 A.D. placing it during the reign of Sikandar Lodi. It has been completely rubbed off. The other tombstone is plain.
(g). KKM SA/ASI/AG identified it as Akbar’s Gung-Mahal, restored it and announced this ‘Great-discovery’ (Baḍī-Khoj) with fanfare in the press (6/50). R.Nath applied for some information in this connection vide his letter d. 12 February 2007/9 March 2007 (6/51). The ASI/AG by its reply d. 16 March 2007 (6/52) plainly informed that “ruined octagonal tomb situated at Churiyari is not a protected monument of the Archaeological Survey of India.” How then it could be restored by the ASI/AG as claimed in the press-report (6/50 above) ? By his letter d. 22 March 2007 (6/53), R.Nath again requested for information regarding expenditure incurred on this restoration work. But there was no reply from the ASI/AG. R.Nath reminded by his letter d. 23 April 2007, Para-III (see 6/4 above). The ASI/AG replied by its letter d. 27 April 2007, Para-III (6/5) that no expenditure was incurred on the conservation and restoration of this building, “as per the record available in this office.” R.Nath by his letter d. 7 May 2007, Para (D) applied for copies of this record which was available in the ASI/AG office (see 6/6 above). To this he received no reply at all and, ultimately he lodged his complaint d. 25 July 2007 (6/54) to the CIC u/s 18 of the RTI Act 2005.
(h). It must be investigated, foremostly, how a SA/Presiding Officer was authorized/empowered by the Central Govt, the fountain-head of authority, under the Act-1958, to convert the ASI/AG into a charitable institution and repair and restore two UNPROTECTED structures, viz. a private tomb-bārāhdari at Fatehpur Sikri, in the name of Akbar’s ‘Ibadat-Khānah, and an abandoned Lodi tomb at Churiyari, in the name of Akbar’s Gung-Mahal. Is creation of new historical monuments, out of unprotected ruins, a charitable function of the Archaeological Survey of India under Law ?
(i). Besides being unprotected, it was a small Lodi TOMB, and not palace or house, and was too small for the purpose of residence even of a recluse ! Contemporary historians, Abu’l Fazl and Badaoni, recorded that about 20 newly born babies were kept in Akbar’s Gung-Mahal along with wet-nurses, guards and attendants for four years (1578-1582), in total seclusion, to know the secret of human speech (see MMMA, 90-91 cited above). The single space in its interior is enough only for two tombstones and, by any stretch of imagination, it cannot be used for the purpose of Akbar’s Gung-Mahal. As if the ‘bāzīgar’ (juggler), once again, played his ‘dugdugi’, collected a ‘majma’ (crowd) and staged a ‘tamāshā’ (show) in the name of archaeology ! As if the A.S.I. has been taken over by the Later Mughals who have reduced this noble and grand Indian institution of Archaeology to jugglery ! Hitherto, we had such terms as ‘Archaeological Excavation’ and ‘Archaeological Conservation,’ now we have a novel term: ‘Archaeological Jugglery’! thanks to KKM !!
(j). That it is Akbar’s Gung-Mahal and he built this small, rough and unsightly, octagonal structure of rubble masonry., each octagonal side measuring 8½ feet only, leaving only a very small space in the interior, without any window or door, or dālān or āngan, for keeping 20 babies with nurses, guards and attendants and with the usual Imperial paraphernalia, in total seclusion for four years, is too absurd to make any sense whatsoever. Of stupidity too, some height must be fixed, and it should not be allowed to go sky high !
(13). How the A.S.I., undid its own CNBs!
(a). Cultural Notice Board (CNB), engraved on a slab of white marble (the premier stone and the quintessence of elegance and class), and placed on a protected National monument, describes its History, Archaeology and Architecture briefly and authentically, in order to introduce the monument to the visitor. Not only does it denote and describe the monument, it also gives information on what was its original form and fabric; what was its raison d’etre; and what are its distinctive characteristics. It assigns its place in the Cultural History of India, which is why it is designated ‘Cultural Notice Board’. Like a curriculum-vitae, rather than a bio-data, it recounts its career through the Ages.
(b). It corrects the popular misnomers and, instead of hearsay legends, fictitious romantic cinema-tales and plain gossips, it gives authentic historical information about the respective monument (which is why, ‘lapkas’ and ‘self styled guides’ are its staunch enemies). Nationally protected monuments are our sacred heritage, and living symbols of our PAST and they make up our HISTORY, which the visitors are most curious to know; they want to see them intelligently and authentically.
(c). CNB is not a name plate or a sign-board as it had been, hitherto, made and used. It is a HISTORICAL DOCUMENT, inscribed in stone, like an ancient or medieval epigraph and, as such, an integral part of ASI’s conservation, without which a monument has no identity, and is like a human being who has lost his memory.
(d). Around the years 1999-2000, the ASI/AG realized its need and commissioned 53 CNBs of Agra and 54 CNBs of Fatehpur Sikri. Except for 4 or 5, which were carelessly dumped in Sikandara stores after August 2001, the Agra CNBs were mostly installed at the respective monuments and soon became tremendously popular. Thousands of visitors daily read and photographed them, and their texts were placed on the websites of some foreign universities like the Illinois University Chicago (USA) and Australian National University (ANU), obviously, owing to their useful academic contents. NGOs like the USAID (India) supported their programmes entirely on the texts of these CNBs. Such informative CNBs were placed on the ASI protected monuments for the first time, and this innovation was fully successful.
(e). But except for two main CNBs, 53 CNBs of Fatehpur Sikri were not installed on the monuments and were dumped, most carelessly, in lumber stores along with waste building material after the new SA (KKM) took over the ASI/AG circle. Some were deliberately broken into pieces, others were damaged and one wondered at the extremely hostile behaviour of the ASI/AG with its own CNB’s! What could have been the reasons for this perverted decision: was it the work of the rich ‘lapka’ lobby which is very powerful in ASI/AG circle, specifically at FPS? Was the SA or the CA concerned infuriated because he did not receive his commission? And, finally, did he think, in a fit of scholarship, that he could do them better ?
(f). The last hypothesis can be examined. The SA ASI/AG (KKM) picked up the Taj CNB for finding holes in its contents. The juggler once again played his dugdugi, collected a majma’ and staged a tamashā, and Agra was aghast to know that there were some errors in its historical statements based on the works of Sir Jadunath Sarkar, perhaps the greatest historian of Medieval India ! ASI itself created controversies on its wordings. Even such words as ‘luterā’ (the plunderer) (which were not there in the original) were coined to make the news sensational, which is how he made the headlines. Self-publicity and self-glorification is his insatiable addiction, and this was his personal agenda for which, he had a licence from the DG’s office: to do ‘manmānī’! Some words of this CNB were deleted arbitrarily.
(g). In order to woo the Jat community, KKM the SA ASI/AG hastily repaired and restored the hitherto closed (so called) Haveli of Raja Ratan in Agra Fort, and opened it to public, ceremoniously, and with great fanfare, as usual, without knowing the contents of its Persian inscription which mentions ‘Allah’ in its invocation, and ‘hu-al-kāfī’ and ‘Bismillah–al–Reḥman–al–Raḥīm’; gives the date 1182 in hijri and Arabic abjad; mentions one ‘Raja Ratan Nainsukh Faujdar’ as its builder; and mentions it as ‘Khānah-bahjat-sarāi’ and ‘makān-khujistah’. Though announced equally ceremoniously, KKM the SA ASI/AG could never write its CNB. NO ‘jādū’ or jugglery could help him also to write CNB of the Jami’ Masjid Agra which he boasted to do, arrogantly, over and over again, during his whole tenure.
(h). It is an intellectual work, not a clerical exercise, and SA’s chair is not the ‘Vikramaditya’s Simhāsana’ which could convert an illiterate shepherd into a wise judge! To squeeze history, archaeology, architecture, art and aesthetics, all briefly on a single slab of marble, is an extremely difficult intellectual task which calls for a life-time’s experience of working-and-writing on these subjects. Such CNBs could not be made and used with the monuments earlier, or anywhere else; and it remains to be seen if such CNBs are made and used anywhere else now or in future ? It is easier to undo than to do an intellectual work. It is a pity that the protected National monuments under this SA of the ASI deserved only name plates or sigh-boards, and not such historical CNBs! It is a pity that the IDEA of such CNBs has been killed by this pseudo-scholar-cum-pseudo-archaeologist of the A.S.I. out of ego, malice, hypocrisy or ignorance, in fulfilment of the dictum: ‘Ignorance is bliss.’ It is representative of total intellectual bankruptcy.
(i). Most unfortunate is the fact that, by a mysterious order, these CNBs installed on the monuments, are not being maintained and are in a very pathetic condition, and hardly fulfill the purpose for which they were installed. They are dying a slow death, thanks to the National conservation agency which bears the name: ‘Archaeological Survey of India’, and which is ‘conserving’ such archaeological jugglers and ‘jadugars’, instead of honest and competent archaeologists. The fate of the Nationally protected monuments is as uncertain as is of a train running without a driver !
(14). ASI’s Connivance in the Disastrous Taj Heritage Corridor Project
(a). Of the ASI’s malfunctioning, jeopardizing the health and life of the protected National monuments, there are numerous matters, out of which only a few have been highlighted here, vide paras (7) to (13) above, due to pancity of space. Perhaps, the most dangerous and disastrous was ASI’s connivance in the so-called ‘Taj Heritage Corridor Project’ which planned to reclaim land from the right-hand side bed of the river Jamuna, from Agra Fort to the Taj Mahal, and build there (i.e. in the river-bed) shopping arcades, plazas, theatres and tourist complexes. All this began with an educational exercise by the students of the Department of Landscape Architecture, University of Illinois at Urbana-Campaign (USA) (2001), made in a dry season, without taking into consideration the protected monuments which could be affected, or the laws which governed the protected area. A review of this Development Plan, is given herewith (6/55). It knocks the bottom out of this “exotic fantasy”, and it is a document of singular importance which must be studied carefully, in this context.
(b). Smart U.P. politicians (assisted by pliable bureaucrats) who are always on prowl for such schemes, proposals, programmes and projects, for minting tons of money, took the cue from it and prepared a full-fledged project and named it ‘Taj Heritage Corridor Project’, (abb. THCP hereinafter), with estimated cost of rupees 175 crores.
(c). It was a dangerous project, inasmuch as it was going to destroy the Landscape and the Environment of the Taj Mahal and, in essence, its ORIGINAL DESIGN; it was going to destroy the River, the life-line of the Taj Mahal; and it was going to destroy the Taj-Lake which ensured protective moisture in the atmosphere. In fact, it was going to destroy all the original advantages of the Taj-site (for full details, see R.Nath’s article : ‘The Taj Heritage Corridor Fiasco’ (vide chapter-2, Link/Annexure-22 above), and his later book ‘The Taj Mahal: History & Architecture’, cited above). A.G. Krishna Menon’s Review (6/55 above) categorically noted:
“The damage that such seemingly innocuous academic exercises unleash on the local environment has escaped public scrutiny.”
(d). The ASI/AG was represented by its SA in the two meetings of the U.P. Govt Mission Management Board held on 4 April 2002 and 12 October 2002, when green signal was given to start the work on it. Who except the ASI was fundamentally concerned with it, and who except the ASI could have lawfully objected to it, which is why the ASI was invited to participate in these meetings ? But the SA ASI/AG did not register his objection, and all this began with the ASI’s connivance. It was a huge commercial venture and the beneficiaries must have paid a handsome price for green signal. It was also on his suggestion that a false notice board was placed on the work-site announcing that this work was being done by the permission of the Supreme Court, just to throw dust into the eyes of the people of Agra. It was plain fraud on National Heritage.
(e). R.Nath was the first to write a warning letter d. 25 Nov 2002 to the SA ASI/AG (6/56) and report the matter to the press. His article: ‘The Taj Heritage Corridor Fiasco’ was also published and the concerned people were alarmed. R.Nath lodged full complaint of this matter on 16 July 2003 to the DG/ASI (6/57) who acknowledged its receipt by letter d. 25 July 2003 (6/58). This created widespread awareness of the mischief, and broke the bluff spread by the culprits about the work.
(f). The local and national press took over the matter in early June 2003. Initially, it was greatly admired and even eulogised, and article, giving its full details and history, was published in the Amar Ujala Agra on 2 June 2003 (6/59: I & II). It contains important data, including a plan of the proposed project. But, soon it was realized that it was an unauthorized and harmful construction and the Union Culture Minister Mr Jagmohan wrote to the U.P. Chief Minister Mayawati to stop the work as press reported on 21 June 2003 (6/60). Print media also reported that UNESCO threatened to delist the Taj Mahal: “The plan to construct huge structures near the Taj Mahal has jeopardized the prestigious UNESCO World Heritage status of the monument. If the project affects the authenticity and integrity of the site and its environs, it could be put in the ‘World Heritage in Danger’ list and later even loose the status, said R.P.Perera, administrative and programme officer UNESCO” (6/60 above). ‘Monumental Plunder’ was a sub-title of this press-report.
(g). Thus on Mr Jagmohan’s initiative, the work on the THCP was stopped. He visited Agra on 22 June 2003, and the press-report dated 23 June 2003 confirmed that Taj work had been stopped (6/61). It also explained how the project was being marketed, commercially. Mr Jagmohan said, as reported by the Times of India of 24 June 2003 (6/62), that “if allowed, the project would have ruined one of the world’s most beautiful tourist spots”; that “the construction was an ‘statutory violation’ of the Archaeological Monuments and Sites Act” ; and that “it would also lead to irreversible erosion of the foundation of the Taj and Agra Fort” (6/62 above). Amazingly, the ASI/AG came to know of these facts from him, and so late !
(h). The Times of India report d. 17 July 2003, entitled ‘SC orders CBI inquiry into Taj project’ (6/63), is an important document recording the Supreme Court’s orders and observations in this matter. The SC ordered a CBI probe into the controversial multi-crore THCP “after it noticed major irregularities and illegalities.” The CBI was asked to submit its report within two months. The SC also asked the CBI to identify officials who gave a green signal to the project without mandatory environment and other statutory clearances.” The SC gave full credit to media reports exposing the scam and took note of the court commissioner’s report that
“large scale reclamation work of Yamuna river bed, on which the 17th century Mughal monument Taj Mahal stands, was taken up without any survey of the project on the Taj” (6/63).
(i). The Supreme Court “wondered as to how Rs 17 Crore money was spent on the project and how the National Project Construction Company (NPCC), carrying out the project, could put up a sign-board saying that work was being undertaken after obtaining a clearance of the Supreme Court, when no such order was passed”, this report continued (6/63). The Supreme Court further observed:
“It is painful to note that instead of creating something new which could be classified as a world heritage monument, the concerned power is trying to demolish or endanger a world heritage monument by their nasty or irregular activity.”
It was a censure, stricture and reprimand by the Highest Court of the Country. It was then reported to SC that the Principal Secretory (U.P.) R.K. Sharma had been suspended
(j). Press-report d. 20 July 2003 (6/64) examined the role of the ASI/AG in this matter and noted that the SA ASI/AG, concurred with the THCP proposal in the meeting of 4 August 2002, suggesting its connivance in this matter. The news that the U.P. CM Mayawati has demanded the BJP government to dismiss the Union/Culture Minister Mr. Jagmohan from the cabinet (6/64) was astounding; how the U.P. CM too was concerned with, and involved in this matter and was she infuriated because, obviously, Mr Jagmohan had blocked the grand project of rupees 175 crore? That corruption emanated from such a high position was incredible ! The Times of India editorial of 23 August 2003 (6/65) is an apt comment on our perception of History and national heritage of the status of the Taj Mahal.
(k). A.G. Krishna Menon’s review of the THCP (6/55 above) may again be referred to. He noted that it was a students’ exercise with “poor intellectual quality,” and “nobody questioned the students proposals”; and that:
“The tragedy I wish to underscore in the scandal that erupted after the Minister of Culture and Tourism, Jagmohan, ‘discovered’ this project under construction, is not the complicity of the officials and the politicians in breaking laws (and perhaps diverting public funds for private benefit) which is being investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation, but the fact that they sincerely believed that this was a worthwhile project” FOR MINTING TONS OF MONEY.
(l). He noted: “the bureaucracy’s fetishisation of foreign consultants stands out, even when these consultants are mere students undertaking a two week studio exercise.” This is representative of total intellectual bankruptcy of the politicians and bureaucrats involved in the Taj Corridor Fiasco.
“The real problem-and-tragedy is that our decision-makers are seduced by such sophomoric (= conceited and over-confident of knowledge but poorly informed and immature) exercise” FOR THE LURE OF MONEY.
(m). By his application d. 25 April 2007, u/s-6 of the RTI Act 2005, R.Nath requested the ASI/AG to give copies of the documents related to ASI/AG’s participation in the UP Govt Mission Management Board’s meeting held on 4 August 2002 and 12 October 2002. The ASI/AG sent only a few papers of the meeting of 4 August 2002 (three of which were quite illegible) and some irrelevant papers. R.Nath requested again on 4 June 2007 and on 5 June 2007 sent his man for replacement of these papers as also the copies of documents related to the meeting of 12 Oct 2002, and for making cash payment of Rs 36/-. ASI/AG refused to replace the illegible papers, or to give others, or to receive cash payment of Rs. 36/-, and harassed and humiliated him, whereupon R.Nath sent his Rejoinder letter on 8 June 2007 (6/66) and made his complaint to the CIC on 20 June 2007 (6/67) u/s-18 of the RTI Act 2005. He received ASI/AG’s letter d. 25 June 2007 thereafter, and replied it by his letter d. 7 July 2007. In reply to the ASI/AG’s letter d. 28 September 2007, R.Nath again sent his Rejoinder letter d. 11 October 2007 to the CIC (6/68), along with three illegible papers. The ASI/AG’s communications are full of petty tricks and give a very sickening feeling, and one wonders if a Central Govt. dept. could stoop to this level in official correspondence. Links/Annexures 6/60 to 6/65 above, including the Supreme Court’s orders and observations, fully expose the role of the ASI/AG in this dirty business, information whereof the ASI/AG was trying to conceal and suppress (under the RTI), without even an iota of feeling that such a great monument as the Taj Mahal would be the ultimate sufferer!
(15). The Information Commissioner decided these cases in contravention of the RTI Act 2005, to placate the Govt
(a). All these cases, discussed above under Paras (7) to (14), and forwarded to the Central Information Commission (CIC) under section-18 of the RTI Act, were decided by the Information Commissioner (IC) Ms. Padma Balasubramaniam in one lot and in one decision/judgement d. 12/18 February 2008 (6/69), that the complainant:
“Can avail the facility of inspection of records,” in spite of the fact that, in all these cases, copies of information were applied for u/s-6 of the RTI Act and in compliance of Section-7 (9):
“An information shall ordinarily be provided in the form in which it is sought…….”
Copies must have been lawfully given to the complainant. In this and other respects, discussed hereinafter in this sub-section, hers was a perverted decision/judgment and R.Nath sent his Rejoinder/Appeal u/s-23 on 5 March 2008, along with annexure: Appendix: ‘File-Wise Summary’ (6/70).
(b). All the matters, discussed above under Paras (7) to (14), were forwarded to the Central Information Commission (CIC) under Section-18 of the RTI Act 2005 (as is testified by links/annexures 6/7, 6/13, 6/15, 6/24, 6/40, 6/48, 6/54 and 6/67 above). Section-18 laid down Powers and Functions of the CIC. Its subsection (i) enacted:
“ (1) Subject to the provisions of this Act, it shall be duty of the Central Information Commission or the state information commission, as the case may be, to receive and inquire into a complaint from any person:-
“ (b) who has been refused access to any information requested under this Act;
“ (c) who believers that he or she has been given incomplete, misleading or false information under this Act.”
Its sub-section (2) empowers the CIC to initiate an inquiry into the matter. Under its sub-section (3) the CIC shall have the powers of a Civil Court in respect of :-
“(a) summoning and enforcing the attendance of persons and compel them to give oral or written evidence on oath and to produce the documents or things;
“(b) requiring the discovery and inspection of documents;
“(c) receiving evidence on affidavit;
“(d) requisitioning any public record or copies thereof from any court or officer;
“(e) issuing summons for examination of witnesses or documents and
“(f) any other matter which can be prescribed.”
meaning thereby that the CIC will summon the CPIO of the Govt department and compel him to give the information applied for. Sub-section(4) enacted distinctly that “no such record may be withheld from it on any ground.”
(c). But the Information Commissioner (IC) Ms. Padma Balasubramanium (hereinafter abb. Padma B) of the CIC who decided these cases en-bloc and en-masse, in one sitting, did not do that: she did not inquire into any matter, did not summon the CPIO concerned and did not compel him to give the information applied for. Instead of dealing with these matters u/s-18, she dealt with them u/s-19 (Appeals), which is why she noted in her decision/judgment d. 12/18 February 2008:
“he (complaint) filed appeals directly before the commissioner.”
These were not appeals and she was patently wrong and, obviously, she did not care to know that there also was a Section-18 of the RTI Act 2005 prescribing the CIC’s original jurisdiction, as Article-226 is for the High Courts and Article-32 is for the Supreme Court. Though distinctly mentioned in R.Nath’s letters to the CIC, on every front page (6/7, 6/13, 6/15, 6/24, 6/40, 6/48, 6/54 and 6/67), she did not notice that these matters were forwarded to the CIC u/s-18 and not u/s-19. Whether she did this deliberately to minimize her botheration, or owing to her poor intelligence has yet to be investigated.
(d). The IC Ms Padma B decided all these important cases, related to out National Heritage, including the Taj Mahal, en-bloc and en-masse in one sitting, bundled them together and threw them out of the window, without at all reading the RECORD on the files. She delivered her single decision/judgement ONLY on the basis of personal hearing and on the basis of the CPIO’s oral pleadings. And if the complainant R.Nath happened to be 75 and Senior Citizen, and could not travel to Delhi for personal hearing, this decision/judgement was squarely against him, inspite of his specific request: “please read the record on the file.”
(e). If the CPIO of the Govt dept pleaded: “The CPIO has provided information in respect of all the applications”, the IC Ms. Padma B. faithfully recorded it in her decision/judgement, without bothering to check the Record herself and without applying her mind. This was a false statement which she recorded in her decision/judegement. For example, Para (7) above may be referred to. Rule-4 of Rules-59 under the Act-1958 laid down that protected monuments shall be closed ONLY by order of the DG/ASI. R.Nath applied for copies of these orders which were not given by the ASI/AG unto the last, but the IC Ms. Padma B. did not check the Record on the file to verify whether the copies had been given or not. The applicant/complainant was not there to counter the lie, and the IC Padma B believed what the CPIO orally stated. Para (8) above may also be referred to, for another example. R.Nath applied for copies of 45 basic drawings of the Taj Conservation Report which were never given to him by the ASI/AG, under various pretexts. This happened in all other cases and no information was given, but the IC Ms. Padma B did not bother to read the Record in any case, and she relied entirely on the CPIO’s blatant lie, that information had been given in all cases, and she recorded it in her decision/judgement. If the Govt. official accused the applicant/complainant of making ‘frivolous’ applications, she also recorded it faithfully in her decision, without knowing the meaning of the word ‘frivolous’ and without examining if any frivolous application had been made ! It was worse than an exparte judgement of a Civil Court in which the Hon’ble Judge, conscious of the fact that the matter may go to the High court in appeal, at least peruses the record on the file thoroughly, to ensure that no injustice is done to the absentee party. That is why record of each case is prepared meticulously and maintained, in black-and-white.
(f). There was absolutely no application of mind and the IC Ms. Padma B. decided these extremely important cases exactly like the working of the Post Office, where articles are mechanically stamped, thrust into bags and bundles and thrown into the waiting van, without there being any need to apply any mind! In fact, as it was later discovered, she was a retired Post Office bureaucrat and she was trained and accustomed to do her work ONLY THIS WAY, without application of mind. This raises the pertinent question : how was she appointed an IC of the prestigious CIC of the country ? Section-12 (5) of the RTI Act 2005 laid down:
“The Chief Information Commissioner and the Information Commissioners shall be persons of eminence in public life with wide knowledge and experience in law, science and technology, social service, management, journalism, mass media or administration and governance.”
It is amazing how, as a retired Post Office bureaucrat, did she fulfill these qualifications, and how was she deemed to be “a person of eminence in public life with wide knowledge and experience in law” and appointed an IC? It seems that the Govt had packed the CIC with such retired and fossilized bureaucrats only by virtue of their political connection, and had converted it virtually into a ‘Dharamshālā’.
(g). Obvious benefit to the Govt is that the IC Ms. Padma B had been consistently, rightly or wrongly, favouring the Govt departments and deciding matters against the public-applicants in hundred percent cases, even when the Govt dept was in manifest default, in an attempt to save the Govt from embarrassment or ignominy.
(h). Most unfortunate is the fact that the IC Ms. Padma B did all this in respect of the matters related to endangered protected National monuments which the applicant R.Nath just wanted to be properly conserved and maintained according to the Rule-Book. But she had no qualms when she wreaked havoc on such a sensitive National cause. It was criminal and she deserves no mercy.
(i). The IC Ms. Padma B has also caused greatest damage to the RTI Act 2005 which was enacted:
“to secure access to information under the control of public authorities, in order to promote transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority….and also to contain corruption…” (Preamble to the RTI Act 2005),
as an antithesis of this very evil. She negated its sacred purpose and rendered it redundant and inoperative. The RTI Act, a tender baby of three years, born by Divine grace for the public good, was allowed by her to be dragged into deep waters by the crocodiles of the ‘babudom’, the ancient predators, who remain submerged under water, and mint ‘dasturi’ only by concealing and suppressing the information.
(j). For example, the IC Ms. Padma B rescinded, cancelled and abrogated Section-4(1)(b) of the RTI Act 2005 which cast a mandatory obligation upon Govt departments to PUBLISH 17 times of information related to its structure, personnel and functioning and, instead, she enacted a new law that if the information was huge and bulky, it may not be published and the applicant may be asked to visit the office and collect free copies (as has been discussed above in Para (9), which provision is not there in Section-4(1)(b): “Parliament-ki-bhi-aisi-ki-taisi”, IC Ms Padma B. ruled!
(k). Now, who will honour S-4(1)(b) of the RTI Act 2005 and publish this basic and vital information? In fact, she has granted a licence to the Govt departments all over the country to flout Section-4(1)(b) of the RTI Act 2005, freely.
(16). Plug the Holes of the ASI Act-1958 and the RTI Act 2005
(a). In order to fulfill the purpose and objective for which it is enacted, honestly and in the right earnest, the Law has to be dynamic, and it must change with the TIME. The ASI Act-1958 (The Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act 1958) which is deficient and obsolete in many respects, as discussed above in Para(5), and examples of which illustrated above in Para(7) to (14), must be thoroughly revised and updated, in accordance with the present needs and problems, and on the basis of experience of its working for the last six decades. It is absolutely necessary that powers, duties and functions of the A.S.I. officers, as also their rights, obligations and liabilities, must be distinctly defined and prescribed; that, instead of relegating the laws under ‘Rules’, leaving their execution on the sweet will or discretion of bureaucracy, they must be properly incorporated in the Act itself, to avoid any misunderstanding, misinterpretation or miscarriage of Law. It must be clearly understood that it is owing to the loopholes in the Law that a poor Conservation Assistant of the ASI could become a wealthy multi-millionaire in just a decade’s time (see Link/Annexure–6/9 above).
(b). The working of the RTI Act 2005 for the last eight years, has exposed its holes which must also be plugged. For example, its Section-4(1)(b), casting a mandatory obligation upon a Govt department to PUBLISH 17 items of information, which is distinct and separate from Section-4(1)(a) which requires a Govt department to computerize all records and post on the internet, must be strictly enforced without exception. This has been discussed above in Para (9). If implemented, there would be no need for the public to apply for general and routine day-to-day information, and 75% of the RTI applications shall be eliminated.
(c). Section-7 of the RTI Act 2005 must be strictly enforced, in letter and in spirit.
(d). Senior Citizens must be completely exempted from participating in Personal Hearing sessions, held at New Delhi and, instead of relying on false oral pleadings of the CPIO of the Govt dept (as has been discussed above), the decision/judgement of the IC must be entirely based on the Record on the file which must be quoted in it, point by point. The CIC must work, not as a Kotwali, but as a Court.
(e). The Law under Section-12(5) of the RTI Act 2005 must be sincerely honoured and strictly adhered to, in letter and inspirit, and the CIC should not be packed with fossilized bureaucrats and converted into a ‘dharmashālā’.
(f). Section-18 of the RTI Act 2005 must be strengthened, encouraged and strictly enforced, and it should not be allowed to remain obsolete. This is the original jurisdiction of the CIC and it is a sacred duty of the concerned IC to exercise it sincerely in the interest of justice. It must be noted that the provision of first appeal to a senior officer of the same department u/s-19(1) is practically useless and redundant and, instead, emphasis should be given on the implementation of Section-18, which has been discussed above under Para-(15). We must get rid of the colonial legacy and the ‘dastūrī’ syndrome, and exert to establish the ‘Rule of Law’ in the country, honestly.
(17). A.S.I.’s Restoration –Work has come to a Standstill
(a). Initially, the A.S.I.’s primary function was SURVEY of antiquities and relics of archaeological and historical interest, hence it was named ‘the Archaeological Survey of India’, like the Geological Survey of India’ and ‘the Botanical Survey of India’ which too were established by the British. Gradually, during the period from Cunningham to Marshall (1862 to 1902), the A.S.I. assumed, besides Archaeological Survey and Documentation, such other functions as :
- ‘Excavation’, ‘Exploration’ & ‘Research’ an
- ‘Repair & Conservation.
(b). It is important to note, in this connection, that, during the 85 years’ period:
- 40 years from 1862 to 1902, and
- 45 years from 1902 to 1947 (when two World Wars: I. 1914-18 and II. 1939-45, were also fought),
the A.S.I. (under the British) published more than 400 classical works on History, Archaeology and allied subjects; in comparison, we have been able to do hardly a hundred works, which too in continuation of the existing series (see6/71). This comparison is more pathetic and poorer in respect of ‘Restoration’ and ‘Conservation’. The former A.S.I. was presided over by the British overlords, with very limited funds and very meagre and primitive technological resources. Yet, sincerely, honestly and competently, they restored, protected and conserved nearly 4000 National monuments which, after Independence, we are not able to conserve and maintain.
(c). Most unfortunate, however, is the fact that Restoration-work, left incomplete or undone by the British in 1947, has practically come to a standstill and we have no vision or will to complete it. A few most illustrative examples may be cited here. How intelligently and industriously John Marshall restored the Elephant Sculptures of the Delhi-Gate of Red Fort Delhi, in 1903, soon after the A.S.I. was re-convened in 1902, is a lesson to our modern archaeologists (for details, reference may be made to R.Nath, ‘Mughal Sculpture’, New Delhi 1997, pp. 46-65).
(d). All the four quarters (parterres) of the Anguri-Bagh, in front of the Khas-Mahal in Agra Fort, originally had beautiful jalied railings of red sandstone on all the external edges, as shown in the accompanying photograph taken by Camera-Lucida in 1808 (Fig.1). It is no longer there and it has been plundered or stolen, of which ASI/Agra would, almost certainly, have no record. In any case, it has not been restored, nor the ASI has the faintest idea that it needs any restoration : ‘sub-chalta-hai!
(e). The white marble Tomb of I’timad-ud-Daulah at Agra originally had beautiful jalied railings, of white marble, on all the four edges of its main plinth, as testified by :
- its photograph (taken by Camera-Lucida) in which this jali-railing is distinctly shown (Fig.2) and;
- series of sockets on all the four sides into which the upright balusters of the railings were fixed.
This jali-railing has not yet been restored by the A.S.I. to fulfill the unfinished agenda of Restoration, and the monument remains as deficient as it was left by the British in 1947.
(f). The Tomb of Akbar at Sikandara Agra was thoroughly ransacked in the preceding ages of anarchy: e.g. upper storeys of the four minarets had been demolished, the polychrome mosaic-work on all the facades had been pilfered andjali-railings which protected the edges of all causeways had been plundered. John Marshall restored its white marble minarets on the original lines; and inlay and mosaic work was also restored on the main (south) Gate. But restoration of inlay-and-mosaic was a very expensive and time-consuming work and this could not be done, some how or the other, on the four facades of the main tomb building: only its four iwan-portals were restored and the remaining mural surface on the four facades was simply plastered over and geru-painted. Jali-railings of its large and wide causeways also could not be restored. That these railings were originally there is testified by:
(I). its painting which faithfully depicts these jali railings (Fig.3) and;
(II). sockets of these railings into which their balusters were fixed have also remainedin-situ (Plates 1 to 4).
Sockets of the Extinct Railings on the edges of Causeways
(into which their balusters were originally fixed), Akbar’s Tomb Sikandara Agra
These railings have not been restored by the A.S.I. during the last 70 years of our Independence (1947 to 2017); the tragedy is that the personnel of the present A.S.I. have absolutely no idea that such a railing was ever there originally, or that it is at all needed!
(g). It is also a pity that the northern gate of this grand mausoleum of Akbar, the Great, is still lying in complete ruins, in the same condition in which the British found it in 1902, and in which they left it in 1947.
(h). Practically, no restoration work has been done after Independence. This is representative of our much trumpeted awareness of, and concern for, our monumental heritage! As apprehended by John Marshall (in 1902), (A.S.I. Annual Report 1902-3, p.12), the A.S.I. has now really “degenerated into a mere monument-repairing department,” probably because monument-repairing has now become a very profitable business, as illustrated by
- Para (7) (g) and Link 6/9; and
- Writ Petition No. 483 of 2003 in the Supreme Court of India, vide Para (10) (m) and Link 6/32 above.
(18). Recent Nationally Important Matters
(a). Quite recently, aSadhu (recluse) claimed to have seen, in a dream, a hoard of 1000 tons of GOLD, buried at Dhondhiya-Khera, a hamlet in the extremely backward area of Unnao in U.P. The A.S.I. went to excavate this imaginary hoard of 1000 tons of GOLD. There, its personnel were humiliated with such derogatory remarks:
(of what worth you are ?),
and guided to begin excavation where the ‘puja–ka–thal’ was placed ! Ultimately, nothing was found: even the proverb; ‘khoda-pahad-nikli-chuhiya’ was disproved and not even a ‘chuhiya’ (she-mouse) was discovered, and the A.S.I. drew a complete blank and returned defaulted, degraded and demeaned, not the less disgraced, denounced and deprecated!!
(b). Section-22 of the Act of 1958 lays down criterion for archaeological excavation :
“ruins or relics of historical or archaeological importance”.
How a mythical hoard of 1000 tons of Gold could be the criterion of this excavation ? One thousand tons of Gold, equivalent to more than ten lakh kilogram (1 ton= 1016.05 kg, 100 tons =101604.7 kg, and 1000 tons =10,16,047 kg ) of Gold, is too fabulous and too fantastic a figure to be credible! Is Sadhu’s dream a methodology for determining the ‘potential’ of proposed excavation which the A.S.I. preaches in its official correspondence, e.g. on this author’s plea for resuming archaeological excavation at Ajmer, Shri S.K.Mitra, Director (EE), A.S.I. Janpath New Delhi, vide his latter No. F.1/54/2012-EE dated 18 March 2013 replied as follows:
“Sub : Plea for resuming archaeological excavation at Ajmer : regarding
Please refer to your latter dated 15.10.2012 addressed to the Secretary, Ministry of Culture, Shastri Bhawan New Delhi and Supdtg Archaeologist A.S.I. Excavation Branch Purana Qila New Delhi on the subject citied avove, it is to inform you that the S.A., A.S.I. Jaipur Circle has informed regarding archaeological exploration/excavation at Ajmer district that Jaipur Circle may conduct exploration/site inspection of reported sites and if found potential, excavations could be conducted in future.
In fact, excavation had already been conducted at Ajmer and large scale antiquities and temple remains were found in 1902-3. It was discontinued and this author’s plea was to resume it. What other ‘potential’ the A.S.I. needed to determine ? A Sadhu’s dream??
(c). Another glaring example may also be cited. The Red Fort Delhi and Agra Fort both were captured, occupied and garrisoned by the British in 1803. The army continued to occupy both these forts even after Independence. The Red Fort Delhi was vacated in 2003, thanks to the efforts of M/s Jagmohan and George Fernandes. But this fort was founded in 1639-48 by Shah Jehan, and no excavation was needed to discover ancient relics and antiquities. Agra Fort, on the other hand, was an ancient site. Antiquities were discovered here from time to time and even a wall of Mauryan bricks measuring 19××9½××3 inch (48.28 ×× 24.13 ×× 7.62 cm) was excavated by F.O.Oertel in 1905-6 in front of Akbar’s Bengali-Mahal, in it. This took its antiquity to at least 4th century B.C. Agra Fort was a temple-town, like Gwalior Fort and Chittorgadh, and large scale temple ruins, of 10th to 12th century A.D. are buried in it. However, only one-tenth part, under the A.S.I. is now open to public and the Army is still occupying its major portion. But the A.S.I. is not the least concerned. Is the A.S.I. waiting for a Sadhu’s dream to be convinced of the ‘potential’ to begin excavation in Agra Fort ?
(d). Who else, except the A.S.I., is to be held responsible for the Dhondhiya-Khera fiasco: the Sadhu who claimed to have seen such a mythical treasure in dream ? Is the Government machinery run by sadhus and their dreams ? Sadhus have different field of operation : by and large, they live by, and work on superstition, more than philosophy. How else Asaram, practically an illiterate migrant from Sindh and, originally, a tonga-driver of Ajmer, could have amassed wealth of tenthousand crores and about 500 large ashrams all over India? That sadhus will guide the course of archaeological excavation has not been laid down in Sections 21 to 24 of the Act of 1958, which prescribe mandatory laws for archaeological excavations in India.
(e). Or, are the political bosses of the A.S.I. to be blamed? Practically ignorant of these technical matters, they could not have taken T H E decision to excavate Dhondhiya-Khera only on the basis of the Sadhu’s dream; its expertise laid with the A.S.I. and the A.S.I. should have gone by the Rule-Book, instead of succumbing to any such political pressure, or acquiescing to any such official order, even if it was so. In any case, the decision to excavate Dhondhiya-Khera was to be taken by the A.S.I. and, whether by Sadhu’s dream or by the minister’s orders, this decision W A S taken by the A.S.I. and the A.S.I., and nobody else, I S responsible for this fiasco.
(f). It is a pity that the A.S.I. which was once a premier department of the Government of India has been reduced to such a miserable plight: it has been neatly befooled and humiliated, and became a laughing stock in the academic world. But, though this nonsense has been highlighted in print and electronic media, its perpetrators have not yet been identified and brought to the book. A Parliamentary question may follow. But, above all, a PIL should be filed to excavate the pros and cons of this misadventure, if we are really concerned for the safety of our National architectural and archaeological heritage, and if we want to place it in competent, honest, and safe hands.
(g). Obviously, the Act of 1958 is no longer effective and it must be thoroughly revised and updated to prevent such mis-happenings in future. The A.S.I. must be definitively re-established as THE INSTITUTION responsible for conservation of monuments; excavation, exploration and research; and epigraphy, and as such, the functions of the A.S.I. must be distinctly defined. Duties and powers, as well as liabilities and obligations, of its officers and other personnel must be distinctly and unambiguously prescribed. All loopholes related to misuse of finances and official position must be scrupulously plugged and deterrant action must be prescribed for any violation of the Law, so that even the habitual offenders who, in connivance with politicians, have converted the archaeological lands, archaeological undertakings and archaeological monuments into gold-mines, begin to take it seriously, with fear and respect. No officer of the A.S.I. should have courage to collaborate in such flimsy projects as the Taj Heritage Corridor, and no officer should be allowed to treat the circle as his personal jagir.
(h). A huge crowd of nearly one crore visitors is visiting the Taj Mahal annually. This has created a NEW DANGER to its existence and R.Nath has sent the following letter to the Minister of Culture, Govt of India, New Delhi:-
To, 22 September 2014
The Minister of Culture,
Govt of India,
Subject: The Taj Mahal, Endangered
I have the honour to submit that, while we have been facing the almost insurmountable problem of the Taj Mahal gradually sinking into the river (vide R.Nath, The Taj Mahal: History and Architecture, Agra 2010, pages 134-143), the new age has created a NEW DANGER to its existence, which calls for urgent action by the Govt of India. Briefly, it is as follows:
(1.). About 60 lakh (60,00,000) visitors are reported to visit the Taj Mahal annually and if we add, to this figure, without-ticket and resale-ticket entrants, five free annual holidays and weekly free Friday public, and free under-15 children, the number will well exceed One Crore (1,00,00,000) visitors annually ! This is an astounding figure.
(2). This huge crowed is creating two new problems which were not there in the first decade of the 20th century when the Ancient Monuments Preservation Act, 1904 was promulgated by the British Govt; or in the fifties when its revised, enlarged and updated version: the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958 was enacted, which, therefore, dealt with ‘Conservation’ ONLY, and this function was naturally assigned to the Archaeologists.
(3). These new problems may be summarised as follows:
(a). This huge crowd is putting immense pressure on this 365-years old monument, standing precariously on the edge of the river-bank. This its builders had not anticipated. It cannot be supposed to bear this pressure ad-infinitum. Periodical replacement of the pavemental stones is no solution. Some permanent administrative remedy will have to be put in place to resolve it, before it is too late.
(b). The Archaeological Survey of India (A.S.I.) under whose custody is the Taj Mahal, is manned only by technical personnel with expertise in ‘Conservation’, and it cannot be expected to manage and administer the crowds, or the problems related to them, such as:
I. revenue collection,
II. drinking water,
III. toilet, bag-and-baggage and other facilities,
IV. cleanliness, and
V. law-and-order and security, specifically orderly management of crowds, and such elements as unlicensed guides, unlicensed photographers and ‘lapkas’, menacing the Taj Complex.
(4). It is absolutely necessary to work on the fundamental principle of bifurcation of the two functions: ‘Conservation’ and ‘Administration’. The A.S.I Archaeologists, trained as they are, CANNOT fulfill both these functions and, to avoid chaos and confusion which prevails at present, we must change with the changing times. The A.S.I Archaeologists may continue to monopolise ‘Conservation’, but a separate and independent: ‘TAJ CORPORATION’ must be established for its ‘Administration’. It shall be headed by a ‘Director’, who will be the Chief Administrative Officer, assisted by subsidiary staff, as may be needed. ‘Director’ shall be a distinguished I.A.S. officer. There also will be, necessarily, a ‘Chief Security Officer’, a distinguished military officer, not below the rank of ‘Colonel’, with at least 4000 personnel of the newly established ‘Taj-Police’. Frame-work may be worked out on these bare outlines and amendments may, accordingly, be made in the Act of 1958.
(5). We will have to change with the changing times, otherwise, the Taj Mahal will pay the price, sooner than later, of our intellectual stasis, incompetence, arrogance or lethargy, whatever it is !
Professor (Dr) R.Nath
M.A., Ph.D., D.Litt.
(Retired Professor of History
University of RajasthanJaipur)
7, Gulab Bari Enclave,
(i). Here are the latest news as to how our own A.S.I. is preserving and protecting the Monumental Heritage of India which was handed over to us, intact and alright, by the British A.S.I., in 1947:
*The Times of India Jaipur, August 24, 2013
The Times India Jaipur, April 12,
(j). A List of the A.S.I. Publications (1862-1947 and 1947-uptodate) is appended here-with (Appendix-A)
A Classified List of the Publications
of the Archaeological Survey of India (A.S.I.)
(1862 to 1947 & 1947 uptodate)
More than 500 classical works were published by the Archaeological Survey of India (A.S.I.) (from 1862 to 1947 and 1947 uptodate) on history, archaeology, culture, art, architecture, epigraphy, numismatics, folklore, ethnography, anthropology, language, literature and other subjects, which make up a bedrock of data for study and research in these subjects, respectively. These works are as indispensable as are contemporary sources, to make a beginning in these disciplines.
- 23 vols of Cunningham Reports of the A.S.I. I (1862-65) to vol. XXIII (1883-84) (and Index to these 23 vols.)
- 40 vols (and parts thereof) of the S.I. Annual Reports (1902-3 to 1938-39) (and two indices thereto)
- 108 vols of Memoirs of the A.S.I. :1 (1919) to 108 (2012)
- 41 vols of New Imperial Series of the A.S.I. : I (1874) to LI (1931)
- 52 vols of Indian Archaeology : A Review : 1953-54 to 2004-5
- 22 vols of Ancient India : Bulletin of the A.S.I. :1 (1946) to 22 (1966)
- 43 vols of Epigraphia Indica of the A.S.I. : I (1882) to XLIII (2011-12)
- 18 vols of Epigraphia Indo-Moslemica of the A.S.I. : 1907-8 to 1949-50
- 20 vols of Epigraphia Indica : Arabic & Persian Supplement : 1951-52 to 1975
- 11 vols (and parts) of Corpus Inscriptionum Indicarum of the A.S.I.
- 30 vols (and parts) of South Indian Inscriptions
- 47 vols of Annual Report of Indian Epigraphy : 1887-1905 to 1997-98
Besides these, there are Annual Reports of different circles of the A.S.I. and the states, monographs on Indian Temple Architecture, World Heritage Series, guide-books and miscellaneous other publications.