Situated 150km from New Delhi is a village which is testimony to the long history of mankind, but is losing its sheen at the hands of man-made threats and 'government-made' negligence.
Rakhigarhi village, situated in Narnaund town of Hisar district, is one of the largest and oldest Indus Valley sites in the world, but insufficient management, land grabbing and loot of artefacts afflict this area of heritage importance. This is not all. "Subsequent state and Central governments have never bothered to preserve the site," said Wazir Chand Sirohi, 52, a resident of the village and who acts as a guide for research teams visiting the village.
Another pointer to 'government's apathy' is the unregulated encroachments on the 235 acre of land, demarcated by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). Residents use the land as cattle yard and for drying cattle dung, used as cooking fuel. The site is also used as a cremation ground.
Talking to Hindustan Times, ASI superintendent (Punjab and Haryana) VC Sharma said the archaeological body had challenged the encroachments in courts. "It is sad that villagers do not adhere to the ASI guidelines," he said.
The ASI had built a room for its workers, tasked to ensure the security of the areas. Villagers, however, said the workers hardly show up. On being told about this, Sharma said he would look into the matter.
Sirohi, who has been raising voice to preserve the village, pointed out that some influential people of Rakhighari were grabbing land and threatening him with dire consequences if he voiced his concern.
Sirohi said Global Heritage Fund (GHF) executive director Jeff Morgan along with SK Misra, former principal secretary to PM Manmohan Singh, visited the village a month back to take stock of the situation.
"Both were surprised at the government's apathy towards the significant cultural heritage," Sirohi said, adding that they had promised the villagers to provide funds from the UNESCO to protect, preserve, develop and sustain this endangered heritage.
A village resident, Dinesh Kumar, said if foreign organisations were keen to develop the village, why the state or Central governments were not paying attention towards it.
Has something to teach
"The history of Rakhighari rivals that of Egyptians, Mesopotamians and Mayans. It is an important source of information on unravelling how life was around 5,000 years ago," Sirohi said, hoping that GHF's efforts would result in village's development.
The ASI had found artefacts from the Harappan-era civilisation during the excavation from 1999 to 2001. Streets, pottery, bangles, toys, kitchen utensils, tandoor, agriculture implements, walls, rooms, houses, canal and a raised platform were found.
The interesting part is that villagers are not aware of the area's importance. Their lack of knowledge is perhaps adding to the destruction of the area, already on the verge of vanishing.
On the path of restoration
Indian Trust for Rural Heritage and Development (ITRHD) chairperson SK Misra, in a reply to a mail, said the ASI would resume the excavation work in the village from next year. "The GHF and ITRHD will be partners in the project. The former will part fund the project and the ASI will take care of the rest of the expenses. The ITRHD will carry out developmental activities in the village," Misra said.