The hunt for gold by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) in Unnao has resulted in at least 10 copycat excavations by gold diggers in the past week. The amateurs have damaged sites of historical and religious importance in the bargain, leading to resentment among locals. This has forced the ASI to write to chief minister Akhilesh Yadav asking for security at these sites.
The ASI, which preserves heritage sites, has no security force of its own and depends on state machinery for its needs. An ASI official, who did not want to be named, confirmed that a letter had indeed been sent to the CM. “This frenzy is a threat to historical sites. We are worried.”
Since the ASI started digging for gold at the Buxar fort in Unnao on October 18 following a tip-off by a seer, many incidents of digging for gold have been reported in neighbouring areas.
In Bahraich, unknown persons dug up a courtyard in the Charda fort, ostensibly looking for gold. Gold diggers also struck a sixth century temple in Udaipur village of Bhitargaon tehsil and vandalised a platform, which is believed to be the resting place of a seer.
Digging by amateurs in Adampur village of Fatehpur district has been going on for a week despite heavy deployment of police in the area. Incidents of digging were reported near a Shiv temple and Shiv chabutara in the village.
Similarly, unidentified persons dug up a place around an old well near Garima village, a site of historical importance in Fatehpur district, and damaged an idol.
An ancient Shiv temple in Pipahari village of Banda district was also dug up and the Shivling partially damaged.
Reports from Mahoba district said locals chased away people who were digging near the Charkhari fort.
SP Singh, who heads the history department in Kanpur’s Christ Church College, feared the frenzy for gold may grow. “People may just bring down houses for gold,” he said. He said he was apprehensive especially because people in rural areas, who tend to repose faith in tantriks and babas, may be encouraged to dig at their behest. "We have a situation where people will be quick to dig a place if a baba says it has gold,” he added.
In its letter, the ASI has advised the government to involve village panchayats and gram sabhas in securing sites of historical and religious importance. “Local involvement is a must to ensure there is no further damage to sites or relics,” the ASI official said.