In the year of her richest Olympic medal harvest, the rush to increase liquid gold production has left India’s — and Asia’s — oldest amphitheatre-cum-sports pavilion scarred.
The 18th century Rangghar in Assam’s Sivasagar town has developed several cracks allegedly due to “explosive” 3D seismic surveys assigned to Shivani Oil & Gas Exploration Services Ltd by ONGC.
Constructed by Ahom king Pramatta Singha as sports and entertainment pavilion, the two-storey Rangghar is a symbol of Assamese pride. The Ahoms ruled for over 600 years to record one of the longest dynastic reigns.
“At a time when Indians have scripted a golden Olympics, an oil major’s bid to explore crude oil at the expense of a historical sports structure is highly deplorable,” said Ashwini Chetia, leader of the Tai-Ahom Chhatra Sanstha, representing ethnic Ahom students.
Backed by several social groups, the body has in protest imposed a 100-hour blockade on ONGC from Saturday night. A 22-hour Sivasagar district bandh will follow.
“We understand the economic consequences of shutdowns, but no one has the right to hurt the sentiments of local people,” he said.
ONGC has denied undertaking survey work within 1 sqkm of Rangghar. “We have taken all precautionary steps to avoid harm to historical sites in the area, including Ahom sports pavilion,” said a spokesperson from Nazira, the oil major’s Assam Asset headquarters.