Saving heritage: With sand mining on check, Bhita gets back glory
If you have been to Bhita, the historical site on Yamuna banks in Ghoorpur, the sight of Sujawan Dev temple on the rock island would sure have left you mesmerized.
What may have irked you, at the same time, is the 24X7 illegal mining of sand from all around the picturesque location.
Realising the significance of the archaeological wonder, which became a tourist hotspot after a few Bollywood movies, including Omkara, were shot here, the police have recently launched a drive to free the area from illegal mining.
Already, tons of sand illegally taken out from the river have been seized and the track used for taking tractors and trucks to the ghats for loading the sand have been blocked.
“When we conducted a surprise raid at the spot we found heaps of sand illegally taken out from the river. We threw the sand back into the river and blocked the track used for taking heavy vehicles to the ghats. No illegal mining activity will be allowed to continue in the area,” said Indradev Singh, inspector, Ghoorpur, who joined recently.
“The illegal sand mining was posing a serious threat not only to Sujawan Dev temple on the rock island but also to other ancient structures scattered at the site,” he admitted while wondering how such an activity was allowed for years here at the Buddhist site when the Archeological Survey of India strictly prohibits mining activities within 200 metres of the protected site.
Apart from a statue of Shringara Devi, Sita Rasoi and Sujawan Dev temple, the area is famous as an ancient Buddhist site supposed to be a monastery.
“Bhita is an ancient Buddhist site of Kushan Era and is under ASI protection. Any illegal mining activity near it may pose serious threat to ancient structures,” said Laiq Ahmad, historian and a retired teacher of medieval history at Ewing Christian College.
Prof Yogeshwar Tiwari of Allahabad University’s Medieval and Modern History department also echoes the similar sentiments.
“Illegally dumped sand on the ghats of the ancient site pose a serious threat to ancient structures, including the Kushan Era statue of Shringara Devi,” he said.
“Besides, sand particles blown by winds get deposited on the statues and other ancient structures posing a threat of their disfigurement and defacement. If these sites are properly conserved and the area is developed it has the potential to become a famous tourist attraction,” he added.
Moreover, the sand mafias have also broken the barricading around Shringara Devi statue to dump sand and had dug the area around it to make a road to the ghat for carrying the sand on trucks and tractors. The soil around the platform of the statue has been eroding, weakening its base, say locals.
The statue here find mention in Puranas and many ancient literatures and is highly revered.
“Sadly, it remain hidden between heaps of sands,” said Faizan Ali, an archaeology student and a regular visitor to the site.
Similar situation prevails near a cave famous as Sita Rasoi.
Mafias have been mining silica sand around the cave and had dumped heaps of sand near the site. “Figures of Gautam Buddha on the cave are fast becoming invisible,” he claimed.
Earlier, sand mafias have made a temporary dam around Sujawan Dev temple located on a rock island in the middle of Yamuna.
However, in the recent raid, police team re-dumped the stored sand back into the river using JCB machines.
Police team also blocked and dug the track, which the mining mafias were using to take trucks and tractors to the ghats for loading sand. The police team have seized the remaining sand.
While people see a hope in police action, many fear sand mafias may return soon, as has been the case in the past.
“Despite strict instructions to stop sand mining, mafias have continued their activities at several ghats in trans Yamuna area, including Bhita. Raids have been regular but so have been the return of mafias,” quipped a local.