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CAG report points to monumental neglect

The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India in its report on 'Preservation and conservation of monuments and antiquities' had cited the dilapidated condition of five protected monuments in Ferozepur.

punjab Updated: Sep 24, 2013 23:55 IST
Gaurav Sagar Bhaskar

The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India in its report on 'Preservation and conservation of monuments and antiquities' had cited the dilapidated condition of five protected monuments in Ferozepur.

The report, which was presented in Parliament last month, had pointed out that five monuments commemorating the Anglo-Sikh battles fought in the 19th century at five places in Ferozepur district were notified, de-notified and re-notified as protected monuments of national importance. In 2006, these were identified again for central protection, but the monuments continue to be in a dilapidated condition.

The audit para on 'Unauthorised conservation works by external organisations' in the CAG report reads: “Repeated notification and de-notification of sites in some cases had been done without any recorded reasons. Five monuments commemorating the Anglo-Sikh wars fought in 19th century at Mudki, Sabhraon, Saragarhi, Ferozeshah and Misriwala in Ferozepur, Punjab, were earlier in the list of protected monuments of national importance as declared in November 1918. Subsequently, they were de-protected by the ASI on April 13, 1927, and May 22, 1962, for reasons not available on record.”

In 2006, the ASI identified these five monuments again for central protection but took no further action, it said. In December 2012, these monuments were still being protected by the state government and were found to be in a dilapidated condition, the report read further.

A visit to the Anglo-Sikh war memorial reveals the ramshackle condition the complex is in, as its roof needs urgent repair. It leaks during rain and causes damage to vital belongings inside. The memorial had not been painted since long. In the hall and on the ground floor, weapons relating to the period of the Anglo-Sikh War are displayed, but these have lost sheen in the due course of time.

Rare paintings depicting the four battles at Mudki, Ferozeshah, Sabhraon and Chellianwala prepared by renowned artist Kirpal Singh had faded due to apathetic attitude of the authorities concerned.

Quotes from wars of Shah Mohammad and Cunningham's 'History of the Sikhs' are inscribed in bronze, but these too had lost lustre due to the lack of care. In absence of a gardener, wild growth has come up around the memorial.

War memorials at Mudki village and Fatehgarh Sabhraon, which are under the control of the state tourism department, are also in a state of neglect. In the name of a memorial, mere “pillars” have erected there.

Two sites give a shabby appearance as there is general lack of cleanliness with animal waste welcoming visitors.

Ferozepur deputy commissioner Manjit Singh Narang acknowledged that the monuments were in a dilapidated condition. A plan to give a facelift to the Saragarhi memorial had been approved and the required no-objection certificate has been provided to the Punjab tourism director, he said.

The Anglo-Sikh War memorial is already under the tourism department and its team had visited the site look into the maintenance aspect and to give it a facelift, added the DC.

ASI promises prove hollow
In 2006, a team of the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) visited the sites belonging to Shaheed Bhagat Singh and companions, including the one at Turri Bazar and Shaheedi Smarak at Hussianiwala, along with Ferozeshah's Anglo-Sikh War memorial, war pillars at Mudki and Mishriwala in Ferozepur. The ASI team had called for preservation of monuments as these belong to great heritage of the nation.

They had announced to make all historical sites and war memorials in Ferozepur as places of tourist attraction besides deciding to set up ASI's regional sub-circle centre in Ferozepur to bring these sites on the national heritage map, but nothing had been done in this regard so far.

Brief history of memorials
The Battle at Saragarhi is one of eight stories of collective bravery published by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation). It has been mentioned as one of the five most significant events of its kind in the world, which include the Saga of Thermopylae associated with the heroic stand of a small Greek force against the mighty Persian army of Xerxes in 480 BC.

The Anglo-Sikh war memorial at Ferozeshah village houses the memories of Sikh warriors who made supreme sacrifice in battles against the British, after the demise of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, from December 1845 to February 1846.

It was in 1845 that the first encounter between the Sikhs and British troops took place at Mudki on December 18, 1845. The gallantry of Sikhs in the fight evoked admiration even of the enemies.

The second encounter took place at Ferozeshah on December 21-22, 1845. The British troops fighting under commander-in-chief Sir Charles Gaugh sustained such heavy losses that it created a furore in England. They had 748 casualties, out of which 54 were officers, and 1,625 were wounded at Ferozeshah.

The third encounter took place at Sabhraon on February 10, 1846, and the last battle was fought at Chellianwala on January 13, 1849.