Saturday, January 16, 2021 | ePaper

Historic archaeological sites need to be preserved

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The medieval period heritage buildings and historic sites that are valued for their magnificent and distinct characteristics linked to the Pala, Sultanate, Mughal and the British architectural inheritance already turned into ruins while many others are facing gradual disappearance.
A nexus of the politically influential people, businessmen and government officials is allegedly behind such heinous activities. Instead of preserving the historical and cultural heritages, the government officials are also helping to demolish these historic sites.
A media report on Sunday said that the lawmaker of Dhaka-7 Haji Selim over the years either had a hand in the destruction of heritage sites and antiquities in his constituency or never showed political support to heritage conservation. There is no exact count of how many heritage sites he had destroyed over the last few years, but Old Dhaka alone contains RAJUK listed 74 buildings and civil society organizations' listed 2,793 sites.
The report mentioned that the arrest of Haji Selim's son Erfan following the assault of a navy official last month brought to the fore some of the misdeeds of the father-son duo. The most talked-about example is the 19th century Jahaj Bari with Gothic revival arches and columns at Chawkbazar was allegedly razed by the lawmaker's men at the dead of the night on Eid in June last year.  
It was only in October 2018 that the High Court Division Bench declared a list of 2,200 sites as protected, but the lack of government protection made them easy targets for destruction. The court also asked the Archaeology Department to submit progress reports in this regard every three months, but that was ignored.
Article 24 of the Constitution of Bangladesh says that the state shall adopt measures for the protection against disfigurement, damage or removal of all monuments, objects or places of special artistic or historic importance.
Being a signatory to the 1972 World Heritage Convention, Bangladesh is committed to the global community to conserve these heritage sites. Contrarily, the government constructed new buildings adjacent to many heritage sites, as is the case with Lalkuthi at Sadarghat and Musa Khan Mosque at Dhaka University.
The preservation of cultural heritage sites is not only foundational to shape the philosophical Vision of Bangladesh, if conserved properly it could positively impact the growth of tourism industry. But the lack of coordination between the Department of Archaeology and the RAJUK is the reason that we are losing our heritage.

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