Visakhapatnam: The Human Rights Forum (HRF) demanded that GO RT. No. 1353 issued on August 27 by the Andhra Pradesh government allotting 30 acres of land at Kapulauppada area under Bheemili mandal in Vizag city for construction of a state guest house be immediately revoked.

The HRF, led by K. Sudha, AP state general secretary and V.S. Krishna, member, Coordination Committee, said that the AP government issued the GO in violation of the AP Ancient and Historical Monuments, Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1960. The allotted area is part of the ancient Thotlakonda and Bavikonda Buddhist complex. Any such construction risks damaging the 2,000-year-old heritage site and will also pose a clear threat to other, as-yet-unexplored archaeological remains from the Buddhist era.

The revenue officials, senior bureaucrats and a minister are advancing the specious argument that the proposed guest house poses no threat to the Thotlakonda Buddhist site since there is a distance of 1 km. What they all willfully elude is the fact that the site proposed for the construction falls within the survey area that is expressly protected by the 1960 Act.

In fact, it is contained in Survey No 314 (Old) of Kapulauppada village and was so notified vide GO No 627 dated May 2, 1978. It is part of a total extent of 3,300 acres contained on several hills in the area, they added.

The AP High Court has also issued directions to the government in an order dated November 29, 2016, in WP No 173/2016 that no construction activity is to be taken up within S.No 314 (Old). HRF believes that any manner of construction within this notified site amounts to archaeological vandalism.

Archaeological sites and artefacts are part of our shared past and collective historical heritage and our legacy for future generations. Defacing them deprives us of a clear understanding of our history.

 The Thotlakonda Buddhist complex is an invaluable and once flourishing Hinayana Buddhist complex dating back to two millennials. Over 2,000 years ago, this monastery was a major religious and educational centre that traded with several nations, including the Roman world. According to studies, archaeological remains are contained across several hills in the area and there are over 120 micro sites around Thotlakonda.

 Because of constructions being proposed by the government, this precious tangible history and evidence, lying undiscovered, is in serious danger of being wiped out.

Ever since this amazing site was discovered in the 1970s, excavations were done only in a limited and partial area. The whole expanse of 3,300 acres was meant to be carefully preserved and protected and further excavation and investigation would throw up much more rich archaeological evidence.

Instead, governments have only displayed contempt for our cultural heritage. Over the years, successive governments have altered and disturbed the site, even handing over 300 acres to the Greyhounds.

These patent illegalities were facilitated by fudging of land records and skulduggery by revenue officials. While the TDP government unsuccessfully tried to hand over part of the site for a film club, the current dispensation wants to usher in development through dubious reasoning.

Such activity will further directly threaten the site’s integrity and forever damage this invaluable landscape. No thought is being given to how this will desecrate a valuable archaeological site that is a treasure house of a vibrant Buddhist past.

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