news Tuesday, April 14, 2015 - 05:30
On April 13, officials from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and the Department of Archaeology and Museums (DAM), accompanied by other heritage experts, visited Cherapura in Hyderbad's Old City to get a peek into Hyderabad’s latest mystery. Just the day before, construction-workers had stumbled upon what looked like a secret tunnel. But when they tried to examine the possible historical find, they were blocked by the police. "I was stopped by the police. They said that I could not visit the area without the police commissioner’s permission. I thought to myself that maybe the police will allow the ASI officials and I returned," says P Anuradha Reddy, co-convener of Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage, (INTACH) for Hyderabad. It turned out later, that she thought wrong. Later that day, the news broke that Hyderabad police had demolished the structure, with no traces left of what could have been a potential piece of history and of immense archaeological importance. Officials from ASI and DAM were also denied access to visit the place, citing the same reasons, following which, the police resumed construction at the spot. The old structure, which experts now believe could have been a traveler's inn, was discovered less than a kilometre from the Charminar, at the foundation of the old Cherapura police quarters. Construction workers laying the foundation for a new police barracks at the site stumbled upon the structure. With the issue having snowballed into a controversy, the Hyderabad police is on the backfoot. "There is no issue. The land where the structure was found was the foundation stone of the old police quarters that was situated there in the 1950s and 60s. As the old quarters became dilapidated, we razed it and started work on a new one." says Charminar inspector A Yadagiri, one of the people accused of denying access to the archaeologists. However, ASI officials and heritage experts are not satisfied by the claims of the police. Many among them have now come out in protest against the police. "It is very simple. Demolish - no evidence - no case - no heritage," says Anuradha. "Not even a single person was allowed to examine the structure. The police have managed to demolish the structure before it could be studied, avoiding any historical monument protection and conservation law that could have been implemented," she adds. Mohammed Safiullah, a heritage expert based in Hyderabad, agrees. "The police probably demolished it because they thought that this would lead to a delay in executing their plans. They should have let someone examine it." Safiullah however believes that the demolished structure could have been a part of a `serai' belonging to the Qutub Shahi period, and not a tunnel as initially thought. "The structure could have been a serai, a roadside inn where travelers could rest and recover from a day's journey,” he says. "The structure could not have been a tunnel for two reasons. The first is that we live in the Deccan Plateau, which is full of rocks. A tunnel has to be much deeper and this is also the main reason the Hyderabad Metro Rail is being built above the ground and not underground," he says. The second reason, he adds, is that the structure had to have air ducts in the form of deep empty wells if it was tunnel, which would've been noticed if the passage was so close to the ground. Anuradha feels that the Hyderabad police could have learnt from an incident that occurred in Mexico City's main plaza in 1978. On 25 February 1978, workers were digging at a place in the city then popularly known as the "island of the dogs," when they found an old ruin from the Aztec era. A report in Archeology.org, talks about how "Mexico City’s main plaza still teems with shoppers and street hawkers, while, only a block away, archaeologists are carefully digging up the remains of the Aztec city." An agreement favourable to both parties was reached and the site has been carefully preserved. There’s a site located in a subway station, and two others are under the floor of the Metropolitan Cathedral. "Such incidents only show us how much we value our heritage. Everyone flaunts that Hyderabad is rated the best city on many aspects by various esteemed magazines, but can't we be proud of our history in actions? Are we a heritage city or a real estate business minded city?" says Anuradha.  

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