As the controversy rages over the Bhagya Laxmi temple near Charminar, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) refuses to be drawn into it. On the plea of the matter being ‘subjudiced’, officials decline to talk about the temple existing cheek-by-jowl to the historic monument.
The premier organisation tasked with protection of cultural heritage has no record about how long the temple is in existence. But officials are sure that the place of worship is existing prior to 1992 when the gazette notification was issued amending the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act of 1958 restricting structures around protected monuments.
As per rules the area within 100 meters of a monument is a prohibited area while the area within 200 meters comes in the regulated category. Modifications and repairs to buildings are allowed in these limits subject to prior permission. But the Bhagya Laxmi temple, officials say, falls under the prohibited limits and therefore any attempt to extend it constitutes an ‘illegal activity’.
Authorities are surprised at the way the construction activity was sought to be taken up at the temple during night. “Nobody from the temple committee approached us for permission”, say senior officials pleading anonymity.
Charminar came under the list of centrally protected monuments through a notification issued in 1951 and ever since it is being looked after by the ASI. Why is the ASI not in picture when the iconic monument is caught in the eye of the storm?
“The construction activity was already stopped by police and therefore there was no need for us to intervene”, officials say.
Ironically the controversy broke out when the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) team was in the city to take stock of the efforts made by the government to remove the encroachments around Charminar, Golconda Fort and the Qutb Shahi Tombs which are proposed for UNESCO world heritage tag.
However, ASI officials feel the present controversy will not come in the way of the city monuments getting the UNESCO heritage tag.
ASI officials dub as wrong reports of a hole being drilled in Charminar structure by the temple authorities. “We have inspected and there is no damage whatsoever”, an official remarked.
Authorities refuse to entertain the Majlis plea for permitting prayers at the mosque in Charminar. “This can not be allowed as when ASI took over the monument there was no such practice”, officials say. The Hindu J. S. IFTHEKHAR