Keezhadi excavation to continue: Central ministers

No Hindutva bias against ASI project, assures Sharma.

MADURAI: Two Union ministers who visited Keezhadi on Friday, the archaeological site near Sivaganga mired in controversy now, dispelled people’s apprehensions that the BJP government at the Centre could stop the excavation work at the site. Coinciding with their visit, two Tamil groups - Makkal Vidhuthalai Katchi and ‘May 18’ held protests at the site and in Madurai city demanding to reinstate Amarnath Ramakrishna as superintendent archaeologist at Keezhadi, who was the first to discover the “first-ever hard evidence of an urban civilization from the Sangam era in the site”, close to Madurai.

Thiru. Mahesh Sharma, Union minister of State for Tourism and Culture (Independent charge) and Ms. Nirmala Sitharaman, Union minister of State for Commerce and Industry categorically stated that the Central government would provide sufficient funds to complete the excavation at Keezhadi within a time frame of five years. Already two years of excavation has been completed at the site and based on its report the Centre has sanctioned '40 lakh for its third phase, which will start soon, said Sharma.

When asked about the controversy over the transfer of Sri. Amarnath from the site, Mr. Sharma clarified that it was a routine transfer as he served more than three years in the same place. Along with him 20 more archaeologists have also been transferred following the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) transfer policy, added Nirmala Sitharaman. “It is not matter of individual, it is matter of institution (ASI) which will continue its excavation in the site even if officers change periodically,” said Mr. Sharma. He added that new superintendent archeologist P S Sirraman, appointed for the site, also belongs to Tamil Nadu and he would complete the project within stipulated time period.

Dismissing claims that the BJP government was attempting to stall the project because evidences found in the site was against ‘Hindutva ideology’, the minister said that it was not so, as this site has provided evidence of 2nd century BC; but much before that archaeological excavations at Kodumanal and Porthunal in Tamil Nadu provide evidence of writing on pottery dated back to 5th century BC.

“There is no such intention that it is against Hinduism. It is a research focused on archaeological investigation, whatever comes we will certainly publish and publicise it,” said Mr. Sharma. The Union ministers also assured the setting up of the site museum provided the ASI got sufficient artifacts during the excavation. Till then artifacts discovered in the site would be kept in government museums in Madurai and Sivagangai, they added.

Tension prevails during minister’s visit to site:

Tension prevailed at Keezhadi, the archaeological site near Sivaganga on Friday when members of Makkal Vidhuthalai Katchi raised slogans against the two Union ministers when they visited the site. The members of MVK led by its founder and former MLA S Murugavel Rajan raised slogans condemning the Central government for transferring superintendent archaeologist Amarnath Ramakrishna from the site. The BJP cadres who accompanied the ministers Mahesh Sharma and Nirmala Sitharaman to the spot, countered them shouting ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’. Within minutes, BJP cadres entered into heated arguments with the protesters demanding them to leave the place immediately. Both the BJP cadres and protesters picked up the ‘thenna mattais’ from the spot and attempted to hit each other, but the police prevented them.

BJP cadres condemned the police for allowing the Tamil groups to protest at the site even after knowing the Central ministers were visiting. Quickly, the police removed the protesters and took them away in a van. Earlier in the day, members of the ‘May 17 Movement’ and some Tamil groups also organised a protest condemning the Centre on the same issue in Madurai. They also demanded to allow Amarnath Ramakrishna to continue in the same place to safeguard Tamil identity. The police arrested the protesters also.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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