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Followup on the destruction and protection of Mahasthangarh, Bangladesh

Committee to submit a report soon

Published on 5 June 2011

Author(s): WAC Mailing list

Type:  Letter

Although the committee ensured the local representatives that there will be no evacuation, the committee failed to meet the local mass

Dear All

This is an update on the latest happenings on the destruction, protest, protection, legislation, inquiry, and mobilization in Mahasthan of Bangladesh, a prominent archaeological site in Bangladesh constituting a citedal and hundreds of satellite sites dating back to Cir. 4th century BCE. The events, as you all know started in the last November.

After the ruling of the High Court of Bangladesh a 10 member committee was formed with all the representatives from difference professional groups and authorities pertaining to the heritage management. The team after a delay went to visit the site and to exchange ideas, views on positions of the Government regarding the Mazar of Shah Sultan Mahisawar and protection of the site, about the positions of the people who are protesting, etc.

In stead of Mahasthan, the meeting took place at Bogra district headquarter and hundreds of representatives from different strata, selected and invited by the govt, were present. It should be noted that the people who are living on the citadel area and are mobilizing and protesting against the rumour of the threat of displacement after land acquisition were not among the representatives. It was unfortunate.

Although the committee ensured the local representatives that there will be no evacuation, the committee failed to meet the local mass who were gathered in front of the Gahanghata (a point of the rampart that is identified as anchorage) beside the govt. guest house. The committee is supposed to submit a report soon and they are working on various aspects of recommendation on the amendment of the current legislature, the protection measures, the safeguard of the artifacts and most importantly, the relationship between Govt. officials and mass people.

The failure of the committee to meet the mass people signifies the inherent inability of the state authorities to engage with the popular perception of the archaeological site. Any vertical arrangement of power and force may temporarily stop the destruction. But the a critical gaze into the historicity of the contestation between the state organizations and legislative procedures with the heterogenous perception and practice of the people living on and around different archaeological sites shows us the limits of using hegemonic, legal and violent forces.

Besides, the failure also threatens the security of not only the site as such, but also the grass root level Government employees. Especially when the custodian of the Mahasthan Site Museum has been reported to the threatened and abused several times and when she has to do her daily job under police protection.

Warm regards,

Swadhin Sen

Archaeologist & Associate Professor
Department of Archaeology
Jahangirnagar University
Savar, Dhaka,
Bangladesh.
Phone: + 88 01720196176

See also on this website Safeguard the cultural heritage of Mahasthan, Bangladesh

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