Ancient Buddhist caves destroyed during coal-mining

PTI, Jul 17,2011

New Delhi, India -- An officer from the Western Coalfields Limited (WCL) (a Government of India Undertaking) have denied that ancient Buddhist caves around Chandrapur were destroyed during coal-mining.

District Collector Vijay Waghmare said that WCL had not obtained any permission for the demolition of caves. He also assured to take up the issue with the State Archaeology Department.

Assistant Director, State Archaeology, Anand Bhoyar maintained that even though the caves were not listed as protected monuments, no one including WCL, had the authority to destroy these "historically important monuments."

"Indeed, hundreds of years old caves were historical and INTACH had extensively dealt with the issue of safety of the caves. As per a state government's circular, it is the responsibility of a local authority, in this case WCL, to ensure protection and conservation of unlisted historical monuments. It is unfortunate that the caves were demolished," said Bhoyar.

Member of Parliament Hansraj Ahir termed the destruction of ancient caves as indispensable loss to history and culture. "The caves were a cultural heritage of Chandrapur and their destruction is unpardonable," he said.

He blamed WCL as well as the district administration for the loss and demanded strong action against the officials. MLA Nana Shamkule termed it as assault on Indian culture."I had warned WCL against damaging the ancient Buddhist caves and given a letter to district collector asking him to ensure its safety.

However none of the two authorities replied to my letter," he said. Buddhist leaders are fuming over the demolition of historic Buddhist caves.

Veteran Buddhist and Republican leader V D Meshram warned of intense agitation if the administration failed to take action against the WCL. Meanwhile, Chief General Manager of WCL (Chandrapur Area) T N Jha was not available for comments.