Protests in Assam over threat to royal-era relic

March 6th, 2008 - 9:42 pm ICT by admin  

Guwahati, March 6 (IANS) Protests have erupted in an Assam town over the threat to an 18th century amphitheatre built by the Ahom royalty allegedly from seismic surveys being done there by the state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corp. (ONGC). Several cracks have developed at Rang-ghar, an amphitheatre of the Ahom royals, located in the district town of Sivasagar, 350 km east of Assam’s capital Guwahati. It was built in its present form by Ahom king Pramattasimha (1744-1751 AD).

The ONGC is carrying out 3D seismic surveys near the relic to locate oil. “This is a serious and sentimental issue and cannot be tolerated by us,” Ashwini Chetia, leader of the influential Tai Ahom Chattra Santha, a student group representing the Ahom ethnic group, said.

The Ahom royals used to watch fights of elephants and bulls and enjoy the festivities during Assam’s national festival, Bihu, from atop the Rang-ghar, a Mongolian-style relic. The Ahoms ruled Assam for 600 years, starting 1228 AD.

Local television channels have shown footage of the cracks at Rang-ghar, leading to concern being expressed across the state. Locals have started holding protest demonstrations since Wednesday.

“We have visited the site and have informed our authorities in Guwahati,” a local Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) official said on condition of anonymity.

An ASI team has since left for Sivasagar to assess the situation.

The ONGC has, however, said the company has taken “all precautions necessary” to avoid any impact of its survey on the historical sites in the area, including Rang-ghar.

“We have not undertaken any survey work within one square kilometre area of the historical site. Besides adopting all safety measures, trained personnel and advanced technology have been pressed into service, and hence the apprehension of damage to existing structures are unfounded,” ONGC officials said.

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