Reconstruction of historical fort flouts legal requirementProvince 1 government undertook the reconstruction, excavation of Bungnam Gadhi in Okhaldhunga without consulting Department of Archaeology.
The ongoing reconstruction and excavation work of Bungnam Gadhi, a historical fort, in Okhaldhunga is violating the existing legal provision, say archaeologists.
In a blatant violation of the Ancient Monument Preservation Act 2013, the Tourism Ministry of Province 1 has been reconstructing the fort without coordinating with the Department of Archaeology. The bunkers of the fort have been taken down while the old stone walls were replaced with concrete walls as part of the reconstruction work.
“One should not reconstruct such a historical fort without consulting the Department of Archaeology. The ministry is making a huge mistake,” said Bhogiraj Chamling, a PhD scholar doing his research on Mundhum and the history of Kirant.
According to him, the Bungnam fort is around 400 to 700 years old and is historically significant.
The fort spreads across two ropanis of land in Molung Rural Municipality-1 of Okhaldhunga district. In the current fiscal year, the provincial government has allocated Rs 5 million for the reconstruction of the monument. The reconstruction work, which commenced a few months ago by forming a consumers’ committee, is set to complete within the current fiscal year that ends on July 16.
According to the existing laws, coordination with the Department of Archaeology is a must for the reconstruction and excavation of historical monuments. However, the consumers’ committee is carrying out the work without coordinating with the Department of Archaeology.
Dhan Bahadur Baniya, chairman of the consumers’ committee formed to reconstruct the fort, said that the local people had been requesting the Department of Archaeology to reconstruct and preserve the monuments for years but the department did not provide any support.
“We then requested the provincial government to reconstruct the fort. Work on the fort commenced with the budget provided by the provincial government in the current fiscal year,” said Baniya. According to him, reconstruction works were carried out as per the design and estimate prepared by the provincial government. He said he was unaware of the Act regarding the reconstruction of historical monuments.
Meanwhile, the Department of Archaeology says it did not get any information regarding the reconstruction of the fort.
“As per the Ancient Monument Preservation Act 2013, the reconstruction of any historical monuments should be conducted in coordination with the Department of Archaeology. The department has not got any information about the reconstruction of the fort. So the work is clearly against the Act,” said Ram Bahadur Kunwar, spokesperson at the department.
Sub-clause 4(1) of clause 16 of the Ancient Monument Preservation Act 2013 states that one shall be fined up to Rs 25,000 or jailed for five years or both in case they are found excavating historical monuments without getting permission from the Department of Archaeology. Similarly, sub-clause 5(2) says that one shall be fined up to Rs 15,000 or jailed for three years or both if the excavation work is conducted without informing the chief district officer.
“The district administration office has also not been informed about the reconstruction and excavation of the Bungnam fort. We will look into the matter,” said Dil Kumar Tamang, the chief district officer of Okhaldhunga.