Current Affairs 2023
Sisupalgarh, a fort city on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar dating back to the 7th century BC, is being bulldozed by the land mafia, even as official notifications are ignored and the State government and ASI point a lazy finger at each other. This article explores the fight to save this ancient capital from destruction.
Mar 31, 2023
3 min read
For centuries, the ancient fortified city of Sisupalgarh has been a symbol of Odisha’s rich history and culture. But in recent years, it has come under threat from the land mafia, who are bulldozing the city in a bid to make quick money. Despite court orders and warnings from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), the destruction of Sisupalgarh continues. This article examines the fight to save this 2,700-year-old fort city from the land mafia’s relentless greed.
Sisupalgarh was once the capital of the kingdom of Kalinga and is believed to have been surrounded by a nine- to 12-metre-high defensive wall and a wide moat to deter invaders. Excavations in the 1950s revealed the settlement was well planned, with a drainage system and roads crossing each other at 90-degree angles.
The ASI had written to the Bhubaneswar Development Authority with a request not to issue permission for construction of any kind. Additionally, in 2001, the Superintending Archaeologist, Bhubaneswar, had published a notification to say that for construction, a no-objection certificate from the ASI was needed. In 1995, the land around Sisupalgarh was notified by the government and was meant to be acquired by the ASI.
However, this never happened and the land mafia took advantage of this, constructing illegal buildings as close as 100 metres from the main structure. Successive governments took their eye off excavation, protection, and preservation, allowing the land mafia to flourish. Villagers criticise both the Central and State governments for their inaction, saying that they have never bothered to hold consultations with villagers, seeking their views on how to protect the heritage site.
In January this year, the Orissa High Court directed that encroachments on the heritage site be removed and vacant lands be handed over to the ASI. The court also directed a joint survey of the land around Sisupalgarh by the ASI and the local tehsildar within 90 days. This is currently being carried out. The ASI has filed over 100 complaints for building violations, with no consequences so far. But with the court order, the ASI is supposed to finally construct a boundary wall after land encroachment is removed in six months.
The fight to save Sisupalgarh from destruction is a collective responsibility of the State, the people, and antiquities professionals. Conservationists are hopeful that the court order will be implemented and the ancient fort city will be saved from the land mafia’s relentless greed. Reference source: TH
Image: Rangan Datta/Commons
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