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Perils surround Wadagokgre ASI site

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PHULBARI, April 10: A region that should have been the pride of the state is fast being transformed into an unrecognizable quagmire, thanks to the greed of a few.
Wadagokgre is and will always remain important to the people of the state for the fact that it remains one of few Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) approved sites. It is the site of a lost kingdom that lived along the banks of the mighty Brahmaputra.
The ASI had taken up an excavation in the area, and found out that it was one of the biggest cities and also a religious centre, that was cast out of the river Brahmaputra in the fourth century A.D.
The excavation has brought to light that Wadagokgre township was sprawling with Buddhism and Hinduism, and also a combination of both, which is widely practiced in the area.
This ancient township was located on the bank of the river Brahmaputra, which happened to flow from that area almost 2,000 years ago. The entire town was well-fortified, and tanks as well as temples built of burnt bricks were also found inside the premises.
The area is known locally as the site of ‘Lengta Raja’ though nature and a rampaging Brahmaputra ensured people moved to other places to survive. The ASI site is under the care of the Arts and Culture department of the state.
On Tuesday, the Deputy Commissioner of West Garo Hills, Jagdish Chelani, issued an order under Section 144 CrPC in another effort to prevent further loss to the site from man-made activities. The order is amongst many given by various DCs over the past decade to bring order to the madness that is taking place in the ASI site.
The tone of the latest order by the DC has very serious connotations as now no one will be allowed into the area without prior permission from authorities.
This now begs the question that everyone needs to ponder on: Is it too little and too late to save the historical site?
Wadagokgre, over the years, has been ravaged by human activities which include excavation of hills for sand-gravel and stones. Besides, prized timbers, which were once part of the firmament, are nowhere to be seen.
What can now be seen is the more than 400 illegal settlements that have come up over the decades due to the lax nature of the local administration and a willing Nokma, who has benefitted from allowing the land under his protection to be ravaged beyond repair.
Everyone is to be blamed for what has transpired at Wadagokgre; the local administration, the GHADC, the state government and even the Arts and Culture department (which is the caretaker of the site).
Interestingly, the settlement process is now decades old and despite the alarming growth in numbers, everyone chose to ignore what is now becoming a problem of gargantuan proportions.
“This should have been nipped in the bud when it began. Temporary settlements have become permanent ones and land grabbing continues even till this day. Hills, once stood proudly, have been completely stripped of their vegetation and become plains. Can we continue to allow this to happen ,” felt social activist PA Sangma.
A recent visit to the site revealed many new houses that were under construction in the area indicating things would not change unless drastic action was taken. A local contractor had even set up a camp for his road construction projects in the village indicating the disregard that is being shown to something so historically important.
The GHADC has been one of the biggest culprits in the entire episode with the lack of willingness to act on complaints being the biggest drawback of the Council.
Earlier, complaints were raised by NGOs and others over similar encroachments being undertaken in nearby Boldamgre as well as in Wadagokgre.
The case of Boldamgre near Hallidayganj is even more interesting.
The village, which was earlier completely occupied by the indigenous population, has now been overrun by settlers. (Contd on P-4)
Perils surround Wadagokgre…
(Contd from P-3) The son-in-law of the Nokma, who was calling the shots, was only changed recently but by then the damage done by him is already irreparable.
Similarly, the lack of strong action against the Nokma of Wadagokgre, who has been allegedly facilitating not only settlements but also the mining of stones, sand gravel and the timber trade, has emboldened miscreants to such an extent that they are unwilling to change what is taking place.
“Unless strict and exemplary action is taken against those involved in the illegalities, there is little hope that things will change. We may be looking at the last remnants of the ASI site if the destruction continues that same way as it has been over the years,” felt another social activist from the plain belt, SR Sangma.

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