Theft of Antique monuments : Review and Remedies

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On International day of monuments & sites i.e. 18th April Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has said 81 protected monuments are missing.
NOTE ABOUT ASI (Archeological Survey of India)
Archeological Survey of India (ASI), whose primary aim is the maintenance of ancient monuments and archaeological sites and remains of national importance, is responsible for the upkeep of around 3,678 monuments in the country.
1) Ancient Monument
Ancient Monument means any structure, erection or monument, or any tumulus or place of interment, or any cave, rock-sculpture, inscription or monolith which is of historical, archaeological or artistic interest and which has been in existence for not less than 100 years and includes—
1. Remains of an ancient monument,
2. Site of an ancient monument,
3. Such portion of land adjoining the site of an ancient monument as may be required for fencing or covering in or otherwise preserving such monument, a
4. The means of access to, and convenient inspection of, an ancient monument;
2) Archaeological site and remains
 Archaeological site and remains means any area which contains or is reasonably believed to contain ruins or relics of historical or archaeological importance which have been in existence for not less than one hundred years, and includes—
1. Such portion of land adjoining the area as may be required for fencing or covering in or otherwise preserving it, and
2. The means of access to, and convenient inspection of the area;
CAG took a sample of 1538 monuments & from this (Seven major museums under the Ministry of Culture were also audited), 81 have been found missing.
The official figures (2006 data- ministry had reported of 35 missing cases ) of missing monuments by the Ministry of Culture have been found 2.5 times lesser than the figures of the CAG.
The audit carried out by CAG was also accompanied by ASI officials.
Rank State Monuments / Sites missing Names of important monuments/sites missing
1 Bihar 11 Ancient Building at Amavey in Ballia & the ‘Queens Palace’ in the old fort known as Killa at Bihar Sharif in Nalanda
2 Uttar Pradesh 9 Closed Cemetery, Katra Naka, Banda, Three Tombs on Lucknow-Faizabad Road, Imambara Amin-uddaula in Lucknow, Gunner Burkill’s Tomb at Rangaon in Lalitpur and remains of a large temple at Ram Nagar in Chitrakoot

Bara Khamba Cemetery, Inchla Wali Gumti in village Mubarakpur, Kotla and Tomb with three domes near Nizamuddin railway station in Delhi; Kos Minars at Shahbad and Mujessar in Haryana; Old European Tomb in Pune; Temple Baran, Inscription Nagar Tonk in Rajasthan.

Sr. No. Circle/Area Missing Momuments
1 Agra Circle, ASI - 7

1) Site of Aonla railway station, Bareilly 2) Tomb of Lt. Col. John Guthrie, in mud fort, Farrukhabad 3) Ancient sculpture, carving, images, bas relics, inscriptions, stones and like objects, Mathura 4) Portion of Katra Mound which are not in the possession of Nazul Tenants on which formerly stood a temple of Keshav Dev which was dismantled and the site utilized for the mosque of Aurangzeb, Mathura 5) Monument of Kila Chandpur fort, Bijnor 6) Monument near Kila railway station, Hathras 7) Old British cemetery, Bijnor

2 Aurangabad Circle, ASI — 5 1) Jarasangh Nagri at Jorve, Ahmednagar 2) Stone Circle at Arsoda, Gadchiroli 3) Group of 20 Cromlechs or Kistvaens at Chamorshi, Gadchiroli 4) Stone Circle at Nildho 5) Stone Circle at Takalghat, Nagpur
3 Hyderabad circle, ASI — 8 1) Ancient Buddhist remains and Brahmi inscriptions on the mound, 2) Sculptures, carvings, images or other like objects 3) Hills of Nagarjunakonda with the ancient remains 4) Sculptures, carvings, images on the ancient mound 5) Sculptures, carvings, images other 
like objects found in the vicinity of the mosque 6) Large Dolmen 7) Mounds- Dibba no. 1 to 5 8) Mound, Nagulavaram
4 Kolkata circle, ASI —7 1) A Mound and a statue of surya 2) A Mound with a Jain statue 3) Image of Durga slaying Mahishasura under a tree 4) Temple site now represented only by a mound 5) A mound with an image of Nandi on it 6) A mound with statues of Ganesh and Nandi on it 7) Ruins of fort Nadia, West Bengal


  • No funds allotted in the last 3 years to revive the monuments
  • Lack of manpower. (need of 20,000 people while ASI has 2000 people)
  • Less contribution from the civil society in protecting sites
  • The lands on which these monuments reside do not belong to us. They belong to States. So no legal action can be taken by us even if we wanted.
  • Unregulated development activity
  • Lack of public participation
  • Poor visitor experience
  • No fresh policy required to revive and protect the monuments traced. Once they are located, they will be protected as per the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958
  • Many of the reported missing monuments cannot be termed as such. The monuments have been inundated in water, eaten up by new construction but the site exists.
  • Rapid urbanization is the root cause behind such incidents.
  • We don’t have police powers. We can only point out the illegal encroachments but doesn’t have the power to prevent it.


  • Poor maintenance of heritage places by ASI (it even includes Taj Mahal & Red Fort)
  • Many cases of encroachment and unauthorized construction instead of heritage monuments
  • Antiquities (An artifact surviving from the past) have been stolen. (131 from monuments and 37 from museums till 2012)
  • Whatever has happened to these monuments has happened to ‘protected’ monuments. (Imagine the situation of unprotected ones)
  • No security guards, no CCTV and no baggage checking were found at most places.
  • Very less revenue was generated by the way of film production at these sites.
  • Very less monuments were ticketed.
  • ASI is unable to prevent unauthorized religious activities at the protected monuments
  • Poor documentation of the monuments in terms of their details.
The Ancients Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act (AMASR) was enacted in 2010. It was done to amend the Ancient Monuments and Archeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958.
It envisaged creation of National Monuments Authority (NMA) under Ministry of Culture, Government of India.
Area around monuments termed as ‘prohibited area’ and the ‘regulated area’ are set at 100 m and 200 m respectively.
A few other important changes have also been brought in by the 2010 Act. Some of these are:-
  • Statutory provision for the ‘prohibited’ and regulated areas.
  • Complete ban on construction (including public projects) in the prohibited area.
  • Providing statutory procedures for applications seeking permission for construction/repair/renovation.
  • The authority shall make necessary scrutiny of the Heritage bye laws and accord approval after inviting objections/suggestions from the public
  • Grading and classification of monuments.
This act is very serious about implementation part of; through enhanced punishment for violators (up to two years' imprisonment); punishment for Government officials who connive (up to three years' imprisonment); setting up of National Monuments Authority; setting up of local level Competent Authorities; framing monument-specific Heritage bye laws, and so on.
NMA is a body of full-time chairperson, five full-time and five part-time members, having experience in the fields of archaeology, town and country planning, architecture, heritage and conservation.
National Monuments Authority endeavours to do the following to achieve its objectives:-
  • Creating awareness amongst the people and various stake holders on the need for conservation and preservation of the built heritage.
  • Emphasis on mutual growth of the monument and the people, rather than purely regulation and control.
  • Training and capacity building in the use of new technology for conservation and preservation of monuments at the level of CA and at ASI.
  • Engage more intensively with the State Governments, in particular with their Urban Development and Local Urban Planning Departments as involvement of states in efforts for conservation and preservation is very important.
ASI has come up with a new policy to protect the monuments by revising the century-old national conservation policy. This policy would help to protect more structures and take care of monuments better.
  •  Draft in the form of 15 articles also envisages expanding the definition of monuments to include industrial sites, cultural routes and rural heritage.
  • New policy recognizes different ways of conserving buildings, including retrofitting and reconstruction.
  • Carrying capacity of the each monument will also be measured and properly regulated.
  • Policy also focuses on ancillary structures and not just the main monument.
  • Policy advises against reconstructing damaged sculptures and inscriptions, but permits reconstructing of geometric patterns and interiors of heritage structures
  • Communities traditionally helping to protect monuments would be encouraged.

Various articles and their importance described in the new National Conservation Policy for Monuments, Archeological Sites and Remains Protected by Archeological Survey of India are as follows:

Sr. No. Article Name Importance
1 Definition and Context  
2 Various Terminologies  
3 Conservation of Monuments (Value based intervention) Conserve the monuments according to their value
4 Conservation Principles Various principles have been created to conserve
5 Conservation Approach

Short-term (upto 2 years), Mid-term (2 – 5 years) and Long-term (5 years and above) monitoring and maintenance plans

6 Role of Building Craftsmanship in Conservation Indian craftsman be used in the conservation process which are well aware of the ancient Indian art.
7 Capacity Building

Capacity building has to be undertaken by professionals within organisations, such as ASI,& also with allied professionals, technicians, academicians, crafts persons, etc.,

8 Promotional / Outreach Programmes Various programmes that increase the importance of sites be arranged
9 Tourism and Visitor Management Keep track & manage the crowd visiting the site
10 Illumination of a Monument Monuments should be illuminated for the benefit of visitors and local communities

Public Private Partnership in Heritage Conservation and Management

Public Private Partnership (PPP) be used for conservation and management of sites.
12 Community Participation in Conservation Local communities be made aware of the site present in their locality & arrange for their contribution
13 Access for the Differently-abled persons Various facilities be developed at the sites so that even a physically challenged person can visit the site.
14 New Buildings/Interventions within a monument New buildings/interventions be of historical importance & should be done with great care.
15 Disaster Management

Adequate and training be imparted on the side of officials & employees to tackle problems of any threat by disaster


1) Against:

New policy is just a minor change in the old ones. What actually needed is the radical & pragmatic approach to this. ASI is still stuck with old colonial policies and does not acknowledge the Indian ways of preserving. Now the reconstruction of the monument can’t be done based on architectural evidence but it will need archaeological evidence. Preserving and sustaining traditional ways of building is as important as preserving structures, and the new policy does not enable it. ASI protects monuments in isolation.
2) In Favour:
Some appreciate the fact that policy is taking into account issues of tourism, private-public partnership and facilities for the differently abled.


  • ASI is a underfunded, under staff organization
  • India is very rapidly developing urbanizing country. So it is very hard to stop this, and in the process of urbanization and development many small monuments come along the way which needs special efforts to protect.
  • Lots of encroachments and people have occupied empty spaces and they start vandalizing it and through accretion it vanishes
  • ASI has very less power
  • Inspection is very fragile & is not according to some standard.
  • Civil participation is very less even when it is our fundamental duty to protect monuments of national heritage.

Case study
Alam baka soni was the first to declare 25 monuments missing when she announced that list of Aurangabad circle, Bombay circle, Agra circle, Hyderabad circle & Kolkata circle. They were not covered in the new list. They cover 17 new circles. In her research she found out that German tomb has been converted into parking lots by traffic branch of Pune police.
Problems identified in her research

  • In our country one of the problem is that heritage of another culture is not valuable.
  • People don’t have any affinity to protect monuments
  • People have dispute regarding the definition of heritage
  • Most of ASI officers didn’t visited most of monument sites. There is no work culture in ASI.
  • Guidelines of ASI have not changed from 80 years. The guideline drafted by John Marshel in 1924 is still considered as ideals.
  • No feeling for up gradation in ASI.

1. ASI needs to be given more power.
2. Increase civil society participation & their awareness
3. Increase funding of ASI
4. Appoint more officials to look into the matter.
5. Security of the monuments be increased.
6. Proper area planning around the monuments/sites.
7. Proper inspection methods, management and resource creation (information about the monuments) should be made.

Practice Questions