Bauxite mines are posing a threat to priceless relics dating to 10-11 BC, scattered around the Sarbhanga Ashram in Satna. This is disconcerting, as the area could be much older, believed to which is said to bear Sri Rama’s footprints during his 14-year exile. The state archaeological department has requested the Satna collector to stop all mining activities around the site.
‘Siddha Pahar’, a hillock on which the region’s epic legacy rests, is under threat too. It has nearly vanished under the onslaught of illegal mining. It was on this hillock close to where Sarbhanga Ashram now stands, it is believed, Sri Rama had vowed to eliminate rakshasas during his exile. The historic area is spread over 100 ac.
Under the Madhya Pradesh Ancient Monuments, Archaeological Sites and Remains Act 1963, the state government had notified five sites around the ashram as protected ones in May 2016. It was to stop illegal miners from plundering the relics. A study by the state’s archaeological department raised the alarm on the plunder of this heritage site.
This area of Satna is rich in bauxite, laterite and ochre. and mining has been allowed around the protected site. Miscreants have stolen and smuggled away many antiques on Sanwar Hill where the Sarbhanga Ashram is located during mining operations in past years, sources said.
The mining exercise has damaged several idols when heavy mining machinery was used. The idols lie abandoned and scattered at this site in Satna.
Miners are getting closer to these protected sites in violation of rules. More than 1,000 trucks ferry mined minerals from around the site every day,” said social activist and advocate Nithyanand Mishra, who has been campaigning to preserve the sites.
On 17 August 2015, the Madhya Pradesh High Court had ordered the state’s archaeological department to study in detail ‘Ram Van Gaman Path’. The court had asked the department to finish its research and conserve the sites of archaeological importance.
A division bench of HC had ordered the study on a petition that no inquiry or study had been conducted here and that these sites were not declared as protected.
The Ram Van Gaman Path is a reference to the route Lord Rama had taken during his exile. According to the report that the department submitted in response, mining had indeed damaged some ancient idols.
“People who have got mines around the site are digging such in a manner that the hills will vanish in a few months. As per rule, they cannot mine within 300 metres of the boundary of a protected area. We have evidence that they are within 100 m (of the sites),” said Mishra, who had also taken up this matter in the high court.
Satna Collector Ajay Katesaia did not respond to repeated calls from TOI for his version on the matter. TOI has a copy of the letter sent by the archaeological department to the collector against bauxite mining.