Mumbai: 25,000 lamps at Vasai fort raise ASI's hackles
Bans all events at protected site; members of NGO Kille Vasai Mohim, along with residents, vow to protest at the fort next week
Vasai residents, especially members of the NGO Kille Vasai Mohim, are up in arms against the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). The NGO, which works for the conservation of forts in Thane, celebrated Diwali by lighting more than 25,000 wick lamps on the fort in the memory of Marathas who sacrificed their lives while fighting to save it from the Portuguese.
The ASI had written to the NGO saying the fort was a 'protected monument of national importance,' and so those celebrating religious festivals or public functions there without permission would be punished. But, the NGO president says the members will protest against the ASI at the fort itself, on December 15 and 16.
The president of the NGO, Shridatta Raut, said, "I have seen alcohol bottles and garbage strewn about at the fort. Serious crimes such as rapes and molestation have occurred there. The security guards deployed there were seen taking bribes to allow couples in. People hold pre-wedding functions here. But, instead of acting against such activities, ASI writes to our NGO, which is working for the betterment of this fort." He added, "People associated with our NGO from all over Maharashtra will hold a dharna against ASI on December 15 and 16 here at the Vasai fort itself."
Bipin Chandra Negi, superintendent of ASI, Mumbai circle, said, "Since the Vasai fort comes under National Protected Monuments, ASI, celebrating religious festivals and holding public functions is not allowed here. Doing this without permission will get the organisers punished under the national archaeological monument's rule 9 from the Act 1959. The department has neither granted permission to anybody in the past for such activities nor will it do so now."
The Vasai or Bassein fort was built under the Portuguese rule in 1590, though a smaller fort-like structure was built first in 1533 by the commander of Bahadur Shah, Sultan of Gujarat. During the 18th century, Chimaji Appa of the Maratha Confederacy defeated the Portuguese in the Battle of Vasai and took control of the fort.
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