HYDERABAD: The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) seems to be preparing to hand over 15 acres of land near the Golconda Fort to the Telangana government to develop an “international-level” golf course, as the Central government agency has started documenting archaeological remains on the land in Naya Qila.
Chief Secretary SK Joshi had in September written to ASI director general Usha Sharma, asking for the land to be given to the state government as per the high court’s directions. The development has angered activists, who are against the existence of a golf course beside the historic structure. Lubna Sarwath, an activist, says the entire area should be cordoned off for preservation and excavation.
"When the golf course was being constructed, earth movers were used, which destroyed the archaeological properties. The region should be cordoned off and a scientific clearance process should be initiated," Sarwath said. In 2017, Sarwath filed a petition in court against the construction of the golf course. "How can they do this when the matter is sub judice," she asked.
The 15 acres are meant for extending the Hyderabad Golf Course, located on the 50-acre Naya Qila area, which is an extended portion of the Golconda Fort. The fort was built in 1656.
ASI using quick ‘trial trenching’ method
According to ASI officials, Joshi reportedly said the existing golf course can be transformed into one that would parallel international golf courses if the 15 acres, which house the Qutub Shahi Bagh and the chabutra, are handed over. Following this, the ASI headquarters ordered its Hyderabad office to document the architectural remains in the area before delienating the land to the State government. ASI regional director (South) G Maheshwari recently visited the city to review the area.
To document the area, the ASI is using a process called ‘trial trenching’, a rapid and inexpensive method of archaeological evaluation to estimate the potential of a site. This quick method was used, seemingly because of Joshi’s letter. Speaking to TNIE, ASI-Hyderabad superintending archaeologist Milan Kumar Chauley said, “Earlier, it took 3 - 4 years for extensive excavation of even three acres. Now, using the ‘trial trenches’ process, we excavate small areas measuring 1 m by 1 m, depending on the requirement. Then, we draw the entire thing on a map and link the structures. From this, we understand the kind of structures that are buried.”
As of now, the ASI has made 80 trial trenches in the area, and will take a little more time to complete the process. After that, Chauley said, a new memorandum of understanding (MoU) will be signed between the State government and the ASI, which would underline the cautionary steps to preserve the archaeological remains. “The MoU would underline that the golf academy cannot use heavy machinery or earth movers in the area,” he said.
What the HC said
The issue can be dated back to 2001 when the then Andhra Pradesh government proposed to the ASI to give a portion of the Naya Qila area to the Hyderabad Golf Academy for the construction of a golf course. In 2009, the ASI signed an MoU with AP Tourism Development Corporation for the same.
In 2012, the high court directed the ASI to probe, excavate and document the entire area before delienating the land to the State government. It was this order that the chief secretary referred to in his letter, according to an ASI official.
Quick method being used for evaluation
The ASI is using a process called ‘trial trenching’, a rapid and inexpensive method of archaeological evaluation, seemingly because the chief secretary recently asked for the land