Preserving heritage

The ancient but crumbling structures signifying life and culture of those days of yore still stand in many places of Bangladesh and form collectively our national heritage. They range from the prehistoric time to Bhuddist and Hindu eras to the Islamic one. Many of them have been brought under some kind of control and supervision by the Ministry of Culture and are being preserved and maintained. However, the maintenance and preservation activities are considered as not enough in most cases and decay and destruction from natural forces and human interferences are threatening them with complete disappearance . There are historical and archaeological sites of significance which have not yet been blessed with any form of official recognition whatsoever and, therefore, the question of their preservation as heritage has not even started.
This neglect of our proud heritage is indeed a sad one. The process needs to be reversed with the government allocating greater funds for heritage preservation and the relevant ministry taking much greater initiatives to include all heritage objects and sites under its control and for their proper preservation. Reports appeared sometime ago on the activities of two organisations dedicated to protecting the heritage of old Dhaka. They called for declaring the four hundred years old Shakharibazar area in old Dhaka as a heritage site. Indeed, there are countries where whole areas are being protected for their heritage value and even modernisation and rebuilding activities are forbidden there to retain the original characteristics for heritage lovers and tourists. The proposal to preserve Shakharibazar can be considered. But we believe that there are also many other old buildings and sites in old Dhaka that would be similarly deserving special preservation efforts as our heritage.
According to press reports, the Mahastangarh archeological site at Bogra in northern Bangladesh which was believed to bear the oldest signs of ancient civilisation in the country, till recently, where relics of the ancient Bhuddistcivilisation were dug up and sought to be preserved, appeared to be under a threat from encroachers and stealers. Reports were also noted about the relics of the capital of Issa Khan who was an independent ruler who dared the might of the Mughals in the sixteenth century, getting obliterated from neglect and human interference. A Begali daily carried a report about the similar fate of Bara Katra and ChotaKatra in a part of old Dhaka. These two hopelessly encroached and ruined buildings are among the few still remaining structures from the time of the rule of the imperial Mughals in Dhaka in the sixteenth century . The Ministry of Cultural Affairs apparently tries to maintain these sites. But such maintenance activities are not satisfactory. The centuries old bricks and other artefacts get gradually removed by the encroachers .
Besides, there are many heritage sites that deserve recognition as so and their taking over by the ministry for preservation. But this is not being done. Therefore, the imperative is two-fold. Firstly, ensuring absolutely that the sites over which the ministry has controlling rights would be absolutely secured with proper official actions. Secondly, efforts need to be made to identify thoroughly all the sites of historical, cultural or archaeological interests in the country and to quickly bring them under government’s care for their proper preservation and maintenance.
A recent report drew attention to excavation works at Narsingdi district where the vestiges of an ancient civilisation that predates even Mahastangarh, were found . The excavation works here need to progress with care and the dug up relics will need to be protected very carefully indeed.
Everywhere in Bangladesh nowadays, a building spree is noted. Old buildings and structures are making way to sparkling high-rise buildings. Human greed is making deep inroads into what were once held as symbols of the glorious past to be preserved for progeny, for their proud remembrance and for this nation to know how deep are its roots in civilisation and culture. But mundane needs and the lust for wealth are leading to cruel demolition of these vestiges of the past and making the nation poorer indeed from the cultural and aesthetic perspectives.
Government in Bangladesh today is seen engaged in many good works. The reformatory actions amount to impressiveendeavour for the revival of the nation in many different areas. When it is doing so much good work, it can add another one to its task list and this would be the enactment of proper laws to ensure preservations of the nation’s heritage from all types of encroachers and the providing of institutional care with allocation of adequate resources to this end.