Skip to main content

Did Modi promote Dholavira, a UNESCO site now, as Gujarat CM? Facts don't tally

 

By Rajiv Shah 
As would generally happen, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s tweet – that not only was he “absolutely delighted” with the news of UNESCO tag to Dholavira, but he “first visited” the site during his “student days and was mesmerised by the place” – is being doubted by his detractors. None of the two tweets, strangely, even recalls once that it’s a Harappan site in Gujarat.
Soon after Modi tweeted, a senior Gujarati language journalist phoned up to tell me Modi was “outright lying”, as the site was first dug out only in 1990s, and at that point of time Modi, born in 1951, was surely “not a student”. This journalist insisted, “If you doubt what I am saying, why don’t you ask your friend Suresh Mehta (a former BJP chief minister)?”
I wasn’t convinced. I thought Modi must have visited the spot as a student – after all, students are known to go around in groups to see different spots as part of adventure tourism with little money in their pocket. Hence, I set aside what he told me and didn’t care to phone up ex-Gujarat CM Mehta. What is the point?, I wondered.
However, as I was looking at tweets today in the afternoon, I found another senior journalist, former editor of “Ahmedabad Mirror”, who has just begun a news portal “Vibes of India”, Deepal Trivedie, tweeting, “Here I am putting up cuttings of books, newspapers reporting of excavation having taken place for the first time in #Dholavira in the 90s only. T Joshi of ASI (Archaeological Survey of India) did visit Dholavira in 1967 (Modi ji would have been 17 then) but the first excavation happened in the 90s only.”
Trivedie continued with the chronology of events in another tweet, “1. First field excavation of Dholavira by ASI was in 1990. Modiji born i1950 would have been 40. School at that age? Dholavira was only a village then. 2. Distance between Dholavira and Vadnagar, his town is 332 km. Let's remember he was a poor chaiwallah, then…”
I really don’t know whether to believe Modi or not. He is known to have made several claims, including about his degree, which have been disputed all around. Be that as it may, I found his second statement in Modi’s tweet more amusing, “As CM of Gujarat, I had the opportunity to work on aspects relating to heritage conservation and restoration in Dholavira. Our team also worked to create tourism-friendly infrastructure there.”
One who covered Gujarat Sachivalaya for the Times of India when Modi was Gujarat chief minister, I can surely say this: Modi did visit the site, as the photographs in his tweet show, and he may have made sanctions to create some facilities there so that tourists visited the spot, byt he never ever wanted to promote Dholavira and the importance it should have received.
And, I have reason to say this. I visited Dholavira only once – the year was 2006, around the Dipawali holidays. A friend, who runs an NGO, made arrangements for us in their facility about 50 km from Dholavira. We stayed there overnight, and from there we went to see Dholariva in the morning.
Before going to Dholavira, I had taken a briefing from a senior IAS bureaucrat, Varun Maira, now retired, who was full of praise for the spot. “It’s all White Rann on both sides of the road as you visit Dholavira! What a site it is! It can be an excellent tourism spot, we can have an exotic zone there”, he told me. This is what prompted me to visit Dholavira to see the spot.
I found whatever Maira had told me was absolutely true. I took several photographs on two sides of the road – the White Rann was indeed on both sides of the road. Lovely, I thought. On visiting Dholavira, which I was shown around by a local official, I found several Bhungas had been built next to the Harappan site, where one could perhaps stay overnight. I was impressed. It was indeed being developed into as a tourism spot.
However, I was a little disappointed when the local official, who showed me around, told me frankly that the Bhungas weren’t worth living, as basic things like water and power were “very erratic.” Then this official took me around the site itself, explaining every bit of the spot. I was indeed mesmerised, to use Modi’s words.
Thereafter, I visited the Gujarat tourism department guest house-cum-hotel, Toran, which wasn’t very far away from Dholavira. As I had already informed them,they had made arrangements for snacks for us for a Times of India person. The manager, on learning that I covered Gandhinagar, asked me if I could use my influence to transfer me out from there.
While the guest house had been just renovated, the manager blurted out: “There is virtually no electricity here – it comes just for four hours only. Water is a problem. It’s a punishment posting. I don’t want to continue here.” I asked him whether tourists visit here. He told me: “No nobody comes here. Some do go to Dholavira, but never stay here or in the neighbourhood overnight.”
I visited Dholavira a year after I had made the visit to a spot Modi was already frantically developing as a tourist spot in Kutch – a part of the Little Rann of Kutch area. He called it Rannotsav. He had developed a tent city there to stay. I visited the Rannotsav spot the year it was inaugurated by Modi – in the winter of 2005. I stayed back in the tent city, officials there insisted, I should take a feel of it.
I wondered: Why didn’t Modi develop a tent city next to Dholavira? My query revealed that very few people who would visit the tent city as tourists would ever go to Dholavira as well, as it “out of the tourism circuit” and is “very far”. Even now, I doubt, if the Rannotsav tent city visitors ever visit Dholavira.
Even high profile Amitabh Bacchan ads to promote tourism in Kutch, which specifically say (click here and here), “Kutch nahi dekha to kucch nahi dekha”, funded by the Gujarat tourism department, didn’t even mention Dholavira. They just promoted the Rannotsav, the tent city, and the Wild Ass Sanctuary, which is a sensitive area for a rare species! 
No doubt, the Gujarat government did try to promote Dholavira through its the weighty report “Blueprint for Infrastructure in Gujarat 2020” (BIG 2020), released in 2010. However, ironically, the spot in this report was sought to be sold as something like Las Vegas. No sooner I got the this heavy report from AK Sharma, then Modi’s secretary and now in BJP as vice president of UP party, on the very same day I reported about it.
The story, taken as a flier on Page 1 in the Times of India, had this headline: “Now, a Las Vegas in dry Gujarat.” It was planned as a Rs 480 crore project. I wrote, and let me quote, “The zone will also have an 18-hole world-class golf course and will be ‘facilitating all types of gambling for entertainment’ with the exception of ‘speculative activity, for example bets on cricket matches’.”
I further wrote, “While restricting the activities within the ‘exotic zone’, the document also promises bars ‘subject to the conditionality of the law’. With plans to set up a seven-star hotel, the area will be embellished with other activities like discotheques, spa, theatre, library, and a modern hospital to encourage medical tourism.”
Gujarat tourism hotel at Dholavira, Toran, closed for 5 yrs
Interestingly, on the very next day, Sharma recalled all the BIG book he had distributed to senior government officials, even asked me to do the same, which I didn’t comply with, as I needed proof for my story! The BIG book was resent to officials after pasting a white slip on the Las Vegas-type thoughts expressed therein.
The last time I visited Kutch was in winter 2019. We decided to go to the tent city too, about which my family members had heard a lot – apolitical, they hadn’t heard much of Dholavira and seemed least interested in it. At the tent city, we had dinner, but didn’t stay back. The restaurant owner complained, there was a sharp drop in visitors over the years.
Surely, I do regret, the only spot we couldn’t make it was Dholariva, as it was “unapproachable” from the route that we had taken to visit the district’s major tourism spots, including Bhuj’s beautiful historical spots, Narayan Sarovar sanctuary, and the Mandvi beach.

Comments

TRENDING

Eco Ganesha made from water hyacythns, a most noxious invasive aquatic weed

Elsie Gabriel, founder, Young Environmentalists Programme Trust, and national coordinator, Oceans Climate Reality Project India, has come up with Eco Ganesha, made from recycled water hyacinths and silt from Powai Lake. She presented it to Mumbai Mayor Kishori Pednekar on September 7 at Powai lake:

Diaspora protest as Biden failed to publicly address persecution of minorities in India

As Modi addressed UN, human rights groups decried “monstrosity” of persecution of Muslims, Christians, Dalits, and other minorities in India. Demonstrators gathered outside UN to protest fascism, hate campaigns, weaponized rape, apartheid, lynchings, unlawful arrests, attacks on the media, and other abuses in India: A report distributed by the diaspora group Hindus for Human Rights: *** While observers said it was “shameful” that President Biden failed to publicly address widespread persecution of religious minorities in India when he met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on September 24, more than 100 members of interfaith and human rights groups spoke out as Modi addressed the United Nations General Assembly. Speakers condemned the egregious human rights violations and murders of religious minorities in India under a government that openly supports Hindu supremacy. The rally was sponsored by 21 organizations, including Ambedkar International Center, Ambedkar King S

In the land of the Buddha, why are there so few Buddhists? Did they convert to Islam?

Sonali Ranade, a trader and columnist, who is a prolific tweeter , in a recent blog "How did India’s Buddhists disappear? In the land of the Buddha, why are there so few Buddhists?" suggests that most of the Muslims who converted to Islam in South Asia were Buddhists and they did it mostly out of self-volition. Read on: *** It wasn’t until college, that it dawned on me that I had never met a Buddhist in my life. I could count quite a few Jains [hawt property for Gujju girls] at college, Muslims a plenty; the Navy, on whose bases I grew up, was chockfull of Sikhs; many Christians at school including a English literature teacher who I think was a recreant Pope in hiding; and not to forget my bestie, a blue-blood Parsi, whacky as they come, [she masquerades as an architect these days, and I always wonder why her buildings don’t collapse laughing at her colorful Hindi]; but no Buddhists. Puzzled, I asked the Pater, usually my go-to walking encyclopedia, but he was stumped. Or a

Post-Stalin Netaji advised Soviets, had facial surgery, met Lal Bhadur in Tashkent!

In an curious Facebook post "What happened to Netaji?", former editor of the Times of India, Ahmedabad, Kingshuk Nag, who later took over the Hyderabad edition of TOI as editor, has asserted that not only did Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose didn't die in a plane crash, he went to the Soviet Union, where he served as adviser of the Soviet leaders during the post-Stalin phase. One who has authored a Netaji book , he makes another astonishing "revelation": that Netaji, it is believed, had undergone face surgery "to change his appearance", and is "supposed to have met Indian PM Lal Bahadur Shastri when he went to Tashkent in 1966." Was Netaji so meek? One doesn't know... Anyway, read the FB post : *** Today is purportedly the day that Netaji died in an air crash in Taiwan in 1945. An elaborate theory of his death and the fact that his ashes were stored in Renkoji temple was created. By all accounts this is fiction. Netaji disappeared into Soviet

Critique of Hindutva does not constitute an attack on Hinduism, nor is it Hinduphobia

Organised with the active support of Indian diaspora in US, a series of virtual conferences, Dismantling Global Hindutva, have been held in order to "analyze and educate" the public as to how Hindutva is destroying India, undermining syncretic nature of Hinduism and the country's secular and democratic traditions.

Jinnah's claim: He never wanted Pakistan, wished if he could return to Bombay

In an account of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, termed "amazing but true", Ramkrishna Dalmia reveals Jinnah’s claimed love for Indian heritage and his beloved city Bombay (now Mumbai). Read it to comprehend a different aspect of his life... The account first appeared on Facebook timeline of Christi A Ali, and has been shared by many. *** “Look here, I never wanted Pakistan! It was forced upon me by Sardar Patel. And now they want me to eat the humble pie and raise my hands in defeat.” Jinnah to his closest friend Ramkrishna Dalmia to whom he (Jinnah) sold his marvelous Delhi house for Rs.3 lacs before partition. Jinnah chose his friend Ramkrishna Dalmia over others, a Jain, no-onion; no-garlic; a sprinkler of Ganga jal if a Muslim entered the home type of Hindu. The house was later sold to the Dutch Embassy as Nehru had issues with Mr.Dalmia. Nehru ensured that Mr.Dalmia would later be jailed. Jinnah never wanted Pakistan and even accepted Cabinet Mission Plan in July, 1946 to form

An international phenomenon, crackdown on media now part of Ukrainian policy

An article released by the Independent Media Institute points to how Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is using the ‘Kremlin excuse’ to ban media that doesn’t always agree with him. Authored by David C Speedie , the article has been produced by Globetrotter in partnership with the American Committee for US-Russia Accord : *** On the eve of his meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden on September 1, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky pulled the plug on the opposition news outlet Strana.ua and imposed sanctions on its editor-in-chief . This is not the first time Zelensky has cracked down on opposition media. Earlier this year Zelenksy banned three of his country’s television news stations—NewsOne, 112 and ZIK—accusing them of peddling “Kremlin-funded propaganda.” A veteran of the broadcast media himself [he was previously a comedian], Zelensky’s action may perhaps be seen at first glance as largely symbolic. It is, in fact, both inflammatory and short-sighted. First, it should

What caused Kandhamal violence in 2007-08? Expert, Dalit leader react to new docu-film

Well-known film maker KP Sasi has released a new 95-minute documentary  "Voices From the Ruins - Kandhamal In Search of Justice", which seeks to graphically describe how in Kandhamal district of Orissa, mainly inhabited by Adivasis and Dalits, among them a large population are Christians, witnessed its biggest violence on the Adivasi Christians and Dalit Christians in 2008. Based on interviews with the survivors of Kandhamal violence, who are still struggling against the improper compensation, improper rehabilitation and improper justice delivery systems, the film brings out the concerns of the survivors, through their own voices as well concerned sections, analysing the historical roots of violence, the impact of violence on various sections of the communities and the struggle for justice by the survivors of Kandhamal violence. Released on the anniversary of the violence (August 28), while Sasi has sought the documentary, already available on YouTube, widest circulation thr

UN Food Systems Summit paved the way for greater control of big corporations

In a sharp critique of the  UN Food Systems Summit, a statement released by the People's Coalition on Food Sovereignty, a global network of NGOs, has accused UN meet of being steered by big corporations, even as the Global South was pushed back. *** The Global People’s Summit (GPS) on Food Systems slammed the recently concluded UN Food Systems Summit (UN FSS) for paving the way for greater control of big corporations over global food systems and misleading the people through corporate-led false solutions to hunger and climate change. “It was just as we expected. While branding itself as the ‘People’s Summit’ and even the ‘Solutions Summit,’ the UN FSS did not listen to the voices of marginalized rural peoples, nor forward real solutions to the food, biodiversity and climate crises. Instead, it let powerful nations and big corporations play an even bigger role in determining food and agricultural policies. The UN has finally made it clear what ‘multilateralism’ is all about—paying l

Forthcoming book explodes Western myth: Personal qualities are biologically inherited

Jonathan Latham, PhD, Executive Director, The Bioscience Resource Project, New York, has said in an email alert via JanVikalp that his forthcoming book about genetics and genetic determinism, provisionally titled "The Myth of The Master Molecule: DNA and the Social Order" criticises the notion that personal qualities are biologically inherited: *** The contention of the book is that the key organising principle of Western thought is the seemingly innocuous and seemingly simple idea that our personal qualities are biologically inherited. That is, our character derives from our ancestors rather than being an always-adapting product of our own experiences, decisions, and education. The book makes the case, first, that genetic determinism is a scientific fallacy. Organisms are self-organised systems and therefore are not genetically determined. Second, the explanation for the myth, which predates Mesopotamian cities of 6,000 years ago, is its utility. Genetic determinism rationa