He, along with another Union Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and state BJP president Tamailisai Soundararajan, after inspecting the artefacts that were unearthed at the Keezhadi site and the related photographs held a discussion with the officials.
Addressing the media, Sharma stressed that due importance would be given to preserve Tamil culture. He further stated, “The reports in a section of media about the cancellation of excavation and the Centre acting against the interests of the Tamils are far from truth.”
“The commencement of third phase of excavations was briefly halted due to the delay in submission of the report regarding the work carried out in the first two phases. Now that the report has been submitted, Rs 40 lakh has been allotted for the third phase, which will commence within the next few days,” Sharma added.
According to the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act of 1958, excavation would be carried out for five years continuously and in the present site only two years have been completed. The remaining three years of excavation and related works would continue, said Sharma.
When asked about the transfer of Superintendent, Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), Amarnath Ramakrishnan, who was in-charge of Keezhadi Archaeological Site, the culture and tourism minister replied that according to the rules, officials working for more than three years at one place would be transferred and as per this rule 26 officials were transferred recently. “Amarnath was one among them and there was no hidden agenda behind his transfer,” he added.
He replied in the affirmative on the idea of setting up a museum at Keezhadi.
“Yes, definitely we will set up an onsite museum at Keezhadi. Some of the artefacts excavated from the site will be collected. A few will be preserved at the Sivaganga Collectorate, while others will be sent to Chennai Museum,” he said.
Tamil outfits members, BJP cadre almost come to blows
Minor tension prevailed when the Union Ministers came to Keezhadi, as Makkal Viduthalai Katchi (MVK) members protested their visit to the site. However, BJP cadre, who confronted the protesters, tried to clear them from the spot.
Police intervened and brought the situation under control. Meanwhile, state BJP president Tamilisai Soundararjan questioned the policemen for allowing the MVK cadre to stage a protest during the visit of Union Ministers. A verbal duel ensued.
Following this, the police took the MVK members into custody. Moreover, members of two Tamil outfits, Tamil Puligal and May 17 Movement, staged protests at Madurai condemning the visit of Union Ministers.