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Ancient seat cries apathy

The excavated site of Vikramshila in Bhagalpur. Picture by Amit Kumar

Binod Kumar (46), a resident of Antichak near the ruins of the ancient seat of learning at Vikramshila, said public representatives have ignored the development of the heritage site.

“I visited Bodhgaya, Sarnath and other places associated with Lord Buddha but the irony is that despite Vikramshila being such an important site for the spread of Buddhism, the area has not been included in the Buddhist circuit of the country,” Binod said.

Like Binod, hundreds of villagers in Antichak and in the adjoining localities lambasted the government for its failure to develop the ancient site.

“Politicians who often claimed development in Bhagalpur hardly pay attention to Vikramshila. The day Vikramshila is included in the Buddhist circuit, the fate of Bhagalpur would change,” said Raman Sinha, a professor of history at Tilka Manjhi Bhagalpur University.

He believes that foreign tourists do not visit the ancient seat of learning because of dilapidated roads and lack of basic infrastructure.

The neglect has reached a phase when there’s a strong undercurrent against the government and public representatives who have continued their apathy towards one of the two most important centres of Buddhist learning in India during the Pala dynasty, along with Nalanda University.

“None of the political parties has so far thought of including the issue in their poll manifesto,” said Rajiv Kumar, a native of Anad- ipur village.

BJP Lok Sabha candidate and sitting MP Shahnawaz Hussain admitted that the neglect had been prolonged.

“I have been trying my best to develop the site but because of lack of concern of the state, nothing has happened so far. Chief minister Nitish Kumar does not want to include Vikramshila in the Buddhist circuit. This could be gauged from the fact that the local administration has not yet utilised the Rs 9-crore fund for the development of the site. Not a single facility for tourists has been developed so far,” he alleged.

Former health minister and senior BJP leader Ashwini Kumar Choubey, too, blamed Nitish for the step-motherly treatment meted out to Vikramshila.

“I tried to convince Nitish in 2005 when former President Pratibha Patil visited the Buddhist circuit. I requested him to include Vikramshila in the circuit but the chief minister turned down my request,” Choubey said over the phone from Patna.

Choubey added that it was a conspiracy because Nitish “wanted to suppress the development of Vikramshila and promote Nalanda University in his home turf”.