KALINJAR: Sher Shah's forts serve as Maoist hideouts

NEW DELHI: As the high-profile Purana Qila, built by Sher Shah in Delhi circa 16th century, dazzles in glory, Maoists and bandits call the shots at two other grand forts associated with the warrior-ruler in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, keeping wary tourists away from enjoying their splendour.

Rohtas Fort in Bihar, built by Sher Shah (1486-1545) and later used by travelling Mughals as a garrison, is in the iron grip of Maoist extremists and tourist traffic to the impressive structure has dried up.

The attractive Kalinjar Fort in UP, where a gunpowder blast killed the Suri dynasty ruler in 1545, is in no better shape as bandit gangs infest its forested vicinity. Tourists do not throng Kalinjar although the district authorities claim the situation has recently "changed".

A hotelier in Rohtas's Dehri-on-Sone said he hasn’t heard of any tourist visiting the fort in a long time.

"Recently, an American NRI showed interest in improving the fort's approach. He even went there under heavy police guard but that is it. It is a Maoist territory now and totally out of bounds for tourists. Some people have, however, managed to visit the fort during the annual fairs organized by the villagers," he told TOI.

"If the approach is developed and proper security provided, Rohtas fort, due to its sheer grandeur and historical value, has the potential of attracting a large number of tourists. But the authorities need to cleanse the place, managed by Archaelogical Survey of India, of the extremists," he said.

Kalinjar fort lies literally unattended with not even a police picket in the vicinity. A tourist, just back from the place, said locals strongly advised him against visiting the fort. He returned to Delhi after visiting the other places of interest there and adjoining Madhya Pradesh.

Dacoit gangs of Pappu Yadav, Thokia, Jaan Singh, Gauri Yadav and Munni Yadav are said to be active in the region although police recently claimed to have killed Pappu Yadav.

"Two years back, this gang killed a dozen villagers. Then four persons were kidnapped near Kalinjar. In an adjoining village, bodies of two other people were found. The area is totally deserted after sunset," a senior resident of Banda, the district headquarters, told TOI.

Historically, Kalinjar, known as the entrance to Bundelkhand, is famous not only because Sher Shah captured it. It was also the seat of Chandelas and Solankis. The fortress even has several temples dating back to the Gupta period (3rd-5th century).

Banda district collector Ranjan Kumar said the situation now was much better.

"After the killing of Pappu Yadav, there has been a positive change. Some tourists are now coming. As for the other big gang of Thokia, it is active more in Chitrakoot district," Kumar said.

Another site associated with Sher Shah, his mausoleum in Sasaram (Rohtas), is in a pathetic shape. The mausoleum, located in the centre of a pond, has turned into a stinking area with garbage around. The Suri ruler had also constructed the Grand Trunk Road connecting Bengal with Peshawar.

Courtesy: Times Of India