The 1000 tonne gold treasure is yet to be found in Daundiya Khera village even after a week of digging in which the ASI team has reached 1.5 meter below the ground. (Agencies)
With allegations against ASI that it was following a seer's dream, the minister maintained they began the excavation on the basis of a Geological Survey of India report indicating presence of alloy buried below the ground.
"I like to tell the people accusing me that they are trying to put hindrance in a routine work of excavation which normally starts from October 1 and lasts till Monsoon.
"We are at the moment carrying out excavation in 148 different areas all over the country. Why are they picking up only this site because somebody has said that he has a dream. Our work started on October 1. Let anyone presume whatever they want," Katoch said in an interview.
On October 18, a team from Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) began excavation work at the fort of Raja Rao Ram Bux Singh in Unnao to dig out a hidden gold treasure suspected to be buried there. A seer had dreamt about the buried gold and reportedly told union minister Charan Das Mahant about it.
Asked whether she is hopeful of finding 1000 tonnes gold there, the minister said the alloy can be anything. "We have a report from GSI saying that there is an alloy in this area. Alloy can be anything. I cannot say whether it is gold, silver or steel.
"There can be guns or idols. We are trying to locate the weapons used by Indians in the mutiny which we don't have any in our museum or stores. We are trying to find something which is connected to the mutiny and used by the Indians," she emphasized.
The digging is going on in an area dating back to the 7th and 8th century and this has been proved by the first DG ASI of British regime in 1868 that two Buddhist institutes were located there.
"Raja Ram Mohan Rao Bux was the ruler and was a freedom fighter who was involved in the mutiny. There may be a lot of his weapons and things lying there below the ground," she said.
Till now the ASI has gone 1.5 meters below the ground and has found pottery pieces, glass bangles, pieces of children's hopscotch game, small idols and pieces of a wall.
Asked who will claim the gold, if found, she said that it will be decided by the Treasure Trove Act of 1878. "There is a Treasures Trove Act of 1878 which will decide. But this doesn't include any antiquities like jewellery or utensils which will be kept by the ASI only," she said.
Post the Unnao digging there have been reports of illegal digging in ancient Shiva temple in Adampur where two priests were beaten up.
Asked about the same, Katoch said she was not aware of it but people must complain about illegal digging. "I am not aware about the Adampur incident which is a law and order situation and the state government will deal with it. I will appeal to the public that in case of illegal digging, they must lodge an FIR or complain us," the minister said.
She also dismissed Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s charge that ASI has ignored the state's request for digging historical sites more valuable than 1,000 tonnes of gold.
"Since I have taken charge I have put a big pressure on my department to work on Nalanda as it is most ancient university of the world. Only 7 percent work has been done there so far and I am seeking additional funds for Nalanda.
The Finance Minister is also interested. So it is wrong to say that we pick and choose," she said.
She also refused to set any timeframe for the Unnao work. "I cannot specify any timeframe nor I will put pressure on ASI officials to fasten their work. We cannot use modern heavy machines there. The work has to be done manually and with utmost care which takes time," she said.
The 1000 tonne gold treasure is yet to be found in Daundiya Khera village even after a week of digging in which the ASI team has reached 1.5 meter below the ground.