ASI dupes Union Cultural Ministry; dubious NGO PAMA given licence

Dominic Perring (2009) has observed that culture is a major arena for conflict, and archaeology an important source material in the construction of collective identity. Hence,  archaeological research is extensively used in describing,  defining  and legitimizing national identities, and thence drawn upon in the territorial and ethnic disputes that fuel contemporary conflict, according to Dominic Perring, Centre for Applied Archaeology, London.

When former  State Minister for Tamil Language and Culture,Tamil Nadu,  K Pandiarajan, termed the antiquities from Keezhadi in Tamil Nadu, part of  ‘Bharatham’s civilization’,  it infuriated  Madurai Central MLA PTR Palanivel Thiagarajan. He said  “ We will never accept it as a culture of Bharatham,”  as it is  Dravidian and has nothing to do with Aryans of the mainland (The New Indian Express  27th Oct.,  2019 ). The Aryan Invasion Theory is still globally propagated for them mainly by two groups, FOSA and FOIL. (FOSA), Friends of South Asia,  is a US-based political organization founded in December 2001, by a group of nine Pakistani and also Indian Americans. (FOIL), Forum of Indian Leftists is a group of over 300 left-wing activists. The co-founders of FOIL are two  Indian leftists,  Biju Mathew and Vijay Prashad.  FeTNA’s testimony at the California Curriculum Commission made the dubious claim that the early Tamil texts clearly distinguish between Tamils and Aryans. Further LTTE arms dealer Father Gasper Raj is closely associated with Keezhadi excavations.

Historian Martin Sabrow warned that, if the cooperation between politicians and historians is too close, it might be harmful,  since the relationship between history and politics can develop into a fatal friendship offering the reward of public attention and moral esteem whilst destroying the radical independence of historical research and its disposition to rethink history. Sabrow was quoted by Jan Marinus Wiersma in her work  (2009),  Politics of the Past: The Use and Abuse of History.

Keezhadi has an ideological and political alliance with Pattanam in Kerala. R. Sivanantham, Deputy Director, Tamil Nadu state department of archaeology, officially facilitated a lecture on Pattanam by its excavator, P.J. Cherian at Chennai. Cherian claimed that the excavated material from Pattanam and Keezhadi are similar and hence there is a brotherhood (Pattanam, Keezhadi excavated materials similar, says expert, Deccan Chronicle, Oct. 31, 2018).

This has been discussed to highlight the license for the year 2021,  for archaeological excavations again granted to PAMA a NGO in Kerala by the Archaeological Survey of India (henceforth ASI), under the Union Ministry of Culture( ASI to be a prominent partner in  11th session of Muziris Excavations The Hindu, June 18, 2021). The site has raised much controversy from the beginning. The license was earlier granted for Pattanam excavations in  2020 after the Central Advisory Panel of the  ASI   at its meeting on  September 12 and 13 2015 asked the closure of Pattanam excavations following complaints.PAMA is run by P.J.Cherian who is also associated with Keezhadi.

Prof K Rajan is in the Advisory Committee of Archaeological Survey of India and has lobbied for currently granting license to Cherian’s PAMA for excavating Mathilakam and other sites under Cherian’s Ancient Tamilakam Project backed by the Church.

 In the document, Pattanam Excavations-2008: Muziris Heritage Project, published by Kerala Council of Historical Research (KCHR) reveals that Prof K Rajan was co-director of the infamous Pattanam Excavation project.

We invite your kind attention to the fact that the PAMA is headed by a team that has nothing to do with archaeology in qualification or experience. Its Chairman RVG  Menon retired as an academic in engineering. Its director PJ Cherian did his Ph D in 1993 from the University of Calicut on the topic “The Communist Movement in Travancore: From the Origins to the Uprisings of 1946”. He did his M Phil (1985) and MA (1978) in History and has no academic qualification in archaeology.

 PAMA’s  ‘Giant Patrons’ include Karl Marx, Antonio Gramsci, V Gordon Childe and DD Kosambi all left ideologues (PAMA Salutes Her Giant Patrons), making its ideals and objectives clear. https://www.pama.org.in/patrons.php)

There is not a single Indian archaeologist of repute as its patron. No Indian archaeologist has hitherto joined its fray and agreed to be its patron. How did the Archaeological Survey of India under the Ministry of Culture, agree to be its ‘prominent partner’ and grant license to such a NGO which has no professionals in archaeology? The Minister of Culture has been kept in the dark by the ASI. Academic archaeologists have come down heavily on pseudoarchaeology, branding it as relying on sensationalism, misuse of logic and evidence, misunderstanding of the scientific method, and internal contradictions in their arguments.

It raises serious questions regarding the methodology of excavation,  people involved with it and the credibility of antiquities claimed to have been recovered from the site at Pattanam. The current excavations have not revealed whether they are digging an Iron Age site or a  site that shows a transformation period in its stratigraphy and cultural remains. Archaeology primarily involves fieldwork and laboratory studies. It also raises serious questions on our national security.

Major archaeologists such as Professors Dilip Chakrabarti, in hs work ‘Nation First’ (2014) strongly criticized Pattanam excavations.  Professor Vasant Shinde of Deccan College who excavated Rakhigarhi has also criticized Pattanam excavations. Major archaeologists such as R Nagaswamy, A Sundara and T Satyamurti also criticized Pattanam’s excavations. It is to this excavation that the ASI has unscrupulously granted license keeping the Cultural Ministry and Minister for Culture in dark.

The excavations are meant to establish the arrival of Apostle Thomas in Kerala and the conversion of Hindus to Christianity. PAMA Director PJ Cherian personally presented papers at the Liturgical Research Centre of the Syro Malabar Church 1) The Impact of Recent Archaeological Discoveries in the Ancient Muziris on the Historiography of the Establishment of Christianity in Kerala (Kalyan, Mumbai, 2011). 2) Pattanam Archaeological Evidence and the History of Early Christianity in Kerala (Thiruvalla, Kerala 2011).

 Earlier,  excavations have been going on at Pattanam for over seven years and no report has been submitted no fresh excavation license can be granted according to ASI Joint Director RS Fonia (Doubting Thomases Suspend Saint Project in The Telegraph October 1, 2015). In 2016, the license of 20 NGOs in Kerala was suspended by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act which included the Kerala Council for Historical Research ( henceforth KCHR) which then conducted the Pattanam excavations (MHA Shows no Charity, Cuts  License of around 20 Ngo’s in  The New Indian Express December 8, 2016). Further, the then KCHR director P.J.Cherian was alleged of creating fake government documents, illegal appointments and financial irregularities worth crores (https://english.mathrubhumi.com/news/kerala/rampant-irregularities-detected-at-kchr-kerala-kerala-council-for-historical-research-corruption-1.1478483).

The former KCHR director PJ Cherian could not continue his term in office and he started a NGO PAMA. The PAMA secured license for archaeological excavations in 2020 ( (Attempts to Expropriate Security and Academics in Organiser April 5, 2020).Now again the Ngo has secured license to excavate Pattanam. After getting wind of the controversies associated with the Pattanam excavations, former President Pranab Mukherjee refused to inaugurate Pattanam Museum associated with  Pattanam excavations (President skips Pattanam exhibition: The Hindu, February 28, 2016).

Has the ASI verified this track record before granting license to Pattanam excavations? The Cultural Ministry has been camouflaged by the ASI.

 The  Pattanam site is associated with George Soros, a multi-billionaire leftist who supports the Kashmir secessionists against PM Modi (George Soros laments rising nationalism, says biggest setback in India, in The Times of India, January 25, 2020). Soros is an interlocutor in shaping the alliance between communism and the church. Central European University (henceforth CEU), which opened in Budapest, Hungary, in 1991, was founded by George Soros after the collapse of the Soviet Union, as an alternative recruitment and training centre for left intellectuals. The CEU launched its ambitious plan in Kerala in collaboration with Kerala Council for Historical Research (KCHR) under a left government. Prof  Istvan Perczel from CEU is a scholar on Byzantine history and Medieval Christianity, and one of the patrons of the dubious Pattanam excavations in Kerala, supervised by left historians under KCHR. Prof. Perczel delivered a lecture at Thiruvananthapuram on the historical legacy of Kerala Christianity (History of Kerala Christianity: Documents, monuments and methodological challenges, The Hindu, February 12, 2008). Formerly he sent a letter to KCHR giving his benediction and highlighting, “According to tradition, Musiris was also the port where the apostle St. Thomas landed, and the epics of indigenous south Indian Christianity started. This discovery opens immense new perspectives for the scholarship, so I wish all success for continuation”. (Muziris Heritage Project-Pattanam Excavations, 2008, KCHR, Thiruvananthapuram).

Istvan Perczel under Central European University sponsors the Biblical project, History of Kerala Christianity on the Basis of Newly Found Documents: Methodological Challenges and Possible Answers (Talk at the IIS Centre for Contemporary Studies, July 24, 2008). The work is carried out by another Indian Ngo registered in Kerala, ‘Association for the Preservation of the Saint Thomas Christian Heritage’, in close collaboration with the Marxist sponsored Kerala Council of Historical Research. Istvan Perczel is a founding member of this NGO who is also honoured with Distinguished Visiting Professorship (three lectures) at Sree Sankaracharya University of Sanskrit, Kalady, Kerala, by the Left government in Kerala.

 Pattanam is currently linked with Keezhadi archaeological site in Tamil Nadu, excavated by ASI, but virtually controlled by Father Gasper Raj a missionary with terrorist links. He is also involved in multiple activities in support of LTTE, a Sri Lankan group designated by the US State Department as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation. (Douglas C. Lovelace Jr., Esq., 2008, Terrorism: Documents of International and Local Control, Academic, OUP, Vol. 91).

Keezhadi is patronized by K. Rajan who is in the Advisory  Committee of ASI. Rajan is associated with Father Gasper Raj, founder of NGO Tamil Mayyam, and officially referred in US crime records as ‘Gaspar Raj Maria Paulian’. When Rajan is clearly working as an interlocutor between Pattanam and Keezhadi with international terrorist groups and personalities,  his academic credibility is diluted, and stands accused of anti-national activism.

Anti-Hindu propagandists are also associated with Pattanam. Sunil P Elayidom a Malayalam academic of   Sri Sankara Sanskrit University, Kalady, Kerala who is a known Marxist ideologue and anti-Bhagavad Gita/Mahabharata propagandist is involved with the Pattanam excavations (Kerala: Sphinx Seal  Recovered from Pattanam in The Times of India, September 21, 2020). The Hindu has published a review of his book on Mahabharata (Sunil P Elayidom on What Makes the Mahabharata So Compellingly Modern in The Hindu September 12, 2020). Elayidom is currently involved with Pattanam to bring as a historic fact that Gita has been influenced by  Apostle Thomas and Christianity.

The Cultural Ministry should take immediate action canceling license for  Pattanam excavations conducted by the Ngo PAMA and with alleged terrorist links with sites such as Keezhadi taking into consideration our national security.