The controversial Pattanam excavation is once again in news with J Nandakumar, National Convenor of the RSS-inspired organisation Prajna Pravah raising serious allegations against the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) over its recent order cancelling excavation licence for dubious NGO PAMA run by P J Cherian. Earlier, ASI had given licence to PAMA for undertaking excavation in Pattanam which was decried by professional archeologists and historians. Following protest, ASI cancelled the licence.
In an article in Organiser weekly, the RSS leader claimed that the order by M Nambirajan, ASI Joint Director General, cancelling the licence was a bid to help his friend and former colleague Cherian. According to Nandakumar, the order doesn’t “include serious allegations raised” by several professional bodies and reputed archeologists about Pattanam excavation.
Nandakumar writes: “Recently, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) cancelled the excavation licence for PAMA, a dubious NGO, at Pattanam through an order (No T – 17011/ 41/2019- EE ) issued on September 3, 2021 by M Nambirajan, Joint Director General (Exploration and Excavation). On the order, Nambirajan has cleverly left out PAMA’s name and instead put the name Institute for the Advancement of Transdisciplinary Archaeological Sciences to help P J Cherian secure an easy court verdict, once he approaches the court against the ASI order.” Nandakumar claims Nambirajan did not include “even one of the serious allegations raised by several organisations in the context of Pattanam excavation” because he wanted to help PAMA. This will help him “secure a favourable court verdict”. Cherian has reportedly moved court against ASI order.
“There are many reasons for Nambirajan to bring out such a convenient and beneficial order cancelling the Pattanam excavations, which is helpful for PAMA. One who looks at the order shall not find any serious allegation that is strong enough to terminate the excavations by PAMA at Pattanam. Even if Cherian goes to court, the judge can hardly identify any serious lapse to have occurred on the part of PAMA for the ASI to take such a strong stand canceling its licence to excavate Pattanam,” writes Nandakumar.
Elaborating on Nambirajan’s links with Pattanam project, Nandakumar writes: “The association of Nambirajan and Cherian has a history of more than twelve years. Nambirajan was a Member of the Muziris Heritage Project (Pattanam Excavations 2008) of KCHR. It has Prof K N Panikkar, former Chairman, KCHR and Dr V Venu, Secretary, Department of Cultural Affairs, Government of Kerala Vice- Chairman. Dr Nambirajan, was then Superintending Archaeologist, ASI, Thrissur Circle, Kerala. He was designated ‘Member’ in the handbook of Pattanam Archaeological Research March-April 2008, published by KCHR…Nambirajan and Cherian have jointly published many papers on the dubious Pattanam site which has been severely criticised by reputed archaeologists. For instance, one paper published by Cherian, Nambirajan, V Selvakumar, K P Shajan, and P Rajan, in 2010 is titled Pattanam Excavations: Interim Reports, published by KCHR, Thiruvananthapuram. Another paper is Pattanam Excavations 2011 (Fifth Season Field Report) also published by KCHR in Thiruvananthapuram. The title of the paper is The maritime spice route that linked peninsular India with West Asia, Red Sea and Mediterranean rims; new archaeological evidence from Pattanam (Muziris).It is jointly authored by P J Cherian, K P Shajan, V Selvakumar, M Nambirajan, K Rajan and Preeta Nayar.”