Rajasthan is known for its forts and it attracts lakhs of tourists every year due to this. Among them is the historical city of Chittorgarh and its fort that attracts many tourists even today. However, it facing an existential threat due to neglect. Ahead of the voting for the Rajasthan election 2023, our reporter Ankur Tyagi uncovered the factors affecting Chittorgarh’s pride.
Chittorgarh’s most significant and ancient identity is its fort, standing tall for centuries, witnessing countless invasions and the historical practice of ‘jauhar’ by women within its walls. However, the vicinity surrounding this fort now buzzes with tourism. Over time, this historic fort has fallen victim to government negligence. According to locals, a liquor shop was established near the fort’s entrance, raising questions about the intent behind such a move in the heart of a place steeped in history.
Upon our visit inside the fort, we encountered Kuldeep, who works as a guide and has been intimately familiar with every nook and cranny of this fort for a decade. Kuldeep pointed out two entrances to the fort – the Ram Pol, frequented by tourists, leading to traffic snarls during peak seasons, and the Suraj Pol, a gate locals have long demanded to be opened but authorities have consistently overlooked.
The fort is gradually succumbing to encroachments. Kuldeep guided us to an elevated area where an unauthorized encroachment by a Dargah is slowly encircling the lower sections of the fort and is gradually expanding over the last 15 to 20 years using thick clusters of trees. Both the Forest Department and local leaders have given protection to the encroachments, failing to save the fort.
Within this fort lies a 600-year-old Vijay Stambh (Victory Tower), now under threat due to nearby cement companies conducting mining activities through blasting, causing visible cracks on this World Heritage stambh. Another issue tarnishing the fort’s historical significance is the consumption of alcohol in specific sections soon after dusk, posing a threat to the safety of tourists who may stumble upon scattered liquor bottles within the fort’s interior.
Families have resided within this fort for generations, and due to its World Heritage status, no construction work is permitted. However, these houses are deteriorating, risking collapse during adverse weather, yet the administration neglects their maintenance, forcing many to risk their lives by continuing to inhabit these deteriorating structures.
The tourism infrastructure linked to the fort, which sustains a considerable portion of the city’s population through employment, lacks adequate development. The absence of decent hotels and other facilities dissuades tourists, ultimately failing to benefit the local economy. The neglect of this historical gem not only endangers its integrity but also jeopardizes the potential economic growth of the area.