Puranigudam Minar, as the locals call it, stands tall in a dusty bylane of Nagaon. Situated inside the Puranigudam Masjid, built in 1824, the turret was about to be demolished to make way for a highway expansion project. But the local residents of Purunigudam, cutting across religious lines, would not let that happen.
In 2015, National Highways Authority of India proposed expanding NH-37 into a four-lane highway. The Minar was in the way of the expansion. A few concerned locals, Hindus and Muslims, approached the district administration with a memorandum to preserve the Minar, but NHAI and public works department said moving it would be difficult. Not giving up, some of them started a crowd-funding initiative. Soon, their campaign caught the attention of an engineering firm based in Haryana.
“We proposed a technique called lifting-and-shifting... We lift the structure from its base, using plate rollers, and move it,” explained Gurdeep Chauhan, the engineer who worked this out. “The base of the Minar has a perimeter of 42 feet, intricately designed. A few accidents have damaged it a little over the year,” he said.
Now, the Minar is being moved 70 feet away from the original site, engaging six labourers. “Initially, we had estimated a budget of Rs.5 lakh. But it has shot up to Rs.8 lakh. So, our firm is chipping in. Almost 60% of the work is done. In another 20 days, we will finish it,” Chauhan further said.
For the locals, this comes as a relief after a long battle. “It has been four years since we took the initiative to preserve the site. The Minar is a symbol of harmony in Nagaon. Through social media, a lot of people are now aware of it and help is coming in from all quarters,” said Chittaranjan Borah, a resident of Puranigudam, who was the first to alert the authorities about the need to preserve the site.