| Majuli island |
Jorhat, Sept. 3: An agency set up to protect Majuli has initiated a parallel effort to get the coveted World Heritage Site tag for the island.
The Majuli Cultural Landscape Management Authority, set up under the Majuli Cultural Landscape Region Act 2006, has proposed to seek the status for Majuli under Unesco’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity category without withdrawing the earlier one under the cultural landscape category, which is tangible.
The authority, which has the Assam chief secretary as its chairman, the cultural affairs principal secretary as its vice-chairman and upper Assam commissioner as the chief executive officer, was set up to protect the river island from floods and erosion and develop and preserve its unique identity.
The chief executive officer of the authority, Syed Iftikar Hussain, who is also the upper Assam commissioner, has urged Dispur to send the new proposal to the World Heritage Committee, saying that the Brahmaputra island has a greater chance of being granted the heritage site status in this category.
Hussain told The Telegraph today that he had written to state principal secretary (cultural affairs) Kumar Sanjay Krishna on September 1, saying that ASI director-general J. Sharma had asked him to make a fresh attempt in the new category during a meeting of the advisory sub-committee of World Heritage matters in New Delhi recently. The sub-committee was constituted by the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) to look into the preparation of a revised dossier on Majuli.
Quoting Sharma, Hussain said the chances for getting the global tag for the island, which has a multifaceted culture with various components of dance, music, songs and art, seemed brighter in this category. The world heritage site status has eluded the island so far despite several attempts.
Unesco had decided to include the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity category in its convention held in Paris on October 17, 2003. It defined the category as “traditions or living expressions inherited from our ancestors and passed on to our descendants, such as oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals, festive events, knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe or the knowledge and skills to produce traditional crafts.”
“Intangible cultural heritage does not only represent inherited traditions from the past but also contemporary rural and urban practices in which diverse cultural groups take part,” the convention said.
Hussain said since 2008, seven Indian dance and songs have been included in the World Heritage Site list under the intangible cultural heritage category. These include Ramlila, the traditional performance of the Ramayan, kutiyattam (a Sanskrit theatre form), chhau (a traditional martial dance of Odisha, West Bengal and Jharkhand), Ramman (a religious festival and ritual theatre of Garhwal Himalayas), kalbelia (a folk dance of Rajasthan), mudiyettu (ritual theatre and dance of Kerala) and Vedic chanting.
He said the proposed new initiative would be an addition to the current effort to get Majuli enlisted in the World Heritage List according to the 1972 Unesco convention in the tangible category. He said he had urged the government to constitute an expert committee to examine the suggestion.
Hussain’s letter mentions that if the government approves the proposal then the task of preparation of the dossier should be entrusted to the Authority.