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NE sites on Unesco list

- Sualkuchi, maidams of Assam shortlisted for heritage status

New Delhi, April 19: The Apatani cultural landscape in Ziro Valley and Thembang Dzong, a fortified village near Bomdila, are lined up for a place on Unesco’s World Heritage list, along with 20 other properties. The maidams, or burial grounds of the Ahom dynasty, and Sualkuchi, the weavers’ village in Assam, are also on the list.

The Apatani tribe has made it to the list for its unique agricultural technique which involves optimum land use.

The farmers not only rear fish in paddy fields but also grow millet on the bunds (partitions) between the rice plots.

There is efficient conservation of crucial watersheds, ensuring perennial streams flowing into the valley to meet the needs of the people.

The tribe also has an effective traditional village council called bulyan, which maintains law and order.

Unlike the modern policing technique of instilling fear of law to prevent crime, the bulyan appeals to the conscience of each member to prevent crime.

“However, at present, the power of the council is considerably diminishing,” said Tage Taada, the director (research), Arunachal Pradesh government, said.

The second property to make it to the list is the fortified village of Thembang Dzong, a settlement of the Monpa tribe in West Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh, spread across 3.2 acres.

The entire village is fortified with two gates in the north and south, which are extensively decorated with verses from religious manuscripts.

The dzong (fort) has ancient and historical structures and is inhabited by 42 households of the Dirkhipa clan. The residents are practitioners of Buddhism.

Moreover, none of them individually own any property inside the village. It is controlled by the local panchayat.

“Of late, the fortifications are breaking down at places and need repairs,” Taada said.

According to Unesco’s requirement, every decade the member nations have to revise their tentative or the long list. This exercise had been pending since 1998 for India.

“We had been sending proposals at the last moment for the tentative list, depending on the political push and initiative of different state governments. This is the first time a comprehensive pan-India list has been formulated,” Shikha Jain, member secretary of the advisory committee on World Heritage, said.

The 22 properties have made it to the list after extensive competition among the states.

“We had conducted six zonal workshops across India to sensitise the state governments, at the end of which we got 238 proposals. We picked up 55 of these, but many municipal bodies were either not inclined or equipped to complete the documentation,” Jain said.

Finally, 22 proposals were forwarded to Unesco.

The culture ministry, which is the nodal body for forwarding this list, shifted its focus from monuments to capturing the cultural spirit.

The list has interesting serial nominations such as the saree-weaving clusters of India.

Four saree-weaving techniques of India — Chanderi of Madhya Pradesh, Sualkuchi silk of Assam, Paithani of Maharashtra and Pochampalli of Telengana — have been documented.

The culture ministry also wanted the list to showcase India’s freedom struggle.

Hence, all sites related to Mahatma Gandhi’s Satyagraha movement have been chronicled in the proposal along with the four ashrams established by him. These include Kochrab in Ahmedabad, Sabarmati, Sevagram in Wardha and Khadi Pratish-than at Sodepur, Calcutta.

All other political sites spread out in Gujarat, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh and New Delhi have also been documented.

Incidentally, Santiniketan, which did not get World Heritage status though it has been part of the tentative list since 2010, is now a part of the Satyagraha sites.


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