Majuli keeps dream alive


Dakshinpat Xatra is a well-known Vaishnavite socio-religious institution in Majuli

Guwahati, May 18: Try and fail, but never fail to try. In keeping with Jared Leto’s maxim, Assam is going to make a third attempt at securing the coveted Unesco World Heritage Site tag for Majuli.

The nomination dossier on Majuli island, prepared by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), was first submitted to Unesco in 2006 for consideration of the World Heritage Committee but it found the dossier information insufficient and returned the proposal, seeking additional details on the island.

The second attempt was made in 2008 but again the committee decided that the dossier would have to be reworked by explaining how the xatras define the “outstanding universal values”.

An official source said the Sonowal government, after coming to power last year, decided to re-nominate Majuli for the World Heritage Site tag by tying up the loose ends to avoid a repeat of past rejections.

“The issue came up for discussion during a meeting between Union minister of state for tourism and culture Mahesh Sharma and Sonowal during former’s recent visit to the state. It was decided that the state cultural affairs department would prepare a revised dossier by adhering to all the points and filling up the gaps identified by the World Heritage Committee in 2008,” the source said. Sharma has assured Sonowal of all possible help from the Centre and the ASI in preparing the dossier.

Spread over 880 square km on the Brahmaputra, Majuli claims to be the world’s largest inhabited freshwater river island. It is also an important seat of Vaishnavite culture. The Majuli Assembly constituency is currently represented by chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal.

The source said the cultural affairs department has started the process of selecting a consultant to prepare the revised dossier. Preparation of the dossier is likely to take about a couple of years. It will be prepared after analysing the information presented in the previous dossiers and other reference documents and in consultation with key stakeholders.

The dossier holds the key because it is the primary basis on which the committee considers the proposal for including a site in the World Heritage List.

“Therefore, maximum stress will be given on preparing a flawless dossier by including all relevant information and it will be cross-referenced to the source of information. For this purpose, it will be pertinent to select a reputed and competent consultant and experts for doing the job properly,” the source said.

A comptroller and auditor-general report of 2013 had held shoddy proposals prepared by consultants hired by the ASI responsible for the failure of Majuli in getting the World Heritage tag. It also lashed out at the ASI for hiring consultants at an exorbitant rate to help obtain the tag for Majuli.

By Pankaj Sarma