Ever since news broke that the Centre’s ‘Adopta-a-Heritage’ scheme to hand over monuments to private companies included four sites from Assam (three Ahom-era monuments: Sivsagar district’s Rang Ghar, Kareng Ghar and Siva Dol, and the Kaziranga National Park) various bodies have been staging protests across the state. On Friday morning, the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) group led by Akhil Gogoi staged a protest at the Kohora Gate of the Kaziranga National Park. “If any private company tries to come into Kaziranga, our Assamese people will unite to chase them out of here,” he said.
The ‘Monument mitra’ for the four sites is reportedly Guwahati-based private travel firm Jungle Travels India Group (JTI). The company, in a press conference on Friday, stated that they have only expressed interest in the same, and the official decision is still pending. They also stated that in their proposal to the government, they suggested development of tourism facilities only outside the main site areas, not the core.
According to the ‘Adopt-a-Heritage’ proposal formulated in September 2017, monuments, heritage and tourist sites across India will be “adopted” by corporate entities, public sector companies or individuals for a period of five years to develop them.
“Private companies will not realise the value of our heritage monuments,” said Lurin Jyoti Gogoi, General Secretary, All Assam Students’ Union (AASU). “Assam has immense potential in the tourism industry, so the Assam economy should actually be benefiting from it. Meanwhile, a private company will only work for their profit.” The AASU, the Asom Jatiyata Yuva Chatra Parishad (AJYCP), and the All Tai Ahom Students Union (ATASU) also staged protests in Jorhat, Tinsukia and Sivasagar over Wednesday and Thursday.
In response, the State Government however clarified on Wednesday that the private company will only “maintain” facilities such as toilets, cafeteria, security etc. In a press conference State BJP chief Ranjeet Kumar Dass said that there is “a communication gap” between the government and those protesting and that the scheme will tie-up with the private parties for developing tourist amenities around the site, and not the “core” areas of the site itself.
The protesting groups have been called by the government for a meeting in Guwahati on Saturday at 5 pm to discuss the matter. “These places are our identities,” said Lurin Jyoti Gogoi, “We will never accept this move by the government, we will keep protesting.”