NGO Series: Gumin Rego Kilaju

Heritage Conservation in Basar

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March 6, 2017

/ By / Kolkata

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The villages of Basar are facing a threat in conserving their traditions and culture

The villages of Basar are facing the challenge of conserving their traditions and culture

Gumin Rego Kilaju (GRK), in Arunachal Pradesh, a north-eastern state of India, is working for preservation of community spirit and sustainable living through various activities.

GRK, a not for profit organisation based in Basar, in the northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, addresses in its small space a crucial contradiction of the present condition of human society – the alienation of community spirit and values as part of the ongoing developmental process. An organisation that was formed around five years ago, by community members from the region, some of whom presently inhabit cities such as Itanagar, the capital of Arunachal Pradesh, GRK has a strong vision.

Jumdak Basar, among the key members of the organisation and a local youth leader, stated, “Basar is a place of rich heritage and culture. We are hoping to keep this intact in the face of a changing social sphere of the world.” Hemka Basar, a member of the organising committee for the recently held Basar Confluence and also a key member of GRK, explained, “We have initiated a few activities and programmes in the villages, such as Gori, that have been quite successful. Among them were a cleanliness drive, with installation of dustbins at every corner, making villagers understand a civic sense of waste management.” He added that awareness and educational activities were also crucial to GRK’s operations, with a focus on promotion of education and initiatives such as responsibility for domesticated animals helping bring some changes in the community.

Doni Riba, a consultant for GRK, stated, “GRK literally translates to ‘let us grow together’. Basically, we want to say that true development can happen only through the community model. We have also introduced new initiatives like the Basar Confluence to bring in a way to preserve traditions while attracting visitors.” Adding to the philosophy behind the organisation, Riba explained, “We are also looking at promoting Basar as a tourist destination to help in improving economic conditions of the local inhabitants. Organising activities such as visits to the forests, considered sacred by locals, hiking to the mountain and bird watching are some of the things that can be done.”

Changing times

Perhaps, the most important aspect of GRK’s work can be seen in their efforts to preserve the harmonious sense of community and rich heritage of the Galo tribes that have inhabited this place. “From the 23 or so major tribes of Arunachal Pradesh, the Galo people are the prominent ones. Our beliefs, traditions and customs are very respectful of nature and we, as people, have always been hospitable,” stated Gummar Basar, while outlining the major social context around the Donyi-Polo or sun and moon animist beliefs that the people of Basar abide by.

Previously made entirely of bamboo, huts in Basar are taking to the use of tin and other materials

Previously made entirely of bamboo, huts in Basar are taking to the use of tin and other material

Visitors to Basar have agreed with GRK’s vision, reflecting on why the organisation’s aim of sustaining heritage is so important. Poet and founder of Poetry Couture, Raghavendra Madhu, on an artist residency in Basar was inspired to outline the changing face of the practices of the region, facing a direct threat of dying out. Contrasting the self-sustaining practices of the Galo with the urban world, Madhu, in an excerpt from his poem, Basar, encapsulated the challenge GRK are dealing with. Madhu muses, “Toku patta (palm leaf) roofs last for fifteen years; bamboo floors shine longer. All you need is food to be cooked for villagers helping to build the house. Bamboos are known to survive the atomic blast of Hiroshima. Who needs cement?”

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