GUWAHATI: The country got its first river island district on Thursday when Majuli, the world’s largest sweet water island, located in Assam, was upgraded from a sub-division to the state’s 35th district.
The decision to elevate Majuli to a full-fledged district was taken in June at the first Cabinet meeting of the Sarbananda Sonowal government. The island, perched on the confluence of Brahmaputra and Subansiri rivers, was declared the world’s largest river island by the Guinness Book of World Records a few days ago.
The island’s elevation to a district on Thursday coincided with the 90th birth anniversary of legendary singer-musician Bhupen Hazarika. Sonowal said his government had chosen the day to pay homage to the bard.
The state cabinet, which met for the first time outside Guwahati on the island on Thursday, took a number of decisions towards its protection.
“The biggest threat to the island is erosion. My government will do all that is possible to protect it. As I represent Majuli in the Assembly, my responsibility is more. I know I will constantly be under your scanner but let me inform you that we have taken a series of decisions at the cabinet meeting for the protection and development of the island,”
Sonowal told a crowd of thousands at a function organized to mark the occasion.
“We have plans to make Majuli a tourist hotspot. We are also preparing a very strong dossier to seek Majuli’s inclusion in the list of World Heritage Sites,” he said.
Majuli is the centre of Assam’s neo-Vaishnavite religion and culture and the satras are the Vaishnavite monasteries.
The satras promote the cultural and spiritual movement started by 15th century saint-reformer Srimanta Sankardeva.
During Bhupen Hazarika’s tenure (1998-2003) as the chairman of Sangeet Natak Akademi, the sattriya dance was recognized as an Indian classical dance form.
The floods and erosion have hit the island hard over the past many decades, shrinking its size from 1246 sq km in 1853 to 650 sq km now, and bringing down the number of satras from 65 to 32.
“If we fail to protect Majuli, we’ll lose our cultural identity. We’ve also decided to build a cultural university in Majuli,” Sonowal had said in his address.