Last month, Delhi packed its tales from the past and sealed them in a dossier. Pictures capturing the centuries-old structures — palaces, gardens, domes and towers — were tied together to be sent to UNESCO in the quest for a World Heritage City status. But the file was not sent. Instead, the Ministry of Culture and the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) created a new body, the World Heritage Advisory Committee, which is now reviewing the dossier and hoping to send it in February 2013.
Delhi has been vying for this status for almost four years now. Its 155 national monuments and over a thousand culturally rich places make it an apt candidate for the coveted status. Yet, the Capital is languishing in the tentative nomination list alongside a new candidate, Ahmedabad.
For several historians and authors, India is an enchanting muse. Its history works in layers. Delhi is said to have nine lives — dynasties came and went and left a mark on the city. Kolkata is famous for its cultural vibrancy — Jews, Armenians, Muslims, Hindus and Chinese occupy their spaces, Jaipur and Ahmedabad impress with their forts while Mumbai’s colonial and Hyderabad’s Mughal influences give them a romantic nature. Yet, when one searches for the name of an Indian city in the list of over 200 World Heritage Cities, one draws a blank.
A World Heritage Status translates into greater tourist inflow and knowledge exchange, among other benefits . Every year, countries are invited to send two nominations for the World Heritage Status. Countries fill the necessary forms and, on that basis, UNESCO prepares a tentative list. Countries on the tentative list become very active around February. This is when they send a dossier with all details that can push their case. Four cities were awarded the status in the last two years. These are the twin cities of Melaka and Georgetown in Malaysia, and Mantua and Sabbioneta in Italy.
In July 2011, INTACH compiled the nomination dossier and submitted it to ASI for review. Unfortunately, the review process was halted because of the constitution of the World Heritage Advisory Committee,