A platform for positive and constructive discussion on ways of looking at history, architecture, archaeology, and conservation
The first meeting of the Friends of the ASI, an initiative of civil society supported by the ASI, was held on the 25th of April, 5.30–7.00 pm, in the Committee Room of the Central ASI Office, with about 25 like-minded people from diverse backgrounds, including senior functionaries of the ASI. The main issues that featured were:
a) a reiteration of the compelling reasons for forming a group of this nature, and
b) suggestions by various members of the group about the manner in which the objectives of the Friends of the ASI could be met.
The meeting proceeded with each member present introducing themselves, and identifying the areas in which they work, with a few members specifically noting how their background and the context of their work could help the Friends of the ASI.
The following is a summarization of the main suggestions discussed at the meeting, as well as those received earlier through email by invited friends who were unable to attend the first meeting:
1. Forge a connection in the minds of people to bring history and historic sites alive;
2. Establish awareness and induce local individuals and groups to protect and conserve;
3. Bring out and develop the strengths of the ASI related to their core objectives, as an Institution that sets bench marks for the conservation of cultural heritage.
The identified thrust areas to do this are through dissemination of information, and involvement at site, both aimed at all sections of people, but particularly children and school/college students. For this purpose, the key initiatives taken by the Friends of the ASI are visualized as:
a) Planned activities at historic sites – once approximately every 45 days (8 each year), consisting of exhibitions/ talks/opening up of gates/cleaning through public/community service outreach programmes/involvement of experts /excavators, activity sheets/maintaining visitor-book;
b) Publication of small and economical field-guides for visitors to historic sites as well as larger scholarly volumes based on excavations and research carried out by ASI;
c) Establishment of a web presence through a dedicated blog/newsletter, containing information on a) and b), as well as links to relevant existing/forthcoming supporting activities of members of the Friends of the ASI.
d) Formulation of a sustainable format for the Friends of the ASI for over the next year, which can be then taken as an overall guide to be followed at regional levels.
e) Encouraging pro-active schemes with the local populace through RWAs.
It was also clarified that while members of the Friends of the ASI can be members of or affiliated to other bodies, the Friends of the ASI is different from any other existing body, and discussions at meetings must deal specifically with its objectives and concerns. Dr. B.M.Pande, Dr Narayani Gupta, Dr. Gautam Sengupta are seen as senior advisors to this group.
A core team of the following members: B.M.Pande, Narayani Gupta, Janwhij Sharma, B.R.Mani, Sohail Hashmi, Vivek Jindgar, Robinson, and Anisha Shekhar Mukherji, was allocated the task of taking these suggestions forward, with help from Shilpi Rajpal and Jennifer Chowdhary. Anisha was asked to serve as the node for coordinating activities, and to summarize the way forward reached at the end of the discussions of the First meeting to be shared with the rest of the core team. This was to be subsequently sent to all members after any additional inputs from the core team.
The following are the additional allocation of tasks:
B.R. Mani/Janwhij Sharma- Identify portions/extracts from published ASI material that can be uploaded directly; that may need to be rewritten/edited for greater reach.
Sohail Hashmi/Robinson/Narayani Gupta/Anisha Shekhar Mukherji – Help in editorial work/publishing;
Sohail Hashmi/Robinson/Jennifer Chowdhary/Shilpi Rajpal – Help in awareness-building activities at site
Robinson/Vivek Jindgar/Himanshu Verma/ Anisha Shekhar Mukherji – Help in establishing a web presence.
Further, all members may indicate the skills/activities they can contribute, so that this information can be uploaded on the blog.
The meeting ended on a very positive note with the DG extending all co-operation, and the next meeting scheduled for 5.30 pm on 21st May 2012 at Begumpur Mosque/Bijai Mandal.