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Controversy over Gamocha GI tag: consensus needed

By Ajit Patowary

GUWAHATI, Sept 9 - There seems to be an unsavoury controversy raging over the issue of securing Geographical Indication (GI) Registration for the Assamese Gamocha. Perhaps, the controversy is not going to help its cause, if a consensus is not evolved on the issue by the Assamese society as a whole.

The first application for GI registration of Assamese Gamocha was filed by the Institute of Handicraft Development (IHD), Dhodang (Lawbhoga), Baruabamungaon, Golaghat district in October, 2017. It was provided technical support by the Assam Agricultural University (AAU), Jorhat. The initial application filed by the IHD sought the GI tag for �Phulam Gamosa.� This application was ascribed the number 594 by the GI Registry.

The second application for the purpose was filed by the State�s Handloom and Textiles Directorate, with technical support from the Patent Information Centre (PIC) of the Assam Science Technology and Environment Council (ASTEC), on December 27, 2019. It sought the GI Registration tag for seven types of �Assamese Gamocha.� It was ascribed the number 682 by the GI Registry.

The Handloom and Textiles Directorate raised six points while objecting to the IHD application, and it suggested that the word �Assam� or �Assamese� should be considered for Gamocha�s GI Registration. This is needed for better identification of the specific geographical area and the people connected with it. Moreover, the GI Logo should also bear the name �Assamese Gamocha� in English and Hindi as well, besides Assamese, for better enforcement of the GI Registration.

The IHD stated that Gamocha should be accorded GI Registration under �class 25� meant for clothing. But the Handloom Directorate said since Gamocha is used as bath towel and a towel to absorb water/sweat from hand or face, it should be covered also under �class 24� meant for towels. Again, the IHD had not mentioned the Gosain Gamocha used in the temples, naamghars, etc. The Handloom Directorate said that Gosain Gamocha should also be covered under the GI tag.

On the IHD-submitted map, the Handloom Directorate said that the AAU Director of Research (Agriculture) certified it. But he is not competent to do so. Moreover, the map showed the State�s 28 districts, leaving aside the rest of its total 33 districts. The neighbouring states are also not �visible� in it. The Assam Remote Sensing Application Centre, to which it has been attributed, has not certified the map.

The IHD producers� list covered only 100 producers of Golaghat and Jorhat districts, who are registered with it. The Handloom Directorate said GI tag should cover producers from all over Assam who number over 12 lakh.

According to the Handloom Directorate, evidences of Gamocha�s use in Pragjyotishpura or Kamrupa Kingdom, a part of which is now known as Assam, are found since the pre-historic days, when it was ruled by Narakasura. This is learnt specially from a painting in the Bhagavata Purana. It depicted a scene of the battle between Lord Krishna and Narakasura, where each of the warriors of Narakasura�s army used Gamocha having the unique Assamese motif, on his waist, as a belt or tongali.

Today, Gamocha, besides being a towel, is inalienably linked with the Assamese socio-cultural, socio-religious and day-to-day life. Its GI Registration should not remain a mere certificate. It should rather be a responsibility. It should be used for the uplift of lakhs of its �authorised users� by shielding them against all odds. Therefore, a thorough knowledge about its producers, total production, turnover, market, export and import potentials, etc., should be linked with its GI registration process, maintained the Handloom and Textiles Director Kabita Deka.

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