GUWAHATI, Aug 25 – The Asam Sahitya Sabha today felicitated historian and archaeologist Dr Pratap Chandra Choudhury with the title ‘Sadasya Mahiyan’, the highest honour of the State’s apex literary body. Three other litterateurs – Dr Nalinidhar Bhattacharya, Dr Pramod Chandra Bhattacharya and Dr Amalendu Guha – were honoured with the ‘Sahityacharya’ title at the same function held at the Rabindra Bhavan.
Assam Governor JB Patnaik formally accorded the honours to the four veteran scholars that contained a phulam gamosa, an endi sador, a citation, and a plaque each.
Receiving the honour, Dr Choudhury lamented that Assam’s rich history and heritage were yet to earn their rightful recognition from Indian scholars. “Assam was at the zenith of astrology, art and ayurveda in the ancient days – a fact that Indian scholars are either ignorant of or they seek to trivialize Assam’s accomplishments,” he said.
Bemoaning the lack of publicity of the State’s art, culture and heritage outside as also the absence of work culture among the Assamese, Dr Choudhury said that the Asam Sahitya Sabha could do a better job by setting up Srimanta Sankardev Kala Bhavans (cultural centre) in every State capital of the country.
“There is little awareness about the State’s heritage outside because we have not done enough publicity…our poor work culture is also eating into the vitals of the society, as we are far from economically independent,” he said.
The veteran historian said that it was unfortunate that the national anthem had no reference of Assam or the North-east while the region had always asserted its deep-rooted connections with India since time immemorial.
Governor JB Patnaik, in his speech, dwelt on the richness and the enduring quality of Assamese language and literature, and said that the honour conferred by the Sahitya Sabha on the four scholars was by no means less prestigious than those conferred by Sahitya Akademi, Saraswati Sanman or the Jnanpith.
“Assamese is an ancient language that has flourished throughout the centuries, creating a legacy that is both enriching and enduring,” Patnaik said.
Recalling the contributions of doyens Lakshminath Bezbaruah, Chandra Kumar Agarwala and Hemchandra Goswami who had led a renaissance of Assamese literature at a very critical period, Patnaik said that he was trying to preserve the neglected and dilapidated residence of Bezbaruah at Sambalpur in Orissa.
“I have been in touch with the Orissa Government on the matter for facilitating preservation of Bezbaruah’s residence at Sambalpur with support of the Assam Government,” Patnaik said, adding that the endeavour would further cement the age-old ties between the people of Assam and Orissa.
Calling upon the litterateurs to help resolve the burning disputes of the State, Patnaik said — quoting from American author William Faulkner — that true writers ought to write about life, as it is their privilege to ‘help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honour, and pride and compassion, and pity and sacrifice, which have been the glory of the past.’
Nalinidhar Bhattacharya, in his acceptance speech, stressed the need for creating an environment conducive for further growth and spread of Assamese language and literature. He said that making Assamese compulsory in all English-medium schools was a must to inculcate a sense of love and interest among Assamese children for their mother tongue.
Dr Pramod Chandra Bhattacharya said that the time had come for proper assessment of the immense contribution by the Sahitya Sabha since its inception on the occasion of its ensuing centenary celebrations.
Dr Amalendu Guha’s acceptance speech was read out by his wife Dr Anima Guha as he was absent due to health problems. In his speech, Dr Guha stated that there was an urgent need to resolve the State’s ethnic problems by taking the ethnic communities into confidence and by giving them constitutionally-defined autonomy.
Former Sahitya Sabha president Kanak Sen Deka was the chief guest of the event along with Patnaik. The programme was presided over by Sahitya Sabha president Rong Bong Terang.