Ajit Patowary GUWAHATI, June 11 - The movement to develop Guwahati into an urban area with a municipal body to run its civic affairs completed 166 years today. On June 11, 1852, 113 residents of Guwahati made a plea, through a memorandum, to the then colonial administration of the East India Company for developing Guwahati into a municipal town under the Bengal Act XXV. But, the indolence of the Guwahatians has reached such a state that they are not bothered to remember this historic event, which paved the way for development of Guwahati into a city today, said Mosaddar Hussain. Hussain is a social activist, who is connected with the initiatives to keep the memory of the said historic move alive for the past over one-and-a-half decades.
Photo source: Internet
It needs mention here that following the 1852 plea of the 113 Guwahatians, the first municipality of the NE region was formed in Guwahati with the appointment of three East India Company officers – Captain Rowlat, James Herriot and CK Hudson – in AD 1853. When one of the East India Company officers – James Herriot – retired from this civic body, election was held to elect one local person to the body in 1858. To fill up this post, two persons, Gargaram Borooah of North Guwahati and Munchi Kefayat Ullah of Machkhowa, offered their candidature. Both secured 474 votes each and the East India Company inducted both of them as the members of the civic body.
Gargaram Borooah was the father of renowned Sanskrit scholar and the first ICS from Assam, Pandit Anundoram Borooah. Both Gargaram Borooah and Kefayat Ullah were district magistrates under the East India Company. Ullah had set up the Machkhowa MV School in AD 1870, which was the second school of Guwahati. It was initially named Kefayat Ullah Sanskrit-Parsi School. Deshabhakta Tarun Ram Phukan, Kamakhyaram Barooah, Sir Syed Sadullah were its alumni.
In 2002, the then Deputy Commissioner of Kamrup AK Absar Hazarika was requested to celebrate the 150 years of the movement. Absar Hazarika responded to the request with a very positive approach and took up the issue with the then State Government Minister Pankaj Bora. But, reportedly, Hazarika failed to receive any encouraging gesture from the Minister.
Hazarika then approached Kumudeswar Hazarika, Amulya Kakati and Mossaddar Hussain with a request to keep on the drive to celebrate the 150 years of Guwahati’s civic movement.
As part of the drive, historian Dipankar Banerjee undertook a venture to publish a compilation of the sketches of the buildings and memorials of Guwahati which have the historical significance. The then Prime Minister of the country Dr Manmohan Singh was requested to release this compilation. According to information, Dr Singh also gave his consent to release it.
Efforts were also made to hold an exhibition of the sketches of some select places of old Guwahati. The Gauhati Artists’ Guild was contacted for the purpose. The Guild displayed much enthusiasm in this respect and undertook a research on the settings of the main areas of Guwahati in the 50-year period from AD 1850 to 1900 and prepared some draft sketches of the locales of these areas during the said period. Artist Aminul Haque drew a beautiful sketch of the bungalow built by Deshabhakta Tarun Ram Phukan at Bharalumukh, keeping the Brahmaputra in its foreground.
But, the entire drive to celebrate the 150th year of the civic movement of Guwahati came to a sudden halt for some unknown reasons.
The Pragjyoti Sanaskritik Samaj, a leading socio-cultural organisation of the city, had been celebrating June 11 every year as the Nagarik Divas since June 11, 2006, highlighting the problems faced by the city and also to generate awareness among its denizens on the heritage structures of their city, among others.
The Samaj had been organising popular lectures, seminars, etc, for the purpose. But, due to the lack of initiative on the part of the people, the Nagarik Divas could not be organised this year, regretted Mossaddar Hussain, one of the main organisers of the Divas.