Asom Sahitya Sabha: something wrong in the state of Denmark

But one thing remains clear that there is something wrong in the state of Denmark. Worse has yet to come if what is happening inside the Sabha is any indication. The glory and grandeur attained and retained by Padmanath Gohain Baruah, Laxminath Bezbaruah, Krishna Kanta Hondiqui et al are now just water under the bridge. Much water has flown down the Brahmaputra. Crass politics, craven political leaders backed by wannabe litterateurs now gatecrash the Sabha only to make a humungous dent in it. And its achievements? Much ado about nothing.

Nothing underscores this more painfully than the succession of a series of “shameful happenings” that is making the Sabha more a morass and less a state’s largest literary organisation to lead Assam and the Assamese to the acme of glory. Caught in the filthy morass the more it is trying to get out of the blues the deeper it is sinking into it.

Every activity of the Sabha often simmers discontent and even runs into a hail of protest not to speak of a great deal of brouahahas both inside and outside the organisation once vowed to play the first violin to let Assamese language go global. Courtesy the Sabha’s top talents. Let me explain. Look at how the Gnyanpith awardee Dr Indira Goswami has been sidelined in the name of a democratic process for electing its head. I have had no occasion to begrudge neither sabha’s so-called democratic system and nor the newly elected president Dr Biren Dutta. It has every right to do so but we are not happy with what the Sabha heavyweights say in a bid to make an end to the controversy.

Crossing a step further, a section of Sabha leaders tarred her with “alien” because she stays in New Delhi and works with Delhi University. Does it behove for a state’s largest and prestigious literary organisation with a renowned litterateur and the “real master of Assamese prose literature” in its helm? Did Dr Goswami really say she will find it difficult to run the Sabha from New Delhi? These are Sabha leaders who are shouldering responsibilities to uplift our language and literature. This led the Delhi University professor to publicly vent anger against the Sabha. Will the Sabha leaders come out to make it plain what wrong goes with Dr Goswami?

Similar things have been running in the case of the election for the post of secretary general also although the Sabha leaders have yet to come to clarify these which indirectly says actually all is not well with the Sabha. Dissidence, therefore, is simmering in the organisation. Who is to be blamed for it? Are not the Sabha leaders responsible for these course of action?

Now objection my honourable leaders! Why this farce in the name of election for presidentship. It is a question not only of mine. We have many top talents in the field to rap us for what we are saying. But there are, methinks, some more people to stand by me. To cut a long story to short, it is only for electing the president at their own will. There is not even an iota of suspicion that the entire process is completely for self aggrandisement of a section of so-called litterateurs whose contributions to Assamese language and literature have been doubtful.

Look at how a sexagenarian is elected leaving the octogenarians and septuagenarians in the panel only. Miffed at the practice, renowned litterateurs Chandra Prasad Saikia, Nirupama Borgohain and Lakhyahira Das withdrew their names from the panel but the same did not come to an end. But irony is that Mr Saikia, the same Saikia who once opposed it failed to amend it during his tenure as president.

Of the sabha’s audits and accounts? Less said is better. There is no system to make the accounts and audits public through newspaper advertisements although it involves a crore rupee deal. It collects huge fund from its branches not to speak the support from Dispur. What ever its leaders say, we the people in general accept with a pinch of salt.

Now let me explain what the Sabha yields. To be frank, it confines to hold its sessions amid much fanfare and cultural extravaganza which requires lakhs of rupees. There is din during the sessions and its activities to uplift the language and literature get cold as soon as the session concludes. The sitting president Homen Borgohain, who initiated the process to publish Usha and Banhi and an Assamese encyclopaedia has raised the eyebrows of many a circle who poohpooh the way the president is following. What president Mr Bogohain and his acolytes say are far from being as plain as a pikestaff.

The Sabha virtually remains a mute spectator at a time when mistakes aplenty in the school and college text book. Some rare words are going by. Assamese bade good bye from the Government official orders. The Act to ensure Assamese in the official orders has been lying idle. The language and literature teachings in the school and college level have been in a deplorable state and strangely enough, the Sabha is caught in a vicious controversy regarding the session venue, election of its president, election of its president and its fund affairs. Is not it in a dire straits?

Now what about the forthcoming Lakhimpur session slated for February which is suffering from teething troubles. Till date, the Sabha has yet to settle the venue dispute. Look at how the increasing disunity among the top guns in the organisation led to hold its session both at Gariajan and Petukajan simultaneously. Should it be a matter of controversy?

Controversy was there. But it confined to the foray of politics and political leaders only. Mr Borgohain made an end to it by showing red carpet to the scores of political leaders. And nobody was there to protest it although late chief minister Hiteswar Saikia had to cancel his programme in the face of stiff resistance in the 75th session in Rongpur while maintaining an ostrich like attitude while some other political leaders were sitting in the session.

This is how, the grand literary body is in a morass and the more it is trying to get out of these blues the deeper it is sinking into it. Will it be able to yield to something with these course of action which deserve condemnation? It is everybody’s question what is the raison d’etre of the extravaganza if it really fails to do good for the Assamese and instead generates heat? We are sorry to have said these at a time when Lakhimpur is all abuzz for holding the session in February. The first and foremost duty of the Sabha will be to bring its lost glory back from the people by translating the dreams of the yesteryear doyens into reality. Then and then only, the people will come out to repose faith on it. But will the prisoners of conscience awake?

by Prasanta Baruah
Lachitnagar, Guwahati