Assam Government Forced To Rediscuss Renaming Of Gauhati Medical College

The message, has, hopefully, been sent out loud and clear to the state’s political parties: that the government of the day cannot ride roughshod over people’s sentiments and rename institutions after its leaders. On this occasion, the Congress government in Assam has been forced to reconsider the issue of renaming the Gauhati Medical College Hospital (GMCH) after former President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, following protests by various of the public, including the medical fraternity.Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has now said that he prefers an amicable solution to the problem. Assam Health Minister Dr Bhumidhar Barman has, meanwhile, said that the government would not impose anything arbitrarily and the whole issue would be “rediscussed”, keeping in view the sentiments of the GMCH fraternity.

Agitating organisations of the GMCH---including the Teachers' Association, Junior doctors' Association, Students Union and Trained nurses' Association---alleged that the government’s decision was completely unjustified. “There is no contribution whatsoever by Ahmed in the development of the hospital,” said Sandip Bharali, vice president of the GMCH students’ union.

The government, for example, did not think it fit to propose the name of Dr Bhubaneshwar Barua, considered by many to be in the same league as Dr Bidhan Chandra Roy, as a candidate for renaming the hospital. That the government bungled in its choice is evident from the fact that the state’s people has in the past not protested against such moves so long as the contribution of person under consideration is unparalled. Guwahati, for example has a Rabindra Bhaban, a Jawahar Bhaban, and a Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, while the region’s only international airport has been named after Gopinath Bordoloi, the first prime minister of Assam, who fought for the inclusion of Assam in the Indian Union.

“Instead of changing the name for political reasons the government ought to improve the facilities in the college,” said Kafe Bora , a junior doctor. “GMC has a lot of problems which should be looked into,” he said. The UK-based GMCH alumni association too has criticised the government’s move to rename the GMCH after Ahmed.

While Ahmed has been the only President from the North-east, his contribution to the state has been of hardly any tangible consequence. What has obviously not helped matters is the fact that Ahmed’s wife and Congress leader Abida Begum had, in the face of stiff opposition, contested the 1983 elections in the state. The elections had been boycotted by all political parties barring the Congress and the Leftists. Khargeswar Talukdar, the first student to have died in the state’s anti-foreigner agitation, allegedly lost his life while trying to prevent Begum Abida and her motorcade from getting to the election office where she was to file her nomination papers.

By Debashree Dey Adhikari (