Rescind Assembly decision on Asom

For the purpose of changing the name of the state, they also advised the Chief Minister to set up an advisory commission with eminent citizens, academicians, historians, linguists, literary figures and the like and the members of the Assamese Diaspora, to have a transparent debate on the issue with public participation.

In their petition to the Chief Minister, these persons identified themselves as ‘friends and well wishers of Assam living in and outside the State and country. They have also forwarded the copies of the petition to the President and Prime Minister of the country.

In their petition, they have stated that the December 15, 2006 resolution of the State Assembly was not supported by any argument or reason, nor any debate was allowed despite requests from the opposition.

They expressed their shock at the decision of the Assembly and registered their strong opposition to ‘this entirely unwarranted and undemocratic move on the part of the State Legislature.

For, the State’s name is not something for changing in as casual a fashion as it has been done, without a thorough and informed public discussion and debate. It has never a mandate of the people.

Moreover, the Legislature did not give a credible set of reasons for the change from the internationally well-recognised name ‘Assam’ to ‘Asom’. In these days of globalisation, to dilute and muddy Assam’s international name recognition is entirely counterproductive, argue the professionals.

They have also argued that there is clear historical evidence that the British did not introduce the name ‘Assam’. It was in use long before the British signed the Treaty of Yandaboo on February 24, 1826. The Britishers also used the word ‘Assam’ in the treaty.

Even from the Ahom Buranjis, it is found that the Mughals also used the name ‘Ashyam’ for the State. The same is also evident from various historical documents of the Mughal period and the Dutch chronicles of the pre-British era.

In the Persian publications of the Mughal period, like the Akbarnama (1542-1605), Pashah-Namah (1627-1647), Alamgir-Namah (1657-1667) and Tarikh –I Mulk-I Asham, the name Asham is mentioned. On the other hand, the name Asom is not found anywhere in the pre-British period, argue the professionals.

In the map of the Kingdom Bengale (Kingdom of Bengal), drawn by a Dutchman named John van Leenen, who was in Bengale in 1661, also recorded the name ‘Assam.’ The map was published around 1662 and currently preserved in the Maritime Museum, Rotterdam.

In a letter sent by Joan Mertsuyker, Governor General of Dutch Batavia on August 29, 1663, he addressed Mirjumala as ‘General veldheer van den Grooten Mogol in Assam, Bengale’ etc.

There is also a diary of a Dutchman published in 1675, which mentions the name of Assam and described its people as ‘Assamer’. The Dutchman fought alongside the army of Mirjumala in 1662. These are some of the written historical records of the existence of the spelling ‘Assam’ for the name of the State long before the advent of the British to it, claim the professionals.

They have also mentioned that according to many historians, the phonetic name ‘Assam’ was derived from the Sanskrit name Shyam, the name of the Shan people who invaded and conquered the State in the 13th century AD. However, according to historian Baden Powel, the word ‘Assam’ might have been derived from even older original Bodo word ‘Ha-som’, meaning low land.

Thus it has been found that the phonetic name ‘Assam’ has been in existence for the past 800 years and has a strong connection with the coming of the Tai-Ahoms to the State, even if the possibility or an earlier Bodo origin of it is ruled out, argue the professionals.

They have also pleaded for protection and promotion of the unique ‘xo’ or ‘kho’ guttural sound of Assamese language as a linguistic heritage. This should not be allowed to be diluted by the ‘so’ sound being introduced through ‘Asom’. They have also argued that the duality of identity of the State as ‘Assam’ in English and ‘Oxom’ in Assamese would not rob or dilute the State’s unique cultural, linguistic and ethnic heritage. Even India has two identities – India in English and Bharat in Indian languages. Similarly, the English name of Pachim Bongo is West Bengal.

On behalf of the professionals Rajen Barua of Texas, USA signed the petition. The list of the professionals has also been enclosed with the petition.

- The Assam Tribune