August 7, 2017 2:06:49 am
The Assam government’s decision to set up a number of new model colleges and name them after Jan Sangh leader Deen Dayal Upadhyaya has triggered protests, with the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) and Opposition Congress asking why the colleges should not be named after eminent personalities from the state.
The Sarbananda Sonowal government on Friday issued appointment letters to principals and faculty members of the five colleges — all named Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya Adarsh Mahavidyalaya — which will start functioning from September. State Education Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has said seven more such colleges would be set up. Some of these would be exclusively for girls in minority-dominated areas, Sarma has said.
According to a notification issued by the state higher education department, these colleges are being set up under a scheme with central assistance for educationally-backward districts where the gross enrolment ratio in higher education was less than the national average in 2008-09. The notification also said these colleges would be named after Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyaya, “a great thinker, philosopher, economist and sociologist”.
The five colleges that will start functioning from next month have been set up at Amjonga in Goalpara district, Dalgaon (Darrang), Bihali (Biswanath), Iraligol (Karimganj) and Tulungia (Bongaigaon). While the colleges at Amjonga, Dalgaon, Bihali and Iraligol would have the science stream and 200 seats each in the higher secondary and first-year degree classes, the one in Tulungia will be a commerce college with 150 seats each for two classes.
Slamming the government’s move, AASU chief advisor Samujjal Bhattacharyya said it was gross injustice to the eminent personalities of Assam who had contributed immensely towards education and social uplift.
“We have no issue if one or two colleges are named after Deen Dayal Upadhyaya. We do not disrespect him. But naming all new model colleges after him is definitely disrespecting eminent personalities from Assam whose contribution towards nation building was no less than that of Upadhyaya,” Bhattacharyya said.
The AASU advisor said some of these model colleges could be named after personalities such as Sahityarathi Lakhsminath Bezbaroa, Padmanath Gohain Baruah, Gopinath Bordoloi, Bhimbor Deuri, Moidul Islam Bora, Krishna Kanta Handique and Sitanath Brahma-Choudhury. “This government should remember that it came to power on the promise to protect jaati-maati-bheti (identity, land and homes),” he added.
The Congress described the decision to name the colleges after Upadhyaya “a stark declaration of unabashed cultural imperialism”. Debabrata Saikia, Leader of Opposition in Assembly, said Upadhyaya did not take part in the freedom movement and was associated with a “divisive agenda”.
“Upadhyaya took no part in the freedom struggle, nor did he believe in the concept of a multi-religious and multi-cultural India. Assam, on the other hand, has always been a shining example of unity in diversity. Sarma is making a mockery of the Assamese ethos by foisting the name of a person associated with a divisive agenda on centres of higher education,” Saikia said in a statement.
“Some of the colleges should be named after Swargadeo Sukapha, the founder of the Ahom kingdom, the first ICS officer Anundoram Borooah, cultural doyen Jyotiprasad Agarwala, literary figure Lakshminath Bezbaroa, first Assamese high court judge Haliram Deka, and of course, Bhupen Hazarika,” Saikia said. He also suggested that the colleges exclusively for girls be named after the first Assamese woman graduate Sukhalata Duwara and first Assamese woman doctor Rajaniprabha Saikia.
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