- by Dr Monoranjan Bezboruah, Past AANA President
Briefly, (caveat: as I remember it) here is our story:
Affected by the developments back home, in Assam, the Assamese community living in Houston, Texas under the initiative and leadership of Dr. Lohit Datta-Barua had formed a national organization on January 18, 1980 as there was no national organization in North America at the time. So, Assam Association of North America (AANA) was born with Dr. Parul Hazarika as the first president of the organization.
The support to the appeal made to the at-large Assamese community of North America was overwhelming. As suggested by many across this vast continent, a national conference was planned in August of 1980. Many individuals residing in various parts of this country came to Houston for this meeting to discuss as to what we can do. Dr. Lohit Datta-Barua once again took the lead in organizing the meeting. This was the humble beginning of the Annual Assam Convention for the Assamese Diaspora of North America. Dr. Lohit Datta-Barua has been a paid Life Member of AANA for many years. However, recognizing his contributions, the General Body Meeting recently, by acclamation, conferred upon him the Life Membership of AANA. For that 1st convention, many people came from various parts of the country to Houston.Dr. Amiya Das came from Florida, Dr. Atul Sarma from Louisville, Mr. Himen Barthakur from Massachusetts, Mr. Mahendra Baruah from Oregon, Dr. Hirak Patangia from Arkansas, Dr. Monoranjan Bezboruah from Washington, DC, and Mr. Barada and Nandita Sarma from Austin, Texas. The Houston community had about a dozen families – Drs. Deben and Parul Hazarika, Mr. & Mrs. Kalyan and Rani Dutta Choudhury, Dr. Bijon and Roopa Sharma, Mr. Rabin and Anuradha (Jeena) Mahanta, Mr. Rajen and Ajanta Barua, Mr. Manomohan and Bina Hazarika, and a few other families. This first convention was held in a community hall in Mr. and Mrs. Dutta Choudhury’s sub-division. .
As a result of the meeting, we the assembled, decided to keep Assam Association of North America (AANA) to do our social, and if needed, political work. The guiding principle for AANA were (1) to help support the cause of Assam (2) to serve the Assamese community in North America (3) cultural exchange with our adopted homeland and (4) to foster a sense of cultural identity among the younger generation. At the convincing and persuasive deliberation by Dr. Atul Sarma to raise funds and help the Science College in Guwahati, the attendees also decided to form a tax-exempt non-profit organization as the financial wing of AANA, and named it the Assam Foundation of North America (AFNA). As I recall, the model that we talked about was like the B’nai Birth in Washington, DC. We formulated the necessary policies. The initial by Laws of AANA were adopted in 1980 which have gone through some revisions and amendments over the years..
Our By Laws clearly state that henceforth we will have an annual Convention during the July 4th weekend called the Assam Convention, we will have our general body meeting (GBM) during the Convention, a two year termed rotating Executive, regional Chapters, and duly run election every two years. AANA appointed an Ad-hoc Committee consisting of Dr. Atul Sarma (AANA Regional Executive), Dr. Lohit Datta-Barua (AANA General Secretary), and Dr. Monoranjan Bezboruah (an AANA Regional Director) and we submitted a report, which was subsequently approved by AANA Executive Committee, and we were given a go ahead for the AFNA formation. We incorporated AFNA in Kentucky in 1982 – Dr. Atul Sarma, Dr. Hirak Patangia, and Dr. Monoranjan Bezboruah as the three incorporators. Later, we expanded the Board of Directors to five – Dr. Patangia left, Dr. Atul Sarma and I remained, and added Dr. Debojit Barua, Dr. Lohit Datta-Barua and Dr. Bijon Sarma, and applied for and secured the necessary IRS 509(a)(1) and 170(b)(1)(A)(vi) status and the recognition for exemption from income tax under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.
During our Convention, we started publishing the magazine Luitor Pora Mississippi (“LPM”-- I believe Dr. Sanjib Barua of Bard College suggested the name), although initially it was published as “Pravasi”, and also a little collection of writings of our community members titled Enajori, initiated by Dr. Brojen Bordoloi. The host committee used to publish the LPM, but it is believed that 1994 onwards, the Asom Sahitya Sabha, North America (ASSNA), a unit earlier formally established in 1982 as the literary wing of AANA (with its autonomy under the umbrella of the parent organization in Assam) under the leaderships of Dr. Kripanath Borah, Dr. Dilip Dutta, Dr. Brojen Bordoloi, and others to be part of our Convention (where each AANA member is also a member of the ASSNA), was entrusted with the responsibilities of the publication, although AANA pays the cost. (Enajori was discontinued!). And we all three organizations are sponsors of the Convention, AANA our parent organization, AFNA our non-profit wing, and ASSNA, the literary wing. A few of our Conventions have had surpluses and all the Convention surpluses go to AANA or towards future expenses of Assam Convention. Starting our Conventions in rented Church Halls, School Auditoriums, and Community Centers, we have traversed a long way to the present-day Conventions at reputable hotels starting with a low-budget convention held in a hotel in 1987 for the first time.
Our Association has now gathered traction! We have not lost faith in the aspirations that motivated us to form this Association and the Foundation. We remain anchored in the belief that we can do good, albeit in a small, measured ways in keeping with our capabilities and resources. We are proud to recognize our own strengths, achievements, and of course our purposes -- our successful Conventions speak for themselves. Onward we march on!