Dr. Monoranjan Bezboruah and Dr. Kripanath Borah releasing the 2013 Luitor Pora Mississippi
Paraphrasing what Kripa (Da) Borah, New Jersey, had stated elsewhere,
Detroit conventions have always established significant milestones not only for the Assamese community in North America, but also for Assam and its people in general. Conventions held in Detroit had positively impacted on various significant matters affecting us.
Thirty years ago the Assam convention was in Detroit. At that convention Dr. Dilip Dutta arranged to pay our respects at the burial tomb of Rev. Miles Bronson at Eaton Rapids, near Detroit. The Baptist missionary, along with his colleague Mr. Nathan Brown, saved the Assamese language from extinction. These American Baptist Missionaries, in their efforts to spread Christianity through Conversion, were distributing the Bible written in Bengali among the Assamese communities. The British authorities, Assam’s new rulers, were led to believe that Assamese was nothing more than a “depraved form” of Bengali language, thus everywhere Bengali was imposed as the medium. As these American Baptist Missionaries realized that Assamese people had to be given the Bible written in their own language –the Assamese—they began working in restoring our language. They did a yeoman’s job! They published the first Assamese journal Orunudoi, and the first grammar known as the grammatical notes of the Assamese language. If those American Baptist missionaries would not have done it there would have been no Assamese language to speak of and no Assam Conventions today! We are eternally grateful to them for their work.
At the same Convention thirty years ago, the first Branch of the Assam Sahitya Sabha was established. A letter was produced from the then General Secretary of Assam Sahitya Sabha (of Assam) under the Presidentship of Dr. Birendranath Bhattacharya, recognizing the first Branch of the Assam Sahitya Sabha outside of Assam. Thereafter, and that too only many years later, the Assam Sahitya Sabha branches in New Delhi and in the United Kingdom were established. ASSNA is the Eldest Child of the Assam Sahitya Sabha!
Again, at the Detroit Convention the first journal Prabashi was established under the joint editorship of Mrs. Ruma Baruah and the Late Rita Dutta. This journal was renamed in 1984 at the Assam Convention in New Jersey as Luitor Pora Missisippi -- as the name suggests the bond between Assam and North America.
The present Convention (the 34th Assam Convention) has its own significant milestones. All the programs established their own excellence, particularly the Cultural Program. It established a unique future direction -- indeed, the Program presented a vision for the Future! To state in our Assamese, it would read like - Eta bishista dish nirnoi kori dishe aaru tar digantar chawni dekhuwale.
In addition to that, a dictionary of the Brajawali language created by the Vaisnavite Saint Sri Sri Shakardev was inaugurated. For over five hundred years the language did not have a dictionary, like the English Oxford Dictionary. The present Brajawali dictionary meets that challenge. This is a gift to Assam and the Assamese people wherever they are. (Sidebar: Kripa Da and his family financed the publication of this Dictionary. We thank them for their gift.)
The ASSNA also faced various inquiries into its alleged support for the effort to “Romanize” Assamese script! Again, to paraphrase what my good friend Hiren Sarma has written in his recent e-mail (cc: to me): Several members of ASSNA expressed concern about the recent use of the letter “X” by many to express words like Asom or Assam. Writing “Axom” and using “X” for pronouncing similar words seem to have been creating confusion in many circles. Young children learning/reading Assamese pronounce “X” as “Kh” which is distorting meanings of the words. It was not clear how and to what extent this is being officially used in Assam (i.e., Asom Sahitya Sabha, Assam Government etc.)
The ASSNA GBM in Detroit felt that ASSNA should review this issue/subject in details and prepare a Position Paper to express its views and provide pertinent recommendations, where needed.
The ASSNA GBM, in Detroit, thus instituted an Ad Hoc Committee, with the following members and asked it to work on the Position Paper. The members of this Ad Hoc Committee are: Kripa Borah, Atul Sarma, Rathin Devchoudhury, Debabrata Sarma, Geeti Das, Dina Ahmed, and Hiren Sarma. The GBM entrusted Hiren Sarma with the responsibilities of being the Coordinator of this Ad Hoc Committee.
Again, as Hiren Sarma notes, the following points were considered:
A) The review should be carried out with an “open” mind, without any preconceived position;
B) Understand how the use of the letter “X” originated, and the justification provided for this;
C) Had there been sufficient discussion on this subject in Assam as well as Abroad, and how these discussions, if any, ended;
D) What level of support is there for using “X”, and in which circles this support rests;
E) Ensure that the discussion takes place with a number of prominent persons (both in Literary and Government circles), both proponents and opponents for this use.
F) If the use of “X” is not the right choice, what is the recommendation with proper justification;
G) Other issues, if deemed pertinent
The Committee is already at work with its assignment. Work Plan is being worked on!
AANA members desiring to put any input can call any of these members, their phone numbers are on our Directory. As I understand, many of these stellar individuals have already had considered some of the pertinent issues involved, and our members can call on any for suggested readings. I know Drs. Debabrata Sarma and Atul Sarma had written on this matter, their writings can give us valuable insight. This issue will hopefully be a major discussion during our next GBM as part of the 35th Assam Convention.
The Detroit Convention organizers are responsible for all these significant milestones not only for the community here, but also for Assam and the people of Assam. Again, we thank each of them for his/her service and contribution to our community. It is oft repeated, but true-- Together We Can!
ASSNA President, 2011-2013