The Axom Xahitya Xabha (AXX) continues to be in a freefall with no end in sight, despite being all set to celebrate its centery with pomp and grandeur. In terms of finces, it seems to be doing quite well with bulging coffers, thanks to a membership drive started under its current president Dr Dhrubajyoti Bora. But the image of this apex literary body is in tatters; lurching from one scandal to the other, it is putting on a disgraceful show by flouting its own constitution, abusing some past presidents, and bodies of officials at odds with each other. In the eye of the storm is Dr Paramanda Rajbongshi, chief general secretary of the Xabha, whose reputation as a dymic organizer has been irredeemably marred by persistent allegations of sleaze and high-handedness in two terms (with another term in between as vice-president). He is presently under a cloud after the suicide of a retired head assistant-cum-accountant at the Xabha’s head office in Jorhat. In his suicide note, this former official while admitting to ‘some mistakes’, had blamed Dr Rajbongshi for ‘misleading’ him. The case, if properly investigated, is said to have the potential of blowing the lid off institutiolized corruption within the Xabha, of rampant misappropriation of lakhs of rupees collected as membership fees and dotions. Just as this controversy was peaking, a group of 22 eminent writers, editors and intellectuals including four former AXX presidents, issued a public appeal for the constitution of a new central executive of the Xabha. They drew the attention of people to how the present central executive gave itself a one-year extension over its two-year term, thereby violating the Xabha constitution — all in the me of conducting the centery celebrations next year smoothly. The Xabha then hit right back, with Dr Rajbongshi accusing the leading lights who made the public appeal, of ‘conspiracy’ to derail the centery celebration efforts!
For people of Assam who yearn for a thriving Assamese language strong enough to face challenges in the 21st century, the endless squabbles and ego clashes in Axom Xahitya Xabha is nothing short of a long-running tragic farce. The comparison of what it once was to what it has now been reduced (if not degraded) into, is especially galling. Established by Padmath Gohain Baruah in 1917, led by giants like Lakshmith Bezbaruah and Krish Kanta Handiqui, the Xabha has been well served by a succession of past presidents and secretaries celebrated for their contributions to Assamese language and literature. But the rot crept in noticeably over the last two decades; as AXX aspired to grow bigger, it also turned badder. Hankering for glamour, hobnobbing with politicians and seeking their patroge, playing power politics with its ugly trappings — have all combined to rob the sheen of the Xabha. Lesser men with little commitment to the cause of ‘Siro senehi mor bhaxa jononi’, now contest its elections, filing nomitions and canvassing for votes, allegedly manipulating and buying votes. And as it fritters off its energies, the AXX is widely perceived to have grown effete, making the occasiol loud noises for implementing the Official Language Act, 1960, but with English taking complete precedence over Assamese in government offices. Meanwhile, Assamese medium schools have kept losing ground, with parents and wards turning their backs to the schools as the medium of instruction. In an age when smaller languages are dying out by the thousand, the AXX has displayed little tact or finesse in taking other literary bodies along in this State, particularly over the question of ‘indigenous people’ last year. Its office-bearers hardly seem to realize that people in the region will hold on to the language only if they are attracted to it, or if they find it useful. It is high time that the Axom Xahitya Xabha takes some time off for introspection, if it is at all to retain any respect among the people, and thereby continuing relevance. It cannot afford to forget that huge grants from the Central and State governments, as well as public dotions, enjoin upon it a responsibility to be transparent and accountable in its dealings. Organizing biennial conferences and going after mega literary projects cannot substitute for continuous efforts to keep the Assamese language alive and kicking on the ground.