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Future of Assamese Language & Literature

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  4 Feb 2020 6:23 AM GMT

Axam Xahitya Xabha’s newly-elected president and noted litterateur Kuladhar Saikia has called upon all those who love the Assamese language to contribute towards its overall development. The antiquity of the Assamese language, as mentioned by Dr Banikanta Kakati, goes back to the 7th century AD, and had developed out of the Sanskrit language. While ‘Magadhi Apabhramsa’ is said to be its direct ancestor, it was from Prachya Apabhramsa – a language spoken east of Magadhi – which had reached the Brahmaputra valley where it was represented by Assamese. According to Grierson, each of the three descendants of Magadhi Apabhramsa, they being Odiya, Bengali and Assamese, is equally directly connected with the common immediate parent language. Dr Suniti Kumar Chatterji on his part had divided Eastern or Prachya Magadhi Apabhramsa into four dialect groups, of which three are related to the dialects current in western, central and eastern Bengal and Odisha, while the fourth is related to dialects prevalent in Assam and the neighbouring areas which are today in North Bengal. Dr Kakati on his part has clearly shown that in a pre-Bengali and pre-Assamese period, there were certain dialect groups which may be designated as Eastern Magadhi Apabhramsa. Each dialect group, in due course of time, became clearly demarcated, and so Assamese, under the independent and learned kings of Assam, as also because of Assam’s “entirely self-contained” social life, “became established as an independent speech.” There was a time when a powerful lobby had tried to pass Assamese off as an off-shoot – if not a corrupt form – of the Bengali language. Had it not been for the in-depth research and analyses of Dr Chatterji and Dr Kakati, this lobby would have long back wiped out the very position of the Assamese language. The conspiracy to defeat the Assamese, however, is still on. There are groups and individuals who are working overtime to reduce the Assamese-speaking people to a minority in their own state. Dr Birinchi Kumar Barua on his part had described Assamese as a “living and growing language” whose vocabulary, though largely derived from that of Sanskrit, has also borrowed a great number of words from other new Indo-Aryan languages, apart from the different Tibeto-Burman languages, as also from Persian and Arabic, apart from English. While the Assamese language and literature underwent a renaissance in the mid-19th century, the Axam Xahitya Xabha happens to the successor to the Axamiya Bhasha Unnati Xadhini Xabha, which has been working relentlessly towards the development and propagation of the language and its literature in the past century or more. Though the functioning of the Axam Xahitya Xabha has often come under severe criticism, the fact remains that it is an amazing literary organization which has no parallel at least in India insofar as the turnout of masses in its annual – now biennial – conferences are concerned. What, however, has not been scientifically analysed is the exact contribution of the Xabha in absolute terms of publication of books and their readership. This can be gauged by the fact that publishers and book-sellers almost daily complain that people were no longer buying and reading books like before. It is probably important for the Xabha, especially under the new leadership, to conduct a serious, professional and scientific study as to identify the reasons behind why Assamese books are not getting sold. The new AXX president, in his immediate previous avatar as Director-General of Police, had shown excellent leadership. Also, a learned scholar and management expert who is often invited by reputed universities and other institutions across the globe, he could also draw up a research-based action-plan to encourage and motivate the younger generation to read Assamese books. The AXX under Saikia could probably also set aside some fund and prepare a handbook that could help the present generation growing up under the influence of social media, FM radio and English medium education, learn to speak, read and write the Assamese language correctly. Simultaneously, the AXX under Saikia could probably also initiate steps to find out what exactly the people want to read in the Assamese language, apart from making it mandatory for the publishers and book-sellers to function in a professional manner by engaging professional book editors, as well as adhering to the practice of entering into formal contracts with the authors with specific provisions for payment of royalty. What every lover of the Assamese language would probably also expect from the AXX under its new president is a scientific book promotion programme, as also a programme that would take the gems of Assamese literature to different languages of the region, the country and the globe. And, as far as protecting the Assamese language from being overwhelmed because of the passing of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act is concerned, it is the Xabha which should shoulder the responsibility of leading the democratic movement as well as the legal battle.

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