Something that has shaken up the entire State is a suicide in the office premises of the Asam Sahitya Sabha at Jorhat on Wednesday morning. The body of Rajendra th Dutta, former head assistant-cum-accountant at the Sabha’s head office in Jorhat, was found hanging from a concrete post on the first floor of the Radhakanta Handique Bhawan, with the legs tied, around 10:30 a.m. by his brother Jogen Dutta, who works for the Sabha as night chowkidar and stays on the campus. Jogen Dutta reportedly told the police and jourlists that he saw his brother’s body when he went to the area to wash some utensils. He said he had just returned from the house of Indrajit Barua, former president of Jorhat Zila Sahitya Sabha, who happens to be a member of the three-member committee constituted by the Sabha in August this year to probe charges of fincial irregularities allegedly committed by the deceased Rajendra. According to Jogen, his brother Rajendra had telephoned him the previous night instructing him to collect a five-page letter written by him in Assamese, from a grocery shop and to hand it over to Indrajit Barua to whom it was addressed. Rajendra had apparently retired from service on July 31 this year. He used to live in a rented house at Sarbaibandha, a suburban area of the town, with his wife and his son working in a private firm. In a one-page note dated November 22 and purportedly signed by Rajendra, he has accused Paramanda Rajbongshi, general secretary of the Sabha and head assistant Biren Goswami of having killed him (obviously meaning ‘of forcing him to commit suicide’. In the five-page letter, Rajendra reportedly admitted to having committed a “few mistakes” but accused Rajbongshi and Goswami of misleading him. He mentioned specific instances of Rajbongshi asking him for money and he following those instructions. He said that after having worked with full dedication for 30 years in the Sabha office, he now felt ashamed at the developments. According to reports, the Sabha authorities had, after his retirement, accused Rajendra of committing fiscal anomalies. Documents comprising money receipts and details of accounts of the Sabha’s expenditures were also reported to have been recovered from the bag.
One of the major allegations of Rajendra Dutta against Sabha general secretary Paramanda Rajbongshi and head assistant Biren Goswami is that they had surreptitiously removed from the steel cupboard a few lakhs of rupees that had been collected from old and newly enrolled members (including life members) in cash in the centery year of the Sahitya Sabha apart from forcing Rajendra Dutta to hand over a lot of the Sabha’s money without giving him any receipts for such drawings.
These are allegations that need to be thoroughly investigated for more reasons than one. This is the year of the Asam Sahitya Sabha’s centery, and the inflow of funds to the organization—from membership dues, new enrolment of members and dotions from different quarters—is bound to be much higher than what it is in a normal year. If the allegations made by Rajendra Dutta are found to be true, they constitute a slur on the fair me of the Sabha in its centery year. There are also bound to be questions related to the Sabha’s fincial practices since funds received are retained as cash instead of being deposited promptly in the Sabha’s bank account as is the healthy norm in such organizations. Why should a prestigious 100-year-old organization like the Asam Sahitya Sabha be dealing in hard cash to the tune of a few lakhs of rupees when the preferred and sensible course of action is to keep the bulk of its funds in its bank account? There are also bound to be questions on why an organization like the Asam Sahitya Sabha does not have a treasurer who should be handling money and signing cheques with another sigtory like the president or the general secretary of the Sabha. All said and done, a suicide by a former office-bearer and allegations of improper handling of the Sabha’s funds are not matters that should have tarred its me and image in its centery year.