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Remembering Phanidhar Dutta

This is about a versatile genius of humble origin, who in his school days, who during childhood, worked on the family paddy fields, at Gayongaon, Jorhat.

Phanidhar Dutta

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  30 Oct 2020 3:31 AM GMT

This is about a versatile genius of humble origin, who in his school days, who during childhood, worked on the family paddy fields, at Gayongaon, Jorhat. After founding the first Degree College at Jorhat in Upper Assam, joining hands with a few other far-sighted persons, he later came to be one of the few founding figures of the Gauhati University, the first University in the entire North-eastern Region. A brilliant student right from his early childhood days, then young Phani had a chequered educational career, mainly due to poor financial standing of his father Late DandiramDutta, who worked in a small Tea Garden, namely SaruSaikata T.E, where Phani was born on December 12, 1901. His mother was Late Damayanti. Dandiram also worked as a cultivator in GayanGaon near Jorhat, where he shifted his residence, cultivating a small plot of family land, in order to maintain his family with his wife and 7 children. Phani was the second one.

Phani also assisted his father in ploughing, tilling, shovelling land and also in other household works in the morning, before going to School. At the age of 11, in 1912 as his father died, he also completed primary education, securing first position. He was awarded with a scholarship and joined the famous Jorhat Government high School.

After receiving a merit scholarship for P.G. course, Phani went to Calcutta (now Kolkata) and got admitted in to Calcutta University for M.A. course in Maths. and also LL.B. course. He completed M.A. in 1928 and Law in 1929 and returned to his village at Jorhat, where he started legal practice at Jorhat Court.

In 1938, Dutta having received appointment as Lecturer of Mathematics in Cotton College, joined there and continued till 1947 in various capacities. The then Prime Minister LokapriyaGopinathBardoloi having decided to establish an University in Assam, with K.K. Handique as the Vice Chancellor, called up PhaniDutta to take up the challenging task, with January 1, 1948 as the target date to start the first University in the Region. He was appointed as its Registrar and also Controller of Examinations. Dutta started the University Office at an old, dilapidated building of Cotton College campus, where he had his residence as a Professor of the College, supported by some skeletal staff. The administrative capabilities and the organizing skills of PhanidharDutta, can be known from the fact that, within a very short period of time, land for the university complex was acquired at Jalukbari, in spite of early resistance by the land owners, key buildings for administrative complex, Vice Chancellor's office, University classes, hostel facilities, etc. were completed and the Gauhati University was formally started from January 1, 1948 as scheduled by LokapriyaBardoloi.

After serving the nascent University as Founder Registrar for 15 years and nurturing it into one of top Universities in the Country, PhanidharDutta was elected by the University Court as Vice Chancellor and continued as such from 23rd Jnuary, 1962 to 21st August 1962, when he resigned following certain tailored enquiry report by HJ Taylor headed committee, appointed at the instance of then Education Minister DevakantaBarua, who is infamous for his public Slogan- Indira is India. Not surprisingly, the same Taylor having pleased the Minister, after a brief spell since Dutta's resignation, was made the Vice Chancellor of Gauhati University, in the most shameful manner.

After resigning from the University, which was his heart and soul, PhanidharDutta didn't survive long. Already heavily diabetic he was soon bedridden and passed away on 29 October 1963, leaving neither money nor a house for his family to live. Born poor he died a poor man, but all his children became highly educated and well placed in life.

I would observe that neither the Govt. of Assam nor the Gauhati University has done anything to commemorate the extraordinary contribution of PhanidharDutta to the founding and building the dream University of LokapriyaGopinathBordoloi and the people of the North East. I suggest, even now, Gauhati University could make a small gesture by naming its Administrative Building after Late PhanidharDutta and also putting up his life size statue in the University campus. Interestingly, the Auditorium in his name, was constructed with major financial contribution from Late Dr. Dilip Kumar Dutta, second son of PhanidharDutta, formerly Emeritus Professor of R.I. University, USA and renowned Mathematician-Litterature. Lastly, I pay my most respectful homage to Late PhanidharDutta on his 57th death anniversary! May his Soul Rest in Peace!

–JP Rajkhowa

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