TEZPUR, Nov 7 - Tezpur Government Higher Secondary School is celebrating 150 years of its existence in November 2019. The old heritage buildings of the school comprise the administrative block on the southern side of David Scot Road, while there are three independent buildings on the northern side of the road, arranged in the shape of the English letter U.
A new three-storeyed building stands adjacent to it, and now the old school buildings have been totally abandoned. Since long, there has been a controversy over the heritage status of these three old school blocks. A PIL petition was filed in the Gauhati High Court, and arguments and counter arguments were published in newspapers.
Against this backdrop, Prof Aparna Kumar Padmapati, a past student of this school and former principal of Assam Engineering College, prepared some notes and sketches in his own hand, on the heritage of the school, explaining how to preserve the heritage in an alternate way. Prof Padmapati died in 2017. The following is an abridged version of his suggestions on the occasion of 150 years of his school:
Captain Jenkins, who controlled the administration, felt the need for an English school in Tezpur in 1840. This was the beginning of the present day high school. An English school was already established in Guwahati in 1835 by Captain Jenkins himself. At that time, one had to go to Dhaka or Calcutta to study up to class 10, and had to appear for entrance tests for higher studies. In 1866, Tezpur English School was upgraded to a high school and students could study up to class 10. The first student who passed the entrance examination was Rai Bahadur Betharam Sarma of Kolibari in 1872.
The school building at that time was a thatched one and was destroyed in a fire. In 1886, a new building with walls bound by lime, sand, bricks and brick dust was constructed. The ceiling was made with Hessian, a dense woven fabric, and the roof was covered with rounded pieces of roofing material giving it a scaly appearance. This is the current heritage structure on the southern side of David Scot Road. This building was later fully renovated.
The school received two financial grants � Rs 150 on October 24, 1865 and Rs 1,200 on May 21, 1867 for the construction of an independent building, according to general reports on Public Instruction, Lower Provinces of Bengal Presidency.
On the northern side of David Scot Road, there was a barren field � a grazing ground where students used to play. The buildings constructed there are of much later dates � 1930, 1946, and 1950. One building on the east side, with sal posts and tin roof outlived its life long ago. It was built in 1930 to accommodate four rooms for classes 6, 7, 8 and 9. Then the north block was constructed in 1946 with square timber blocks tied to concrete foundation with iron clamps. This provided four more rooms as two sections were created for each of the classes 6, 7, 8 and 9. The need for another block was felt in 1950, so that classes 4 to 9 with two sections each could be accommodated in the northern block. Thus, a third block or the west block was constructed with two rooms for laboratory and amenities and two rooms for class 9. These buildings are in a dilapidated condition and should have been removed long back. So it is a natural corollary that these outdated structures are not in any way part of the heritage structure and should be removed. The floor blocks (plinths) could be retained and repaired for other purposes, preferably to install solar cell panels for electricity generation.
Prof Padmapati left behind a detailed account on how to preserve the heritage structures. He favoured dismantling the wooden structures, and levelling the easternmost end of the north block plinth for a 15-foot wide passage to the new three-storeyed building.
The north and south buildings may be connected by an underground tunnel below the David Scot Road.
Prof Padmapati, along with Jagannath Pathak, had filed the PIL for conservation of the heritage buildings. The Gauhati High Court had given its directive long before and it is now under consideration of the government. So far, no concrete step has been taken to restore the buildings. Meanwhile, much damage has been caused to the buildings, which are in a dilapidated state, and there is no caretaker. Opinion on preserving the heritage buildings among students, both past and present, school management committee, teachers and the public in general, is divided.
(The suggestions given by late Prof Aparna Kumar Padmapati have been abridged by Ranjan Kumar Padmapati in this article.)