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Rare newspapers recovered

By Ajit patowary

GUWAHATI, Nov 6 � Former Minister Nilamoni Sen Deka, who is a writer, and an advocate as well, has collected two complete copies of two different issues of The Times of Assam and parts of its four other issues. In addition, Deka has collected one photocopy of the December 24, 1911 issue of The Advocate of Assam.

Copies of The Times of Assam and The Advocate of Assam, the two English weeklies that reflected the moderate views of the Assamese elites during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, became so rare after their demise, that it becomes news whenever some of their copies are retrieved by someone because of their historical value.

Recently, noted writer Homen Bargohain released a copy of June 15, 1929 issue of The Times of Assam edited by the late Tilak Sarma, in the Media Archive-cum-North-east Reference Library of the Media Trust here. It was received from noted short-story writer Apurba Sarma.

According to Prof Alaka Burhagohain, the honorary director of the Media Archive, some more copies of The Times of Assam have been received from the family of historian Benudhar Sarma. These copies are relatively older and they need some conservative measures for extending their life.

The Times of Assam was published between 1895 and 1947 from Dibrugarh, while The Advocate of Assam was published from the Upper Strand Road, Guwahati between 1908 and 1912. Deka claims that the copy of The Advocate of Assam he has collected, is the only copy available with any individual of the State at present.

The Times of Assam represented the moderate section of the Assamese elites and thus played a reformist role in the society. This is the first English newspaper published from the State, which completed 50 years of existence. The complete issues collected by Deka are-May 3, 1919 and May 29, 1920. The issues of which he has collected parts are --- November 27, 1920, September 1, 1944, Oct 27, 1945 and November 16, 1946.

The Advocate of Assam declared that it was �mainly devoted to politics, agriculture, economics and sanitation and published in the interest of the people of Assam�.

Deka is now working on a 200-page book on The Times of Assam and The Advocate of Assam. The book is being released shortly. He is also working on a book written by PRT Gurdon, the then DC of Khasi and Jayantia Hills, in 1895 on some Assamese proverbs. The second edition of the book, Deka has collected, was published in 1903. The book included 363 proverbs and their English translation. This book is also being published soon.

Moreover, Deka is working on some books and leaflets banned by the colonial British Government between 1937 and 1945. These include an article of the late Soumendranath Thakur, �Bidrohi Bharat� by the late Bijoy Chandra Bhagawti, a write-up of communist ideologue G Adhikari, third edition of The Communist, among others. All these are being published in the form of a 300-page book.

Deka is also working on a book on the early days of the sugar industry in Assam.

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