The initiative – Sampriti – launched by the Asam Sahitya Sabha to reach out to the diverse communities inhabiting the State is a welcome initiative that can strengthen the ties of brotherhood amongst the constituents of the multi-cultural mosaic that the composite Assamese society is. As part of the endeavour, the apex literary body is set to form its branch committees in various char (temporary sand bars) areas located in the riverine areas. Reaching out to the char areas is significant on several counts, not the least because the immigrant-origin Muslim-dominated inhabitants of such areas have been facing a sense of alienation from mainstream society attributable to different factors. Often, these people are branded as illegal Bangladeshi foreigners or jihadis even though the fact is that most of them are Indian citizens living in the char areas for decades. Many are also pursuing education in Assamese medium and have taken largely to the Assamese way of life. It is also a fact that many char areas are shockingly backward bereft of basic amenities and deep-rooted religious conservatism is hindering social progress, with the womenfolk bearing the brunt. This does pose a serious threat of breeding fundamentalism. The Sabha’s initiative, therefore, can effect a far-reaching positive transformation if it remains a sustained effort. A progressive cultural awakening can effectively counter fundamentalism of all kinds and the Sabha needs to remain steadfastly devoted to its pursuit. The State Government, too, would do well to intervene with educational and healthcare initiatives to these marginalized sections.
With a globalized world now casting its dark shadow over ‘smaller’ languages and cultures, the Sabha has a big role to play in the coming days. Being the guardian of Assamese language and literature, it has to facilitate a situation in which the Assamese language remains a vibrant one amidst the multifarious challenges. Given that Assamese used to be the lingua franca of the undivided Northeast not so long ago, this earlier status needs to be restored. This is a tough but achievable task. The Sabha needs to connect emotionally with the diverse communities of the region through the medium of literature and culture. Enhanced engagements with the literary and cultural bodies and coming up with collaborative endeavours can help achieve this. It is good that the Sabha is planning to translate great Assamese literary works into various tribal languages and vice versa. While writers cannot be created, the Sabha can help facilitate an atmosphere conducive for a healthy growth of literature by promoting a culture in which people learn to appreciate good literature. It can also do its bit in inculcating the reading habit among children by organizing children’s book festivals in every nook and corner of the State. Literary pursuits apart, it should also be the Sabha’s endeavour to don a broad mantle and transform it into a truly representative organization of the different indigenous communities.