GUWAHATI, July 4 � Scholars here differ much on the issue of naming the university being established by upgrading Cotton College. A section of them suggests that the new university should be named after one of the illustrious children of the State, the other section is for naming the new university after Sir Henry Stedman Cotton. However, all of them unequivocally welcome the government decision to upgrade both Cotton College and JB College into affiliating universities.
Initiating the debate on the issue, Prof Ranjit Kumar Dev Goswami of Gauhati University (GU) said that Sir Henry Cotton, though got the first college of the then province of Assam named after him, was, however, not respectful to the people of the province. To him, they belonged to the races of wholly uncivilized and savage people. At least his Indian and Home Memories (London, 1910, p. 248) gives one this impression, said Prof Goswami.
�The long-held notion of Henry Cotton having founded the college at Guwahati is what seems to me to have swept a major component of the 19th century history under the rug,� he said.
The university should either be named after the greatest Indian classical scholar of the 19th century Anundoram Borooah, or after the name of the great social activist and visionary Manik Chandra Barua, whose relentless efforts at prevailing upon the colonial rulers to establish a college at Guwahati yielded the desired result in 1901, he said. Further, he said, Henry Stedman Cotton taking all credit for establishing the college is what needs to be questioned now.
On the whole, the views of Prof Dev Goswami have been supported by historians Prof Jogendra Nath Phukan and Prof Rajen Saikia, and litterateur Prof Nagen Saikia, while former Vice Chancellors (VCs) Prof Nirmal Kumar Choudhury, Prof Kishori Mohan Pathak and Prof Amarjyoti Choudhury have insisted that the name of the new university should be after Sir Henry Cotton.
Former GU VC Prof NK Choudhury said that Cotton College has completed 100 years with this name. The sentiments of many generations of NE Indian people are connected with this name. The college is known all over the world through its products, he said. He also expressed the apprehension that with the removal of the name of Sir Henry Cotton from the university, the name Cotton College will also be pushed into oblivion. �We should go for establishing new universities in the name of illustrious children of Assam like Anundoram Borooah and Manik Chandra Barua. It would not be proper to honour them by replacing the name of Sir Henry Cotton,� Prof Choudhury said.
Former Tezpur University VC Prof KM Pathak said that the name of Sir Henry Cotton is associated with the college for quite a long time and it should be allowed to be continued. The new university should as well be named after Sir Henry Cotton.
Another former GU VC Prof A Choudhury said, �We all are in awe of the heritage of scholarship that has thrived on the historic decision of the composite society of Assam to set up a college called Cotton College in 1901. Indeed, we all revere that decision and the consequent heritage of scholarship. Irrespective of the new facts, what matters more is the heritage of scholarship. Hence, in all humility, I am for continuity of the name,� he said.
Professor JN Phukan said that the name Cotton College was okay considering the colonial-day situation. �We are an independent nation now and there is no reason as such to name the university, built on the edifice of Cotton College, after Sir Henry Cotton. It should be named after any of the illustrious children of the soil.�
Former Asam Sahitya Sabha president Prof Nagen Saikia said, �It would have been the most befitting thing if the university could be named after Manik Chandra Barua for his pioneering role in setting up the institutions of higher learning in the region.�
Prof Rajen Saikia said, �Though the name of Sir Henry Cotton should not be removed from the college, the university deserves a different name. To me, the university shall be a new institution, and, therefore, it deserves a different name and it makes no disrespect to Sir Henry Cotton.�