Jorhat/Guwahati, Jan. 30: Vaishnavite scholar and Gandhian Sonaram Chutia, who waged a lifelong struggle against the divisive caste system, passed away because of old-age ailments at Jorhat Medical College Hospital at 9.30 this evening.
“Chutia was brought to the medical college around 12:30 this afternoon and was admitted to the ICU,” principal of the medical college, Dhrubajyoti Borah, said.
A resident of Mukti Jujaru Path in Jorhat, Chutia is survived by three sons, four daughters and his grandchildren. He was 97.
The Jorhat district administration will keep Chutia’s body at Jorhat District Sports Association field tomorrow for people to pay their last respects. His last rites will be performed on Friday.
Born to Jagiram and Phuleswari Chutia on June 8, 1915, at Baam Kukurasowa village in Jorhat, Chutia did his schooling in Jorhat and completed BSc from Cotton College with distinction.
Insults from “higher-caste” boys in his college hostel and instances of people from some religious establishments in Assam not treating people of certain communities with respect was what is said to have prompted Chutia to take up his cause against casteism.
Chutia began his career as a science teacher at the Sivasagar Government Higher Secondary School in 1939 but left his job and joined the Jatiya Mahasabha.
Jailed during the Quit India Movement, he met Pitambar Dev Goswami, xatradhikar of the Garmurh Xatra, in prison in 1943. In 1946, Chutia joined the Srimanta Sankaradeva Sangha, devoting himself to working for the organisation for the rest of his life.
Chutia was honoured as a freedom fighter by the Union government in 1972 and the government of Assam in 1973. He received the Srimanta Sankaradeva-Madhabdeva Award in 1994. In 2000, the Assam government bestowed the Srimanta Sankaradeva Award on him.
A Gandhian in life, Chutia was a Class X student when he saw Gandhiji for the first time, and met him personally later in Maharashtra.
“We have lost a father figure. His passing away is a great loss for the state. He was a Vaishnavite scholar and a fighter against casteism,” general secretary of the Sankardeva Sangha, Hari Prasad Hazarika, said.
Iswaror Xarbopita, Naamdharma Prakax, Mohapurux Sri Sri Haridebor Soritra , Axomot Boishnob Dorxonor Swarnorekha, Mohapuruxiya Dhormo Aru Kormokanda, Ved aru Mohapuruxiya Dhormo, Mundon, Axomor Xatra: Ek Anuxondhan are some of the books Chutia wrote.