Eastern Karbi Anglong College, Sarihajan, Karbi Anglong, had the unique distinction of being the only one in the eastern part of this hill district till a couple of years ago.
Around 60km off Diphu, the district headquarters, the college was established in 1997. It was given state government concurrence in 2001 and grant-in-aid by the Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council in 2008 and is affiliated to Assam University, Silchar.
The college offers six subjects — history, political science, sociology, geography, economics and education — besides English and Assamese. Students can choose to major in any of these eight subjects. The college also has a study centre under the K.K. Handique Open University and a few courses are taught under it.
Principal Anil Chandra Das said since its inception, the college is being run with limited means. For many years, it was denied recognition at the higher-secondary level according to the rule promulgated by the government in 1998 that HS level would not be accorded permission in a college which had the graduate level.
“The higher secondary level would have to be separated into a junior college. This wasn’t viable for us since it would have spoilt the academic atmosphere,” said Das.
“We were given government permission only in 2010 to retain the HS level after a long fight where it was pointed out that our college started in 1997 prior to the implementation of the government rule. All projects have been left incomplete,” the principal added.
Das, who was a founder teacher of the college, is happy about the students who have graduated from here. “One of our students, Jubonti Dhan, is also a pursuing a doctorate in sociology in Canada.
Not just studies, the college also aims to address the interests of the people who live here.
“We have launched Project Fertile Ground to preserve indigenous seeds scattered in the crevices of the hills along with awareness programmes. We are also going to inaugurate a seed bank on our premises shortly,” he added.
Explaining the concept, English teacher Bedabrat Bora, said: “Karbi people are bound to the hills and the older generation had preserved the seeds. But the younger generation is slowly moving away from agriculture. We have, therefore, decided to find and collect as many seed varieties which thrive and have sustained the Karbis for centuries.”
“Jhum cannot be done away altogether but we would like to minimise negative effects like soil degradation, erosion and loss of trees because of the slash-and-burn practice in this form of cultivation. “Campaigns will start on how to renew the hills denuded of cover and make the soil fertile through biodynamics and organic composites,” Bora said.
Till now, 12 varieties of paddy and eight varieties of maize have been collected from the hill tribes for the seed bank in February under the technical guidance of an NGO called Fertile Ground.
The principal believes that the strength of the college lies in the eight indigenous tribes and 12 communities to which the 1,200 students belong. “Ours is a multi-cultural college,” said Das.