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Writer pulls out of race for Sabha president

- Sabha legal adviser & chief election officer also quit over abrupt bylaw amendment
Arun Sarma and Paramananda Rajbongshi. File picture and picture
by UB Photos

Guwahati, Aug. 6: Veteran writer Arun Sarma today withdrew his name from the list of contestants for the prestigious post of president of the Asam Sahitya Sabha, expressing displeasure over the election procedure and citing health reasons.

The name of Sarma, the only person from Assam to win both the Sahitya Akademi and Sangeet Natak Akademi awards, was shortlisted for the president’s post by the Sabha’s executive body on Sunday at Mangaldoi.

Nirupama Borgohain, Paramananda Rajbongshi, Dhrubajyoti Borah, and Naren Kalita were the others who were in the list.

Before Sarma, another contestant for the post, Paramananda Rajbongshi, also withdrew his name from the list yesterday leaving the contest to be held among the remaining three. Rajbonsghi has offered his support for Borgohain.

“I could not accept the way one needs to contest for the president’s post of the Sabha. The other reason of withdrawal of my name is my health. I am 83 years old and will not be able to work hard to spearhead the Sabha,” said Sarma.

The president of the Sabha, considered one of the most respected, is elected for a two-year term. The next president will preside over the Kaliabor biennial session (in central Assam’s Nagaon district), which has been seen as a crucial one as the Sabha is going to complete 100 years in 2016. There are demands from people for a grand celebration on the occasion by formulating a new vision for the Sabha, at a time when various communities are drifting away from it.

The Sabha’s legal adviser, Navanita Baruah, also resigned over an abrupt amendment of its bylaws in the executive meeting at Mangaldoi. “According to Sabha’s rules, the amendment cannot be carried out instantly. It is done every four years and the next amendment could be done in the Kaliabor session in February next year,” said Baruah.

The incident also led to the resignation of Sabha’s chief election officer, Iswar Prasad Borthakur, the next day. He said he was being haunted by a “sense of guilt” as he had to accept the amendment under pressure.

The problem began when Sabha’s present vice-president Paramananda Rajbongshi decided to contest both the president and general secretary’s posts. The Sabha’s bylaws specifically mentioned that a vice-president could contest the president’s post but was silent on whether he could contest for the post of general secretary, a subordinate post.

But on Sunday, the executive meeting immediately amended the bylaws thus legalising the contest of a senior office bearer in a subordinate post and paved the way for Rajbongshi to contest the general secretary’s post. Borthakur resigned soon after this development.

Baruah said although the bylaws were silent on whether a vice-president could contest for the general secretary’s post or not, it was implied that he could not as the bylaws, like the constitution of any other organisation, drew inspiration from the Constitution where a person holding a senior rank is barred from contesting a subordinate post.

Rajbongshi, however, said the Sabha has not received any formal letter from Baruah.

Borthakur today told The Telegraph that a delegation of the Sabha today met him and requested to resume office to protect the state’s biggest literary body from facing a further crisis. “But I did not accept the offer,” Borthakur said.

A steering committee meeting held in Jorhat, later in the day, accepted his resignation.


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