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Icon’s cremation site in ruins

Tezpur, July 31: The cremation site of Assamese cultural icon Nataxurya Phani Sharma at Kolibari here is in immediate need of preservation, according to local residents.

On the playwright’s 44th death anniversary today, residents alleged that Dispur was negligent in taking up preservation of the cremation site.

The site is in a deplorable condition and people living in its vicinity have encroached upon the land. In 2012, the Sonitpur district administration had evicted encroachers and constructed boundary walls with funds sanctioned by the Tezpur Municipality Board but encroachers have again occupied the area.

After the eviction, the administration had also announced a project Nataxurya Prakalpa in the area to keep the memory of the artist alive, whose foundation stone was laid by the former health and education minister Himanta Biswa Sarma. Sarma had also announced Rs 10 lakh for further work. Tezpur MLA Rajen Borthakur also announced Rs 5 lakh from his MLA fund for construction of the crematorium but no funds have been released so far, sources said.

“The Tezpur Municipality Board constructed the boundary walls to protect the site. But some people have damaged the wall and taken away iron rods used to build the cremation site. We criticise the negligence of departments concerned for protection of the site,” Nitul Bora, secretary of the Sonitpur unit of the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), said.

Family members of Sharma also lamented the pitiable condition and encroachment on the site. “It has happened owing to the negligence of the state government. For the past several years, the site has been lying abandoned without any improvement,” said Ajit Sarma.

Although Dispur earlier sanctioned funds to keep alive the memory of cultural icons like Bishnu Rabha, Jyoti Prasad Agarwala and Sharma, nothing concrete has been done in reality.

Various organisations like the Tezpur Sankardev Mandir and Ban Theatre Family today observed Sharma’s death anniversary by staging his plays and taking out cultural processions.