President confers top honours Pranab urges people to reset moral compass

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By Staff Reporter
  • Published 14.05.13
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President Pranab Mukherjee presents the Srimanta Sankaradeva Award to actress Sharmila Tagore as Assam governor J.B. Patnaik looks on at ITA Centre, Machkhowa, in Guwahati on Monday. (PTI)

Guwahati, May 13: It was a day of rich accolades, Assamese homecoming and introspection in Guwahati, where President Pranab Mukherjee gave away the Assam Ratna and Srimanta Sankaradeva awards this afternoon.

While late litterateur and peace crusader Mamoni Raisom Goswami was posthumously presented the Asom Ratna Award, actress Sharmila Tagore received the Srimanta Sankaradeva award at the Pragjyoti auditorium here.

“Mamoni Raisom was a legendary storyteller and prolific novelist who courageously advocated social change in a very volatile period in Assam’s history. She will be particularly remembered for her role as a mediator in talks between armed militants in Assam and the government of India,” the President said, conferring the award, which was received by the late litterateur’s brother Satyabrata Goswami.

Accepting the award on his sister’s behalf, Goswami said all efforts must be made to preserve the works of Mamoni Raisom Goswami.

Presenting the Srimanta Sankaradeva award to Sharmila, the president applauded her “rich contribution to India’s cultural life”. “Sharmila Tagore has channelised her energies and resources to the cause of the girl child and women’s empowerment in India. As a goodwill ambassador for Unicef and chairperson of the Indian Film Censor Board, she has used her influence to promote initiatives aimed at bringing about positive change in our society,” Mukherjee said.

It was notable that both the recipients today were “outstanding women”, the President said.

On his first visit as President to his “second home”, the “blessed land where the mighty Brahmaputra and its tributaries flow”, Mukherjee introspected on the need “reset the moral compass”. “We live in a difficult time. The brutal gang rape in Delhi had shaken the national conscience. Such incidents make it imperative for us to sit back and think of where are we going,” he said.

For Sharmila Tagore, the award was recognition, in a way, of her Assamese roots. “Half of me is from Assam since my mother was an Assamese,” she said. “Ira Barua, my mother, was the daughter of J. Barua, founder principal of Earl Law College in Guwahati,” she introduced herself to the audience. Dedicating the award to her mother, Sharmila said poignantly: “Somewhere up there she must me happy that her daughter has been honoured in Assam.”

Assamese cinema has come a long way, Sharmila noted. “There was a time when Aideu Handique, the actress of the first Assamese film Joymoti, was ostracised for calling her male counterpart mongohor deu (the lord of my flesh),” she pointed out. “The history of Assamese cinema is glorious. Jyoti Prasad Agarwala made Joymoti way back in 1935. The journey began then.”

She said she would make sure she visited the British Museum on her next visit to London to see the Vrindabani vastra, the tapestry woven by Srimanta Sankaradeva, the 15th century saint of Assam in whose name the award has been instituted. Showering praise on Mamoni, Sharmila said she was an “extraordinary writer, who overcame personal tragedies and converted them into pieces of literary excellence”.

The President will attend teh convocation of Assam University in Silchar tomorrow.