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History returns to shrine of glory - Printing machine that launched Assam?s nationalist newspaper handed over to Auniati Satra museum

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PULLOCK DUTTA Jorhat Published 06.03.05, 12:00 AM

Jorhat, March 6: It is just an ordinary printing machine, with the legend ?Imperial Press, London, 1857?, emblazoned on it. But it is resonant with history, its fonts having created many a glorious chapter in the freedom movement against British rule.

At a small function today, the machine was formally handed over to the Auniati Satra. It will be put on display in its museum at Titabor near here.

Accepting the historical machine of behalf of the satra, Charna Bayan said the Auniati Satra?s museum was just the right place for exhibiting the printing machine, since it had been originally brought from the satra.

The story goes back to 1871, when the then satradhikar of Auniati Satra in Majuli, Duttadevo Goswami, decided to bring out a newspaper to counter the Baptist missionaries. The first newspaper of Assam, Arunudoi, was published from Sivasagar.

Duttadevo Goswami purchased the printing machine from Calcutta and ferried it to the satra. The second newspaper of Assam, Asam Bilasini, was launched that very year from Majuli.

The machine belonged to the renowned Baruah family of this Upper Assam town. Ruhinidhar Baruah, the eldest son of Nalinidhar Baruah, today formally handed over the machine to the satra. ?We had received lots of offers from many persons and organisations. But we thought the machine rightfully belongs to the Auniati Satra,? said Baruah.

Asam Bilasini closed down for the first time in 1883, after which a government employee of Jorhat, Krishna Kanta Bhattacharyya, took over.

?He approached the satradhikar and brought the printing machine to Jorhat and started publication of Asam Bilasini for its second stint in 1913,? Baruah recalled.

After 11 years, the paper was closed down following tremendous pressure from the British rulers. Bhattacharyya lost his job for publishing acerbic editorials and news articles.

Nalinidhar Baruah later approached Bhattacharyya?s family to hand over the printing machine as he wanted to launch a school to train poor students. The school ran successfully for several years and produced many a fine printing technician.

However, with technological changes, the machine became obsolete. Since then, it had been in the possession of the Baruahs.

A scion of the Bhattacharyya family, Dilip Sharma, speaking at the solemn function held on the occasion today, recalled how Asam Bilasini played a vital role in the freedom struggle.

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