Recently in Assam, Rabindranath Tagore University has erupted in a scandal over the use of a Tagore song as its anthem in Bengali. Ethno-regional organizations have demanded that this practice be stopped immediately. The enraged All Assam Students Union (AASU) has moved the Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and Education Minister, Ranoj Pegu, seeking reversal of the state university's decision.
It may be recalled that Hojai College, which was added to the RTU in 2019, had an anthem performed by Sarada Kanta Goswami, a former faculty member, but RTU Vice-Chancellor Amalendu Chakrabarty claim it was never performed again after 2019. Not surprisingly, the ethno-regional organisations insisted that this practice be put to an end with immediate effect.
However, when the Bengali anthem was played on Foundation Day of the university, anger began to surface. According to sources, the incident could spark another controversy over linguistic fusion efforts in the Brahmaputra valley. It is being reported that after Hojai College became a university, the perception was that if the varsity anthem was penned by someone other than Tagore, it would become redundant. Incidentally, the Bengali version was only performed on the day after the recording of Assamese translation.
As Tagore’s theme song depicts, “We would not abandon Kavi gurus”, it is being felt that the Assamese translation of the Rabindra Sangeet will not only send a message of peace, but would also bring Assamese and Bengali speakers closer to each other. The Assam government also bore in mind the sensitive situation that prevailed between the Assamese and Bengalis in early 1980s, when the AASU demanded an assurance from the then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi that the supposedly foreign settlers, especially, a large number of Bangladeshi refugees illegal occupation must be sorted out once for all.
Madam Gandhi, however, tried to see them reason, but the AASU was not convinced. Though, the problem continues unabatedly in Assam, it has not virtually turned out into a free-for-all between the two communities. Importantly, both the Assamese and Bengalis are aware of the compelling political situation for the present government led by Sarma. The Education Minister, Dr Pegu has assured the people belonging to the Bengali community that the revered poet and the noble laureate Rabindranath Tagore would not be defamed at any cost as he belonged to the people from all walks of life in India, as well as in abroad.
The controversy over Tagore erupted in Odisha, too, when the ‘Orissa Post’ editor, and former Biju Janata Dal MP, wrote in his editorial, a decade ago, alleging that the poet attempted to create an impression that Odiya language emanated from Bengali language and its culture, but without any concrete evidence. Naturally, a section of people in Odisha became sensitive after scanning through the article.
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