While India is swept clean by the zeal of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, launched by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Government on this day four years ago, Dikh, an organisation in Jorhat attempted to remove the cobwebs from the collective memory of the people in order to uphold a Gandhian who emulated Mahatma Gandhi’s precepts in the true sense of the term on Gandhi Jayanti on Tuesday.
“The memory of Harijan Bandhu Krishna Nath Sharma, an upper caste Hindu who opened the doors of his naamghars so that the Harijans could worship and was boycotted by the society for doing so, is slowly passing into oblivion as is evident by the condition of the Gandhi Ashram his son had established,” said Gaurav Borthakur, founder of Dikh.
On April 18, 1934, Mahatma Gandhi opened the family namghar of freedom fighter Krishna Nath Sharma to the Harijans which drew national attention to Assam. Sharma was instrumental in organising the All India Congress Session at Pandu, Guwahati in 1926. He worked for the oppressed and poor throughout his life. He opened 12 schools for the Harijans and was also responsible for prohibition of opium in Assam. This noted freedom fighter, who was a successful lawyer during his early years, also took part in Dandi March with Gandhiji. He breathed his last before Independence and was jailed by the British Government several times.
“His son Late Kalidas Dev Sharma, who went to Wardha for his education, spent some years with Gandhiji. Their residence at Sarbaibandha, Jorhat, was converted to an ashram and some social service centres were opened here. This ashram, known to people as Gandhi Ashram, was started by Kalidas Dev Sharma. However, after his demise, this entire campus got dilapidated and is in a state of extreme neglect today,” Borthakur added.
Today, on the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti, the members of Dikh visited this place to pay homage to the great soul in a small way. By cleaning a part of the jungle they entered the main house and organised a small tribute in the presence of some of the family members, neighbours and well-wishers. Haliram Bora, noted academician of Jorhat, spoke about the contributions of both Krishna Sharma and Kalidas Dev Sharma and shared some golden memories associated with the ashram. He also hoped that the new generation would change the present condition of the ashram with a fruitful social purpose. Rajalakshmi Sharma Goswami, writer and granddaughter of Krishna Nath Sharma, spoke about the family’s ties with Gandhiji and the Gandhian philosophy. The persons present in the function discussed about a memorandum to be given to the Government through the Deputy Commissioner (DC) regarding the revival of this heritage property with an objective to serve the society.
A source who was present on the occasion said that the house and the mausoleum of the father and son had “turned into a jungle”. “Assam seems to have forgotten this great man. The Government has done nothing to keep alive the memory of this freedom fighter who treated all men as equals, who helped to get rid of the evils of opium use and fought for our freedom. If it can go ahead in preserving the house of Lakshminath Bezbaroa in Odisha then it should also revere people like Sharma, whose contribution to the State and the country is as great as Bezbaroa if not greater,” the source further said.
In other parts of Jorhat, Mahapurusha Madhabdeva Foundation roped in young school children to deliver speeches on Gandhi. “Catch ‘em young, to teach them the ideals of the the Father of the Nation,” said Ratul Baruah, founder of the Foundation.
The teachers, students and doctors of Jorhat Medical College and Hospital (JMCH) also undertook a programme on the occasion. The Superintendent of JMCH Saurabh Borkotoky delivered an awareness speech on health and hygiene and the Deputy Superintendent Nilutpal Bhattacharjee gave a speech to the workers on how to maintain hygiene at work. The students organised a street play on the occasion.
Students of Assam Agricultural University (AAU) undertook a cleanliness programme which extended up to Lichubari, about 2 kms away, and was flagged off by the Vice-Chancellor (VC) KM Bujarbaruah.