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Tue, 16 Oct 2018

Northeast Today

Government College of Art & Crafts: From Glory Towards Oblivion

Government College of Art & Crafts: From Glory Towards Oblivion
May 13
12:48 2017

At a time, when the world is in a constant state of struggle, art has always been a unifying force connecting people from diverse religion and cultural backgrounds. But what if this very freedom of expression is subjected to a future full of negligence and uncertainty? It is expected that the institutions that nurture talents of artistic excellence are cared and adored by the society and the government, but the story of Government College of Art & Crafts, Assam, upholds entirely a different picture. Once a pioneering institute, the Government College of Art & Crafts presently is in total shambles and is raging a lone battle to retain its existence and identity.

It was late Jibeswar Baruah who began this institute way back in 1947 in a single room of Don Bosco School, Panbazar. It paved way for many ardent lovers of art to chase their dreams, and in due course breaking many taboos pertaining to the promotion of art and culture among the people of Assam.

From rolling out as evening art classes for the neighborhood’s school students to sharing a portion of a two-storied building at Lakhtokia with the State Lalit Kala Akademi, Government College of Art & Crafts started creating a niche for itself among the art buffs of the region. Some of the exhibitions held by the college were graced by eminent personalities such as celebrated filmmaker Satyajit Ray, the then Education Minister of Assam Joy Bhadra Hagjer, veteran journalist SC Kakati etc to name a few.

However, with the death of Jibeswar Baruah on January 31, 1964, the institution was left without a piece of land and building to stand on, the only asset being the monthly grant of Rs. 300 and few other belongings. With his demise, the Lalit Kala Akademi and the School of Art were separated. The assets belonging to Lalit Kala were then taken charge of by the new owners of the School of Art. It was a divided house, with the owner of the building declining to rent it any further.

A glimmer of hope came when the School of Art traveled westward to Santipur and established itself in a newly constructed small rented building. A new chapter began in the history of the institution. Provincialization of the institution happened on September 1, 1970 and thus the present Government School of Art & Crafts came into being.

In 1971-72, the control of the institution was transferred to the newly created Directorate of Cultural Affairs from the Directorate of Public Instructions. So what really happened to the institution once hailed as promising flag bearer of art in the region?

An alumni of the institution says, “With provincialization, the management of the school became somewhat better but no real development took place in the meantime. The institution still continued to function in the same stuffy, narrow, congested and unhygienic conditions of the rented buildings. Even though twenty bighas of land was allocated to the School of Art in 1979, followed by the construction of two Assam-type houses, everything is meaningless without a fully furnished central building for the students. Moreover, with no art gallery or museum to hold exhibitions of national or international importance and display the creative work of the students, there is little scope for interactions. While the rest of the world is moving way forward in the field of art, the talented students of Government College of Art and Crafts is lacking behind in basic amenities and proper infrastructure, even after having a rich cultural identity.”

The students of the institution were recently humiliated by Ranjit Konwar, the Registrar of the college, when the latter was stopped by the students after a team lead by him forcefully tried entering the college premises to install a water tank for the residents of Basishtha. It was alleged that the team comprising of 20-25 also destroyed a wall when the students protested.

It can be mentioned here that the past and present students of the institute have come together and started an online petition for developing the institute and restoring its lost glory. The petition can be found at the link below:
https://www.change.org/p/chief-minister-of-assam-save-government-college-of-art-crafts-assam

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