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Cotton College to Cotton University – Emotions and Debates

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A proud saying amongst all past and present students of Cotton College is What Cottonian thinks today, Assam thinks tomorrow. As ex-Cottonian Education Minister Himanta Biswa Sharma and another ex-Cottonian Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi laid down the Cotton College State University Bill 2011, the saying just came true once again. The two men probably did this for politics alone, as the critics would say. But politics too has been a subject untaught, but mastered in Cotton college throughout the last century!

History was made yesterday, July 20 of 2011 as Assam State Assembly passed the Cotton College State University Bill 2011,paving the way for Cotton College to become a full-fledged university.

From being a small affiliate of Calcutta University to a university in itself

Cotton College, when it started was first affiliated to Calcutta University (present Kolkata). Under Calcutta University, Cotton college institution developed into a full-fledged Degree College and secured affiliation for the Honors course in all subjects, except Persian.

Once the Gauhati University was formed in 1948, Cotton College became a constituent college of the first university of North East India. However Post Graduate classes in certain subjects like English, Economics, etc started in the College later under Calcutta University itself and only on 17th October, 1992, Cotton College was formally declared as a Post-Graduate institution by the then President of India, Late Dr. Shankar Dayal Sharma.  Presently, Cotton houses Post Graduate studies for as many as 21 subjects with 20 different departments. Cotton is accredited as a Grade A college by the National Assessment & Accreditation Council (NAAC) as well.

With more than five thousand students passing every year in different subjects and courses, Cotton College boasts of being the finest educational institute of the North Eastern region. Finally with the state Assembly voting for Cotton to become a university, it’s a new beginning once again.

The debate over renaming Cotton College – is it justified

Of late, several noted intellectuals have suggested renaming the Cotton College after an illustrious son of the State such as Anandaram Baruah or Manik Chandra Baruah. In the Assembly yesterday, MLA Keshav Mahanta in fact suggested renaming the new University to Anandaram Baruah University. Education minister Himanta Biswa Sharma was quick to put across that this renaming cannot be done by MLAs in the Assembly and that this needs wider consensus by all present and past students as well as teachers of Cotton College. Keshav Mahanta too took back his suggestion later on. But the controversy or debate, in better words, just started off.

Before starting this controversy of renaming Cotton College, one needs to look into two things

  • The History of the Name – are we ready to forget Sir Henry Cotton?

It was due to the tremendous efforts of Late Manik Chandra Barooah and Rai Bahadur Bhuban Ram Das that the idea of Cotton College came into existence. However it was only due to the open support and concern of the then Chief Commissioner of Assam Province, Sir Henry John Stedman Cotton that the institution formed on 27th May, 1901. To express their sense of gratitude to Sir Henry Cotton, the people of Gauhati had decided to name the institution itself after him.

With the notion of renaming Cotton College, have people of the region meant that the gratitude to Sir Henry Cotton has ceased? Is his contribution not worth some respect just because more than a century has passed since his contribution?

  • The Brand Value of “Cotton College”

Having contributed gloriously to the academic and cultural life of the region, Cotton College has not only withstood the test of time but has also carved a brand value for itself across the century. This brand value is something which no other institution of the North Eastern region has been able to. This brand value must be capitalized and not given away for any reason.

  •  The memories, smiles and  tales attached with Cotton cannot be washed away

Throughout the last one hundred and ten years, Cotton College has been not just an education institution. It has been the thought processor of eminent writers to scientists, poets to politicians, musicians to revolutionaries. Cotton has seen and given us all. The modern history of Assam without the name Cotton College would have been so different. And this mass emotion has to be respected. Some chauvinist Assamese trying to vote for renaming Cotton College would probably call this notion as Emotional foolishness. It is emotions which keeps the man going after all, isn’t it? The name Cotton has to be retained.

Cotton College, future Cotton University has stood as a status symbol for the meritorious ones. It has been a dream for every youth of the region, especially from Assam to call himself a Cottonian. Sitanath Lahkar, professor of Mathematics at Cotton College had once told his students on their first day at Cotton in its centennial year that Cotton can imply either of the two things for the students; – one can either fly away in air like the weightless and valueless cotton. Or one can shine as bright as white Cotton does in sunlight, testifying glory and pride.

With Cotton University, a new chapter of history has just been unfolded to be written by all coming generations with glory and pride. It’s all in the hands of the new generation if Cotton University goes away in the air or shines as bright as a diamond.

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Cotton College to Cotton University – Emotions and Debates

By: Priyankan Goswami Read time: 4 min