Tobacco, Assam and a Dictatorial Pronouncement


TobaccoBy- Kiron Kakoty

In central Assam there is a road side village of Phuloguree Dhewa fame. It has also a reputation of manufacturing a special kind of tobacco preparation the famous Phuloguree Dhopat. I did not have the opportunity of finding out the method of the preparation. But fermented with Laalee (dark molasses) this native preparation could beat the Cavendish. Tobacco in tins by miles with its magnetic smell.

Once a Silim( The native smoking clay device) is filled with Ongotha (glowing charcoal) is tenderly patted in with the Phuloguree Dhopat. The magic aroma escapes the Silim like the Genie out of Alladin’s lamp depicted in thirties and forty’s Hollywood films and reaches the nose of everyone around. Never smelt it? Go on. Make a trip to Phuloguree, there may be few die hard families who are keeping the tradition alive fending off the ingress of cheap Biris and CharMinar cigarettes.

How old is this native preparation of tobacco? I do not know. However, it must have been long enough for the Assamese to be aware that tobacco is bad for health. Because the native Hokaa is a basic filtration system centuries before the American Tobacco industry realised the danger to health from smoking and introduced the filter cigarettes. The coconut shell made Hokaa and letting the smoke flow through the water inside the shell before inhaling it, must be a better filtering system invented by the humble Assamese, as, the water in the shell not only trapped to micro-solids in the inhaled smoke also diluted the concentrations of some of the nasty chemicals tobacco is now a day’s known to contain. If you do not believe me, just pour out used water from a Hokaa and inspect the colour and smell it.

Hang on you smokers! No, No, No. Don’t migrate from the Biris, Cigarettes, Cigars, smoking pipes to using the Ho’kaa.

Tobacco is dangerous for health. FULL STOP. No form of tobacco is safe for health.


The main chemical Nicotine is highly addictive. Nitrosamines are cancer causing. The smoke itself damages the lungs.

Actually there are more chemicals in tobacco which are harmful.

As far as I am aware the western habit of Snuffing remained unknown to Assam. However, in around the early fifties the practice of chewing Khoinee arrived is Assam probably brought in by labourers from Bihar. Those who do not know what it is, dried tobacco leaves are robbed with lime (Calcium Carbonate) and made into a small ball and then usually placed in the floor of the mouth just outside the lower gums or any other convenient place inside the mouth. Consequently mouth cancer hazard and chemical destruction of gums and cheeks became a new menace in Assam.

Latest addition is the Gutka, an addictive cocktail marketed by Indian traders as a mouth freshener!

A silver lining on the this dark cloud caused by merchandise of tobacco products in Assam, is the awareness and a political will to do something about it; may be getting the long forgotten Chomoatar Ko’b like ideation of our Kingdom days by no other than Himanta Bishwa Sharma: using Khullam Khulla  Tarun (Taarun for his Dilliwallah compatriots) as his side kick.

Under the umbrella of the Disturbed area Act, supplemented by the Armed Forces Special Power Act, this individual(HBS) is on the high (I do not think he is high on tobacco) and has the audacity of become dictatorial on the teachers of Assam to order them to give up smoking or be forcefully retired at the 12 moths grace period His Highness has generously allowed. No formal help has been offered to these addicts to help them kick their nasty habit. It is well recognised that with best help made available only 20% smokers are successful in giving up smoking. So, 80% (+) of teachers, be prepared for a life of retirement for your crime of swelling the coffers of the Customs & Excise department by paying the tax on tobacco you consume. As the Baap Mai power he enjoys also covers the health sector, his diktat is applicable on the health workers under his control. Smoker health care workers? How come they were given the job at all? But, but; they have right to destroy their health if they want to! They of course cannot borrow and use the often repeated DHOMKI (THREAT) now a days, “Who is this Himanta Bishwa Sarma?”

This aspiring young politician no doubt has good intentions at heart albeit only following his master’s orders akin to Bimala Prasad Chaliha in 1959 in implementing the State Language Bill even before it became statutory. Assam has to be first on the starting line. One must remember the letter A is the first one!

Himanta’s methods do raise question on his wisdom. The smoker teachers do not deserve the stick, but, sensitive programmes to help them to kick their nasty habit and become role models to their students as non-smokers.

May I ask Himanta, why could not he take urgent steps to ban sale of all tobacco products in Assam long time ago? Was he frightened of upsetting Delhi by implementing this most important action, because, it would cause a deep hole in the revenue collection by the government? It seems he would rather use his tongue as a verbal Chomotaa to chastise Assam. Could it be that he is on the right track, as, Dho’dor Ali was successfully built by the use of the Chomotaa!

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