ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Distinguished Historian, Public Intellectual

Amalendu Guha (1924-2015)

Historian, teacher, public intellectual, Amalendu Guha was a pioneer in more ways than one. His forays into Assam's history established him as one of India's foremost economic historians. Guha's insights on the complex interplay of social and economic forces informed his studies on India's business communities and he was also amongst the earliest Indian historians to draw attention to the ways in which geography infl uences history.

The distinguished historian and public intellectual, Amalendu Guha died at his modest residence in Guwahati on 7 May. He is survived by his spouse, Anima Guha, a scholar and public figure, and their son. Amalendu Guha had already donated his body for medical research to the Gauhati Medical College. Most newspapers published from Assam covered the news of his death. Several of them devoted full-page coverage, revisiting his scholarly and public life. Memorial meetings were organised in different places. In one such public meeting, held at Rabindra Bhavan in Guwahati, which I attended, more than 500 people from diverse backgrounds had gathered and remembered Guha’s wide contribution to scholarship and public life. Guha earned public distinction by force of commitment to social justice.

Upon his retirement from the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Kolkata in 1991, Guha settled in Guwahati. His house became the most sought after address by scholars and others interested in historical research, as well as those engaged in the public issues of the day. I first visited his home in 1992 after the demolition of the Babri Masjid. That was a tense moment and Assam had also witnessed a series of communal riots. About 30 odd public figures of Guwahati had gathered at Amalendu Guha’s place. The meeting was to discuss the fallout of the 6 December incident. I was taken to Guha’s house by my editor–journalist friend, Hemanta Barman. Like many others, I too was interested in the study of Assam’s history, having already read Guha’s classic work, Planter Raj to Swaraj: Freedom Struggle and Electoral Politics in Assam, 1826–1947 and some of his other essays. But when I heard him deliver a “public speech,” I was struck by his insight into the politics of his times. Since then I met him on several occasions, accompanied him to conferences, listened to his public speeches, read his works more critically, and also went to see him in the hospital weeks before he breathed his last.

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