Cotton University, formerly Cotton College, in Guwahati has produced seven of Assam’s fifteen Chief Ministers, including Himanta Biswa Sarma, who was sworn in as the northeastern state’s 15th Chief Minister on Monday.
Sarma, who attended Cotton College from 1985 to 1992 and served as Education Minister in the previous government headed by Sarbananda Sonowal, took the lead in converting Cotton College into a university in 2017 by accepting the Cotton University Bill, 2017.
Cotton College was formerly affiliated with Gauhati University.
Lokapriya Gopinath Bordoloi, Assam’s first Chief Minister (1946-1950) and architect of modern Assam was a Cotton College undergraduate. He was posthumously awarded the Bharat Ratna, In 1999.
Five other Cotton University graduates have served as Assam’s Chief Ministers: Mahendra Mohan Chowdhury (1970-1972), Sarat Chandra Sinha (1972-1978), Jogendra Nath Hazarika (Sept 1979–Dec 1979), Hiteswar Saikia (1983–1985 and 1991–1996), and Bhumidhar Barman (Sept 1979–Dec 1979). (April 1996-May 1996).
Apart from the seven Chief Ministers and numerous influential political figures of northeastern India, Maulavi Saiyid Sir Muhammad Saadulla (1937-1938 and 1939-1946), the first premier of Assam in the pre-Independence era (Assam became a constituent state of India in 1950), was also a Cotton College undergraduate.
In 1901, Sir Henry John Stedman Cotton, Assam’s then-chief commissioner, founded the Cotton College in Guwahati.
“Prior to India’s 1947 Partition, Cotton College and Sylhet College were the region’s two primary higher educational institutions. As a result, the majority of students from Assam and other northeastern states pursued higher education at Cotton College or Sylhet College.
“Of the two schools, Cotton College has been government-run since its inception, and the majority of regional students choose to study there,” Cotton University Vice-Chancellor Bhabesh Chandra Goswami told IANS (an Independent NewsWire Network) over the phone.
“Himanta Biswa Sarma enrolled in the college in 1985 as a higher secondary student after graduating from Kamrup Academy College. He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from the institute in 1990 and a master’s degree in 1992,” Goswami said.
From 1987 to 1989, Sarma served as the assistant general secretary of the Cotton College Student Union before being elected general secretary three times — in 1988-89, 1989-90, and 1991-92.
“In being a dynamic leader, he was a philanthropic individual who admired the teachers. Sarma’s perseverance, determination, and sincerity propelled him to Assam’s top spot. I assume that as Chief Minister, he will do much more for the university,” said Goswami, who was also in attendance at Monday’s swearing-in ceremony at Guwahati’s Srimanta Sankardeva Kalakshetra.
Goswami said that prior to the establishment of Jorhat College in the 1960s, Cotton College educated thousands of students, including many future top politicians from the eight northeastern states.
Cotton University, which offers courses ranging from high school to doctoral level in almost any necessary subject in education, arts, and commerce, now enrolls over 5,000 students.