By Nava Thakuria
He was an honest, brave and impartial journalist, who used to raise voices relentlessly against the separatist militants of the troubled
northeast India. Moreover, he was also vocal in favor of basic minimum facility & rights for the working journalists and other media
employees of Assam.
Hiten Mahanta, an acclaimed journalist of Assam passed away on 29 August 2015 at GNRC hospital (Guwahati six-mile campus). Mahanta
breathed his last on 7.25 and the attending doctors declared the immediate cause of his death was the cardiac arrest.
Mahanta suffered multiple head injuries on the morning hours of August 5 as he fell on the road of his residential locality named Chunchali
in eastern part of Guwahati. He was immediately admitted to the hospital, but his physical condition remained critical till his last
Born in 1957 at Guwahati, Mahanta completed his PU (10+2 standard) form the prestigious Cotton College and joined Pragjyotish College for
graduation. Then he was admitted to Gauhati University and completed his post-graduation course in Political Science from the pioneer
higher education centre of the region.
For some years the impartial & outspoken journalist was engaged with the Left movement in eastern India. But later Mahanta abandoned their
companies to join in professional journalism and pursued the practice through various Assam based newspapers. The acclaimed journalist began
his professional career in 1984 through Janakranti, an Assamese news magazine and eventually became a guide for hundred novice journalists
of the State.
Soon Mahanta shifted to Ajir Asom, an Assamese daily published by The Sentinel group in 1987 and later he joined in Natun Dainik, another
popular Assamese daily under the leadership of author-journalist CP Saikia in 1989. Mahanta also served as the President of Natun Dainik
(Chandrakanta Press) Employees Union for some years. For more than a decade he used to write columns in local newspapers as an independent
observer on various socio- political developments of the country.
An active member of prestigious Guwahati Press Club, Mahanta was a core member of the team that raised voices relentlessly against the
terror activities of separatist militants in the trouble-torn region.
He was a regular attendant to the celebrations of both Independence Day and Republic Day at Guwahati Press Club premises, which have been
initiated by the media fraternity to pay homage to the martyrs of India’s freedom struggle even defying the diktat of armed militants
Mahanta was also associated with Journalists’ Forum Assam and Journalist Action Committee. For some time, he was associated with
the Journalist Union of Assam, an affiliate to Indian Journalist Union. He also led an umbrella body of various media persons
‘organizations named All Assam Media Employees Federation from the front. While Mahanta demanded financial security to media persons, he
also wrote critical articles against the fraudulence adopted by a section of journalists.
Soon after the news relating to his death broke out, a number of media persons and other well wishers assembled at the hospital and took him
to his residence, where his wife Manashri Mahanta with two sons namely Niharanjan & Chinmoy completed necessary Hindu rituals. Various social
organizations paid their tributes to Mahanta there and joined his last journey to Navagraha crematorium in the city. On his way, Mahanta was
also taken to the press club, where hundred journalists mourned his demise and paid their last respects.
The editor-journalists who were present on Mahanta’s last journey include Manoj Kumar Goswami (editor of DY365), Ajit Kumar Bhuyan
(editor, Prag), Prasanta Rajguru (editor, Amar Asom), Munin Bayan (executive editor, Dainik Asom), Ranen Kumar Goswami, Prakash Mahanta,
Sanjib Phukan, Pranay Bordoloi, Mrinal Talukder, Mukul Kalita, Keshab Kalita, Pramod Kalita, Bipul Sarma etc.
Similarly, distinguished individuals like Deepak Narayan Dutta,
Jagadindra Raichoudhury, Kishor Giri, Uddhav Barman, Deven Bhattacharya, Suprakash Talukder, Isfakur Rahman, Subodh Sarma,
Basanta Barthakur, Saifuddin Ahmed, Dugdha Kalita, Rajib Saikia etc also paid their homage to the departed soul.
Later a memorial meeting was organized on 2 September at the press club, where the city based scribes paid homage to Mahanta. Presided
over by Dainik Janambumi’s editor Hemanta Barman, the meeting decided to publish a book covering Mahanta’s struggle of life, his preaching
of journalism and pro-people initiatives. The meeting also resolved to launch an award in Mahanta’s memory, which would be offered to a
committed journalist of the State annually.
Attended by a number of distinguished personalities including Mahanta’s younger brother Sailen Mahanta, DN Singh, Khagen Kalita,
Pranabjit Doloi, Uday Borgohain, Bipul Sarma, Divas Phukan, Jayanta Gogoi etc to pay their heartiest love & respect to him, the meeting
also expressed gratitude to everyone who extended financial supports to Mahanta’s family in his prolonged treatment including the GNRC
hospital chief Dr NC Bora for extensive rebate over his medical expenditures.
Meanwhile, various political parties including Asom Gana Parishad,
Bhartiya Janata Party (Assam unit), All India United Democratic Front etc extended condolence message to the bereaved family. Assam chief
minister Tarun Gogoi also mourned at the sudden demise of Mahanta. The Union minister Sarbananda Sonowal, who hails from Assam, in a
condolence message, termed Mahanta as a sincere journalist and commented that his departure was an irreparable loss to the mainstream
journalism of the northeastern region of India.
May his soul rest in peace!
By Nava Thakuria