By: Rupak G Duarah
Debraj Roy was one of the great personalities of the Golaghat district. His name is very much familiar to everyone since the oldest and most prestigious college in the district is named after him as ‘Debraj Roy College’. Though Roy’s contributions to society are widely acclaimed and appreciated the common people know very little about the colourful life and exemplary works of that great man due to a lack of books and other documents related to him.
Debraj Roy was born and brought up in Assam but his forefathers hailed from Uttar Pradesh and were soldiers under British rule. His father came to Assam in 1856 and served as Sergeant in 42 No. Regiment of Assam Rifles. It was a transferable job and therefore his father had to change his working place at a regular interval. Roy was born in 1871 in Dibrugarh. His mother was the second wife of his father and was the daughter of Rup Singh Subedar who was famous for killing Badan Barphukan, the man who brought the Maan (or the Burmese) to Assam at the time of Ahom rule. Debraj’s father was also closely related to Haranath Daroga (Haranath Parbotia Baruah), the officer-in-charge of Jorhat Police Station who was famous for dousing the revolt conspired by Maniram Dewan during the time of Sepoy Mutiny in 1857. But Debraj was neglected by his father because of his first wife who belonged to the Rajput community. She had dominated her husband and at last, she compelled him to throw out Debraj’s mother from their home. Therefore, his mother had to live with her relatives and they were also deprived of the share of their paternal property. But finally, he received one thousand rupees according to his father’s Will. That was also possible because that pleader who had drafted the will for his father had done the favour to Debraj to get the fair share of his father’s property. But to the rude behaviour and greediness of his stepmother, Debraj had to face many struggles in life. Though time was tough for him, he never bowed down and went ahead with great courage, perseverance and determination.
Debraj proved that failure is the pillar of success. Though he tried to establish himself as a grocer, stockiest, sugarcane cultivator, elephant seller, tea planter, etc. he failed many times to do that business successfully. As a tea planter, he suffered severe losses on his tea plantations but the timely advice and assistance of Rai Bahadur Ghanashyam Baruah helped him a lot to overcome the hardship and turned to become a successful businessman in society. Debraj gradually increased his tea plantation and established two large tea gardens at Deopani and Bogidhola and two small tea gardens at Siddheswar and Kalioni. Besides those, he established one rice mill, one oil mill, and one sugar mill in the district. Moreover, he also possessed a huge plot of land at Marangi and Golaghat town. No doubt, Debraj achieved such success in life only of his sincerity, honesty, and hard work. And thus, he became the role model or ideal person for other businessmen of the district.
Though Debraj was a non-Assamese person by birth he assimilated with Assam completely. He devoted his heart and soul to this land and its people. Moreover, he took ‘saran’ or ‘Diksha’ from the Satradhikar of Auniati Satra, Majuli, His Holiness, Late Sri Sri Kamal Deva Goswami. The Satradhikar had also offered Kalita caste to Debraj and treated him as such in his later life. In this way, Debraj settled permanently in Golaghat and gradually assimilated with the people and its culture and contributed a lot to the Assamese society.
Debraj Roy was a man of farsightedness and perseverance. During his old age, he had started writing his autobiography entitled ‘Atma-Jivani’ and completed it successfully before a decade of his demise in 1952. In the autobiography, he elaborated on his warm childhood days, struggles of life, different types of experiences he achieved as a businessman, etc. in a unique style of writing. At first, the autography was published by his eldest son Mahendra Nath Roy which contained six long chapters. But the version is not available for the discerning readers of the present time. Most recently, the autobiography is translated into English by Sanjib Sahoo and Uttam Roy. Both versions (English and Assamese) are published by Eastern Readers Publication, Jorhat, and are priced at only Rs.100 and Rs.150 respectively. (The author can be contacted at email@example.com)