Shah launches project to develop birthplace of social reformer in poll-bound Assam

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(Eds: Recasting intro, adding fresh inputs) Guwahati, Dec 26 (PTI) Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Saturday launched a project in poll-bound Assam to beautify the birthplace of Srimanta Sankardeva, the 15th century cultural and religious icon of the state, and another programme to extend financial assistance to 8,000 'naamghars', traditional Vaishnavite monasteries, that are more than 50 years old.

During his visit to the state, Shah also laid foundation stone of a medical college in Guwahati and nine law institutes across the state.

All the four projects were launched centrally from the Kumar Bhaskar Barman Kshetra at Amingaon here in the presence of Assam Chief Minister Sarabananda Sonowal, Union Minister for Food Processing Rameshwar Teli, state Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and others.

Shah launched the development and beautification project of Batadrava 'Than' at Borduwa in Nagaon district, the birthplace Srimanta Sankardeva, at an estimated cost of Rs 188 crore, officials said.

The 'Than' or Vaishnav monastery will be developed as a centre of art, culture, research and spirituality, officials said.

Srimanta Sankaradeva (1449-1568) 'is a colossal figure in the cultural and religious history of Assam. (He) had not only reformed the entire Assamese Society but also laid the foundation of Assamese culture with his contributions in the field of literature, dance, drama, music, painting etc.

'His literary and artistic contributions are living traditions in Assam today. The sect of religion he preached is practised by a large population and Sattras (monasteries) that he and his followers established continue to flourish and sustain his legacy,' a website of the state government said.

Shah also launched the third phase of the 'Asom Darshan' scheme to protect places of worship of different faiths. In this phase, 8,000 'Naamghars' (Vaishnav prayer and community halls) which are over 50 years old will be given Rs 2.5 lakh each, they said.

The Union home minister laid the foundation stone of Guwahati's second medical college and hospital which will be set up by amalgamating the Mahendra Mohan Choudhury Hospital and the Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi Chest Hospital at an estimated amount of Rs 755 crore, officials said.

The senior BJP leader also laid the foundation stone of nine law colleges to be set up at Diphu, Silchar, Dhubri, Dibrugarh, North Lakhimpur, Jorhat, Nalbari, Rangia and Raha.

Shah arrived here on Friday night at Lokopriyo Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport and was welcomed by Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, his cabinet colleagues, BJP state president Ranjeet Kumar Dass, the saffron party's Assam in-charge Baijayant Jay Panda and others.

More than 3,000 artistes belonging to different communities welcomed him with traditional dances while the entire way from the airport to the PWD Inspection Bungalow at Amingaon, where he is staying, was illuminated with more than 10,000 earthen lamps. PTI DG NN NN