July 23, 2021

Earlier this month, the Assam Cabinet announced that Gaon Buras (village headman), village-level functionaries of the district administration, will henceforth be called ‘Gaon Pradhans’.


  • The institution of Gaon Bura in Assam dates back to the colonial era, when the British appointed the oldest person in the village as the head, who would oversee matters relating to land and revenue in a particular area.

  • The position would usually go to the oldest, most knowledgeable man who had good personal ties with everyone in a village, or a cluster of small villages.

  • In Arunachal Pradesh, too, the Gaon Buras (and Buris) are the most important village-level functionaries.

  • Post-independence, the government continued with the institution and made the Gaon Bura a formal part of the Assam Revenue and Disaster Management department, increasing his responsibilities, and eventually introducing a small honorarium for the role.


  • The government has reasoned that a number of young men (and women) become Gaon Buras, and thus, the word ‘Bura’ (meaning old in Assamese) is no longer appropriate.

  • While it is yet to be notified, the move has been criticised by several in Assam as an imposition on the culture and language of the state.