A hardcore guerilla fighter himself, Mahanta was the most popular ULFA leader during those early golden years when ULFA was held in high esteem by the people of Assam. Being a handsome youth, talented student, martial arts(Tae Kwan Do) expert, Mahanta was a source of inspiration and the key person of huge flow of Assamese youths towards the armed struggle dreaming of a Sovereign Asom. He was reputed to strictly against any form of surrender or compromise with enemy and never till his death did any ULFA cadre ever surrender to the Army or Government. The first ever battle between ULFA and Indian Army under Operation Bajrang at Lakhipathar of Tinsukia in early November, 1990 was a story that had spread out like wildfire for the heroism and guerrilla tactics displayed by Mahanta. He had commanded his cadres to knock out the Indian Army with the massive guerrilla tactics of booby trap, landmine under the water root and bamboo made mud traps and the story became an inspiration for all cadres.
Mahanta had become very vocal against certain decisions of the central leadership of the ULFA and it was believed that General Secretary of the outfit Anup Chetia had become insecure at Mahanta’s stand against Chetia’s node on favor of lateral talk with GoI. According to sources of ULFA and his family, a conspiracy to kill him was running secretly at his back, but he was un-aware about it.
On the night of Tuesday, December 31, 1991, Mahanta was arrested by the Indian Army and was brought to Geetanagar Police Station. As per sources and as reported by all newspapers the next day, he was killed there in cold blood only because he had refused to compromise. The 200 odd ULFA cadres who had rushed to Geetanagar police station to get into a do-or-day battle to rescue their beloved Deputy C-in-C were late; their leader and son of the soil Heerak Jyoti Mahanta was killed already, after getting a green signal from then Chief Minister of the state, Central Home Ministry and also, as some sources claim, the GS of ULFA Anup Chetia. Later it was declared that the Army had killed him at Chandrapur while he tried to escape. It has to be mentioned here that Mahanta’s father Ratnapati Mahanta and mother Bimala Mahanta till date laments that his son was killed as a part of conflict of ULFA C-in-C Paresh Baruah & General Secretary Anup Chetia over GoI-ULFA lateral talk; and Chetia’s wrong decision to collaborate with Hiteshwar Saikia, the then Chief Minister of Assam who had come to power with ULFA’s passive help in 1991.
As the world sets to celebrate the New Year, Heerak Jyoti Mahanta is remembered on his death anniversary as the source of continuous inspiration, courage and uncompromising attitude. In history, he would be remembered as rebel and patriot, no matter what the fate of ULFA is.
Source: Heerak Jyoti Mahantaloi Monot Porene Paresh Baruah, ULFA-r Swadhin Asomor Swopono DuhSwopno, Natoon Somoi, 2004, by Dhruba Jyoti Deka.