On the evening of 9th December 1979, there were huge mass gatherings of Assamese at different places along the highway from Guwahati to Barpeta to protest and stop Abida Begum, wife of the then President of India Fakaruddin Ali Ahmad, from filing nomination of contesting in the Lok Sabha. Terming her as an illegal migrant from East Pakistan, people had assembled at Rangia, Nalbari and Bhabanipur to impose a road block on Begum’s convoy escorted by Prafulla Sharma, ADC of Kamrup. The first blockade at Rangia, headed by many intellectuals including Beeren Bordoloi, son of Late Gopinath Bordoloi and principal of Rangia College, was broken after lathicharge. So was the one at Nalbari. But the news of these brutal lathi-charges by police had made the protest at Bhabanipur grow stronger. Inspite of a curfew, common people not affiliated to any political party or organization had joined in to protest at wee hours of the night. The police escort, snagged and rendered helpless, unleashed a ferocious assault with their lathis to break the blockade. Some protestors ran in panic while others still continued to stand braving brutal assaults, head rising tall with belief, courage and love for their motherland- Assam. One such brave heart was Khargeswar Talukdar, student of Bhabanipur College. He was a son of the soil, neither a member of PLP nor AASU. He had come out from his home for a cause, stood the cold winter night for his motherland with a belief and died in the havoc created. It was about 3 am then and the sun had not risen.
A few hours later, an Assamese family in Guwahati was busy bursting with fun and frolic in preparations of their eldest son’s marriage set to take place next day. The women were busy chatting about their expectations at the bride’s place during Joron, the men busy in getting different chores set in place, kids playing around joyfully. Amidst such celebratory atmosphere, suddenly someone came rushing into their house yelling about the death of one Assamese youth killed at Barpeta few hours ago while protesting. People immediately rushed to the news bearer and heared the sad story. Almost everyone who heard the news sulked, but none was eager to let go off the festive mood in the Biyaghor at the cost an unknown youth dying. There was one exception though – the father of the groom, late Nibaron Bora.
Mr Bora immediately started packing to rush off to Barpeta. His wife was startled, so were all his relatives and friends. He was asked “Why?” Nibaran Bora, the ferocious nationalist and a true lover of Mother Assam, had the answer, “We have just lost one son. How can I joyfully attend the marriage ceremony of another?” He waited no further and rushed immediately to Barpeta.
The day was one which neither Bora’s or Taulkdar’s family, nor Assam could ever forget. Khargeswar Taulkdar’s dead body was carried by protestors throughout the city of Barpeta and then till Guwahati, Nibaran Bora leading the way. Bora’s son, back home was getting married as his father marched forward with grit and gumption. There was no mobile phone those days to keep connected with the family, no way to bless his son as he set off to start a new life. Yet, Nibaran Bora stood undaunted– the love for his motherland had taken over all personal emotions. And what followed was history. The Assam Agitation fuelled off and lasted for the next six years.
People today hardly remember that Nibaran Bora had been one of the first eight leaders who were arrested during Assam Agitation, imprisoned in Bihar, away from family and associates. We have probably also forgotten that this pioneer of the agitation had strongly opposed the Assam Accord signed in 1985, terming it cheating. But this is part of another chapter of history, long buried under glorious claims of other leaders (most of whom turned cheaters). Our young generation probably would never be told about Bora’s multifaceted personality, intellectual integrity, and numerous tales of his self-sacrifice, his hypnotizing public speeches and love for Assam. Another example of his self-sacrifice, as claimed by many, is the fact that unlike other pioneers of Sovereign Assam of the eighties who wanted others to wash their hands with blood and lift the crown for them, Bora had inducted his own son Partha Pratim Bora into the outlawed ULFA to chase the dream of Independent Assam. However this too was never to materialize as Partha Pratim Bora alias Javed Borah alias Jyoti Baruah, who was the Foreign Secretary of the outfit then, went missing in 1992 under mysterious condition.
Many lawyers and ex-judges still vividly recollects about Bora’s remarkable knowledge of the law and Indian constitution, although he was never trained in law! But does our young generation know about such an example? None ever would probably be reading his books like Swadhin Asomor Sombhabona or Looking Back, because we Assamese like to follow only the glam and glitter. We like to take pride and “Follow” (Tweeter, anyone?) one who has fame and power. The youth today idolizes leaders who grow into big capitalists, owning thousands of crores of property. Leave alone sacrificing a family member’s marriage, in the near future, we Assamese would be unwilling to come out and help a neighbor when there’s cricket or Indian Idol or a good soap in the TV.
We find thousands of martyrs like Khargeswar Talukdar killed in Assam over the last few decades, either during a protest or gun fire. Yes we are proud of them, but we need to put an end to the Khargeswars of Assam laying down lives. And for that to happen, we need a few more Nibaran Bora rising up. But can we or Assam ever see another Nibaran Bora?
In the article, we have tried to bring up facts based on sources that were present as eye witnesses during the incident (The protests). The incident about Bora’s sacrificing his son’s marriage, although debated by some people, is almost a legend for those who had lived through those times as an adult. However, any claim which can prove the truth is welcome.
Also, this article is not meant to create any controversy or ethno-political dispute and we request our readers to eye the write up with a platonic outlook. We would appreciate your views, feedback and would be more than happy if you could share any such stories or incidents.
* Neither Times of Assam nor the writer is legally liable for any content published herewith.