The Nationality Question has been Ignored – An Interview with Hiren Gohain

March 23, 2010

Interview: Dr. Hiren Gohain (published in ‘Eka Ebong Koyekjon’, Autumn issue,2009, Guwahati). Translated by Soumya Guhathakurta, Sanhati.

Hiren Gohain had been one of the very few brave and clear voices during the Assam movement turmoil (1979-1985). This earned him respect, hostility and even physical assault. His erudition and fearlessness have fruitfully combined with a left orientation to become an indispensable ingredient of the nation’s collective conscience. In this candid interview the professor delves into issues both regional and national: the left’s neglect of the nationality question, trajectory of Assam movement and the rise of semi-fascist nationalism, internal democracy in leftist parties, the present state of CPI (M) and the future ahead. – Ed.


The Nationality Question has been ignored

Q: During the decades 70s-80s the leftists had come up as an important political force. Today they are on the margins of regional politics and almost irrelevant. How did this happen in your view?

HG: Let us first understand that the left has certain positive attributes. They are uncompromisingly secular, further they analyse the various fissures – conflicts that affect the various communities and groups. They are also essentially preoccupied with the various problems affecting the people. These positive qualities still rest with the left. These were their since the left’s inception, it was a novel idea then.

The Communist Party has been in existence in Assam since 1938, the Socialists who were ideologically close to them were also there. These ideas have been there for sometime now. There was a gust of fresh breeze in the 70s. I had then seen students and youth sincerely committed to the ideology.

It is different now. People are different now. ‘What do I gain from this?’ This is the common refrain. It is a dangerous portent. How has this happened? How can this mentality be overcome? I have no clue. I cannot say that idealism is passé but it is on the wane. There is media and other powerful institutions, peer groups, the mindset of contemporaries, attitude of parents and guardians and all of them taken together have affected the thought process of the young to an extent that there is almost no faith in idealism.

For instance, the parents of those who had taken the plunge in the 70s were not Leftists but they had faith in the ideals of the freedom movement. My father was not a freedom fighter .He was employed with the British. However, he was influenced by Gandhi and his ilk and followed their way of life. They were also idealists. Nowadays, youngsters feel that the idealism of their parents is dated and later day ideals more relevant to the present must be adapted. The problem with this is that the left in Assam, I am talking about Assam, has not been particularly successful in this endeavour.

My assessment of this failure is that the leadership, I was once very close to them – they were persons of character and ideals – but they worked within the constraints of a deterministic analysis of society. The conditions of the society around us, the social way of life in Assam, its cultural peculiarity, if these are not grasped then it is not possible to do anything. There were no substantial efforts by the left leadership in this direction. This can also be said to hold good about all Indian communist parties. For instance, they never really bothered to make an assessment of the caste system. They presumed it to be an obsolete institution which, with the advent of more and more industries and modernism, will make a suo motu disappearance.

This presumption is not correct since the institution has an inherent strength which cannot be so simply ignored. They operated with a deterministic analysis of Assam. For example, a middle class had evolved in Assam which was not there earlier. Post independence opportunities in education, employment and small businesses were cornered by the middle class, to their advantage. First generation middle class people, now living in cities, were from villages. Their parents and grand parents were agriculturists who profited from the new opportunities, to emerge as the middle class. Now if we ignore this middle class completely and choose to work with the working class only, will it succeed? Not many industries had come up in Assam. Working class leadership may be present in pockets, there were many parties for sure, but they were a miniscule section of the Assam population.

The peasants were then approached. Their response was that first they must get some benefits to draw their boys into the movement. Bishnu Rava had also commented that this is a problem with the peasants, that once they benefit from a movement they do not join the struggle. There were not many poor landless peasants in Assam. Agriculturists not only possessed dwelling units, they also owned 3 to 4 bighas (one bigha = 1337.8 m²) land. Tillers of land owned by others under the adhi system were also there.

Instead of analyzing and studying this specificity it was decided to go ahead with a movement of the agriculturists under the leadership of the working class. Perhaps, during the course of the movement, there could have been an evaluation every three to four years of the success or shortcomings of the movement of the peasants under the leadership of the working class or whether any modification to the programme was necessary. However there was no thinking on these lines. Rather, it was observed that the Congress seized on the opportunities unleashed by Left movement and Sarat Sinha, chief minister of Assam, met many of the demands raised by the left.

Consequently, the Congress seized the initiative from the left and not stopping there they also started the politics of backward class, scheduled castes, etc. The left does not have any views on these stratifications and consolidations now nor did they have it then. They stuck to their dated assessment that these institutions will disappear with the advancement of the society. As a result, in my view, the left considerably lost the opportunity to mobilise people. On the other hand, with Congress encouragement, there grew here a form of middle class fascism. An ultra intolerant attitude developed on the groundswell of nationalism.

I think that there is a national question in Assam and we have to face it. There is a national question in Assam which involves not only the Assamese but also other groups. Instead, the Assamese nationalists chose to ignore their alternate views, grievances, complaints and objections in totality, to impose a homogeneous one-dimensional nationalism on these other groups. That may not inevitably be violent but it manifested aggressive postures. Be careful, either you listen to us and become Assamese or else you will be showed your place.

The left fought this brand of fascism with sufficient principled fervour. However, their ideological mooring compelled them to ignore the national question and we ended up fighting those whose aim was fascism. In the process many persons from the left got killed, the left organisations were destroyed. I am being brief here, in the villages many sincere left activists were hounded out, many were killed. To an extent, the left’s roots in the villages were destroyed. The left‘s organisations had grown well in the countryside and many idealistic youngsters had come into the movement. However, I feel that not having studied the national question well, they could not strategise an effective resistance against the fascist onslaught.

Here I have a complaint to make. In 1978 or was it 1979, I do not recall well, I wrote a long letter to the CPI(M) leadership. I had written that the ambience was vitiated. I noticed that after a football match between East Bengal and Port Authority of Thailand which the former team won, a group of people had snatched the trophy and handed it over to the losers (laughs). The Port Authority team had become nervous at the turn of events. I wrote in the letter that the situation was very grim.

To narrate another incident, one day I was standing in front of my university quarters, when a taxi suddenly screeched to a halt in front of me. Some students with tired eyes and in a dishevelled state alighted from the taxi and charged me, we are being persecuted and what are you all doing about it? We are from the SFI, our papers are being burnt, our beddings have been thrown into water and we will not be allowed to stay in the hostel. What are we to do, sir?

I told them, that you are now telling me these things; why you did not say these things earlier? This situation did not evolve suddenly in a day. They did not say anything further and left. They were on their way to Shillong, to meet the governor who was also the chancellor of the university. What came out of this complaint?

Seeing these turn of events incidents I wrote [to the party] the letter laying bare my apprehensions that a violent storm is brewing in the political life of Assam, so please prepare to face it, organize yourselves and keep your machinery in a state of alert. I may not be a member of your party but I will help you to the best of my abilities. I felt that this type of fascism must be resisted in this manner. Along with many others I had informed Nurul Huda from Cachar.

The letter came up for discussion at the CPI(M)’s state committee meeting. Some of the members asked, who is Hiren Gohain? A typical and formal question really. Does he represent a party? No, he does not represent any organisation. Then why bother to discuss his letter, he is not a force, does not have a party nor an organisation, if he chooses to write letters, let him write, let them be printed in newspapers. I feel that this was a major mistake of theirs.

Then the Assam movement started. I was then bringing out ‘Kolakhar’, a little magazine of satire and jest. Seeing the evolving situation, I started writing some serious anti-movement, anti agitation articles which was quite unlike the earlier character of the periodical. The leftists then came forward and said that you carry on your work and we will help you. I said very well, the periodical is yours for the asking.

They then said that two Boro peasants have died and these fascist agitators have killed them. For many years a few Boro households lived in the place. Some people impressed on the students that these people were foreigners and they must be expelled. The names of the victims were Bihuram and Pahiram, not foreign names by any stretch of imagination. Nevertheless, the canard that they were foreigners was firmly embedded in the students’ mind. The students went there in groups and before the police could come, they committed the murder. They asked me to write an investigative report.

How do I reach the place? I went there, wrapped up in jacket et al, early on a densely fogged winter morning. A person took me there on a motorcycle. The agitation had not yet intensified. The site of the crime still had blood stains and there was a bad odour. The terrified survivors were also there. I took notes while speaking to them. The boy who accompanied me to the site later died. He was a medical student and a committed political worker. I sat through the night to write the story and called it ‘phulung chapri r tejronga kahini’ or ‘the blood stained tale of Phulung Char’.

The article became very popular in left and democratic circles and they printed and distributed it as pamphlets. Then the movement took an ugly turn and I became a pariah. I could not move out of my residence, university employees, students would spit at me. I continued to publish ‘Kolakhar’. I was also beaten up and hospitalized for a day or two. From the hospital I shifted to my parental home where my treatment continued.

Another incident had occurred prior to this; the SFI had invited me to the University of Calcutta. I presented an objective view of the movement. Many appreciated my lecture. However, when I was going to Calcutta, I was astonished to find people allied with the movement waiting for me at the airport. They were not ruffians or goonda elements, rather most of them were known to me.

They were my friends or class mates. They said, brother, speak for Assam. I retorted, what is this? I will speak of whatever I have seen and observed. There can be no diktat like speak for Assam. They insisted no, no, you must speak for Assam. The wanted an assurance from me. Finally they could not do so and I was evasive and dodged them. However, I observed that their attitude then was quite aggressive. I went to Calcutta. After the lecture my brother in law said that it will be difficult for me to go back immediately, so return after one or two months, when tempers cool down. It was too much to expect that things would cool down.

When I returned after 2-3 months a person wrote a misleading report in a news paper. That Hiren Gohain had spoken against Assam, against the interests of Assam in Calcutta etc etc. The newspaper Doinik Assom wielded a considerable influence in those days. If I reply to the article, there will be 50 letters against me in the newspaper. So I requested others, to write a rejoinder and reach it to the editor and it was done accordingly. Thereafter, the violence started and it escalated.

Beat him up here, kill him there, these was the situation. Then the canard that communists are traitors etc. etc. was spread. There were definitely fascist elements spreading the canard; there were anti-left elements too, not only anti-minority but anti-left.

Q: Do you not feel that one of the major objectives of the movement was to stop the steady increase in the left’s influence?

HG: Of course, of course, did I not mention fascism. Fascism is always against the left. However, I think, that keeping this possibility in mind, the leftists should have come up with a solution.

Q: Was the evaluation wrong?

HG: The evaluation was indeed wrong, and not only that, they were not prepared. Whenever I said this, [they would retort] no no you are exaggerating, your opinion is coloured and your apprehensions are imaginary. Don’t worry. Media also played dirty. Earlier they would carry all the statements from the left but soon they stopped printing them. I told them that there is no reason to rest smug on the faith that your statements will be carried by the media, where their own self interest is not served. At that time, all the newspapers including The Assam Tribune carried articles with the worst kind of bias. Even the All India Radio would tactfully suppress the correct news.

Further, within the left, the position of CPI created problems. CPI’s position was that if they associate with the movement then they would retain their mass base and expand it. However, it did not happen like that. The movement participants were shrewd. They were aware of CPI’s motive. So when the honeymoon was over, CPI was bashed along with other constituents of the left and as a result of this CPI started crying fascist, fascist. This was a sad turn of events. CPI also has some good traits, like all political parties not everything is bad about them.

Their perception that there is a national question involved here was correct. However, based on this assessment does one come together with an ultra nationalist force and take part in joint political rallies? Had they maintained their separate identity and presented their distinct analysis of the situation perhaps the denouement could have been different.

In my view, the Assam movement, it is a watershed. It is then that Marxism was turned into a pariah. It is a phenomenon that cannot be imagined. It disappeared from all newspapers and media. None ought to read, study, be in touch with these ideas. As a result successive generations grew up without coming in contact with the ideas of the left. Their mental horizon was different.

You are right; they managed to erase these ideas from peoples’ mind. This was done in a well planned manner – they did not stop at killing leftists, destroying their organizations but also by erasing those ideas from peoples’ mind. Some changes have occurred of late but there is no faith in Marxism any more. In the interim, the collapse of the Soviet Union accentuated the process. So you are right, definitely there was an anti left content. There was a fascist content.

But I will not say that it was wholly fascist. To conceive it in this manner would be incorrect. Later it was seen that slowly people were getting disillusioned. [This was] a strategic moment, a moment when the party could come have to a decision. When disillusionment was setting in among the people they could have taken its advantage. However, I saw that, I can’t say this about all of them; many were working very closely with the police. They went to the extent of getting people arrested by pointing them out as leaders of the movement. In my view this was very stupid. As a result of acting closely with the police, police which had earlier identified with the movement, let loose repression.

This is quite obvious; they always align with the ruling class. As a result [the leftists] became more isolated. [A notion embedded itself in peoples’ minds] that they were agents of the police.

[The major mistake that the leftists made] there was an ant-left fascist content on one side and a national question on the other side, they ignored both. In my view, this was not always the view within the party. In the early 50s there was Ranadive’s thesis that India should be a federation of multiple nationalities. There will be many hurdles on the path to make it workable. But this is more realistic than the present centralised dispensation.

Q: In your view, the left’s analysis has not given Assamese middle class its due place?

HG: In the national question, a section of it is middle class. And there will be a shared point of view between the peasantry and the middle class. Take the example of the urge for a backward linguistic group to modernize. Education, industry and you know that not too many industries have come up here till now. Whatever is coming up, our boys are not able to reap its benefits or they did not get an opportunity to do so.

Industries were started without adequate training as a result all the jobs were taken away by people from outside. This, I think is, very unreasonable. Industry does not mean that you set up one here [and there ends the responsibility], and if the people here are not beneficiaries, then what is the point of having industries? These facets were embedded in the Assam movement but the leadership instead of focusing on them took it along anti-left or reactionary lines, so whatever had to happen did happen.

Another difficulty was that at the all India level the anti-left forces also understood this. They portrayed the movement as noble and massive, Time magazine carried it as the world’s biggest mass movement and there was a design behind this portrayal. Eminent people from foreign countries would come here and say yes, this movement is positive, non violent and we say there were some violent incidents, not that there were no such incidents (laughs) – this was also a part of the conspiracy. The conspiracy was not only national but also international.

Q: Perhaps the leftists could have opposed the Assam movement from a different perspective. Left did not successfully highlight the genuine concerns latent in the Assam movement.

HG: That’s not only what I said. I also said that they should have addressed the national question and come up with an appropriate and considered assessment of the same. Even before the agitators could wreak it up and take its advantage. We did not have industries, young men and women were not getting jobs. In 1968 the situation was grim and many youngsters had become Naxalites. In the convocation, they tore the degree certificates in front of the chancellor. The left had then pushed them afar, saying that they are Naxalites, they are extremists. This was their mistake.

I am not talking of the later turn of events, but the national question should have been discussed earlier. So that it does not deviate along fascist lines. If there is no appropriate Marxist view – solution, settlement or approach – then this will happen. There cannot be a vacuum, political vacuum. To cite an example; In West Bengal due to the CPI(M)’s mistakes a lumpen [party] like Trinamul is advancing its prospects. How are they managing to score a sequence of wins in municipal elections? It is a dangerous situation. I am not saying that this has happened because they are bad people, rather in my view there are certainly some faults in their thinking and practice.

I keep going to Kolkata. I find that there are some notorious goons in Mamata’s band. They were once famous in Kolkata as goondas, youth congress goondas; they are all in Mamata’s party. I am not taking names. Like, in West Bengal they are suffering reverses, or going to suffer reverses due to wrong analysis, so also in a different manner in Assam, they suffered reverses due to wrong analysis and negligence. The mechanical element in left’s approach and thinking is responsible for this denouement.

Q: In Assam the main support base of the Communist Party rested on the middle class and minorities.

HG: No, peasants, peasants. There was a good base amongst peasants, RCPI and CPI taken together. But they had maintained a slight distance from the middle class. In my childhood, I would see my mother, while speaking of somebody, whispering into our neighbour’s ears that their son is a communist (laughs). As if it was something to be apprehensive of. But amongst tribals and poor Assamese peasants they were popular. However, they had a hunger for land. They, the peasants did not have, to that extent, an organised consciousness.

Q: And tea garden workers?

HG: The problem with tea garden workers is that, I feel that the CPI(M) has faced this with West Bengal Santhals. The Tripura government also faced this amongst adivasis. Their political consciousness is at such a low level that is not compatible with the modern. I would not say exactly at a low level but to work amongst them requires a distinct approach. How to speak; what to work with, the manner of speaking, these things have yet to evolve. I read in an article somewhere, a woman activist from the CPI(M) commented about Santhals that they are ignorant, they are low castes etc. She is not a leader but a good worker of the CPI(M). She has said low caste, ignorant etc. With this attitude it is not possible to draw people into the movement. In the case of tea garden workers it is the same problem.

Again, Congress formed INTUC in the tea gardens. They formed INTUC and said that this is the only labour organization, they will organize and others will not be allowed to come in. When some one from outside would come to organize they were beaten and driven out by the workers and this was also because of long isolation. There are two points of note here. Firstly, for various reasons, this long segregation throughout the colonial period, they were kept isolated from the society. They were not allowed to mingle with the nearby villages and habitations. They were in a position of serfs to slaves, half slaves.

Post 1950s the situation improved to an extent, some connections developed but even then —-. There were no educational facilities; it was a case of crass, naked exploitation. Even later a structure was built and called a school, a person was appointed, he ran away with a girl, and lo, the school was closed for two years. There was no one. If they are educated, cheap labour force will not be available and this eventuality always loomed in the minds of the company owners, so there is no major emphasis on education even now. Education and medical facilities, both are neglected.

Secondly, INTUC. As INTUC’s role as touts became gradually evident the situation took a turn for the worse and it became fearful. In tea gardens a kind of nationalism like say Gorkhaland, a kind of chauvinism has grown, extreme, extremely mindless. We saw this in Beltala. We will indulge in violence; I will snatch whatever is mine. Perhaps, in this case, there is a degree of latitude by the centre.

As a result, I am not sure of the course that it will take. Something will be done. They will not be given anything, they will be sent along an extremist path, so that the left cannot size up the matter. And to speak of their consciousness: things that appear just to them, that we have to kill our enemies. As a result the owners of companies manage to survive and managerial cadre employees lose their lives.

Q: Please say something about the 1990 alliance between AGP and the left.

HG: That alliance had my support. The politics that Congress was then indulging in was equally dangerous. Congress, because it was cut off from the masses for whatever reason, took to all kinds of unconstitutional illegal methods for remaining in power. They created some touts. If you support me you will get money etc, and [if that] does not work then bash them up. This cannot lead to healthy politics. As a result there was a wave of anti- Congress sentiment throughout the state. That’s why I had supported their conditional alignment with them [AGP].

Conditional in the sense that if you do the following things then we are with you, otherwise not, issue based support. Meet the peasant’s demands and then they would also know that we had got the work done. And since they are a bourgeois party, a time would come when there would be conflicts. But our leaders had an illusion that perhaps we could stick around with them till the end. I am not able to write off the CPI(M) completely, there are many good young people with them. We warned them that whatever they were doing was not desirable, come away. If you stay the loss is more than the gains.

That is what happened. Pramod Gogoi’s, Hemen Das’ reputation got tarnished and Prafulla [Mahanta] reaped benefits. I will give an example. Towards the end there was a youth congregation of AGP. A Shiv Sena leader was invited. That leader delivered a strident anti-communist speech. Now the CPI(M) woke up from its stupor and they raised questions on the turn of events. They took a strong stand and met Prafulla. He said that it’s an act of the youth wing done without understanding its implication, we are not with it. We accepted his explanation. Foolish. As a result Prafulla turned 180 degrees to shake hands with the BJP. By then it was too late.

Q: The mistakes are committed repeatedly.

HG: If mistakes are admitted then will not recur. A radical questioning, radical self examination is required. As a result of this process, the possibility of committing mistakes reduces.

Q: Why are these mistakes committed? Is it due to incorrect theoretical analysis?

HG: In my view the principle of democratic centralism is not a very healthy doctrine. We will sit in Delhi and decide everything, is it possible? I once met Sitaram Yechury in Delhi, we spoke for 3 to 4 hours and we dined together. We spoke about many things. He said, you give me these as a written note. At that time, the alignment with Prafulla was on. I told him that the alignment is okay but these people cannot be trusted. If you trust them then you will be the loser. It appeared as if he was convinced. I slogged through the night to write a 10-12 page note. I reached it to Sitaram Yechury at Gopalan Bhavan. But Sitram Yechury did not contact me after that; there was no reply to my letter. A few months later he came here and commented about Prafulla Mahanta’s spouse, Jayashree, that he is yet to come across a more intelligent politician.

The fault with Hemen Das and his ilk is that their feedback is different. A serious drawback of communist parties is that they prefer feedbacks from their own people. And the feedbacks are usually of a kind that party leaders love to hear or of a kind where the feedback giver skirts his/her responsibility. I do not think that objective feedbacks are sent. However, lack of objective feedbacks can endanger the survival of the party. If the assessment of the reality is incorrect then how can the party survive?

Q: Perhaps, not only in the case of Assam, this is true at the all India level too. Or else they had no clue that such a massive collapse was impending in West Bengal. The underlying reasons were definitely feedbacks by sycophants. Sycophants are there in the party everywhere.

HG: Right, mistakes are recurring. Kerala, West Bengal. Sycophancy, for a communist, is a very peculiar condition.

I have read a few words of Lenin. A peasant delegation came from the village and said – Comrade, we have cultivated so many crops. We have done this and that. Things have transformed completely. Please go there… Lenin said, no, I am not keen to hear about your good work, tell me the problems that you face. This is interesting. If good work has been done, let it be done, it will happen again, where have the mistakes been committed, what are the problems, tell me, I want to discuss them. If the negative side is not scrutinized then there will be no result.

Q: Can the left stage a turn around from their current position? If they can, how can they go about it, or what exactly should they do?

HG: In India, mass movements have their distinct place; it started under Gandhiji’s leadership. We have a tradition of mass movements here. Many goals are achieved through mass movements; fascists’ goals have been achieved through mass movements. In Assam this idea of mass movement, has to be learnt, has to be mastered and applied by the left. In lieu of it I find that they are very enthusiastic about their flag. Wherever they go, even if there are only four people, they will carry and wave their flag along the way. The flag is not a priority. There is price rise, you are organizing a separate movement where at best, people gather in tens, or in hundreds, or may be a thousand.

Why don’t you join rallies where ten thousand people congregate? Perhaps you will have to keep your flag concealed but people will recognise that these are the leaders who are [protecting our interests]. Generally they are selfless; corruption is less prevalent, disciplined workers. Leadership will naturally vest in them. But there is an aversion, a fear of mass movements. Jayprakash did this later, whatever may been its objectives, with reasonable success. They will have to master this. This is a very important aspect of our Indian political tradition.

However, they feel it’s a bluff perpetrated by Gandhiji, it is not for us. Mass movement will trigger a personality change for them. If they work with the people, they will naturally be real mass leaders, there are such people in their fold, not all, but many. Now take the case of Sitaram Yechury, not a mass leader, Prakash Karat, not a mass leader by any stretch of imagination. This is important.

Lenin had this captivating quality; he could convince the masses applying logic. He formed his comrades, applying logic.

I remember this incident about Fidel Castro. After the fall of soviet Russia, Cuba was passing through difficult times. Aid was not forthcoming from there, supply of petroleum had stopped, a difficult situation. People were instructed to leave their vehicles at home and cycle to office. Those feeling uncomfortable with the diktat were advised, if they so chose, to proceed to USA. Some did leave.

This is the story of a village, a village populated wholly by communists; they were reported to be leaving. Castro came to hear of this. One or two ships were anchored on the coast, waiting for them to embark. Castro rushed to the spot in a car. You will surely leave, but listen to me first. He spoke and explained to them for two hours. At the end of it everyone returned to their village with their baggage and belongings.

Now you compare this with Nandigram, Singur. Firstly, they committed mistakes there, but things that they could have done to assuage the feelings, seek forgiveness for the party, they did not do. That is not possible after indulging in violence.

Q: That means there is a lack of leadership.

HG: Lack of leadership follows from these shortcomings. Leadership evolves in a particular environment. In the present situation, certain practices have been done away completely so how will the right kind of leadership evolve? We have a clerical type, bureaucratic type leadership. Mass contact as envisaged in programmes involves a close contact with the masses, where there is scope for exchange of views, if such programmes are not prevalent; the possibility for the existence of such an environment is ruled out. And mass does not mean a few workers, or peasant party members, not only them. They are good people. The term mass also includes unorganized semi conscious, such people too. In our minds, some respect must be reserved for them.

Q: Does the situation disappoint you?

HG: Is it disappointing? (Smiles).No, in my view, the course that the country is taking, on one side neo liberal [Congress’ policy], the price of potato is heading towards Rs.25 per kg. What else will follow, nobody knows. On the other side there is communal fascism. Under the circumstances, left is the only hope, if they do not adopt the correct line —. A time will come when the people will vent their wrath on them [the Congress] and in that eventuality BJP or some other formation will take their seat. BJP is now facing a crisis, this is the left’s opportunity, let them go to the people.

I remember an incident when urban property tax was increased in Guwahati. The tax on the house that I live in, which was say Rs.4, 000/- , became Rs.26, 000/-. People owning small houses in Guwahati, who have owned houses since long, were very annoyed. There was a meeting organized by CPI(M) at Latasheel. I went to the meeting. On being asked to speak I advised them to take the militant line, this in a situation where the middle class was ready to take to the streets.

Normally, middle class is seldom willing to march on the streets; they have various calculations in their mind. I told the party people that this is the opportunity; rally them to the streets. But they did not do it, rather they went for some kind of a mass contact programme, some people close to the party would go around localities to make people understand. I enquired later, what happened, to which I was told that people have understood. The understanding was such that the movement fizzled away.

Is this the way to make things happen?


2 Responses to “The Nationality Question has been Ignored – An Interview with Hiren Gohain”

  1. assam tea Says:
    November 18th, 2010 at 04:54

    Very nice information.

  2. Dick Tracy Says:
    March 25th, 2011 at 15:27

    Great interview…for the first time got to hear his views on the outline of leftist politics on Assam and his predicament during the Assam movement.

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