Updated: March 6, 2021 5:33:02 pm
Hiren Gohain (82) is one of the most prominent public intellectuals and academics of Assam. He was in the news this week after he resigned from the position of chief advisor of the newly formed regional political party, Raijor Dal, after a letter written by the party president singled out Badruddin Ajmal’s AIUDF and called it “communal”. Gohain wrote that Gogoi’s stance in the letter was completely opposite to his long-held opinion.
A Sahitya Akademi awardee, Gohain was born in Golaghat in 1939. He graduated from Calcutta University with honours in English literature and took his masters in the same from Delhi University with record marks. He went to Cambridge for his PhD. Later he joined Dibrugarh University and, in 1998, retired as professor of English from Gauhati University.
Gohain has been known to speak his mind and not shy away from taking a stand against the popular socio-political tide. During the Assam Movement (1979-1985), Gohain was initially a harsh critic of the agitation, but the severity of his criticism reduced towards the end of the movement when he said that the legitimate causes of the Assamese people need to be addressed.
Gohain has been a strong critic of the BJP and the RSS. He is strongly opposed to the contentious CAA. In January 2019, he along with Gogoi and senior journalist Manjit Mahanta were booked for sedition after their comments during a protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.
Gohain had taken the stage at a rally on January 7 in Guwahati and criticised the Centre and the state governments for bringing the Bill. In his speech, Gohain said, “If the question of independence arises, if no one listens to us, the government, the state and political parties, then it’s a different thing, then we will definitely be compelled to raise the demand for independent Assam. But let’s not get carried away by temporary emotions, as citizens of India, we will fight as long as we can. If that fight is not successful, then the demand for independence will come up.”
After the FIR, he had told The Indian Express that by “fighting for the secular basis of citizenship in India and the dignity and rights of Assam in a federal polity, we are fighting for the fundamental democratic state of India and the Constitution”.
In his letter to political parties from prison, Gogoi said that when he talks about the opposition parties against the BJP, he is consciously keeping the AIUDF out. “We do not desire to take along a communal party with fundamentalist ideology to oppose a communal and fascist party,” wrote Gogoi.
“We think the BJP and the AIUDF are two sides of the same coin,” wrote Gogoi, adding that they strengthened each other. “If we take them along with us, we will be weakened ethically, ideologically and politically.”
Gogoi’s Raijor Dal is contesting this year’s Assam polls in alliance with another new regional party, the Asom Jatiya Parishad (AJP). Both the parties were born out of the anti-CAA protests that rocked Assam in 2019. The two parties have not joined the Congress-led ‘grand alliance’, which has the AIUDF, three Left parties, the Bodoland People’s Front and the Anchalik Gana Morcha.