A Hatred Politics on Bengalis: A Bloody conflict of the 1960s

Daya Sagar Kalita [Translation by Subrata Roy}

This is an English translation of the article originally written in Assamese by Daya Sagar Kalita, Jorhat. Translated by Subrata Roy

In the chronological backdrop, the upsurge of ethnolinguistics in Assam and its conflict and many interrelated issues have not yet been analyzed insofar meticulously and critically in elucidation. Apart from a little bit, most of the research was inscribed with the ink of impulsive sentiments. It is historically known to all that at the end of ‘Ahom Dynasty’, a fierce civil war broke out, followed by panic and sufferings to the people and all those intolerable, painful agonies ended in 1826, at the time when British occupied Assam as per the historic treaty, a treaty distinctively known as “Treaty of Yandabo”. With the influx of the British, the Assamese saw the image of God within the British. Naturally, the British ruler got an opportunity to spread their cobweb nets like a skilled hunter to rule India for a long time. However, in 1836, Bengali was made the official language in Assam. Inevitably, ethnolinguistics clashes between two communities began in Assam. It is in the record that the Bengalis were advantaged of learning the English language long before, as because Fort William College was established in Calcutta in 1800. Naturally, a large number of educated Bengalis were employed as clerks by the British. But, after the conquest of Assam in 1826, they (Assamese) were also recruited in Assam. As a result, the Assamese aristocrats started to believe in as if it was a conspiratorial strategy of Bengalis that the British imposed the Bengali language on the Assamese. Even then until today, the Assamese middle class cannot get out of such misconstrued ideas. How can they! Laxminath Bezbarua, an eminent literary scholar, once said that the clerks of the British administration were Bengalis of Assam and thus the Bengalis were the people who had deceitfully convinced the British to make their language official in Assam. In addition to that, Padmanath Gohain Baruah, a British literary pensioner, went one step further than Bezbaruah when he spoke in Assam Sahitya Sabha by extolling the British Ruler. Gohain Baruah said, ‘Assamese literature gained consciousness only when the British Ruler rescued Assam under the ‘Treaty of Yandabo’ in 1826 and the British put all of their possible efforts for the prosperity of Assamese literature in protection by making various arrangements in paving the way for the development of Assamese as the official language. But it was then that a group of selfish plotters, who were job aspirant Bengalis, started to machinate that if the Assamese language continued to survive as the official language, then their interests would be harmed and the future of the Bengalis would be bleak. For this reason, the Bengalis convinced the British with such ill minded misconstrued ideas that the Assamese language is the perverted form of Bengali language and it has no uniqueness and with this, the British got convinced and introduced the Bengali language in the Schools instead of Assamese. As a result, only after ten years of being honored by the British in 1938, the Bengali language failed to retain again in its place. It was because, in 1871, the then ‘Mahatma’ Sir George Campbell, a lieutenant-governor of Bengal, kindly introduced Assamese as the official language in the Courts and the Schools instead of Bengali, and during these 35 years, the Assamese language was tremendously dominated by the Bengali language. As a result Assamese literature had to suffer a loss of its unique existence. Even after Campbell's favor, Assamese literature took some time to reclaim the evicted land of Bengali literature and the work was completed in 1903 by the grace of ‘Mahatma, Sir Bampfylde Fuller, ‘Bahadur’, the former Chief Commissioner of Assam who later became the lieutenant-governor of East Bengal and Assam. Before that, 32 years had passed amid fierce debates over to prove the uniqueness of Assamese’’. [1]

Likewise, Padmanath, a British admirer, insulted the Bengalis as much as he could by extolling the British with words like ’Dhua Tulsi Pata’ (flawless). He vividly regarded the British officials with the words 'Mahatma' (Great soul), 'Bahadur' (Brave man), 'Kripa kare', (favoring) etc. Although Bezbaruah made a lot of satire on the Bengalis; he did not hesitate to criticize the British for the disaster of the Assamese language as he was a free-spirited businessman; did not need unwavering loyalty like Hemchandra or Padmanath. Bezbaruah wrote, “The British government has always fought to push back the Assamese language to make Bengali the language of Assam. From the Commissioner of Assam Colonel Hopkinson to the Chief Commissioner, the big bureaucrats of the Assam government did not make any mistake in finding the flaws in the Assamese language’’. [2]

Interestingly that’s not all; furthermore Hemchandra Goswami was one of the pioneers who abusively cast aspersions on the Bengali community for the disastrous condition of the Assamese language. His lips outburst in words as likes “It was then not so smooth traveling in-between Assam and Bengal and that’s why no one Bengali wished to go to work in Assam and those who did not get food in their native place were self-centered, basically from the place of Dhaka, Rangpur, and the poverty-stricken people, very few in numbers came to work in as like as the way the inconsequential husks are blown in the wind from the husk sweeper and if the Assamese language was made the official language then they would have complexity in working and that is why they started convincing the British Clerks that the Assamese language has its no unique existential value in terms of identity as if, it’s the perverted part of the Bengali language. Therefore, because of having its limitations, it often lacks to communicate elaborately the complicated subject’. He further added, ‘what does British foreigner know about Assam’? They know nothing about the customs, manners, and speech of the people. Above all, the Bengalis were then known as the most educated community. On top of that, Bengalis are known to be more educated than the Assamese. Relying on the words of those Bengalis who were in search of clerical jobs, the Assamese language was removed from the court in 1836 in replacement of the Bengali language’’.[3]

It’s on record in the historical background, Hemchandra Goswami, a staunch Bengali hater, did not even abstain himself from praising the British government. As for little quotation in instances, ‘What does British foreigner know about Assam’ ‘It’s because of the greatness of the British, the Assamese are proudly able to locate themselves today in existential’.  Incredible statement! Isn't it? Aside from that, one thing is certain that all these reminiscent Assamese writers criticised the Bengalis as much as they could. But Bengali was used by the Assamese intelligentsia since long. Moniram Dewan authored, ‘Buranji Vivek Ratna’, likewise, Holiram Dhekial Phukan wrote ‘Assam Buranji’ in Bengali and his son Annandaram Dhekial Phukan also wrote his famous book ‘Ain o Bebostha’ (Rule and Regulation) in Bengali. Even, Hemchandra Baruah himself translated his name into Bengali and plenteously wrote in Bengali under the pseudonym of 'Sonar Chand Deka Barua'. Laxminath Bezbarua had written in Bengali under the pseudonym 'Rangalal Chattopadhay'. Even Anandaram Dhekial Phukon also wrote to Mr. Mills in a small note, ‘’For the propagation of the Assamese language, we don't suggest to the Schools to stop teaching Bengali’’. Even, Hemchandra Baruah wrote in his autobiography ‘’at that time the Bengali language was very popular in Assam; everyone hated the mother tongue. It’s seen that the people speak ‘Bengali’ in the school, in the office, in day to day conversation among the boys and girls, even in their correspondence. Everyone took the Bengali language as companions. Of course, I am also not out of that as it is always close to my heart’’.[4]

As a result, it was in observance that there was a wavering situation regarding the Bengali language in the state of mind of almost all the reminiscent Assamese writers. Hemchandra Goswami and Padmanath Gohain Baruah either received respect and/or to get privilege from the British, repeatedly rebuked the Bengali bureaucrats for what they were not; by treating the British as unequal benefactors. Goswami openly wrote for Assamese. ‘Although we have suffered some losses for the introduction of Bengali language instead of Assamese in the Schools and the Court, to be honest, we cannot blame the British ruler for that’. Such type of annotation proves how steadfast his devotion to the British was! It would not be wrong to say that such kind of linguistic nationalism that was misconstrued for the restoration and re-emergence in support of the Assamese language, over time, took the shape of extremist nationalism that was fueled to flame up the conflicts at the beginning. And there is abundant evidence found in the works of Padmanath Gohani Baruah and Hemchandra Goswami as well. Now I must let you in on a secret that the linguistic nationalism created in their day, took the form of full-fledged nationalism in the days of Ambikagiri Roychowdhury and Nilmoni Phukan. At the outset, Roychowdhury was one of the leaders of Assamese nationalism who was a great Bengali-lover, had an unpredictable and a colorful personality, later, became a famous extreme Assamese nationalist who’s ‘career graph’ was unstable at every step. His political career set in motion when he planned to assassinate Sir Bampfylde Fuller, the Commissioner of the Assam Valley at a time when he was a strong Bengali lover, politically and personally. He was in a dilemma when he fell in love with a Bengali girl aged about sixteen years old. But as the bomb failed to explode, he sought permission to be a volunteer for the British during World War I.[5]

However, according to Ambikagiri, there are three types of enemies in the country; Communist, Pakistani means Muslims, and Bengalist means Bengalis. Abruptly, a once dear relative became his eyesore and here are few instances of his fierce nationalism of insanity at a glance:

1. Once upon a time, few Bengali girls from Tezpur involved themselves in doing some unsocial activities. In response to this, Ambikagiri observed a resistance day program against the Bengali community to demonstrate his admiration towards the Assamese.

2. On the other day, Ambikagiri once became aggressively furious on an advocate of the Guwahati High Court since he wrote a leaflet in Bengali. Out of excitement, he didn’t even bother to read the leaflet which was of a different content. 

3. One day, two boys from Guwahati threw the body of a vulture in a house. So on hearing this, he started lamenting on the way and claimed that the Assamese Community is stigmatized. He went out to buy fish from home at that moment and it was Raghunath Chowdhury who somehow managed him abstaining from creating a dramatic scene on the road and sent him later to the fish market where he was supposed to go. [6]

It is, thus, noteworthy that there was a fundamental difference between both the extreme Assamese nationalist Ambikagiri Roychowdhury and Nilmoni Phukan. In truth, Ambikagiri had a needy life, in contrast where Nilmoni was rich. Nilmoni was graced by eminent tea-owners Bisturam Baruah and Shiva Prasad Barua. This is how Atul Chandra Hazarika wrote about Nilmoni Phukan, ‘’He neither participated in Mahatma Gandhi's non-cooperation movement in 1921 nor was a supporter of anti-untouchability movement at that time. Even to a certain degree he devoted himself in doing anti-national activities and devoted in all respect to the economic prosperity for the British, excluding his Assamese literary pursuits”.[7] In support of this statement, Dr. Hiren Gohain commented as follows, ‘‘the intellectual like Nilmoni Phukan was the first to strongly oppose the independence movement. Phukan did so as an agent of the Bourgeoisie involved in the tea industry’’.[8]

Just bear with me for a while, because I’m going to show you an example of Nilmoni Phukan's extremist attitude that was penned by him in his editorial ‘Dainik Batori' newspaper, of which one of the patrons of that newspaper was Shivprasad Baruah. The newspaper had the unwavering support of the British tea owners. Shivprasad Baruah was already sure that it would get the warm support of the British and the news. This newspaper was given the task of printing the news of many gardens of the Brahmaputra valley of which many influential tea owners were the regular customer of that newspaper. ‘Dainik Batori’ had also opposed both Gandhi's 'Non-Cooperation Movement' and Bal Gangadhar Tilak’s idea of 'Responsive Cooperation Movement', as told by Laxminath Phukan, once the editor of ‘Dainik Batori’ newspaper. Nilmoni Phukan was the first man who propagated publically the idea of “Assam is only for Assamese’ in ‘Dainik Batori’ and later he roared ‘Greater Assam for Assamese’. Amid his idea of large Assam, he dragged the whole of the northeast, including Burma. Though, his idea was later considered detrimental. In another editorial, Nilmoni Phukan, in a tone of authority, issued a decree to introduce the Assamese language in the hill districts of Assam. According to him, the language of the Garo Hills was nothing but Assamese and wrote ‘’If the Reverend James Joy Mohan Nichols Roy had known Assamese, the Assamese would have accepted him as their man. He dreamt to bring the people of the plains and mountains to the knees of the Assamese language. One can easily guess the reaction of such an extremist leap on the tribes and other peoples’’.[9]

In addition to that ‘Dainik Batori’ in its publication vehemently opposed the establishment of a Bengali school in Tezpur, arguing that Assam could not afford to open such a school with the money earned from the sweat of Assamese farmers. But as the Bengalis said, they would construct the school with their own money; meanwhile ‘Dainik Batori’ newspaper appeared in its original form declaring that no matter whoever supports financially; ideologically there could not be any Bengali school in Assam. However, uttering such directives, ‘Dainik Batori’ did not stop declaring a war against the opening of that school in Tezpur and also subtitled Anand Chandra Agarwala as 'Badan' (Traitor). Interestingly, like Nilmoni Phukon, Anand Chandra Agarwala was also the president of Assam Sahitya Sabha and the hatter made extensive police arrangements to enforce Assamese language in the Dhubri session of Assam Sahitya Sabha when he was the Superintendent of Police of Goalpara. [10]

The said newspaper extensively tried to make Bihu a national festival to oppose ‘Durga Puja’. But their real purpose was to stop the potters who make idols and to stop the petty shopkeepers who earn a few bucks during the time of Opera and to stop organizing Opera show in the days of Durga Puja festival. More surprising than that, these small shopkeepers, potters, artists who were declared as foreigners, did not consider the Marwari wholesalers and the British ruler as foreigners. On the contrary, they declared that there was no dispute between the Assamese and Marwari community, the only enemy of Assamese was Bengalis. From that time onwards a negative public opinion was being propagated against the Bengalis. But the spark of this attitude began to take a terrible form at times. On October 3, 1947, the Prime Minister of Assam, Gopinath Bordoloi, told reporters, “Assamese would be the official and state language. Assamese would be the medium of teaching and learning in school.” On 10 November 1947, he went to Silchar to enhance the connectivity of Silchar- Agartala. He made it clear at the submission of the memorandums submitted by the local people, “Assamese as a state language would be made compulsory.” [11] From this, it is understood well that there was no ambiguity of the government regarding the state language. But he did not speak a second language or another. This was an indication that the whole of Greater Assam should be adorned with Assamese and amid such atmosphere, the Assamese-Bengali conflict of 1947 started. As a part of this, publication of anti-Bengali letters and literature, organizing meetings and sometimes physical harassment on Bengalis started at the behest of the then government. On 23 August 1947, a massive public meeting was held in Guwahati under the title of National General Assembly and it was at that meeting that the proposal for 'Bongal Kheda' (Drive out Bengalis) was taken.

The first constitute assembly meeting of Assam was held on 5 November 1947. Muhammad Saleh Akbar Hydari , the then Governor of Assam, delivered a hate speech at the meeting. In his speech, he called the Bengalis ‘Stranger’ by calling Assamese the indigenous owners of Assam. The part of his speech is quoted. “The native of Assam are now masters of their own house. They have a government which is both responsible and responsive of them... the Bengalis have no longer the power, even if they had the will, to impose anything on peoples of these Hills and valleys which constitute Assam.” [12]

In 1948, Legislative Assembly, Gopinath Bordoloi clearly said “It is not the intention of the Government to make Assam a bilingual state and for the sake of homogeneity of the province ...All non-Assamese to adopt the Assamese language”. [13]

In May 1948, a massive attack was orchestrated on Bengalis. The clashes affected local offices of Kolkata newspapers, houses, small businesses, and even pedestrians, and looted many properties. The situation deteriorated so badly that the government had to deploy troops. According to official figures, one person died, but unofficially the death toll was much higher. It is noteworthy that there was no report of any Bengali Muslims being attacked in this clash. Only the Bengali Hindus were targeted in the clashes. As a result, there is reason to believe that this incident added fuel to the fire of future Hindu-Muslim divisions followed by bloody communal clashes in 1950. The main centers of this conflict were West Bengal and East Pakistan i.e. present-day of Bangladesh. A series of massive clashes took place in Karimganj, Goalpara, Barpeta, etc. areas of Assam, and many people were affected badly as a result many Muslims were compelled to leave Assam. Most of them took refuge in Coach Behar and various parts of East Bengal. The then Prime Minister of India said in a statement to the Lok Sabha that ‘Tribal Folk’ was involved in that conflict, later, following Nehru-Liaquat Agreement, most of the Muslims who took refuge in Bangladesh returned to Assam and more than 50,000 people were killed in that communal conflict of 1950, according to various sources.

In 1954, the ‘State Reorganization Act’ was introduced in Assam. At that time the Bengalis of Goalpara district wanted to annex Goalpara with West Bengal and on this pretext, the Assamese-Bengali conflict started in 1955 in Goalpara, Dhubri, Bilasipara, Bijni, Barpeta, Fakiragram and other areas. It was reported in various newspapers that a large group of Muslims was involved in the eviction of Bengali Hindus. As a result of that conflict, many people were forced to leave Assam and flee to West Bengal. On the night of 22nd April of the same year, about thirty people broke into the office of Anandabazar newspaper in Panbazar of Guwahati. The Assamese Bengali conflict of 1955 was the first well-organized conflict which was termed as 'Bongal Kheda Andolon' (Drive out Bengalis Movement).  

After 1955, the final stage of the Assamese-Bengali conflict was the Bengali Language Movement, which took its shape in 1960. All Assamese took this movement as the last battle of Saraighat to protect the Assamese language and literature and indiscriminately took a belligerent attitude against the Bengalis. But most of the time, inevitably, the people who came out to defend the State turned out as oppressors.

Misconception about the 1960s:
It should be noted that there has been no significant research analysis of the language movement of the 1960s to date. With the introduction of the 'State Reorganization Proposal' of 1955, the question of recognition of state language in every state was also raised and Assam was not out of exception. But some anti-Assam people in Assam started a movement against it. They smashed the nameplates written in Assamese in some places and raised the slogan 'The Assamese language is the language of donkeys'. Meanwhile, on July 4, 1960, police opened fire on protesters on the streets. Ranjit Barpujari was shot dead on the spot while he was talking with the hostel students of Cotton College. In the same year on July 7, Mofizuddin Ahmed of Dimaruguri Narottam village near Nagaon town was killed. In front of the normal school on Shankar Mission Road in Nagaon, Matiullah Hazarika's son Mofizuddin was shot dead by unidentified gunmen. On October 10, 1960, Chief Minister Bimala Prasad Chaliha introduced a bill on language in Assam Legislative Assembly, immediately Ramendra Mohan Das, MLA of North Karimganj constituency opposed it. Amid protests, the Bill was passed on 24 October in Assam Legislative Assembly. In response, on 5th February 1961 under the leadership of Rathindra Sen ‘Cachar Gana Sangram Parishad’ was formed and called a complete strike on May 19 and as a result, many people including Rathindra Sen and Bidhu Bhushan Choudhury were arrested. In the meantime, one of the tragic barbaric incident took place on 19th May in the context of the language movement. Police opened fire near Silchar Tarapur Railway station where nine people died there on spot and two died later in the Hospital. On the other hand, a Public Relations Officer of the Northeast Frontier Railway Surya Bora was brutally killed by some miscreants at the Siliguri Railway Station. The killings were so brutal that his body was not found. 

Sequential analysis of the incidences:
The attack on Bishwaprasad Basu, editor of the Bengali weekly ‘Desh-Bani’, in Guwahati was the first incident of the 1960’s clashes. His only crime was to utter in public ‘Bangla’ as the second state language of Assam.

On 20 May 1960, a Bengali manager of the Guwahati oil refinery was attacked. The Assamese were angry complaining that the Assamese were not given enough jobs in the refinery. But then Feroze Gandhi, the chairman of Indian Oil Refinery, stepped in Guwahati and stated that the allegations were completely false saying that 66.7% of employees are Assamese. He further stated, many people with high technical knowledge had been employed there citing an instance of a female employee who holds the surname ‘Deka’. [14]

This was followed by widespread violence in Simaluguri, Dibrugarh, Nagaon, and other areas. The Railway stations were often targeted rioters attacking the passengers with bricks, stones, and sticks. The trains were stopped at Sivasagar, Mariani, Tinsukia, and other places in Assam in search of Bengali passengers. On June 5, 1960, a group of miscreants targeted Bengali students, thrown stones at them in Dibrugarh. On the other hand, the shops of the Bengali traders of the city were looted. [15]

In July 1960, clashes took place in Kamrup, Jagiroad, Chaparmukh, Jamunamukh, Hojai, Yogijan, and other areas. There were massive attacks on railway stations in those areas where railway security guards were beaten up by armed assailants. [16]
On 2 July 1960, there was a massive clash in Shillong, the then capital of Assam where about 14 people were stabbed. [17]

Two days later, on July 4, one of the most horrific events of the language movement took place. On that day, terrible communal clashes started near Cotton College. Many shops were set on fire. The Police fired to control the situation. Ranjit Barpujari, a student of Sivasagar, was gossiping with his friends on the verandah of the hostel of Cotton College but he was shot to death. Six more students were also badly injured. The injured were Amit Bhattacharjee, Netradhar Das, Tilak Hazarika, Bhupendra Nath Sharma, Rudra Gohain, and Amar Hazarika. [18]

On the death of Ranjit Barpujari, angry mobs surrounded the Bungalow of District Magistrate P L Shome and from the crowds, someone stabbed him and in a bloody condition, he was admitted to the hospital. [19] The death of Ranjit Barpujari gave a new dimension to the conflicting environment. The fire of conflict spread all over Assam attacking only Bengalis. Two people were killed in an attack on the Narangi Railway Station in Guwahati where from the Station was abducted but it was not clear aftermath who abducted him. On the same day, an agent of Jugantar and Amritbazar newspaper was stabbed to death in Palashbari, Guwahati. 

On July 5, a group of miscreants killed a railway doctor in Pandu and brutally tortured his wife. On the same day in Goreshwar, a group of five miscreants opened fire on 13 Bengali villages. Around 3,000 houses were set on fire and 25-30 people were injured. The Bengali officer who was in charge of Palashbari police station was killed on that day. The pharmacist of the hospital in that area was chopped to death. Bengali Railway workers in Narangi were attacked on 5 July at 10 o'clock wherein two Bengalis died instantly. At the same time, a Bengali and another Bihari employee of the Central Khadi Board were brutally beaten. [20]

On July 6, two Bengalis were stoned to death in Tezpur. One of them was Gopal Dey. Some schools were also set on fire. On the same day at noon, five hundred people attacked the house of Kanailal Adhikari at Jamunamukh in Nagaon District at the time when he was not at home. His wife Kusum Bala fled with her mother-in-law and two young children to the nearby forest. But sadly, Kanailal Adhikari never returned home. [21]

Brindavan Roy of Nagaon Kampur slum area who used to run his family by selling tea went out on the morning of July 5th but in the evening people saw his body lying on the side of the road. [22]

On July 6, a group of miscreants set fire to 60 houses in a village, five miles from Barpeta which resulted the death of four people. On the other hand, a total of 34 Bengalis were stabbed in Tinsukia, Nagaon on the same day. On the same day, Shishir Nag, a rising youth from Nagaon, a youth leader of the RCPI, a student of Nagaon College and also a joint secretary of the Nagaon District Committee of the ‘Assam State Language Student Action Council’, was killed and after three days his body was found in Kolong River.  Two people were also killed in Nagaon that day by gunfire.

On the night of July 7, fierce clashes broke out in the main areas of the Bengali settlement in North Kamrup. On the morning of July 8, police recovered five bodies from the area.

On 9 July at Chabua, about 500 people attacked the Bengali employees of Tea Garden with sharp axes and sticks, and in the attack four people were killed and 35 were injured.

At around 11:30 pm on July 9, a large crowd gathered at the house of Paresh Chandra Chakraborty, a small trader in Laokhowa Bazar, Nazira. His house was set on fire by pouring petrol. When his son Harul Chakraborty tried to get out of the house, people grabbed him and threw him into the blazing fire. The other family members somehow managed to escape through the fence and could identify some attackers. As per the following official source, they were Kanak Sharma, Ratneshwar Deka (President of M.V School), Bhaveshwar Hazarika (clerk), Prem Deka, Dhiresh Deka, Jogen Deka, Haren Hazarika, Umesh Deka, Upendra Deka, Jogendra Deka, Rameshwar Deka. [23]

On the night of July 9, 1960, at 9 o'clock hundreds of people attacked the house of Hari Ranjan Dutt, a newspaper hawker, in Noakhali Colony, Guwahati at a time when his wife Mukul Rani Dutt was at home. Although Mukulrani and his son somehow managed to escape, Hari Ranjan Dutt went missing on forever. [24]

On July 10, 1960, Birendra Kumar Dev, the owner of Kamakhya Restaurant in Nagaon, was attacked with the dagger, was injured badly, and could manage to save his life by hiding it behind the rock.

On July 11, 1960, horrific clashes took place at Sivasagar, Golaghat, and Jorhat wherein one person was killed and 36 others were injured in the Golaghat subdivision whereas in Lichubari, three people were killed and six others were injured.

On the same day, Satyabrata Nandi, an employee of the Central Excise Department, the eldest son of Surendra Kumar Nandi of Silchar was brutally killed at Rajmai Tea Garden in Sivasagar District. [25]

On 12 July 1960, another large number of Bengalis were chased away from Shivsagar, North Lakhimpur and Jorhat. As a result, an Assistant Station Master of Nakasari Station was seriously injured. Meanwhile, a man was also stabbed. On 13 July, a Bengali Excise Inspector was killed in a tea garden, thirty miles far from Dibrugarh, at a time when all four family members of an employee of Digboy tea garden were killed.[26] 

On July 14, Dr. Ghatak, a doctor of Khumtai Tea Estate, 26 km from Guwahati, and Gopal Bhattacharjee, a warehouse assistant were stabbed. Similarly, on 17 August, a man named Saroj Dasgupta was killed in Dhubri. 

Meanwhile, a Public Relations Officer of North East Frontier Railway, Surya Bora was brutally killed. He was going to Calcutta by train for depart mental work but he was killed at Siliguri Railway Station. Similarly, Hareshwar Goswami and his family were also humiliated on July 8 in Siliguri. He was the Speaker of the Assam Legislative Assembly.

On May 19, 1961, eleven innocent Bengali protesters were shot dead by police near Silchar Railway Station, Tarapur. They were Kamala Bhattacharjee, Sachindra Chandra Paul, Birendra Sutradhar, Tarani Mohan Debnath, Chandi Charan Sutradhar, Hitesh Biswas, Kumud Ranjan Das, Satyendra Dev, Sunil Sarkar, Kanai Lal Niyogi, Sukmal Purkayastha. [27]

Shortly afterward, on June 19, police also shot dead 11 Muslim supporters of the Assamese language in Hailakandi in Cachar District. They were Sikandar Ali, Muzaffar Ali, Mahmud Ali, Amir Hussain, Matiur Rahman, Nezamat Ali, Siddique Ali, Surman Ali, Rahman Ali, Mafur Ali, Murmia Ali.[28]

Here are just a few of the key events that have had a huge impact. Countless such incidents took place in Assam, as a result of which the fire of hatred engulfed the whole State of Assam. A thorough analysis of all those incidents is need for an hour.

Brutality on women to protect the ethnolinguistics !

Excluding the previous incidents, if only the events of 1960 can be analyzed, we will see that in just one year, innumerable women were tortured, raped, and killed for the protection of Assamese language and its state interest.

The following facts are not merely biased allegations or imaginable thoughts of anyone’s mind. These are impeachments recorded in the custodial authority of the government. Here are some examples:

  • In June 1960, Bengali persecution began at the Railway Stations, the trains were stopped and even the Bengali passengers were thrown out in the station where the girls and women passengers were physically humiliated. In response to these inhuman atrocities, on June 29, more than a thousand women gathered in front of the gate of a Bank in Karimganj to protest against such oppression. The gathering was presided over by Suniti Bala Das. They all uniformly vociferated against the government, "Why is ‘Chaliha cabinet’ silent on such atrocities against women?"
  • On July 5, a doctor was killed and his wife stabbed in Pandu Railway Colony. A group of thugs cut her breast with a sharp weapon.[29]
  • On July 5, a group of miscreants dropped off three Bengali girls from a train near Rangia but they were never found again till today.[30] 
  • At around 3 pm, a group of 50 people entered in the house of Birendra Biswas, a resident of Shimultala village under Raha Police Station in Nagaon District and started beating up him and rest other people entered the kitchen and insulted, threatened to kill his wife Sarada Bala Biswas at the moment when his wife was four months pregnant and as a result of such heinous torture, she had an abortion. The names of the culprits mentioned in the evidence are Ramen, Putul, and Kashiram Deka.[31] 
  • On July 8, a group of 10 thugs entered the house of a goldsmith in Barpeta. 19-year-old married daughter of the goldsmith was taken away to a nearby room where she was brutally tortured and later killed.
  • On the same night at around 11 pm, a group of about 150 people entered the house of Adhar Chandra Banerjee, a resident of Puranigudam in Nagaon, and killed him. His wife Lakshmirani Devi and her two-year-old daughter both were also killed.[32] 
  • On July 10, several assailants entered Ranjan Malakar's house in Jonaki village of Titabar Police station. His Brother Sushil Chandra Malakar's five-month-pregnant wife was lying on the bed. The assailants dragged her out of bed and physically tortured her. As a result, she had an abortion that night. The names of the culprits are recorded in the evidence are - Maneshwar Das, Peon Das, Nur Das, Bebai Das, Dharmeshwar Das.[33]
  • In the afternoon of July 13, Radharam Biswas, a resident of Simulguri, Raha, was attacked and beaten up by many people at his house. Some people went inside and took off his wife's ‘sari’ and damaged the house. The next day, on 14 July, a peacekeeping meeting was held where Radharam Biswas was invited so he was not at home, he was then attending the said meeting and a midst all, the four attackers came once again in his house and raped his wife. The culprits identified by him were; Putul Bordolai, Kashiram Deka, Rajen Jogi, Patang Mikir.[34]

That’s just the tip of the iceberg but we can’t stress more. However, believe me, such incidents clouded the sky of Assam, tarnished the efforts to save the thoughts of nationalism and homestead.

Slogan and Cultural Aggression :
The slogans given by the Assamese to flare up the conflicts of that time carried special meaning. The simplest slogans were; ‘Drive out Bengalis’, ‘Kill Bengalis‘, ‘If Bengalis don’t leave Assam, they will die’, ‘will not give water, will urinate' But the filthy slogans were these following two slogans; ‘Marry Bengali girls’, ‘will marry Bengali girls’. What kind of slogans are these in the name of protecting the language! Even due to the upsurge of such unprecedented slogans of the ailing state of mind, many young girls and women were physically humiliated. Moreover, many incidents took place to force Bengali women to wear ‘Mekhela Chador’ (Assamese Sari). Such incidents mostly happened in Nagaon District that had already been mentioned. On July 13, 1960, a large number of people entered the house of Radharam Biswas, a resident of Simulguri area, who physically tortured Radharam Biswas and his wife, took off his wife's sari and put it on her a ‘Mekhla’ and later raped her. Soon after that incident, a peace meeting was held on 15 July. They were also taken to that meeting. Assamese and Bengali people from both sides took part in the meeting. But surprisingly, at that meeting, Bengali women were forced to wear Sari like Mekhela. All Bengalis were forced to chant slogans like ‘We are Assamese’ and ‘Let the Bengali language perish forever’. Shockingly, the Bengali women who could not speak Assamese were brutally beaten and threatened to death by showing daggers.[35] 

Politics over Martyrs:
Although, it is an unpleasant truth that the people who had sacrificed in the past were thrown out in the future and a group of opportunistic people later became very much powerful at the end of this movement. Of course, behind the scenes, there was a lot of political interest. On the one way, the death of Ranjit Barpujari and Surya Bora was glorified and on the other way, Mofizuddin Hazarika and Shishir Nag were suppressed, unfortunately. It’s noteworthy that Mofizuddin was the man who came out on the streets for the Assamese language but was later shot dead. It is far cry to give him the status of a real martyr. Even the day of his death is neither recorded officially, unofficially, or anywhere. Approximately, July 7, 1960, is considered the day of his death. In the name of recognition, his family received a certificate signed by Keshab Mohanta and Atul Bora on December 10, 1987, on behalf of All Assam Students’ Union (AASU). That’s all about his accreditation. It is a matter of great regret that a person who was killed for Assamese Language only got a certificate that too after 27 years, in return for this martyrdom.

Like Mofizuddin, the young Sishir Nag of Nagaon also died compassionately for Assamese language. For the sake of Assamese-Bengali harmony, Sishir Nag indomitably put his efforts in the days of the conflict of the 1960s. Even being a young boy from a Bengali family, he demanded the government to make the Assamese language the official language in the State. At that time, an annual Conference of ‘Bongio Sahityo Sammeelan’ was supposed to be held at Hojai. As a leader of the mass movement and being a correspondent, Sishir Nag delivered a speech in the Delegate Session of the conference held in Nagaon College in the year 1960, organized by Media Association where he appealed to the house to boycott the conference of ‘Bongio Sahityo Sammeelan’. Attending in the 'State Refugee Conference' held at Hailakandi in the Barak Valley on 28th and 29th May 1960 and in the All India Conference of the Revolutionary Communist Party held in Howrah, West Bengal in the first week of June, Sishir Nag proposed to make Assamese the official language in the State of Assam. On 7 July 1960, both the community of Assamese and Bengali gathered together in Hatbor and Ambagan of Nagaon District that created an extreme panicky situation. Sishir Nag along with some of his comrades travelled to Kaliabar but on the way to Kaliabor near Puranigudam, few unknown young miscreants abruptly stopped the car and forcibly took out Sishir Nag and killed him brutally. Four years after that incident with the help of eyewitness and the initiatives taken by his elder brother Dwibesh Nag, the main killer Ataul Haque was arrested. The court sentenced Ataul to life imprisonment. On July 7, 1964, the District Press Association, Nagaon, observed Sishir Nag's death anniversary as 'Harmony Day’. The conference of Assam Sahitya Sabha in 1997 held in Bilasipara adopted a resolution to build a 'Monument' in Nagaon to pay tribute to his memory. But unfortunately, the resolution that was adopted unanimously is not materialized till today. Despite taking a stand against his relatives for the interest of the Assamese language, Sishir Nag received nothing; nothing means nothing. Rather he pushed into oblivion. Even after death, he did not occupy in the pages, in the list of 855 Martyrs that had been enlisted by AASU. Assam Sahitya Sabha itself could not find time to do anything other than setting an example of contempt for the Martyrs by ignoring its (Assam Sahitya Sabha) own proposal that was once adopted. Apart from paying homage to 11 Muslims who were killed in Hailakandi for the sake of the Assamese language but the historians in general profoundly showed their interest to write about them. It’s unfortunate and disheartening that apart from the Book ‘Herai Joya Dinbor’, an autobiography of Deveshwar Sharma, nowhere else such incidents or the names of these people could occupy in the pages. Even after the death of 11 people, we have not been able to show an iota of respect towards them in a true sense. This is undoubtedly one of the most shameful embarrassing facts in evidence to digest in the 21st century. 

1. Essays of Padmanath Gohain Baruah, 1987, Assam Prakashan Parishad, Guwahati Page. 884-885
2. Shivnath Barman and Prosenjit Chowdhury; 'Bastab Ne Bibhrom'- Asamat Bānglā Bhāṣā Prabartaner Aitihāsik Uṯsa Sandhāne,1987, Dibrugarh, Students Emporium, Page 28
3. Benudhar Sharma ( Sampa ), Hemchandra Goswami's Essays, 1972, Jorhat, Assam Sahitya Sabha, page 126
4. Jatindranath Goswami; Hemchandra Baruah's Essays, Guwahati, Hemkosh Publications, 1999, page 455
5. Devabrata Sharma, Asamīẏā jāti gaṭhana prakriẏā ārau jātīẏa janagōṣṭhīgata anuṣṭhāna samūha; (1873-1960), 2010, Jorhat, Eklabya Prakashan, Page 171
6. ibid; Page 171
7. ibid; Page 174
8. ibid; Page 174
9. ibid; Page 175
10. ibid; Page 176
11. Sukumar Biswas; ‘Āsāmē Bhāṣā Andolon ō Bāṅgālī Prosonge’; 1947-1971, 2017, Calcutta, pārul, Page 1
12. ibid; Page 2
13. NMML Papers: Brief Details of Disturbances, Submitted by A.K.Nag, General Secretary, Cachar Journalist Association, 23-08-60, Silchar.
14. Sukumar Biswas; Aforesaid; Page 131.
15. ibid; Page 133
16. NMML Papers; ibid. Page 329
17. Sukumar Biswas;ibid ; Page 137
18. Home Confidential (1960): Commission of enquiry into the police firing at Guwahati. File no-PLAC 359/60/pt-iii.
19. Sukumar Biswas; ibid; Page 137.
20. ibid; Page 141
21. NMML Papers; ibid. Page 389.
22. ibid.
23. ibid. Pg 386
24. ibid. Pg. 389
25. Sukumar Biswas; ibid; Page 148.
26. ibid; Page 152
27. ibid; Page 445-456
28. Devabrata Sharma; Hērā'i yōẏā dinabōra; Jorhat 1991; Janmabhoomi Press; Page 52-521
29. Sukumar Biswas;ibid; Page 140.
30. ibid; Page 141
31. NMML Papers; ibid; Page 387
32. ibid;
33. Ibid;
34. Ibid; Pg. 389.
35. Ibid; Pg. 387

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Oct 3, 2020

Subrata Roy

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