History of India was enriched by a new chapter through the emergence of Mahatma Gandhi in 1919.
After joining Gandhi to the Indian freedom struggle the whole picture of contemporary India’s had been changed. Gandhi was an iconic figure, who united the people of India against British Raj.
Gandhi’s four times visit of Assam gave a new power to the people of Assam, and also united them against the foreign rules as well as contemporary India. In one sentence four visits of Assam by Gandhi made a strong nationalism among the all people of Assam, they also became more conscious of their rights and duties. Therefore, except the discussion of Gandhi’s four historic visits to Assam, the history of Assam is always incomplete.
On 18 August, 1921 Gandhi first came to Assam along with his eleven companies. He first reached Golakganj. Assam Pradesh Congress Committee’s general secretary, a prominent freedom fighter of Assam Nabin Chandra Bordoloi along with his followers received Gandhi from Golakganj.
On the way, people of Dhubri and Goalpara districts of Assam heartily welcomed him to their state. By passing those districts when Gandhi finally reached Gauhati (present Guwahati) he was shocked to see a long line of people gathering at Gauhati from Pandu to Bharalumukh. They were eagerly waiting to see Gandhi from near and talk with him.
In this first visit to Assam Gandhi stayed at Tarun Ram Phukan’s residence, who was a patriotic figure and prominent leader of the freedom struggle, also known as Desabhakt of Assam. The residence was decorated by the flags of INC. In that place or in front of Tarun Ram Phukan’s residence, Bharalumukh Gandhi addressed a public meeting, where more than 25,000 Gandhi’s followers were present.
In that public meeting Gandhi’s speeches were translated into Assamese by Tarun Ram Phukan for the understanding of general people. Through the impact of Gandhi’s speeches a rapid change came into existence. It is notable, the year of 1921 was the time of Swadeshi movement against British misrule in India.
By listening to Gandhi’s views on the Swadeshi movement, at once people of Assam jumped into this movement. As the rapid impact of Gandhi’s speeches on that same day in the evening, people of Assam started burning the foreign clothes and started a boycott movement against the British Raj.
However in his first visit Gandhi was staying in Assam from 18 August to 30 August, 1921. Specially, to expand the swadeshi feelings among the people of Assam he also visited Nagaon, Jorhat, Tezpur, Dibrugarh, Silchar and Sylhet. He visited almost all important districts of undivided upper and lower Assam.
People of those districts had arranged some public meetings. In each meeting Gandhi delivered his powerful speeches on swadeshi movement and self-independence. He inspired all people of Assam to adopt and expand swadeshi feeling in every walk of their life.
In 1926, for the second time Gandhi came to Assam. In this time the main reason was to visit Assam by him to attend 41 no INC sessions at Pandu, Gauhati. Noteworthy, this was the only and first Congress session accomplished in Assam before pre-independent. To this session Gandhi came as an important representative of INC.
Congress’s representatives had set a target of collecting 10,000 yards of khadi clothes to decorate the pandal of that Congress session. Actually by this work they tried to expand Gandhi’s views and activities on the Swadeshi movement far and wide.
To attend the meeting of Harijan Sewak Sangh Gandhi again visited Assam in 1934, in the month of April. On 10 April Gandhi reached Assam, after a day on 11 April he addressed a meeting at Rupashri, Dhubri district of Assam.
In that meeting he appealed to the people to eradicate untouchability from their mind and brain. Aiming to the all gathering people he said “I’m glad to be in Assam again after a very long period. This time my mission is in connection with the Harijan movement.
It is said that there is no considerable untouchability in Assam and Bengal. But I don’t think that the statement squares with facts. We are guilty of untouchability as soon as we make distinctions between man and man and we have grades of high and low. Surely there are enough distinctions in Assam.”
In this third visit Gandhi also went to Gauripur, Bansbari, Chaprakata, Sorbhog, Howly and Sarupeta. In those places on the same day Gandhi attended some other important public meetings, where he also said to the people to remove untouchability feelings from their mind.
Next dupay he went to Goreswar, Tangla, Udalguri, Bindukuri, Rangapara and Tezpur. On 13 April he reached Gauhati by a steamer from Tezpur. In Gauhati Gandhi inaugurated a Seva Ashram. He also visited a leprosy asylum and the quarters of Harijans in Gauhati.
On the same day he attended a meeting arranged by Marwari people of Assam. After the meeting he went to Khetri, Chaparmukh, Nagaon and Furkating. He attended some public meetings in Golaghat, Dergaon and Jorhat. Through this third visit to Assam Gandhi adopted and expanded a message to uplift the Harijans. Within two weeks of staying in Assam Gandhi collected almost 17,000 rupees for the Harijans of Assam. Finally by finishing his great mission he moved to his homeland from Assam.
In 1946 Gandhi last visited Assam. He came via Brahmaputra by a steamer from Bengal. Some prominent leaders of INC like Lokapriya Gopinath Bordoloi, Bishnuram Medhi, Siddhartha Sarma and others received Gandhi from the river port of Brahmaputra.
In his last visit he inaugurated the Assam Branch of Kasturba Gandhi National Memorial Trust. Under this trust a branch named the Gram Sevika Vidyalaya was started in Assam. Gandhi gave the responsibilities of managing this branch to Amal Prabha Das.
Gandhi stayed on a small hillock known as Sarania. The owner of this hillock was Dr. Harekrishna Das, father of Amal Prabha Das. He was a faithful follower of Gandhi. However, when Gandhi was at Sarania suddenly the hillock was surrounded by some poor people to meet and talk with Gandhi about their problems.
To meet those people by the suggestion of Gandhi at once a temporarily a small hut was constructed by Harekrishna Das, Gopinath Bordoloi, Bhubaneswar Barua etc. INC leaders or followers of Gandhi. Later the hillock was donated to the Gram Sevika Vidyalaya by Dr. Harekrishna Das and his family, where Gandhi was last staying. This is the fourth or last historic visit of Gandhi to Assam before the independence of our country.
Thus we have found that between 1921 to 1946 Gandhi visited Assam for four times to take some important agendas and initiatives like to expand the swadeshi message, to uplift the socio-economic status of harijans, removal the untouchability from the society and development of nationalist feeling among the people of Assam.
However, in the end undoubtedly we can say that Gandhi’s four historic visits to Assam will always remain as a golden chapter of Assam History.
(Writer: Faculty Member of History, Rabindranath Tagore University, Hojai, Assam. Phone: +919954000200)
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