From militants to former dissidents, thousands pay tributes to 'amiable' Tarun Gogoi

Last Updated 24 November 2020, 13:30 IST

From the former Ulfa militants whom he brought to the negotiating table to his former dissidents in Congress and the cook who prepared and served his daily food, thousands paid their last tributes and recalled "amiable" Tarun Gogoi, the former Assam Chief Minister and Congress veteran who passed away here on Monday.

With a gamosa (traditional Assamese towel) in his hands, Haren Basumatary waited outside Gauhati Medical College and Hospital (GMCH) for long as Gogoi's coffin made its way to his official residence at Dispur capital complex. "I have been with sir (Gogoi) since 1995 but today I realised that he will never come back. So I offered a gamosa to pay my tribute. I will never meet such an amiable person like him," said Basumatary, who was initially Gogoi's driver and later a cook at his official residence.

A large crowd, be it from the opposition Congress, Aiudf or the ruling BJP and its allies gathered at his Dispur home, the state secretariat and Rajiv Bhawan (Congress' state headquarters) where his body was taken on Tuesday before it was taken to Sankardeb Kalakshetra, a cultural centre, in the evening. "Gogoi was a man for whom respect automatically came even as he was our opponent and constantly criticised our party. He was among a few who managed to garner reapect from his opponents. As a Chief Minister, Gogoi listened to us patiently and with respect when we went to him even with complaints against his government or the local administration," said Subhasish Lahon, a BJP leader from North Assam's Lakhimpur district, who rushed to Guwahati to pay his tribute to Gogoi.

Gogoi, 86, died at GMCH at 5:34pm on Monday due to post-Covid complications. Gogoi, who served as CM for the three consecutive terms between 2001 and 2016, tested positive for Covid-19 on August 25. He was discharged from GMCH after two months but had to be admitted again due to post-Covid complications.

Gogoi's last rites will be performed here on Thursday.

Arabinda Rajkhowa, chairman of Ulfa, a militant group, which joined peace talks during Tarun Gogoi tenure as CM was all praise for Gogoi. "We joined talks as he understood our problem and assured to address the issued through dialogue. He tried a lot to solve the issues and there was a lot of progress during his tenure," he said. Gogoi is credited with bringing peace back to Assam through signing the first Bodoland Accord in 2003 and the ceasefire pacts with rebel groups like NDFB, KLNLF, DHD, Adivasi militant groups and others.

Ulfa (Independent), the militant faction, which is yet to join talks issued a condolence message in which it described Gogoi as a leader, who understood the problems faced by indigenous people of the state and stood for its protection.

Some BJP MLAs, who had led dissidence against Gogoi in Congress before switching side paid tributes and publicly remembered how the former CM helped them during initial days of their political career. "He introduced me as his son and asked for votes in a rally when i first contested election," recalled Pallab Locan Das, a young BJP MP and a former minister, who was in Congress till 2015. Das was among the former Congress MLAs, who was part of the team of dissidents led by Himanta Biswa Sarma (a cabinet minister) against Gogoi and joined BJP in 2015.

Assam Pradesh Congress Committee president, Ripun Bora asked the state government to offer a land for Gogoi's last rites and set up a memorial for the former CM. But a final decision about the land was yet to be taken as the government said there was no open land for such a memorial inside Guwahati.

(Published 24 November 2020, 13:18 IST)

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