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Bordoloi,Gopinath (1890-1950)

Lokapriya Gopinath Bordoloi, one of the makers of Modern Assam was born on 10 June 1890 at Roha in the Nowgong district of Central Assam. His father Budheswar Bordoloi was in the Government medical service in a junior cadre. His mother Praneswari Devi died when Gopinath was only 12. The Bordolois belonged to the Brahmin Daivajna (astrologer) caste. The Bordoloi family was an enlightened on and originally came from Uttar Pradesh. After the death of his mother Gopinath was brought up by his eldest sister Shashikala Devi. Gopinath Bordoloi married in 1910 Surabala Devi belonging to an enlightened family of North Gauhati.

In his early days Gopinath’s mind was deeply influenced by Manickchandra Barua and Swami Sureshananda of Panchabati Ashram, Gauhati. In later life he was also influenced by Tarunram Phukan and Nabinchandra Bordoloi, two of the stalwarts in Assam at the time.

Gopinath had his elementary school education at Roha, Mangaldai and Barpeta, as his father was transferred from place to place. Afterwards the family settled down at Gauhati. Gopinath completed his school education at the Cotton Collegiate School at Gauhati from where he passed the Matriculation examination. He did his Intermediate Arts at the Cotton College, Gauhati, and then went to Calcutta for further studies. He graduated from the Scottish Churches College, Culcutta, with honours in History (1911). He took his M.A. in History from the Calcutta University in 1914 and B.L. in 1915. While a student, he was known as a good cricketer.

On his return from Calcutta Gopinath joined the Sonaram High School at Gauhati as Headmaster. It was this experience which gave him an abiding interest in education, for the improvement of which he did so much in his later life. Shortly afterwords he stared his legal practice, and although he did not reach any high eminence in that profession, he compensated it by his multifarious public activities which became his chief interest in life. He came in close contact with Gandhi and other national leaders in the twenties and was soon recognised as the leading political organisation was the Assam Association and the influence of the Indian National Congress was negligible.

Gopinath Bordoloi attended the Calcutta Session of the Congress in 1920 presided over by Lala Lajpat Rai, and from that time the influence of the Congress came to spread in Assam. In 1921 Gopinath, responding to Gandhi’s call of non-cooperation, gave up his legal practice and devoted himself wholeheartedly to the national movement. The political importance of Assam was fully established when the Congress held its session in 1926 at Gauhati. Gopinath, although very young at the time, was the Assistant General Secretary of the Reception Committee.

As a constructive nationalist, Gopinath was naturally concerned about reforming the educational system on national lines. As a reaction to the ill-famous Cunningham Circular of 1929 to suppress political activities in Government educational

institutions, there was a movement to boycott Government institutions and start private schools and colleges. Bordoloi was mainly instrumental in establishing the Kamrup Akademy and B. Borooah College at Gauhati.

Gopinath was deeply interested in improving higher education and was largely responsible for the establishment of the Gauhati University in 1948. Again it was due to his efforts that the Assam Agricultural College, the Assam Medical College, the Assam Veterinary College and other technical institutions came into existence in the Basic system of education, and as Education Minister he wanted to popularise it by offering Government stipends for training in Basic education at Wardha.

As leader of the opposition in the Assam Legislature before 1937, Gopinath was trenchant in his criticism of Governmental policies. When the first Congress Ministry was formed in Assam in 1938 Gopinath became the Chief Minister and took the education portfolio. One of the greatest achievement of Gopinath during this first ministry was the prohibition of opium in Assam.

Following the directions of the Congress High Command at the outbreak of the War, the Gopinath Ministry resigned in 1939. Gopinath Bordoloi joined the Individual Stygrah Movement in 1941 and courted arrest. He expressed hid political views regarding India’s unity, state autonomy, economic justice to Assam and other matters in the seminar discussion at the Jorhat jail in 1940-41.

After the war when the Congress again came to power, Gopinath Bordoloi became Chief Minister of Assam once more. He staunchly opposed the Cabinet Mission proposal regarding grouping of Assam with Bengal to form a Muslim majority area as demanded by Jinnah. He categorically declared that Jinnah could never have Assam in his Pakistan. In the early years of free India Bordoloi ably guided his State, tackling successfully many of its intricate problems.

He particularly stressed the economic of its vast natural resources and wanted a fair deal for Assam. He was never tired of pleading with the Central Government for Assam’s legitimate share in the revenues accruing from oil, tea and other natural resources and in industrial development. He always asserted greater autonomy for States. Because of his stature in all- India politics his views were quite effective.

Bordoloi was a socialist of the Gandhian type and wanted an egalitarian society based on justice and fairplay. He was also very progressive in the matter of relationship between the different linguistic and cultural groups in Assam.

Tall, elegant and handsome Gopinath looked like a tribal ‘gaonbura’. He was simple in his dress and always wore Khadi. He was suave in manners and beneath his rough exterior there was the softness of humility. He was a deeply religious man, being particulary influenced by the Gita. He was also a good singer and used to sing Vaishnava devotional songs.

Author : Hem Barua