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India: Poll Shambles For Leftist Intellectuals In Assam – OpEd

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Seasoned politicians often make and break news in the time of elections, but a section of Assamese intellectuals recently emerged as the creator of noise and news just ahead of Assembly polls.

The group of over 40 intellectuals (read academician, author, socio-cultural activist, journalist etc) appeared in public space and made an appeal to the electorate not to vote a particular political party in the State polls, which however backfired in the alternate media.

Solely led by noted author and former Gauhati University professor Hiren Gohain, the group organised a press conference on 2 April 2016 in Guwahati to term the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) a fascist and communal entity and also urged the electorate to stand against thesaffron party in the Assembly elections held on 4 and 11 April, counting of which is scheduled for 19 May next.

The anti-BJP campaigners including distinguished poets Nalinidhar Bhattacharya, Nilamoni Phukan with columnists Nirupama Bargohain, Anima Guha, former college principals Udayaditya Bharali, Dinesh Baishya, socio-cultural activists Sitanath Lahkar, Loknath Goswami, Shivanath Barman, Akhil Ranjan Dutta, Sanjoy Borbora etc, termed the saffron party as the ‘primary and biggest enemy of the people’ and urged everyone to prevent the BJP in its march for power at Dispur.

As the Guwahati based satellite news channels beamed the news, harsh reactions against those intellectuals started pouring in the alternate media. The outspoken BJP leader Himanta Biswa Sarma commented critically against the group saying that they were actually leftist intellectuals (read not impartial intellectuals) and the electorate of Assam would never listen to their campaign against the pro-development party.

Parliamentarian Ramen Deka, who is also a national secretary of BJP, accused Gohain for indirectly campaigning for the candidates of Congress and AIUDF in the poll fray. He also appealed to the electorate not to pay attention towards the intellectuals’ diktat and support the nationalist party, which came to power at the Centre two years back.

Instant sharp reactions also came from senior journalist Dhirendra Nath Chakrabarty, who termed the appeal of those intellectuals as a paid statement (like paid news in nature). Saraswati Sanman awardee Assamese author Lakshi Nandan Bora and former bureaucrat Rohini Barua also expressed annoyances that a section of intellectuals gratuitously tried to diktat the electorate of the State.

Meanwhile, the Indigenous Tribal Sahitya Sabhas of Assam issued a statement with strong words against Gohain and his team for their motivated appeal. The literary forum also targeted Krishak Mukti Sangram Samity leader Akhil Gogoi for indirectly asking the voters to support the ruling Congress, which had been protecting illegal Bangladeshi migrants in the region since long back.

They ridiculed Gohain for organizing the press conference on the eve of polls with the directive not to vote BJP nominees and stated that the Indian democracy allows every single citizen to cast his/her conscience vote. Hence the intellectuals’ unwanted appeal to the electorate was interference in people’s right to cast their conscience votes, asserted the forum.

The debate gained momentum as few more prominent citizens came out with resentments against the appeal made by Gohain and his team just two days before the first phase of Assembly polls. Acclaimed academician and former Gauhati University vice-chancellor Nirmal Kumar Choudhury with former Assam police chief Nishinath Changkakoti criticized the stand taken by those intellectuals.

“Asking people not to vote for a particular party is in itself a threat to democracy. Nobody has the right to issue a fatwa to the electorate on exercising their franchises. They (Gohain and his team) are trying to mislead the voters on the eve of polling day,” said a statement signed by Choudhury, Changkakoti with few others.

They also urged the electorate of Assam to come out in large number to give their mandates without any fear or under any kind of influence. Similar appeal was given by non-political organization Loka Jagaran Mancha, which urged everyone to cast his/her vote to make it a cent percent turnout and amazingly Assam had recorded over 83 percent of polling in both phases of recent Assembly elections.

Nava Thakuria

Nava Thakuria

Nava Thakuria is a Guwahati (Assam, Northeast India) based journalist

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