He was and is addressed as “Lokapriya Gopinath Bordoloi” because he was and still is sincerely loved by the people of Assam. It was not something that he sought for or wanted, but his acts and deeds were so noble and kindhearted that people could not help loving and respecting him. Without expecting anything in return, he worked selflessly dedicating his life to his people and country.
He was a follower and a great proponent of non-violence as a political tool. Despite numerous urgings, he was totally against using violence as a means to an end. No wonder that even the British, against whom he led the whole of the Northeast, were respectful towards him. They did arrest him a couple of times and found no reasons to prolong his imprisonments.
His father, who was a medical practitioner, taught him to be a hardworking and kindhearted person. Visiting patients and meeting the people from different strata of society who used to come to his father for help, helped him understand and get a feel for the socio-economic condition of the general people. Such experience from early life created his kindhearted, selfless and loving persona.
He was equally good in both sports and studies. At a very young age, he was admitted to the Cotton Collegiate School in Guwahati. He successfully graduated from the Scottish Church College in Calcutta. His love for his country and his people was apparent in college. During his college life, the stalwarts of Calcutta and their freedom loving aspirations made quite an impression in him. He joined the Indian National Congress as a volunteer.
He came back to Assam and was instrumental in the establishment of the Congress Party in Northeast India, particularly Assam. Before that there was no Congress party in Assam; and when the Non-Cooperation Movement started, he spearheaded the efforts to join all the regional parties and form the Assam Provincial Congress Committee. He was elected as the secretary at its first convention in 1921.
His dedication, hard work and intelligence helped him rise through Congress ranks in the 1930s. All the experiences and the contacts that he gathered helped him win the biggest battle of his political life, which also propelled him to prominence.
His Biggest Battle
Based upon a plan drawn by Professor Coupland, who was an adviser to the Cabinet Mission, the tribal areas of northeastern India including the Garo Hills, Khasi Jaintia Hills, Lushai Hills, Nagaland, North Cachar Hills and the North Eastern Frontier Agency was to be made into a self-governing colony. It would be under the protection of the Crown and each region would have an autonomous status.
All the senior leaders of Congress supported the plan, and failed to see the sinister design of the British. But Gopinath Bordoloi realized the gravity of the situation and rushed to enlighten Mahatma Gandhi about the disastrous consequences if the plan was approved. Gandhi finally understood the designs of the British and supported him. Gandhi himself apprised the Congress leaders about the full implications of the plan and advised them against it and requested them to support Bordoloi.
This act not increased his stature about the people of Assam but also among the rest of India. The Congress leaders openly appreciated his foresight and inputs into the nefarious designs.
People also call him as the “Architect of Modern Assam,” due to his contribution to the progress of this region after Independence. When he became the Chief Minister of Assam, the state had no reliable infrastructure. There were no medical, veterinary and engineering colleges; the roads were in bad condition and many places did not have any proper roads or bridges; and the region was far backward in all aspects compared to the rest of India. He succeeded in completing and achieving most of the work within his reign. He even laid the foundation for sports, music and performing arts. It would not be an exaggeration to state that the total amount of his achievement is much larger than the combined achievements of the Chief Ministers after him.
Another of his major achievement was that when rest of the India was burning in communal riots, there was perfect communal harmony in Assam. He was no doubt a religious person, but he respected all the religions. In fact, he even managed to unite all the tribes and different sections of people and instilled in them a hope and wish for better tomorrow.
Lokapriya Gopinath Bordoloi’s life is a burning example of the fact that selflessness, love, truth and valor always win. He worked for the people and the country, and never acted selfishly. The current leaders have a lot to learn from him.
At his death, Jawaharlal Nehru rightly said, “For all of us and Assam particularly, this a great loss of a freedom fighter and one who in his high position as Chief Minister of Assam faced courageously many problems of that state.”
The government of India recognized his contributions and posthumously awarded him with Bharat Ratna
Kaushik Phukan, Seattle