The 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 academicians, authors, socio-cultural activists, journalists etc) appeared in public space and made an appeal to the electorate not to vote a particular political party in the State polls. This 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 April 2, 2016 in Guwahati to term the Bharatiya Janata Party a fascist & communal entity and also urged the electorate to stand against the saffron party in the Assembly elections to be held on 4 & 11 April, counting of which is scheduled for 19th May next.
The anti-BJP campaigners including distinguished poets Nalinidhar Bhattacharya and Nilamoni Phukan with columnists Nirupama Bargohain, Anima Guha, former college principals Udayaditya Bharali and Dinesh Baishya, socio-cultural activists Sitanath Lahkar, 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 he claimed that the electorate of Assam would never listen to their campaign against the nationalist party.
Instant sharp reaction came from senior journalist Dhirendra Nath Chakraborty, who termed the appeal of those intellectuals as a paid statement (like paid news in nature). Saraswati Samman awardee Assamese author Lakshmi Nandan Bora and former bureaucrat Rohini Barua also expressed annoyance that a section of intellectuals gratuitously had 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 Samiti 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 organising the press conference on the eve of polls with the directive not to vote BJP nominees and reminded that the Bhartiya democracy allows every single citizen to cast his/her conscience vote.
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 criticised 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. Gohain and his team are trying to mislead the voters on the eve of polling day,” was the statement signed by Choudhury, Changkakoti with few others.
Similar appeal was made by Loka Jagaran Mancha, which urged everyone to cast his/her vote to make it a 100 percent turnout and amazingly Assam had recorded over 83 per cent of polling in both the phases of recent Assembly elections. n NJ Thakuria