R Dutta choudhury
GUWAHATI, Dec 2 – The people of Tezpur town, which was virtually deserted during the last few days of the Chinese aggression of 1962, still remember the ordeal that they had to pass through, particularly in the last three days of the war, which ended with Chinese ceasefire on November 20. With even most of the officers of the administration making good their escape, the people of the town were left to fend for themselves and majority who could afford, shifted from Tezpur. Only a handful of local youths formed an organization named Youth Emergency Organization (YEO) and took the responsibility of guarding the deserted town.
Remembering those days, one of the members of YEO, Aiswaryya Kakati, a prominent drama activist and writer, said that the organization, headed by Hiren Choudhury, was formed as soon as the Chinese aggression started and most of the members of the organization were in their teens or early 20s. Now only a handful of members of the organization including Kakati, former Minister Bijit Saikia, Prem Deka and Mantu Nath are still alive.
Talking to The Assam Tribune, Kakati said that the people of Tezpur were apprehensive since the day the Chinese aggression started and on the day the Chinese Army reached Bomdila and the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru made his infamous statement “My heart goes out to the people of Assam”, there was total chaos in the town and the administration issued an evacuation order. The gates of the jail and the mental hospital were thrown open and the currency notes in the banks were burnt down and some were dumped in Padumpukhuri pond. There were three powerful generator sets to provide electricity to the town and the administration wanted to destroy the same fearing that the Chinese might capture those. But the people resisted the move strongly.
Kakati said that even the Deputy Commissioner Rana KDS Singh tried to move out of Tezpur, but he was literally dragged back from Salonibari airport by Bijit Saikia, one of the members of the YEO. “We did not know when the Superintendent of Police escaped from Tezpur and only one local police officer Naren Hazarika was holding the fort and there was virtually no sign of administration,” he added.
Following the evacuation order, the people of Tezpur, in a state of panic, escaped from the town and there was total blackout for three nights. Kakati said that at least 90 per cent of the people of the town went to other places and some non-Assamese people even left the keys of their houses to the members of the YEO, while, some people even left their houses open while escaping. The then Chairman of the Tezpur Municipality, Dulal Bhattacharya , who did not escape, visited the residences of those who stayed back and enquired about their wellbeing. There was a heavy rush on the trains leaving Tezpur and even some Army personnel jostled with the local people to get into the trains.
The unarmed members of the YEO carried out night patrolling to guard the town at night. “We did not have any weapon and we never thought what we would do if the Chinese reached Tezpur. As many houses were not locked, there was no shortage of food for us as we could get into any house to get our meals. On some nights we saw planes flying over the town with searchlights but we still do not know whether those were enemy planes or Indian,” he added.
After the war was over, one Army General appreciated the bravery of the members of the YEO at a function at Tezpur but the Government never formally recognized the brave efforts of the youths, who guarded the deserted town for three dark nights without worrying about their own safety.