TEZPUR, Sept 26 – When you go home/tell them of us and say/For your better tomorrow/We gave our today (Kohima war cemetery) – echoing these immortal words written lyrically on the bronze plaque in memory of the martyrs of Japan’s invasion during the Second World War, in Sonitpur also many patriotic figures established an example of supreme sacrifice in world history laying down their lives before the bullets of the British on September 20, 1942.
Assam witnessed a unmatched game of tears and blood during the 1942 Quit India Movement, when Kanaklata Baruah and Mukunda Kakoti of Gohpur, and Monbor Nath, Moniram Boro, Ratan Kochari, Mongol Kurku, Sarunath Sutia, Kumoli Devi, Khohuli Devi, Lerela Kochari, Doyal Das Panika, Tileswari Baruah and Muhiram Koch of the greater of Bargaon and Naharbari mouza of Dhekiajuli made the ultimate sacrifice for the country’s independence.
Kanaklata, a teenaged girl, and Mukunda Kakoti embraced death at Gohpur while in Golaghat, Kushal Konwar, then president of the local Congress committee, was hanged after falsely charging him of derailing a train. The revolutionists decided to unfurl the Indian national flag throwing away the boldly flying British flag ‘Union Jack’. For carrying out such a dangerous plan, only the ones who were determined, courageous and dedicated members of Mrityu Bahini (There were two squads – Santi Bahini and Mrityu Bahini) were allowed to get involved.
On September 20, 1942, the revolutionary camp of Gohpur region of undivided Darrang district decided to unfurl the national flag in the local police station. Hundreds of youths joined the Mrityu Bahini, who had already crossed 18 years as per the committee rule. However, a 17-year-old Assamese beauty, Kanaklata Baruah, an orphan, begged the committee leaders to make her a part of it. Overwhelmed by the girl’s courage and irresistible urge, the committee decided to make an exception. This teenaged girl later became the captain of the women cadre and proceeded towards the Gohpur police station. Despite the warning of Rebati Mahan Som, officer in-charge of the police station, not to proceed even a single step further, Kanaklata marched with the tricolour saying they would proceed, no matter what.
The police then fired at her and Kanaklata dropped dead on the spot. Mukunda Kakoti then snatched the tricolour from her to protect its honour, only to meet the same fate.
Amidst this bloodshed, the rebellious mass could still unfurl the national flag replacing the Union Jack on the premises, defying the British gunfire.
Recalling all these historic moments, the youngest brother of Kanaklata, Kalicharan Baruah, expressed before this reporter that his sister was an iconic figure who reflected the dignity of Gohpur as well as Assam in the national level.
Baruah, one of the former cadres of the 1966 batch Assam Public Service Examination (APSC) who held a prestigious post in the Department of Industry, Government of Assam, expressed total dissatisfaction over the role played by a section of the electronic media in Assam. He told The Assam Tribune in an interview on the eve of the September 20 Martyrs’ Day that certain biased reports on Kanaklata’s family in the electronic media had indirectly affected the prestige of Kanaklata’s unforgettable contribution to the nation.
“I came back leaving my prestigious job in the Department of Industry in 1977 thinking that at least there must be someone to protect the residence where Kanaklata was born and brought up, which deserves an adequate honour,” said Kalicharan Baruah adding that as a mark of recognition to Kanaklata, a full-size statue of Kanaklata, which was earlier in Gohpur town, has now been erected here at Borongabari centre which was designed by noted artist Padum Gohain in 2001. “I was also provided with a financial help of Rs one lakh in a public meeting by the then Chief Minister Hiteswar Saikia in 1993. Moreover, in 1998 I was invited by the Defence Ministry to inaugurate the Coast Guard Ship Kanaklata at Kolkata”, a beaming Baruah said.
But the Dhekiajuli episode in which as many as 12 persons, majority of whom from Kawoimari-Barpukhuri, laid down their lives in the hands of the British army on that particular day, tells a different story.
While contacted, Dimchand Bordoloi, secretary of the ‘1942 Freedom Fighters and Martyrs’ Memorial Trust’, expressing strong resentment said that though altogether 12 martyrs’ name were recorded in the gazette notification of the government, the names of many who were killed in the British army firing are yet to be recognised. Habang Kochari, who sustained serious injury in the firing, had to embrace pathetic death due to the dearth of proper treatment. His name is yet to be included in the gazette notification.
“Apart from observing September 20 every year as Martyrs’ Day by political parties and offering a gamosa to the family members of the martyrs, nobody is seen coming forward with a positive approach to establish the value of the martyrs at the national level,” Bordoloi lamented, adding that it has been noticed that on many occasions things go wrong due to bad politics.
Bordoloi, who is a prominent NGO activist here, reminiscing the entire history of the Dhekiajuli episode further stated that it is a matter of regret that Kamala Kanta Das is still unknown to many in Assam. “It is nothing but a severe dishonour to the martyrs,” he rued.
Alleging government negligence in taking initiative to pave the way for national recognition of these less-fortunate martyrs, Bordoloi said the 1942’s Freedom Fighters and Martyrs’ Memorial Trust, formed in 2006, has been working persistently to draw attention of the State government and the Centre towards this issue.