[This note, originally meant for an Assamese magazine, was written just on the eve of the military crackdown on the ULFA. From Liberation, January 1991]
On a fine summer morning way back in 1979, as I stood before the mortal remains of Mao-Zedong at his mausoleum in Beijing, my feet refused to move. Here lies, in eternal peace, the man who had changed the destiny of a quarter of humanity, ensured the world will never be the same again, and stirred a whole young generation in the late ’60s all around the globe. Head bowed, I stood deeply absorbed in thought, till the Chinese comrades signalled me to move. Well, a long queue was impatiently waiting behind us.
During my China visit, I traversed the whole course of Mao’s path to revolution -- from the Changsa mountains right up to the Yenan caves.
While the young Chinese guides retold the whole story of the Chinese Revolution, some of the veterans including old peasants narrated passionate accounts of their association with the flesh and blood Mao. Whatever de-Maoisation I could discern in my conversation with senior party leaders at Beijing, at the grassroots practically nothing had changed. Mao was still being worshipped as god. In China the stage had already been set for the ascendancy of Deng and with it for dispelling the myth around Mao, the great helmsman. However, I came back to my country with a renewed conviction on Mao, his revolution and his thought.
Our indoctrination in Mao’s thought began in those stormy days of the late ’60s when the Great Debate had given birth to the Cultural Revolution in China and Naxalbari in India. We read General Giap, Che Guevara, Regis Debray etc. and were fascinated by armed struggles of all kinds much in the same fashion as young comrades of ULFA in the present-day Assam, but ultimately settled for Mao’s thought and his agrarian revolution.
While in Behrampur Central Jail during 1971-72, I got hold of an illegally smuggled volume of Mao’s Selected Writings, and for some reason or other, despite daily searches, the administration never took the book away from me. Confined in the condemned cell 24 hours for months together I had nothing to do but to read the book again and again, truly memorising it. For the benefit of my comrades in neighbouring cells, I used to translate and read it loudly every evening. It was there that I understood the various facets of Mao, the philosopher, frontline strategist and supreme military commander.
In the Third World Mao’s thought has been regarded as the weapon in all revolutionary struggles against oppression, be it against imperialist domination or feudal domination on peasantry or the oppression of a national group within the country. It is quite in the fitness of things that ULFA, the representative body of Assamese national interest, has opted for Mao’s thought as its ideological weapon in its struggle against Indian super-national interest, in the same fashion as we are committed to Mao’s thought in our struggle for liberation of the peasantry from feudal yoke and for India’s complete freedom from the imperialist clutches.
Their faith in Mao’s thought leads them to battle for Assam’s separation from India, our faith in the same thought leads us to struggle for a unified, democratic and federal India where all varieties of national oppression will be done away with. Their faith in Mao’s thought has led them to provide a new turn to the erstwhile Assam movement, a left turn indeed, doing away with its anti-communist, anti-left, communal bias of the early ’80s. Our faith in Mao’s thought has led us to share, with equal concern and from the very start, the aspirations of the Assamese people to exercise control over their resources and their fear of losing their identity in the face of a radical demographic change.
Their faith in Mao’s thought has led them to build a well-knit armed organisation to take on the state. Our faith has led us to organise the broad-based resistance of labouring peasantry and eventually to take on the might of the same state power. Their faith has led them to rebuild the broader unity of the Assamese people who are splintering into various streams and sub-streams, often getting engaged in violent competition with each other. We too work for a broader unity of the people of Assam — a unity where there shall neither be any place for the chauvinism of the mainstream Assamese, nor shall tribal exclusiveness and separatism be encouraged. Whatever influence our Party exercises in the Karbi movement has only helped democratise the latter and promote its unity with the labouring people of all other communities.
Undoubtedly, young revolutionaries of ULFA are petty-bourgeois revolutionaries, and perhaps at present they cannot be anything else. However they have successfully brought a progressive transformation of the Assam movement and they represent the inexhaustible dynamism, courage and splendid organising capabilities of the Assamese youth. Will Mao’s thought, blended with the lessons they learn from real life, help them take the next logical step in communist transformation?
Comrades of ULFA have revived the legacy of Mao and his thought in this part of the country. I offer my red salute to them.