The degenerated ULFA assassins who pumped those seven bullets into Anilda’s frail body perhaps thought by killing this one man they would be able to terrorise the oppressed working people and revolutionary intelligentsia of Assam into silence and submission. Perhaps they thought one more assassination would hardly be remembered in a state which has witnessed so much bloodshed and so many massacres. They could not be more mistaken. Comrade Anil Barooah’s martyrdom has not only unleashed widespread resentment in all corners of Assam, it has led to serious disenchantment and questioning about the ULFA’s terrorist line of action among large sections of its own ranks and sympathisers. In his life as well as in his martyrdom, Anilda personified the commitment and courage of conviction of a communist leader with a rare glow. A glow no bullets can ever extinguish. Strengthening the fighting unity of the oppressed
people cutting across the dividing lines of nationalities and communities. Resisting the growing attacks on civil liberties and democratic rights of the people. Unbounded faith in the working people as the ultimate makers of history. Anilda’s loyalty to these guiding principles throughout his political life was total, uncompromising and passionate. From the dark days of Emergency through the turbulent phase of the Assam movement right up to the present period of secessionist insurgency and state-sponsored counter-insurgency, he was always firm in sticking to his cherished values.
Birds that sing of the new age
-- Anil Kumar Barua
Birds that sing of the new age
Eternally known to men
But still they sound like
Getting a hint of the arrival of the hunters
The blood-sniffing hunters look for them
Failed to catch the singing birds
They listen to the tragic stories
And keep on singing with liberated soul
(Translated by Jyotsna Kalita)
As one of the founder general secretaries of Indian People’s Front, Comrade Anil Barooah raised the banner of revolutionary democracy against all odds in the complex political arena of Assam. Because of his consistent opposition to state repression — no matter whether the government of the day was headed by the Congress or AGP — Anilda had incurred the permanent wrath of the repressive Assam establishment. Again and again he had to suffer harassment and torture in the hands of the police. But nothing could deter him from raising his voice of protest and concern against the armed forces riding roughshod over the basic rights and human dignity of the common people of Assam. Whether it was Operation Bajrang or Operation Rhino during the Saikia regime or the army excesses under the present dispensation of “unified area command” with Prafulla Mahanta in power, Anil Barooah was always in the forefront of the campaign for democracy in turbulent Assam.
In many ways he was the pioneer of the civil liberty and democratic rights movement in the state. In February 1991 when Assam was virtually under undeclared military rule, the IPF was the only organisation which dared to organise an anti-repression meeting in Guwahati and Anil Barooah led it from the front. Comrade Rameshwar Prasad, who was then a member of the Lok Sabha, was also invited to the rally. The kind of barbarity with which the police attacked the rallyists, singling out Comrade Anil Barooah in particular, was unprecedented even by Assam standards. What a cruel irony of history that seven years later the self-styled crusaders for “sovereign, socialist Assam” would display the stupid audacity to defend the assassination of a leader like Anilda as “a case of well-deserved punishment for a counter-revolutionary.”
Anilda was also a frontline leader of the progressive cultural movement in Assam. In the early 1980s when chauvinism was raising its ugly head in the Assam movement, weakening and vitiating the movement from within, Comrade Anil Barooah rallied progressive cultural activists from different parts and communities of Assam in a campaign to preserve and strengthen the underlying cultural unity of Assam. The campaign gave rise to the Sadou Asom Jana Sanskritik Parishad with Dr. Bhupen Hazarika as its founder president and Anil Barooah as the founder general secretary. But Anilda was not only a leading cultural organiser, he was also a cultural producer and performer — a playwright, a lyricist, an actor, all rolled into one. He was greatly influenced by the legacy of the great Bishnu Rabha, the cultural legend of Assam who also headed an armed revolutionary peasant movement. Indeed, Anil Barooah would be remembered as a true heir to Bishnu Rabha. Above all Anilda would be remembered as a selfless leader who always cared and fought for others and demanded nothing in return. It was characteristic of Anilda that he rejected the offer of state security as a candidate in the recent Lok Sabha elections. In an election in which the armed forces were widely reported to be asking people to vote for BJP and the candidates of the Congress and AGP were moving with heavy security with virtually no election campaign worth the name, Anilda was going about holding group meetings of tea-garden workers, women and rural masses to inspire confidence in them.
I will never forget my last meeting with Anilda when I had gone to campaign in his constituency. On 9 February we addressed a tea workers’ meeting at Makum. Anilda was in a hurry. He gave a brief speech and left for Maran to attend another meeting. The next day we met again at Dibrugarh at a youth convention. A meeting with local presspersons followed and then it was time for me to say goodbye. When I told Anilda that on our way to Dibrugarh our car had been stopped in a couple of places by the army, he promptly wrote out a letter to the Chief Election Officer of Assam to make sure that we did not have to face any problem on our way back to Guwahati via Tezpur. Yet he did not tell me that he had turned down the security offered to him. Little did we realise that we would never be meeting again. By the time I could rush back to Tinsukia Anilda’s cremation had just been over.
Adieu, Anilda! We will never forget the gentle manners and defiant smile with which you braved oll odds. The fire of revolutionary commitment that always glowed inside you and radiated your personality will continue to inspire us in the ongoing battle against the forces of barbarity.
-- Dipankar Bhattacharya