Hiren Gohain is the angry old man of Assam. A literary critic and winner of the Sahitya Akademi award in 1989, he never hesitates to speak out.
In the build-up to the assembly elections in Assam, for which voting took place earlier this month, Gohain and 42 other ‘concerned citizens and intellectuals’ had issued a statement urging people not to elect the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Since the statement was released on April 7, Gohain has been singled out on social media for his ‘vituperative’ attack, with people suggesting that the septuagenarian’s hands be cut off or acid be thrown on him.
Gohain said that when the BJP was in the opposition at the Centre, ‘it did not make itself out as a highly reactionary group’. But since coming to power in 2014, he said, the party had shown its ‘intolerance, its indifference to fundamental rights’. This, he said, ‘fills our minds with apprehension.’
He also feels that BJP had been exposed as a ‘communal and fascistic party that suppresses freedom of expression and would destroy communal harmony in Assam’. Recalling the terrible massacre in Nellie in 1983 in which more than 2,000 people were killed, Gohain said he was worried about the fallout on Assam.
‘It is important for us intellectuals to take sides,’ he said.
Gohain however also admits that there is a strong possibility of BJP emerging as the winner when the election results are declared on May 19. ‘People assume that the BJP is a clean party, especially the middle class and the youth, many of whom are not political,’ he said. ‘All they want is change, ‘Paribartan’. This is a reaction to 15 years of Congress rule that was marked by corruption, incompetence and scam after scam.’