Gopinath Bordoloi

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Raha, Assam
Birth Sign
Raha, Assam

Bharat Ratna Gopinath Bordoloi was India’s first Chief Minister following independence. Prior to independence, he served as Chief Minister of undivided Assam. He was a staunch supporter of Mahatma Gandhi and used Gandhi’s non-violence principle to assist India in gaining independence from British rule. Bordoloi was a prominent freedom fighter who was instrumental in preventing Assam’s incorporation into East Pakistan in 1947. The majority of Muslim political leaders in Bengal, many of whom were affiliated with the ‘Muslim League,’ desired the inclusion of Assam, a heavily Hindu-populated region, in East Pakistan, and fears of communal riots and an upsurge of mass protests circulated. Bordoloi and other eminent leaders resolved the issue tactfully through a variety of measures, including protest rallies and discussions with high-ranking British government officials, which ultimately resulted in the region remaining within the Indian border. Following India’s independence, he collaborated with Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel to defend Assam’s sovereignty against East Pakistan and China. He was one of the architects of the Assam state’s ‘Indian National Congress.’ The then-Governor of Assam, Jayram Das Doulatram, bestowed upon him the title of “Lokpriya.”

Childhood & Adolescence

Gopinath Bordoloi was born in Raha, Assam, on June 6, 1890, to Buddheswar Bordoloi and Praneswari Devi. His ancestors originated in Uttar Pradesh.
His father was a member of the government’s medical corps. He was raised by his eldest sister Shashikala Devi after his mother died when he was twelve years old.

In 1907, he passed the matriculation examination and enrolled at Guwahati’s ‘Cotton College.’

He excelled academically and passed his I.A. in 1909 with a 1st Division grade.

He then relocated to Calcutta (now Kolkata) in the state of West Bengal, where he attended ‘Scottish Church College’ and graduated with honors in history in 1911.

He earned his postgraduate degree in history from the ‘University of Calcutta’ in 1914.

He then enrolled in a law school but returned to Guwahati three years later without taking the final exam.

He was influenced by Manickchandra Barua, Nabinchandra Bordoloi, Swami Sureshananda, and Tarun Ram Phukan, among others.

He began working temporarily as Headmaster of the ‘Sonaram High School’ at the request of Tarun Ram Phukan, a prominent Assamese leader. He sat for and passed the law exam during this period and began practicing law in Guwahati in 1917.

Career of Gopinath Bordoloi

In 1920, he attended the Congress’s Calcutta Session, which was presided over by Lala Lajpat Rai. Assam began to feel the Congress’s influence from this point forward.

His active participation in the non-cooperation movement led by Mahatma Gandhi in 1921, which sought to oppose British rule through non-violent means, landed him a year in British prison. The movement was, however, put on hold following the Chauri Chaura incident in Gorakhpur on February 4, 1922, which saw violent clashes between protestors and police. He then resumed his legal practice.

In 1922, he began his political career as a volunteer for the ‘Indian National Congress.’ He maintained close contact with Mahatma Gandhi and other prominent political leaders during the 1920s.

He served as Assistant General Secretary of the Reception Committee during the Congress’s session in Guwahati in 1926.

He was instrumental in the establishment of the ‘B. Borooah College’ and the ‘Kamrup Akademy’ in Guwahati, in support of the ongoing campaign to boycott government institutions and establish private colleges and schools in protest of the infamous Cunningham Circular of 1929.

Between 1930 and 1933, he abstained from political activities and devoted himself to a variety of social causes. He was elected to the Guwahati Municipal Board and Local Board and emphasized the importance of Assam having a High Court and a University.

Although the Congress won a majority of 38 seats in the 1936 Regional Assembly election, it chose to remain in opposition rather than form a government, electing Bordoloi as opposition leader.

Md. Sadulla established a government with the support of other political parties. However, in September 1938, Sadulla’s cabinet resigned, and Bordoloi was invited to form government by the Governor.

Thus, in 1938, the first Congress government in undivided Assam was formed, and they took office on September 21, 1938, with Bordoloi as Chief Minister. His political dexterity, intelligence, honesty, gentle demeanor, and admirable personality not only won him widespread popularity, but also aided Congress in establishing a foothold in Assam, thereby opening a new door for the party in the north-eastern region.

During his tenure as Chief Minister, he abolished the Land Tax, prohibited the sale of opium in Assam, and prohibited the transfer of land to Muslim immigrants in order to protect the indigenous people’s rights.

In 1939, the ‘Second World War’ began, and in response to a call from Mahatma Gandhi, Bordoloi’s Cabinet resigned in 1940. He was arrested in December of that year but released shortly thereafter due to his ill health.

On the eve of the ‘Quit India Movement,’ which began in August 1942, all Congress party leaders were imprisoned and the party was banned. While imprisoned, he wrote numerous books, including ‘Budhhadeb’, ‘Shreeramachandra’, and ‘Annasaktiyog’.

Following his release from prison in 1944, he protested against the then-governing regime led by Md. Sadulla, prompting the latter to offer a meeting. This resulted in an agreement that included the release of political prisoners and the lifting of the prohibition on meetings and processions.

In July 1945, the British declared that they would establish a new constitution for India following regional and national elections. Congress won 61 of the 108 Assembly seats in the regional elections, forming government once again with Bordoloi as Chief Minister.

Following the British Government’s establishment of the Cabinet commission in 1946 to address India’s demands for independence, meetings were held between members of the Commission and representatives of the Congress and the ‘Muslim League’.

Bengal and Assam were placed in the third of three groups of states for the purpose of selecting candidates to form the constitutional body. Not agreeing to such an arrangement, which would have resulted in Assam’s representatives becoming a minority in comparison to Bengal’s, Bordoloi and the Assam Pradesh Congress committee opposed the plan.

After receiving no response from the leaders of the ‘Indian National Congress,’ he discussed the matter with Mahatma Gandhi, who advised him to continue opposing such grouping.

Following India’s independence, he collaborated with Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel to defend Assam’s sovereignty against East Pakistan and China. The likelihood of communal riots prompted thousands of Hindu refugees to flee East Pakistan. He was instrumental in rehabilitating the refugees and worked tirelessly to ensure the region’s communal peace and harmony.

He was instrumental in establishing the Assam Medical College, the Assam High Court, Guwahati University, and the Assam Veterinary College, among others.

Significant Works of Gopinath Bordoloi

In 1947, when the decision to partition India and Pakistan was reached following separate meetings between the new Viceroy Lord Mountbatten and Mahatma Gandhi, the Congress, and the ‘Muslim League,’ Bordoloi ensured that Assam remained a part of India rather than East Pakistan.

Awards and Accomplishments

In 1999, he was posthumously awarded the ‘Bharat Ratna,’ India’s highest civilian honor, making him the first and only recipient from the entire north-east region.

Personal History and Legacies

Gopinath Bordoloi married Surabala Devi in 1910.

He died in Guwahati, Assam, on August 5, 1950.

Estimated Net Worth

The estimated net worth of Gopinath Bordoloi is unknown.