A Response to Apoorvanand from Two Lazy and Emotional ‘Ethno-Nationalists’

One of the minor pleasures for the liberal and rightwing Indian nationalists, both in Assam and in India beyond Srirampur, has been to locate Akhil Gogoi, Raijor Dal’s MLA from Sibsagar. Whether, it is the Chief Minister of Assam, Mr. Himanta Biswa Sarma’s unsolicited lessons for AG on MLA dharma or Mr. Apoorvanand and others from Delkota University attempting to build a syllabus on the contradictions in the progressive veneer of ‘Comrade’ Gogoi’, Akhil Gogoi lesson plans seem to have become the most photo-copied items. So how can RAIOT, that slippery zine from the hills, not partake in this ‘Teach Akhil Gogoi’ movement. So after you have read Nirban Ray & Himalaya Bora‘s response to Prof. Apoorvanand’s recent post lunch class for Akhil Gogoi, you may want to add following essays on RAIOT to your reading list.

Or just search for “Akhil Gogoi”.


In his recent opinion piece, Apoorvanand writes, in fact teaches, recently UAPA acquitted MLA Akhil Gogoi the meaning of justice, of law, of togetherness, of compassion, of equality with special emphasis on the preciousness and moral responsibility of freedom. Apoorvanand celebrates the release of Assamese activist Akhil Gogoi with his colleagues on June 17 and reiterates his conviction for support to any wrongfully punished opponents of the state saying ‘one who is at the receiving end must get ‘our’ support, irrespective of ‘their’ ideology. When Apoorvanand sanctions this moral support towards Akhil Gogoi and his comrades, probably one could not resist but to ponder- what moral ideological high ground is it anyway from where such bogus and idiosyncratic support in the name of preaching values can easily be unleashed? 

Apoorvanand then interrogates the path Gogoi might choose with his freedom and ask whether Akhil Gogoi is a true friend to the people of Assam- irrespective of their language, religion and culture. He does not has to wonder much as after coming out of jail, Gogoi makes it clear that the protest against CAA would resume and that he would not allow any foreigners to settle in Assam. This indicates for Apoorvanand a ‘threat’, as it echoes with the sound that Narendra Modi, Amit Shah and Bharatiya Janata Party leaders have been making for the last seven years. Categorically, Apoorvanand claims therefore that Akhil Gogoi is an enemy to the people of Assam and he is at best an agent of the BJP.

Manufacturing Narrative

But why does Apoorvanand makes such hallucinatory claim? It is not a product of his individual naivety alone but these kind of fictitious ideas emerge as result of conscious collective effort of the left-liberal ‘mainlanders’ to demean, dehumanize and humiliate any autonomous assertion arising from the periphery of their imagined national capital- which often falls short of systematic racial onslaught. 

To activate the human rights groups on their part to be watchful on Akhil Gogoi’s journey as a politician is a minimal welcome gesture. But by invoking suspicion at the very outset of Akhil Gogoi’s journey as a politician and ignoring the larger social movements he represents in general, Apoorvanand basically tries to establish the rhetorical ground upon which he seeks to depose his dubious ideas to build on his narrative further.

After coming out of jail, Akhil Gogoi made several statements.

It was not that he only talked about resuming protest against CAA. He expressed his deep anguish regarding how a movement organized from below with people’s participation across different social divides eventually got defeated both at the hands of the state and other organization’s co-opted stance and strategy of mobilization. Needless to say that he also announced his and his party’s plans for future endeavor within and outside the legislative assembly. But Apoorvanand could only succeed in selectively highlighting and invoking the CAA issue to label Akhil Gogoi’s statement as ‘threat’ to Bengali Muslims living in Assam. As if the suspicion invoked on Akhil Gogoi finds its immediate eureka moment when Apoorvanand sees Akhil Gogoi as a potential threat to Bengali Muslims living in Assam. 

‘Assamiya nationalism’, xenophobia and other bogeys 

In Apoorvanand’s discovery of ‘assamiya nationalism’, the only element of concern is the precarious human condition of the Bengali speaking Muslims. The Bengali speaking Muslims have not only been the chosen victims of ethnic movements in Assam, ‘by using a religion-neutral term like “foreigner”, “indigenous” leaders try to conceal their xenophobic, (even anti-Muslim) politics and ideology’. Yet, the savagery of ethnic assamiyas does not end here. This xenophobic assamiyas further manufacture their xenophobia as a self-deceptive ‘assamiya anxiety’, which is nothing but a consciously and continuously manufactured lie. Thus, for Apoorvanand, Assam is living a life of deception and ‘assamiya nationalism’ is nothing but a ‘crime’ collectively organized through lie by the savage, barbaric, anti-secular ethnic assamiyas. ‘The exercise of preparing the National Register of Citizens revealed that’.

To sum it up, for Apoorvanand the story of ‘assamiya nationalism’ is the story of a primitive confrontation between the Bengali speaking Muslims and the xenophobic ethnic Assamiyas. 

The colonial legacy of forced demographic changes, the 1947 partition, the formation of Bangladesh in 1971 and the subsequent uncertainty and instability in borders with unregulated movements of stateless population, the Assam movement – all these are fictions for Apoorvanand. We wonder if Apoorvanand has ever heard of the fictional stories of the xenophobic Bodos, Karbis, Koch-Rajbangshis and other ethnic anti secular barbarians, their concerns or is he like those mainlanders who believe in the truth that ‘Assam is in Meghalaya’! 

One would also probably be shocked to see with what ease Apoorvanand alleges that Akhil Gogoi supported detention centres. Does Apoorvanand has any evidence to prove this mindless allegation? If not, why an issue with such serious humanitarian valency has been invoked  only to project Akhil Gogoi as the lazy, emotional ethno-nationalist leader? While this subtle logic of  narrative deception mastered by Apoorvanand can easily be understood by many, we just wonder how this narrative deception would not in itself be akin to a serious humanitarian crime! 

If the foundation of ‘assamiya nationalism’ is xenophobic then how come a xenophobic leader like Akhil Gogoi becomes a warrior against injustice? For Apoorvanand, Gogoi is a fighter because he was arrested under UAPA and this automatically made him a warrior against this vicious regime. Nothing more.

For Apoorvanand, the problem with Akhil Gogoi is that he is ideology-agnostic, his organisation supported BJP in 2014 election and even the respected public intellectual Hiren Gohain parted ways with Gogoi and their newly formed Raijor Dal party because Raijor Dal had swallowed the BJP’s deceptions about Badruddin Ajmal. In fact, it’s Akhil Gogoi’s relentless opposition to the ‘secular’ alliance of Congress and AIUDF in the name of opposing communalism of both sides, which paved the way for BJP to defeat the secular alliance miserably. 

And therefore Akhil Gogoi needs to be interrogated, civilized so that he does not “fall prey to the easy and lazy emotion of primitive ethnic sensibilities”, so that he gives up his ethnic savagery and become a foot-soldier of the secular brigade in their crusade to establish a secular Ram-rajya, opposing a Hindu Ram-rajya – to immerse with the Nehruvian Indian nation, with the singular Indian being. Yes, the colonial mission of ‘civilizing the savages’ gains yet another momentum, thanks to Apoorvanand! 

One hopes that Apoorvanand realizes that their secular Indian nation and communal Hindu Rashtra is one and the same thing- an aspiring empire desperate to swallow up all other small nationalities and ethnicities. And if there is anything which can challenge this overgrowing fascist empire – it is these little ethnic movements, their little nationalism and their ethnic leaders like Akhil Gogoi and not the secular alliance of Congress and AIUDF.

Summing up…

Apoorvanand probably should not worry about Akhil Gogoi’s realization of how precious ‘freedom’ is. He should probably be reminded of how many times Akhil Gogoi has been incarcerated just because he worked fearlessly to build a movement from below, of peoples across different social boundaries. In fact, the vernacular social has been historically precipitated with such instances of people losing their basic human rights and their collective assertion against all odds. And Akhil Gogoi embodies the contemporary manifestations of all those historical legacies as the leader of the popular masses or better we say as the historical ‘experiment’ of the masses. However, the language of assertion this ‘movements’, this historical specificities speak has obviously remained unknown to commentators like Apoorvanand.  Such is the anomaly with this idea of freedom being conceived from/for above and denied below! Thus we conclude by saying that let’s stop this empty gesture of being embroiled in ‘complicated questions’, let this empty gesture extinguish its own anxiety so that people can build on their collective will of greater emancipation. Not by sanction and preaching from above, not by relentless will to represent only for the benefit of representing, but by assertion and solidarity from below. 


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Nirban Ray is research scholar at JNU and Himalaya Bora is a research scholar at IIT Guwahati

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