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India mourns death of Assam's secular visionary

Former chief minister Tarun Gogoi dies of Covid-19 complications at 84

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India mourns death of Assam's secular visionary

Tarun Gogoi, a three-time chief minister of Assam, died while undergoing hospital treatment in Guwahati on Nov. 23. (Photo: YouTube)

Christians in India’s Assam state are mourning the death of their former chief minister Tarun Gogoi from post-Covid-19 complications.

“We have lost a truly secular political leader who knew the pulse of his people and always stepped forward to help them,” Salesian Archbishop (Emeritus) Thomas Menamparampil of Guwahati said about the late politician who once said he was a Hindu who goes to a “temple, mosque and church."

The 84-year-old Gogoi, a three-time chief minister of Assam, died while undergoing hospital treatment in Guwahati, the business capital of the northeastern state, on Nov. 23.

A member of the Congress party, Gogoi served as chief minister for three consecutive terms from 2001 to 2016.

The late chief minister “was a man for everyone” and that made him popular among the people of Assam, Archbishop Menamparampil told UCA News on Nov. 24.

“Even after losing in the last election ... he continued to work for the people with more vigor and enthusiasm. Gogoi is credited with transforming the state’s economy, ensuring development in all sectors during his tenures as chief minister,” the archbishop said.

“His ideals were truly rooted in secularism and therefore very considerate to minority communities and he was always ready to listen to their problems. We have lost a great secular leader at a time when the country is facing attacks from anti-secular elements. I personally feel his loss as a terrible tragedy.”

Assam Christian Forum sent a condolence message. “The community has lost a valuable friend and an adherent supporter,” it said.

According to forum spokesman Allen Brooks, “whenever, we [Christians] faced any difficulty he was ready to support us the best way possible.”

“He always tried to reach out to the common man in distress and that made him popular among ordinary citizens in the state,” Brooks told UCA News.

Gogoi was diagnosed with Covid-19 in late August and given plasma therapy when his condition worsened.

After testing negative for Covid-19, Gogoi battled post-Covid-19 complications, which included difficulty breathing.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed sorrow over his death on Twitter. “Gogoi was a popular leader and a veteran administrator who had years of political experience in Assam as well as the centre. Anguished by his passing away,” he tweeted.

Former prime minister Manmohan Singh described Gogoi as one of his dearest friends and that the country had lost a very good leader who always worked for the betterment of the poor and downtrodden.

Current Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal said the state had lost an “experienced, capable and efficient political leader.”

“His sense of humor, amiable and outspoken nature attracted everyone. He set high ethical standards in the field of politics with his simple lifestyle and contributed tremendously to strengthening democratic values in the country,” he added

Sonowal also announced three days of mourning for Gogoi in the state.

Gogoi was born on April 1, 1936, into an ethnic Assamese Tai-Ahom family at the Rangajan Tea Estate in what is now Assam’s Jorhat district.

He served six times as a member of parliament for Jorhat from 1971 to 1985.

He came to national prominence when elected joint secretary of the All India Congress Committee in 1976 under then prime minister Indira Gandhi. He served in the federal cabinet under former prime minister P.V. Narasimha Rao as the minister in the food and food processing industry departments from 1991 to 1996 before going on to serve his home state as chief minister.

Gogoi leaves behind his wife Dolly, whom he married in 1972, daughter Chandrima and son Gaurav, a member of India’s parliament representing Kaliabar in Assam.

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