BARPETA, May 11 - The Bishnu Prasad Rabha era in Assam has ended. Gokul Pathak, a staunch supporter and aide of Rabha, and a revolutionary artiste, scholar, writer, compiler of the history of Barpeta Satra, and recipient of the Bishnu Rabha Award, died at a nursing home in Barpeta on Sunday night following old-age ailments at the age of 94.
Born in a poor family at Sapna village in Barnagar under erstwhile Kamrup district in 1926, Pathak lost his mother at birth and father during his student life. The orphaned Pathak was brought up by an aunt. He learnt singing, reading of scriptures and playing folk instruments from his father.
When he shifted to Barpeta, he was attracted to Vaishnavite culture and later became a scholar of Vaishnavite literature, and on the cultural and religious ideology of Srimanta Sankaradeva.
Pathak was attracted to Communist ideology during his student life and formed a Leftist party while studying at Madhab Choudhury College, Barpeta, in association with fellow students. He met the revolutionary Bishnu Prasad Rabha during this time and joined the Revolutionary Communist Party of India. He was also associated with revolutionary artiste Brajanath Sarma during his early years, and was instrumental in setting ablaze the airport at Barnagar on August 26, 1942.
His life was deeply influenced by the Communist trio of Rabha, Sarma and Hemanga Biswas. When Bishnu Rabha uttered �Ye azadi jhutha hain� on India�s independence on August 15, 1947, Pathak hoisted a black flag at Sarbhog with this slogan and faced the ire of the government.
He opposed the consumption and sale of alcohol and submitted a memorandum to the Assam government in Shillong, demanding declaration of Barpeta subdivision as a dry area.
After independence, he left the RCPI and joined the Socialist Party under Hem Baruah and Hareswar Goswami. He desisted from active politics but dedicated himself to social reform. He was imprisoned in 1968 on charges of involvement with Lachit Sena and was kept under house arrest for one month in Barpeta.
Though he was associated with social reform, he concentrated more on culture and literature. He published several books and journals, including a magazine Rupantar in 1961 which continued till 1966. In 1968, he established a publication organisation Amar Desh and published a news journal with the same title for 22 years till 1990.
A prolific writer, Pathak wrote more than 30 books on several subjects such as history, drama, poetry, songs, essays and biography. His editorials in Rupantar and Amar Desh and speeches deserve preservation for posterity.
He lived a very simple life due to his selfless nature. Though he lived in abject penury, he never compromised on his ideology. Even when a Deputy Commissioner asked him what could he do for him, Pathak spoke of the improvement of a Satra.
When state BJP president Ranjeet Kumar Dass met Pathak in hospital on May 9 and asked him about his wishes, he asked for a reprint of Barpeta Satrar Buranji. Das assured that 2,000 copies of this valuable book would be reprinted.
Pathak also participated in the Baithaki at Barpeta where he enchanted the audience with melodious songs.
His works were recognised by the government though at a later stage, and he received both artiste and literary pensions. When the government introduced the Bishnu Rabha Award in 2017, it was conferred on him in the first instance. Though the people of Barpeta have been demanding Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for him, it did not materialise.
As the news of his death spread, there was gloom in the entire district. Deputy Commissioner Munindra Sarma was among the first to visit the hospital where he addressed the media regarding the funeral arrangements.
On Monday morning, Pathak�s mortal remains were moved throughout the town for people to pay their last respects.
The body was first taken to the Barpeta Press Club with which he was associated since its inception. The press club kept its flag at half mast as a mark of respect. The body was later kept at the municipality playground, as a sea of humanity gathered to take a last look.
Ranjeet Kumar Dass, Barpeta MLA Gunindranath Das, AASU chief advisor Dr Samujjal Kumar Bhattacharya, vice president Pradip Das, AASU Barpeta district committee president Krishnakanta Pathak, academician Arjun Das, AFC vice chairman Anil Kumar Das, AIDC vice chairman Jitu Talukdar paid their last respects.
He was cremated at the Sankar Madhab College campus on Monday afternoon, according to his last will, with full State honours amidst a huge gathering.
Security personnel fired three rounds as a mark of respect to the departed soul before Pathak�s body was consigned to flames by his son Dipak Pathak. Veteran writer Akshyay Kumar Mishra recited a poem written by Pathak at the cremation ground. Director of Cultural Affairs Bishnu Bora, and ADC Pulak Patgiri also attended the funeral.