Gandhian ‘repays’ abuse, donates land | india | Hindustan Times
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Gandhian ‘repays’ abuse, donates land

Paniram Das’s memory is sharper than most 90-year-olds. He has never forgetton how the army, accusing him of sheltering ULFA rebels, raided his house in the winter of 1991, reports Rahul Karmakar.

india Updated: Feb 05, 2009 23:55 IST
Rahul Karmakar

Paniram Das’s memory is sharper than most 90-year-olds. He has never forgetton how the army, accusing him of sheltering ULFA rebels, raided his house in the winter of 1991. Harassed and abused by soldiers assigned to snuff out militancy under Operation Rhino, Das had then vowed to pay back. Eighteen years later, he’s done just that — by donating two bighas of land for a project to heal wounds inflicted by the war on terror.

“You never forget certain things in life, but that doesn’t mean you cannot forgive,” says Das, happy to have adhered to the Gandhiwadi — he hates the term Gandhigiri — principles he had imbibed during the Freedom Struggle. “And anything personal (the 1991 nightmare) cannot be allowed to defeat something for the common good.”

That ‘something’ is a five-room vocational centre cum community hall that the army spent Rs 6 lakh to set up under Operation Sadbhavana, a military strategy to “win hearts and minds” across India’s conflict zones. It stands on Das’ land at Kalaigaon, 18 km from here under Udalguri district, which was formally handed over last weekend.

“Das’ large-heartedness made the centre possible,” said an army spokesman from Tezpur, the fourth Corps headquarters. “It should go a long way in imparting skills that would ensure a source of earning for the local youth,” the spokesman added.

Incidentally, Gandhi has invariably figured in Das’ brush with rebellion. Inspired by the Mahatma to join the freedom struggle, he chucked his masters from Calcutta University to take to farming and later to commandeer the anti-foreigners Assam Agitation in the Kalaigaon area.