Biography of Hiteswar Saikia Ex Chief Minister of Assam
Biography of Hiteswar Saikia Ex Chief Minister (3 October 1934 – 22 April 1996) is an Indian politician who served as the 10th chief minister of Assam for two terms, firstly from 28 February 1983 to 23 December 1985 and then from 30 June 1991 to 22 April 1996. He was the 1st Governor of Mizoram from 1987 to 1989 and the 6th Lieutenant Governor of Mizoram from 1986 to 1987. He was the education minister in the Government of Assam from and from 1980 to 1981 and again from 1982 to 1982. He was the Minister of State for Home, Education And public relations from 1972 to 1974 and the minister of Home from 1974 to 1978. He represented the Nazira constituency in the Assam Legislative Assembly from 1972 to 1988 and again from 1991 to 1996.
Family and education:-
Hiteswar Saikia was born on 3 October 1934 at Bogabagh Tea Estate to Haladhar Saikia (1896-1988) in a Ahom family. His sister Aimoni married Membor Gogoi who served as Member of Assam Legislative Assembly for Teok.
From his childhood, Saikia was drawn to the non-cooperative movement launched by Mahatma Gandhi. To join the movement he gave up going to school. At that time, he was studying in Class IX only. His father influenced his career at almost all the turning points of his early life. It was his father who made him go to Lucknow for postgraduate studies where he earned an M.A. in history.
As a result of his father’s matchmaking, Saikia married Hemoprabha, who succeeded Saikia as MLA of Nazira and became a minister in the First Tarun Gogoi cabinet. His eldest son Debabrata Saikia came into the politics in 2011 and is the current leader of the opposition in Assam Legislative Assembly.
Early political career:-
Although Hiteswar Saikia was not in the front rank of the leadership when Assam had been swept by the tides of two big political movements, namely The Oil Refinery movement of 1958 and The State Language movement, by dint of his organising capacity he caught the attention of discerning eyes. Saikia joined the ‘All India Congress Committee’ on 15 August 1964.
At that time, the responsibility of leading its youth wing was foisted upon him. He became a very popular figure and contested the Assembly election from his home constituency at Nazira, a small township situated near the ancient capital of the Ahom kings at Gargaon in the district of Sivasagar, Assam.
Hiteswar Saikia, born on 3 October 1934 in the Bogabagh Tea Estate in Assam, India, was a prominent Indian politician and a key figure in Assam’s political landscape. He served as the 10th Chief Minister of Assam, leaving an indelible mark on the state’s governance and development. With a career spanning several decades, Saikia was widely respected for his vision, leadership, and dedication to public service.
Saikia’s journey in politics began during his early years when he was inspired by the non-cooperative movement led by Mahatma Gandhi. Driven by a strong sense of nationalistic fervor, he decided to participate in the movement and even gave up formal education to join the cause. Despite leaving school at a young age, Saikia’s father recognized his potential and encouraged him to pursue further studies. He subsequently went to Lucknow and obtained a Master’s degree in history.
In 1964, Saikia joined the All India Congress Committee and quickly emerged as a prominent leader within the party. He became the face of the youth wing and gained popularity for his organizational skills and charismatic persona. Riding on this wave of support, Saikia contested and won the Assembly election from his hometown constituency of Nazira.
Saikia’s political career witnessed numerous milestones. In 1972, he was appointed as a minister of state and entrusted with the portfolios of Home, Education, and Public Relations. This marked a significant turning point as he rose to prominence within the government. Two years later, in 1974, he was promoted to a full cabinet minister with the crucial Home portfolio under Chief Minister Sarat Chandra Sinha. This promotion further solidified Saikia’s position as a key figure in Assam’s political landscape.
Throughout his tenure, Saikia demonstrated a keen focus on education and played a pivotal role in shaping educational policies in Assam. He served as the Minister of Education multiple times, emphasizing the importance of providing quality education to the youth of the state.
Saikia’s leadership and organizational abilities caught the attention of then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. During a constitutional crisis in Assam, Gandhi visited the state to assess the situation and recognized Saikia’s potential to lead. Although he declined offers to assume the party’s leadership, his political maturity and capabilities earned him immense respect and admiration.
In 1983, Saikia assumed the role of Chief Minister for the first time, leading the government of Assam until 1985. His tenure focused on promoting socio-economic development, infrastructure, and addressing key issues affecting the state. His commitment to public service and welfare earned him widespread recognition and support.
After a brief gap, Saikia returned as Chief Minister in 1991 and continued his efforts to transform Assam. Tragically, his term was cut short when he passed away on 22 April 1996, leaving behind a legacy of dedicated service and visionary leadership.
Hiteswar Saikia’s contributions to Assam’s political and social landscape continue to inspire and guide future generations of leaders. His commitment to education, development, and public welfare remains a testament to his unwavering dedication to the people of Assam. Saikia’s legacy as an exemplary statesman and his vision for a prosperous and inclusive Assam will forever be remembered in the annals of the state’s history.
During his tenure as the Minister of Education in the Keshab Chandra Gogoi government, Saikia introduced substantial changes to the education sector in Assam. He established a separate “Directorate for Elementary Education” to improve the administration of primary education. Additionally, he pioneered the concept of “provincialization of high schools,” which brought approximately 2,500 privately run government-aided high schools under direct government control. This move benefited both students and teachers financially. Furthermore, Saikia focused on language subjects by allocating liberal grants to appoint more teachers.
Revamping Law Enforcement:
Saikia recognized the need to enhance the status and efficiency of police officers and constables. He initiated comprehensive reforms in the police department, transforming it into a modern and effective force. To modernize law enforcement, Saikia established the Forensic Laboratory in Guwahati, the capital of Assam, and introduced the “single-digit fingerprint bureau” for efficient criminal identification. He also bifurcated the Criminal Intelligence Department to create an independent Special Branch. Furthermore, Saikia modernized the functioning of the “Assam Police Radio Organization” by upgrading its equipment and established a dedicated training center for the armed police.
Biography of Hiteswar Saikia Ex Chief Minister of Assam
Addressing the Assam Movement:
During Saikia’s tenure, the Assam movement gained momentum, with demands for the expulsion of foreigners. The All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) played a significant role in this movement. Saikia, returning to Assam politics from Mizoram, was appointed as the President of the APCC (I) by Rajiv Gandhi. With the support of the party, he successfully faced the challenge of the 1991 general election. His meticulous attention to detail and extensive touring of villages, recognizing their importance as crucial vote banks, contributed to the resounding victory of the Congress (I) party in Assam.
Negotiations with ULFA:
During a critical period, when the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) kidnapped high-ranking government officials, Saikia initiated negotiations for their release. He displayed a willingness to grant general amnesty and released several ULFA detainees without specific charges. Acting as a mediator, Saikia found trusted intermediaries to negotiate with ULFA leaders. Despite facing hard bargaining, he unilaterally declared general amnesty and proposed meaningful talks with the militant organization for a permanent solution within the framework of the Indian constitution. Saikia’s efforts, supported by Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao, led to the release of most hostages and a positive shift in the ULFA’s stance.
As the ULFA’s rebellion continued and other terrorist groups emerged, Saikia sought measures to restore peace and security in Assam. He requested the assistance of the Army, leading to “Operation Rhino,” the second Army operation in the state. Unlike its predecessor, “Operation Bajrang,” Operation Rhino proved successful in dismantling training camps, capturing militants, and seizing arms and ammunition. By January 1992, Assam experienced a change in its civic life, with the ULFA expressing a willingness to engage in discussions for a permanent solution. Saikia welcomed the change and assured appropriate rehabilitation for militants who surrendered their weapons.
Hiteswar Saikia’s tenure as the Chief Minister of Assam was marked by notable achievements in education, law enforcement, and peacebuilding. His reforms in the education sector, including the provincialization of high schools, significantly benefited students and teachers. In law enforcement, Saikia modernized the police force, establishing key institutions and improving their effectiveness. His strategic negotiations and efforts to restore peace with ULFA demonstrated his commitment to resolving conflicts within the framework of the Indian constitution. Saikia’s leadership and contributions have left a lasting impact on the development and progress of Assam.