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D.K. Barooah

President: 1914-1997 (Chandigarh, 1975)

Dev Kant Barooah, President of the Congress in 1974, was born on 22 February 1914 at Dibrugarh in Assam. He was a voracious reader of writers like Wordsworth, Lawrence, Tagore, Chandidas and a poet in his own right.

His publications include the book Sagar Dekhisa. But his pre-occupation with thought and emotion did not come in the way of action.

He schooled at Gauhati and Nowgong and graduated from the Benaras Hindu University. Soon after he was absorbed into the freedom struggle and underwent imprisonment in 1930, 1941 and 1942. He wielded the pen as editor of Dainik Assamiya and Natun Assamiya and played an important role in moulding public opinion.

His political career began as a member of the Constituent Assembly in 1949 - 51. He was also a member of the Provisional Parliament and elected to the Lok Sabha in 1952 and 1977. In 1957 he was elected to the Assam Legislative Assembly. He became the Speaker in 1962 and subsequently the Minister for Education and Co-operation.

He resigned from the assembly in 1966 and was re-elected to the assembly in 1967. His career included a stint as Chairman, Oil India Limited, as Governor of Bihar, and as member of the Rajya Sabha (1973-77). During 1973-74 he was Minister of Petroleum and Chemicals.

The mantle of the President of the Indian National Congress fell on him in 1975.

“Behind the past quarter of a century's struggle for India's independence and all our conflicts with the British authority lay in my mind, and that of many others, the desire to revitalise India.

We felt that through action and self - imposed sufferings and sacrifice, through voluntarily facing risk and danger, through refusal to submit to what are considered evil and wrong, would we recharge the battery of India's spirit and awaken her from her long slumber.

Though we came into conflict continually with the British Government in India, our eyes were always turned towards our own people. Political advantage had value only in so far as it helped in that fundamental purpose of ours. Because of this governing motive, frequently we acted as no politician, moving in the narrow sphere of politics only, would have done, and foreign and Indian critics expressed surprise at the folly and intransigence of our ways.

Whether we were foolish or not, the historians of the future will judge. We aimed high and looked far.”

From the Presidential Address - D. K. Borooah I.N.C. Session, 1975, Chandigarh.