A day after his demise on Monday due to post-Covid-19 complications, there is no decision yet on where veteran Congress leader and former Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi will be cremated.
The 84-year-old had passed away on Monday evening at the Guwahati Medical College Hospital (GMCH) and a decision was taken that the cremation would take place on Thursday in Guwahati.
The Assam Congress unit has asked the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government in the state to allot a plot of land within the city for the cremation, but the latter is yet to take any decision on it.
“We are looking at a plot in Amingaon (on the north bank of Brahmaputra on the outskirts of Guwahati) where we may be able to conduct the last rites on Thursday morning,” health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said on Tuesday.
Guwahati has two public cremation grounds, Bhootnath and Navagraha, but the Congress had asked for two other spots within the city where the cremation could be conducted and a memorial set up.
“We had a discussion on this with Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal. But the areas sought by Congress fall under wetlands and can’t be allotted for other purposes as per law. Sonapur and Amingaon (both on the outskirts of Guwahati) would be more suitable,” said Sarma.
“We had asked the Kamrup (Metropolitan) district administration to look for suitable plots within Guwahati, if possible. But they haven’t been able to find any such place where the cremation can take place. I hope the Congress understands this,” he added.
Sarma mentioned that Gogoi’s family hasn’t made any request for a specific spot in Guwahati for the cremation and the demand for a separate area for last rites and construction of a memorial has come from the Congress’s state unit.
There were requests from residents in Titabar, the assembly constituency in Jorhat district which Gogoi represented, to conduct the last rites there. But Gogoi’s family has told the state government that they want the cremation to take place in Guwahati.
Despite repeated attempts, senior leaders from Assam Congress were not available for their comments as they are busy with functions associated with paying last respects to Gogoi.
“We are prepared to conduct the last rites on Thursday. Any decision on the place where it will be done will be taken by the state government,” said Biswajit Pegu, deputy commissioner, Kamrup (Metropolitan).
Guwahati doesn’t have any specific memorial spot for former chief ministers and other dignitaries. A memorial for Bharat Ratna Bhupen Hazarika, one of Assam’s foremost cultural icons, constructed at a plot given by Gauhati University, is the only such place in the city.
Assembly elections are due in Assam in March-April next year and Gogoi’s death and cremation could become a political tug-of-war between opposition Congress and ruling BJP.
Earlier on Tuesday, Gogoi’s body was taken from GMCH to his official residence. From there it was taken to the state secretariat and the Assam Congress head office. In the afternoon, it was shifted to Srimanta Sankardeva Kalakshetra where the public will be allowed to pay tribute on Wednesday.