• 07-Jun-2023


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Omeo Kumar Das, popularly addressed as Lok Nayak (leader of people), was a multifaceted personality: an Assamese social worker, a Gandhian by ideology, an educationist, and a well-known writer. Born on 21 May 1895 in the Nagaon district of Assam, Omeo was raised by his maternal grandfather Laxmikanta Barkakati who was an intellectual and nationalist himself and had an unmistakable influence on the personality of young Omeo. Omeo was exposed to the changing political climate in the country very early in his life, which prompted him to become a part of the country's freedom struggle while he was still a student.

Omeo was studying in Tezpur High School when he took part in the 1905 Partition of Bengal movement. At the same time, he also worked as a labourer to generate much-needed funds for the nation’s needs. His nationalistic spirit was further strengthened in college when as a volunteer at the INC session in Calcutta, he heard stalwarts like Gandhiji, S N Banerji, Annie Besant, and others speak. When Gandhiji launched the Non-cooperation movement in 1920, Omeo took it upon himself to mobilize the youth around him to take part. During this movement, thousands of students struck out of their educational institutions, foreign goods were boycotted, liquor and opium shops were picketed, the government was cold-shouldered, and law courts were shunned. In 1921, when Omeo was the General Secretary of the Darrang District Congress, the movement gained even more momentum. On one occasion, while attempting to picket a liquor shop, he was confronted with an angry woman who had come to purchase liquor. Omeo convinced her about the negative impact of liquor consumption. The woman was so inspired by Omeo, that she vowed to stop consuming liquor. She then began to participate actively in the freedom movement. That was the kind of leadership Omeo displayed. He became one of the torchbearers of the freedom struggle in Assam. When Gandhiji launched the Civil Disobedience Movement in 1930, Omeo took it upon himself to mobilize the youth around him to take part. He was imprisoned many times for his anti-British activities.

His never-say-die attitude and nationalistic spirit got him elected to the Assam Legislative Assembly and the Constituent Assembly in 1937 and 1945 respectively. As the Labour Minister, he took the initiative to set up the Tea Plantation Workers’ Provident Fund for the benefit of tea plantation workers of Assam, and as the Education Minister, he reformed the education system by incorporating the concept of Basic Education, which was so dear to Gandhiji. Omeo’s political life was replete with accomplishments, and apart from this, he was a social thinker, reformer, journalist, and popular writer. Besides writing books like Gandhijir Jiboni, Mahatma Gandhik Aami Kidore Bujilu, and Asomot Mahatma, he also translated Gandhiji’s autobiography, ‘The Story Of My Experiments with Truth’ into Assamese (Mor Satya Aneshwanar Kahini). Omeo passed away on 23 January 1975, leaving behind a legacy of his commitment and patriotism. Today, many institutions, such as the Omeo Kumar Das Institute of Social Change and Development (OKD) and Lokonayak Omeo Kumar Das College, stand in memory of this unsung hero. In 1963, the Government of India awarded him the Padma Bhushan for his contributions to society.