By Dr B K Gohain
It led him to do research in archaeology and his contribution to the archaeology of Assam is immense. His mother was also a noted Archeolgist. He used to tell me about his experiences in North Lakhimpur. He told me once, knowing that I hail from Gohpur of the undivided Darrang district that one Mishing gentleman clad in white dhuti and shirt with pockets on both sides called on him and asked if he could get the permission of the Government to buy an aeroplane for his use. With smug smile,r. Tripathy asked the gentleman as to what he would do with an aeroplane. He said that he had to got to Tezpur, the District headquarters of the undivided Darrang many times a month and the Trunk Road from North Lakhimpur to Tezpur being of gravel and difficult to travel on a bus, he wanted to buy an aeroplane so that he could fly from his area to Tezpur. Mr. Tripathy jokingly asked him if he had brought money for buying the aeroplane, the gentleman lifted his shirt, took out a wrapper of cloth from his waist and opened it. It was full of bank notes of one thousand rupees denomition of those days. Seeing the huge bundle of money, he told the gentleman that an aeroplane could not be bought by a private individual and only Government could buy it. The gentleman felt bad and so he was given a cup of tea and scks which he took as a matter of respect shown to him by the S.D.O.
I was one day called by Mr.Tripathy in 1980 to his office chamber and he told me to escort the prospective Chief Minister who was to take the oath immediately. But he did not mention the me of the person to be escorted by me and by the contingent of police force headed by an Additiol S.P. of Guwahati. He simply told me the mes of two persons Hiteswar Saikia and Anowara Taimur and desired that I should escort the right one. He strictly told me not to mention about it even to my wife. Next morning, I went to the S.P.'s office at 8.30 A.M and met the Additiol S.P. with the contingent. We proceeded to the Airport and on way I requested the Additiol S.P. to instruct him the escort officer not to blare the horn in the Gauhati University area as the students might block the road when they see a VIP crossing the area thinking that some Minister of the Government of India was travelling. We reached Guwahati Airport safely. That day being an open day for the University classes, the possibility of the students accosting the car-Cade was very high. The Additiol S.P. also did not know whom we were to escort to Dispur. As I was the Special Officer, Home & Political Department I knew the S.B. officials in the Airport. So both of us entered the Airport and asked the S.B. personnel to show us the list of travellers coming in the morning flights. We found that while Madam Anowara Taimur was coming in the morning flight, Hiteswar Saikia and Keshab Gogoi who were M.L.As were coming in the afternoon flight. Even the S.B. personnel were not briefed about it.
So we received Madam Taimur and were escorting her to Dispur and to my dismay, the sirens were blown full glare throughout without stop and even in the University area, the sirens were not stopped. Habits die hard. The pilot and escort party are trained to blare sirens . So I did not say anything. Anyway, we escorted Madam to the MLA hostel safely. When I went to inform Mr. Tripathy, he smiled and smugly said, 'After all, you could choose the right one. ' To add to my anxiety, I was asked by Mr. Purkayastha, Secretary to the Governor to assist him in the matter of swearing of the new Chief Minister and her council of Ministers. On that occasion, I distributed the swearing-in-oath papers after ascertaining whether the prospective Chief Minister and the Ministers wanted to take oaths in the me of God or by the Constitution of India and in Assamese, English or Bengali. Madam wanted to take the oath in Assamese and in the me of God. At the last minute, she changed her mind and said that she would take the oath in the me of the Constitution of India. In the meantime, Hon'ble Governor was about to enter into the hall. Seeing my expression, Mr.Purkayastha looked askance. But I hurriedly handed over a form of oath by the Constitution in Assamese to Mrs. Anowara Taimur and rushed to Mr. Purkayastha and requested him to change the Oath sheet meant for the Chief Minister to be read by Hon'ble Governor. As soon as the Governor entered the hall, the tiol Anthem was played and after the swearing in ceremony was over, Mr. Purkayastha came to me and smilingly said that the Government was not to face embarrassment and I did the right thing. My only feeling was that the Government overtax those officers who work hard while the officers in the other some Departments take their works easy and are not overburdened.
Mr. Tripathy was very kind to me. Mr. Ramamurthy , the Adviser , was specially kind as he saw my earnestness in work and when he was to bid farewell at the end of his tenure as the Adviser ( Administration) , he called me and asked me if there was any loose end. When I answered in the negative, he was relieved and asked me as to what he could do for me. I requested him to give me credit for my works and reflect it in my Annual Confidential Report. He said that he already did that and if I wanted to go on central deputation, he would be happy to recommend it. I told that I was very junior in service; it would be awkward to go on Central deputation in a very junior post. To my delight, he got up and bade me farewell by shaking my hands. He handed over a letter of appreciation to me saying that he had ordered a copy to be placed in my persol file. That spell of the President's rule ended on 6th December, 1980 and Mrs. Anowara Taimur took the oath as related earlier. I continued to work as the Special Officer, Home & Political Departments. She was very understanding. It was the habit of mine to take the files on the Preventive Detention persolly to the Home Commissioner and to the Adviser. Now I took such a file to the Chief Minister Mrs. Anowara Taimur. There was an advocate of the High Court present in her chamber. She wanted his advice on the subject in the file. I immediately and politely advised her not to show the file to him as it was a Top Secret. Moreover, all the files of the Political Departments are always rated top- secret or confidential. Moreover, as the Chief Minister, none can show any file of the Government to outsiders. All the Ministers including the Chief Minister take oath of office and secrecy not to divulge any secret to any other person. She agreed and did not show the file to the advocate.
As I was the Special Officer, Co-orditing and Monitoring in the Home Department also, besides other works, I had to go to New Delhi for discussion of the details of the schemes to be undertaken under the 6 th Fince Commission Award. I was also required to co-ordite with Police Headquarters regarding the Police Housing schemes to be undertaken by the Police Headquarters under the 6th Fince Commission Award. I had also to co-ordite with the Department of Welfare of Scheduled Castes & Backward Classes, Government of Assam as a large dose of Compensatory Allowances was granted by the Sixth Fince Commission for the officers and staff working in the difficult and most difficult areas of the State. Mr. Hazarika as well as Mr. Tripathy authorised me to go and attend the Review meetings on the Implementation of the Sixth Fince Commission Award. When I told Mr.Hazarika that I was too junior an officer to represent Government, he said with a smile, "Go and introduce yourself as an Officer on Special Duty. You know, OSDs are in the rank of Joint Secretary." I kept mum and went to attend the first Co-ordition in the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India with lot of apprehension in my mind. In Assam Bhavan, New Delhi, the Resident Commissioner, Government of Assam was A.K.Saikia . I paid a courtesy call on him and requested him to represent the Government of Assam as the Joint Secretary, Home Ministry, The Government of India was taking the meeting. I gave him a set of papers on the subject. His reaction was typically bureaucratic. He retorted, "Why should I go and attend? Go and attend the meeting." I came out of the room and went to the room of the OSD and asked him whether there was any Assam cadre Officer in Home Ministry. He told me about a very high profile officer mely Mr. R.V.Pillai whose left hand was hit by a bullet of Mizo rebels in an ambush on the Government officers posted in Lushai hills in the early sixties. He became famous for his great sense of duty amongst officers and in the country. I was highly relieved thinking that the officer who could make such a sacrifice in the discharge of his duties as an Officer of the Government would definitely sympathise and help me. So I went to the Home Ministry and entered into his room with due permission. He stood up and greeted me. After hearing me, he talked to the Joint Secretary concerned saying that it was my first meeting in the Home Ministry and that he should help me in all respects. These kind works worked wonders and I felt elated and after the meeting I came to his room and thanked him. He smiled and said that he missed the state and the simple people of Assam. I felt a sense of pride in meeting such a great man belonging to Assam-Meghalaya IAS cadre.
In spite of my hard work, when my time for posting as the Sub-Divisiol Officer ( Civil) came, I was surprised to find that I was posted as the S.D.O. ( Civil) Hamren. In this case also, the machition of some of my batch mates in D.C. office Guwahati was noticed. I was surprised beyond measure to find, in the meantime, that Mr.S K. Agnihotri, who was a friend of my respected Mr. Tripathy replaced him. It was rumoured that someone in the Secretariat gave a list of files pending with Mr. Tripathy which became the cause for his transfer from Home & Political Department to the Government of India on central deputation. I got relieved at the turn of events as I did not now have to serve under Mr. Agnihotri who was not kindly disposed towards me as seen by his actions. I could not understand how an officer holding the post of a Deputy Commissioner could also be posted as the Commissioner, Home & Political Department. I was also surprised that the same officer had to give approval as Commissioner, Political Department to his own orders as District Magistrate on some issues like preventive detention cases. However, my impression was that intense hard work does not work for you but yours proximity to the seat of power does.
On May 5th , 1981, I along with my wife and 8 months' old daughter proceeded by car to Hamren ,the sub-divisiol headquarters of Hamren in West Karbi Anglong of the district of Karbi Anglong . Except having a batch mate John Engti Kathar whom I met only once, I did not meet any Karbi of the hills nor did I visit the district of Karbi –Anglong. Only I learnt that Dispur, the capital of Assam had some Karbis and the fields which had become covered with residential building in the village Rukminigaon and its adjoining areas were their paddy fields. Of course, later on, I found some Karbi families living in the Ambikagar areas. My spirits were high as I thought we would see the hills and dales of Karbi Anglong, which is a hill district and a Sixth Scheduled area and would get to know some aborigil people of Assam. It was a Saturday and at about 11 O'clock in the morning, we reached the town of Hamren after traversing the difficult road called Linchiga from Dongkamokam to Hamren. The driver did not take the Donkamokam-Baithalangso-Hamren road saying that the road was lengthy and in bad condition. Dongkamokam is the last outpost of progress in the plains after which the hills begin. The Saturdays are the weekly market-days in Hamren where all the traders from Hojai, Lumding etc. of gaon district came to sell their merchandise. When we were climbing up the hilly road by car, we noticed that some people wearing loincloths went down the slopes seeing our car while the ladies and the girls wearing their colourful traditiol dresses walked up the road without going down the slopes to hide themselves. When I asked my driver Shri Timung, a Karbi young man why the male persons wearing the loin clothes went down the slopes from the road seeing the allotted vehicle of the S.D.O. (C) Hamren, he smiled and said that the former S.D.O. ( C) could not stand the Karbi men in loins cloth and he used to carry a stick to beat them up . So the men-folk avoided him like a matador avoiding a bull. When we reached the PWD Dak Bungalow in which we were to stay for the night, we saw from the top down on the plains a lot many people with their colourful dresses gathering there and doing shopping. When I asked the caretaker whether it was a Mela( festivity), he told me politely that it was a Saturday market held weekly once in which most of the Karbis came for shopping as well for selling the home grown vegetables and other merchandise to the people in the township. The hill Karbis, both male and female in their colourful traditiol attire were eye catching. I felt as though we would enjoy our stay in Hamren by meeting the people and visiting their villages. After a cup of it, we decided to go to the Bungalow of the Sub-divisiol Officer (Civil) which was situated on a hilltop. When we arrived there, we found some people doing some repair works. Seeing my car, some gentlemen came and met me and one of them introduced himself as the Head Assistant of the Office of the S.D.O.( Civil) Hamren. The rest of them, 13 in number were introduced as the gang-men who would work for me and assist me in getting water from below and do the tit-bit things both in office and in my official residence. They were the errand boys and the posts were created at the time of formation of a new district of Mikir hills in 1951 seeing the difficult terrain and the logistic difficulties prevailing at that time due to bad roads. One had still to carry water from the stream. Later on, I found that only source of water for the official residence of the S.D.O ( Civil) was a well at the foot of the hillock on which it was situated. Some of the places of the district could be reached only on foot or on a pony and not by any vehicle. Later on, I learned that there was no bus-service, public or state transport service to Hamren. Two three public buses I saw on the first day of landing up in Hamren were Bazar buses from gaon districts carrying the vendors and dealers to the weekly market on Saturdays.
After some time, we came back to the Dak Bungalow and after having lunch; I went to my office to join in my new assignment as S.D.O. (Civil) Hamren and met the officers and staff. When I came back to the Dak Bungalow at 4.30 PM., the gathering in the weekly haat (market) was thinning out. On way from the allotted Bungalow, I noticed that some Karbis were selling Endi cocoons and so I went to find out the rate at which they were selling. To my surprise, they were selling dirt cheap. I mentally took note of it.
Next Day, we moved to my allotted Bungalow. It was beautiful. All around, there were wild flowers growing and the bees were having their hey days. Another beautiful thing was the presence of many birds and their sweet sounds exhilarated me and removed the feeling of loneliness when one moves in to a sleepy village styled as a town from a very busy city like Guwahati. My wife started complaining of not having running water as there was no water supply system not only in the Bungalow but throughout the township. I consoled her saying that we should think that we were living in a village in the hills with ture soothing our minds and we should learn to live with lanterns here. Our daughter would get to see ture in her pristine glory and would respect the beauty of ture and love the birds, trees , flowers in course of her rearing up in this rustic town. My wife got pacified.
The next morning, I got up early and was reading the yesterday's newspaper in the Verandah. Then a beautiful thing happened. A small bird was digging its sharp beak into the earth on the ground and then it would carry the earth so collected and paste it on the wooden ceiling of the Verandah and then another bird would come and do the same thing. I did not miss a single step taken by the couple and gradually, I saw them building the contour of a nest on the wooden roof. After a few weeks, I observed from my seat in my Verandah that the earthen nest was now complete and the she-bird was inside the whole days and nights, while the he-bird would bring bits and pieces of food in the form of worms and give to the she-bird. One fine morning, when I sat in the Verandah, I did not feel any movement in the nest. When I shouted, no bird came out. I realised that the birds had left with their off-springs leaving the earthen nest empty. I still now cherish my great sense of elevation at the sight of the work of the birds constructing a cosy nest in the Verandah. I never used to miss it. In the silent world of Hamren and residing at the top of a hill, however, did not daunt me and I started enjoying ture in its pristine glory. One fine morning, while I was walking on the approach route to our Bungalow, I was very surprised to see a cluster of tiny white flowers on a plant. But when I approached it, the tiny flowers took the shape of small white insects and flew away disturbed at my proximity. Hamren is bountiful in ture's beauty and we saw, in course of our roaming about in the hills and vales many a beautiful orchid and butterflies and birds which are not seen in other places. Our only recreation was playing cards which I did not like. We used to visit Hojai, which is some small distance from Tumpreng, the border market place of Hamren and sometimes enjoyed films. I remember how one night we were returning from Hojai in a tracker with my second driver Singh, a Meithei Manipur driving it. It was at about 11 PM when we saw in the headlights a wild and huge bear with white hair walking majestically on the Hamren-Lingchiga road without caring a hoot for our approach. My driver said that he could hit it or drive by his side. I asked him to stay still as my wife and my baby girl were with me. He said that we could go slowly without disturbing him. We breathed a sigh of relief when the huge animal which was very old climbed sidewise up the hill.
We collected many an orchid in pots with some feeder plants to support them and when we got transferred to Diphu, we took all the orchids nicely. But all these beautiful orchids which were kept in pots were stolen away from the Circuit House, Diphu where we were staying temporarily. My wife wept at our loss. I consoled her saying that Hamren is not far away. I did collect the orchids, once climbing up a big mango tree in Makairam BOP, the last post on the Assam-Meghalaya border contiguous to the Jaintia hills district . The beauty of the wide plains at Tapat with beautiful wild flowers and plants and trees with the Karbis and Jaintias ( Syntengs) living together and intermarrying always inspire me to treat the beauty of ture honourably and the bonhomie of the border people living together with amity and peace taught me not to raise the question of caste /tribe in our society and treat all equally. Mr.S.D.Phene who was the Commissioner of Hills & Barak valley used to direct me to see the borders in Block-1 and Block-2 which are situated contiguous to Khasi & Jaintia hills districts of Meghalaya. Once I went to determine the source of the Umkhirmi River as the Government of Meghalaya showed a river quite inside our district as the Umkhirmi and I was to physically go and identify the river and mark it on a map. The Assam Police Battalion n personnel accompanying me told me that the people were waylaid by robbers and looted on the route. We went by jeep and after some time, we reached a place beyond which the jeep could not go and we had to track up the hilly route. We saw some ponies carrying provisions of food articles etc. for the people up the hills. We reached the source of the river after a difficult climb and after identifying it, we came back. We reached back the jeep and on way and saw a tea stall and stopped to have a cup of tea. We were surprised when the man of the Tea stall told us in chaste Assamese that he was a police man. I asked him how he came to stay in such a remote place. He said that he was posted in Makairam when he met a beautiful Karbi girl whose mother was a Synteng lady and fell in love. Knowing well that his conservative family would not allow him to marry a Karbi girl, he married her in Hamren in the court. When he got his posting order to Guwahati, he tried his best to get it stayed or get a posting in Karbi Anglong but failed. He got disgusted and decided to resign from his post and came to his wife's village and started a shop there. He was also running the Tea Stall. I asked him why he was staying in his wife's place; he told me that in the border areas, the Karbis and the Jaintias used to intermarry. As the mother of his wife is a member of the Synteng ( Jaintia) tribe who are matrilineal, he became a resident husband. Love is a many splendored thing. It works wonders. It teaches one to sacrifice one's identity for the sake of Love. Later, after my many visits to Tapat and Kandhluli in the borders, I found that the border people give their identity both as Karbi as well as Jaintia as per their convenience to get benefits from the Councils in Diphu and Jaintia hills. The Karbi Headman David Teron was David Lingdo in the Jaintia hills. The girls in these areas are fair skinned and more beautiful than other girls in the mainland Karbi Anglong. Intermarriage adds beauty to the offspring and a sense of tolerance develops. Before coming to the hills, I procured a book on the Mikirs by Lyll which was the only book available.
In office, I found that only one Karbi man was there as a clerk and all others were from the plains, mainly from the undivided district of gaon and some clerks were from lbari subdivision. I wondered as to how these people could find the jobs here and learnt that literacy percentage of the Karbis in Hamren sub-division was very low. When I asked whether there was any High School in the town, the Senior EAC Mr. Sharma pointed out to an Assamese type building saying that he would call the Headmaster to meet me. Then I decided to see for myself and went to the School situated nearby. All the teachers were Assamese and the medium of instruction was Assamese. When I visited the Class rooms of Class IX and Class X, I was surprised to find some students of the age of 24 or so.
My Hamren was a sleepy town with no sounds heard after 7 O'clock in the evening. There was no Radio or T.V. station and the Radio sigls also did not use to reach Hamren. Except going to the office, there was absolutely nothing to do except reading books. Still I liked the place. Life was running smoothly and silently with rains pouring all day and night. But on 13th May at about 10 O'clock, when I was ready to go to my office, one peon of the Office of the Sub-divisiol Agricultural Officer came running all the way from his official residence and informed me that some workers of the Agriculture Department were taken forcibly by some youngsters to the hills with the intention of beating them up. This was the message conveyed to me by Mr. Hazarika, the Sub-Divisiol Agriculture Office as he could not contact me over 'phone. He said that the life of Mr. Hazarika was also in danger
I was taken aback at this development and with five armed guards; I immediately proceeded to the Bungalow of the SDAO. I found him in his official residence and he told me that some young Karbi men came to attack the temporary workers in his Horticulture garden in front of his house when he asked the workers to go and take shelter inside his house. Then the group led by an old man, who was considerably inebriated came to his residence and demanded that he should hand over the workers who did try to commit a very heinous crime for Bichar ( local trial by the traditiol Karbi villagers). The Headman was a Habai and as he was highly drunk, he did not care to listen to his words. In the meantime, the youngsters entered into his residence and dragged 7 workers and led by the Headman, they went to the hills behind. It was raining cats and dogs and the youngsters warned that if he interfered, he would also be taken as a captive and punished for giving shelter to the guilty persons. He confided that three workers who hid themselves in his bathrooms were safe. I advised him to send them immediately to Hojai in his vehicle which he did accordingly.
I rushed to the Police Station and asked the O.C. to prepare a team for search and rescue. In the meantime, the SDPO also came. But as it was raining cats and dogs, the party headed by the Officer In Charge came back. I immediately tried to contact the D.C. Karbi Anglong over telephone, but as the phones hardly worked, I sent a Wireless message to the D.C. and the S.P. of the district to send a large contingent of CRPF personnel for search and rescue operation. Next day, I could talk to the D.C. Karbi Anglong over 'phone and related to him the incident saying that he be pleased to send a contingent of CRPF to Hamren as requested. Mr. Goswami, who was the D.C. advised me to stay cool.
Next day, information was received that seven dead bodies were seen in the hill behind the residence of the SDAO. Police rushed in and recovered the dead bodies of the workers. There were wounds on their heads and bodies inflicted by blunt weapons and it was evident that no sharp weapons were used to kill them. They were stoned to death, it seemed. After inquest, the dead bodies were sent to gaon Civil hospital for post mortem as there was no Civil hospital in Hamren. On that day, while I and the Officer-in Charge of Hamren Police Station were coming in my jeep from the place of occurrence, we found two boys near Hamren High School on the road. As they were running seeing my vehicle, I suspected them to be involved in the incident. After a chase, they were caught and brought to Hamren Police Station. When they were searched, a big knife was found in the possession of a boy. Then we charged him and the other young man with murder and threatened that they would face dire consequences if they did not tell the truth. After sobbing their hearts away, they said that the labourers were Phrangkodang who were trying to lift a boy of their School ( Hamren High School) who could save himself by running to his residence. The boy attended the School on the day of occurrence and told the students how he was lured to go with the workers and how he escaped. He stated how they came out from the School and 30 boys or so went to the Agriculture farm to catch the child lifters and to punish them. He further informed that they consulted the Headman of the area who led them to the Agricultural Farm to catch them. He said that the Headman decided in a local bichar (trial) with some members of Karbi community to catch them and punish them with death as it was the tradition to kill Phrangkodang or the child lifters in society of the Karbis. Killing a Phrangkodang( child lifter) is not a crime as per their traditiol custom . I was surprised beyond measure. Then the case came up to me as I was the Sub Divisiol Magistrate who had to hear the crimil cases also in the spirit of Code of Crimil Procedure and I committed the case to the Sessions Court in Diphu.
I was curious to learn as to why children were lifted and who were the miscreants doing this heinous crime. I was aware; there are many superstitions amongst the traditiol societies of Assam which cannot be removed so easily. I tried to contact some local headmen but even if they came, they would not tell me everything. Then I bought a small tape recorder. Then I invited through my gang-men some headmen (except the one who was involved in the incident) and some Karbi old men ,the chief amongst them the local L.P. School teacher med Bajong Phura. After giving them cups of tea and scks, I went to the open space in front of the Verandah of my rBungalow and would ask them to sing a song. They blushed and said, 'Thekthey' meaning 'Do not know'. Then I silently recorded our conversions and when they were bidding farewell, I ran the tape recorder. Lo! Their voices floated in the air to their surprise and then they stopped and came back near the tape recorder placed on the top of the bonnet of the jeep near which we were discussing. Then one of the old men came and said, 'Sir, I can sing a song'. Breaking the barrier of tradition, I could hear them singing their hearts out one by one. The Teacher Bajong Phura then told me that he knew the Sabi Alun, the song of Sita ( Ramaya) in Karbi. Thus I got a small group of old Karbi men who were very friendly with me. I was largely benefitted by my association with Bajong Phura, the elderly teacher and his friends who gave me a taste of Karbi culture by singing songs and taking me to attend pujas observed by the hill Karbis. Due to their publicity that after a long time, a good man had come to Hamren as S.D.O.( Civil) who was very sympathetic to them. One good thing I learnt from Bajong Phura who, one evening, on my request, came to my residence and sang the Karbi Ramayan or Sabi Alun which is the song of Sita. I tape-recorded the entire singing of the verses. Later on, at about 5 A.M. next day, we had a cup of tea and breakfast. Then Bajong Phura told me that he had not sung the Lanka Kanda part as it was believed that if the Lanka Kanda of Ramaya was sung, there would be quarrels in the village. With a mischievous smile ,he said, " I do not want Sir to quarrel with his wife." Later on, I translated the Sabi Alun into English in verse and presented it before the august gathering in the Intertiol Ramaya Conference in Lucknow in 1986. When I sang the first stanza of Karbi Ramaya, : Obong Sabi mir lori .." reading out my verse, the scholars ,both tiol and intertiol applauded it. It was Mamoni Roisom Goswami who, after seeing my article in Prantik invited me for presenting the tribal version of Ramaya. The Thai scholar who was present later met me and said, " The story of creation of Kusa by the sage Valmiki by his mental powers when he found the child Laba not being present in spite of search is the same as the Thai version." He gave me a book "Thai Ramaya" in English saying that Ayudha was situated in Thailand and there is a city med Lubpuri after Lab. The mes of a line of Thai kings were Rama. Hanuman was a funny character. I gave a copy of my translation in verse to him for his reference. Then coming back to Dispur, I translated the Thai Ramaya into Assamese in 1986 which is record of sorts as it is the first book on Thai version of Ramaya.
After some months, when the rainy season was over and winter set in, I called Bajong Phura and asked him, without reference to the incident of murder, why they were afraid of the child lifters and who lifted the children and why. What he told me saddened my heart at the level of ignorance of the hill tribes and their strong superstition